Tonight, for the first time in the Trump Era, confusion reigns. The U.S. Military (or the Israelis, or the Saudis, or Iraqi Intelligence–by the quality and quantity of the rumors, the only thing you can bet is that we’ll never know for sure), targeted and took out a key Iranian political and military leader near the Baghdad airport.
Those who have read Trump aright and a-wrong, are scratching their heads together, trying to figure out where this fits….and coming to no conclusions. Charlie Pierce, the most anti-Trump voice I follow on Twitter, is gibbering about the War Powers Act. Econ Chick, the most pro-Trump voice I follow took hours to come up with a theory that neither comforts nor explains much.
I, on the other hand, have spent my life listening to rock and roll so I know exactly what happened, which is one of four things:
—Hubris. Donald Trump actually planned and ordered the hit, throwing four years of careful campaigning and governing out the window and putting his relationship with is anti-war base at risk for the first time, not to mention his own strategy of carefully mixing a light military touch with blustering “crazy-man” rhetoric and carefully defined economic pressure because….well, that’s the definition of hubris. An excess of pride. Could happen to any man who has been beating the odds for four years running.
—A ball of confusion. Somebody, somewhere saw a high value target pop up, went off half-cocked on the fly, made a fairly low level decision to take the target out on impulse, and now everybody, including Trump, is trying to figure out how to clean up the mess because somebody didn’t care whether his re-election changes just went from cruise control to iffy.
—The system did what the system does: Longstanding hush-hush orders that may well have predated the Trump, or even Obama, administrations, pushed events in the direction they were always intended to go, and everyone, including Trump, was caught with their pants down, in which case Trump and his team will be dancing on hot coals until they find a solution or war breaks out (after which, who knows what–wars have been started by less)
—Sabotage: What was it Chuck Schumer said: The intelligence Community can get you six ways from Sunday. If that’s the case, they just handed Trump a crap sandwich.
Well, you know how I roll. Once you have an Intelligence Community, they will eventually call all the real shots. But we’re never going to “know,” any more than we “know” whether the CIA assassinated John Kennedy or submarined Jimmy Carter’s re-election chances. You can bet that anyone who comes up with proof will be labelled a conspiracy kook by the media which any self-respecting Swamp State must assure provides you with all the News they think you deserve to hear, nothing more, nothing less.
I confess I’m a little surprised by it all and have no idea whether it will have real consequences or be a tempest in teapot.
A lot of people noted the juxtaposition of Chappaquiddick and the Apollo 11 moon landing this past weekend but I didn’t come across anyone who quite got the full significance of the deep cultural connection (or, some might say, disconnection) between two events that, had they not occurred within 24 hours of each other, would never be linked by the Cosmos, let alone the blog-o-verse.
But linked they are.
They meant little to me at the time. The moon landing was an anticlimax. I was there for the liftoff and everyone in my neighborhood knew the time to worry was between the testing process (the space where Gus Grissom and his crew had died in the chillingly recent past) and breaking the atmosphere (the space where Dick Scobee and his Challenger crew would die in the not-too-distant future). It wasn’t until Apollo 13 that anybody had a clue space itself might not be a cakewalk and this was soon forgotten, to be remembered when they made a movie about it years later, after which it was soon forgotten again.
As for the other, I never really heard much about Ted Kennedy abandoning Mary Jo Kopechne to death by suffocation and drowning while saving himself until he ran for President in the 1980 primary season and my Florida Panhandle barber, a yellow dog Democrat not exactly enamored of Jimmy Carter, announced he wasn’t going to vote for somebody who “couldn’t even get a whore across a bridge.”
It was a long time after that before I found out Mary Jo Kopechne was a campaign worker, not a party girl, not that it mattered to me. That she was left to die–and the man who left her at best a craven coward, at worst a monster of moral indifference–always seemed the important part.
It was even longer before a visit to the Kennedy Space Center, a stone’s throw from my earlier Space Coast childhood home, made me realize what my friends’ dads had pulled off. They coached Little League, came to the churches their wives took the kids to every Sunday on Easter and Christmas, never missed a day’s work, asked us if we wanted to look like girls the second our hair or fingernails got too long, and probably hated Ted Kennedy a lot worse than my Panhandle barber did, not to mention more than they loved the Kennedy brother who gave them their mission in the first place.
And if they didn’t yet hate ol’ Ted, they certainly hated his kind. Some primal part of their being knew his swamp-dwelling breed existed to drain the American Experiment of the meaning they had invested it with; of all meaning, in fact, except the example it will provide to whatever desolate future the epic failure his kind imposed across the ensuing half-century has now guaranteed.
