Trump’s Bitter-Ender Critics Are Consumed With Projection

By | 2017-01-09T23:45:13+00:00 January 9th, 2017|
Print Friendly

Friedrich Nietzsche famously warned, “he who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster.” Judging from the ongoing neoconservative meltdown in response to president-elect Donald Trump’s feud with the Intelligence Community, the lesson has fallen completely on deaf ears.

Perhaps the ur-text of the species arrived this past Friday, when self-proclaimed “conservative” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker asked the question these people were, to this point, too shamefaced to utter out loud: “If Obama is a Muslim, is Trump a Russian spy?” There are many tragic, or even tragicomic, facets of this altogether unhinged piece, but for our purposes, two will suffice to illustrate the larger trend.

First, there is Parker’s brief flirtation with self-awareness:

Respecting others despite differences is, generally speaking, the hallmark of an enlightened soul, as well as a desirable disposition in a leader. Yet, those who sided with Trump interpreted Obama’s gentle touch toward the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims as evidence of a hidden agenda to advance Islam in the United States—notwithstanding Obama’s rather robust drone operations, which eliminated quite a few bad actors who happened to be, or said they were, Muslims.

Noteworthy is that these same Obama doubters weren’t bestirred to suspicion when then-President George W. Bush visited a mosque immediately after 9/11. Nor, thus far, have they expressed any concern about Trump’s cavalier approach to Russia’s cyberattack on the United States.

Given this history and recent evidence, isn’t it about time Trump be declared a Russian spy?

No, I don’t really think he’s a spy because, unlike the man himself, I’m not given to crazy ideas. But what’s with this double standard? Under similar circumstances, how long do you think it would have taken for Obama to be called a traitor for defending a country that tried to thwart our democratic electoral process?

Translated, this masterpiece of sniveling passive aggression says roughly: “I’m too reasonable to call Trump a spy or Obama a Muslim, but dammit, I wish the people whose unreasonableness I feel safe in looking down upon would do it!”

Unfortunately, Parker can’t even bring herself to stop with that backhanded bit of McCarthyism. At the end of the essay, she has to give up the ghost entirely, as she writes: “In sum, when the president-elect persists in a state of denial, siding with the enemy against his own country’s best interests, one is forced to consider that Trump himself poses a threat to national security.”

And for anyone not fluent in supercilious Beltway contempt, she finishes by noting longingly: “In Russia, they’d just call it treason.”

Now, one could spend an entire column on the obvious rhetorical sleights of hand and weasel words endemic to those final two sentences. For instance, when was it formally announced that Russia (post-Communist Russia, I mean) is “the enemy?” Did I miss the declaration of war by Congress? Was there so much as a word from any president since the fall of the Berlin Wall to the effect of “we are at war with Russia?”

Of course, the answer is no. Both President George W. Bush and President Obama actually tried to cultivate Putin in their own ways, the former by trying to form an alliance against Islamic terrorism with the former KGB colonel whose soul he’d seen, and the latter by literally gifting Putin a big red “reset” button. Before that, President Bill Clinton was trusting enough to sell the country uranium.

At one time, even some neoconservatives made favorable noises about Russia. Parker’s colleague, Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, remarked approvingly in a 2001 article for The Weekly Standard that “On his trip to European Union headquarters in early October, President Vladimir Putin made clear that he sees Russia’s future with the West—and that he wants the West to see its future including Russia.[…][I]n a world realigned to face the challenge of radical Islam, it is hard to see why Russia could not, in principle, be part of the West.”

Such a world appears to be precisely what the president-elect seeks now, and while it’s not at all clear that such a world is viable 15 years and many developments after Krauthammer’s article, the fact remains that the idea was not considered so ridiculous by even Russia’s newfound foes in America’s foreign policy community, provided a sufficiently globalist president (which Trump apparently isn’t) saw it come to pass.

