Category Archives: The Right

The America First Movement has a Sean Hannity Problem

Click the links at the bottom if you want to see all the TWITTER content. mrossol

March 20, 2022 (2d ago)

In 2016, Donald Trump showed that a Republican candidate can run, and win, without swearing fealty to the permanent war party. He ran on a platform of “America First,” and since that moment almost all Republican politicians and commentators have at least paid lip service to the idea.

Yet now, all of that is being thrown aside for the sake of Ukraine.

In 2019, would-be America First Senator Josh Hawley delivered a speech about “Rethinking America’s Foreign Policy Consensus,” condemning “endless wars” and “metastasizing commitments” to far-off countries, and demanding a new narrower focus on keeping America and Americans safe and prosperous.

And then Ukraine came along, and Hawley suddenly looked like any other Republican from 2006.

It is one thing to see the Democrats eagerly join the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon in demanding the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. That alignment makes perfect sense politically—why wouldn’t the left align with the same national security state that embraces all of its values, and which has repurposed itself to target the left’s domestic political enemies on the right? https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

Seeing lawmakers on the right take the same stance, though, is both puzzling and pathetic. The relationship between the national security state and most GOP lawmakers and pundits increasingly resembles the relationship between an abusive husband and his battered spouse. Like a wife who believes her husband still loves her even as he sends her to the hospital, the same lawmakers and Fox News figures who claim to have embraced the Trump realignment are yet again letting themselves get played by a Regime that hates them.

Sure, it’s not nice when the Regime drinks too much and suddenly labels us all domestic terrorists, but patriotism requires that we unthinkingly serve this same regime when it wants to endanger American lives for another misadventure thousands of miles from our shores.

After all, freedom isn’t free!

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke before the U.S. Congress Wednesday morning, Republicans fêted him with a standing ovation before his remarks and then another ovation afterwards.

In his speech, Zelensky pleaded for a no-fly zone, fighter jet shipments to Ukraine, and even more punitive sanctions on Russia. It was a plea for a dramatic escalation in the conflict towards World War 3. And Republicans gave him two standing ovations in a row. With the world on the edge of nuclear holocaust, Republicans cheered on a leader who says that World War 3 has already started. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

After Zelensky’s speech, saccharine Republicans took to the airwaves to demand that President Biden ship fighter jets into Ukraine, despite the dangers of such a provocation:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Zelensky had made a strong case for what Biden should do. ​

“I think there’s a bipartisan movement right here, provide them the ​MiGs, provide them the ​planes where they can create ​no-fly zone, providee the armaments that they need to continue to fight a war that they did not create,” McCarthy said.

Anti-Trump Michael McCaul was particularly hysterical in his rhetoric:

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was moved by video Zelensky showed during his speech that highlighted the atrocities Russia is carrying out in Ukraine against women and children.

“We need to help Ukraine, give them everything they need to fight this war, and the video we saw was very reminiscent of Nazi Germany. … And history will judge us,” he said. “What did you do? What did you do when the bombing started? When the maternity hospitals were bombed and the pregnant women were taken out — blood, children, what did you do?”

“This is not a time for partisan rhetoric; this is a time to unify the nation behind Ukraine against one of the most evil forces we have seen since my father’s war — and that’s World War II, Adolf Hitler​,” he added. [New York Post]

If this feels familiar to you, it’s because we’ve seen this movie before. It’s a tired old flick about Republicans, especially “America First” pretenders, reverting back to the same old war script. Remember back in 2002? George W. Bush said war with Iraq was a “last resort.” Baloney. Republicans should have learned from that scam, and maybe the base of voters did when they elected Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in 2016. But the Republican establishment, including supposed MAGA and America First stalwarts, are still beating the same old war drums. With their every word and action, conservative “leaders” have embraced the new priority of Ukraine First, no matter the risk of World War 3. And thus far, Sean Hannity has been one of the worst offenders.

Hannity has tied himself into knots trashing President Biden over rising oil prices while also advocating for the drastic escalation of sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

On his radio program, Hannity has concocted wild ideas like assassinating Putin or bombing Russian convoys while saying we didn’t:

For those confused by what they are witnessing, here is a simple explanation: Fox News, Sean Hannity, and the GOP are reverting back to the leading roles they played in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Of course, we don’t want to just bag on Hannity, who is likeable enough. But the whole history of the Iraq War really leaves us no choice.

Back in 2003, 90 percent of Republicans supported the decision to invade Iraq and violently topple Saddam Hussein’s government. But “supported” undersells the intensity of the Iraq moment. Out of 272 Republicans in Congress, only seven voted against authorizing the invasion. For three years, House Republicans renamed French fries to “freedom fries” and French toast to “freedom toast” in the House cafeteria. Fox News hyped the war relentlessly during the leadup, and its hosts defended nearly every facet of it for long afterward. Pat Buchanan, Scott McConnell, and Taki Theodoracopulos founded The American Conservative in 2002 precisely because every other institution on the right, from the White House to Fox to National Review, was marching towards war in lockstep with the military-industrial complex. Even in 2008, with WMDs still yet to be found and the Iraq insurgency roiling on, 73 percent still stood by the invasion.

