You MUST read David Frum’s brilliant piece in The Atlantic

David Frum on Tavis Smiley's show earlier this week.

David Frum on Tavis Smiley’s show earlier this week.

The other night, as I turned off the Apple TV and paused just before turning off the tube altogether, I saw that Tavis Smiley was interviewing David Frum — former speechwriter for George W. Bush and current senior editor for The Atlantic.

So I stopped myself from turning it off, because Frum usually has smart, interesting things to say.

He immediately said something rather outlandish. He suggested it was highly possible that Donald Trump’s main goal in being president of the United States is to become the richest man in the world. And that as long as his tax returns are not disclosed, he’s likely to achieve it.

I was about to scoff, but paused. That would be a ridiculous goal to me, or to Barack Obama, or to George W. Bush (despite what Bud and others seem to believe about Republicans.) The sheer petty, two-bit cupidity of it is laughable, particularly since in our history, no one who was thus motivated has ever sought such a position, much less attained it.

But I then reflected that lots of people actually are that motivated by money, as Doug keeps insisting to me that everyone is. And if there’s anyone on the planet who might be that acquisitive, it’s Donald J. Trump.

Well, fine. I don’t care if he does become the richest man in the world. Were it in my power, I would write him a check for the full amount he wants if only he’d walk away and stop doing what he’s doing to our country.

I don’t know, but suspect, that Frum would do the same. Because the problem for him, and for me, is the startlingly insidious ways that Trump is undermining our republic, its institutions — particularly the effectiveness of our vaunted checks and balances — and its standing in the world as a beacon of how self-government can work. Whatever Trump’s goal is — money, popularity, power for power’s sake — the really horrible thing is what he’s doing to get there.

During the interview with Smiley, Frum alluded to a piece he’d written in The Atlantic. I finally read it tonight. It is without a doubt the most brilliant, incisive, on-point, and chilling thing I’ve read since this nightmare began.

The title is “How to Build an Autocracy.”

Orwell’s 1984 has been enjoying a surge of popularity in recent weeks, especially it seems since Kellyanne Conway’s remark about “alternative facts.”

Well, the first 878 words of this essay is a bit of speculative fiction imagining the world four years from now, when Trump has just easily won re-election. It’s scarier than 1984 because it’s not a theoretical projection of just how horrible things might get in a place like Stalin’s Russia. It’s chilling because everything it describes, in explaining how Trump becomes a power that can’t be challenged, is completely, immediately believable. It wouldn’t have been before the past year, but it is now. We’re seeing it happen.

The other several thousand words of the piece elaborates on how we get from here to there, and it’s amazing. Frum doesn’t generalize. He explains in detail why it’s highly likely that the checks and balances we rely on — from official ones like Congress to unofficial ones like the press — are being quite effectively neutralized. He sets out beautifully, for instance, how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are motivated to look the other way because they need Trump more than he needs them. It explains so much.

As for the media, well, Trump is redefining the nature of truth itself, or at least the way Americans regard it. An example of how that works:

One story, still supremely disturbing, exemplifies the falsifying method. During November and December, the slow-moving California vote count gradually pushed Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the national popular vote further and further: past 1 million, past 1.5 million, past 2 million, past 2.5 million. Trump’s share of the vote would ultimately clock in below Richard Nixon’s in 1960, Al Gore’s in 2000, John Kerry’s in 2004, Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012—and barely ahead of Michael Dukakis’s in 1988.

This outcome evidently gnawed at the president-elect. On November 27, Trump tweeted that he had in fact “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He followed up that astonishing, and unsubstantiated, statement with an escalating series of tweets and retweets.

It’s hard to do justice to the breathtaking audacity of such a claim. If true, it would be so serious as to demand a criminal investigation at a minimum, presumably spanning many states. But of course the claim was not true. Trump had not a smidgen of evidence beyond his own bruised feelings and internet flotsam from flagrantly unreliable sources. Yet once the president-elect lent his prestige to the crazy claim, it became fact for many people. A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.

If you sow enough cynicism, you don’t have to murder journalists or imprison opponents. There are subtler ways of achieving autocracy, which have been employed in recent years in places like Hungary, and we Americans are just beginning to learn about them.

He sort of leaves open the idea that Trump is a fascist, and moves beyond it, to tell us that our notions and labels and expectations are behind the times:

Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead….