Language of ‘Treason’

Second, when did a new cold or (worse) hot war with Russia become one of America’s “best interests?” Flirting with conflict against a rival nuclear superpower is dangerous, and even when it is unavoidable and justified (as it was during the Cold War), it’s hardly something to be argued for by sliding it into a column, unexplained, through weasel words.

Yet that’s precisely what Parker does, only to then conflate such a conflict with national security! Last I checked, national security is about making the United States safer, and baiting a rival superpower seems opposed to that by definition. Clearly, the closing paragraph should have been the column.

But these are concerns I will have to ignore for the nonce, as Parker’s final sentence requires the most attention: “In Russia, they’d just call it treason.” Matched with the passive aggressive tone of the first passage quoted, we can be in little doubt that Parker would prefer to call Trump’s dovish stance toward Russia and his skepticism of the intelligence apparatus precisely that.

This is more than dangerous—though it is that—and more than illiberal—though it is that, too. It is a deeply revealing bit of projection. If one grants my reading of these passages, then Parker is saying in effect that to fight Russia effectively, we must become more like Russia; which is to say, more prepared to suppress opposition or even skepticism of the revealed word of our governing elite, as expressed both by its diplomatic and intelligence functionaries, with charges of treason.

Now, perhaps Parker simply wrote inelegantly. Perhaps the final line is meant to show the superiority of America’s tolerance for dissent. Unfortunately, even if she didn’t intend to offer a sample of this species of thinking, she’s not the only source one can turn to in order to prove its existence. In fact, her column might be the most ambiguous source for discovering such musings about carting off Trump and his supporters to jail for daring to disagree with the CIA/the State Department/the Atlantic Council (though in mentioning the last two, I may be repeating myself).

A Conspiracy So Brainless

Much more honest, chilling, and detailed versions of the same thinking can be found on that famous proverbial toilet full of word vomit—Twitter—just by perusing any number of neoconservative Trump-hater feeds.

Thus, we hear Evan McMullin state flat out that Trump is “not a loyal American” (in other words, he is a traitor) because he dares to question the CIA and express friendly sentiments toward Russia. McMullin’s campaign manager, the not-quite-so hairless but equally brainless Rick Wilson, is even more blunt. Speaking of Trump’s “alliance” with Russia and laying the election results at the feet of “pro-Russian treason,” Wilson offers the kind of commentary that were it not published by someone with Washington media pedigree, would be the sort of thing one would expect to read on conspiracy blogs.

Speaking of conspiracy blogs, one can’t leave out the worst offender of all: former Heat Street editor Louise Mensch, whose open conspiracy theorizing about Russia is so unhinged that even a fellow anti-Russian pundit called her out for it. (Mensch’s response? “Girl I’m trying to save the world.” Alex Jones couldn’t have said it better.)

Some of Mensch’s other greatest hits include indicting poor Jeff Sessions as part of “the Russian faction”; tweeting at Steve Bannon that she “can’t wait to see [him] tried for treason”; alleging that Alex Jones and Mike Cernovich are Russian spies; calling for “precision bombing runs,” “bank hacks,” and “massive cyber war” against Russia; writing articles likely sourced to her cats alleging that entire swaths of the Trump team are being investigated by the FISA court; out and out screaming that FBI Director James Comey has fingered Trump as a Russian asset; and, of course, calling for Trump’s arrest.

In short, along with peddling disinformation, Mensch is calling for certain journalists and media figures (Cernovich, Jones, and Bannon, until recently) and political figures (Trump) to be thrown in jail for the crime of disagreeing with her. Given Mensch’s history as a successful romance novelist, one wonders if this is all deep cover for a “love among enemies” story about a Russian dictator and a courageous failed Western politician forming affection on the basis of their mutual intolerance for dissent.

An Attack on Liberalism Itself

All of this is bad enough, but worse still is the fact that all of these people also frequently smear even good-faith questioners of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s fallibility as closet Putin spies: yet another common tactic authoritarians use against their critics. Never mind that Steve Bannon himself agrees that conservatives should take Putin’s gestures toward social and cultural conservatism as simply flattery by a cynical, untrustworthy kleptocrat.

