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Too little, too late from the inciter-in-chief

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It’s not a Saturday Night Live parody, but it could be: A professor of humanities at Columbia University complaining about “colleges and universities where liberal elites are formed.”

What’s that old saying about the pot calling the kettle black?

The professor is someone called Mark Lilla. He works in Columbia’s History Department, where he “specializes in intellectual history with a particular focus on Western political and religious thought.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s about as elitist as academia gets. I’d like to be a fly on the wall in the faculty lounge at Columbia when Prof. Lilla is sipping a nice foamy latté as his colleagues approach him.

“Hey, Mark, am I a liberal elite?”

“Mark, were you talking about me?”

Well, that’s Lilla’s problem. His silly remark was in a column he wrote headlined “The Liberal Crack-Up,” about the alleged death of liberalism, and while it wasn’t surprising for it to be in the Wall Street Journal, what made it super-weird was Lilla’s use of the phrase “we liberals.” Prof. Lilla, I hate to break the news to you, but you’re not liberal. If anything, you’re a neocon.

Lilla’s thesis is that liberals need “a unifying vision.” He claims, falsely, that “identity politics” has destroyed the Democratic Party. Gay rights, women’s rights, Black rights, immigrants’ rights, transsexual rights—he wants nothing to do with any of it. It’s “done nothing but strengthen the grip of the American right on our institutions.” Well, that very notion itself is a mainstay of the American right, so why should Lilla support it? He’s correct about the right’s “grip,” but wrong on what caused it. Rather than complain about the way Democrats have embraced diversity, he should complain about Republicans becoming more fascist, white supremacist and theocratic every day.

Starting with the white supremacist-in-chief, the man who is personally responsible for Charlottesville: Donald J. Trump.

You know what I hate about this alt.right stuff? It’s their fondness for the past—a mythical, lost golden age. You see this longing in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. The key word is “again.” According to this analysis, we were better in the past than we are now. Well, let me remind this alt.right crowd, including the current president, that the past they yearn for was a time when women couldn’t vote, black people were slaves, non-European-Americans were hated, homosexuals were killed, child labor was the norm, Jews were discriminated against, and businessmen hired thugs to shoot unruly workers.

Is that what made America “great”? Do we really want to go there “again”?

Look, Trump has spent years stoking this white anger and resentment. It was the basis of his birtherism, which appealed only to unreconstructed racists. He sent endless dog whistles to these neo-nazis signaling his affections, and he hired people like Bannon, who was their champion at Breitbart, the Vatican of white supremacy. Trump is the de facto leader of the American fascist movement, and nothing he says now—no mentioning of “white supremacists” or “nazis”—can change that. It simply is too little, too late. Charlottesville blood, including that of the police officers who died, is on his small hands.

Trump may or may not be impeachable on Russiagate, but more than ever, he and his cohort—Bannon, Sessions, Gorka, Huckabee Sanders and the rest of the storm front enablers–need to go. The Republican Party is formally on notice: There will be Nuremburg justice, and it is you who will be in the dock.


7 ways how Hitler held onto power. Trump has replicated 6 of them

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Every account of Hitler’s first months as Chancellor of Germany by his contemporaries makes it clear that nobody expected him to last. He was a soap bubble that would soon burst; liberal democracy would return to Germany, as soon as the nation realized what a joke Hitler was.

Franz von Papen, who had been Chancellor prior to Hitler and in fact was Hitler’s Vice Chancellor from January 1933 until July 1934, in his “Memoirs” listed seven reasons why Hitler survived the uneasy early period and emerged as Germany’ dictator. There was a time—say, his first nine months in office—when Germany might have come to its senses and got rid of him. But this did not happen. As I go through von Papen’s seven reasons, I will point out the obvious analogies with Trump.

Von Papen’s Seven Reasons Why Hitler Succeeded

(The first six of these already has been replicated in the Trump regime. The seventh may well be, soon.)

  1. “The seemingly unconditional enthusiasm of his mass of adherents”

Hitler took office amidst a sea of joy from his supporters, who felt at last that they had seized power from the effete elitists of the Weimar Republic. Trump’s supporters likewise have so far displayed a fanatical devotion to their leader, and show no signs of abandoning him. Their dedication empowers Trump.

  1. “The idolization of his person”

By this von Papen means that Hitler had personally become a cult-like figure in Germany. He was seen as above and beyond mere politics—the embodiment of German hopes and history. Trump, too, portrays himself as possessing an almost mystical wisdom. “Nobody knows more about [fill in the blank] than me,” he has repeatedly boasted, whether it be foreign policy, jobs, ISIS, trade, nuclear issues, Iran, renewable energy, money, or infrastructure.

