Administrative State • Deep State • Foreign Policy • Law and Order • Poetry • Post • the Presidency • Trump White House

Walter Mitty at the Negotiating Table

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Every administration seeks a legacy, and as Obama Administration legacy items go, it’s doesn’t get much more legacy than the Iran deal. It was supposed to be the great realignment, the beginning of the transformation of Iran from implacable adversary to strategic partner. In return for what amounted to paper promises, the murderous mullahs would be welcomed back into international polite society, free to travel and do business.

It was so important to the administration that its negotiation involved virtually the entire foreign policy establishment, from the State Department to the Defense Department to the intelligence agencies and the National Security Council to the Department of Energy.

Its conclusion required secret side-deals, spying on Congress, allies, and domestic political opponents, lying to the press, and end-runs around the international banking system.

And then, after it was concluded, the deal was presented a fait accompli, to be stopped only by an unobtainable two-thirds congressional majority, turning the treaty ratification process upside-down.

So it must have been agonizing for former administration officials to stand by and watch the Trump Administration dismantle the thing piece by piece, finally pulling out altogether and re-imposing both nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions on the regime.

How galling to watch not only the work of years destroyed, but also the very ally-in-waiting shaken to its foundations by economic collapse, and its dreams of regional hegemony threatened on every front. Companies and entire countries will find themselves having to choose between doing business with the increasingly impoverished mullahs and doing business with a booming U.S. economy. Some choice.

So galling, in fact, that the former administration has found itself unwilling to stand by and watch.

Kerry on the Case
Following up on earlier reports, we learned this week that former Secretary of State John Kerry has been conducting unauthorized shuttle diplomacy, trying to salvage what remains of the fraudulent Iran deal. According to reports, he has been pressuring Iran on the fringes of its Middle East empire, about Yemen and Syria, and hoping to include the active Iranian missile program in a new deal.

At the same time, one presumes that he has been working with the Europeans to find ways around the new sanctions, ways to read international agreements (no matter how strained the interpretation) to allow European and the Chinese governments to protect their companies from U.S. sanctions.

In short, as the Iranian people’s disgust with and rebellion against the regime gains steam, Kerry seeks to give it a new lease on life, in direct opposition to current administration policy. Kerry himself admitted as much, attacking the administration in his talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and attacking it publicly for what he believes is its policy of regime change rather than engagement on his pet issues.

Fortunately, the people of the region seem to be as opposed to the mullahs as Kerry assumes the administration is. Regime change seems to be the policy of an increasing number of Iranians, who are striking and taking to the streets on a daily basis. And closer to home than either Syria or Yemen, people in the majority-Shia city of Basra, Iraqis recently torched the Iranian consulate there, as well as the headquarters of Iran-friendly militias.

Kerry’s own personal foreign policy reflects neither that of the duly elected U.S. government which he once served, nor the people of Iran and its would-be satrapies. It’s merely another manifestation of a party and a political class that refuses to admit it lost the last election, and with it, the right to steer the ship of state onto the rocks.

So what is to be done?

“Sauce, Goose, Gander”
Recall that it was the Logan Act—historically unenforceable garbage—that Sally Yates used as the pretext for action against Michael Flynn. It would be almost impossible to bring charges under the law, but it would be relatively easy to use it to open an investigation.

Far better would be a criminal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ultimately, it was a FARA violation that nailed Flynn and became the basis for several other indictments from the never-ending Mueller Investigation. As Michael Rubin points out, FARA “covers not only formal lobbying, but also providing advice to foreign governments or individuals about how to change or circumvent U.S. law.”

Kerry might counter that he was merely trying to act as an honest broker among parties, including the U.S. government. He would claim that he never actively represented a foreign government, but merely related concerns, positions, and discussed possible courses of action with the various governments.

Fine, let him prove it. Let’s see his communications, his emails, his phone and travel records. Let’s see his notes from these discussions and conversations. Let’s line them up with press coverage, and see what kind of public pressure he sought to create. Let’s see what, if any, U.S. government officials he was in communication with. Let’s see what U.S. political parties and actors, if any, he coordinated with. Let’s take a look at who, if anyone, was footing the bill for all this activity.

Even the potential prosecution itself would be enough to tie Kerry down in an expensive and time-consuming process, as well as undermining his credibility with the foreign governments and organizations he seems to consider his real constituents. The need to defend himself would leave him little time for these adventures.

If this smacks of politicizing the law enforcement process, à la Mueller and company, understand that theirs has been a prosecution for political purposes, apparently to overturn election results they didn’t like. The administration would be pursuing this course not to punish a political adversary, but to maintain control over policy it is rightly entitled to set, and to rein in a rogue former official who is interfering with the proper business of government.

Photo Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

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2016 Election • Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • the Presidency • Trump White House

Yes, the Mainstream Media Is the Enemy

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If you are aiding, abetting, and protecting a saboteur who has infiltrated the highest echelon of the American government, then you are, in the words of President Trump, “the enemy of the American people.” The New York Times, once lambasting this dig as “extraordinary,” has demonstrated just how fine the label fits by publishing an anonymous White House saboteur on its opinion pages earlier this week.

I am not entirely convinced that this “senior official” inside the administration is not a LARPing Times’ journalist. I would not find it beneath someone as cretinous as Bret Stephens or Charles M. Blow. But who knows? In any event, this amounts to a kind of propagandizing that would warrant plaudits from Comrade Andropov. And wouldn’t there be accomplices? This scheme would be difficult pull off alone.

CNN, for example, “resigned” three journalists, including an executive editor, for their involvement in a story that relied on an “anonymous source” who had the scoop on a fictitious “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials” and the nonexistent investigation thereof. After the network concluded that “standard editorial processes were not followed,” (read: they were caught misinforming the American people, and caught as the operative) CNN axed the trio, including Eric Lichtblau, then a CNN new hire but a veteran of the Times and a Pulitzer Prize recipient. It’s unclear what became of that “anonymous source.”

As an aside, let’s consider a recent story based entirely on faceless sources, one that began in The Atlantic and subsequently was promulgated by Reuters, Slate, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, The Hill, and MSNBC.

The claim now “regurgitated” by left-wing media, as Julie Kelly reports, is “that House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) traveled to London to dig up dirt on ex-British spy and Trump-Russia dossier author, Christopher Steele,” and subsequently was snubbed by security officials in the U.K. The scoop comes entirely from “two people familiar with his trip across the pond who requested anonymity to discuss the chairman’s travels.” The intent here is to make Nunes look incompetent and spin the story to seem as if the real witch hunt is coming from the GOP and the White House. There’s just one problem: every detail of the original story, as reported by Natasha Bertrand for The Atlantic, has been denied by a spokesperson of the House Intelligence Committee. Kelly reports:

“While in London, Chairman Nunes did not discuss Christopher Steele in any meetings, he did not try to schedule any meetings to discuss Steele, and he did not seek out or request any information whatsoever related to Steele,” Jack Langer wrote to me in an email Friday. “It’s amazing how an utterly false story based on anonymous sources is uncritically re-reported by dozens of media outlets. Readers can determine for themselves whether these outlets are gullible or simply partisan mouthpieces for the Democrats—and those two things are not mutually exclusive.”

Bertrand’s story likely is fiction, yet it has become canon in the left-wing media’s war-narrative on the president and fed to the American people as the whole truth.

Subversion, Plain and Simple
This brings us back to the Times’ “anonymous” op-ed writer.

If we accept that this anonymous source is real, then he (the Times briefly tweeted the writer is a “he”) is indeed “part of the resistance” that is “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [President Trump’s] agenda.” That is, he is working to frustrate the agenda which the American people elected the president to duly execute. This is patent and anti-democratic subversion: the process by which something, like the executive office, is contradicted or undermined from within.

The words subversive and subversion come from the Latin word, subvertere, which means “overthrow,” “destroy,” or “cause to topple.” If this anonymous source is real, it then follows that the Times is harboring someone with access to the White House who is working to see the president, at minimum, undermined, and ideally overthrown.

Intent is important here. Why does this anonymous subversive act? It does not appear to be because of some illicit activity by the president. If this was the case, such cloak and dagger tactics might be justified.

This person acts merely because he is an enemy to the president’s agenda, and by extension American people’s agenda, because, in his opinion, he knows better. Nobody elected him, but his judgment is superior. Like the overseers of the Times, he cannot accept the American people’s rejection of the old political order. Our anonymous scribe claims that Trump cares little for the “ideals long espoused by conservatives,” namely, “free minds, free markets and free people.” But the anonymous author’s actions undermine the very ideals he claims to uphold.

Forget markets. Just how free at all are Americans when rogue columns of their own government wage war against them to undo their will? Clearly, the American mind must not be allowed to be free, lest it commit mistakes like the election of Donald J. Trump. In fact, the regime that decides what qualifies as “conservative” is what Michael Walsh aptly calls the “Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party.” In short, establishment Republicans are, in no meaningful way, distinguishable from their Democrat counterparts. As I wrote in Chronicles recently:

At the heart of the matter is a battle over agency. Do Americans have the freedom to live as they see fit? Are Americans free to demand policy that is aligned with traditional American values? Are they even free to think? Technically, yes. But it is the singular role of the intelligentsia, through manipulation and misinformation, to cow Americans into thinking only within the confines of the regime’s box, where they pose no threat to the regime’s power.

Whether the source is real or not, the Times’ editorial team published this story with the intent to sow the seeds of discord and doubt among the American people. The right thing to do would be to comply with the president’s demands to reveal the identity of this subversive. This move might have saved the Times from further disgrace. Instead, the Times will make unveiling the identity of this individual a Sherlockian contest, one that they initiated and one in which they have since declared themselves participants.

The Myth of Media Invulnerability
In shielding the identity of the author, whose views no one doubts are shared at least in part by the editorial team, the Times is revealing itself to be the enemy of the American people, just as the president said. Much of the present predicament has to do with the sense of invulnerability in which the media revels, and this is largely the result of so-called “professional” journalism.

Over the course of American history, journalism moved toward “professionalization,” from one-man printing operations, to the bureaucratized newsrooms we find today. From these informal beginnings, professional journalism has evolved into a technical profession complete with a code of ethics. This code, however, applies least of all to journalists, and functions more like window dressing that obfuscates the ongoing crime within.

Although it was earnestly intended to eradicate partisanship from newsmedia, the professionalization of journalism has simply institutionalized a once far more honest partisanship. It should be no surprise, then, that the Times unabashedly has shown itself a partisan against the president of the American people.

Organizations such as the Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, MSNBC, and CNN have made empires out of selling lies to the American people, parasitically engorging themselves with authority and credibility as they drain the public trust and lower the level of discourse. Like all parasites, their growth and sensory organs have been stunted, and now it seems that they may have overplayed their hand, blood-drunk on the deranged zeitgeist that they have fomented.

The Trump Administration has begun its hunt for the unknown “‘traitor’ among them.” The traitor’s accomplices, however, are known. The question is, will the American people hold their enemies accountable?

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

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2016 Election • Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • GOPe • Government Reform • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • the Presidency • Trump White House

Is Trump’s Cabinet Undermining His Agenda?

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Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, has exposed something constitutional scholars might, at best, call outright insubordination. At worst, it amounts to an incidental coup by several former and current Trump Administration advisers. Then again, Woodward’s book may just be another unsubstantiated torrent directed against a president who offends the touchy sensibilities of America’s hallowed globalist elite. In any event, it speaks to the dire need for fundamental institutional reform (a need that, as yet, Trump has failed to address.)

Gary Cohn’s Oval Office Caper
According to Woodward, former White House aide Rob Porter and former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn physically removed documents meant for the president’s review from the resolute desk in the Oval Office. The documents, Woodward reports, concerned a proposal to end a trade deal between the United States and South Korea.

If true, this would indicate that both Cohn and Porter ignored well-established White House protocols for presidential decision making. It would also mean that the duo decided to rewrite the president’s stated (and desired) directives against the president’s wishes.

Think about it: President Trump campaigned on a consistent policy of reforming what he (rightly) viewed as America’s lackluster trade policies. He sold himself to the American people as a critic of  “free trade,” and vowed to renegotiate the bad deals his predecessors had created. If Woodward’s account is correct, then, both Cohn and Porter circumvented presidential power, and did what only a president has the authority to do: change American trade policy to conform with their own views.

Cruise Missile Confusion
Another instance of potential insubordination—at least as reported by Woodward—occurred during a tense early 2017 exchange between Defense Secretary James Mattis and the president. In 2017, when the Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad purportedly used chemical weapons against his own civilian population, Trump was so irate that he wanted to “f—ing kill” Assad. He called Mattis and demanded that decisive military action be taken against the Syrian autocrat. Yet, according to the Woodward report, Mattis not only pushed back but refused to follow through on what was a verbal presidential order authorizing the lethal use of force.

Some have argued that Trump’s words did not constitute an order as there is some confusion about that point among constitutional scholars. Basically, if the president calls his war chief at the Pentagon and orders him to take Assad out, then that technically constitutes a direct and inviolate order. Remember, the United States Constitution and other relevant legislation gives the president immense power to use military force. This is why clear lines of communication and explicit delineation of authority is essential between the president and his cabinet officials. The Constitution, not the bureaucracy, provides such clarity.

If such a declarative statement from the president—whether verbal or written—constitutes as an order, then any failure to execute that order would have been an act of insubordination, and Mattis would be eligible for removal from office. Ultimately, the United States did strike Syria with cruise missiles. But in no way was that operation intended to “f—ing kill” Assad, as the president allegedly wanted.

Mattis and his fellow general, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, have completely denied all of Woodward’s claims. But Woodward insists he has “hundreds of hours” of interviews backing up his reporting.

What’s more, it’s not as though what Woodward is writing is new. The rumored divisions and acrimony within the Trump Administration (particularly in its first year) were the stuff of Potomac legend. Mattis and Kelly are stand-up men who have served this country with distinction. I take them at their word when they say they never uttered the words Woodward attributes to them. Even so, doubts of this kind still linger because they and their associates have consistently demonstrated a measurable degree of skepticism about Trump, and in this they are not alone within the government.

Deep State’s Gonna State
Trump has a real problem (and, so do we as a democratic citizenry) if Woodward is correct. Not only is Trump beset with unforgiving enemies in the permanent bureaucracy and in the Democratic Party, he is also matched against a hostile corporate media and propagandists-masquerading-as-experts in academia. If the Woodward book is even partly true, Trump is warring with elements of his own administration.

We’ve already seen this at play with Trump’s ongoing public spat with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There were also evident tensions between Trump and his former national security adviser, H. R. McMaster. These new (unsubstantiated) reports of the Cohn-Porter Oval Office caper and Mattis’s possible refusal to execute a lawful presidential command suggest the problems facing constitutional governance in the United States today are pervasive.

What’s more, the New York Times took the extraordinary step of publishing an anonymous op-ed by a supposed senior Trump Administration official who announced emphatically and proudly that he (and many others at the top-levels of the administration) were actively working to “do what [they] can while preserving [America’s] democratic institutions.”

According to the anonymous op-ed, this has created a “two-track presidency,” one in which Trump issues decrees and edicts, but another where the anointed “betters” (read Swamp Dwellers) in the White House essentially ignore the presidential orders. The writer claims that this isn’t the work of the “deep state,” but rather that of a “steady state” working to insulate our hallowed institutions from the excesses of Trump.

I wonder how, if such an event occurred under former President Obama’s watch, the Left would have reacted to such “anonymous” sniping in the press from active senior members of the administration?

What the recent spate of exposés about the Trump Administration tell us is that America’s democratic institutions are under assault. Yet, they are not under assault from either Russian troll farms or Donald Trump’s incessant need to tweet. Instead, they are besieged by those who’ve cynically claimed for themselves the mantle of being defenders of our glorious republic (through entirely undemocratic means). Therefore, Trump must reform the bureaucracy at every level. It’s the deep state or us. Woodward’s book just reinforces this fact.