However, what separates Bannon and Trump from the new cold warriors is the recognition that, even if you grant that Putin is an authoritarian monster, this does not preclude him being useful to the United States. Indeed, there are excellent reasons and great foreign policy minds one can muster in defense of the idea of tolerating this particular authoritarian monster as the least of all current evils. Those arguments deserve a better response from Russia hawks than the sort of mindless smear campaigns they’ve offered.

Further, no American institution should be treated as infallible—least of all our intelligence agencies, which Trump correctly fingered as having gotten the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction issue disastrously wrong, and whose report explaining its conclusions regarding Russian intelligence is thin on evidence at best. Granted, it may be that the classified version is more thorough, but the public version is weak sauce. That so many people who are now turning on Trump probably also sought to impugn the patriotism and loyalty of people who questioned that WMD stinker (since all of the people mentioned supported the Iraq War) is no excuse: if anything, it makes this particular fixation worse, since they should’ve learned skepticism from their last religious attachment to intelligence that confirmed their biases.

More important than all this, though, I believe that resorting to charges of treason against people with whom you disagree while claiming to defend liberalism is both disgustingly hypocritical and dangerous to the integrity of liberalism itself. The projection of Trump’s neoconservative haters does precisely that: it transforms those afflicted by it from thoughtful people into would-be authoritarian apparatchiks hiding in some foxhole plotting the return of their own personal inquisition. This is bad for their ideas, bad for politics, and bad for the country.

What Neocons and Putin Have in Common

But ironically, the one thing this projection doesn’t do is permit its sufferers insight into the biggest question on their mind: namely, why Putin would prefer Trump over Hillary Clinton.

If the CIA report is to be believed, the reason is simple—because Putin believed Hillary Clinton had acted to manipulate an election against him and wanted to be sure that sort of thing wouldn’t happen again, which it assuredly would have done had she been President. In other words, Putin felt about Clinton roughly the same way the neoconservatives feel about Putin: as if she was an enemy determined to meddle in a country that rightly belonged to him and steal it away. Compared to the prospect of such a person having four years to destroy his government, almost anyone would have been preferable, especially a Russia dove like Trump.

And so perhaps the neoconservative hatred of Putin and, by extension, Trump really can be chalked up to rage against the mirror. After all, the evidence that Putin’s meddling actually swung the election is purely speculative, and just as dubious as the idea that the continued flailing of the Bush era’s shipwrecked minds might actually delegitimize or damage the president-elect. Any harm that was done exists purely in the realm of the possible, and frankly not terribly probable.

But whatever Putin’s effectiveness, neoconservatives have absolutely no ground to reproach him for the fact that, faced with the prospect of political extinction, he apparently decided that threatening the greatest institutions of Western liberalism was worth the risk. Based on the evidence of their own writing, it’s just what they wish they could do.

About the Author:

Mytheos Holt
Mytheos Holt is a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty. He has held positions at the R Street Institute, Mair Strategies, TheBlaze, and National Review. He also worked as a speechwriter for U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, and reviews video games at Gamesided. He hails originally from Big Sur, California, but currently lives in Arlington, Virginia. Yes, Mytheos is his real name.
  • Derek Pandamonium