American conservatives got bamboozled badly on Iraq, but nobody got bamboozled more than Hannity. In the months leading up to the invasion, Hannity bought every claim, every allegation, and every lie that was used to sell the war. Months before the Iraq invasion, in November 2002, Hannity was already chomping at the bit for Saddam’s destruction. Why? To get rid of those dastardly WMDs, of course:

“He’s had 11 years to play his cat-and-mouse game, and, frankly, one of the people unhappy with Tuesday’s elections, I have no doubt, is Saddam Hussein. He would have, I’m sure, preferred appeasement liberals to have been elected and to be in charge, and it probably would have helped his cause. … Where do we go from here in terms of Iraq in real terms? I don’t believe he’s going to allow unfettered access. I don’t think you believe that. So it’s really just a matter of time. The first indication we have that he is not abiding by this agreement — don’t we have to be ready to act immediately?

On December 9, 2002, Hannity told Fox News viewers that Saddam’s Iraq was full of camps training terrorists plotting new 9/11s:

In northern Iraq today, this very day, al Qaeda is operating camps there, and they are attacking the Kurds in the north, and this has been well-documented and well chronicled. Now, if you’re going to go after al Qaeda in every aspect, and obviously they have the support of Saddam, or we’re not.

Even years afterwards, Hannity couldn’t accept he’d been sold a load of hokum by Beltway warmongers. In 2016, Hannity still clung to his theory that the WMDs were real, and sneakily smuggled off to Syria just before the U.S. invasion.

Thanks to Republican credulity, the Pied Piper of the Globalist American Empire took all of America off to war, and the result was calamity. The “weapons of mass destruction” that justified invasion did not exist. Perhaps to avoid admitting such a humiliating blunder, the Bush Administration switched to an agenda of “democracy-building.” 140,000 U.S. troops settled in for a long occupation whose final cost exceeded $2 trillion. More than 4,400 of those troops did not return.

America has made plenty of blunders as a global superpower, but the Iraq War was the worst. It was entirely optional, easily avoidable, strategically worthless, hideously wasteful, and far too often, morally compromising.

As bad as a mistake as Iraq was, in the moment it can be understood. The 9/11 attacks were a profound shock to the national psyche, and for years the nation remained paranoid that deadly enemies were everywhere and 9/11 would just be the prelude to future, much deadlier attacks. Not only that, but the national security state had not spent 20 years lying about Afghanistan then, and had not declared war on American conservatives as a class, so the need to distrust them was not quite as obvious.

Falling for the Iraq War the first time may be excused. What cannot be excused is falling for the Deep State’s fanatical war rhetoric againas it tries to drag the nation into World War 3. Yet incredibly, inexcusably, that is exactly what is happening across the board, and it’s not just Hannity, either.

On Fox and Friends just the other day, Dan Crenshaw said that critics of further escalation were doing the work of Vladimir Putin.

Last week, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana appeared on Fox to complain to bellow that bah gawd, America must give the man his planes. https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZUE9tycar-I?start=108&feature=oembed

In a baffling display of television rhetoric, Kennedy repeatedly referenced The Godfather, moaned that Biden is not a “wartime consigliere” (a consigliere is an adviser; why would we want the President to be an adviser?), and quipped that Vice President Kamala Harris resembles “Fredo,” the weakling older brother of Michael Corleone.

Kennedy’s “get the man his planes!” zeal would be welcome if he felt like applying it in advocacy of domestic victims of political aggression, like the January 6 political prisoners. But despite sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which provides oversight of the DOJ, Kennedy has shown no interest in possible provocateurs at the Capitol like Ray Epps, no interest in the months of abuse inflicted on prisoners, and no concern about the vast nationwide manhunt launched by the FBI in retaliation for the Capitol protest. When the one-year anniversary of the incident rolled around, Kennedy’s sounded more like a Democrat than a conservative Republican:

Without order, there can be no justice. The violence at the U.S. Capitol one year ago is as despicable and shameful now as it was then. Those Washington rioters should continue to answer for their crimes without exception, as should everyone who has committed violence as part of mobs or political riots.

Not to mention, the above clip featuring Senator Kennedy provides a disturbing example in how dramatically Fox News personalities have slid back into their Bush-era roles as hyperventilating cheerleaders for war and mayhem. For instance, these are chyrons that appear at the bottom of the screen during Kennedy’s appearance:

  • “Putin’s Forces Unleash Atrocities on Ukrainians”
  • “Sen. Graham Slams Biden Admin on Fighter Jet Fiasco”
  • “Day 15 of Russia’s Brutal Invasion of Ukraine”

Later, after Kennedy’s segment ended, Fox pivoted to hearings in the U.S. Senate. The network fawned over Sen. Tom Cotton’s denunciations of President Biden’s “weak” response with the chyron “Cotton Asks Why Jets To Ukraine Is Escalatory” (the implication, of course, is that it’s not). After Cotton’s testimony ended, host Harris Faulkner, nominally a neutral “news” anchor, nearly lost her composure as she gushed with enthusiasm for more conflict:

“I’m glad we got to hear some of that, because that was some truth-telling right there, and Senator Cotton was really going after it. What is the difference, he said, between giving them weapons that can shoot stuff down and giving them the planes that they’re asking for. What an incredible moment. And when she came back with ‘a challenging place to manage right now.’ Who talks like that? Just say what it is: The President doesn’t know what to do, and he seems to be afraid of Putin.”

