Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trump's Bonfire of Vulgarities

When we ponder why (and who) Trump’s base sticks with him, the answer is really pretty simple. Money and whiteness. Trump has both and therefore can be forgiven anything and everything.

Our Roving Reporter Sherry highlights an expanded explanation by NY Times Columnist Charles M. Blow: Trumpism’s Infinite Vulgarities. Republicans have come to accept what they once professed to abhor.

Following are excerpts.

The terrains of acceptability and respectability have shifted under the American conservative.

That which was once forbidden is now embraced. That which they once condemned they cheer. Conservatism has been unveiled in all its craven glory. No longer is it shrouded behind morality, small government, traditional values and spending concerns.

President Trump is the new doctrine, and Republicans bought it. There is no amount of cruelty or crudeness he can display that Republicans won’t cheer and defend. His corruption has become theirs.

And, it is possible that Trump is growing bolder in his coarseness, and it is revealed that there is precious little that will shake loose his base and its blind devotion to him.

Last week, Trump went on more profanity-laced tirades. At a campaign rally in Minnesota, Trump said of Joe Biden: “He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

… whether Trump is conscious of it or not, whether it was intentional or not. The insult invokes a fear and disdain that white racists have had throughout American history: The subjugation of the white man to the black one.

Sarah Palin made a whole campaign out of saying that Obama “pals around with terrorists,” while Trump quite literally cozies up to murderous dictators and brags about the love letters he exchanges with one.

Republicans see nothing wrong here. Trump is a rich white man defending white supremacy and white nationalism. For him, the rules are different. For him, certain dispensations must be given.

The way that the Religious Right has bent and distorted biblical doctrine to support this vulgar man is absolutely obscene. It makes a mockery of their faith and their supposed philosophies.

The moment that Trump insisted on separating immigrant children from their families, locking those children in cages and arguing in court against having to provide soap and toothbrushes to those children, or against turning off the lights so that they could sleep, should have been the red line to any true Christian — or for any human being with a shred of compassion, regardless of faith. But it wasn’t. So, now I no longer know what to call these people.

Righteousness simply can’t be this transactional and situational. What is the point of your books of rules if you will gladly oblige a man who flouts them? Either morality has meaning or it doesn’t.

Last night's debate - attacks against Warren and figuring out Tulsi Gabbard

Political writer for the NY Times Lisa Lerer provides a sample of exchanges in last night’s Democratic Presidential debate (in this morning’s email). The barbs were mainly directed at Elizabeth Warren (marking her, I guess, as a (if not the) front runner.

Here is a sample.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who took some of the most aggressive shots at Ms. Warren, probed how she would pay for her health care plan and whether it would involve raising taxes on middle-class families — a question she continued to dodge last night.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything, except this,” said Mr. Buttigieg, after calling her “evasive.”

One of the most striking moments came when Mr. Biden tried to take some credit for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of Ms. Warren’s signature achievements.

"I went on the floor and got you votes” in Congress, he said, forcefully repeating himself three times.

Ms. Warren responded, “I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” making no mention of Mr. Biden or his work.

“You did a hell of a job in your job,” he shot back.

Ms. Warren, seeming slightly taken aback by Mr. Biden’s biting tone (or perhaps looking to troll him), offered a quiet “thank you.”

The exchange marked a notable reversal in the race: In past debates, it was Mr. Biden who found himself fending off a series of attacks from opponents trying to weaken his commanding position in the race. With his numbers sliding and the latest financial reports showing that he trails several rivals in campaign cash, Ms. Warren now faces her turn in the spotlight.

On Tuesday night, she held her own through the incoming fire, trying to turn the attacks back on her critics by casting them as lacking in political vision and ambition.

And by refusing to answer whether her health care plan would raise taxes on the middle class, she avoided creating a sound bite that her aides worry could be easily used against her in the primary — or the general election.

But here is the really interesting stuff.

Even Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii tried to get in a jab or two, demanding to be shown Ms. Warren’s qualifications to be commander in chief.

Ms. Warren ignored the request.

So what’s up with Gabbard?

And this little newsletter writer [Lerer] even had her own turn in the political limelight. In Ms. Gabbard’s effort to invigorate her campaign and qualify for the November debate, she called a piece I wrote over the weekend — detailing her support from white nationalists, Russians and the alt-right — “completely despicable.” Want to know what all the fuss was about? Check it out here.