    The administrative state has become totally politicized by the dems and obama only intensified the slant. It should be obvious looking at the disastrous foreign policies obama, hillary, and kerry have implemented to see why Putin prefers Trump. The three stooges are the loose cannons and in comparison, Trump is level headed. It was obama and hillary who stabbed our ally Mubarak in the back. It was obama and hillary who conspired to murder our ally Qaddafi. When President Bush labelled Syria a state sponsor of terror, the dems were quick to commit treason by sending pelosi over to tell Assad they had his back. When obama was elected, he wasted no time in sending kerry over to reiterate that sentiment. Imagine Assad’s chagrin and shock when they called for him to be overthrown. He scurried into the arms of Russia and Iran. They collectively p!ssed on obama’s red line in the sand. Putin could see the writing on the wall. hillary had been enabling him all along, but she could turn on a dime for political reasons. And the anti-Trumpian forces are so up in arms to obfuscate their own complicity in Russia’s actions and to poison the well of American/Russian relations.
    All this has nothing to do with Russia’s ongoing hacking. They weren’t responsible for hillary losing, they weren’t responsible for the leaks or the hacking of the DNC, hillary, or podesta. But we should realize that our adversaries are enjoying our internal squabbles and are hoping for more. They would love to see a Civil war break out and many of the anti-Trumpian forces hope for the same or at least to see President Trump fail.

  • Cyrill Krasilnikov

    It’s ironic how an intellectual movement initially associated with the cohort of brilliant social scientists has devolved into a bunch of warmongers.

  • jack dobson

    It is chilling to see how isolated the discredited capitol that is modern D.C. has become.
    You touched on many thoughts that have flickered across my mind in recent days. Let’s put aside a lightweight such as Parker and consider that many mediocre people who hold great power have been just as beastly and vapid as she. Their argument boils down to “trust us, we are right.” Any challenge to our intelligence agencies, which also missed the rise of ISIS, 9/11, the Cold War, and every event of import to this nation since the Fifties, is seen as unconscionable. If Clinton had won, America would have become a failed state administered by those who presided over her disintegration. Whether it can be salvaged even now after the likes of Adm. Hayden, John Kerry, ad nauseum drove her to the brink is highly questionable.
    It is my hope Trump will begin to dismantle the Leviathan the Washington-based Fake News conservative puppets consider beyond reproach. The most important tell has been how the phrase “17 intelligence agencies” is used without a trace of irony. How about an intelligence agency that actually works for more than the war machine and the corrupt whores who serve it? Also, can we have a government that serves and protects the American people and not the mediocrities and failures who inhabit the Imperial City? How about government officials who aren’t basically Saudi agents? We have a good start with Trump, but is it too late?
    More than their greed and incompetence, what frightens me most about the Beltway semi-intelligentsia is how utterly clueless it remains that most Americans have moved beyond anger and disgust to open ridicule. That level of detachment bodes poorly.

  • Monsieur Voltaire✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    Ah, Kathleen Parker, that million-dollar-smile rattlesnake who’s built a career by pretending to be a Conservative while shamelessly mudsharking for the Left. I used to read her drivel (“passive-aggressive” nails it) on Townhall, before I stopped reading that publication altogether.

    Her hallmark seems to always have been a mixture of elitist condescension and a penchant for p!ssing on her own. Nobody has ever offended her delicate sensibility more than Palin, until Trump entered the scene. She is a gold-plated, XX-chromosomed version of Joe Scarborough, and I don’t think I have ever read anything edifying or ponderous from her flimsy pen.

    Or to put it another way: Kathleen Parker is the quintessential point where Cosmo meets political analysis. I can almost smell the reek of her expensive stale perfume as she smilingly denigrates her way through the characters she finds icky and unfashionable, while whoring for attention at the right cocktail parties–attention that she gets primarily by attacking Republicans in what passes for courage in her metrosexual-filled alentours. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of (essentially) growing up without parents, but I still don’t excuse a whole lifetime and a career built on knifing her own in the back.

    She needs to be taken out of the spotlight like yesterday’s trash.

    • Vladimir Putin

      In Russia, we call women like her “Treasonous.”

      • Monsieur Voltaire✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

        Well played, Vlad!

  • Vladimir Putin

    The NeoCohens are just bitter because I called Russia a Christian Nation.

    We all know they are the descendants of the Bolshevik Jews, the Red Terrorists that murdered 50 million White Christians.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6ccda9bb2b52cb641019b26284070319d2116cf6b395d6599b35c4613845f373.jpg