Trump is like Caesar: he is surrounded by enemies and something ominous is underway. This issue transcends Trump’s presidency, however. It affects the whole country. Are we a representative republic of the people? Or, are we an oligarchy? I fear the answer.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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2016 Election • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Identity Politics • Post • The Left • the Presidency • Trump White House

Take Salena Zito Seriously and Literally

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Intramural food fights about journalistic practices normally don’t attract my attention. The journalists I know, right and left, have their biases but are mostly honest and good at what they do. But the recent assault on Salena Zito’s integrity is different.

That’s because Zito’s reporting chops aren’t what’s really at issue. What’s really at stake is her narrative, that Trump’s victory was due to millions of fed-up, blue-collar Americans angry at coastal elite condescension and the failed policies that flowed from that conceit. Strike her down, and the most prominent advocate of that explanation for 2016 gets removed from the conversation—and with her, perhaps the narrative itself drops by the wayside.

See, NeverTrump resisters—Left and Right—still don’t want to admit this is why he won. They would prefer to chalk it up to Russian hacking or to misinformation, the political nerd’s version of Area 51 and Roswell. Or they contend it’s all a matter of latent racism, which somehow never expressed itself when Barack Obama twice won in these same areas or when two Hispanics and a black man won majorities of the votes in early GOP primaries and caucuses. Anything—anything—but that Americans who have different cultural interests than coastal or suburban college graduates were mad as hell and didn’t want to take it anymore.

But that’s exactly what the data tell me. Whether it’s looking at election returns, exit polls, or post-election in-depth voter surveys, Trump won because he struck a chord with blue-collar, white America the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.

You can broadly be sympathetic with those people’s views, as I am, or you can loathe them, as many of my fellow Washingtonians do. But if you fail to get a handle on what is going on, you are pretty likely to do something that will make things worse.

Here’s a rough summary of what the data show. Trump won massive majorities of whites without a college degree, whether one looks at the exit polls or post-election analyses. These voters told pollsters they were angry: they didn’t like the job Barack Obama was doing, they thought the country was on the wrong track, and they wanted change.

Trump had energized these people early in the race and brought many who were not regular voters in Republican primaries into those contests. Exit polls during the primaries invariably showed that Trump’s support was directly connected with a voter’s education level, strongest with the least educated and weakest with the most, and turnout in the GOP races was at a record high, nearly equaling Democratic turnout for the first time ever.

Neither Trump’s primary voters nor his general election voters were primarily motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment. Many were, of course, but even in the primaries large numbers of his supporters opposed his views on deportation or did not say immigration was an important issue.

Emily Ekins of the Cato Institute used data from the Voter Study Group, which I direct, to break Trump’s general election support into five discrete groups. Attitudes and importance attached to immigration varied among those groups and there is even one substantial group holding views on immigrants and immigration policies nearly indistinguishable from Clinton voters.

Trump broke the Democrats’ “blue wall” in the Midwest on the backs of these voters, millions of whom were former Democrats. Voter Study Group data shows that about nine percent of Obama’s 2012 voters—nearly 6 million people—supported Donald Trump in 2016. The election map tells us where these voters lived—counties and towns well outside of big cities in the Midwest. These were places like Lee County, Iowa, which gave Obama over 56 percent in 2012 but backed Trump with nearly 55 percent in 2016.

Trump’s pledge to make America great again resonated with them, and not because of their latent resentments. It still surprises my fellow swamp creatures to learn that Trump received a higher share of the vote among people whose most important criteria for a president is that he “cares about people like me” than Romney, McCain, or even “compassionate conservative” George W. Bush.

Zito saw all of this as she traveled throughout the Midwest. She called me in the summer of 2016 for data on a piece she was writing, the first time we came into contact. Her anecdotes and reporting confirmed what my data were telling me: Trump was riding an enormous tidal wave of support among blue-collar whites. I saw it firsthand when I drove the backroads of Pennsylvania in October for speaking gigs: hundreds of Trump signs, many obviously not made by the campaign, decorated lawns across the land, more than I had ever seen in over 40 years in politics.

Salena’s books, CNN appearances, and columns give voice to these people. Her interviews and stories put faces and names on real concerns. This means she reaches many more people than do analysts and writers like me, focused as we are on numbers and data. That makes her dangerous, someone who must be brought down. That is why Twitter trolls are poring over her work to find any error, no matter how slight, to discredit her.

Zito will survive this onslaught. She’s too careful, too competent not to. But in a broader sense (sorry, Salena!), it wouldn’t matter if she didn’t. She is merely a voice crying in the wilderness speaking for the millions of Americans whose lives and thoughts she recounts. Their voices can be repressed, their tribunes silenced, but they will not go away. They are the Force that is shaping American politics. And to paraphrase Master Obi Wan, if you strike their Jedi Knights down, they will simply become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

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Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • Obama • Obamacare • Post • Republicans • The Left • Trump White House

Burying the Dead With Bile-Filled Histrionics

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The big news last week revolved around the funerals of a 1960s pop singer and an unreliable Republican senator with a cult following among masochistic conservatives and cynical leftists eager to capitalize on his capacity to spread dissension among his nominal allies.

I suppose the exploitation of funerals for grubby political ends is nothing new. Mark Antony did it with notable success when he eulogized Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. But there was something especially stomach-churning about the injection of partisan animus into the obsequies of Aretha Franklin and John McCain.

Both were reminders—as if we needed any—of how these jangled, hyperpartisan times have the capacity to infect even the most solemn ceremonies of life with bile-filled histrionics, our latter-day version of the theater of the absurd.

The race hustling reverends Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson led the bandwagon at Franklin’s funeral, loading their praise of the soul singer with vicious anti-Trump rhetoric. Dyson described the president of the United States as an “orange apparition,” a “lugubrious leech,” a “dictator” and “fascist.” Nicely done, Reverend!

The tone at John McCain’s spectacle was more restrained but the message of hatred and contempt for the president was just as patent.

The professional NeverTrumper and Twitter activist Bill Kristol sniffed that “I don’t believe the name of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was mentioned during the service for John McCain, and I’ll continue that practice, in McCain’s honor, for the rest of the day. Today was a moment to celebrate, appreciate and reflect on what is admirable.”

I’ll come back the question of “what is admirable” in a moment. But first, I think it worth pointing out how disingenuous Kristol’s tweet was. The name “Trump” may not have been publicly uttered at that orgy of self-congratulatory vituperation, but the reality of the man was palpable everywhere. Curiously, he was the star of the show in which John McCain had the title role.

The president had been asked pointedly not to attend the event. He respected the wishes of the family and stayed away. Then the media went wild reporting that he had taken himself off to the links to play golf. Instead of what, exactly? Sitting at home and watching himself be not-so-subtly abused first by Meghan McCain, then Barack Obama and George W. Bush?

“The America of John McCain,” said the senator’s daughter, “has no need to be made great again because America was always great.” Get it? Get it?

Barack Obama, in a tribute that instantiated to the letter what it pretended to abhor, lamented how “So much of our politics can seem small and mean and petty. Trafficking in bombast and insult, phony controversies and manufactured outrage. [You get a gold star for brazenness for that one, Mr. President!] It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but is instead born of fear [Oh, dear]. John called on us to be bigger than that, to be better than that.” Right.

For his part, President Bush instructed the assembled mourners that McCain “detested the abuse of power and could not abide bigots and swaggering despots.” Anyone particular in mind, sir?

One and all, they came not to praise McCain but to bury Trump.

But let us return to Bill Kristol’s invocation of “what is admirable,” that call-of-the-wild to be “bigger” and “better” that Barack Obama claims to have discerned in John McCain’s example.

Joseph Duggan, a former State Department and White House staffer in the Reagan and first Bush Administrations, offers an instructive comparison between McCain and Jeremiah Denton, the first Republican to win a direct popular election to the Senate in Alabama.

Like McCain, Denton was a war hero. He, too, had been shot down over Vietnam and endured years of torture. (It was Denton who, when paraded in front of television cameras by his captors, famously spelled out T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code by blinking his eyes.)

But the contrasts between the two men were even more notable. Denton was a consistent conservative. McCain prided himself on being “bipartisan” and “a maverick.” In reality, he was an erratic and self-aggrandizing party of one. As Duggan observes, “What McCain actually did, again and again, was to sabotage consensus within his own party out of an impulse for gaining attention and increasing his negotiating position in regard to other interests.”

Is that admirable?

President Trump has made good on an astonishing number of his campaign promises, from moving our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem to enacting across-the-board tax cuts, resuscitating the American military, enforcing our immigration laws, and rolling back the smothering, counterproductive regulatory environment excreted like a sticky jelly by the administrative state.

One promise he nearly fulfilled early on was scrapping the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. I say “nearly” because the president came up one vote short in his effort to rescue the American people from that ruinously expensive, state-run bureaucratic nightmare. Who was it who withheld the vote? Why, Senator Maverick McCain, of course. As Duggan put it, “With no discernible principle or regard for the public interest on his side, McCain single-handedly sabotaged the repeal of Obamacare. No one can say honestly that his motivation was anything other than spite for President Trump.”

Was that action “bigger” and “better” than those of the Voldemort that President Obama invoked without quite naming? Was it “admirable”?

There were other things that distinguished Jeremiah Denton from John McCain. When Denton died in 2014 at 89, he, like McCain, received full military honors. But as Duggan notes, “His funeral did not preempt television coverage of soap-operas, sitcoms, or sporting events. His pallbearers did not include Warren Beatty, [and] no one, obscure or famous, was told not to attend the ceremony.”

There are a few morals to be absorbed by the sorry spectacles that the funerals of Aretha Franklin and John McCain afforded.

One is the old familiar that Leftists will praise Republicans as “bipartisan” and public spirited just so long as they act and vote like leftists. At the same time, they will instantly punish any dissension in their own ranks with ostracism. Many commentators (including your humble correspondent) have indulged in the sport of contrasting the hosannahs of praise slathered on John McCain by leftists in recent months with the blistering attacks made upon him during those intermittent episodes when he supported conservative causes. At the end of his life, McCain was the enemy of their enemy, Donald Trump. Therefore, on this battlefield, he was their friend.

Another moral concerns the cacophonous tintinnabulations of the echo-chamber that has installed itself in the center of our public life. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that politics is the “master art,” the ultimate good at which virtuous human action aims because politics is that which orders all the subordinate activities that nurture the “good for man.” It is interesting to speculate about what Aristotle would have to say about the practice—not to say “the perversion”—of politics today. Wither phronesis (practical judgment)? What price sophrosune (moderation)?

“But, but, surely you are not suggesting that Donald Trump somehow epitomizes the political virtues Aristotle extols?”

No, I am not. At least, not exactly.

Trump is a loud and brazen personality. He has faults and flaws (unlike the rest of us, of course). Above all, he is a disruptive force. He has, in the most thoroughgoing way in my lifetime, challenged the status quo in American politics.

If you believed that the status quo was a good thing, that, fundamentally, the ship of state was sailing on in the right direction, sails trimmed correctly for the prevailing weather, with the right amount of ballast appropriately distributed—if you thought that then not only are you right to be alarmed by Donald Trump but also I have a large bridge that I would like to sell you.

Of course, many if not most political actors regularly said that the ship of state was in danger of foundering, but that was only when on the hustings. Once safely ensconced in office, they acted in ways that kept the ship lumbering along its perilous course, gunwales nearly submerged. Donald Trump, “standing athwart history, yelling Stop, when no one else is inclined to do so,” has produced a powerful counter current that may yet, might just, alter the course of the vessel in which America finds itself proceeding. It is a gigantic, lumbering barge of a ship, slow to turn, difficult to maneuver, and inertia is a such powerful thing.

Notwithstanding the president’s many successes, it is too early to say how fundamental or lasting his reforms will be.

But almost everyone by now would agree that Trump has precipitated a sharp change in the climate, the emotional and rhetorical weather, of our culture. Many commentators focus on the president’s tweets and his sometimes Tabasco obiter dicta. Doubtless those interventions can be eyebrow-raising.

What strikes me as more noteworthy, however, is the incontinent fury with which the president’s rhetoric has been met. This is where that cacophonous echo-chamber I mentioned makes its debut. One of the many ironies attending the operation of the Trump Administration is the extent to which his opponents, in their loud and adamantine opposition to the president, are guilty of the very things of which they accuse him. I know it seems odd to say, but their behavior has had the effect of making Donald Trump appear as a calming, a moderating force. Who would have thought it possible?

The anti-Trump hysteria has had a much longer run than I would have thought possible. Partly, that’s because it has been assiduously fed by a corrupt and partisan media. Partly, it is because of the self-engorging denizens of the Washington swamp—the cadres of bureaucrats, scribblers, and talking heads who have a vested interest in perpetuating and extending the swamp.

If they have been more persistent than I would have predicted, I nevertheless see them as the grasshoppers in this little fable from Edmund Burke: “Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field, that of course they are many in number, or that after all they are other than the little, shriveled, meager, hopping, though loud and troublesome, insects of the hour.”

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Photo Credit:  Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Conservatives • Education • Post • The Left • The Media • Trump White House

Read the Paper CNN Says Is ‘White Supremacist’

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Editor’s note: The White House last week fired speechwriter Darren Beattie after CNN reported he had “white supremacist ties.” Beattie, who contributed to American Greatness early in our publication history, spoke at conference the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) deemed a “band of white nationalists, pseudoacademic and academic racists.”

Beattie, who was a Duke University political science professor at the time, delivered the paper—titled “Intelligentsia and The Right”—as part of a panel at the annual conference of the H.L. Mencken Club in 2016.

Beattie issued a statement over the weekend in response to CNN’s story: “In 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely. It was the honor of my life to serve in the Trump Administration. I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him one hundred percent. I have no further comment.”

American Greatness obtained the draft of Beattie’s paper. It has been edited only slightly to correct a few typographical errors. We’ve also provided English translations for a few German phrases at the end. Otherwise, the paper is as Beattie presented it in 2016. We invite readers to judge for themselves whether his work is “pseudoacademic,” “racist,” or “white supremacist.”

Intelligentsia and The Right
I’d like to begin by thanking the H.L Mencken Club and particularly Professor Paul Gottfried for being generous enough to invite me to speak here. I consider it a great honor.

I’ve been asked to address the question of “The Intelligentsia and the Right.” For those of us unfortunate enough to have inhabited what passes as the conservative world of “ideas” this topic would seem to invoke a well-worn genre of defeatism and lamentation associated with the frustrating but otherwise indisputable fact that, since World War II at least—and in some ways going back much farther than that—the intellectual class and creative class more generally have been associated with the left and the advancement of a so-called left-wing agenda. That many of you likely heard the phrase “Intelligentsia and the Right” and had the immediate thought of a separate and oppositional relationship between the two words—that is, the intelligentsia as considered apart from and antagonistic to the right—testifies to the status of this old genre and the reality it reflects.

But I don’t need to tell you—though it always bears repetition—that these are no ordinary times. Changes are afoot. Accordingly, I’d like to address what I think are some underlying developments giving rise to the emergence of, if not an intelligentsia of the “right” then certainly one that stands in stark and robust opposition to what we’ve come to describe as the “left.” Please note that I use these terms “right” and “left” tentatively and with qualification because the developments to which I attribute the optimistic possibility of a new kind of intelligentsia are at the same time developments that call into question the usefulness of the “left” “right” paradigm itself.

Furthermore, note that in discussing the possibility of a new type of intelligentsia emerging from recent historical developments pertaining to the changing circumstances and structure of ideology, society, and the economy, I thereby give a nod to the broadly Hegelian and Marxist connotations of the term without being able to address at adequate length the its complicated and rich intellectual history, not to mention the vexed philosophical questions lingering within that history. I’ll come back to this point briefly at the end of my talk.

Now, what are the circumstances and developments that have given rise to the possibility, speaking very broadly, of an intelligentsia of the right? There’s much to say about this, but I will confine my remarks to three major developments, the first of which is the death of American conservatism, and particularly the movement conservative ideology that emerged during the Cold War and culminated in Reagan’s presidency.