  1. “The Byzantine nature of his entourage”

Hitler’s top officials always were stabbing each other in the back, jockeying for the leader’s favoritism. Trump’s top officials too are at war with each other—at least, those who haven’t already been fired.

  1. “His own lust for power”

Hitler dreamed of supreme power for decades for achieving it. Trump similarly has been dreaming of running for president since at least the 1990s. He has finally obtained his goal, and won’t let go of it without a fight.

  1. “Lack of opposition from the bourgeois forces”

By using the old word “bourgeois” von Papen refers to what we would call “moderate conservatives,” particularly those who profess to be Christian. In other words, Germany’s 1930’s equivalent of the modern Republican Party. Trump, too, benefits from the craven fear of GOP leaders like McConnell and Ryan—although this may be shifting.

  1. “Insufficient resistance from the Conservative members of his first Cabinet”

Hitler’s initial Cabinet was by no means dominated by Nazis, but its members were curiously inert as he increasingly performed end-runs around the Constitution and became supreme leader. Trump’s Cabinet lost all independent credibility that day he forced them to publicly announce what a “blessing” it was to “serve” him.

7. “The fatal consequences of a war instigated on no rational grounds”

This is the one analogy that hasn’t materialized so far. Von Papen refers to the Second World War, which cemented Hitler’s hold on power (as it did for Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin as well). Trump hasn’t started a war, yet. But, as I wrote yesterday, there is every reason to believe he’s going to “wag the dog” with respect to North Korea and start a war that he thinks will keep him in power. That it will have “fatal consequences” seems not to be part of his thinking.

Have a nice weekend!

 

 


“Fire and fury”

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Stupid words. Bluster, sword-rattling, macho nonsense from a man so personally insecure despite his wealth and power that he has to have his staff hand-deliver positive news about himself, not once a day, but twice.

Some of us warned all along this is not a person whose stubby little fingers you want on the nuclear trigger. Now, here we are. When I woke up yesterday morning and got my San Francisco Chronicle, the headline on page 1 jolted me. “How would S.F. react to attack by nukes?” it read. Not well, I thought, and was involuntarily plunged in my mind back decades, to the 1950s, when as a schoolboy in New York City I would participate in “duck and cover” drills. The newspapers used to publish graphic maps showing the area of total devastation, depending on the megatonnage of the hydrogen bomb, if Russia dropped something on midtown Manhattan. Even then, it made no sense to us kids to seek safety underneath a little wooden desk: if New York went up in a mushroom cloud, desks wouldn’t protect us. Still, I suppose, from the point of view of the adults, to do something was better than doing nothing. Perhaps they thought we urchins would be reassured. (We weren’t.)

Donald J. Trump, was born on the same day, in the same year, in the same city, as I. He no doubt also participated in “duck and cover,” although I’m pretty sure his private school had fancier desks than Public School 35, in The Bronx, which is where I went. Now, we have a brand new “nuke scare” in America. The media roll out their charts of how many bombs we have versus Russia, China, North Korea and so on. They put up maps showing how long it would take for an ICBM from North Korea to reach Guam, Honolulu, Anchorage, San Francisco. We haven’t seen projected kill rates yet, but I’m sure they’re coming. It’s all so drearily familiar from the height (or depth) of the Cold War.

Perhaps Trump welcomes this. There’s always been a way out for him, a theoretical device he could use to keep himself in power no matter how unpopular he gets, and that’s to wag the dog. This is where a politician will manipulate an event that so scares the public that they support him, rather than his opponents, even if they have doubts about him. American Presidents have long been accused of wagging the dog. When Bill Clinton bombed Afghanistan and Sudan, Republicans said he wagged the dog to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Whether Clinton did or didn’t wag the dog, I think a lot of us predicted Trump would do it, if and when he felt the need to do so, which we suspected would come sooner rather than later. We didn’t know if it would be North Korea, or Iran, or Syria, or some other country, but we knew it was coming. It’s also been common, over the last seven months, for pundits to warn that Donald Trump has lied so often, and so blatantly, that when a real national crisis arises, the country, or large parts of it anyway, would not believe him. George W. Bush lost the popular election in 2000, and was widely disliked by Democrats, but he never developed the reputation as a liar and a cheat; so when Sept. 11 happened, the nation—including virtually every Democrat—rallied around him.