Nobody is under any illusions that Fox News is a rigidly neutral news network, but even accounting for that, Faulkner’s uncontrolled gushing pro-war agitation is disturbing. By the way, this same Harris Faulkner, moved to tears on behalf of Ukraine, also once barred Newt Gingrich from mentioning George Soros in relation to his funding the election of far-left DAs in American cities. https://www.youtube.com/embed/8buhJgzP6XU?feature=oembed

(And speaking of Soros, just like Zelensky, the globalist Hungarian billionaire has also taken the position that World War III has already begun, so what’s the harm in sending Ukraine fighter jets, or seeking regime change in Russia?)

Perhaps more disturbingly, Harris’ rhetoric is unexceptional on the Fox News network. Almost all of Fox has taken the same attitude. Non-TV watchers might think based on the calls to arrest Tucker Carlson that Fox News has staked out an anti-intervention position. But in fact, Tucker is a severe outlier on his own network, along with perhaps Jesse Watters.

Over the weekend, the “great one” Mark Levin bizarrely acted like he was in a brave minority for supporting more conflict with Russia, and raved that “American-Firsters” (sic) were the “Putin wing” of the Republican Party.

On March 4, Fox’s “America Reports” gave the stage to former Mike Pence advisor Gen. Keith Kellogg (also a former VP at Cubic Defense Applications), who laid out a ridiculous strategy claiming that the U.S. could intervene and start shooting down Russian jets, as long as they called it a United Nations no-fly zone instead of a NATO one. https://www.youtube.com/embed/wjanTXCW9oM?feature=oembed

Recently, police recovered the body of Russian model Gretta Vedler, stuffed into a suitcase. Vedler disappeared more than a year ago, and her boyfriend has admitted to the gruesome crime. Yet here is how Fox chose to present the story on Twitter for credulous skimmers:

Other than a handful of holdouts, Fox News’ message has become relentless: Escalate, escalate, escalate! 

Sadly, the message seems to be getting through. A recent Pew poll found that Republicans are even more eager to support Ukraine than Democrats. Perhaps one could say they’ve fallen into the Hannity Trap.

In a recent vote, just a handful of GOP representatives dared to oppose the national security state on Russia escalation, and they just happened to mostly be the precious few representatives who have spoken up for the aforementioned January 6 defendants that GOP Senator Kennedy excoriated last year.

Perhaps that’s more than just a mere coincidence. To avoid falling into the Hannity Trap, one needs to have both the willingness, courage, intelligence, and financial independence to question security state narratives. Of course, there are other possible explanations for why so many so-called conservatives and Republicans find themselves in the Hannity Trap:

  • Political cynicism: Sundown Joe Biden is an easy punching bag for scoring cheap hits.
  • “Owning the libs”: Conservatives are more easily interested in a short-term attack on the left than they are on finding the best policy for America, regardless of what Democrats are doing.
  • Americans don’t read much history, so even elected Republicans have learned no lessons from history except that Hitler = bad, and mean foreign leaders = Hitler.
  • Right-of-center people just innately like the military and like seeing it used. Hooah.

For Republicans, projecting toughness on Ukraine or any other foreign question is a coping mechanism to demonstrate phony strength and hide (from voters, and perhaps from themselves) how impotent and weak they have been against a genuine existential threat: The non-stop cultural assault on the American people.

When the stakes are Ukrainian sovereignty, Republicans are firm, united, and even fanatical. When the stakes are the gradual, explicit transformation of their own voters into fifth-class citizens, unity and enthusiasm evaporate.

In 2022 America, it is far easier for Republicans to demand World War 3 than it is for them to demand that their voters not be replaced from abroad, targeted with race hate propaganda in schools, or be herded off to prison for attending the wrong protest.

For the right, war is a permanent crutch, a way to ignore real issues (the issues where they are losing) and live in a comforting fantasy world of easy moral clarity and absolute American dominance. Demanding escalation in Eastern Europe is a way for Republicans to feel tough when they have totally lost control of their own country. In this darkly ironic fashion, Republicans actually do have something in common with the Ukrainians they wish to save: they are both patriotic to a country that they have no control over in the first place.

Until they liberate themselves from The Hannity Trap, the compulsion to snap back in line behind the military-industrial-globalism complex whenever it actually matters, the Republican Party, Fox News, and other bastions of American “conservatism” will never be capable or worthy of Making America Great Again.

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Norman Podhoretz on the Spiritual War for America

Sounds like I need to read some of Mr Podhoretz’s books! mrossol

The Wall Street Journal, By Barton Swaim,

Norman Podhoretz

Illustration: Barbara Kelley

There was a time—roughly from the mid-1960s to the rise of Donald Trump in 2015—when the American right was more or less definable. No more. Major political parties are always riven by internal disputes, but even during George W. Bush’s second term, at the nadir of the Iraq war, the Republican coalition seemed to hang together better than it has these past six years. Mr. Trump’s candidacy was a sign of that fracturing rather than its cause, but his presidency wasn’t marked by unity in the GOP.