When I speak of the “death of movement conservatism” I do not mean to suggest that there are no people who would claim to remain in its tradition, or that such claims would be entirely false from the perspective of any particular professed Reaganite movement holdout. Indeed, at this point I know better than to underestimate the cluelessness of aspirational suburbia, especially in its Baby Boomer instantiations, whose status angst continues to generate a modicum of genuine demand for the kinds of Paul Singer subsidized, upper middle brow think pieces that appear in glossy legacy rags like National Review. But I digress.

When I say that movement conservatism is dead I mean that the circumstances that once provided a certain coherence and viability to the three chief components of the movement conservative coalition no longer exist. More specifically, the so-called fusionism that attempted to reconcile socially conservative religious traditionalism of the Kirkean variety with a generally libertarian free market capitalism only made sense within a now defunct or non-existent Cold War context. It is no accident then that this coalition proved most successful during Reagan’s presidency, which oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Fusionism was so called because it was able to construct a narrative that fused together traditionalist Burkean social conservatives and religious Christians, firstly, Cold-War hawks (Cold Warriors), secondly, and free market economic types (including libertarians like Friedman), finally, together. My central claim with respect to fusionism is that the tripartite coalition to which it refers makes no internal sense by itself, but rather it borrows its coherence artificially not only from the geopolitical threat posed by the USSR, but also from its reactive opposition to communist ideology as such.

Whereas fusionism is contingent and artificial in its American conservative expression, something similar to fusionism is imbedded much more essentially into communist doctrine at least in its classical Marxist forms. Karl Marx’s theory integrated its atheism with a dialectical materialism, which was at the same time an economic doctrine. The very real fusionism that belonged to classical Marxist theory made the reactive and contingent fusionism in America between free-market libertarians and religious Christian social conservatives possible; furthermore, the fact that this enemy atheistic-economic ideology received its expression in a major competing World Power made the hawkish foreign policy element a natural part of this coalition.

With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the artificial supports providing temporary coherence to movement conservatism began to disintegrate. The full impact of this disintegration, however, enjoyed a certain postponement; partially this was due to the “holiday from history” that characterized the period of peace and economic prosperity between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11; and partially because the self-identified conservatives’ response to 9/11 was a desperate and implausible attempt to portray Islamic Terror as the new Soviet-type threat in a way that would preserve the basic logic of the Reagan coalition. This band-aid job worked for a bit, but ultimately proved incoherent. Now with the failures of the Bush foreign policy plain to see, and with the middle class evaporating due, among other things, to the intensification of certain structural features of the economy, the irrelevance and inadequacy of movement conservatism can be felt rather than merely thought.

I ought to note that my analysis of the ahistorical and irrelevant character of fusionist movement conservatism is not strictly speaking a philosophical critique of, say, Meyer’s project. Meyer’s lack of philosophical depth probably was indispensable to the creation of a viable narrative on which to build a political coalition. My point is that that viability itself depended on a certain ideological and historical context that no longer exists.

The virtue of the increasingly indisputable collapse of movement conservatism is that the actual political configuration post-Cold War can be understood with greater clarity. Of course, there were further obfuscations pertaining to the role of an intellectual.

If somebody like Kojeve could have envisaged the role of an intellectual during the Cold War as working to reify a Stalinist universal and homogeneous state, Fukuyama’s modification of Kojeve upon the fall of the Berlin wall would simply suggest that the intellectual’s role would be to help reify the universal homogeneous state in its newly discovered historically appropriate instantiation via global democratic capitalism, human rights, and so forth.

There are many problems with Fukuyama’s thesis, but the one immediately relevant here is that so much of the debate surrounding his particular end of history thesis is that, whether one agreed with it or not, the debate was framed in such a way that obscured the true political configuration that emerged. That is, the discussion surrounding Fukuyama’s end of history thesis largely took for granted that the opposing forces in question were, on the one hand, capitalist globalization bolstered by democratic universalist philosophy, and, on the other, recidivist and reactionary tribalism. This characterization obscures the actual situation of the post-Cold War West in which the dominant “global” paradigm seems to be characterized by an unexpected and still not adequately explored connection between a certain masochistic religion of identity politics, global multinational capitalism, and the military industrial complex.

The connection has been explored a bit by Gottfried and Greenwald. My insight into this horrifying development is that it makes sense structurally in terms of a certain confluence of Nietzschean and Marxist factors. The Marxist side of what’s going on—that is, the side that accounts for certain social and class developments on account of underlying economic or material developments, has to do with the increasingly questionable role of the middle and working class under contemporary conditions governed by the underlying radical logic of economies of scale that characterizes the development of our integrated techno-corporate-global system. For example, with technological automation, integration, and economies of scale, the threshold for becoming a truly productive and valuable contributor to the economy is increasing dramatically—a process by which we little people become mere trivial zeros in the grand scheme of a rotten globo-corporate elite’s proprietary zeta function. What results is an ever increasing number of middle class Westerners who are shut out of the elite and economic relevance of the productive economy generally, and an increasing jealousy on the part of those in the elite to guard and protect their status.

But the increasing number of working-class, middle-class, upper-middle class, and even wealthy but not ultra-wealthy and connected pose a distinct problem, because unlike the imported masses from the developing world, they have a proven capacity to organize politically, and certain historical expectations regarding liberty and self-government. Whereas the Cultural Marxists may have resented the bourgeois on account of the bourgeois hindering the progression to a Marxist utopia, and resented the working class for not previously universally mobilizing against the bourgeois as was expected and predicted by Classical Marxists, the Corporate Marxists resent the bourgeois for preventing the natural progression toward a system like Brazil, in which a vanishingly small wealthy, gated, insulated elite lords it over hordes of easily controlled helots. Brazil is the new Marxist utopia for the Corporate Marxists, if you’ll forgive the term, though utopia might be an inapt term given the distinct plausibility of this eventuality.

I mentioned that there was a Nietzschean component to this dynamic in addition to a Marxist one. Indeed, though Nietzschean explanations are often contrasted with Marxist ones as the psychological to the material, yet in this case the Nietzschean psychological diagnosis of slave morality, masochism, whatever you want to call it actually operates in conjunction with the emerging class dynamic insofar as it serves to pacify or neutralize what would otherwise be an increasingly problematic class for the elite.

So this little sketch of the post-Cold War situation in the West is quite a bit different from the idealized model of a universalist classical liberalism of human rights bolstering a global capitalism as envisaged by Fukuyama. And this alternative account might therefore leave room for an appropriately historical alternative to the dominant paradigm, which is not possible in Fukuyama’s account in which the only alternative to democratic capitalist globalization are reactionary and therefore ultimately ahistorical.

I want to conclude this talk by giving a brief characterization of some structural dynamics that I think are conducive to the growth of a formidable intelligentsia that would function as an alternative to the dominant paradigm of the post-Cold War West.

This dominant paradigm, sometimes called globalization, ought to be understood according to its institutional reality. That is, just as the dominant system is not really characterized by universal human rights and capitalism as understood in reading packets, but rather according to the Marxist-Nietzschean dynamic described above, so must the associated term globalization undergo a similar reality check. Whatever fancy and idealized theories used to describe it, globalization in the real sense refers to a particular set of interests and a common investment in a particular assortment of untruths. Global democracy in reality refers to a specific geopolitical alliance with little to do with democracy; the same countries have a common stake in a certain reckless and unsustainable monetary policy through the coordination of various central banks taking on enormous debt; global free trade is in fact the trade deals written by lobbyists in dark rooms. The errors associated with globalization, and particularly those associated with immigration and monetary policy, are so large that a bubble has been created out of desperate attempts to avoid the reckoning with reality.

What does this have to do with the emergence of an oppositional intelligentsia? Well, much is said about the importance of the working class in the politics of anti-globalization, precisely because the economic model of globalization has the effect of casting more and more people out of the middle class. This is true, though I would also argue that very similar forces are leading to an increasing group of extremely intelligent young people who will be either unemployed or underemployed. The easy middle class existence that helped keep the Boomers so pleasantly docile in the face of the nation’s transformation doesn’t exist as a possibility for many my age and younger. So the opportunity cost of defection is diminishing. As defection accelerates, parallel institutions are formed that in turn diminish the marginal cost of future defections. There is a logic of a cascade effect at work.

Problems exist on the side of the elite as well. One of the paradoxes of our time is Mittleschicht verschwindet mittelmaessigkeit herrscht. That is, middle class disappears and mediocrity reigns. Competition is so intense in the academic world and the winners are less impressive than ever. My explanation for this is precisely that the reigning paradigm is a bubble, and this means that just as available jobs diminish so do the desired qualifications for the jobs change. More important is that the job be used to sustain the lie behind the bubble, which requires intellectual mediocrity or timidity, usually both. So in conjunction with the increasing incentives for defection is the possibility that young, ambitious smart people have less and less of an obvious place in the ever shrinking number of jobs sanctioned by the dominant system.

I’m over my time. Suffice it to say I see certain structure features of our situation that bode very well for the emergence of an intellectual class that is opposed to globalization in its present form. As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m not sure whether what will emerge could be classified in left-right terminology.

Because my feeling is optimistic for politics and culture in the medium term, I want to close with a note of not pessimism but caution. The optimistic structural dynamics I allude to say nothing about the underlying philosophical problems contributing to the spiritual deficiencies of the West. I cannot assume that political victories against our corrupt system will necessarily translate into or emerge from something of real philosophical significance, and might actually impede it. This philosophical problem is one I originally wanted to address, but felt that it was beyond the scope of what I could do here.

Heidegger closed one of his famously provocative analyses of Technology with a quote from the German poet Hoelderlin: “Wo aber Gefahr ist, waescht das Rettende auch.” (“Where the danger is, so grows the saving element.”)

In light of the possibility of political and cultural success, but continued philosophical and spiritual darkness, I close with the following modification: “Hinter das Rettende liegt auch das Gefahr.” (“Behind salvation danger also lies.”)

Thank you.

Photo Credit: Screen capture/CNN

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Conservatives • Donald Trump • Post • Republicans • statesmanship • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump the Politician

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“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” So said Polonius, one of the most famous political advisors in the Shakespearean canon. If Polonius, who was rather silly, could see this about Prince Hamlet, why can’t our most seasoned political commentators and practitioners see that the same thing could be said about Donald J. Trump?

The conventional critics of the president—and even some of his conventionally-minded friends—accuse him of conducting his political career haphazardly, like the proverbial bull in a china shop. He is impulsive. He speaks without sufficient reflection, and as a result he causes all manner of public relations fiascos for himself and for his party. So runs the usual indictment of Trump as a politician.

Such criticism is not entirely wrong. Trump probably is more verbally impulsive than most politicians, and certainly more so than most presidents. Nevertheless, this critique overlooks something important: Trump is disciplined in his approach to politics in certain ways, just not in the ways to which most political observers are accustomed. The model he follows differs from what many Americans have learned to expect from politics.

In modern times, most presidential campaigns, and indeed most presidencies, have operated according to the following tried and true political model: Win the news cycle, daily and weekly, and then repeat the process continually. Have a plan to do and say things to win good press coverage today, and tomorrow, and for the whole week. This will create a positive impression with the voting public and will therefore generate high polling numbers. If a candidate does this over a long period of time, he or she will at least be in a position to compete on election day. And if a president does this over a long period of time, he will keep his public approval numbers high enough to keep the Congress cooperative and to contend for re-election.

Donald Trump, needless to say, has shown very little interest in doing any of this. Instead, he seems to have concluded a long time ago that such a model would be impossible for him. He is not going to win any news cycles, because the media and the political “experts” they consult are overwhelmingly opposed to the issues he raised as a candidate and the things he wants to do as president.

Trump has a different model: Occupy positions that are popular with a sufficient number of voters, although they are unpopular with the media and the political class—positions such as skepticism about immigration, existing trade arrangements, and a foreign policy that seems to require America to act as a self-sacrificing good Samaritan to the world. And hammer those positions so forcefully and so continually that nobody can forget your association with them.

The downside of Trump’s model is that it guarantees that he won’t win any news cycles. But the upside is that it means he does not need to win any news cycles. As long as he remains firm in these positions, and in the others on the basis of which he has assembled his coalition (such as lower taxes and deregulation, respect for traditional religion, and conservative judges), his fundamental position remains strong, or at least strong enough that he cannot be politically incapacitated and instead can compete to win. Trump, in other words, does not have to be a good tactician because he is such a good strategist.

Indeed, losing news cycles is not only not necessary to Trump. It is actually helpful to him. When he gets trashed by the media, it simply reminds his core voters that he is remaining true to the platform that won their support in the first place.

Although our expert political commentators cannot, for the most part, seem to credit Trump for successfully implementing this model, it is worth noting that it has some advantages, both for Trump and for the country. The advantage for Trump is obvious—it works for him. It got him the Republican nomination, the presidency, and the implementation of enough of his agenda that his administration cannot so far be judged a failure.

The advantage for the country is that Trump’s political model offers a more purely republican form of leadership. It is based upon a direct appeal to voters—to their interests and beliefs—unmediated by the role of, and therefore conceding nothing to the power of, an unelected and unrepresentative press and broadcasting establishment. Even Trump’s critics ought to be able to see the value of that, and even his rivals might do well to try it themselves.

Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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Donald Trump • History • Post • Republicans • the Presidency • Trump White House

11 Reasons Why Custer Would Wear a MAGA Hat Today

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Having just written a book that imagines George Armstrong Custer surviving the Battle of the Little Bighorn to become a gun-slinging Western do-gooder under the clever pseudonym of Marshal Armstrong, I feel well placed to answer this burning question: If Custer were alive today, would he wear a MAGA hat? I believe the indisputable answer is yes. Here are 11 reasons why.

1. He liked hats, and though he was proud of his golden hair, it was thinning a bit. A hat could come in handy.

2. Red looked good on him—an essential part of his self-styled uniform in the Civil War was a red cravat. He didn’t care that such flash made him an easy target for snipers. Cutting a figure for the men was more important. And he wouldn’t have been intimidated from wearing a MAGA hat while walking the mean streets of Monroe, Michigan.

3. Custer was a conservative Democrat who would have been a prototypical Reagan Democrat and Trump Democrat, driven by deep-rooted patriotism.

4. Like Trump, he vigorously would have opposed the removal of Confederate monuments not only for being iniquitous in itself, but as the thick edge of a very destructive wedge. He liked the South and Southerners; they were among his best friends at West Point; and he was entirely on the side of national reconciliation. He would have been astonished and appalled at “conservatives” giving their blessing to the desecration of monuments commemorating his former Southern foes. Custer naturally assumed that Southerners—most especially including former Confederates—were fellow Americans, and he would have been outraged at socialists taking hammers and chisels to remove such symbols of American heroism, sacrifice, and martial glory.

5. As a victim of political correctness himself—last year, even the fast-food chain Sonic felt compelled to yank a harmless commercial that featured his likeness—he would have applauded President Trump for taking on this most poisonous aspect of our culture. He would heartily affirm that you cannot Make America Great Again without remembering the people who made it great in the past.

6. While he loved the adventure of the open plains—and was more sympathetic to the Indians than is often acknowledged—he also recognized that the advent of the railroads meant progress in the best sense, and he would have nodded at President Trump’s approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

7. Two words—Space Force. Custer loved horses and the cavalry, but it is impossible to imagine that a future Space Force would not have caught his fancy, and his talent for designing uniforms.

8. Custer was gallant, and it is easy to imagine him escorting Trump’s wife or daughters at a White House ball. It is rather more difficult, indeed nearly impossible, to imagine him offering the crook of his arm to a tottering, pant-suited Hillary Clinton. One can more easily imagine him begging off, citing a pressing engagement elsewhere (like a hunting trip in Wyoming with Dick Cheney).

9. While having no head for business himself, Custer liked the excitement of New York City and the company of tycoons. He would have seen in Trump a fantastically successful businessman and patriot. And given that Trump attended a military school, Custer could have talked to him as one former cadet to another.