But I’m not going to be able to do justice to this piece with excerpts. You need to go read it yourself. If you care, you have to.

I’ll just close with a neat thing Frum did today on Twitter. He set out some of the main points of his essay with a series of 21 Tweets. Here they are:

2) Donald Trump is a uniquely dangerous president because he harbors so many guilty secrets (or maybe 1 big guilty secret).

3) In order to protect himself, Trump must attack American norms and institutions – otherwise he faces fathomless legal risk

4) In turn, in order to protect their legally vulnerable leader, Republicans in Congress must join the attack on norms & institutions

5) Otherwise, they put at risk party hopes for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to remake US government in ways not very popular with voters

6) American institutions are built to withstand an attack from the president alone. But …

7) … they are not so well-built as to withstand an attack from a conscienceless president enabled by a hyper-partisan Congress

8) The peculiar grim irony in this case is that somewhere near the center of Trump’s story is the murky secret of Trump’s Russia connection

9) Meaning that Trump is rendering his party also complicit in what could well prove …

10) … the biggest espionage scandal since the Rosenberg group stole the secret of the atomic bomb.

11) And possibly even bigger. We won’t know if we don’t look

12) Despite patriotic statements from individual GOPers, as of now it seems that Speaker Ryan & Leader McConnell agree: no looking.

13) So many in DC serenely promise that “checks and balances” will save us. But right now: there is no check and no balance.

14) Only brave individuals in national security roles sharing truth with news organizations.

15) But those individuals can be found & silenced. What then? We take it too much for granted that the president must lose this struggle

16) The “oh he’s normal now” relief of so many to Trump’s Feb 28 speech revealed how ready DC is to succumb to dealmaking as usual.

17) As DC goes numb, citizen apathy accumulates …

18) GOP members of Congress decide they have more to fear from enforcing law against the president than from ignoring law with the president

19) And those of us who care disappear down rabbit holes debating whether Sessions’ false testimony amounts to perjury or not

20) Meanwhile job market strong, stock market is up, immigration enforcement is popular.

21) I’m not counseling despair here. I don’t feel despair. Only: nobody else will save the country if you don’t act yourself. END.

Illustration by Jeffry Smith in The Atlantic.

Illustration by Jeffry Smith in The Atlantic.

49 thoughts on “You MUST read David Frum’s brilliant piece in The Atlantic

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, when he says you need to “act yourself,” he doesn’t mean going out and demonstrating in the streets in flamboyant ways designed to draw TV cameras. That’s self-defeating, it plays right into Trump’s hands:

    In true police states, surveillance and repression sustain the power of the authorities. But that’s not how power is gained and sustained in backsliding democracies. Polarization, not persecution, enables the modern illiberal regime.

    By guile or by instinct, Trump understands this.

    Whenever Trump stumbles into some kind of trouble, he reacts by picking a divisive fight. The morning after The Wall Street Journal published a story about the extraordinary conflicts of interest surrounding Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump tweeted that flag burners should be imprisoned or stripped of their citizenship. That evening, as if on cue, a little posse of oddballs obligingly burned flags for the cameras in front of the Trump International Hotel in New York. Guess which story dominated that day’s news cycle?

    Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency. It will be a resource. Trump will likely want not to repress it, but to publicize it—and the conservative entertainment-outrage complex will eagerly assist him. Immigration protesters marching with Mexican flags; Black Lives Matter demonstrators bearing antipolice slogans—these are the images of the opposition that Trump will wish his supporters to see. The more offensively the protesters behave, the more pleased Trump will be….

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      So what SHOULD you do? Remain rational. See what’s happening, and why it’s wrong. Think. Speak up. Write. Hold your U.S. senators and House member accountable. Insist that they do their jobs and protect our country from this guy.

      The GOP majority has every reason right now to let Trump slide, as Frum explains clearly. The ideologues (of whom Trump is not one, and he doesn’t give a damn about them either way) see a historic chance to do a bunch of stuff that isn’t all that politically popular, and they don’t need a scandal involving a president of their party getting in the way.

      But they’re still susceptible to the opinions of their constituents.