Below are excerpts from Lerer’s expose on Gabbard What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To? As she injects chaos into the 2020 Democratic primary by accusing her own party of “rigging” the election, an array of alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians have praised her.

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, is impressed with her political talent. Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist leader, says he could vote for her. Former Representative Ron Paul praises her “libertarian instincts,” while Franklin Graham, the influential evangelist, finds her “refreshing.”

And far-right conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich see a certain MAGA sais quoi.

Then there is 4chan, the notoriously toxic online message board, where some right-wing trolls and anti-Semites fawn over Ms. Gabbard, calling her “Mommy” and praising her willingness to criticize Israel. In April, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, took credit for Ms. Gabbard’s qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates.

… her frequent appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show have buoyed her support in right-wing circles.

… Democrats are on high alert about foreign interference in the next election and the D.N.C. is well aware of the frequent mentions of Ms. Gabbard in the Russian state news media.

An independent analysis of the Russian news media found that RT, the Kremlin-backed news agency, mentioned Ms. Gabbard frequently for a candidate polling in single digits, according to data collected by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a group that seeks to track and expose efforts by authoritarian regimes to undermine democratic elections.

"This whole thing the Democratic Party has done by putting forward this false idea that there was collusion between Russia and Trump has hurt our relations in a huge way with the Russians,” Mr. Graham said. “I can’t speak for Tulsi, but I think she feels kind of the same way on some of these things.”

In the three years since, Ms. Gabbard has criticized Israel for its reaction to protests, met with Mr. Assad and made several statements defending his regime.

“To have a moral woman like Tulsi who is a military hero suddenly sit with a man who did that was inexplicable,” Rabbi Boteach said. “I don’t understand it until today. I can’t figure her out.”

Let me help the Rabbi “figure her out.”

“She’s got a good energy, a good vibe. You feel like this is just a serious person,” Mr. Cernovich said. “She seems very Trumpian.”

I am reminded of the British linguist J. R. Firth who famously wrote “You shall know a word by the company it keeps.” So it is in politics. To paraphrase: You shall know a candidate by the company she keeps.

Treacherous Trump throws Kurds under the tanks, and Russia fills the void

The saying, usually, is throw someone under the bus. But in Syria, they throw someone under the Turkish tanks.

Writing at The Bulwark, in Conning the Con Man Shay Khatiri explains how Donald Trump got rolled by Turkey. And he doesn’t even know it. Excerpts follow.

Last Wednesday, the president of the United States set a new standard for America’s allies: What did you do for us at Normandy? Because Kurds did nothing, they have been given genocide in return for their help fighting the Islamic State.

It’s a nonsense standard, of course. Everyone knows that. For instance: Why are we providing Israel any support in the face of Iranian and terrorist existential threats? Where were the Jews when we needed them in the War of 1812?

Why did the president make this decision? Perhaps the readout (which is not a transcript, stop calling it a transcript!) from his phone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a good guide: If you sing the American president’s praise and give him something that benefits him personally (and not the United States), then he will give you what you want.

… He gave Turkey’s strongman a giant gift. What did he get in return?

The short answer is simple: “He got nothing.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. He got a vacuum that Russia is reported to be filling. More on that below.

What I’m trying to say here is that the President of the United States, the person on whom the world order relies, the most important person on earth, is an impulsive idiot. He made a foreign policy decision about “the Kurds” without knowing anything about them. He provided a defense for his decision that is simultaneously historically inaccurate and irrelevant. He made this decision as his own Department of Defense recently warned that the Islamic State was a threat to reorganize. He made it with no plans of what to do with the thousands of Islamic State prisoners on the ground. He did it to end an “endless war” that, as of last month, has claimed the lives of seven American combatants—one, potentially, killed by Turkish forces. Every single one of them is a loss. But still. The truth is that America was accomplishing a significant foreign policy goal with only 2,500 troops committed (down to 1,000 before the recent developments), mostly special forces, and minimal losses. If you are against hegemonic interventions, then this operation was almost the definition of how to maximize the return on a small investment.

Trump did all of this against the advice of his own advisers. And he did it because an anti-American Islamist thug of a leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was nice to him on the phone.