10. Custer was not above a little politicking to advance his career, and would likely eye  President Trump not only as someone who could restore his Civil War rank of Major General, but as someone who might, given Trump’s staffing predilections, perhaps appoint him to a cabinet position—or even to head the Space Force!

11. And finally, Custer would wear a MAGA hat to shield his glittering blue eyes from the paparazzi who no doubt would follow him everywhere, because Custer was a natural celebrity, a “Son of the Morning Star,” and, as we know, is featured in the most important novel of our time, Armstrong, available at Amazon and all good book shops.

Photo Credit: Regnery

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American Conservatism • Donald Trump • GOPe • political philosophy • Post • Republicans • the Presidency • Trump White House

Farewell to the ‘Conservative Movement’

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The #NeverTrumpumpkins define themselves by their visceral distaste for the president. He offends their fastidious sensibilities, outrages them with his unfiltered Twitter musings, and violates their sense of propriety with his secular hedonism and sheer joy in his own vulgarity. That he’s also delivering the most conservative administration in history is, to them, beside the point—because Trump neither represents nor embodies “movement” conservatism. And therein, for them, lies the problem.

Movements are, almost by definition, attractive to the young and the emotionally immature. Followers love to follow; even more, they love to memorize catechisms and rote talking points, which they parrot on the air and in column inches, as if by simply asserting their “principles” they are proving them as well.

Eventually, though, both content and context are lost and only the talking points remain. The argument from authority becomes as circular and self-referential as any obscure religious contretemps, and of interest only to the anointed. Which is why they fall upon each other with the glee of zealots who have been given orders to purge the heretics by any means necessary.

I have coined a portmanteau term for this state of affairs: “preenciples.” You know what they are: smaller government, less regulation, free trade, federalism, etc. It’s a creed, constantly professed, acolytes of (fill in the blank: Mises, Hayek, Strauss, Buckley) reassuring each other that by consulting the sacred texts they will always have the correct views on the issues, and thus ensure their place among the elect.

Political creeds, however, are generally the provinces of the Left, which believes in history’s “arc” and “iron laws”—“scientific” dialectical materialism, socialism, communism, and the rest of the intellectual charlatanism (including psychiatry and sociology) that has followed in the wake of Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, and Mao. “Little Red Books” and Five-Year Plans are the staples of this form of political worship.

I’ve addressed the programmatic Left in my two most recent books, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace—a study of the eternal battle between good and evil, centered on the moral nihilism of the Frankfurt School of 20th-century Communist philosophers—and The Fiery Angel, a series of interlocking essays regarding some of the touchstones of Western art and culture, from the Greeks through the 20th century, and how they provide the antidote to the spiritual poison injected into Western veins by the Frankfurters and their fellow travelers in academe and now journalism.

Now, does everything from the Oresteia to Wagner’s Ring cycle form a coherent, intellectually and emotionally consistent “conservative” program, by which we can live our lives? Clearly not.  The great works of art are and must always be non-didactic. Politicized art is worthless; but art that has political resonance generally stands the test of time.

To my ears, then, the constant harping in some quarters on “movement” conservatism is reminiscent of everything I’ve ever heard from the Left, or experienced in East Germany and the old Soviet Union. I’m not suggesting that “true” conservatism involves replacing one (transient) set of “preenciples” with another one, albeit far older. Rather, my argument is that conservatism isn’t a movement at all. Nor should it be. Rather, it’s a simple acknowledgement of timeless verities and a willingness to defend them against malevolent faddishness masquerading as “progress,” whose object is the destruction of our culture and its replacement with… well, nothing.

In short, it’s a recognition of great cultural peril, and the willingness to do something about it.

Think of the struggle between Right and Left in military terms. We are the defenders of the citadels of Western culture, which are our hard-won patrimony. Leftists are the attackers, always seeking to undermine, to sap, to breach, to assault; for them, as for Hillary Clinton in her Wellesley senior thesis, “there is only the fight.” They stay awake nights trying to figure out new ways to bring the walls down; as I like to say, they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit.

But attackers have a problem: they generally need three times the manpower of the defenders in order to win. A well-defended, confident citadel, with plenty of provisions, doughty defenders, and at least one supply line, can hold out forever. Constantinople eventually fell to the Muslims after 700 years of battering, and then only because the Western Roman Empire had collapsed a thousand years prior, and Byzantium’s relationship with the emerging nation-states of Europe was often fraught; the Crusaders, after all, sacked the city even before the Turks did.

On the other hand, in 1565, the 6,000 or so Knights Hospitallers and other fighters on the island of Malta held out against Turkish force numbering nearly 40,000. And, of course, in World War II both Leningrad and Stalingrad repelled the might of the Wehrmacht after prolonged and deadly sieges.

The “conservative” advantage, then, lies not in a set of policy prescriptions but in its bedrock beliefs, which center on the necessity of preserving, protecting, and defending the Western civilization that eventually codified those principles in the U.S. Constitution, and which itself is now under attack. By articulating a set of policy principles, “movement” conservatism puts those principles on the negotiating table, and over the course of the past 75 years or so, has gradually bargained them away for a mess of pottage.

Real conservatism, however, conserves. It understands what’s a stake, whom to fight, and how to win; after all, it has more than 3,000 years of experience, much of which was recorded and remains accessible today. The Left tries to combat this disadvantage (via its control of the educational system) by delegitimizing and eradicating the past. By cutting us off from our cultural wellsprings, they hope to disarm and demoralize us. Don’t let them.

For in the end, the only truly “conservative” principle is to conserve. It may not be pretty, it may not be couth, but it’s all that really matters. We win, they lose, as a great man once said.

Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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Center for American Greatness • Congress • Donald Trump • GOPe • Post • Republicans • the Presidency • Trump White House

Will Jim Jordan Bring Trump-Style Attitude to Speakership?

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During a campaign rally in suburban Columbus last Saturday, President Trump invited Rep. Jim Jordan to the stage. “How great is he?” Trump asked the crowd about the Ohio native. The packed school auditorium soon filled with chants, “Speaker of the House! Speaker of the House!”

Trump continued: “What a brave, tough cookie. I don’t want to wrestle him, he’s tough. I think he’s like 128 and one,” Trump said, referring to Jordan’s championship high school wrestling career. But the president—not a stickler for accuracy—was off by a bit. Jordan wrestling record was 150-1.

Jordan took the stage, got a bear hug from the president, and ticked off a long list of Trump’s achievements in office. “Think about this, in 18 months, regulations reduced, taxes lowered, Gorsuch on the court, the economy growing at a record rate, unemployment at its lowest rate in 20 years, Kavanaugh’s on deck on the court, we’re out of that crazy Iran deal, the embassy has gone to Jerusalem, and the hostages have been returned from North Korea.”

Will this mutual admiration society between the president and the congressman help boost Jordan’s chances to become the next speaker of the House?

In a letter to his Republican colleagues last month, Jordan announced he will run to replace outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan if Republicans maintain control of the House after the midterm elections. Jordan will face off against Ryan’s preferred successor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and possibly Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).

The feisty six-term congressman from central Ohio won’t go down without a fight. (His district is adjacent to the district where Republican Troy Balderson narrowly won a special election on Tuesday.) Similar to the president, Jordan is not afraid to speak bluntly or to offend the self-righteous sensibilities of the ruling class. Not only is the 54-year-old father of four a former state wrestling champion and college coach, he goes bare-knuckles against some of the most powerful interests in Washington.

His fierce questioning of Hillary Clinton, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards earned him praise from Republicans and sneers from the defenders of the status quo. Now Jordan, a lawyer, is blasting the Justice Department for stonewalling congressional demands for information related to the Trump-Russia collusion scheme. He’s been the target of media attacks, likely orchestrated by the same players who concocted and executed the Trump-Russia hoax. And he’s not waiting until he becomes Speaker before prodding his colleagues to act on major legislation this year.

“This September, let’s have a national debate on two issues,” he told me in a phone interview last week. “Start with welfare reform. Companies can’t find employees, they can’t find good people to work. But if you get some kind of subsidy from the government, you have to do something. Able-bodied people must do something for our tax dollars. Then border security and wall funding, that’s what we told the people we would do. The president is the one who will sell that.”

Jordan is peeved that Congress is not acting on its promises, such as repealing Obamacare. “There are lots of reasons why Republican voters took a risk with Trump, one is a frustration at the weakness of the GOP,” he said. “Compare what the president has done versus Congress. They keep sending us a message . . . they gave us the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016. We had better listen and do what they say.”

As a member of both the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees, he has been instrumental in exposing misconduct at the Justice Department during 2016 and 2017 while the FBI investigated Trump campaign associates. Jordan harshly criticized Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a House hearing in June, accusing Rosenstein of keeping information from Congress, making threats to House Intelligence Committee staffers, and advising former FBI agent Peter Strzok not to answer questions under oath.

“What’s so important that you know that you don’t want us to know, that you won’t give us the documents we’re asking for. What is so important?” Jordan seethed at a flustered Rosenstein. In July, Jordan introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein for refusing to turn over requested documents and concealing information in the documents that were finally released.

His run for the top spot in the House of Representatives admittedly is a longshot. Ryan and McCarthy are traveling around the country this summer, raising money for Republican candidates and PACs, a great way to build up political chits for a close Speaker’s race. But Jordan embraces his maverick status. “This will be a long campaign. Sometimes the guy who is the underdog ends up winning. I’m going to talk to the [Republican] conference and talk about how to really change the process. They don’t like the way the place is run,” he said.

One of his backers, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), echoed that sentiment.

“Jim is looking at restoring regular order, more transparency and allowing us to represent our constituency,” the first-term congressman told me this week. “When I first got elected, I didn’t realize the process was so closed and so controlled. It’s worse than I thought. We were looking at modifying the rules early on, and the notion that we needed more debate and more votes. One member said, ‘if we have to vote on every vote, we’ll never get anything done’ and I thought, ‘are you kidding me?’ We need to get the stuff out that a majority of Americans want.”

Biggs blamed a handful of senators in the Democratic minority for controlling what legislation the House considers. “We in the House of Representatives need to put out the best possible legislation regardless of whether the Senate wants it or not. Then we will show who is the obstructionist and who is not.”

Jordan has the support of other members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group he co-founded in 2015: Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) already have endorsed Jordan. Former Virginia Governor Ken Cuccinelli is backing Jordan, as is Fox News host Sean Hannity. FreedomWorks is planning to spend $500,000 to convince Jordan’s colleagues to elect him speaker after the midterms.

But one endorsement could really swing the race in Jordan’s favor: Donald Trump’s.

Although McCarthy was an early supporter of Ohio Governor John Kasich in 2016, the California Republican parted ways with Ryan and endorsed Trump before the Republican National Convention. Jordan also supported Trump for president and the two have a solid relationship.

“I talk to him regularly, talk to him a lot,” Jordan said of the president. “He genuinely cares about hard-working people. He likes that Midwestern work ethic.”

If Trump does get involved, his choice could come down to style. McCarthy has a low key public profile and is staying out of the fray between Congress and the Justice Department, a stance that may not be viewed favorably by the president. McCarthy’s close ties to Ryan, who has a strained relationship with Trump, might also work against him. Even if Republicans keep control of the House, it will be by slim margin. Would McCarthy take on the Democrats or try to find common ground with a party hell-bent on destroying the current presidency?

That’s where Jordan seems to have an advantage. His approach is much more aligned with Trump’s and if Democrats get close to a majority, it’s unlikely Trump will want to put the Speaker’s gavel in the hands of a Ryan-style political diplomat.

“People elected Trump as a change agent,” Biggs said. “Jim Jordan is a change agent.”

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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America • Donald Trump • Post • The Media • Trump White House

The Ancient War Between the Press and the President

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The ancient war between the press and the president

Tribune Content Agency — August 8, 2018

By Victor Davis Hanson, Tribune Content Agency

The media are furious that President Trump serially decries “fake news.” He often rants that journalists who traffic in it are “enemies of the people.”

Reporters have compared Trump to mass murderers such as Stalin and Hitler because of his dislike of the press.

Trump may be crude to reporters, but journalists are also not so innocent. They have brought much of the present calumny upon themselves in a variety of ways.

The media seem to have little concern that their coverage is biased even though polls show that the vast majority of Americans believe the media intentionally reports fake news.

Indeed, fake news is not a Trump exaggeration. Despite coverage to the contrary, Trump did not remove a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. Testimony by former FBI Director James Comey revealed that senior Trump campaign officials did not consult “senior Russian intelligence officials,” as the New York Times reported. Putin denied having compromising information on Trump during an NBC interview after an earlier NBC report said Putin did not deny having such information.

Despite hysterical reports that in testimony before Congress, Comey would refute Trump’s claim that Comey had assured him he was not under investigation, Comey instead confirmed Trump’s story.

The list of such false news reports is long. The common theme is that even recklessly derogatory news is seen by many as serving the higher purpose of delegitimizing the Trump presidency.

Auditing coverage of the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that of the news reports with a clear tone, 80 percent of the stories about Trump were negative, 20 percent positive.

Journalists ranging from Christiane Amanpour to Jorge Ramos to Jim Rutenberg have argued that the rules of neutral reportage should no longer necessarily apply when it comes to Trump.

The WikiLeaks email trove of correspondence between Hillary Clinton and her campaign adviser, John Podesta, revealed that marquee journalists were colluding with Clinton aides to ensure the right spin was put on stories before publication. CNN analyst Donna Brazile leaked debate questions to Clinton in advance.

Too often, reporters smear the president in the crudest possible ways.

Politico’s Julia Ioffe suggested that Trump might have engaged in incest with his daughter.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was forced to apologize after he crudely trashed a pro-Trump panelist, saying, “If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it!”

This year’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner turned into a Trump hatefest, as host Michelle Wolf savagely trashed the president. Wolf even mocked the looks of White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

The late CNN host Anthony Bourdain once joked about poisoning Trump. Religious scholar Reza Aslan referred to Trump as “this piece of s–t.”

Sometimes journalists disparage and stereotype Trump supporters. Recently, Politico reporter Marc Caputo tweeted of the crowd he saw at a Trump rally: “If you put everyone’s mouths together in this video, you’d get a full set of teeth.” Then he doubled down by calling them “garbage people.”

The New York Times knew when it newly hired tech writer Sarah Jeong as an editorial board member that she had a history of crude, racist tweets, some directed at Trump.

Is this war between Trump and the media unprecedented?

Not quite.

So far, Trump’s attacks are verbal, and subject to public debate. Unlike his predecessors, he has not yet secretly weaponized the government to spy on and harass journalists he doesn’t like.

Reporters loved Barack Obama. But his Justice Department improperly and secretly surveilled Associated Press reporters and monitored the phone calls and emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen.

President John Adams in 1798 pushed through Sedition Act, barring journalistic criticism of the government.

Woodrow Wilson systematically had reports censored that he felt were critical of his wartime administration. His state-run propaganda machine, the “Committee on Public Information,” had a creepy French Revolutionary ring to it.

Liberal icon Franklin D. Roosevelt makes Trump’s bluster about the media look relatively amateurish. FDR used the Federal Communications Commission to stifle critical news. Roosevelt’s congressional allies tried to push through a “libel bill” to criminalize hostile reporting. At a press conference in the middle of World War II, Roosevelt once handed a reporter a Nazi Iron Cross and told him that another journalist whom FDR hated had earned it.

John F. Kennedy had the CIA wiretap two Washington reporters.

There is no doubt that Trump should ease off his blanket condemnations of the journalists and their profession. But for their part, reporters have to stop creating news where there is none. And they should refrain from personal attacks on the president and his family, and from stereotyping Trump supporters as garbage.

In the meantime, we should remember that the real danger to a free press is not loud public bluster from a perceived hostile president. More often, First Amendment threats come from the quiet weaponization of the government against journalists — which, ironically, is sometimes orchestrated by presidents who are beloved press idols.

(Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of the soon-to-be released “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won,” to appear in October from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing authorvdh@gmail.com.)

