GOP, Politics

The Politics of Lying …

Should you wonder what happens to a political movement that bases its entire existence on dissembling and disinformation you could consider the modern Republican Party.

The leader of the party is a serial liar, a pattern of behavior so well documented that to discount the reality is, for his followers at least, simply a lie they tell themselves

The lies are ubiquitous, defined as “everywhere” and “all over.” One of the greatest and most persistent is that the party cares about fiscal responsibility. The nation’s troubling level of debt is primarily a function of three things: tax cuts advocated by Republican presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan, continuing with George W. Bush and climaxing with Donald Trump, unpaid for wars and a Pentagon budget that neither party is willing to even talk about scaling back to a level of sustainable reality.

Bush the Younger’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reportedly tried to warn then-Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004 that growing budget deficits posed a threat to the economy, and that Bush’s tax cuts wouldn’t pay for themselves. Cheney cut him off, saying, “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Yet, the GOP now, with the White House in Democratic hands, has – again – discovered that it must slash spending to control the deficit. They are threatening to allow the country to default on its debt – this is money that has already been approved by Congress to be spent – but cannot come up with a plan to do so. Congressional Republicans reportedly won’t touch the Pentagon budget, are afraid to rile up the country with cuts to Social Security and Medicare and they can’t possibly reverse course and tax the wealthiest Americans.

So, they are left with a lie – that they care about the deficit but have no realistic plan to deal with it.

Just one example of the lies and deflection that define the Grand Old Party comes from an Idaho Republican, Mike Simpson, a senior member of the House who has spent his career in Washington appropriating our tax money. On the one hand it’s entirely understandable that Simpson has been crowing about the millions he’s secured for projects in his eastern Idaho district – $5.8 million to widen a street in Ammon; $600,000 for a courthouse annex in Custer County; $5.7 million for an underpass in Pocatello; $2 million for a waste water project in Roberts; and $2.5 million for a water system upgrade in Grace.

The conservative congressman dribbled out the announcements of his fiscal largesse over several days thereby getting a maximum play for the millions that he assures us don’t contribute to the deficit. And a bridge is for sale in Brooklyn, I hear.

In announcing the water system upgrade, no doubt a needed project, Simpson performed some Dick Cheney worthy political jujitsu. “Congress undoubtedly has a spending problem,” Simpson said, “and as chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to fight against excessive government spending.”

But look what I got for you!

Simpson goes on to explain that the money he secured is not really very much, and besides if he hadn’t secured the cash for his voters bad ol’ Joe Biden and DC bureaucrats would have spent it somewhere else. This is, of course, contrary to everything you should have learned in high school government class. Congress – Simpson’s branch – appropriates the money and decides how to spend it.

But here’s the very best part: Simpson voted against the legislation that contained all these worthy Idaho projects. Read that sentence again.

Just like all but nine of his Republican colleagues, Simpson voted NO and took the dough, preserving, at least in his own mind, the fiction that he really cares about runaway government spending. Next to hypocrisy in the dictionary you’ll find a photo of a House Republican.

Or you’ll find the photo of the acknowledged leader of the party, the same guy who invoked the Fifth Amendment 400 times during a deposition seeking information about his clearly fraudulent business dealings.

We’ll always have the lies

We’ll always have the lies, including the “Russia hoax,” the “lie,” counter to vast evidence and more all the time, that Russia used its influence over Donald Trump to help him reach the White House in 2016. The latest shoe to drop, the indictment in New York of FBI agent Charles McGonigal, “the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI in New York, who ended up working for billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a major target in the Trump Russia investigation.”

The indicted agent has been charged with money laundering and violating the sanctions imposed on Russia, as well as other allegations involving the Russian oligarch. This same Russian also employed Paul Manafort, the guy who once managed Trump’s campaign, shared sensitive campaign intelligence with Russian agents and was pardoned for his crimes.

As the historian Timothy Snyder, an expert in Putin style disinformation and control, put it recently, “Russian soft control of Trump did not require endless personal meetings between the two principals. It just required mutual understanding, which was abundantly on display during the Trump presidency: think of the meeting between Putin and Trump in Helsinki in 2018, when the American president said that he trusted the Russian one and the Russian president said that he had supported the American one as a candidate. The acknowledgement of mutual debts was obvious already in 2016: Russian media talked up Trump, and Trump talked up Putin.” 