Here’s the truth: There is no “endless war” in Syria. As far as the American involvement goes, there is in fact no war in Syria. What there is, is a U.S. president who is a catalyst for American decline.

And this decline is going to place us in real jeopardy and invite real conflict.

Decline brings weakness, and weakness is a provocation. Eventually, Americans are going to be given the bill for this president’s astonishing weakness.

Russia is ready to play a role in that. The NY Times reports that Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void. The announcement signaled that Russia is moving to fill a security vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal and illustrates the loss of American influence in the war.

The Americans had until Monday maintained two military bases in the area, and Russia’s announcement signaled that Moscow, the Syrian government’s most important ally, was moving to fill a security void left by the withdrawal of both the American military and its partners in their effort to destroy the Islamic State and its Syrian base.

Videos circulating on social media appeared to show a Russian-speaking man filming himself walking around a recently evacuated United States military base in northern Syria, punctuating the message that the Russians were now in charge.

President Trump decided last week to abruptly yank American forces from a Kurdish enclave of northern Syria, ending a longstanding alliance with Syrian Kurdish fighters regarded by Turkey as terrorists. Turkey’s military then invaded, driving tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and forcing the Syrian Kurdish fighters to align themselves with the Syrian military in a stunning switch of allegiances for survival.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its military police, which had already established a presence in other parts of Syria, were patrolling along a line of contact separating Syrian and Turkish forces, who have been racing to control large parts of northern Syria since the Turkish invasion began last Wednesday.

The Russians were patrolling near the strategically important city of Manbij, vacated by the Americans and Syrian Kurds and now occupied Syrian government troops. The statement also said Russian troops were coordinating “with the Turkish side.”

Russia and Turkey will soon be the only foreign armies in the area.

Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from northern Syria drew global condemnation, left Kurdish fighters feeling betrayed, and raised the possibility that the president had made a strategic blunder that would open a volatile new chapter in the war. Experts on the region warned that the withdrawal of American troops would embolden Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.

The misery continues: “As of Tuesday, fighting in Ras al-Ain and other areas of northern Syria has forced at least 160,000 people from their homes, according to United Nations estimates. The Kurdish authorities put the figure at 270,000.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Conservative views of America's shameful rertreat. The tale of the whupped puppy.

Once upon a time there was a lovable puppy. His master was not so lovable. In fact, the mean master repeatedly threatened to whip our lovable puppy. The local chapter of Animal Love League was asked to intervene once it became known that the mean master actually had an assortment of whips and chains. The League declined after the mean master said he would not whip our puppy very much. After the mean master started whipping our lovable puppy, the League said they warned the mean master. The mean master continued to whip our puppy. Once other mean masters understood that the League was impotent, they too started whipping our puppy. “Let the puppy protect itself” said the leader of the League. It was bound to get worse, much worse for our puppy.

Are you happy, Trumpublicans?

Max Boot, conservative columnist at the Washington Post tells this story a bit differently starting with the question: Are you happy now, Trump supporters?

President Trump isn’t the first American leader to turn his back on foreign friends who were counting on U.S. assistance: President Dwight D. Eisenhower did it in Hungary in 1956; President John F. Kennedy in Cuba in 1961; and President Gerald Ford in South Vietnam in 1975. But no previous chief executive has ever sold out the United States’ allies as nonchalantly and unnecessarily as Trump has done with the Syrian Kurds.

At least with Eisenhower, Kennedy and Ford, there was a good reason they failed to come to the aid of freedom fighters: Doing so would have embroiled the United States in costly conflicts. Trump and his apologists would like to pretend that’s also the case today — that Trump pulled U.S. troops out of northern Syria to avoid a war with Turkey. But there is scant chance that Turkish troops would have invaded northern Syria if U.S. troops were standing in the way. That is why President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Trump to move the U.S. forces — and Trump, for reasons that remain mysterious, obliged. (Trump himself admitted in 2015 that “I have a little conflict of interest” because of two Trump Towers in Istanbul.)

The consequences of the American pullout are proving to be every bit as catastrophic as most observers — and Trump’s own aides — had feared. On “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that ever since coming to office about two months ago, he had been urging the Turks not to invade Syria. “We cited all the reasons that are now playing out,” he said. “The biggest being the likely release of ISIS fighters from these camps and prisons, not just that we see a humanitarian crisis emerging.”

