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Inside the mind of a Trump apologist



It’s nice to apologize when you’ve been wrong, but that’s not what an “apologist” is. The term has a negative connotation: It usually implies a person who defends a controversial cause, one that most people have rejected. “He was an apologist for the Nazis” might be an example. F.H. Buckley, a rightwing law professor at the Scalia Law School of George Mason University, in this dark tradition is an apologist for Donald J. Trump, whom he defends with frequency on Fox “News.” In his latest piece, called “The United States of Paranoia,” on Fox’s website, Buckley insists that “the absence of evidence” in RussiaGate “doesn’t seem to matter” to “media-fed conspiracy theories.” In this baseless charge, he rather ignores the overriding fact that nobody outside of Robert Mueller’s office (and/or the Congressional investigative committees) has any idea what the evidence actually is. In fact, given Mueller’s constant buildup of his staff, including the latest reports of a Washington, D.C.-based Grand Jury, one would be justified in thinking that he’s in possession of plenty of evidence. So for Buckley, what “doesn’t seem to matter” is the actual situation in which Trump finds himself—the legal realities Trump apologists choose to ignore.

I’m not so interested in demolishing Buckley’s disinformation, because it self-destructs on its own falsity. Instead, I’m interested in who these Trump apologists are. What makes them tick? Why are they so indefatigable in their dismissal of the scandals when every day, another data point pops up that points more convincingly than ever to Trump’s guilt?

Well, consider a few things. One is that Buckley is presumably paid for his opinionating by Fox “News,” which gives him a financial interest in defending Trump, who is Fox’s #1 client. Two, consider where Buckley works: We know, from Jane Mayer’s extraordinary book “Dark Money,” that George Mason University was selected by the Koch Brothers as the repository for their academic-propaganda factory—a university they felt could compete on the right with the liberalism of Harvard, Columbia and so on. The Kochs have poured money into George Mason University, either directly or through their secret web of foundations and shadow groups that Mayer reported on so well. As for the university naming their law school after the late Antonin Scalia, well, what can one say? He was the most reactionary Justice in decades, a religious ideologue whose opinions (including vicious homophobia) never veered from the official Vatican orthodoxy, and a partisan Republican whose personal nastiness was matched only by that of Donald Trump.

As arrant nonsense, Buckley’s “absence of evidence doesn’t matter” takes the cake, but he goes on from there into sheer lies. “Stories about the Kremlin’s influence on the Trump campaign,” he claims, “[have] no evidence, just innuendo.” Really? Don Jr.’s, Jared’s and Manafort’s meeting at Trump Tower? Don’s “I love it” email? Trump’s writing the “adoption” excuse Don Jr. put out? The determination of every American intelligence agency that the Kremlin directed the effort to interfere in our election on behalf of Trump? The firing of Jim Comey? Is this all not “evidence”? Buckley, in his partisan fever dream, may think not, but no doubt Mueller chooses to differ, and it is he, not F.H. Buckley, who will determine whether or not Donald J. Trump is a criminal. (It’s also ironic that Buckley says it’s “hard to tell the difference between the Washington Post and the National Inquirer [sic],” since the National Enquirer is adamantly pro-Trump and routinely publishes encomiums to him and phony insults about the Clintons.)

Buckley’s “just innuendo” ranges into the bizarre, but what is outright fabrication is his allegation that “What [RussiaGate] gave us was Attorney General Sessions’ recusal…the Comey firing…and the appointment of Robert Mueller.” This is fabulist apologia of the highest order: everything, according to him, is the result of “media-fed conspiracy theories,” not actual actions by Trump, his family and surrogates. Would there have been the recusal, the Comey firing, and Mueller, if Donald J. Trump and his family and cohorts had not, for more than a year, been caught in lie after lie after lie? The “evidence” Buckley says doesn’t exist is piling up right before his eyes, yet still he says, “Let’s not get sucked into conspiracy theories.”

The duty of an apologist is to argue for the redemption of awful people and causes, and here, Buckley is its poster child: We should all, he exhorts, “start believing Trump’s professions of innocence.” Just as, I suppose, we should believe that Hitler never ordered the Final Solution, because his defenders said he didn’t. There are still Hitler apologists lurking on the fascist fringe who say he was railroaded. I suspect, when Trump is long gone, there will still be Trump apologists, Buckley among them.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    Several weeks ago we had some people over for dinner, and during the course of a discussion about Trump, someone commented that it didn’t seem like anything was happening with Mueller’s investigation because he hadn’t read much about it in the news recently. I said that that was because the investigators were busy doing their work. Mueller is a career prosecutor who doesn’t try his cases in the press.

  2. Bob Rossi, you’re right. It’s completely premature for someone like Buckley to say there’s no evidence. As I wrote, there seems to be plenty of evidence. I suspect Trump and his minions are laying the groundwork to appeal to their rightwing base for support when Mueller indicts them. Trump will try to stoke the embers of resistance, perhaps even to the extent of suggesting civil war. We have got to expect that from him: when he’s cornered, he gets desperate.

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