Snyder calls the indictment of the FBI’s New York counter terrorism head, a “spy scandal with major implications for how we understand the Trump administration, our national security, and ourselves.”

If you believe the entire Trump-Russia matter is a hoax it’s because Republicans have lied to you – think former attorney general William Barr – about what happened and why it is so troubling.

We’ll always have the lies – about stolen elections, a phony border wall, a congressman’s made up life, lies about teaching history, that vaccines are bad.

Lies about Trump’s role on January 6 and lies that the attack on the Capitol was a false flag operation. The lies are so blatant, the dishonesty so deep that the lying continues even as a federal judge this week sentenced 51-year old Daniel Caldwell to 68 months in prison for spraying a chemical irritant on 15 police officers during that horrible day. The sentencing judge stated simply: “You were an insurrectionist.”

So many lies repeated so often that lying has become the party’s brand.

The party’s rehabilitation can begin – and lord knows we need an honest conservative party – with the words Barry Goldwater uttered at the end of the lie fest that was Watergate more than 50 years ago. “He’s has lied to me for the last time,” Goldwater said of Richard Nixon, another serial Republican prevaricator, just as Nixon’s own party ushered him out of American politics.

Unfortunately, this Republican Party is different. The party’s leaders have been lying to their followers so often and for so long that the truth can’t suddenly or easily become a cleansing revelation. Honesty now amounts to an existential threat to the GOP, and democracy is the collateral damage. 

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Additional Reading:

Watergate: A New History

I absolutely could not put down Garrett M. Graff’s book, a new history of the Watergate (and related) capers. Even knowing how the story ends did not spoil a perfectly balanced, carefully documented history of the great Richard Nixon scandal.

I guarantee you’ll learn something new

As Douglas Brinkley wrote in his review in the New York Times: “A lively writer, Graff explores the dramatic scope of the Watergate saga through its participants — politicians, investigators, journalists, whistle-blowers and, at center stage, Nixon himself: power broker extraordinaire, five-time fixture on Republican presidential tickets between 1952 and 1972, and holder of the record for most appearances on the cover of Time magazine, at 55 issues. For all his accomplishments, the 37th president was a man of deep contradictions: a law-and-order candidate who flouted the law, an insecure man with a deep reservoir of hubris, a traditional-values president who drank to excess and cursed like a sailor.”

If you enjoy history, particularly political history and some of the backstory about the mess that is American conservatism, you need to read this book.


Off His Royal Tits

Read Andrew O’Hagan’s review of Prince Harry’s book and you won’t need to read the bloody thing.

“There has never been a book like this, with its parcelling out of epic, one-sided truths. Most royal biographies, even the lively ones – his mother’s, his father’s, poor old Crawfie’s – were made airless by vapid writing, spurious genuflections before royal protocol, cringing vanity masquerading as public service. Harry does much less of that. He goes in for a Las Vegas-style treatment of the royal problem, with multiple sets, many costumes and guest appearances by everybody from Carl Jung to Elton John.”

Come for the writing, stay for the put downs. Brutal.


‘A tale of decay’: the Houses of Parliament are falling down

And you think our government is a mess. Study the UK with its third vapid PM in just months, a cratering economy and still life for Boris. On top of that Parliament is a mess – literally.

You won’t know it, but the place is falling down

“Away from the grand chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords, away from the lofty corridors, away from the imposing committee rooms with their carved doors, the palace is tatty, dirty and infested with vermin. Its lavatories stink, its drains leak. Some of the external stonework has not been cleaned since it was built in the 1840s, and is encrusted with a thick coat of tarry black that is eating away at the masonry. Inside the building, intricate fan vaulting is flaking off, damaged by seeping rainwater and leaking pipes. Its Gothic-revival artworks are decaying: in the Lords chamber, the once-golden sculptures of the barons who signed the Magna Carta are now dull grey, pitted and corroded.”

What the bloody hell?


Dorothy Parker gets fired from Vanity Fair

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second-greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first-greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

I’ll leave on a high note, sort of.