Quite the opposite. A significant faction of the party now advocates aggressive industrial policy as a means of alleviating social ills wrought by “unregulated” capitalism. Another demeans the party’s traditional predilection for hawkish foreign policy as an obsession with “forever wars.” The right’s leading media personalities, meanwhile, would rather talk about the latest cultural outrage—an androgynous Mr. Potato Head!—than explain the perils of turning social welfare into a middle-class entitlement.

Are the challenges facing conservatives really so different from what they were 50, 60 or 70 years ago? Most of the architects of postwar conservatism aren’t around to ask anymore, but Norman Podhoretz—editor of the Jewish intellectual magazine Commentary from 1960 to 1995 and one of the founders of neoconservatism—is 91 and as talkative as ever. I visited his book-laden Upper East Side apartment last month with the vague premonition that he might have something to say about the fractured state of American conservatism.

My timing was good. The day before, voters had elected a Republican governor in a state most observers considered blue, and indisputably blue New Jersey had come within a few percentage points of doing the same. “I wasn’t sure they were still out there,” Mr. Podhoretz says. Who? “The ‘deplorables,’ ” he says, gesturing quotation marks as he employs Hillary Clinton’s famous term from 2016. “I really didn’t know. If the results had gone the other way, I wouldn’t have been that surprised. Our troops were not as visible, at least to me, because the media and the culture are all on the other side . . . The other side has won the culture—that’s one battlefield—but they haven’t yet won the polity. That’s very encouraging.”

Mr. Podhoretz says he uses the word “deplorables” loosely, to mean Americans of all classes who refuse to be told what to do and how to live by the nation’s well-heeled progressive elite. “The question for me was whether the sources of health and vitality I used to know existed in this country were still there. I fell in love with Americans when I was in the Army. I was born in Brooklyn; I lived in England”—Mr. Podhoretz studied English literature at Cambridge on a Fulbright Scholarship in the early 1950s—“but I hadn’t been to very many places in my country. Being in the Army, you get shuffled around. That’s where I discovered Americans. Especially the deplorables. They were great.”

This is a theme, aside from the word “deplorables,” that runs through Mr. Podhoretz’s first memoir, “Making It” (1967). In the Army in 1953-55, he wrote in that book, “usually my closest friends were back-country Southern boys, real rednecks.” (As a Southern redneck myself, I marked the passage in pencil many years ago.) “They’re sane,” he says to me. “They know there’s something wrong, let’s say, when a guy says he’s a girl. They look at that and say, What are you, f— crazy?” He waves as if to suggest this is only one among many instances of insanity. “All that stuff.”

He contrasts these deplorables with something like what the Russians called the “intelligentsia.” “The intelligentsia thought it was wrong that people who’ve made a lot of money in business should be our leaders,” he says. “They resented it. They were not being accorded the power they thought they deserved. But as time went on, they were accorded more and more power—and they stayed resentful. The intelligentsia in America is still resentful.”

This gets us to the subject of Mr. Trump. Mr. Podhoretz’s admiration for the 45th president, when it crept out a few years ago, surprised some observers on the left and right. Hadn’t Mr. Trump harshly criticized the Iraq war, which Mr. Podhoretz fervently supported? Yes, but the pre-eminent themes of Mr. Podhoretz’s journalism were always gratitude to the United States and skepticism of credentialed experts.

“I was, to begin with, anti-anti-Trump,” he says. “I was not crazy about the guy. I had never met him, and still I’ve never met him. But I thought the animosity against him was way out of proportion and, on the right, a big mistake. I went from anti-anti-Trump to pro-Trump. . . . I still think—and it’s been the same fight going on in my lifetime since, I would say, 1965—I still think there’s only one question: Is America good or bad?”

He pauses, leans back in his sofa chair, and restates the formulation. “A force for good in the world—or not?”

Mr. Podhoretz was only 30 when he became editor of Commentary, then a magazine of the left. Over the next several years he began to reject the Marxian attitude of his fellow New York intellectuals. “I broke with the left mainly because of its anti-Americanism. When you’re hanging around with people, you hear things they don’t say in public. I knew what they thought, what they didn’t say except in private. And what they thought was horrendous to me.” Each of his four autobiographical books—“Making It,” “Breaking Ranks” (1979), “Ex-Friends” (1999) and “My Love Affair With America” (2000)—is in some way an account of his estrangement from the left as a consequence of its refusal, as he saw it, to embrace the U.S., its history and its culture.

His essays in Commentary, not only on domestic politics and foreign policy but also, perhaps especially, on literature, were always distinguished by a graceful pugnacity. He takes bold positions, expresses them fluently, and hits hard. So his description of conservative voters as “troops” didn’t surprise me. “It’s a war, in my view,” Mr. Podhoretz says. “Many people are reluctant to see it in those terms. I mean, people say it’s a lot like 1858 and so on, but I don’t see it as a prelude to a civil war and 600,000 Americans dead. That’s not my meaning. But spiritually it’s a war.”