If Esper cited those reasons to the Turks, he surely cited them to Trump as well. But the president wasn’t listening, as usual. Now Kurds are being slaughtered, and Islamic State detainees are escaping. With chaos all around, Trump had no choice on Sunday but to order most U.S. troops to scuttle out of Syria in a humiliating defeat. Our forces are leaving so fast they could not take with them, as planned, some 60 “high value” Islamic State detainees — i.e., some of the worst terrorists on the planet.

The Kurds, in turn, had no choice but to invite Syrian regime forces to come to their rescue, thereby handing a massive win not only to Bashar al-Assad but also to his backers in Moscow and Tehran. The one part of Syria that had been under the control of secular moderates — the Kurds are more progressive on women’s rights than anyone in the region aside from the Israelis — is now being divided between the brutal forces of Assad and Erdogan.

After the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the presidents at the time made somber statements to explain why they did not intervene militarily and to remonstrate over the losses suffered by freedom fighters. …

Trump did not express any such concern for the Kurds who have been fighting at America’s side against the Islamic State. Instead he took a break from golf to tweet: “Do you remember two years ago when Iraq was going to fight the Kurds in a different part of Syria. Many people wanted us to fight with the Kurds against Iraq, who we just fought for. I said no, and the Kurds left the fight, twice. Now the same thing is happening with Turkey…… The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK the worst terrorists of all. Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!”

That Trump thinks that Iraqi troops fought Kurds in Syria — rather than around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk — shows how little he knows about this region. That he is inviting one and all to fight the Kurds (“Let them!”) shows how little he cares about American security, American honor or American allies. That he is now maligning his victims by claiming with no evidence that the Kurds are deliberately releasing Islamic State prisoners to force U.S. intervention shows how cruel and dishonest he is.

The Republican members of Congress who are apoplectic (“Shameful disaster unfolding in Syria,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming) have no one to blame but themselves. They are the ones who continue to support a president who has been unabashed in his love of dictators, his disdain for human rights and his willingness to betray anyone or anything to advance his own interests.

Most of the time, the costs of the Trump presidency are inchoate — laws are broken, norms transgressed. But when it came to immigrant children in cages or Kurds in the line of fire, the costs are all too human and horrifying. Are you happy now, Trump supporters? Is all this worth a corporate tax cut?

Is Trump worth the shame of seeing America as a whupped puppy in full retreat with its tail between its legs?

OMG - not five more years!

Charlie Sykes delivers “Quick Hits” in The Bulwark weekly email.

Brett McGurk tweeted
@brett_mcgurk
Only four days into Turkish attack and one week after POTUS-Erdogan call:

  • UN: 130k displaced (likely to 3x)
  • ISIS terrorists escaping (caught after years of painstaking effort)
  • Syrians executed on roadways by Turkish-backed opposition forces
  • Main US supply lines cut..

There are obvious winners here: ISIS, Assad, and Russia. The losers? The Kurds, Syrian Christians, the US… and our role in the world. As correspondent Rukmini Callimachi (who has been covering ISIS for years), wrote over the weekend: “You know that game kids play on the beach? The one where they spend all day building an elaborate sand castle only to then stomp it to the ground? That’s our ISIS strategy. While the group was not defeated, we had made significant gains. 1000s were detained. Not after today.”

All of this was completely predictable.

On Meet the Press yesterday [Sunday], former sec Def James Mattis put it this way: “We may want a war over; we may even declare it over. You can pull your troops out as President Obama learned the hard way out of Iraq, but the ‘enemy gets the vote,’ we say in the military. And in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”…

Exit take: As the Russians and Assad rush in to fill the vacuum created by our departure.. expect almost everything about this story to get worse.

Sykes observes “Republicans continue to express varying degrees to outrage over the Trump’s betrayal of our Kurdish allies.. anxiety about his penchant for making policy by whim… and his ongoing appeasement of authoritarian monsters.” And then poses a question for Republicans: “this also seems to be a good time for Republicans to seriously ask themselves: do they really want another five years of this?”

Monday, October 14, 2019

Trump OK's Turkish invasion. Kurds feel betrayed. Green Berets feel ashamed. ISIS rejoices, benefits from Trump decision.

Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurdish Allies Describing ‘Betrayal’. The title does not completely describe the consequences of our great leader’s decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS.

… with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies.

"They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

"I’m ashamed,” said another officer who had also served in northern Syria. Both officers spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals from their chains of command.

And the response from the Kurds themselves was just as stark. “The worst thing in military logic and comrades in the trench is betrayal,” said Shervan Darwish, an official allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The next flurry of orders from Washington, as some troops had feared, will pull American troops out of northern Syria altogether. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Sunday that President Trump had ordered the roughly 1,000 American troops in the country’s northeast to conduct a “deliberate withdrawal” out of the country in the coming days and weeks.

The defense secretary’s statement came after comments on Friday pushing back on complaints that the United States was betraying allies in Syria — “We have not abandoned the Kurds” — even as he acknowledged that his Turkish counterpart had ignored his plea to stop the offensive.

"It would seem at this particular point, we’ve made it very, very hard for them to have a partnership relationship with us because of this recent policy decision,” General Votel said. [Votel is “a former head of the military’s Central Command.”]

This might be why.

Kurd's sacrafice
A cemetery for Kurdish troops who fought against the Islamic State in Kobani, Syria. “When they mourn, we mourn with them,” said Gen. Joseph L. Votel, a former head of the military’s Central Command.

And here is one of the consequences of the decision made by our great leader, using his “great and unmatched wisdom”.

Abandoned by U.S. in Syria, Kurds Find New Ally in American Foe. Under fire by Turkish forces, the militia that battled ISIS threw in its lot with Syria’s Russian-backed government.

And here is another.

Turkey’s invasion upended a fragile peace in northeastern Syria and risks enabling a resurgence of the Islamic State, which no longer controls territory in Syria but still has sleeper cells and supporters.

Since the Turkish incursion began on Wednesday, ISIS has claimed responsibility for at least two attacks in Syria: One car bomb in the northern city of Qamishli and another on an international military base outside Hasaka, a regional capital further to the south.

Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that the United States has taken the worst ISIS detainees out of Syria to ensure they would not escape. But in fact the American military took custody of only two British detainees, half of a cell dubbed the Beatles that tortured and killed Western hostages, American officials said.

The fighting has raised concerns that jihadists [11,000 in all] detained in the battle to defeat ISIS could escape, facilitating the reconstitution of the Islamic State. Five captives escaped during a Turkish bombardment on a Kurdish-run prison in Qamishli on Friday, Kurdish officials said.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The absolute right of kings absolutely corrupts this presidency

Dana Milbank (Washington Post) makes the case for Donald Trump, absolutely corrupted.

President Trump has proved to the 21st century that Lord Acton’s 19th-century maxim still holds: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Trump began staking his title to absolute power in his first weeks in office. “The whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” White House adviser Stephen Miller announced.

When I first heard/saw Miller’s remark on a morning news show I dismissed him as a blusterous bullsh!tter. I shouldn’t have. Subsequent actions by the absolutely corrupt president proved me wrong. As Milbank wrote about Miller, “He wasn’t kidding.”

Consider the list of “absolute right” claims by Trump.

  • Trump soon stated that “I have the absolute right” to fire FBI Director James Comey.
  • He subsequently proclaimed the “absolute right” to provide Russia with an ally’s highly classified intelligence;
  • the “absolute right” to pardon himself;
  • the “absolute right” to shut down the southern border;
  • the “absolute right” to fire special counsel Robert Mueller;
  • the “absolute right” to sign an executive order removing the Constitution’s birthright-citizenship provision;
  • the “absolute right” to contrive a national emergency to deny Congress the power of the purse;
  • the “absolute right” to order U.S. businesses out of China;
  • the “absolute right” to release apparent spy-satellite imagery of Iran; and, most recently,
  • the “absolute right” to ask other countries to furnish evidence that Joe Biden is corrupt.

And on top of all that:

  • Kellyanne Conway asserted Trump’s “absolute right” to give his son-in-law a security clearance over security professionals’ objections.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone said current and former White House officials are “absolutely immune” from testifying before Congress.
  • As others have noted, Trump has repeatedly said the Constitution’s Article II empowers him “to do whatever I want” and bestows on him “all of these rights at a level nobody has ever seen before.”