      And those of us who live in “red” states probably have the greatest responsibility in that regard…

      1. Harry Harris

        You seem to agree with me on this one point, that the outrageous Trumpisms are a distraction form the real danger – the plans the Republicans have and will be pushing for the economy, tax, education, environment, social safety net, and health care. Most Republicans I know choose oligarchy over dictatorship, and see nothing wrong with gerrymandered safe seats and voter restrictions as long as they favor their party. The party labels issue you fight so hard against has us too polarized to be interested in the details.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “You seem to agree with me on this one point, that the outrageous Trumpisms are a distraction form the real danger – the plans the Republicans have and will be pushing for the economy, tax, education, environment, social safety net, and health care.”

          Well, not quite. Whatever ideologues like Ryan do legislatively can be undone by the next bunch.

          The “outrageous Trumpisms” ARE the real danger. He is undermining all of our institutions — undermining the notion of reality itself, without which intelligent policymaking is impossible — in ways that could be irreversible, if he is not completely and utterly stopped.

          It’s not about a tax bill, or a social program (except to the Ryans of the world). It’s about whether our system, which (as Krauthammer mentioned today) is why we’re still on our first republic rather than our Fifth like the French, will survive, or become a contemptible, useless thing.

          Congress and the White House and the parties have always been about this or that policy; that’s normal.

          What’s happening now is much, much bigger than that.

  2. Bill

    Glad to see you got around to the Frum article — which I linked to under a previous discussion two weeks ago. It’s an important piece — especially since it’s by a conservative.

    As for getting Trump to release his tax returns, good luck with that. I wrote to all the members of my congressional delegation — Graham, Scott and Duncan — about this specific issue, but they all three replied by saying they have no interest in pursuing the matter. So much for exercising proper oversight. But maybe that only applies to opposition parties.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Right. Which is why couching everything in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans for all years has seriously undermined our ability to cope with this threat.

      Republicans think they can’t oppose him, and what Democrats say (ESPECIALLY when they act like this is about Trump being a Republican) is utterly dismissed as “what they always say.”

      The parties have set us up by ALWAYS demonizing each other, so that when the real threat arises, they don’t know how to act.

      But they must, especially the ones most reluctant to — the Republicans. Trump can’t be stopped without them. Which is why we all should cheer like mad whenever they raise objections to him, however hesitantly.

      I applaud your efforts to get members of Congress to do their duty. We should all be doing that — especially the Republicans among us.

  3. bud

    The ridiculously obvious takeaway from all of this is that the GOP has become the party of Trump. Take this: “A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016”. The recent death of Bob Michel reminded me of just how much the party of Lincoln has morphed into the party of Trump. To deny the obvious is to deny the earth is round, the sky is blue, Kennedy was shot from the 6th floor of the book depository or that Bush lied us into war. In other words Trump is not the problem, the Republican party writ large is the problem. Frum seems to acknowledge that. Why can’t everyone?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, Bud, that is NOT the takeaway, much less the ridiculously obvious one.

      Frum has clearly explained the completely unique problem Donald J. Trump posed to America. There ARE parallels to what’s happened in other countries, but this is brand-new HERE.

      One of Frum’s key points is that Trump couldn’t care less about Republicans or what they want, which is perfectly true.

      One of the most dangerous ideas held by some Democrats is that Trump is just another problem.

      If you don’t recognize the danger for what it is, you can’t effectively oppose it…

      1. bud

        Disagree 100%. Did you even read the article? It’s about how the Republicans especially McConnell and Ryan but also Republican voters are willing to look the other way when it comes to ethics violations in order to advance their diabolical agenda. The Republicans in congress are not only compliant enablers but supporters and defenders of Trump, albeit with a certain false outrage thrown in for effect. But more importantly the Republican voters are driving the agenda not Trump. Trump is only unique because of his very unorthodox style. His support of plutocracy is as true red Republican as it gets. It just amazes me that people can’t see how intertwined Trump is with the Republican apparatus. And it further amazes me that people get all wrapped up in these stylistic concerns.

        McConnell and Ryan don’t want to upset the apple cart by enforcing any kind of oversight. And this notion that the Republican congress needs Trump is just plain nonsense. They can impeach the orange groper and have President Pence do their bidding. There is certainly plenty that’s impeachable if they wanted to. But they don’t because that would upset the Trump masses who are the heart and soul of the 2017 version of the Republican party. And also because they really don’t find Trump’s antics offensive.