Trump won’t be so lucky. If he does something stupid against North Korea, a cadre of tea party/evangelical/military/white nationalists will stand by him, but large segments of the American populace will suspect that he has manipulated the Korean thing to divert attention away from RussiaGate and his other failures. There is ample justification to think so. He is a cornered rat. The Mueller walls are closing in; time is running out. What is a narcissistic, guilty authoritarian to do? Bomb something, cross your fingers, and hope that American patriotism will prevail. It will not. Trump’s self-vaunted political instincts, we now know, are vastly overrated. The voices in his head that he prefers to listen to, over those of senior military and diplomatic advisors, are fantasies. He is a sick, troubled man, and we need to get rid of him now.


What does the Constitution say about U.S. forces in domestic disturbances?

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I’ve been focused this week on the possibilities for civil insurrection, when Trump and/or members of his family and associates are indicted, as I believe they will be, and an armed right rises up in indignation. I’ve fastened in particular on a quote from a radical extremist on Breitbart, who seems to feel the nation’s security forces would back up Trump if things get bad. “If we do have a civil war,” he wrote, “we will win. We have cops on our side, the army on our side and America loving patriots like trump on our side.” 

I’m sure many on the right believe this, but will they really have “cops [and] the army” on their side? Conventional wisdom suggests that uniformed men and women tend to be conservative and Republican. It is useful to wonder, though, how “cops” and “the army” might actually respond, and what the law tells them to do. Let’s start with “the army,” by which I include all U.S. service members under the control of the President: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard. In the case of the latter, we think of National Guard troops as being under the control of a state’s Governor, but every member of the National Guard is also a member of the National Guard of the United States, so “when a Guardsman (or woman) is acting as a reserve of the federal forces, his [or her] commander-in-chief is the President.”

Clearly the President (and the Congress) have the power to commit U.S. troops overseas. But what about on our own soil? For that, you have to look at Title 10 of the United States Code, which “outlines the role of armed forces in the United States Code [and] provides the legal basis for the roles, missions and organization of each of the services as well as the United States Department of Defense.” This law is very explicit and explains exactly what the President can order troops to do, and what he cannot.

In general, Title 10 restricts, but does not forbid, the President’s power to deploy American troops domestically. (Obvious exceptions such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks are listed.) After Sept. 11, interest in Title 10 increased enormously, and Congress responded with revisions that have broadened the President’s ability to deploy troops in this country. In 2007, before Barack Obama became President, the law was expanded to include “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy” as conditions warranting deployment. A year later—still before Obama—the law was again amended by further defining “domestic violence” as “[violence that] has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order.” Rather than clarifying the issue, though, this further muddled it: Who determines when local officials “are incapable of maintaining public order”? Meanwhile, Congress insisted on the right to be kept informed of such deployment, but there are also big loopholes in this process. The language says:

The President shall notify Congress of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of the authority.”

Any determined President could argue that it is not “practicable” to notify Congress, citing emergency conditions; and it is not at all clear that the Congress or even the Courts could force the President’s hand.

Suppose that Trump is still in office when the insurrection occurs. Let’s suppose also that the Congress is still Republican-controlled. What would Trump do under these circumstances:

  1. There is fighting in and around the cities and suburbs of places like Portland OR, Atlanta GA, Austin TX, Seattle WA, Boston MA, Cleveland OH, Denver CO, Richmond VA, Washington D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area?
  2. In conservative rural areas, armed groups of militiamen take over?

Theoretically, in both cases the President would have the authority to deploy Federal troops to quash the insurrections and control the violence. But let’s suppose further (it’s not so far-fetched) that the Mueller indictments have been issued and there are clear threats to the existence of the Trump regime. Might not an enraged, cornered Trump look over the scene, from his information-rich vantage point, to see which side was winning, and then, if it’s his, “shoot his wad” and take the plunge into civil war? He has already thrown his lot in 100% with the Breitbart-Bannon-tea party wing: people with a penchant for violence, who have declared their absolute resistance to any threat to Trump. Trump might allow the militiamen to retain control of their rural enclaves, tweeting that the militias are “patriots” safeguarding the Constitution. In the fighting around cities, Trump might decide that if heavily-armed right wing groups appear to be getting the upper hand over liberal “blue” forces, he would stand aside, and let the process play out. If, on the other hand, liberal “blue” forces started winning—say, in sanctuary cities—Trump might well decide to intervene by sending in Federal troops to crush them.