Now Trump is exercising his “absolute right” to do things that most sensible folks are finding appalling. Among them is the absolute right over life and death.

Without troubling himself to engage in the usual consultations with lawmakers, allies and military leaders, he ordered a pullout of U.S. troops from northern Syria, setting off a Turkish invasion as well as fears of a massacre of our Kurdish allies and religious minorities (including some 50,000 Christians) and of a revival of the Islamic State. He did it at the request of the repressive leader of Turkey, where Trump has boasted of his extensive business interests.

Now that is “absolutely corrupted.” You would think that will dislodge Trump’s supporters, like the evangelical right.

Belatedly, the Syrian situation led some of Trump’s biggest champions to recognize something has gone awry. “The president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Pat Robertson warned on his Christian Broadcasting Network.

Calling all right-wing Christians: Trump lost the “mandate of heaven” with the exposure of the Hollywood Access tapes and the hush money he paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. You just chose to look the other way. See what turning the other cheek got you.

Maybe the Kurdish tragedy will finally make more principled evangelicals rethink their Faustian bargain. Maybe they, and other Trump backers, will begin to see that absolute power, though tempting when wielded for things they like, becomes alarming when used against their wishes.

The test for these and other Trumpublicans is coming in November 2020, sooner if articles of impeachment go to the Senate. Milbank reminds us that “The highest moral obligation for all who favor a democratic future is to stop an absolutely corrupted man.”

Friday, October 11, 2019

Republicans sell their souls to the idol of the Offal Office

[Scriber’s Note]: I’ve added another blog to my repertoire. I explain at the end of this post.

The NY Times reports that At Minneapolis Rally, an Angry Trump Reserves Sharpest Attack for Biden. The audience mob lapped it up with enthusiasm fueled by Trump’s cruel and crude remarks.

MINNEAPOLIS — A fired-up President Trump lashed out against Democrats at a combative campaign rally on Thursday night, deriding them as “very sick and deranged people” who were only investigating him for abuse of power in order to “erase your vote.”

Facing impeachment in the House, Mr. Trump took his case to his core supporters, arguing that Democrats were trying to overturn the 2016 election because they knew they could not beat him in 2020. He singled out former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as nothing but a toady for President Barack Obama.

“He was only a good vice president because he knew how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” Mr. Trump said, a line that drew huge roars of approval from the crowd.

Let’s stop there. (You can read more from the target post if you wish to endure Trump at his crudest.)

Here is another instance of Trump’s serial sexual abuses via 538’s significant digits email. Is this going to draw huge roars of approval from the crowd?

43 new accusations
Two dozen women have already publicly accused President Trump of inappropriate behavior, but a new book details 43 new allegations, including more than two dozen cases of “unwanted sexual contact.” The book is “All The President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator” by journalists Monique El-Faizy and Barry Levine, and draws upon more than 100 interviews to illustrate the president’s relationship with women across different periods of his life. Assistant Esquire editor Adrienne Westenfeld writes, “What emerges from the authors’ reporting is a portrait of a serial predator who hides behind wealth and institutional power to frequently harass and abuse women.” [Esquire]

Michael Gerson (Washington Post via the Daily Star) exposes Trumpublican lack of principle in Trump’s supporters are complicit in the moral decay of politics. I’ve tried to capture the essence in a few excerpts.

Trump is effectively setting a new standard of political morality and requiring his supporters to defend it. He is asking elected Republicans in particular to agree with his claim that a practice uniformly viewed as corruption in the past is actually an example of fighting corruption. That is the little thing, the small thing, which Trump demands of his followers: To call hot, cold. To call black, white. To call wrong, right.

Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s idea of “incommensurability” strikes me as relevant here. If all moral claims are merely “emotive” — statements about ourselves rather than the nature of reality — then there is no way to argue between them. The statement that “stealing is wrong” can be debated. The statement “I feel that stealing is wrong” is not subject to rational dispute. Someone else could simply assert, “I feel that stealing is right,” and the argument would be at a stalemate.

