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Trump’s Night of the Long Knives

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He’s doing it.

As many of us had feared and warned, Trump is making his penultimate move to completely take over the U.S. government with his hand-picked flunkies. Last week he fired Kristen Nielsen, because she wasn’t tough enough, even though she masterminded the “Throw Brown-Skinned Babies in Jail” horror for which History will always condemn her.

Now, he’s fired his own Secret Service chief, the man responsible for protecting his life, and the lives of his family. There can be only one explanation as to why: Trump is seizing control of his security apparatus, in precisely the same way that Hitler did, after taking power in Germany.

“The Night of the Long Knives” is what they called that 1934 action, in which Hitler sent his men out to arrest, torture and murder anyone he thought was against him. Hundreds were killed overnight; it was an unprecedented act of vengeance. Hitler had waited more than a year after becoming Chancellor to get his revenge. He needed that time to secure his position, to make sure he controlled every aspect of Germany—including the free press, which he had systematically destroyed. Hitler even killed the head of own private army of thugs, the Brownshirts, Ernest Roehm, who until then had been responsible for his safety. After The Night of the Long Knives, all effective opposition to the Nazi terror regime was ended. Only a disastrous war that killed 100 million people around the world would stop Hitler’s psychotic death march.

Trump’s communications people—Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway—and his other propagandists are trying to describe the latest firings as routine. They’re lying. Nobody but Trump, and possibly Jared and Donald Junior, knows precisely what Trump is going to do next. But we can surmise. He’s in the middle of an historic power grab. The Election result of 2018 stunned him, but he decided it was only a setback, not a defeat. Then the Barr lie about the Mueller Report (carefully orchestrated by Trump) came out, and Trump became Godzilla Unleased. Like Hitler, he’s as angry as a man can be without having a stroke, and is hellbent on wreaking vengeance on his enemies, who are legion. He’s already cleansed his Cabinet and the West Wing staff around him. He’s been stuffing the Courts with rightwing ideologues. The Republicans that remain in the Congress are absolutely stupefied, in terror of him, as were the Nazi officials after The Night of the Long Knives, who rightfully feared for their lives. Today’s Republicans don’t fear for their physical lives but for their political lives.

So what’s next? Trump is looking around at every American institution over which he commands power, to determine which ones are solidly behind him, and which are wavering. My guess is that sooner or later it will be the Military that Trump interferes with. Whatever he’s got in mind, the Army (including National Guard) and Marines, in particular, are the only things that could effectively stand in opposition to him. It’s always that way in authoritarian regimes: if the Dictator can get the military, he’s home free.

I don’t think Trump has the military yet. His people like to claim that the rank-and-file soldier, sailor and Marine is with Trump. That may well be true, but it’s the senior command leadership, as well as the mid-level commissioned officers, we have to watch. Trump may already be quietly at work purging their ranks. Keep your eye on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford. On the surface he seems like a career Marine. His career has been boosted by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who liked him. He portrays himself as anti-political.

If anything goes down in this country of a serious internal nature, Dunford is going to play a very important role. Donald Trump knows that. If he’s not entirely sure he can trust Dunford, he’ll move against him.


Trump and Holocaust deniers: What they have in common

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Just a few weeks ago, David Irving, the World War II writer, turned 81. Irving calls himself “one of the best-known historians in the world,” but his Wikipedia entry has a rather more somber description by which History will remember him: “Holocaust denier.”

Irving earned that reputation through a series of books and articles in which he argued that Hitler knew little or nothing about the extermination camps, that it was Himmler who did it all, that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz (which he called “a tourist attraction” built by the Poles after the war), and that in any case the number of Jews murdered was nowhere near the millions routinely cited. That virtually every historian over the last 65 years has argued otherwise, and that a vast documentation of first-hand evidence, including Nuremberg testimony, exists disproving Irving’s refutations, has never made any difference to him. (Irving was actually sentenced to three years in jail in Austria for his Holocaust denialism.)

He is temperamental when it comes to criticism. In the 1990s an American historian, Deborah Lipstadt, who taught at Emory University, wrote a book, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” in which she called Irving to account. Not mincing her words, she referred to Irving as a “Hitler partisan wearing blinkers,” quoted Irving himself as a “one-man intifada’ against the official history of the Holocaust,” and later warned that “The impact of Holocaust denial on high school and college students cannot be precisely assessed.”