The term “culture war” has been thrown around for 30 years, but Mr. Podhoretz takes the martial metaphor seriously: “We’re in a war, and it’s a war to the death. Now they actually admit it. They used to pretend. Not anymore. ‘Dissent’ was the real patriotism—so being against America meant you were for America, if you remember all that. Now they’re happy to say what they think.”

The left wants to win, he says, but “I’m not sure anymore what our side wants. The right, as I used to understand it, no longer exists. So you’ve got one very clear side, and one very muddled side.”

Would it be accurate to say that the right’s muddled state consists in a division between those who understand that we’re in a war and those who don’t? A sizeable contingent of the right, such as it is, still believes that solid reporting, thorough scholarship and careful argumentation will win the respect of their ideological adversaries on the basis of fairness and merit. Is that way of thinking a failure to understand the nature of the conflict?

“I think so,” Mr. Podhoretz says. “And I think Trump was the only guy who understood the situation in those terms, whether by instinct or whatever.”

What about Mr. Trump’s claim, during the 2016 campaign, that the Bush administration “lied” to justify an invasion of Iraq? “That was one of the main things that kept me from becoming pro-Trump,” Mr. Podhoretz says. “And I still get very angry on that whole business. First of all, it’s not true. It’s also crazy. Why would they lie about weapons of mass destruction? If they were lying, they knew they would be exposed a week after our troops got in. So what was the sense of it? Nobody was lying. Seventeen intelligence agencies, something like that, thought Saddam was hiding them.”

Here Mr. Podhoretz laughs. “Look,” he says, “Trump is a type of person . . . there’s a wonderful Yiddish slang word: bulvan. A bully, doesn’t care, crashes through. Trump’s bad side is a necessary accompaniment to his good side.”

Mr. Podhoretz doesn’t like everything about the populist right. “I heard Tucker Carlson the other day call neoconservatives ‘cowards.’ That’s funny—I never met any neocons who were cowards.” (The term “neocons” in this context refers broadly to those who hold the view that the U.S. and the world are better served by the assertive use of American power abroad.) He takes up the Fox host’s taunt: “I served in this country’s military. Did Carlson? I don’t think so.”

Mr. Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election notwithstanding, Mr. Podhoretz has no apologies. “Maybe Trump’s outlived his usefulness, I don’t know,” Mr. Podhoretz says. “And the way he gave away Georgia”—he means the two Jan. 5 runoff elections that cost the Republicans the Senate majority—“was pretty hard to forgive. But if I thought he could win, I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for him.”

Mr. Podhoretz keeps returning to the theme of war, a war made necessary, in his view, by the anti-Americanism of the political left. Is the hatred of America worse than it used to be? “Unquestionably,” he says. “The left of the 1930s, which was the first time it had significant power and influence, was anti-American to begin with. But it had an alternative—the Soviet Union.” The U.S.S.R. turned out to be a disappointment when it allied with Hitler in 1939, although some on the left never gave up on Russian communism. “Then, after the war, especially in the 1960s and later, they had a series of alternatives—Cuba one week, Mao’s China the next, or Nicaragua, or North Vietnam, or whatever.” The left liked Sweden for a while, he laughs, but Sweden has a market economy. “And”—he laughs again—“somebody found out about the suicide rate.”

But now, he notes, there’s no alternative, no pretense that some other place does things better. “This ‘woke’ business—critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, all of it—is just pure anti-American hatred. And I think [its proponents] would admit that. Which is why I keep saying it’s a war. If you don’t understand that, you don’t know what the hell is going on.”

What about the claim that the war is over, and the right lost? Mr. Podhoretz points out that things were pretty bad for conservatives in the late 1970s, but the reaction was explosive. Magazines like Commentary, he thinks, changed the way intellectuals and academics thought about welfare and foreign policy: “People used to accuse me of being self-important when I said this, but the change in the political culture that the neoconservative movement helped to foster was a necessary precondition for the election of Ronald Reagan.”

That can happen again? “It could.”

Maybe, after all, the right’s internal divisions aren’t fatal. Mr. Podhoretz notes that Henry Kissinger, “who used to call me his worst enemy,” is now a close friend. So, until his death in 2008, was William F. Buckley Jr. , with whom Mr. Podhoretz had several fierce disagreements. Wars, including “spiritual” ones, tend to force co-belligerents back into the same camp.

“People make everything complicated,” he says, “when mostly it’s simple.”

Mr. Swaim is a Journal editorial page writer.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/norman-podhoretz-spiritual-war-for-america-conservatism-republican-trump-youngkin-carlson-11639149560?mod=hp_opin_pos_5#cxrecs_s

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Can the GOP survive Trump’s never-ending obsession with himself?

Someone recommended this blog post to me. I think Mr Goldberg’s analysis is pretty good. I will quibble on a few points (see below). mrossol

By Jonah Goldberg,  October 15, 2021

       
   

(Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images.)