        The only way to fight this is to recognize what is going on and work to defeat it. There will be special elections for congress in South Carolina and Georgia soon and it’s imperative to support Democrats in both long shot races. But as long as people fail to recognize the situation for what it is we will continue to get mired down in this rat hole of false equivalency to the detriment of the American way of life.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yes, Bud, I know you disagree 100 percent, and you will continue to do so. You don’t seem able to shake off the whole hyperpartisan paradigm that has been crippling our country for the last couple of decades, softening us up for Trump.

          Or perhaps you just don’t want to, because you’re comfortable viewing the world that way.

          In any case, as with Doug, I don’t have high hopes of changing your mind. But I have to rebut the things you say for the sake of others who might be reachable.

  4. bud

    Here’s how we fight this new “red” menace:

    Continue the street protests. Ultimately these made in huge difference in the 60s and can be an important force now.
    Show up in force for town hall meetings and challenge Trump’s henchmen.
    Write, phone, email every GOP lawmaker. And do so often.
    Never, ever vote for any candidate except Democrats. Remember it makes no difference whether you may like a Republican or Libertarian or Green. What REALLY matters is the head count. A vote for a Green candidate is a vote supporting Plutocracy.
    To that last point be sure to always vote.
    Run for office as a Democrat.

    What’s important to understand is that Trump is merely a manifestation of the bigger problem of GOP dominance of our political process and our nation. Only by defeating this menace in detail can we move the country forward.

  5. Larry Slaughter

    I question this writer’s opinion that “The truth is in the tax returns, and they will not be forthcoming.” I can’t see any reason to believe Trump would tell the truth to IRS about his tax liability. Trump’s position during the campaign was that he wouldn’t release the returns because his returns were being audited. Pity the poor IRS bureaucrat that issues an adverse audit on this guy! But there sure must be some humdingers hiding in there or he wouldn’t have gone back on his agreement to release them after the primary.

    The article is chilling. And the article is moving. His recommendation for action, and his optimism that this can be our finest hour as citizens gives hope and inspiration. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. bud

    The reason the street protests are important is that they serve to remind Democrats in congress that the majority of Americans do not want Republicans controlling the agenda. The notion that Trump’s supporters will somehow view large street protests as a threat to their man is nonsense. They already view the left with disdain so there really is nothing left to mobilize. Fact is the Tea Party rallies were very effective and Democrats were way too dismissive of them. I say the more pink hats the better.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      NO! Absolutely not!

      This moment is NOT about the stupid, pointless, petty, destructive, perpetual conflict between Democrats and Republicans, and acting as though it is is extraordinarily dangerous under these circumstances.

      None of us can afford to MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY. We can’t. The stakes are too high…

      1. bud

        None of us can afford to MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY. We can’t. The stakes are too high…

        On that we agree. THE POINT to me is that Trump is NOT a unique threat which I’m sure is not THE POINT you see.

  7. Claus

    I made it through your third paragraph before I stopped… some people have a pretty wild imagination. The rest of the article wasn’t worth reading. Brothers Grimm have better stories… and they all start out, “Once upon a time,”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Except, of course, that this fairy tale is happening, right now. It’s about a frog that about 40 percent of the kingdom thinks is a prince…

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, one more excerpt, because it’s about South Carolina, and what happened to a very principled, very conservative Republican here, a guy I greatly respect — and it illustrates why Republicans walk in fear of crossing the hordes of Trumpistas who watch and trust Fox News:

    From the point of view of the typical Republican member of Congress, Fox remains all-powerful: the single most important source of visibility and affirmation with the voters whom a Republican politician cares about. In 2009, in the run-up to the Tea Party insurgency, South Carolina’s Bob Inglis crossed Fox, criticizing Glenn Beck and telling people at a town-hall meeting that they should turn his show off. He was drowned out by booing, and the following year, he lost his primary with only 29 percent of the vote, a crushing repudiation for an incumbent untouched by any scandal.

    Fox is reinforced by a carrier fleet of supplementary institutions: super pacs, think tanks, and conservative web and social-media presences, which now include such former pariahs as Breitbart and Alex Jones. So long as the carrier fleet coheres—and unless public opinion turns sharply against the president—oversight of Trump by the Republican congressional majority will very likely be cautious, conditional, and limited….

    But, as I say, go read the whole thing

  9. Claus

    The comments here are almost as entertaining as I suspect the article is. Reading these comments is like walking into a college house party completely sober at 3:00 a.m. and eves-dropping on conversations.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, I can imagine you’d feel very much out of what’s going on.