In 2000, an outraged Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in Great Britain, where the libel laws favor plaintiffs (in this case, the plaintiff was Irving. Defendant Lipstadt had to prove her allegations were true, instead of Irving’s lawyers having to prove they were false). Despite the built-in advantage, Irving lost, badly. The ruling judge declared “that Irving not only denied the Holocaust but is ‘a right-wing, pro-Nazi polemicist’ who mixes with neo-fascists…and for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence.” Similar verdicts were reached in other Courts, including in Germany’s highest court.

Does any of this sound familiar? The denial of truth…the deliberate misreprentation of historical fact…appealing to biased people for ideological reasons… manipulating evidence…Yes, this also applies to Donald J. Trump and his extreme enablers, alt-right people like Alex Jones, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and for that matter most of the Republicans in Congress. In fact, the sub-title of Lipstadt’s book, “The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” was a prescient foreshadowing of exactly what we see happening today in the U.S., where right-wing neo-fascists are deliberately playing with people’s minds, making them doubt the truth and even persuading them to dis-remember things they’d seen for themselves.

Lipstadt’s warning about the effects of historical denialism on high school and college students is particularly chilling, when you realize that many of the Trump cult were young in the 1990s. Donald Trump wasn’t a student in 2000—he was already 54 years old. But his mindset is curiously and scarily similar to Irving’s. I can find no evidence that Trump ever read any of Irving’s books (or any other books, for that matter), but there’s plenty of indirect evidence that Trump adopted the Irving methodology of “deny, lie, obfuscate, repeat.” Trump used this formula when he persistently accused Obama of being a foreigner. He uses it when he calls climate-change a “hoax,” when he lies about things like the size of his inaugural crowd, when he says his loss of the popular vote in 2016 was due to massive voter fraud, when he tweets that vaccines are linked to autism, and all the rest of his disinformation.

The impact of these claims on weak-minded conservative minds is predictable. Trump convinces people that any facts that contradict him or with which he disagrees are “fake news,” and should not be believed. As Lipstadt said in a 2017 interview in Esquire, “Once you believe everything is rigged, then the truth doesn’t matter.”

Like the rest of us, Lipstadt has been waiting for the tipping point, when Trump’s supporters start to peel away from him. “It’s very difficult,” she said in the Esquire interview, “but I’m hoping, with the exception of his die-hard supporters, if he does enough of this, people will begin to be skeptical about the things he says.”

That’s what we’re all hoping. We’ve seen no signs of it yet in the Republican electorate. We’re seeing subtle signs in the Senate, where Republicans are juuust beginning to show a little spine. But based on their craven, past performance, I wouldn’t bet on it.


Mueller Report: the beat goes on (just like I said)

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The funniest thing about the news lately concerns the Republican Party. They seriously thought that after their guy, Barr, put out his propaganda sheet, RussiaGate was over.

We are now rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

Republicans: IT’S NOT OVER! In fact, it’s just getting started.

We now know (although we’ve suspected all along) that Barr’s little letter was a complete farce. Mueller’s own team didn’t buy it! In order to get hired as Attorney-General, Barr performed a very public act of kissing Donald Trump’s fat rear end, in what is called in political circles “sucking up.” Barr obviously got the job by promising he would protect Trump no matter what. Now, he’s following through on his promise, and is protecting Trump no matter what. That “no matter what” includes Barr’s professional reputation, which has been shredded and will remain in the toilet; but perhaps at this end-stage of his career, he doesn’t care. Morel likely, his descendants will, as they will be asked about this for many years.

With the stunning revelation late yesterday, courtesy of the New York Times, that “some members” of the Mueller team are unhappy with Barr’s characterization of the Report, RussiaGate, including collusion, is again a Big News Story. I knew, and many of you knew, that Barr was lying in his letter when he said Mueller had exonerated Trump entirely. Trump consciously lied when he claimed the same thing. That was the deal they’d struck.

Trump: When this Report comes out, you need to immediately shield it from public view, and issue a statement that it exonerates me 100%.

Barr: Right, chief.

Trump: The Report will eventually have to come out, but we’ll stonewall as long as we can, and in the meantime, the impression that I’m exonerated will sink into the public’s mind.

Barr: Brilliant strategy, Mister President. You can count on me!

Only they miscalculated. The only part of the public that thinks Trump has been exonerated are the psychos at Breitbart. Nobody else’s mind has been changed a bit: Americans still believe Trump did all kinds of nasty things, and moreover, his approval ratings actually dropped after Barr put out his propaganda.