Dear Reader (including whoever put the lime in the coconut and shook it all up),

As Jerome Powell whispered, don’t worry, baby, this will be transitory.

What I mean is that this Friday “news”letter marks the end of third party week. And I’m really not going to jump back into the weeds on that subject anyway. (By the way, I’ve opened up the Wednesday G-File to the masses in case you want to get in on the action.)  

I don’t really mind people thinking I’m wrong about the tactical and strategic stuff. One of the ways you figure out what’s right is by kicking the tires on what’s wrong. I don’t mind people thinking I’m wrong about the philosophical stuff, either. I’m just more willing to stand my ground on principles than I am on prudential questions like, “Will it work?” If it wouldn’t work, why would I want to do it in the first place? (Great line.. mrossol)

Think of it this way: Say my kid is suddenly really ill and I think it’s appendicitis. I say to the E.R. doctor, “You gotta operate right now!” If the doctor responds, “Um, it’s food poisoning. You don’t cut people open for that,” I’m not going to get all huffy and insist he bust out the scalpel, because doctors know more about the icky stuff inside of people than I do. But if the doctor says, “Let her suffer. Suffering is good for the soul. Besides, it’s my lunch break.” Well—as I’d probably have to explain to the cops and maybe the jury—I’m going to have a more forceful response.

In other words, if you disagree with me about my proposed solution to the problem, that’s cool; let’s talk it through. But if you disagree with me on whether or not there is a problem in the first place, we’re gonna have a very different conversation.  Agree- mrossol.

So here’s the funny thing: Nobody wants to have that conversation (although I’m sure some MAGA types are going full Gorka on me—never go full Gorka). But among people worth listening to, there’s a lot of agreement on the diagnosis and a lot of disagreement on the treatment. I particularly like the rich cocktail of stoicism, cynicism, and hopefulness in Erick Erickson’s take. It’s like getting a motivational greeting card from Werner Herzog. He writes:

It’s all gross and unseemly, but I think what is happening now is a passing fad. A large group of people came into politics inspired by Trump. They don’t really know what they’re doing in politics or how it all works. Now the billionaires who want in on the action are throwing money around and they’re getting played by the grifters and bled dry. The island of misfit toys is trying to lead them all. The professional establishment operators are experts at playing all sides and the odds are in their favor. They’re not conservatives. But they aren’t really crazy either.

But note that the Calvin Coolidge-esque resignation about the problem isn’t a denial of the problem’s existence. Remember one of my favorite quotes from Coolidge: “If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” Erick’s position seems to be that the problem I identify is likely to be one of the nine that goes into a ditch on its own.  I agree – mrossol.

I sincerely hope he’s right. But I still disagree with Eric on a few things. For instance, I’m still not fully convinced my idea wouldn’t work. I worry more about the role of small donors than I do about the really big ones. J.D. Vance may be attached to Peter Thiel like a sucker fish, but unless the fat cats are laundering money through a bunch of dummy accounts, buffoons like Marjorie Taylor Greene and political appetites in a skin suit (looking at you, Josh Hawley) are raising a ton of money through small donations.

Donald Trump, third party of one.

But you know what does give me hope? Donald Trump. The other day, he issued a fantastic statement:

If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.

I love this statement so much it makes me want to take off my wedding ring, suck in my stomach, and ask it to go to Bermuda with me. Ha! mrossol.

All week I’ve been hearing from people—smart people, dumb people, sincere people, performative Twitter jackass people—that it’s bad, wrong, traitorous, stupid, misguided, or insane for me to actively try to hurt the GOP because of my personal obsessions. “Don’t you understand,” friends and foes alike ask, “that you’ll single-handedly give total power to the Democrats and they’ll print a whole roll of trillion-dollar coins, invoke prima nocta in red states, mandate that face masks be surgically sewn into our faces (causing the starvation of millions), make skim almond milk the only legal form of dairy, and give nuclear weapons to the Taliban? Is that what you want you RINO cuck TDS-besotted jackass? Is it?”  I don’t think this is what Goldberg is doing. mrossol

Okay, I’m paraphrasing and exaggerating just a bit for effect, but you get the point. In all of this, I’m the one who needs to compromise with the “freedom flu” crowd for the greater good; I’m the one who needs to stop relitigating the past; I’m the one putting my concerns ahead of the real issues that affect real Americans; I’m the one who needs to be a sober-eyed grown-up about politics.

And then in comes Trump, making waves like a stumbling drunk who didn’t see the hot tub until too late, literally saying that Democrats should win every election uncontested unless everyone “solves” the object of his batshit bullshittery. The single most important thing for Republicans to address isn’t critical race theory, vaccine mandates, the border, the supply chain cock-up, inflation, or anything having to do with foreign policy. It’s their commitment to a claim that was shot down by every court that looked at it, not to mention Trump’s own attorney general(s).  So I agree that what the Republican’s single most important issues are NOT.  But what I disagree with is that Goldberg (and others like him) seem to suggest, if not outright saying it, is that the election(s) of 2020 were 100% legitimate, honest, and that there is nothing “wrong” with process.  They are willing to believe something that is very, very unlikely.  mrossol

At least my solutions are aimed at the future and grounded in real policy stuff. I’m trying to figure out how to make the GOP better, more successful, and conservative in the long run. Meanwhile, Trump’s stolen election fantasy is simply and entirely about his own selfish id, his unrestrained narcissism, and his complete lack of concern with anything approaching real issues. He might as well be venting about how the time travel in Back to the Future really didn’t make much sense, given how little this stolen election nonsense has to do with not only reality, but stuff that might be helpful for the GOP. In other words, my alleged “Trump obsession” isn’t the issue or even a problem. But Trump’s very real and deranged Trump obsession is.