Trump might or might not notify the Congress if he decides to deploy his troops domestically. Either way, Republicans would be in roughly the same position they find themselves in now: Should they support a Republican President under any circumstances, even when he appears to be circumventing the law for his own purposes and plunging the nation and the world into total chaos? Or should they put country before party and form a coalition with Democrats to invoke Article 25 of the Constitution?

Of course, all this might be moot if Trump decides to launch a major war by nuking North Korea.

 

 

 


Germany’s 1932 “Constitutional Crisis” and Trump’s 2017 problem

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Historical comparisons are odious; no two situations are ever exactly alike. But Santayana’s dictum suggests that some patterns repeat themselves, and that we can learn from studying them.

Yesterday I blogged about Trump’s dog whistle to his base: to prepare for the possibility of internal revolt. Along these lines I would recommend for reading Chapter 12 of Franz von Papen’s “Memoirs,” his 1952 account of his career. Von Papen was Germany’s Chancellor until forced to resign, late in 1932: barely two months later, Hitler became Chancellor, and the rest, as they say, is written in blood.

Chapter 12 is called, fittingly enough, “Constitutional Crisis.” In it, von Papen describes how Germany’s left-wing parties, notably the Communists, engaged in incessant and increasingly violent street fighting with the right, mainly the Nazis. The center parties—what we would call moderates—ran the Weimar government; von Papen was a conservative centrist, who hoped Germany’s Constitution and parliamentary structure could provide solutions to the growing crisis. But he was a realist. “The tense situation,” he wrote of that period, “must deteriorate into civil war.” Both sides were growling at each other: parliament (in the form of the Reichstag) and the feeble President Hindenburg were increasingly incompetent. “The police forces were not in a position to keep the peace,” Von Papen wrote. He thus could see only one solution to societal breakdown: “This would oblige the Reichswehr [Germany’s military, its ‘Pentagon’] to intervene for the purpose of upholding the authority of the State.”

This was a radical thing for the leader of a Constitutional democracy to consider, and von Papen did not do so lightly. In “Memoires” he quotes from a study made at the time by a top Reichswehr officlal: “With the increasing deterioration in the internal political situation, the High Command [has] conducted an enquiry into the capacity of the armed forces to carry out their duties against right and left wing extremists in the event of a state of emergency.” However, several major problems presented themselves.

For one, upholding internal order was “a task for which the Army was not organized and which would overtax its strength.” For another, there were political splits within the Army itself. “[T]he younger officers were known to sympathize with the National Socialists [i.e., Nazis],” while the highest ranking general, Kurt Schleicher, the Minister of Defense, “considered it his duty to keep the Army out of internal political conflicts. It did not exist in order to take part in a civil war.”

The nation thus in deadlock, there was no solution. The street fighting increased, and von Papen was forced to resign when he proved entirely unable to resolve the crisis. Schleicher took his place, as a sort of military dictator, for less than two months, before he, too, was forced to resign. Hitler assumed the Chancellorship on Jan. 30, 1933. After that, the Reichstag was more or less permanently dissolved. Hitler was Germany’s dictator.

Are there parallels between the Germany of 1932 and the America of today? Yes. Both nations were modern, western, industrial powers, with great achievements both technical and intellectual. Both had been through wrenching experiences: Germany lost World War I and had the unjust Treaty of Versailles imposed upon it, which alienated most of its citizens, left and right alike. In America, we’ve seen the emasculation of the middle classes, a devastating Great Recession, and endless wars that drain our treasury with no seeming resolutions. In America, as in 1932 Germany, we have the population split into opposite camps, while the middle-moderates become increasingly squeezed and enfeebled. If push does come to shove, and there is great internal strife, America will look towards its security forces to maintain order: local police and Federal troops.

Go back to the quote from a white supremacist Breitbarter I cited in yesterday’s post: “We have cops on our side, the army on our side…”. Is this true? Local police forces will no doubt prove unable to muster the strength, not to mention the will, to fight armed mobs. (They can’t even handle Occupy protesters.) That will leave Federal troops—the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the various national guards and reserves—to maintain the peace. Is the Army really on the “side” of rightwing insurrectionists? It’s not at all clear that it is. Today’s American Army is considerably more ethnically and racially diverse than the Reichswehr of 1932. I can’t see them uniformly taking the rightwing side; individual soldiers and platoons would be as likely to support leftwing, liberal forces. And the generals? Like Schleicher, they’ve been brought up to “keep the Army out of internal political conflicts.” To become otherwise engaged in domestic upheaval is anathema to their training and instincts. But generals are trained to act decisively, if the need arises; they are unlikely to sit back and watch their country disintegrate. Of course, the President is nominally their commander-in-chief. But when a nation is fracturing, some generals might put country first, the President second, and err on the side of Constitutional liberties.