Stay well. Read books. Study history. Leave good tips. Thanks.



Education, GOP

No Coincidence …

For two generations the unshakable base of the Republican Party has been white voters without a college degree.

In 2019, the Gallup Poll found that “54% of whites without college degrees identified as Republicans or were Republican-leaning independents, compared with 34% who were Democrats or Democratic leaners.”

Turns out that Donald Trump and those politicians who follow him didn’t need to attract these voters as much as mobilize them. Little wonder Trump actually said in 2016 that he “loved the poorly educated,” who he called smart and loyal.

A recent Brookings analysis of the 2022 midterm election noted that “In addition to the outsized Democratic support among young people, white women with a college degree increased their Democratic support in 2022 compared to the 2020 presidential election. At the same time, white men without college degrees showed increased Republican support, even more so than in the 2020 election.” This block of GOP voters, Brookings says, “anchored Republican support in several Senate and gubernatorial elections.”

For a long time, I wondered why a political party would base a great deal of strategy on an appeal to people who either hadn’t been interested or able to access more education. Was the approach crassly cynical, strategically calculating or just stupid, or some combination of all three?

Protests against critical race theory at a Texas school board meeting. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)

Then I remember the rule of no coincidence.

If you observe politics closely for long enough you realize there really are no coincidences. This old rule explains much of why Republicans from Ron DeSantis in Florida to the Kootenai County central committee in northern Idaho are engaged in a war on education. Republicans, at least many of them, are feeding the rightwing base. It’s a cynical, calculating and one hopes ultimately stupid strategy, but in many places attacking teachers, undermining schools and diminishing education in a variety of ways is a core belief system of the GOP.

Public school advocates in Idaho are bracing for another huge legislative assault on public education. A very conservative legislature seems sure during the coming legislative session to try and take money from already underfunded public schools and re-direct those resources to private and religious schools. Their talking point is that stripping resources from your neighborhood school improves student performance. It doesn’t.

There is vast evidence from many states, including Wisconsin, Indiana and Louisiana who have headed down this “school choice” path that student outcomes not only don’t improve when vouchers and similar schemes are introduced, but actually decline.

The school wars involve nonsense about how American history is taught and which books ought to be allowed in school libraries. The battlefield commanders in these wars decry student “indoctrination,” but welcome using public money to allow a religiously affiliated school to practice the very “indoctrination” they say they oppose.

The right’s unrelenting assault on education also targets the teaching profession. Poor pay for teachers and crushing workloads resulting from a widespread teacher shortages are driving educators from the classroom even as conservative politicians bemoan poor student outcomes.

A concerted national strategy to ideologically transform local school boards is moving ahead full steam, and is nowhere better illustrated than in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where a radical right majority on the local community college board, with the support of radical local party leaders, have brought the school to the brink of losing its accreditation.

The lovely campus on North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

For decades North Idaho College was considered an educational gem in a community that lived for every positive development as their local community college grew and prospered. Republican and Democratic legislators from northern Idaho jockeyed to see who could do the most for NIC and its now 6,500 students. Local property taxpayers have long supported the school, displaying both community pride in the college and its obvious importance to the local economy. A 2020 analysis by the University of Idaho, to cite just one data point, calculated a $4.5 billion annual economic impact from higher education in Idaho and support for nearly 75,000 jobs.

A school like North Idaho College is simply the goose that keeps laying golden eggs, yet the radicals now running the school have suspended the well-regarded president who is suing in response. The board engaged in widespread violations of public meeting law and hired an unqualified right wing real estate lawyer and failed attorney general candidate as the board legal counsel (the prior counsel resigned amid the chaos after 23 years on the job). The radicals have meddled profusely in academic affairs, engendered a no confidence vote from the faculty and students and the board now faces a potentially extreme sanction from the regional higher education accreditation body. All this has happened since the radicals fired the previous president who left with a $250,000 settlement.

If the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities now yanks the school’s accreditation the fallout will be stunning – student credits won’t count, transfers will be impossible, the economic fallout will be massive, including private contributions disappearing. The school’s former legal counsel warns of “cataclysmic damage to the institution.”

