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Two classic examples of Republican false narratives

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Did you ever read an op-ed piece that made you so angry, you wanted to rip it up and flush it down the toilet? I did, yesterday—not once, but twice.

The first was called “Does a ‘Never Trumper’ need to be forgiven?” and was in the National Review. It was authored by Jonah Goldberg. A rightwing Republican, Goldberg was not for Trump during the campaigns. He admits upfront he was “wrong” in believing Trump could not win the nomination, or the election if he were nominated—which puts him in the same category as a lot of us. He admits also that his chief concern was Trump’’s “character,” which he describes as “unrestrained ego, impoverished impulse-control and contempt for policy due diligence…Character is destiny,” he warns.

Okay, so far, so good…right track, Jonah!

But then, Goldberg goes off the rails. Just when I thought that maybe, just maybe there’s hope for a Tea Party radical to occasionally stumble into the truth, Goldberg undermines his own argument by stating that Trump’s “Cabinet appointments and policy proposals [are] reassuring.” Trump, he claims, “has surrounded himself with some serious and sober-minded people who will try to constrain and contain the truly dangerous aspects of his character.”

How’s that again? After assuring us of Trump’s dangerous character, he tells us, Hey, Trump may be psychotic, he may be a lunatic with his finger on the nuclear codes, but not to worry, because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people–like Newt Gingrich? The religious extremist David Friedman? Rick “Ooops” Perry? Doctor Ben Carson, who doesn’t believe in evolution? Jeff Sessions, the former Ku Klux Klansman? Steve Bannon, the white supremacist? Rex Tillerson, who makes his money off bromancing Putin? I suppose some “good Germans” convinced themselves in the 1930s that Hitler, who everyone knew was mad, couldn’t do much harm because he surrounded himself with “sober-minded people” like Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Look Jonah Goldberg, if you had the awareness to discern Trump’s mental sickness, then nothing gives you the right to predict everything will be okay because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people. You knew during the campaign that Trump was unfit to be President. You know he still is. You’re either fooling yourself with these lame excuses, or you’re hoping to earn your way into his good graces so you’ll get invited to press conferences and state dinners. But then, consider the source: Jonah Goldberg is the son of Lucianne Goldberg, who in the 1990s was one of the nastiest rightwing activists in the country, a spy who infiltrated McGovern’s campaign to discredit it, and the woman who talked Linda Tripp into bringing her Monica Lewinsky tapes to the abominable Kenneth Starr. Jonah, her son, was raised in this poisonous atmosphere of sexual obsession and hatred for liberal democracy; he worked alongside his mother to bring about Clinton’s impeachment, and now is a denizen of the worst rightwing rags in the country. This is clearly a man who isn’t running on all cylinders; one feels almost sorry for him these days, having alienated himself from his own party and, apparently, from his own conscience. As Trump might tweet, #Pathetic.

The other article—even worse—is by the foremost Clinton and Obama hater of our generation, Karl Rove. It was in the Wall Street Journal and was called “A Preview of Obama’s Post-Presidency.” When I saw the headline, I thought, this could be interesting. Perhaps Rove will speculate, in a genuinely historical way, about what Obama might do, comparing him to other former Presidents, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (both admirable ex-POTUSes) and George W. Bush, who seems to do nothing but hang out in Crawford and occasionally give a paid speech.

But no, Rove just can’t get that lump of hatred out of his sphincters. Instead of something intellectual, in the very first sentence Rove calls Obama “whiny, self-justifying, and bursting with excuses.” And that’s just for starters. In the last sentence, Rove predicts Obama will be “a carping, persistent presence in our nation’s capital.” As for the nonsense inbetween the opening and closing sentences, it’s nothing but a screed of vile insults.

All I will say is that President Obama’s job approval rating in the third week of December, according to Real Clear Politics, was 53.6%, higher than both Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s when they left office. (And let’s not forget Michelle Obama, another frequent target of Rove’s character assassinations, whose approval rating was much higher than her husband’s, an amazing 66%.)

Rove knows, I know, and you know (although Trump may not) that Obama is going to go down in the history books as a major President—and Republicans will be vilified for their obstructionism and racism. If history records Rove at all in some footnote, it will be as a partisan attack dog of the far right who developed the skills (since mastered by Trump) of lies, innuendo and disinformation, from his first political campaign to the dirty work he did for George W. Bush, who Rove also knows will be ranked by historians in the lowest tier of U.S. Presidents. The last thing Rove wants is an articulate former Democratic President, particularly a black man, having a voice of influence in coming years, who is trusted by wide majorities of Americans. That, I would argue, is exactly what we need–and there is no better person to fulfill it than Barack Obama.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    “… After assuring us of Trump’s dangerous character, he [Goldberg] tells us, Hey, Trump may be psychotic, he may be a lunatic with his finger on the nuclear codes, but not to worry, because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people . . .”

    Some assert we had an antecedent to president-elect Trump in the White House . . .

    Henry Kissinger as secretary of state “walked back” a drunken, mood-altering psychotherapy prescription drug-taking, and enraged president Richard Nixon from some calamitous decisions. Or discreetly and unilaterally decided not to convey presidential orders to the White House staff for implementation.

    See “Drunk in Charge [Part Two]” (The Guardian)

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/extracts/story/0,6761,362959,00.html

    Excerpt:

    “If the president had his way,” Kissinger growled to aides more than once, “there would be a nuclear war each week!” This may not have been an idle jest. The CIA’s top Vietnam specialist, George Carver, reportedly said that in 1969, when the North Koreans shot down a US spy plane, “Nixon became incensed and ordered a tactical nuclear strike… The Joint Chiefs were alerted and asked to recommend targets, but Kissinger got on the phone to them. They agreed not to do anything until Nixon sobered up in the morning.”

  2. Bob Henry says:

    And then there was the sober president Richard Nixon.

    See “Madman theory” (Wikipedia)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_theory

    The madman theory was a feature of Richard Nixon’s foreign policy. He and his administration tried to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think Nixon was irrational and volatile. According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the United States, fearing an unpredictable American response.

    Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, wrote that Nixon had confided to him:

    “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

    In October 1969, the Nixon administration indicated to the Soviet Union that “the madman was loose” when the United States military was ordered to full global war readiness alert (unbeknownst to the majority of the American population), and bombers armed with thermonuclear weapons flew patterns near the Soviet border for three consecutive days.

    The administration employed the “madman strategy” to force the North Vietnamese government to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War. Along the same lines, American diplomats, especially Henry Kissinger, portrayed the 1970 incursion into Cambodia as a symptom of Nixon’s supposed instability.

    In 1517, Machiavelli had argued that sometimes it is “a very wise thing to simulate madness” (Discourses on Livy, book 3, chapter 2). In Nixon’s Vietnam War, Kimball argues that Nixon arrived at the strategy independently, as a result of practical experience and observation of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s handling of the Korean War.

    The Madman strategy was also used by Vladimir Putin.

  3. Bob Henry says:

    From The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
    (January 3, 2017, Page A4):

    “The Method in Trump’s [Maddening] Messaging Habits”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-method-in-donald-trumps-maddening-communications-habits-1483377825

    By Gerald F. Seib
    “Capital Journal” Column

    The lead:

    “Is it method or madness?

    “That is the question perplexing the world as President-elect Donald Trump continues his unorthodox campaign-season communications habits. He tweets, apparently randomly. He wades into subjects that he could easily avoid. He picks fights. …”

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