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Post • The Media • the Presidency • Trump White House

Mika’s Right—Somebody’s Coming Unhinged

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Feelings of impotence often lead to rage. Witness the recent escalation of the rhetoric directed at the president from the anti-Trump media.

As the president’s approval rating hovers at or near its highs in polls from the Wall St. Journal/NBC News and Rasmussen and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is prosecuting decade-old crimes against Paul Manafort that are unrelated to the 2016 election, Trump’s critics are powerless to do anything other than increase the outrageousness and the volume of their claims.

Mika Brzezinski, the co-host of “Morning Joe,” is a case in point. This week, she looked into the camera and with all of the gravitas she could muster and claimed Donald Trump “is not well.” It got worse from there.

She continued: “The president of the United States is completely unhinged and getting worse by the day.” She urged viewers to try and find someone who would tell them that Trump’s “mental state has not deteriorated radically over the past few years . . .” But you don’t have to take someone else’s word for it—just watch his interviews and speeches and judge for yourself.

You could be excused for wondering if Mika and Joe are on vacation and this is a re-run since this line of attack is just a revival of last year’s failed trope that “Trump is crazy and we have to remove him from office using the 25th Amendment.” It didn’t work then and a year on it just seems stale.

Trump haters are as bad as Hollywood (it’s no surprise that there’s plenty of overlap between the two), just making lame current-year installments of tired superhero franchises and remakes of 1980s-era classics. As a connoisseur of Trump Derangement Syndrome, I expect better from the opposition. Come on, step up your game! It’s like you’re not even trying anymore. We’ve all seen this one before.

By pivoting back to the old 25th Amendment line of attack, Democrats and their media allies reveal something important: they have a weak hand and they know it.

The Mueller investigation is going nowhere because he has nothing and, deep down, Democrats and their anti-Trump Republican fellow travelers and enablers know that, too. If he did, he’d have produced it already. At a minimum, he would have leaked it to an eager, compliant press corps. But he doesn’t and he hasn’t.

This strikes fear in the hearts of sober Democrat strategists who realize the party has spent nearly two years and all of its political capital investing in a fantasy. The spectacle of the independent counsel poring over the president’s twitter feed to see if they could use it to support a claim of obstruction of justice on an absurdly thin and utterly novel legal theory would be comic if the stakes were not so high.

Mueller has been reduced to pursuing indictments for crimes wholly unrelated to President Trump. Paul Manafort, who briefly managed the president’s campaign, is being tried for some decade-old business deals. The 12 Russian nationals Mueller indicted in July are charged with hacking attacks against both the DNC and RNC email systems. And, by the way, since they are in Russia they will never come to trial. He also indicted 13 Russians earlier this year for their involvement in a Russian troll farm that produced some shockingly amateurish Facebook ads that at different times seemed to support every candidate running including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Trump. Why? Because the goal of the Russian operation wasn’t a Trump victory; it was to sow social and political discord. Score one for the Russians and their accomplices in American media.

Knowing Robert Mueller can’t and won’t deliver what they want—the removal of Trump from office or so undermining his legitimacy as to render him both ineffective and toxic—Mika and company are falling back on the “Trump is crazy” meme. They tried it last year and no one was buying it.

Now, they realize the Mueller investigation is a squib and is actually helping the president politically as continuing revelations of FBI and Justice Department attempts to swing the election to Clinton and Mueller’s insistence on hiring deeply partisan Democrats convince more Americans that his investigation is the “partisan witch hunt” that the president claims. This solidifies Trump’s support among his base but also moves some independents and soft Democrats to question their allegiance to a party that has been peddling lies.

Moreover, there are 3.9 million more American jobs now than when Donald Trump was elected. The official unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in July (while real unemployment fell to 7.5 percent). The Hispanic unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 4.5 percent, and the workforce participation rate, that bugbear of the Obama era, continues to rise. Add to that the fact that worker pay is now at its highest point since before the Great Recession and impartial observers realize that we are living in a Trump boom.

Yet ruling class partisans like Mika and Joe are stuck in a sad cycle of alternating, anti-Trump talking points—he’s an evil genius who conspired with Russia to steal the election (whatever that means) or he’s mentally incompetent and incapable of holding office. These lines of attack change so quickly that they give observers whiplash.

They are also transparently false and, worse from a political perspective, obviously desperate.

In her monologue, Brzezinski challenged viewers to compare videos of Trump from 10 years ago with videos of Trump today. I agree. I encourage fair-minded readers to take up Mika on her suggestion, and maybe take it a step or two further.

Here’s Trump in 1988, talking with Oprah Winfrey about trade:

And here is the president in Davos earlier this year speaking on the same subject:

Now have a look at Mika from two years ago:

And Mika this week:

She’s right about one thing: someone’s changed, someone’s “unhinged”—but it isn’t Donald Trump.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Shannon Finney/WireImage

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Education • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

The University of Virginia Comes Up Short

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Recently, a senior aide to the Trump Administration named Marc Short left the White House. The reasons for his resignation were not obscure. According to one former official, Short had one of “the two toughest jobs in the White House” and was “tired.” (One can imagine getting House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to harmonize with the president might be draining.) Having decided that it was time for a change of scenery, Short then made the most egregious error of his career: he accepted a position at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, as a senior fellow at the Miller Center for Government Affairs.

A bit of a simpleton, this Marc Short. For though he had served as the White House director of legislative affairs, and was Trump’s key man on Capitol Hill, he quite clearly mistook the snake pit of academia for a sinecure. He thought he was joining the Miller Center (a supposedly nonpartisan think tank that “specializes in public policy and presidential scholarship”) to talk about his fresh insights, meet some students, and catch a few football home games.

Instead, poor Marc Short has become the unwitting symbol of all that is wrong with America’s universities and colleges.

An Angry Response
On July 19, a petition started circulating online that denounced Short’s appointment and called upon the university to withdraw it. The petition read in part:

The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society – the very thing that the University of Virginia, as an institute of higher education, is meant to protect.

While we do not object to dialogue with members of the administration, we do object to the use of our university to clean up their tarnished reputations. No one should be serving at the highest levels of this administration, daily supporting and defending its actions one week, then representing UVA the next.

What were the petitioners doing exactly? They were inventing the heretofore unwritten “You Can’t Hire Trump People at UVA Because…” rule. Now, when you invent such a rule—a rule that has never before existed because it undermines most of the other rules of a free society—you have to be careful to explain why this is a very special case. You are pleading, in other words, for an exemption because the situation or the threat is unique. This kind of special pleading often leads people who write petitions to play fast and loose with the truth.

First, exactly how had Marc Short (or anyone from the Trump Administration) directly “harmed” the community of Charlottesville? The answer is that Short, and others, were somehow “complicit” with the Unite the Right Rally in August 2017 where white supremacist groups gathered and violence broke out. Really? It was actually a UVA graduate, Jason Kessler (B.A. psychology, 2009) who organized the rally to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from the local park. What’s more, the ACLU sued the city so that the white supremacists could go ahead and march. The liberal news organization ProPublica blamed the police for the violence. Are these pro-Trump organizations? The city of Charlottesville even hired a former U.S. attorney to sort out the people responsible. In his report, Timothy Heaphy pointed the finger at the real culprits, which included the Charlottesville Police Department, the Charlottesville City Council, the University of Virginia, and the Virginia State Police.

Lest you think I’m joking, I would recommend to you the “Final Report of the Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia” except the link is down on the city’s website. Quite a coincidence. You can get the gist of the malfeasance here. Needless to say, you will search in vain for the name “Marc Short” anywhere in the report.

Political Hacks Disguised as Academics
Who is behind this fraud? The people who have been most interested in forwarding this pathetic petition and whining to the newspapers about it have been current members of the Miller Center like William Hitchcock, Melvyn P. Leffler, and Douglas Blackmon. These men fall into a very undistinguished group that we shall call “the sore losers of the 2016 election.”

Turns out, Blackmon is working on a book with the infamous former Attorney General Eric Holder, according to his latest bio. Leffler was a “Randolph Jennings Fellow” of the United States Institute of Peace, an organization so ineffectual that even Michael Kinsley made fun of it. (What’s so wrong with USIP? Kinsley: “Answer: nothing is wrong with it, except that all of human history suggests that it cannot work.”) The “sour grapes” leftist leanings of these three are hiding in plain sight.

Political hacks posing as scholars and professors have seen fit to behave as the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror. Not content to advance a lie by signing the petition against Short and promoting it, Hitchcock and Leffler resigned from the Miller Center in protest when UVA decided not to cave to their demands.

“We must not normalize or rationalize hateful, cruel and demeaning behavior” these two affirmed in their protest letter. Stirring words, but they thought nothing of blaming an innocent man in print with no supporting evidence, and then agitating for him to be denied employment without anything resembling due process. But this is the way of the world now.

The triumph of Trump has unbalanced the minds of many. Some of those minds should know better. “Democracy in the United States today is in peril,” Hitchcock and Leffler insist. Indeed it is. When men posing as professors in a free society proceed to agitate against someone in order to deny them their rights of free speech and free association, then we are in trouble. The American university’s ideals of truth, inquiry, reason, decency, civility, and humanity are harassed daily by students and professors who shout down right-leaning speakers and ideas wherever they find them. Obviously, people who engage in such behavior are not “protecting” free speech but actually working to destroy it.

Real Academics Would Have Welcomed the Argument
It is not a crime to work in the Trump Administration. It is not a crime to disagree about politics with your fellow citizens. That Hitchcock, Leffler, and Blackmon tried to do this to Marc Short is a blot on their names, and any decent university would censure them.

As the leftist academic Noam Chomsky has memorably said, “If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.” These three are an embarrassment to the American university precisely because they will not tolerate views which differ from their own.

Real professors who disagreed with the Trump Administration’s policies would still have welcomed Marc Short—in order to debate him publicly and for the edification of their students. That’s why we have universities. Perhaps UVA should go and explain that to some of its faculty.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Administrative State • America • Congress • Donald Trump • Drugs • Government Reform • Healthcare • Post • taxes • Trump White House

The Federalist Capers: The Twilight of Obamacare

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The absurd debacle known as Obamacare is not something about which I normally write. However, like a secret vice, I maintain a fascination with federalism and with the nature of the relationship between the feds and the states. Having done professional research into the subject for quite some time, including geeky 10th Amendment matters and all that. OK, it’s kind of dry. But if we don’t pay attention, some of us may have less money for vital necessities like cigars and bourbon. And those I know about. So, listen up.

Also, national economic well-being is a factor in national security. No cash—because it is being spent on awkwardly implemented health care “reform”—no guns.

That’s why it’s interesting that the Trump Administration is proposing a plan that would allow states to expand the use of short-term, limited duration health insurance. Currently, the plans last for up to three months before you can sign up for a longer-term plan through existing Obamacare exchanges. The new rule would permit the short-term plans to last for up to 12 months, and could potentially allow people to renew these plans. Sounds good, eh? Well, as always, the devil is in the details.

The plan has the advantage of introducing market-based reforms and greater federalism into the healthcare system. Proper stuff.

Nevertheless, states shouldn’t exercise their new authority by expanding the use of short-term plans. Because Congress failed to repeal Obamacare last year (thanks again, John McCain!) extending short-term insurance plans would actually increase costs on many in the states. The cost will also increase for the feds given that subsidies from the treasury would increase in kind to account for the rise in premiums on the insurance market. In reality, this means the elves at Fort Knox would have a lot more heavy lifting to do.

Here’s Why Costs Will Go Up
Why shouldn’t the government do what seems to make eminent sense by principle?

For starters, the middle class will see premium increases because they will not be eligible for subsidies if they have to buy Obamacare plans. Particularly in light of Congress’s vote to repeal individual penalties for not having coverage, the enrollment of healthy individuals in short-term policies will mean that coverage costs will increase for those with health conditions.

Okay, you’ve lasted this long with this piece. Now go to the fridge and get a beer, you deserve it.

Waiting . . . 

Now, dear comrades, back unto the breach.

Compared to just 27 percent on the standard Obamacare exchange, 60 percent of individuals purchasing short-term plans in 2017 were between the ages of 18 and 34. These numbers may become even more out of whack next year with the loss of the individual mandate penalty. Many will just opt out of coverage completely. If younger people who need healthcare as they get married (or in my case, divorced) opt out when soon they should be buying houses, having babies, and building their lives, then the burden potentially of paying out of pocket, or landing in a government program, during a health crisis will show in decreased disposable income, purchasing, and a possible economic slowdown.

Economists also predict an 18 percent increase in premiums next year if short-term plans are expanded. For 60-year-olds purchasing silver coverage, the AARP Public Policy Institute projects as much as a $4,000 increase in premiums. That’s a lot of early bird dinners.

And will it affect federal spending? Is the pope Argentinian?

Subsidies from the federal Treasury will increase for rising premiums in the insurance market. A study by Medicare’s chief actuary, that thrill-seeking wildman, found the plan would cost the government $1.2 billion next year and a total of $38.7 billion over 10 years due to subsidies for rising premiums. You can imagine the lovely effect on the federal deficit.

How Much Worse Could It Get? Well . . .
Given that they already lack coverage for essential health benefits such as maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health, expanding short-term plans could push more people, especially Millennials (as if they don’t whine enough already) into other government-run programs.

Not to mention, as the Kaiser Family Foundation notes, ”Policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly diagnosed condition could be considered pre-existing and so excluded from coverage.”

Case in point, from the unexpectantly lucid New York Times:

One case pending in federal court involves Kevin Conroy, who had a heart attack in 2014 and underwent triple bypass surgery, just two months after his wife, Linda, obtained a short-term policy over the telephone. Their insurer, HHC Life, refused to pay the bills.

“We freaked out,” Ms. Conroy said. “What were we going to do? It was $900,000.”

The insurer informed the Conroys the policy was “rescinded,” to use the industry jargon. After poring through his medical records, HCC claimed Mr. Conroy failed to disclose he suffered from alcoholism and degenerative disc disease, conditions he said were never diagnosed. “When one thing didn’t work, they went to another,” Mr. Conroy said.

Oh, joy. The happiness continues. According to the Commonwealth Fund:

The out-of-pocket maximum for each best-selling plan is higher than that allowed in individual or employer plans under the ACA, when adjusting for the shorter plan duration. When considering the deductible, the best-selling plans have out-of-pocket maximums ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 for just three months of coverage. In comparison, the ACA limits out of pocket maximums to $7,150 for the entire year.

So, yeah, a superficially interesting plan now, but it might trap you into a deal down the road when the cost could skyrocket even more than before. Sadly, as with many other things, early gratification can lead to long-term problems. No fun, but there it is.

This administration does a lot of things right. This bit of federalism is one of them. Just the other day, the president made the EU President crawl to Canossa. Good economic news continues to abound, much to the consternation of those who would prefer a return to a pre-industrial state if it would drop Trump’s poll numbers down 5 percent.

But this question requires some fine-tuning at the state level so it doesn’t continue to saddle us with the twilight of Obamacare.

Photo credit: Margaret Johnson/EyeEm via Getty Images

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2016 Election • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Foreign Policy • Hillary Clinton • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia • Technology • The Courts • The Left • The Media • Trump White House

The Lies at the Heart of the Mueller Indictments

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So far, the reporting on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s July 13 indictments of 12 Russians mostly can be divided into two categories. First, we have the corporate press, which parrots Mueller’s every word as if his honesty were as certain as death and taxes. Second, we find thoughtful outrage directed at Mueller by some of the more independent-minded right-leaning commentators, who recognize that their elite brethren are ignoring the real story. 

First of a two-part series.


Since Mueller can’t force the 12 Russians he’s indicted to come to the United States for trial, his indictments represent, at best, a shameful corruption of the independent counsel’s powers for political ends.

Andrew McCarthy at National Review thinks Mueller’s real purpose is to justify his 18-month investigation, which has already cost taxpayers $17 million. Meantime, Jed Babbin at The American Spectator believes Mueller timed the indictments to disrupt Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin. If so, it certainly succeeded; contributing, as it surely did, to the incredible outpouring of hostility directed at the president’s attempt to reset relations with Russia.