You have to wonder: what’s the end game for these anti-education radicals? Do they hope to create such chaos that they can force privatization of the public college? Is the aim to stock the faculty and administration with fellow right wing zealots? Or is chaos empowered by incompetence the only real goal?

Here’s a possible clue. The local Republican establishment, arguably as extreme a local party as you’ll find anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, is noticeably mum, evidencing no interest in redirecting this runaway train of cataclysmic damage. Republican governor Brad Little has called the situation “unfortunate,” but he’s busying himself with the coming legislative session, undoubtedly plotting a way to not get splattered by the crap that will hit the political fan when his party tries to defund public schools by instituting vouchers. Imagine being a student or the parent of a student in the middle of this senseless storm of right wing chaos.

If Governor Little were treating northern Idaho’s four alarm educational fire with seriousness, he’d be pushing his own state board of education to intervene. The board could invoke the state law that spells out its duties, which reads in part that the state board shall “have general supervision, through its executive departments and offices, of all entities of public education supported in whole or in part by state funds …”

They should declare an emergency, which this is and take over management of the college. Let the kooks sue, while sanity saves the college.

But real intervention to prevent a catastrophic of loss of certification would require genuine leadership. And since there is no such thing as a coincidence, that would require a very public commitment to public education, and that is not in keeping with the Republican appeal to the poorly educated.

Standing by while chaos occurs is the most unconservative thing imaginable.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items worth your time …

Farewell Address Of Senator Patrick Leahy

Even though the institution of the United States Senate has been a major focus on my research and writing for the past ten years, I wouldn’t normal pay much attention to the often set piece farewell speech of a long term senator.

But Pat Leahy’s recent speech strikes me as important and unusual.

The very senior senator from Vermont – in the Senate since 1975 – invokes the great Montana majority leader Mike Mansfield in talking about what the Senate once was and isn’t any more.

Vermont senator Pat Leahy delivers his final Senate speech

Here’s a portion of the speech. The whole thing is worth your time.

“It feels like yesterday that I walked into my first meeting with the person who would become my first Majority Leader – ‘Iron Mike’ Mansfield. The Majority Leader put a fundamental question to every new Senator:  Why do you want to be here?  For the title?  Or to make a difference to make lives better? 

“And though he was a soft-spoken man who listened more than he spoke, and rarely gave speeches on the Senate Floor, Leader Mansfield dispensed one piece of advice that made as enduring an impression as the question he left to each Senator to answer for themselves.

Senators should always keep their word.”

“It struck me that across all those weighty debates, navigating the complicated and contradictory politics of a Senate and a caucus that included everything from social conservatives and segregationists to civil rights icons and prairie populists, Mansfield succeeded because he understood the currency of the institution was actually trust, not ideology.

Senators should always keep their word.”

Link to the full Leahy speech. And, yes, my next book (coming in September 2023) is about the Senate of Mansfield and Everett Dirksen in the 1960s.


The Varieties of Historical Genres

A fellow author at the University of Oklahoma Press, environmental historian Adam Sowards, has a good newsletter that I commend to your attention.

Adam writes recently, “I’ve been thinking about the different ways history is written (and read) and wanted to explore that. Then, I saw a few newsletters and dozens of magazines and websites offering end-of-year book recommendations, and I thought I might be able to pull off a hybrid newsletter. Let’s see how it goes. Read on!”

Read on here.


The Brilliant Hackwork of P.G. Wodehouse

As a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, I really enjoyed this piece by writer Dan Brooks.

P.G. Wodehouse

“The image of Wodehouse as some sort of manic literary beaver is one of the singular pleasures of reading his work. His professional career began in 1902 with the publication of his first novel and ended with the release of his 70th in 1974, less than a year before he died. The man fit in 25 years of full-time work before the first talkie hit theaters, back when the dominant media for comedy were stage shows and print.”

This may make you want to pick up one of the Wodehouse classics. Link here.


The Silver Palate Cookbook Changed Home Cooking (and Pesto Consumption) As We Know It

We have a very well thumbed copy of the Silver Palate. I’ve used the book many times, but never knew the backstory.

“The cookbook was a product of its time and place: New York’s Upper West Side in the late 1970s and early ’80s. A world synonymous (at least in the mind of the average moviegoer) with Woody Allen and then Nora Ephron. You can bet that before they were forced to play Pictionary at that dinner party, Harry and Sally were fed salmon mousse and chicken Marbella or maybe osso bucco.”