It now appears that Team Trump is going to fight to the bitter end against letting the Mueller Report get out. Fine; but the American people (again, excepting the Breitbart/Limbaugh cult) won’t buy it. The overwhelming question will remain: What is Trump trying to hide? That’s a question reasonable people will ask each other at the dinner table, by the office water cooler, in Starbucks. And reasonable people will conclude that Trump has plenty to hide.

I’ve always said, despite Trump’s reputation for Teflon, as soon as the first chink appears in his armor, the spread of rot will become uncontainable. It won’t take all that many Americans turning against him to entirely change the political dynamic. Let’s say 50% of Americans are solidly against him. Thirty-five percent are for him, even if he should admit to being a child predator. The remaining 15% are squishy. All that Democrats need is for a majority of them to conclude that (in Pelosi’s words) Trump “just isn’t worth it,” and they’ll be shopping around for someone clean in 2020. It might be a Democrat; it might be an independent; it might be a moderate Republican like Romney, should he choose to run (and I don’t think he has the guts, but you never know). With all the House investigations just getting underway (including into Trump’s taxes—again, what’s he afraid of?), the damage to him is getting more severe everyday day.

Do Democrats enjoy inflicting damage on Trump? Not particularly. We’d much rather have a decent, honest administration, even if it’s under a Republican president. But Trump started this war of attrition with his foul, vulgar lowness. Democrats had no choice but to fight back with everything we’ve got. We did; we will continue doing so.

More tomorrow.


The end of the Mueller era is good news for Democrats

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In a sense, the end of the major coverage about the Mueller Report is good news for Democrats. We were hardly able to talk about anything else at all for the better part of two years. Everything was Mueller, all the time. Indictments, leaked documents, speculation about collusion and obstruction dominated the news, while major developments, like Trump’s wars on the environment, on poor people, on gays, on Puerto Rico, on the intelligence services, on immigrants, on the Courts, on civil rights, on civility in discourse, and on most American values and institutions were under-reported, at best, in the 24-hour news cycle.

This benefited Trump enormously. He was doing horrible, unconscionable things: gutting regulatory agencies, undermining the protections Americans depended upon, weakening the nation’s healthcare safety net, alienating friends and cozying up to dictators, stacking the courts with political rightwingers, encouraging neo-nazis, fraying the fabric the holds the country together. It largely went unnoticed in the din and glare of RussiaGate. It’s true that the constant reporting on Mueller and RussiaGate provoked him to fury, but it’s also true that he was able to get away with most of his shenanigans under the radar. Now that the Mueller Report has all but vanished from news coverage, we can focus on all the things Trump is doing to hurt America.

And that is good for both Democrats and for America. Now that Trump’s misdeeds can be focused on for longer than 15 seconds, the American people are realizing he’s not a person they like. Take Betsy DeVos’s recent decision to kill the Special Olympics. Before the Mueller Report came out (or, actually, the Barr lie about the Mueller Report), that story would have been far down the list on the Nightly News. Post-Mueller, it got huge coverage—so bad, Trump was forced against his will to overrule DeVos and rescind it.

That’s an example of how the end of Mueller redounded to the Democrats’ favor (which means to America’s favor). Another is his threat (probably hollow) to shut down the Mexican border. If he’d tweeted that on a day when, for example, Paul Manafort was indicted, it would be been a second-rate story. As it turned out, it’s a huge story. Everybody is against it, except for Trump and the most ignorant of his minions. Ditto for Trump trying once again (what is this, the 40th time?) to destroy Obamacare. When he uttered his ridiculous “Republicans will be the party of healthcare” nonsense the other day, it was the political equivalent of dropping an H-bomb on Washington. If he’d said it on the same day that he fired Comey, it would have been little more than a laugh line on Saturday Night Live. But because he said it post-Mueller, it turns into a catastrophe for him and the Republican Party. McConnell immediately disowned it, and Trump has now had to say he’s kicking the healthcare can down the road to after 2020.

This is all wonderful news for Democrats. It proves that Trump is completely out of step with the American people, and the American people understand it. Not just Democrats (who have always been against him), but everybody—the working classes especially.

We’ve all been waiting for the Smoking Gun that would destroy Trump. They theory has been that, someday, there would be a huge, incredible story that would undermine his regime in a single stroke. Instead, the end of the Mueller era has been for Trump death by a thousand lashes. One by one, his destructive policies are being revealed to a public that is frankly alarmed and disgusted.