As a political ploy, Mueller’s indictments may be a work of Machiavellian genius. But as far as any legal ramifications are concerned, he might as well have indicted Boris and Natasha from the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle” show.

Mueller, however, may be up to more than McCarthy or Babbin suggest. Indicting people you won’t ever have to prosecute would be a sneaky way to get bogus allegations into the public record without ever having to substantiate them. Indeed, given that his narrative won’t be scrutinized and attacked by a hostile defense attorney, an unscrupulous special counsel could use such indictments to disseminate falsehoods he wouldn’t dare risk bringing into a court of law.  

All of which makes it very odd that so much of the conservative press agrees with their elite media colleagues in refusing to investigate or even question whether Mueller might be careless with his facts. Intelligent pundits are somehow treating a man they believe has cynically abused public office in the worst possible way as if his word were beyond reproach.

Which is a pity because, if they took their dismal assessment of Mueller’s professional ethics to its logical conclusion and began investigating his honesty, they would quickly find that Mueller has omitted, misleadingly stated, and even outright lied about matters of public record; particularly regarding two central figures in the nefarious plot dramatized in his indictment, the anonymous alleged hacker, “Guccifer 2.0” and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Mueller’s First Lie: Guccifer 2.0
Mueller does get one thing right about Guccifer 2.0: he emerged out of nowhere on June 15, 2016, starting a blog and taking credit for the now-infamous hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers. That hack was first reported publicly just one day earlier in the Washington Post, which attributed the deed to Russian spies.

But Mueller’s contention, that G2 “claimed to be a lone Romanian hacker to undermine the allegations of Russian responsibility” for the hack will remind hard-boiled detective aficionados of a passage from Dashiell Hammett:

I was reading a sign high on the wall behind the bar: ONLY GENUINE PRE-WAR AMERICAN AND BRITISH WHISKEYS SERVED HERE.

I was trying to count how many lies could be found in those nine words, and had reached four, with promise of more.

In G2’s entire corpus of almost 60 blog posts, tweets, interviews, and publicly released direct messages, he only once claimed to be Romanian. And it happened a full six days after his June 15, 2016 debut, when he was forced to address the subject in an interview with Vice:

Vice: So, first of all, what can you tell me about yourself? Who are you?

G2: i’m a hacker, manager, philosopher, women lover. I also like Gucci! I bring the light to people. I’m a freedom fighter! So u can choose what u like!

Vice: And where are you from?

G2: From Romania.

That’s it. Those two words are the only time G2 ever claimed to be Romanian. If his purpose was, as Mueller claims, to establish a Romanian identity, he had the opportunity to do so when Vice first asked “what can you tell me about yourself? Who are you?” But, instead, the interviewer had to explicitly ask a follow-up.

Moreover, Vice’s question about G2’s nationality wasn’t an idle one. Besides the fact that he debuted taking credit for a hack the Washington Post attributed to Russian intelligence services, accusations that G2 was a Russian spy began emerging the very day he first appeared and were immediately and continually a hot topic in the tech community.

Within hours of his June 15 debut, both Gawker and Wired published evidence that G2 was working with Russian intelligence. The next day, Vice wrote that it’s “likely that Guccifer 2.0 is nothing but a disinformation or deception campaign by Russian state-sponsored hackers.” That same day, the popular tech sites Vocativ and Arstechnica agreed and, the next day, cyber-security firm ThreatConnect drew the same conclusion.

Yet G2 allowed these accusations to proliferate online for six days before claiming to be a Romanian and then only did so after explicitly being asked about his nationality. He then answered in as few words as possible, dropping the subject immediately. He also never linked to the Vice interview in his blog, or on Twitter, or made any other effort to further publicize his remark. Moreover, in the ensuing months, as the buzz about his Russian ties grew louder, he never again claimed to be Romanian. Contra Mueller, G2’s effort to establish a Romanian identity never even rose to the level of half-hearted.

Mueller’s allegation that G2 “claimed to be a lone Romanian hacker to undermine the allegations of Russian responsibility for the intrusion” is completely at odds with the public record.

Mueller’s Second Lie
It gets worse. G2 not only made no significant attempt to establish a Romanian identity, he never even made any serious effort to deny that he was Russian.

Here’s the opening of G2’s first blog post, just one day after the Washington Post, using information volunteered by the Democratic National Committee’s tech firm CrowdStrike, first announced to the world that Russian spies had hacked the DNC server:

Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by “sophisticated” hacker groups.

I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy.

[The original] Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.

Not only does G2 give zero indication that he’s Romanian, he doesn’t even deny the Washington Post’s claim that he’s working for Russian intelligence. He writes as if he’s pleased with the details of the Post’s biography. The rest of his post concerns documents G2 claims to have hacked and bears no relation to his nationality. Thus, his first public statement provides no reason for someone familiar with the previous day’s Washington Post story to doubt its contention that he was a Russian spy.  

Moreover, G2’s June 21 Vice interview, other than being the only time he claimed to be Romanian, is also only one of only two times he denied being Russian or having connections to Russian intelligence.

Nine days after the Vice interview, on June 30, G2 addressed the issue of his nationality in a post devoted to answering personal questions allegedly sent by readers. But everything about his answers downplays any slight suggestion therein that he’s not Russian.

The blog post is entirely made up of dull autobiography; none of it any more interesting than G2’s pedestrian remarks about loving women and Gucci shoes from his Vice interview. He released no files, meaning that the post is less likely to receive the attention his other posts garnered. The question about his Russian identity comes up amid a bunch of other questions, so the reader has to scroll down to see it. But, most importantly, G2 not only doesn’t say he’s Romanian, he never says anything that contradicts the widely circulating belief that he was a Russian spy:

Many people ask me where I’m from, where I live and other personal information.

You see, I can’t show you my IDs, it would be stupid of me.

I can only tell you that I was born in Eastern Europe. I won’t answer where I am now. In fact, it’s better for me to change my location as often as possible. I have to hide.

But generally, it’s not that important for where I live. I can work wherever there’s an Internet connection. So I feel free in any free country.

A lot of people are concerned if I have any links to special services and Russia?

I’ll tell you that everything I do I do at my own risk. This is my personal project and I’m proud of it. Yes, I risk my life. But I know it’s worth it. No one knew about me several weeks ago. Nowadays the whole world’s talking about me. It’s really cool!

How can I prove this is true? I really don’t know. It seems the guys from CrowdStrike and the DNC would say I’m a Russian bear even if I were a catholic nun in fact. At first I was annoyed and disappointed. But now I realize they have nothing else to say. There’s no other way to justify their incompetence and failure. It’s much easier for them to accuse powerful foreign special services.

They just fucked up! They can prove nothing! All I hear is blah-blah-blah, unfounded theories and somebody’s estimates.

Specialists from Eastern Europe, Russia, China, India work for the leading IT-companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, Apple. There’s no surprise that many hackers are descendants from these regions.

Even though G2 complains about CrowdStrike attributing the hack to Russians, he never explicitly denies it. He begins by saying he’s from Eastern Europe without specifying a country. But immediately after complaining about CrowdStrike, he lists several geographical regions, including Eastern Europe, and says it’s no accident those places produce a lot of hackers, which suggests he’s from somewhere on the list. And, though Russia is a part of Eastern Europe, he nonetheless redundantly includes it in the list of places that might give birth to a hacker like him.

Is it at all plausible, as Mueller claims, that this is the behavior of a Russian spy whose sole mission is to make people think he’s something else?

After his June 30 non-denial, G2 didn’t address his relationship to Russia again for almost four months. On October 18, a BBC interviewer suggested that he might be Russian and asked his opinion of Putin. Here was an opportunity to make up for letting the accusations that he was a Russian spy, which had been circulating and spreading since his debut, go unchecked. By now, you’ve probably seen enough to guess that he did not avail himself of it:

BBC: are you a Trump supporter?…

G2: i don’t vote for trump

BBC: Well, if you’re Russian (or Romanian or whatever) you can’t vote for anybody right?

G2: i vote for freedom

follow me and make a good story  

BBC: what do you think about Putin?

G2: i don’t live in russia. i’m not interest in russia and it’s government

BBC: Not even a little bit?

But you don’t live in the USA either – and you are very interested in American politics

I mean, I’m interested in Russia (and the UK and the US too)

G2: i’m little bit angy with that, all of u attribute me to russia, but i’m tried of it I don’t care about that country.

The interviewer explicitly suggests that G2 is Russian while parenthetically allowing he might be Romanian “or whatever.” G2 neither denies the suggestion nor endorses the parenthetical remark. And, just like the previous time he addressed his nationality four months earlier, though he complains about being described as Russian, at no point does he actually deny the description’s aptness; he doesn’t say he’s not Russian; he just says he’s “not interested in” and “doesn’t care” about “that country.”

G2 addressed the question of his nationality only once more, in his final public statement on January 12, 2017, almost two months after the BBC interview and seven months after his June 15 debut. By that time, apart from a few skeptical researchers, anyone who knew anything about G2 took it for granted he was a Russian spy. For the first and only time, G2 voluntarily addressed the allegations and straightforwardly denied them:

I really hope you’ve missed me a lot. Though I see they didn’t let you forget my name. the U.S. intelligence agencies have published several reports of late claiming I have ties with Russia.

I’d like to make it clear enough that these accusations are unfounded. I have totally no relation to the Russian government.

Remember: G2 debuted on June 15, 2016 taking credit for a hack that had been attributed to Russian intelligence the day before. He waited seven months to straightforwardly address the mounting evidence and resulting accusations that he was a Russian spy. Apart from that, he discussed his nationality just three times, two of them only because he was forced to by interviewers. And, aside from the two words “From Romania,” nothing he said contradicted the accusations circulating that he was Russian until that final public statement six months after his debut.

Mueller’s assertion that G2’s raison d’être was to create the impression that he wasn’t Russian, whether by claiming to be Romanian or otherwise, is, again, completely at odds with the public record.

Mueller’s First Omission and the Extent of His Second Lie
Mueller says that G2 pretended to be Romanian “in order to undermine the allegations of Russian responsibility” for the alleged DNC hack. But what Mueller doesn’t tell us is that these allegations of Russian responsibility were entirely a result of G2’s own behavior.

Though it took six days for G2 to make even a token effort at denying the reports circulating that he was a Russian spy, he began intentionally dropping clues that he was Russian in the second sentence of his very first blog post:

I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly)))

“)))” is the symbol that Russians use in place of our “lol.” Is there any chance that a Russian spy on a mission to convince the world that he’s not would use a Russian emoticon in the second sentence of his first public statement?  

More evidence of Russian involvement was found within hours of G2’s June 15 debut. Someone at Gawker peeked at the metadata in a file he sent them and discovered the name of the founder of the Soviet secret police listed as the username. If that weren’t enough, it was written in the Russian alphabet. Later expert examination of the metadata revealed that the Russian name was inserted in the file minutes before G2 released it. On June 15, 2016, just before G2’s first blog post, someone opened up a copy of Word, changed the language of a document template to Russian, set the username as “Феликс Эдмундович,” and then cut and pasted the original document in.

As researcher Stephen McIntyre, who discovered these machinations, remarked:

If I encountered a document which had been most recently modified by a user using the pseudonym “J. Edgar Hoover”, I would not jump to the conclusion that the document originated with U.S. counter-intelligence or police. If anything, I would presume the opposite.

But even putting the technical details McIntyre discovered aside, the fact that a reporter from Gawker found evidence connecting G2 to Russian intelligence within hours of his debut would have by itself raised red flags if people weren’t so hungry for sensational news. How ever the Soviet secret police founder’s Russian name got in the metadata, no real Russian spy working to disrupt the United States presidential election would be so careless.

G2 also chose to use a company based in Russia to cloak his real IP address. Even then, there are plenty of email providers that would conceal the company’s Russian IP. Yet G2, who Mueller would have us believe was a high-level Russian operative engaged in espionage designed to control the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, somehow chose one that didn’t.  

If G2 had simply kept quiet, there would have been nothing substantiating the Washington Post’s claim he was a Russian spy. Instead, G2 left a series of clues that, within 24 hours of his debut, fueled rampant speculation that he was working for Russian intelligence. Mueller isn’t simply lying when he claims that G2 tried to pass himself off as non-Russian to shift blame for the DNC hack away from Russia; he’s concealing that the truth is the exact opposite. G2 went out of his way to plant obvious clues that he was Russian, which, as he must have intended, were discovered immediately.

Mueller’s Puzzling Second Omission
Even apart from the lies and omissions so far adduced, the scenario Mueller describes makes no sense.

The Washington Post reports that a Russian spy has hacked the DNC. So to shift blame away from Russia, the alleged hacker starts an anonymous blog and takes responsibility for the hack, falsely claiming that he’s Romanian. Putting aside that G2, instead, intentionally created the impression that he was Russian, anyone can start a blog and claim to be the hacker mentioned in some sensational headline. So why on earth did anyone give credence to G2’s attempt to take credit for the hack?

What Mueller isn’t saying, oddly enough, is that G2 provided evidence to substantiate his connections to the Post story.  

The DNC’s tech firm, CrowdStrike, released the information to the Post. The story extensively quotes CrowdStrike’s founder and chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, and president, Shawn Henry. Interestingly, before joining CrowdStrike, Henry was the FBI’s head of cybersecurity. And in one of those coincidences that seem so common among those working against President Trump, Robert Mueller just happens to be the one who promoted Henry to that position. Alperovitch, though Russian by birth, is a member of the vehemently anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian Atlantic Council.

CrowdStrike’s well-connected duo told the Post something that Mueller’s indictment omits. They didn’t just release the information that the DNC was hacked; they also wanted the public to know that a file of Trump opposition research was stolen. Indeed, though Mueller is silent about the Trump opposition research file, its alleged theft by Russian spies is clearly the big takeaway of the Washington Post piece since its mentioned in both the lead sentence and the headline: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.”

This description of one allegedly hacked file gave G2 the means to verify his claim to be the hacker: he released 230 pages of Trump opposition research and sent copies to Gawker and The Smoking Gun. Though G2 had no way of proving that this was the very Trump opposition file mentioned in the Post story, releasing the file provided at least some evidence that he was in possession of a file that CrowdStrike claimed was hacked from the DNC; and, hence, provided at least some of the confirmation necessary for his story to be taken seriously.

Moreover, apart from the Russian fingerprints in the metadata, the very same file of Trump opposition research turned up among Wikileaks October 7, 2016 release of emails pilfered from John Podesta’s Gmail account. Indeed, the DNC itself admits that the file G2 released came from Podesta’s emails. So, besides initially playing the crucial role of confirming G2’s link to the Washington Post story, the Trump opposition research file also seems to provide the strongest possible evidence that G2 passed documents to Wikileaks. Yet, though Mueller’s is trying to establish a connection between G2 and Wikileaks—there is even a section in the indictment titled “Stolen Documents Released through Guccifer 2.0”—the Trump opposition research file goes unmentioned.

Why would Mueller leave out the one piece of evidence that directly establishes G2’s connection with Wikileaks? Because the details surrounding the stolen Trump opposition research file, together with other information about Wikileaks missing from Mueller’s indictment, shows that G2, rather than being a creation of Russian intelligence, is a ruse designed by the DNC’s tech firm CrowdStrike to discredit Wikileaks.

In part two: How Mueller’s indictment represents the final move in solidifying a false narrative designed to frame and discredit Julian Assange.

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Declaration of Independence • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Progressivism • Russia • The Media • Trump White House

Trump, Russia, and Manufactured Hysteria

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It’s been a week filled with manufactured hysteria. After his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump was accused of denying American exceptionalism, implying moral equivalency, and insulting the U.S. intelligence community. Insofar as he did some of these things, doing so was predictable and prudent. But those things are also sacred cows for anyone who prescribes to a progressive foreign policy, so the talking heads in D.C. want people to go nuts. And they are willing to gaslight the country to make it happen.