Happy holiday eating.


Here’s to a joyful and happy Christmas and bright 2023. Thanks a million for reading.

2022 Election, GOP

Nutjobbery Reaches Its Expiry Date …

Six weeks ago, Jim Risch, Idaho’s longest-lived political survivor was going back to the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The state’s other senator, Mike Crapo, one of the most senior members of the Senate whose lifetime in political office is entirely defined by his devotion to massive tax cuts that benefit his donors in the insurance and financial services industries, was a lead pipe cinch to become chairman of the Finance Committee. From that august perch Crapo could fulfill his re-election pledge to bash the IRS, which, of course, is coming for his constituent’s guns, er, tax returns.

Six weeks ago, Washington senator Patty Murray was headed for retirement, ushered out of office atop a “red tsunami” that would also swamp Democrats in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire and Georgia.

Amazon is still selling these for $21.99

No less a beltway gasbag than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on November 4 that Republicans would pick up at least three and likely five Senate seats, that Murray’s opponent was closing fast and could win, that the GOP candidate “will almost certainly carry New Hampshire” and football star Herschel Walker would win the Georgia Senate seat “without a runoff.”

Gingrich, whose opinion you might want to avoid the next time you head to the parimutuel window, told Hannity that polls were undercounting Republican voters heading into the midterm election. Newt said the GOP could easily pick up 50 House seats, but Gingrich, the man who contributed as much as any living pol to the toxicity of our politics, said he was more certain of a pick-up of precisely 44 seats.

Turns out Gingrich is as good at predicting election outcomes as he is at dumping ex-wives, once talking over divorce while one spouse was hospitalized with cancer. But that is a digression, because this column is about the GOP clown factor. And Gingrich is no, well, wait.

But back to the “red tsunami.” It turned into a one seat pickup in the Senate for Democrats, and while Republicans narrowly reclaimed control of the House of Representatives the GOP majority is so tenuous and the party so fractured that would-be House Speaker Kevin McCarthy should be employing a food taster.

Even if “my Kevin,” as the would-be Mar a Lago felon calls him, avoids the long knives his fellow Republicans have drawn for him and ends up with the gavel he will still wake every morning wondering which one of several nutjobs in his conference will trip him up before lunch.

Any way you slice it, Democrats defied nearly every prediction, including Newt’s, and now have an actual majority in the Senate and a ringside seat to cheer on the House Follies. House Democrats, with an attractive new leader and no responsibility, can hardly lose, while the nation focuses on the antics of the most radical group of House Republicans since, well maybe ever.

Even Gingrich back in 1994 had a plan to try and govern. And by contrast, when Republicans won the House in 1946, ending 14 years of Democratic rule, they actually had a legislative agenda, including a Constitutional amendment to limit any future president to two terms and limitations on the power of trade unions. Those Republicans also approved of the Marshall Plan and reorganized the US military, all stuff that clearly pales in comparison to Hunter Biden’s laptop.

By all rights, Republicans should have owned the Congress after the November election. That they didn’t isn’t really a complex story as the Georgia Senate race illustrates as well as any recent contest.

The Georgia election, decided earlier this week in favor of an eloquent Baptist preacher, Raphael Warnock, who immediately became a national figure by preaching bipartisanship, strangely combined poisonous partisanship, the violence of NFL football and the malicious influence of vast money in our politics. Think of that, if you can, as American exceptionalism.

Who in their right mind could think that Hershel Walker was in anyway qualified, let alone competent to represent Georgia in the United State Senate? Anyone with the experience of a 7th grade student council election would have said Walker was barely qualified to participate in a Capitol tour let alone sit in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Walker was, after all, credibly charged with sexual abuse, threatening women with firearms or knives, abandoning his children, at least those he knew about, and fabulizing much of his background. Walker’s closing argument to Georgia voters involved a crazy story about werewolves defeating zombies. Look it up. 