      You might get it if you’d read the piece. Then again, you might not.

      1. Claus

        I doubt he’s saying anything more outlandish or imaginary than what’s already been said.

        “Trump, Blah, blah, blah, regurgitated phrase from the last six weeks, blah , blah , Russia, blah, blah…”

        There comes a point where you just stop listening. You know… like observing old married guys who are trapped with their wife who doesn’t stop talking long enough to catch her breath.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Trump, Blah, blah, blah, regurgitated phrase from the last six weeks, blah , blah , Russia, blah, blah…”

          Well, you’ve succeeded in proving that you haven’t read it….

  10. Ralph Hightower

    The Atlantic article reinforces what I thought of campaign slogan. He really wants to “Make Trump Great Again”.

  11. Bart

    bud is one of the greatest recruiters for Trump ever. He doesn’t realize or understand how or why and probably never will. No need to try to explain, it will go right over his head.

    1. bud

      Not sure I follow. (I guess that’s your point). My abhorrence of the GOP shouldn’t serve as a recruiting tool for Trump. Rather it is merely an observation that Trump epitomizes the core beliefs and temperament of that party. His cabinet picks and near unanimous support by senate Republicans seems to confirm that. In addition Republican leadership in congress seems unwilling to investigate or even chastise Trump with any real zeal. Finally polling shows strong support from self identified Republicans for his job approval. The evidence is clear to me that today’s Republican Party IS the party of Trump. It therefore seems pointless to merely focus on the bizarre behavior of an obviously narcissistic man who has broad support of his party. Rather we should acknowledge the nature of the GOP in its entirety which is one focused on the enrichment of a tiny cadre of super wealthy individuals under the guise of some enigmatic “conservative” agenda.

      And just to be completely clear I don’t regard the Democrats as a perfect answer but rather they are our only hope. Once we can somehow engender some reformation to the GOP whereby it can serve as a sensible alternative with an aim toward sensible policies then I will gladly withdraw my harsh assessment. But for now I can only watch in horror as one of our major parties is leading us down the path toward plutocracy. And the president is the leader of that party with a high degree of support and a large following.

      1. Richard

        I’m curious about a president’s cabinet picks, has the party of the President not ever gotten the near unanimous support by Senators of his party? Were Democrats willing to investigate or chastise Obama when impeachment talks came up a few years ago? Was the Democrat party over the past eight years the party of Obama and Hillary Clinton?

        I guess I don’t see bud’s point, because the truth is it’s the same no matter who’s President.

        What “hope” was there over the past eight years? Are those who voted for Obama twice better off today than they were eight years ago?

        If this is worrisome now for the anti-Trump crowd… here’s something they need to be talking about instead of the election. I’m hearing talk that Trump may not only appoint one Supreme Court Justice (Scalia replacement), but there are chances he’ll appoint four SC Justices (4 of 9 Justices). Ginsburg (84 years old) has one foot in the grave, Thomas (69 years old) and Kennedy (81 years old) are talking about retiring. Breyer will be 79 this year. How many will still be here or willing to serve in 4/8 years? Trump may have the option of appointing Justices who may be seated for the next 30-40 years.

        1. Richard

          Actually with Breyer, the number goes to 5 of 9… a majority appointed by one President.

          I know if Hillary had been elected I’d be nervous.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And to me, it would be the same either way, as long as they nominated qualified people.

            Thank God Trump listened to someone who knew something when he picked Gorsuch. I hope that person continues to have his ear. One less thing to worry about…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Richard, if he nominates more like Gorsuch, that’s OK by me.

          But you’re right, Democrats probably do care about that, or some of them do, anyway.

          Which means they’re focusing on the wrong things. The problem lies in the executive branch — and with the fact that the legislative seems unwilling to keep it in check…

        3. bud

          Richard it’s DemocratIC Party.

          Yes Democrats supported Obama’s cabinet picks. That is relevant evidence that the DemocratIC Party was the party of Obama. I won’t dispute that since it supports my point. Generally self proclaimed Democrats supported Obama. Again, evidence supporting the notion that the DemocratIC Party was the party of Obama.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      So let me see if I’ve got this straight — our entire intelligence community is a bunch of bad guys, and Trump is the good guy?