It should be of some concern that Donald J. Trump is stacking his senior administration and advisors with generals: his “fondness” for what he calls “my Generals” is increasingly stark. My congressional representative, Barbara Lee, has suggested that Trump is “militarizing the White House.” Is Trump looking 14 chess moves ahead and foreseeing a time when his very survival in office is threatened? Does he envision 1932 Germany-style chaos overwhelming America? If he does, he must understand that local police forces will not be able to deal with the emergency; it will require the armed might of the Pentagon to keep him in office, possibly beyond the two-term limit imposed by the Constitution. By surrounding himself with “his” Generals now, Trump may be consciously putting into place the pieces he needs to gain the upper hand, and rule with an iron fist wherever in America he perceives his “enemies” to threaten him.


Team Trump’s dog whistle: “Prepare for civil war”

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It is clear to me that Trump is egging his people toward some sort of civil uprising in the event Mueller indicts him, which seems likely.

Trump’s incendiary speech last week in West Virginia suggests he is prepping his white nationalist followers for extra-legal action. His attack on Democrats, calling them “cheats” who are “demeaning” Republicans, was just the kind of stirring up of resentment Hitler used against socialists and Jews in his rise to power. Within moments of Trump’s rabble-rousing, Fox “News” was goose-stepping right beside him, with their rightwing agitator, Jeanine Pirro, calling for “an uprising” if Trump or any members of his family are indicated. Pirro, of course, ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in New York in 2006, a race Hillary Clinton won easily; one person who donated to Pirro’s disastrous campaign was Donald J. Trump.

An “uprising”? If there is one, the right will depend on their armed troops, the under-educated gangs of white men from rural red districts. One of their gurus, the “everybody should own an assault weapon” head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, anticipated Pirro in calling for armed resistance, in a defiant speech he delivered earlier this year to the Conservative Political Action Committee. “If you are a member of the leftist media…hear this: You are not going to win and you will not defeat us.” He added, to his white supremacist Christian soldiers, “We face an enemy utterly dedicated to destroy not just our country, but also Western civilization…Are you ready to fight back for what you believe in?”

Most sane Americans don’t take this sort of nonsense seriously, but in places like Breitbart, where sanity is in short supply, it’s their Kool-Aid. One of their most belligerent commentators, Pamela Geller, calls those concerned with Russian meddling in our election and Trump’s possible collusion “mutineers” and headlines her opinion piece “The Coming Civil War.”

And then there’s none other than Alex Jones, the shock jock, who has been egging on his conservative listeners and viewers—an estimated 2.7 million people monthly—to kill more liberal fellow citizens over their political differences.” On his “Info Wars” website, where tea party fans post videos of themselves dressed as Patrick Henry patriots, he riles his fans up like some banana republic generalissimo. Here’s a typical comment from a reader: “If we do have a civil war we will win. We have cops on our side, the army on our side and America loving patriots like trump on our side. But most importantly we have almighty God on our side. Godbless.”

Folks, I hope you see the insanity here—the homicidal rage and delusional madness for which we rightfully lock such people up as dangers to themselves and others. Look, I have a cousin, very dear to me, who is an extreme right winger. He hates the Clintons and the Obamas, although he can’t quite articulate why beyond a generalized fury. I asked my cousin where he gets his information and he replied, “From my gut.” That makes me sad, and alarmed. Your “gut” can’t explain climate change. It can’t explain the way forward in Afghanistan, or how to deal with border issues, or the fairest way to tax Americans. It can’t tell you if the Trump family is owned by Russian oligarchs, or which route you should drive to work, or anything else. These decisions require intelligent analysis based on a careful examination of evidence, not animal instinct. I feel sorry for my cousin, a Vietnam vet who has never forgiven the left for spitting on him when he came home. I understand his decades-old resentment, but it’s no excuse for him, or for any Trump supporter, to be so resistant to facts—including the facts that are steadily mounting against the Trump family. My cousin and I are too old to fight each other if there’s another civil war, and besides, we love each other. But the Pirros and Gellers and LaPierres and Alex Joneses seem to be itching for a fight. If Mueller indicts, things may get very ugly, very fast, and we need to be thinking about what to do if and when the right starts shooting.

MORE ON THIS TOMORROW


Inside the mind of a Trump apologist

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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.


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