As David Von Drehle put it in the Washington Post: “It’s one thing for a deeply flawed person to accept admiration for his former athletic magnificence, but it’s quite another for him to seek a role in leading the country. The dirty laundry that Walker kept stuffed into the vault behind his trophy case was hauled into the glare of television lights and packaged into millions of dollars of negative advertising. One of Walker’s sons summed up his famous father this way: He ‘left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months’ to escape the mayhem of his own making.”

Doesn’t that sound like Robert Taft or Howard Baker?

Walker, with all his athletic talent, didn’t graduate from college, then denied that he had repeatedly said he had, even while having claimed he graduated in the top one percent of his class. He was a modestly successful professional player and seems a case study for why the NFL concussion scandal remains a scandal.

That the Republican Party, an unserious collection of loons, conspiracy theorists, shameless opportunists and personality cultists (but I repeat myself) would advance this deeply troubled man as a serious political candidate – not to mention similar cranks in several other states – says pretty much all you need to know about the party that once celebrated Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt and General Eisenhower.

And consider the money. One Atlanta TV station, WBS, pulled in at least $86 million from political ads during 2022. Republicans poured millions upon millions into Georgia to prop up a guy who campaigned on a werewolf versus vampire platform, and it damn near worked. Still, it turns out that all the money in the world can’t overcome too many football hits to the noggin.

An actual US Senate campaign …

Donald Trump promoted Walker, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham debased themselves acting like Herschel was a serious person, Republicans counted on him to secure a chairmanship for Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and send Patty Murray to oblivion, or in their better world back home. In January, by the way, Murray will chair the Appropriations Committee and become Senate president pro tem, third in line to the presidency. 

The Gingrich prophesy flopped for one big reason: maybe, just maybe nutjobbery as a political approach has reached its expiry date.

Walker did get one thing right: Werewolves do defeat vampires — see “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” At the closing of that 1948 film “classic,” the wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.) spares Bud Abbott and Lou Costello from the clutches of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi).

When you think about it, you wonder how we kept such intellectual heft out of the U.S. Senate.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest …

Wilma Mankiller, first female principal chief of Cherokee Nation

A pathbreaking Native leader now has a place on our coinage

“During her time as chief, Mankiller provided a foundation for the continued growth of the Cherokee Nation. Enrollment in Cherokee Nation doubled under her leadership. She championed education and secured a US$9 million vocational center. A 1991 Parade Magazine profile described her leadership style as quiet but strong.”

Link here to a good piece of American history.


Gen. Grant’s pending promotion sheds new light on his fight for equal rights after the Civil War

There is a proposal in Congress to promote the Civil War general to an exalted rank – General of the Armies of the US. Only George Washington and John J. Pershing have had such rank.

General Grant

“Grant served as president from 1869 to 1877 during a time when white Southerners proved hostile toward federal Reconstruction measures that sought equal rights for recently freed enslaved people.

“Grant saw his role of enforcing these policies as an extension of his wartime duty and necessary to protect the gains of the Union victory, especially the newly established rights for African Americans.

“He used the resources of the federal government to crush the Ku Klux Klan, established the Department of Justice to investigate civil rights abuses and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875.”

Link to more background.


Arkansas city elects 18-year-old as youngest Black mayor in US

The young folks are gonna save us, young folks like Jaylen Smith the new mayor of Earle, Arkansas.

“Among his first orders of business after he is sworn in next month, Smith said, would be to move the city’s police department to 24-hour operation. Other policy goals include ridding Earle of abandoned homes, creating jobs for city youth and providing transportation for elderly or infirm residents to grocery stores.”

Link to the full story.


The Great Canadian Baking Show Is a Pile of Wet Dough

I didn’t know there was a Canadian version of the Brit baking show. Now I know.

And this is a pretty good takedown of why the north-of-the-border knock off isn’t quite so good.

“While the contestants are generally likeable and diverse (although not geographically—50 percent of the contestants have been from Ontario for the past two seasons), many seem, like the country as a whole, as though the thing that unites them most strongly is the happenstance of being in the same place. Rather than showing us what Canada is and what it could become, it reveals profound insecurities about what sticks us together besides maple syrup.”

I love Canada. Read the whole thing.


That’s all I got for you this week. Stay warm. Do a good turn. Read books. Have an eggnog. All the best.

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.

—–0—–

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.

—–0—–

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.