It already cost the GOP control of the Senate by losing Georgia. Now Trump proposes losing the whole country if his ego isn’t stroked. But damn you, Goldberg, be a team player!

By the way, what in the name of Thor does Trump mean by “solve” anyway? Does it mean “make him president again before the midterms”? Does it mean a do-over of the election? Does it mean a 500-foot-tall carnivorous purple bunny that craps cold fusion reactors that smell like chocolate?  Because that makes as much sense.

Look, even if a joint investigation of the Claremont Review of Books, Gateway Pundit, One America News, and the MyPillow coupon sampler could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the election was “stolen,” you know what happens next under the Constitution? Nothing. Biden would still be president. Unless of course you think that such fraud should be punished by impeachment and removal. Fair enough. Have fun getting those 67 votes in the Senate. But let’s say you do. Know what happens then? Kamala Harris becomes president. Well, she was obviously in on it, too, so she has to go. Okay, then Nancy Pelosi becomes president. Maybe you should stop there, because next in line is Pat Leahy. And after that, John frick’n Kerry. But you know who isn’t on even the extended list of those next in line to become president? Donald Trump. (It’s amazing how many people who have “constitutional conservative” in their Twitter bio don’t understand this.) Agree. Not sure there is a “solve”. mrossol

In other words, who needs a third party to punish the GOP when you have Donald Trump running around punching every team player in the groin with a spikey iron gauntlet? Charlie Cooke and my other friends at National Review who disagreed with my call for a third party are right that if the Sanity Caucus within conservatism cost the GOP control of Congress or the White House, they’d get blamed. And that would ultimately hurt the causes I care about. So just letting the cultists play out their auto-erotic masochism, as Erick suggests, makes sense.  

My only objection to this scenario is that it hasn’t worked. Trump cost the GOP Georgia’s two Senate seats. Trump lost the presidency and both houses of Congress. He swapped many of the most reliable and valuable voters in the GOP coalition for the least reliable and valuable ones.  Partially agree, mrossol.

(Before a bunch of eggheads who pretend to be the authentic voice of the working class when they’re not talking about post-liberal integralism get all worked up about this claim, let me make clear I’m not talking about the value of these groups as human beings, but as voters. College educated suburbanites turned out reliably for the GOP in places where their votes were decisive. Rural voters and voters without college degrees—many of whom are already in red states—turn out less and less reliably, particularly when Trump isn’t on the ticket.)

Anyway, sorry for the long parenthetical. Where were we? Oh, right: Trump has hurt the GOP and continues to hurt the GOP in tangible ways. Yet where are the grown-ups saying, “Okay, it’s time to learn our lesson”? Normally, the faction responsible for wrecking the party hands over the car keys to the faction that gets to say, “I told you so.” Some Republicans did say it, finally, after the January 6 riot.  Like the word “stolen” isn’t the right word to describe the 2020 election, “riot” is not the right word to use for January 6.  It validates all the lies that the left and Dems are leveling at citizens who think different then they. mrossol.

Such Republicans can be divided into two groups. Group A—the House and Senate members who voted for impeachment—is on defense. The House members are being purged. The senators are keeping a low profile. None of them have the whip hand in restoring the GOP to sanity. 

Group B? Well, that’s pretty much everyone else. Nearly all of them have backtracked or apologized in word or deed. Lindsey Graham said he was done with Trump nine months ago. Now he wants to draft Donald Trump for president. Heck, Trump unleashed a mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence” on a vice president who was so loyal for four years he made a Stepford wife look like a randy swinger. We use the term “lynch mob” figuratively a lot in politics. But Trump sicced a literal lynch mob on Pence. And now Pence is attacking [checks notes] the media for making such a big deal about all this.

So again, I’m hoping that Erick is right and this will all fix itself in due course. I’m just skeptical, because for five years I’ve been told, “This can’t last,” “The grown-ups will fix it,” “Trump wouldn’t dare,” “The rank-and-file GOP would never tolerate that,” and “You’re making way too big a deal about this stuff,” etc.  Agree. I don’t think this will fix itself. mrossol

All of those claims were wrong. And the wrongness only seems to be intensifying.