Trump’s Sin Against American Exceptionalism

First, the president’s critics in Congress and in the press accuse him of denying American exceptionalism. More precisely, “He did not stand up and give a robust defense of American exceptionalism.” True. This is not to say he denied that America is an exceptionally good country. Trump clearly loves America above all other countries. Trump denied American exceptionalism in the sense that he denied that it means America has some special right and authority above all other countries to save the world.

American exceptionalism of this kind sounds good, but it isn’t. It is foreign policy speak for the idea that America plays by different rules than the rest of the world—a more palatable justification for American empire than the progressive’s old “white man’s burden.” Robert Worley describes American exceptionalism as the justification for America’s “crusading spirit” to spread democracy.

Worley attributes the idea to Tocqueville, who he says observed that “America believed that it was the exception to the rule [that nations must respect other’s sovereignty]. Its heart is pure and its intentions benign because it does not seek empire through territorial acquisition. Accordingly, American interventions abroad would be accepted, even welcomed.” In short, America is so exceptional that it has the right to meddle in everyone else’s affairs to establish what Bill Kristol has called “benevolent hegemony” over a democratic world.

So the critics are right; President Trump certainly did deny that understanding of American exceptionalism, but everyone should have expected that. Trump has been denying it the whole time and he is right to do so. He is not one to believe, as David Goldman has put it, that “the neoconservative delusion that democracy and free markets are the natural order of things.”

Trump takes people and regimes as they are, even North Korea. Individual sovereignty is a cornerstone of his foreign policy. In nearly every speech or interview on the subject of foreign policy, Trump is clear on this point. The National Security Strategy reinforces it. In the end, American exceptionalism as a justification for American empire is a direct contradiction to the sovereignty of other nations.

Trump’s Sin Against Moral Superiority

Second, Trump is accused of implying a moral equivalency between Russia and the United States. More precisely, he echoed his earlier tweet at the press conference, saying “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.”

The problem here is connected to the problem with American exceptionalism, because it is hard to dispute that in some ways America is morally equivalent to Russia, both good and bad. This is not to say the U.S. regime and the Russian regime are equal. Clearly, the the United States is superior. But it’s also true that the United States does many of the things Russia does. We may not violate British sovereignty by murdering people with exotic poison, but we do violate a lot of other countries’ sovereignty by killing people with drones. Likewise, we interfere in lots of other nations’ elections. The United States and Russia are also morally equivalent in a benign way insofar as both are sovereign countries. That Trump highlights this last part is what really irks the ruling class because it denies American exceptionalism as they understand it.

Jimmy Quinn at National Review puts it plainly:

The real story is not that the United States has intervened in foreign elections and influenced foreign political outcomes, but that it has done so to promote democracy and political liberty and human rights. The talking heads trafficking in examples of U.S. interference neglect to mention that the goal of American policy has always been to prop up anti-totalitarian, pro-market leaders, if operations to do so have oftentimes been messy. The Soviet Union during the Cold War, and Russia today, by contrast, sought and seek to install their allies to morally indifferent ends.

Again, everyone should already know that Trump doesn’t think the United States has special authority to do things we say others shouldn’t do. He has made that clear in multiple interviews. But ironically, Trump wasn’t saying any of this at the summit. This might be evidence that the outrage is pre-planned, much like the outrage over his supreme court pick.

When Trump spoke at the summit, he said: “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.” The equivalent responsibility and foolishness is that we have not been working toward diplomacy, not that we have been killing people or meddling in elections. Though it would not have been impossible to make a case that the United States has been guilty of such things (as I note above), this is not what Trump did. It didn’t happen. The media’s scripted gaslighting on this point is glaring when you actually watch the interview or read the transcript.

Trump’s Sin Against the Intelligence Community

Which leads to the third sin: Trump’s supposed insult to the U.S. intelligence community. Like the moral equivalency farce, the outrage here is based on fake news.

The “Trump throws the U.S. intelligence community under the bus” meme took off among the political class. Left, right, and center, nearly everyone immediately bought into the false narrative. The only person of note who didn’t seem to buy in was Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as he stood for an interview with CNN and called out the Trump Derangement Syndrome while they pushed the meme on the news banner below him.

The meme appears to be the product of President Trump’s answer to what Angelo Codevilla rightly calls a shameful question from an AP reporter in an excellent piece on the issue. Everyone should watch the actual answer for himself before taking the fake news media at its word. Not only did President Trump not throw anyone “under the bus,” he praised the U.S. intelligence agencies. Nor did he “side with Putin,” as has been commonly reported. He specifically avoids taking either side.

That Trump was comfortable doing this was predictable, since obviously he distrusts the U.S. intelligence community. It might surprise some people in the capital, but millions of Americans distrust the intelligence community too. Even so, Trump didn’t really say as much in Helsinki. The meme that Trump insulted the intelligence community only works if disagreement with the intelligence community is the same as throwing them “under the bus.” This only makes sense if you believe the progressive line that government bureaucrats in the intelligence community are above reproach. But the myth of apolitical experts is a progressive ideological lie and more and more people know it every day.

Moreover, Trump was right to avoid taking a side. In that situation, avoidance was the only good option. Had he actually sided with Putin, the United States would have looked weak. Had he sided with the intelligence community, he would have had to condemn Putin. Doing that would have undermined the whole point of the summit, which was to build a better relationship going forward.

Look and Think for Yourself

If one takes a step back and tries to consider how the press conference between Trump and Putin should have gone, given that the decision was already made to meet and the goal was to build relationships, then Trump performed well. What else was Trump supposed to do? Perhaps he might have answered in a more polished way, but substantively, what should have been different? I cannot divine, nor have I seen anyone else offer, another option that doesn’t seem manifestly worse.

Yes, Trump could have “stood up to” Putin and “called him out” in unmistakably condemnatory terms. But this seems so obviously wrong. If the goal is enhancing diplomacy and building a working relationship, then moral posturing is also not an option. Calling someone out about the past doesn’t seem helpful when the idea is to build a future relationship.

The arguments criticizing Trump’s performance at the press conference seem to reduce down to nothing more than “America good! Russia bad!” combined with “Call him out!” and a shriek of “How dare he?!” This is the embodiment of progressive thinking: all piety and no prudence. As Chris Burkett explains in an excellent essay:

[The progressive] approach to foreign policy, driven as it was by ideology, also eschewed the Founders’ emphasis on the need for prudence in the application of just principles. In the realm of foreign affairs, the Founders believed they should choose the best course in light of particular circumstances. Prudence was also necessary to weigh the possible consequences—long- and short-term, harmful and beneficial—of our actions rather than acting impulsively in pursuit of even a just end. Wilson’s replacement of prudence with ideology in American foreign policy meant that the tempered pursuit of what is best given the circumstances would give way to the uncompromising pursuit of what is simply right.

Trump’s view of things, in contrast, is closer to that of America’s Founders. And everything he said in the summit is consistent with things he has said before. The outrage over his words could have been prewritten the moment Trump announced his plan to meet with Putin. Some of it probably was.

In the end, the critics of the Trump-Putin summit were going to hate whatever Trump said in Helsinki because they are in fundamental disagreement with the president about the nature of foreign policy for America. They knew they would hate it and they had their weapons at the ready. Trump and his foreign policy are the real threat to them, not the words spoken in Helsinki. This is the natural response of a ruling class that cannot fathom a foreign policy approach apart from the progressive cornerstones of American exceptionalism and the goodness of government bureaucracy. Thankfully Trump has a different approach.

Photo credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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America • Americanism • Big Media • California • civic culture/friendship • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post • The Left • The Media • Trump White House

The High Crimes of the New York Times

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The deluge of outrage that followed this week’s Helsinki summit was as predictable as it was impotent, but one philippic stood out. New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote President Trump “is right now, before our eyes and those of the world, committing an unbelievable and unforgivable crime against this country.”

The crime? “It is his failure to defend.”

“Simply put,” Blow sniffed, “Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous.”

What Blow lacks in talent—and there is a considerable deficit there—he compensates for in victimhood as an affirmative action trifecta: black, gay, and progressive. Blow does not need to impress, he simply needs to exist and recycle a series of vogue nouns and adjectives: racist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, and so on.

Blow has made a career of pouring out his spleen against the country he now claims Trump has failed “to defend.” It therefore would be more accurate to say that Trump has failed to defend what Blow believes America ought to be, rather than what America is, which is precisely what Blow hates.

The president showed that he is willing to take a political risk in the pursuit of peace, rather than risk peace for the sake of politics. This can only benefit our country. What is good for our country, however, is bad for Blow and his paymasters, who have betrayed the cause and the trust of the United States to a foreign entity much closer to home than Moscow. One that is responsible for more American death and suffering: Mexico.

In 2009, faced with mounting debt, revenue in freefall, and a dwindling readership, the New York Times Co. welcomed a small loan of $250 million from Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim. A regular atop the Forbes list of billionaires, Slim went on to become the largest individual shareholder of the Times in 2015.

Slim’s spokesman and son-in-law said that his decision was “100% a financial investment,” and that Slim did not intend to get involved in the editorial process. But is that likely? Men like Slim do not make their fortunes by taking a back seat and they are certainly more inclined to get involved when their money is keeping the lights on.

In September 2014, three months before his acquisition of Times shares, Slim hosted Mark Zuckerberg as the keynote speaker for a charity event in Mexico. “There’s something broken that needs to be fixed,” Zuckerberg said. “We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world.”

We have established that America is not a nation of immigrants. But men like Zuckerberg and Slim certainly want it to become that, and they have the wealth to throw behind the effort. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that following Slim’s purchase, immigration rhetoric from the Times changed noticeably.

We might consider an April 2015 Times editorial, “Senator Sessions, Straight Up,” as a point of departure. “America’s long success as an immigration nation is hard to argue against,” screeched the editors in a scathing attack on then Senator Jeff Sessions for his stance against mass immigration. Sessions responded in his own column, firing back that the editors “think it is ridiculous to believe that admitting tens of millions of immigrants has any effect on schools, hospitals and other community resources.” The attack on Sessions was noted by spectators at the time as a shift from meek liberal prattlings about a Utopian world without borders, and instead diverged into a vicious, unhinged diatribe against borders, immigration law, and, frankly, white Americans.

It all seemed to begin just three months after Slim’s acquisition of Times shares, too. Certainly, the money of Mexico’s richest man coursing through the veins of The Gray Lady had nothing to do with this.

It is true that Slim has since sold some part of his stock with the Times, but it is also true that his time as largest individual shareholder saw the publication take a plunge over the deep-end of the open borders argument. So, let’s say Slim did use his investment to effect a pro-open borders, anti-American editorial policy. What might Slim have to gain from mass immigration from Mexico to the United States? A look at Slim’s other ventures may suggest some insights.

Following Mexico’s privatization binge under ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Slim acquired Telmex, a Mexican national telecommunications company, with a price tag of $400 million. According to Mexican writer Diego Enrique Osorno in his biography of Slim, Telmex was worth over $12 billion at the time of the transaction. This and other peculiarities surrounding the Slim-Salinas relationship have led many to believe that Slim is a frontman for the Mexican ex-president, without whom Slim could not have amassed his vast fortune so easily. Indeed, Steve Sailer has noted that “Slim’s telephone monopoly was written into NAFTA, negotiated during Bush I, granting Slim a decade without foreign competition.”

Four years after the establishment of NAFTA, Slim’s Telmex launched “Mexico En Linea,” a program that allows Mexicans living in the United States to purchase phone lines for family and friends back home, starting then at $120 per line, with a monthly subscription fee of $45 (equivalent to $62 in 2018). By 2006, Slim’s Telmex owned 84 percent of landlines, 78 percent of mobile services and 70 percent of the broadband internet market. When Slim bought up shares of the Times in 2015, his other telecommunications venture, América Móvil, controlled 70 percent of the mobile phones in Mexico and 80 percent of the country’s landlines at the time.

Slim’s near monopoly comes with a high price for Mexicans, and not just in the form of extortion level rates. Slim stamped out competitors to the point that he managed to suppress the overall economic growth of Mexico, resulting in “not enough jobs to keep workers from migrating to the United States and investment . . .  being driven to countries like Brazil and China.” But Slim’s monopoly comes with a high price for Americans, too.

Larry Luxner reports that by 2002, Telmex USA received one million applications from Mexicans, of which 70 percent were approved, amounting to approximately $85 million in revenue for Telmex. But Slim’s profits don’t stop there, not if we consider all the cash illegal aliens send back to Mexico from the United States.

In 2016 alone, non-citizens from Latin American residing in the United States—legally and illegally—sent $69 billion back to their countries of origin. Around 40 percent of all that money sent out of the United States by non-citizens ends up in Mexico. Considering that, as Ann Coulter has pointed out, Slim’s various businesses account for 40 percent of all publicly traded companies on Mexico’s main stock market index, there’s a very good chance that the money sent back to Mexico ends up in Slim’s pockets—”i.e., to buy Carlos Slim’s telephone service, shop at Carlos Slim’s department stores, and eat in Carlos Slim’s restaurants.”

True to form, Slim found a way to profit from the push for illegal immigration to the United States that he fomented in Mexico.

All this considered, is it a stretch to think that Slim may have, from his position as a big shareholder for the Times, nudged the publication in a way that is good for his business? We know that in 2007, Slim denounced the American border fence, and by extension our immigration laws, as “illegal and absurd,” a criticism he has repeated for Trump. Yet never before had the Times featured such overt calls for Reconquista against America until Slim stepped into the picture.

After Slim’s rise to largest individual shareholder, we see David Brooks utterly dismiss any and all concerns over mass immigration as—you guessed it—racist. “Of course,” said Brooks from his perch at the Times, “[Americans] react with defensive animosity to the immigrants who out-hustle and out-build them. You’d react negatively, too, if confronted with people who are better versions of what you wish you were yourself.” Never mind the depressed wages, Malthusian conditions, the problem of non-citizen voting, violent crime, imported narcoculture (complete with human sacrifice), and did I mention the violent crime? At any rate, you’re a racist for even entertaining the notion that these are valid concerns, so says Brooks.

Following Brooks, Enrique Krauze, a Mexican national, argued in a 2017 column that “the best and most just reparation would be American immigration reform that could open the road to citizenship for the descendants of those Mexicans who suffered the unjust loss of half their territory.”

“For us Mexicans,” says Krauze, “this is the chance for a kind of reconquest. Surely not the physical reconquest of the territories that once were ours.” Surely, not. Krauze does not mean to say that Mexicans are entitled to a Reconquista of this “stolen land.” Rather, Krauze merely believes that Mexicans should be allowed into our midst, in unlimited numbers, and should be encouraged to import their culture and certainly not be bothered to assimilate. Carlos Slim undoubtedly will provide the lines of communication for this euphemized invasion.

Bret Stephens, however, has been the most forthcoming. In “Only Mass Deportation Can Save America,” Stephens describes those who should be deported as white middle class Americans, rather than illegal aliens:

Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be—when “we” had just come off the boat.

Again, Stephens fired off another salvo in 2018 against whites and more broadly, any American citizen who might disagree with his contention in “Our Real Immigration Problem.” Put simply, Stephens believes that we need to shove foreigners into every square foot of this country, because “immigrants—legal or otherwise—make better citizens than native-born Americans,” and concludes: “I plead guilty to wanting more-open borders.” It should be noted that Stephens has yet to respond to the dressing-down Michael Anton served him.

Blow, Stephens, and the editors of the Times hate this country and its people. They will deny this, but they cannot demonize the historic demographic of America as deserving of either extinction or deportation, and then claim that they do not hate them. Likewise, the people at the Times do not love America, they love what they believe America ought to be. It is this hatred that has them wittingly or unwittingly working against America to the benefit of a foreign entity. The policy and rhetoric being drummed out steadily from publications like the Times is fundamentally anti-American and explicitly in favor of foreigners over Americans.