Besides, when I say “the end of the Mueller era,” let’s remember that it isn’t over, not by a long shot. We don’t even have a “Mueller Report” yet. We have no idea what incriminating and reputation-destroying facts it contains. And even Trump’s obvious struggle to prevent it from ever coming out, are turning against him, as a wide majority of Americans believes that we still don’t know the truth about RussiaGate, and that Trump is trying to cover up his crimes.

When I consider all the above, I am heartened by the prospects of the upcoming 2020 elections. We Democrats have some very good people running for president. I’m not at all worried about the undercurrents of dissent and in-fighting happening in the party at this time. It’s entirely natural. Let the candidates fight things out, let the voters bide their time and reflect. That’s the way the System is supposed to work. It’s all good.


Republicans: “We are only following the people’s orders!

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In the argument over whether the Democratic candidates for president should focus on issues or on Trump’s aberrant character, I think it’s not either-or. It’s both. But I certainly think Trump’s character should be a major part of the candidates’ speeches.

While it’s true that there are plenty of issues to focus on—immigration, healthcare, the environment, global warming, LGBTQ discrimination, taxes, women’s reproductive rights, nuclear proliferation—the main thing Democrats have going for them is a generalized understanding in the electorate, including many Republicans, that there’s something deeply, morally corrupt about Trump as a person. Parents may envy his money, they may like his judicial appointments, but they would never ask their children to view him as a role model, nor would they allow their daughters to be left alone with him if they’re his “type”–and we all know what that is.

I routinely come under attack from rightwing extremist websites like Breitbart for calling for Nuremberg-style Trials for Republican leadership, from Trump on down to cockroaches like Devin Nunes. The thing to understand about Nuremberg is that those trials were not so much criminal in nature as political. It’s true that the Allies charged the Nazi defendants with crimes, including war crimes. That decision was controversial then, and remains controversial today in legal-jurisprudential circles, because the indicted “crimes” were in large measure invented by the victors in the War—the Allies Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. The Germans argued, with some credibility, that the “crimes against humanity” for which they were indicted were more or less the same kinds of “crimes” the Allies committed, the difference being that the victors got to define the terms of the game. Was the mass murder of Jews different in essence from the mass murder of Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

I don’t propose to wade into that thicket. My point is the political nature of Nuremberg. The Germans were correct in stating that the victors always get to define the terms imposed upon the vanquished. Had Germany won, Hitler might well have arrested Eisenhower, Montgomery, Averell Harriman, Harry Hopkins and Anthony Eden—not to mention FDR and Churchill, if they could catch them—and tried them for war crimes and crimes against humanity. That didn’t happen, of course, but Nuremberg did represent political payback for German leaders who had caused so much distress and death in the world. That’s the nature of politics: “to the victor go the spoils” or, put another way, “elections have consequences.”

This is what I mean by Nuremberg-style trials for Republicans. Their underlying crime is destruction of the domestic tranquility of the United States. That isn’t a crime you’ll find listed in any official Code, like tax fraud, arson or espionage. But it is a crime because it has caused so many Americans and others to suffer needlessly, and it is additionally a crime because it violates the norms of American history, which are the guardrails that protect our freedoms. What Trump has done is a thing Republicans did not have to do. What Republicans have done is a crime they well understood was wrong. It is a crime for which I’m sure they came under intense criticism even from their own families and inner circles. It is a crime they did with malice aforethought. It is a crime they did out of vengeance against Democrats and elected Democratic leaders, out of resentment for tens of millions of Americans whom they hate, and out of sheer political and financial opportunism. It is a crime which violated their own self-professed moral beliefs.

Why did they commit it? Because they blindly and obediently followed an evil man, Donald J. Trump, whom they knew to be unfit to govern—a man whom their own religions defined as wicked. This is not a defense, of course; it is an explanation. For what Republicans have done and continue to do, there can be no defense, and this is why we require Nuremberg-style trials. Somebody has to be blamed; somebody has to accept responsibility for this catastrophe into which America has been plunged.

The Nazis at Nuremberg argued along the ridiculous lines: “To begin with, nothing bad happened in Europe under our watch. And if it did, nobody here knew anything about it. And if we did know about it, we were simply following orders.” They expected the Justices to buy that nonsense! Obviously, the Justices didn’t, and as a final result, many Germans were hung by the neck until dead.

Now we have Republicans offering similar defenses. “We did nothing wrong! The American people elected Trump; we are simply carrying out their will!” Well, we—the American people—aren’t buying it. Senior Republicans will be made to pay the penalty for what they have done: the most destructive attack on our founding values since the South seceded. Republicans must, in the name of everything America has ever stood for, be brought to justice. Decency and morality will settle for nothing less!


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