Canine update: Lots of people want to know about Pippa’s medical travails, so here’s the latest. One surgeon told us if her ankle got worse, she’d need surgery to pretty much fuse the joint. She’d still have a limp, but it wouldn’t be painful anymore. We decided it was time and brought her in for a consultation with a different surgeon (the first one is on leave). He’s skeptical that surgery is needed. This might be great news, or it might not. He thinks she might have Lyme disease or some other tick-borne illness, because she seems to have joint pain elsewhere as well. Maybe it’s all treatable with medicine and no surgery (which would be great). Or maybe it’s not (which would be terrible). We’re doing the tests, hemorrhaging the money, etc. We love the sweet, crazy girl. I promise to let you know the outcome.

Meanwhile, I’m on a plane to visit my daughter and I’m pretty giddy about it (the daughter-seeing, not the flying). The dogs are having a sleepover at “Aunt” Kirsten’s house. They love it there. Meanwhile, Gracie is staying home with a personal attendant who will also keep an eye on the house. I’ll be back on Tuesday, but the Fair Jessica will be on a business trip for a while (she’s an assassin), which means it’ll just be me and the quadrupeds for like 10 days.

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The GOP’s ‘D’oh!’ Moment

Why Republicans can’t seem to think politically straight is not only frustrating, but incomprehensible.

WSJ 7/31/2020  by Kimberley A. Strassel

Senate Republicans experienced their “D’oh!” moment this week, and better late than never. If even Homer Simpson can experience moments of clarity, maybe the GOP can yet do a virus economy—and itself—some good.

As Congress spent another tortuous week nonnegotiating a fifth virus-relief bill, it finally dawned on Republicans that they are being played for fools. Democrats don’t want a bill; they want to win an election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who may go down as one of Washington’s greatest cynics—knew exactly what she was doing in May, when she cooked up the $3 trillion monstrosity known as the Heroes Act. If the GOP said no to her outlandish demands, Democrats would brand them as uncaring, unable to lead, unworthy of controlling Washington. If instead she bludgeoned them into swallowing her spendathon, Democrats would wave the win as proof they should control Washington. Heads Democrats win; tails Republicans lose.

 

The GOP did its mightiest to aid this strategy, by having no alternative of its own. By May, Congress had spent nearly $3 trillion on the virus, and Republicans had plenty to pack into a message: The bills provided generous aid to the unemployed, small businesses, families, vital industry, schools, states, renters and health providers. The goals were to stave off economic collapse, provide a lifeline during a national shutdown, lay the groundwork for reopening. All that was accomplished—not that you hear Republicans noting it. The bills, moreover, provided a cushion to deal with lingering needs; as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson recently noted, more than $1 trillion of those original packages has yet to be spent or obligated.

 

Instead of making these points, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled the GOP was open to tacking Democratic demands on to the Republican priority of liability protection for businesses and organizations. The White House rolled out Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who invited Mrs. Pelosi to dictate the GOP bill. Instead of putting together a plan focused on pro-growth economic policies, the Senate GOP cobbled together a hodgepodge of its own spending demands—money for schools, aid for farmers and, yes, $1.75 billion for a new FBI building. Cue a revolt by fiscal conservatives and party infighting—and two weeks of headlines about Republican “chaos.”

 

All the while, Democrats have broadcast—in plain English—that they have no intention of letting legislation succeed. Mrs. Pelosi this week described the two bills as a “giraffe” and a “flamingo” and said they were “not mateable.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer won’t even try, refusing to engage in regular order—to bring a bill to the floor, to hold amendments and votes, and to send a rival product to a House-Senate conference. Democrats have a plan—blame Republicans for the bill’s failure and, by laughable extension, the nation’s economic woes.

And so it was encouraging to see Mr. McConnell acknowledge reality and move to put the GOP back on offense. Stepping back from talks on a big bill, the Senate GOP tackled the most pressing deadline—the Friday expiration of federal enhanced unemployment benefits. Sen. Johnson proposed renewing these benefits at about two-thirds of lost wages, or roughly $200 a week. This would allow the federal government to continue providing some aid, though not the current, crazy $600 a week that is discouraging so many from returning to work. Senate Republicans asked for unanimous consent on that plan, and Democrats blocked it. That means Democrats own the expiration.

Not that the press will put it that way, which is why it is also encouraging that Mr. McConnell now intends to put a legislative version of that unemployment extension on the floor next week and put Democrats on record voting it down. The only way to expose Democratic cynicism and intransigence is to beat the public over the head with proof—something the GOP failed to do with policing reform. A GOP vote would force Democrats to explain why two-thirds of regular pay is not enough—especially given prior Democratic proposals that set virus sick leave and family medical leave at two-thirds regular pay. When Democrats vote it down, Mr. McConnell needs to bring it up again. And again.

The GOP meantime also has an opportunity to rethink and put together proposals sharply tailored to economic growth. Then bring them up again, and again. Hammer home that Democrats are blocking economic revival. (You can bet that is what Mr. Schumer would be doing to Republicans right now, were the situation reversed.)

 

If Republicans allow this election to become a contest over which party can spend more taxpayer dollars, they will lose. Better to treat it as an opportunity to present true competing visions—between a GOP that has a plan for a bigger and better economy, and a Democratic Party that wants a vastly larger entitlement state. Yet making that contrast first requires Republicans to get there themselves. Get a plan, make the case.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-gops-doh-moment-11596149323?mod=opinion_featst_pos3

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