      I guess you have to come up with formulas like that in order to persuade yourself to back Trump. If you’re smart, you have to rationalize like crazy…

      1. Bart

        I took the time to follow the link and the links inside the FitsNew’s article. Now, as you know, I do not support Trump nor do I support Clinton but if the information in the article is accurate and I did read the NYT article about how Obama aides disseminated secret information to various agencies, I did wonder how they were able to gather it without the aid of the NSA’s cooperation. The FitsNew’s article linked to Breitbart and I view Breitbart in the same manner as I do leftist websites espousing a specific agenda.

        But, the fact that the Obama administration used nebulous reasoning to connect enough dots to warrant a FISA order to be issued so some Trump associates could be monitored and the information fed to various agencies because the Obama administration feared that once Trump took office, he would direct all of the information to be destroyed so there would be no trace evidence.

        The left, Democrats, and every liberal in the country went absolutely bat shit crazy when the first revelation about the phone monitoring operation by the NSA was first made public. The outcry was deafening and investigations demanded, hearings held, and eventually very strict rules were put in place to prevent exactly what the Obama administration did to private citizens of the United States.

        I could care less which party they supported, they were private citizens at the time and not officially members of the administration. What Obama did was absolutely illegal and it is highly doubtful his aides acted of their own accord. Obama violated the trust of the office of POTUS and he should be held accountable. I could care less about how you or anyone else, including myself, feels about Donald Trump. My point is why are Trump and his associates or aides to be afforded less constitutional rights than anyone else? The NSA monitoring of private phone calls by an American citizen is a violation of their rights and using the information gathered and distributed to as many Democrats as possible by using executive privilege to classify the conversations at the lowest level of secrecy possible is a crooked dodge and one that was encouraged and approved by the sitting POTUS at the time, Barack Obama.

        While reading the NYT article which was long and detailed, it bothered me greatly that the precedent the Obama administration set by engaging in political sabotage against Trump is a very dangerous one. In the future, if any administration can circumvent the FISA guidelines the way Obama’s aides did, how the hell can a judge deny any request that is as thin as the one used to monitor Trump’s associates phone calls?

        Frum’s article was an interesting read and tying it to the NYT article and the information provided about how the “intelligence” was gathered and shared with key members of the Democrat party more closely resembles 1984 than anything Trump has been doing.

        My comments are not intended to be interpreted as supporting Trump, they should be taken at face value. The actions by Obama and his aides to me are just as bad if not worse because they set a bar so low I doubt it can be raised again.

        The entire assembly of elites inside the Beltway including Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and any other political persuasion are an embarrassment to this country and to the world. They have become so far removed from reality outside Washington, it is beyond comprehension most of the time. The bitching, back stabbing, lying, cheating, power grabbing, sanctimonious jackasses, and rabid party sycophants are ruining any chance of this country ever coming together and they feed on it the way sharks gather around a bleeding whale and rip it apart, piece by piece. Unfortunately, we are the whale they are tearing apart.

        1. bud

          That’s right … the Democratic nomination was what was rigged, not the presidential election between Clinton and Donald Trump.

          That’s total nonsense. Of course Wil Folks is the master of peddling anonymously sourced crap and biased screeds that fit into his narrow Ayn Rand worldview. Hillary Clinton received substantially more votes and pledged delegates than Bernie Sanders. Nothing prevented voters from making that choice. The fact that Bernie strongly supported Hillary in the general election puts all this rigged crap to bed once and for all. But what’s more important is that it doesn’t matter how the Democrats pick their nominee. They can flip a coin for all the constitution cares. There’s nothing in the constitution that says parties can’t “rig” their process as Mr. “Slept with the Governor” calls it. So anything else he says about the Democrat’s selection process is irrelevant.

          But the general election is different. The process is supposed to be free from meddling both foreign and domestic. There is plenty of evidence to suggest the Republicans intentionally passed laws to suppress the turnout of people of color and young voters. Further, we’re still in the process of determining to what extent Trump and his henchmen used the Russians to put their thumb on the scale in his favor. It’s unknowable how much this factored in to the final vote tally but it’s clearly unethical behavior if the charges are true. There’s much smoke here but very little fire. Obama was clearly concerned that evidence would be lost and/or tampered with so he left some breadcrumbs behind for future investigators. And good for him.