We don’t have to look hard to find turncoats, nor do I and a growing number of Americans believe that our greatest enemy lives in the Kremlin, or the White House for that matter. A far greater threat to our way of life can be found on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. I wager that the reason Americans are being implored to turn their eyes toward Russia, is because the traitors in our midst know that the day they are seen for what they are—adversaries—the peasants with pitchforks will come for them.

Photo credit: Kimberly White/Getty Images for New York Times

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Administrative State • America • Americanism • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump Must Navigate in a Wilderness of Mirrors

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So the Straight Arrow has now gone and indicted a dozen members of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, on charges relating to—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—meddling in America’s internal affairs.  That such meddling entirely fits their job description, and that Mr. Well Respected has exactly zero chance of ever bringing them to “justice” in an American courtroom is beside the point.

The partisan clown car that is the Robert Mueller investigation into something—anything!— continues to roll along, excreting great columns of smoke behind it in the hope that an even more partisan media can convince the public that it’s the result of fire, instead of hot air.

When the best you can do is bark at the canine for biting the man, you know your “investigation” has descended to a level of self-parody physically embodied by its hangdog front man, the Real Inspector Hound.  Mueller has doggedly gone about accomplishing exactly nothing since (follow the bouncing ball): Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo that president Trump used as justification for firing former FBI chief and sanctimonious scold James Comey; who had succeeded his pal Mr. Incorruptible in that office; who then wrote some memos to himself and leaked them to the New York Times, in order to; motivate Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to look into wholly (and still) unsubstantiated charges of Trump’s putative “collusion” (not a statutory crime, by the way) with the Russians; to the cheers of former members of the intelligence community, including Comey, as well as its long-time laughingstock, former CIA director John Brennan, whose antipathy for Trump is daily on display.

In short, the whole mess stinks to high heaven and has since the bumbling Jeff Sessions mysteriously recused himself from anything to do with the Russians and has basically vanished since. This has left the president pretty much at the mercy of his enemies on both sides of the aisle (Rosenstein the butler; Brennan the saboteur) and unable effectively to fight back except via Twitter.  For the truth is, the most virulent opposition Trump has faced since his surprise election has come from the Intelligence Community—which, at the top, is largely a left-leaning collection of malignant bureaucrats entirely intent on career advancement.

And how do these left-leaning IC bureaucrats assure their career advancement? By not upsetting the cozy arrangement they’ve long had with … the Russians.

That is to say, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the U.S.S.R. a couple of years later, the KGB and the CIA had come to a modus vivendi that allowed each side a relatively free hand within its sphere, with extreme measures reserved only for the most egregious provocations, and even then largely exercised upon expendable third-party operatives. They spied on us, we spied on them, and everybody was happy.

Hence the otherwise inexplicable reaction of the George H. W. Bush administration to the sudden implosion of the Soviet Union: instead of cheering the end result of 40-plus years of American foreign policy, Poppy Bush (former Director of Central Intelligence) and his gargoyle Secretary of State, James A. Baker, reacted instead as if the end of the Soviets was a tragedy of epic proportions, and instead of rushing in to help, they largely abandoned Russia and Eastern Europe to its fate, thus leaving the door open for George Soros and his “Open Society” to rush through. We could have bought the Russian empire for two cents on the dollar—instead, we decided we preferred them as enemies.

And so we arrive at the Wilderness of Mirrors, the symbol of intelligence work, in which nothing is as it seems, enemies can be best friends, and allies often double-cross each other not only with impunity but with relish. The American public likes its stories clean, with good guys and bad guys; in intelligence work, it’s often impossible at any given moment to tell them apart. And so Trump came into office with the Obama/Bush/Clinton/Bush IC apparatus firmly against him. And when Trump said this week that, in effect, he trusted Vladimir Putin’s word more than that of some of his own intelligence professionals, he was telling the truth.

Let’s be blunt: Trump wants better relations with Russia not because he is a Soviet stooge, but because he understood that while Russia may always be a geopolitical adversary, it does not need to be an enemy. The Russians control a vast territory and an equally vast nuclear arsenal, but their control is slipping as their women forget to have children, their technology rusts, and the Red Army is literally on its last legs. Putin has cleverly made common cause with the Orthodox Church, a great source of Russian national pride, and is trying to manage the decline of a proud but often resentful and belligerent nation while pretending he’s restoring the glory of Mother Russia, so spare me the pious bleats about restoring Crimea to the Ukraine; that’s never going to happen.  He’s riding the bear and is terrified of falling off—because there are plenty of folks ready to take his place and, unlike in America, assassination still has an honored place in Russian politics. If it was good enough for Caesar, it’s good enough for the Third Rome.

Already, Mueller’s irresponsible indictment of members of the GRU is having negative consequences: in exchange for making the GRU agents available to Mueller’s team, Putin has now asked to question William Browder, who’s been convicted in absentia in Russia of financial crimes, and for access to former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. As I tweeted, only half-jokingly, the other day:

This is how the game is played at the grandmaster level, in real time and in three dimensions. The Democrats, who prior to 2016 never met a Soviet agent with whom they did not wish to cooperate, are betting that the American people still don’t understand the depths of their animosity against their own country. They’re also counting on the news media never to remind them. There are plenty of people in both countries who want to see their leaders fail, and it stands to reason that some of them are (still) working together, and using the media to fuel their narrative.

Meanwhile, Trump and Putin—who, after all, are still the two most important men in the world—are trying to do what’s best for themselves and their countries and the world, fend off the backstabbers from behind the arrases, and wander forward into the Wilderness of Mirrors in the hopes of finding the way out.

That Putin—who has both intelligence and a counter-intelligence experience from his KGB days—has far more savvy on this playground than does Trump is indisputable. Let’s hope that Trump can get up to speed before the mirrors entirely surround him, and all he can see is his own reflection.

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America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Russia • the Presidency • Trump White House

Coming to Some Reality on Crimea

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As President Trump sits down for his first one on one meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, some history and perspective are in order.

Trump and Putin will find plenty of common ground, most significantly in fighting Jihadism and global terrorism. And while there is room for movement on the difficult issues surrounding continued talks on nuclear proliferation, missile defense, and others good diplomacy can work a deal that is in the interests of both nations.  There is even room for compromise on Ukraine.

But there is one area of disagreement that, at least from one perspective, is off the table.  That is the status of Crimea. It’s non negotiable for Russia. Going into this summit, it behooves everyone to understand what is at stake in terms of Crimea. First some history.

The Crimean Peninsula juts out from the bottom of Ukraine into the north shore of the Black Sea. Its critical position in the Black Sea has made it a battle ground and prized possession for Empires over three millennium. It has been colonized by Greeks, Persians, Romans, Goths, Slavs, and Steppe nomads from the Mongols and Tartars. In the mid 15th Century, Crimea became a northern outpost of the Muslim Ottoman Empire and would remain in Ottoman control for over 400 years.

The Ottomans used the Crimean Peninsula as a launch pad for raids far into Ukraine and Russia. It is estimated that well over 2 million Slavs (Ukrainians and Russians) were taken as slaves between 1500 and 1700 and sent to modern day Turkey. In fact the word “slave” traces back to the Greek r word for Slav. To put some perspective on this, it is estimated that just under 400,000 black slaves were shipped from Africa to the Colonies in North America and later the independent United States. The Islamic Caliphate’s hold at the southern reaches of the Russian Empire was an existential threat, literally so for millions of Slavs.

By 1700 however, the Ottoman Empire was starting a long period of decline, while the Russian Empire, first under the reign of Peter the Great, and then under Catherine the Great, were in the ascendancy. Peter the Great in the early 18th Century had secured, through a war with Sweden, a port on the Baltic Sea, what was to become St. Petersburg. Russia however, desperately desired a warm water port. They looked South, where they had been war, on and off for centuries, against the raiding Mongol and Tartar hordes as well as the Ottoman Sultanate.

Constantinople, the great seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church, from which Russian Orthodoxy had sprung, fell in 1453 to the Ottomans. It had been a dream of Christians everywhere to return Constantinople to the Christian fold and  that feeling was no more passionately held than in Russia. Moscow became the “Third Rome.”

In 1783, under Catherine the Great, Russia routed the Ottomans and secured the Crimean Peninsula. Russia had its warm water port on the Black Sea, just 339 miles to the ancient city of Constantinople. Europe from Spain to Italy, to the gates of Vienna had been fighting Islamic armies for centuries. In 1683, the Ottoman’s siege of Vienna was broken, for the next hundred years they were on their heels in the Balkans and exactly 100 years later, they lost a critical hold on the European continent and a prize that lay at the belly of Russian Empire. Crimea had fallen.

For the next 171 years, Crimea was part of the Russian Empire and later, the Soviet Union. It was in 1954 that the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, “gifted” Crimea to Ukraine on the 300th Anniversary of the Ukrainian inclusion in the Russian Empire. At the time, of course, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, the “gift” of Crimea went almost completely unnoted in the West. After all, there was a massive Soviet naval fleet at Sevastopol before 1954 and so it remained after the “gifting.”

When the Soviet Union collapsed, chaos reigned. Boris Yeltsin, as best he could, tried to keep the pieces together. If he had been smarter, or shrewder, he most certainly would have demanded that in recognition and acceptance of Ukraine’s independence, Crimea should be returned to Russia. Alas, he was not and he did not.

In steps Vladimir Putin, a Russian nationalist who sees the collapse of the Soviet Union as a great “catastrophe.” He lamented it not because of the fall of Communism, but because with that came the dissolution of over 30 percent of the land that had it taken the Russian Empire centuries of wars and conflict to acquire. One thing Putin does not lack is shrewdness. In 2014, seeing a weakness and passivity in the West, particularly in the person of President Barack Obama, he pounced and took Crimea in a militarily incursion into Ukraine.

Why all of this background? Because, whatever our feelings or opinions about the justice of what’s happening in Crimea, it is critical that we understand it, also, through a Russian lens. From an historical prescriptive, they see Crimea as Russian; it has never been part of Ukraine, with the possible exception of a few years of the Kievan Rus period in 900 AD. Ukraine’s sole hold on Crimea was the post Soviet years, from 1991 to 2014, after the “gifting.”

Crimea is of critical strategic importance to Russia; it has been over two and half centuries. For the Russians to give up Crimea would be akin to the United States giving Texas or California back to Mexico or giving Florida back to Spain. Or, better yet, giving Alaska back to Russia. It isn’t going to happen, not without war.

We should dispense with the comparisons of Putin to Hitler and the Crimea to the Sudetenland. The Sudetenland, though having a large German population, has never been a part of Germany or even a German principality. It has been part of Bohemia and Moravia, which had been part of the Hapsburg Empire, and before that a part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Germans had zero historical hold on Sudetenland.

All of that said, we need to be firm on the status of Ukraine—that its independence is critical and that a Russia invasion of Ukraine could spark a major conflict. Whatever language we want to use, we need to be clear that an absorption of Ukraine back into Russia, is unacceptable. Putin will most likely not risk a war with the United States over Ukraine. An agreement can be worked out. This will probably mean that Ukraine will not be part of NATO and American missiles will not be stationed outside of Kiev or on the Don River. But it can also guarantee a free Ukraine.

President Trump and our diplomats can use this as leverage. If we come to the table with the recognition that Crimea is non negotiable to the Russians, our recognition of that reality can force Putin and Russia to negotiate on something we need. I trust Trump, Pompeo and Bolton will know what to ask for.

Photo credit:  Sergei MalgavkoTASS via Getty Images

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • The Leviathian State • the Presidency • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Ms. Page Regrets She’s Unable to Testify Today

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Subpoenas do not come with the option of regrets. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. For Lisa Page, however, one half of the infamous pair of  “FBI Lovers”, the option is apparently there.

Just hours before her required appearance before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss her role in the FBI’s bias surrounding the Trump election, her lawyer informed the committee that she would not be appearing.

According to Page’s lawyer, she needs more time to review materials in preparation for her testimony. According to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), however, Page had more than enough time to review the documents in question. “Her failure to appear before Congress this morning had little to do with ‘preparation’ and everything to do with avoiding accountability,” Meadows tweeted.

It’s worth reviewing why Page is in this position in the first place. Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s 500-page report on the actions the FBI took in advance of the 2016 elections details a number of specific findings that justified the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, among others.

But the most troubling findings in the report have more to do with the wider culture of the FBI itself. General bias at the FBI was everywhere. From then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s unabashed public meet-up with Bill Clinton while overseeing an investigation into his wife, to the official FBI resources being dedicated to “spinning” the Hillary investigation, to Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s failure properly to comply with his recusal, to volumes of improper communications with the media (not to mention agents allowing themselves to be wined and dined by the press), the cavalier attitudes, the “above the law” mentality and overt hostility to candidate Trump was rife throughout the FBI.

And in that drama, Lisa Page plays a central role—as does her paramour, Peter Strzok, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The IG cites Page and Strzok among five FBI employees he calls out for bringing “discredit to themselves” and damaging “the FBI’s reputation for neutral fact finding and political independence.” It’s easy to see why.

Consider this searing rebuke from the IG report:

[W]hen one senior FBI official, [Peter] Strzok, who was helping lead the Russia investigation at the time, conveys in a text message to another senior FBI official, [Lisa] Page, that “we’ll stop candidate Trump from being elected—after the other extensive text messages between the two disparaging candidate Trump—it is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects. This is antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice. [Emphasis added.]

In another exchange that has become infamous, Page texts Strzok, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”

That Congress should investigate this behavior is obvious to everyone except congressional Democrats, who repeatedly tried to adjourn, delay and obstruct Strzok’s Thursday hearing. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) went so far as to suggest Strzok should be given a purple heart for all he’s had to go through.

But this is far from a superficial witch hunt. Congress has a historical and constitutional prerogative to protect and oversee the implementation of lawful behavior among the branches. Indeed, a robust oversight role for Congress was envisioned by the Framers and cemented by the courts, who have found Congress’ “power in inquiry” to be “inherent to the legislative process” and “as penetrating and far-reaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution.”

There’s a reason that refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena can result in a citation for criminal contempt of Congress. In its oversight heyday between 1975 and 1998, Congress held 10 votes to hold cabinet-level officials in contempt.

More consequential, however, is Page’s refusal to comply with her subpoena—along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein’s refusal to turn over key documents to Congress—which perpetuates the image that there are two sets of rules in America: one for government elites, and one for everyone else.

This attitude was on fine display during Strzok’s hearing, as he refused to answer substantive questions “at the direction of the FBI,” (though, under a subpoena, he is required to answer), defended his professionalism (rich, coming from the man who texted “F Trump” to his mistress), complained about his treatment at the hands of Republicans, and called the very fact of the hearing “another victory notch in Putin’s belt.”

As one commentator put it, Strzok’s attitude and actions demonstrate “the danger of a powerful idiot arrogantly convinced his cause gives him latitude to ignore the rules.”

Such brazenness should not stand. Not only do Democrats look increasingly hypocritical as they demand cooperation with a special counsel to find evidence of the elusive Russian collusion, they do disservice to the institutions upon whose impartiality and professionalism our government rests.

This is not simply a crisis of confidence particular to the 2016 elections. Until the full story is resolved and independent actors held to account, faith in the FBI and the Justice Department will be shaken; and shaken, in turn, will be the faith we place in those tasked with enforcing the law and investigating the facts in a neutral and impartial fashion. The way the government has handled itself thus far has been to treat Congress and the voters like problems to be solved, not citizens to be served.

House Republicans are right to press this issue, and they should continue to press it to the full measure of congressional authority. The rule of law surely extends to those who enforce it; perhaps they bear an even greater responsibility to account for their behavior when it is so brashly and shamelessly wrong.

But the continually dismissive attitudes of Rosenstein, Strzok and Page suggest that they truly do not understand the duty the FBI has toward the highest standards of transparency, impartiality and professionalism.

In its findings, the IG report quoted the opinion of one FBI agent that the majority of Americans who elected Trump are “all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS.”  The flippancy of the FBI and the Justice Department in response to the need for fixing these problems suggests that perhaps they agree.

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