Republicans are being called to follow their leader down a relativist rabbit hole. Trump is not only asking them to accept his arguments on policy matters like building a wall or provoking a trade war. To be loyal foot soldiers, they must affirm that morality means what Trump says it means — even when it violates their clearest instincts. They know, deep down, that if a Democratic president had asked France or China for help in destroying a prominent Republican rival, they would be in a fever pitch of outrage. But, in the Trump era, this isn’t supposed to matter anymore. Consistency means nothing. Principle means nothing. Character means nothing. It only matters who wins.

So we are left with positions that can’t be reconciled. Trump honestly seems to have no moral objection to what he did. His opponents are left sputtering: But this has always been seen as serious corruption! The president simply doesn’t care. And, if his GOP supporters remain loyal, they will be further implicated in the moral decay of American politics.

Writing in The Bulwark, Robert Tracinski asks of Dear Republicans, Is This the Idol to Whom You Have Sold Your Souls?.

In the past few weeks, Donald Trump has gone from saying that no, he didn’t collude with a foreign dictatorship to interfere with the U.S. election, to doing it on live TV, asking the government of China to investigate Joe Biden and his son, for no clear reason.

Exactly two prominent Republicans denounced this: Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney. Marco Rubio took the brave course of pretending it didn’t happen, dismissing it as “not a real request.” Other Republicans, and much of the conservative rank and file, made a seamless move from declaring that Trump never did it to affirming that of course he did it. And it was good.

All of this has me wondering: Is this the idol to whom conservatives have decided to sell their souls?

The big thing we’ve discovered over the past four years is the number of people for whom the actual content of ideas and policy is largely irrelevant, compared to the pure tribal satisfaction of venting their hatred for the “elites” and the “mainstream media.” The source of Donald Trump’s bizarre allure among conservatives is the constant, unrelenting intensity with which he allows them to indulge in this—a form of tribal hatred that is all the purer precisely because it has been freed from any pretense of having to be loyal to abstract principles.

In short, conservatives have sold their souls for the sheer pleasure of partisan hatred. And it’s not going to be easy to break this spell.

For the last few years, outside observers have believed, time and again, that surely the latest revelation will be so blatant that conservatives will have to draw back from their support of Trump.

Well, that’s not how it works when you have sold your soul. Once people are corrupted and drawn in, there is a kind of sunk-cost fallacy that pulls them farther down. Having already compromised their principles to go along with Trumpism, they need to keep on justifying their original investment by minimizing or making excuses for every new awful thing he does.

They have to keep on justifying Trump, because otherwise they would have to face up to the reality of how foolish and venal they have been all along.

… spare a moment to contemplate the fate of Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina who first resisted Trump, then reluctantly supported him, then became a reliable Trump sycophant.

One of the central issues of Graham’s long political career is that he is a foreign policy hawk, advocating that America be active and vigilant in the fights against tyranny and radical Islam. Now observe Graham’s reaction when, late Sunday night, Trump decided to sell out our best allies in the Middle East, the Kurds—the people who stood and fought effectively against the Islamic State when nobody else was doing it, and who are now about to be attacked by the Turkish dictatorship with Trump’s go-ahead. Where does this leave Senator Graham? Completely on the sidelines:

I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary Pompeo. If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.

There is nothing more pathetic than being a senator whose signature issue is foreign policy—and having to confess publicly that you were left out of the loop and you’re begging for a meeting just to figure out what the hell is going on. But why should Trump have consulted Graham? He’d already sold his soul. He’d already indicated that he will back Trump no matter what, so why should Trump bother to inform him about future compromises that will be required?

This is where everyone will end up, eventually.

Conservatives have been drawn from small compromises to bigger and bigger ones, from venial sins to mortal ones. There is no bottom to it.

That is the inevitable logic of selling your soul.


I ran across a conservative blog, The Bulwark. I know it’s conservative, if for no other reason, than by noting its founders: Charlie Sykes and Bill Kristol. Yesterday and again today I’ve featured a post to that blog that maps nicely onto my view of politics in the age of Trump. I am not delusional - there are many issues covered in that blog that will cause me to take exception. I know the prospect of Elizabeth Warren as president, for example, is a source of joy for me and a source of horror to conservatives. I won’t hesitate to take issue with the Bulwarkians when appropriate. But reading conservative posts in that blog might get me off the civil discourse hook as I steadfastly refuse to watch Faux News.