          1. Bart

            I could care less about Will Folks and anything he has to say but I decided to follow the link and the links inside the article. As noted, I had already read the NYT article all the way through and something about it disturbed me about the way the information was gathered. There were some unanswered questions and so I followed the links as noted and what was not in the NYT article was in the Breitbart article and there were legitimate sources verifying that Obama aides did use a very thin excuse for a FISA approval to tap the phone lines of a private citizen of this country to dig for information. All they really had to go on were their “fears”, nothing of substance or anything that could be substantiated in a court of law. If proof was there and could be verified, then Obama should have moved quickly to initiate legal proceedings. That is or was his job – period. And one wonders why he didn’t spend more time on the campaign trail with Clinton. Surely his appeal would have made a difference.

            FWIW, I have never believed for one minute the accusations of Russian interference with the election made one iota’s difference in the outcome. That is not to say they didn’t try but in the final analysis, Hillary Clinton is solely to blame because she assumed she had the election won before the first vote was cast and she failed to include flyover country, the Rust Belt, and any other area she thought was sewed up. Trump took advantage of her overconfidence and when she failed to campaign in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Michigan, she lost. She chose to pursue the big money and safe harbors during her campaign.

            Some are comparing what Obama’s aides did with Snowden and Manning but this is not the same thing. It is an approved operation by the aides of a residing administration at the highest level. Snowden and Manning are outliers, Obama’s aides are not.

            But if this is fine with you, the next time anyone in any administration goes for a FISA warrant to listen to the conversations of a private citizen of this country remember to keep your approval of what happened in mind when it happens to the other side and believe me, it will. Revenge and hitting back is the rule of the game of politics in this country and it is played to the hilt. Democrats are still pissed off about Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and will do anything they can to exact their pound of flesh from Republicans. Not that they don’t deserve it but after almost 20 years? And I thought elephants never forget.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Well, I don’t know what happened or didn’t happened, but Trump’s Tweets on the subject are being treated as further evidence that he’s not all there. And the White House hasn’t done a good job of demonstrating that there’s a basis for it…

      2. Richard

        You read the same article I did, I’m sure there are people a whole lot smarter than you or I who are looking into this. I could sit here and dream up hypotheticals like bud, but I’ve got things to do today. I believe I’ll sit back and let those who get paid to investigate dig through the dirt.

  12. Phillip

    Just to add a little perspective to the back-and-forth between Bud and Brad about partisanship, whether Trump is a real Republican, etc…, let’s hear from our ol’ Lindsey at the town hall meeting yesterday in Greenville. First off, though, I will tip my cap to Lindsey for facing his audience in person. But, in the end, it really does come down to this:

    “I’m going to try to help our President Donald Trump be as successful as possible because, No.1, I agree with him mostly.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      … which he can probably say because Trump has given lip service to a lot of things Republicans care about. And in at least one case — Gorsuch — he’s delivered.

      But the problems with Trump don’t lie in the realm of the things Democrats and Republicans usually fight about. They lie in the things that are unique about him.

      Put another way… while it might seem so to Democrats, Trump being a nominal Republican isn’t one of the things that’s wrong with him…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “And in at least one case — Gorsuch — he’s delivered.”

        And Mattis. Mattis as SECDEF goes on the list of good things. The “deliverables” as the Bobs would say at Initech.

      2. bud

        Disagree. Hard to see how you reach that conclusion. It just doesn’t match up with the facts. Trump could not be any more Republican. It’s as clear as day to me.

        1. bud

          I think the reason Brad and I continue to talk past each other on this comes down to a sense of perception regarding where the GOP stands TODAY. I’m 100% in agreement that Trump would be out of place, even ridiculously so, in the era of George HW Bush. On that we completely agree. Also, Barack Obama would be out of place in the Democratic Party of Ben Tillman. Parties evolve. It is just beyond dispute that the GOP have evolved radically over the last 25 years and especially the last 4 since Romney. Now the alt-right fits right in. Trump’s rather unorthodox style just doesn’t seem much different from Ted Cruz or for that matter Marco Rubio. He was, after all, the man who started the whole small hands thing. It’s people like the Bushes who don’t fit in. What’s more, polling continues to show Republicans support Trump. So while Brad is correct that Trump is different from the traditional issues that Democrats and Republicans have debated that era has passed. I consider that a shame but it seem obvious that it’s true. And the end of that era did not start with Donald J. Trump.

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