Just a reminder: My father, then an active missionary, related a conversation he had with a recently retired general on the Southern Baptist rubber chicken circuit, circa 1982, in which the general, without giving away any classified secrets, expressed his strong opinion that what’s now called the Intelligence Community had sabotaged the Iran Hostage Rescue Mission. I didn’t give it much thought until a few years later when the details of the Iran/Contra “scandal” began emerging. I’ve given it a lot of thought since.
From reams of recent reading, a couple of small nuggets (all that is ever available to seekers of an understanding that cannot be got from journalism):
“Carter, I say, was not a stupid man,” Copeland recalled, though adding that Carter had an even greater weakness. “He was a principled man.”
(CIA spymaster, Miles Copeland*, quoted in Trick or Treason: The 1980 October Surprise Mystery, Robert Parry, 1993, republished 2016)
The best-case scenario looking forward is that Donald Trump is successful with rapprochement toward North Korea and Russia and that he throws a monkey wrench into the architecture of neoliberalism so that a new path forward can be built when he’s gone. If he pulls it off, this isn’t reactionary nationalism and it isn’t nothing.
We live in interesting times. Other news today announced Saudi Arabia suspending flights to and from Canada in response to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau taking sides with the Iranian government against the improbable US/Saudi/Israeli coalition that has formed since Donald Trump’s inauguration.
I say interesting because Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter to actually attempt some sort of action in opposition to the mullahs.
Every president in between (That’s Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama for those keeping count) condemned Iran in no uncertain terms rhetorically….while doing whatever it took (including, in Reagan and Bush the Elder’s cases, breaking a plethora of American and international laws and, in the case of both Bushes, waging wars against Iran’s most implacable and capable enemy, Saddam Hussein) to ensure Iran’s “Revolution” both survived and thrived.
I watch this stuff with extra interest because of what I mentioned above and because Carter and Trump are the only two presidents in my voting lifetime (which began in 1980) who have ever represented even a smidgen of my political beliefs.
It’s only a smidgen–I agreed with Carter more, but he did less–and, for different reasons, neither man inspires any warm personal feelings.
But, as Rob Urie has it, it’s not nothing.
The CIA (i.e. “Intelligence Community”) that first undermined Carter, then supported every action designed to strengthen Iran in the 35 years since, is the same CIA that is at work against Trump now–which may be why Carter (the last president to go to war with the Agency–and Trick or Treason, which I should be reviewing next month, is the history of where that got him) is the only living president who occasionally says nice things about Trump (or at least Trump’s policies).
More to the point: I enjoyed Urie’s essay, despite reams of the usual leftie blather that–even if a hundred million corpses had to be stacked to prove it–was old and dry before Herr Marx’s head hit the last pillow. He deploys phrases like “neoliberal” like they’ve never gone out of style.
Then again, he may be on to something. For those who have forgotten, Neoliberals were those whose rhetoric Neoconservatives sharpened and usurped in order to snatch bigger paychecks from the Overlords. Now that they are looking for a new home (George Will, Max Boot, Bill Kristol** are among those on record supporting Democrats in the mid-terms–supporting as in, The Republic Will Surely Fall if You Don’t!) the phrase, the older, softer, phrase may well come back in style.
If so, we can look forward to Will and Kristol getting the tongue baths they used to get from Fox News from Rachel Maddow.
Won’t that be fun.
Meanwhile, since this is a No-Sting zone, I’ll pass over “Every Breath You Take” (one of the Police’s few good records–see below for the connection) and declare my continued unyielding opposition to the Security State, for however long they reign as the most implacable enemy of decency, foreign or domestic, by giving you the real anthem of devotional paranoia:
*Copeland was the father of Police drummer, Stewart Copeland. No idea how far the apple fell from the tree but I knew there was a reason I never liked them.
**Will, Boot and Kristol were never identified as neoliberals. Most who were are retired or dead. They are the new names pasted on to the old types represented by their bootlicking spiritual forefathers)
I don’t think I’ve ever tagged anything a must read on here, but this, from Glenn Greenwald, comes pretty close. Turns out the Security State not only saw Donald Trump as the biggest threat to their hegemony since Jimmy Carter, and thereby resorted to operational tactics from the (long forgotten–by the media and the public at least) 1980 playbook–they even used some of the same people. If you don’t care to read the whole thing, the last paragraph will do.
It’s over folks. It matters not that Carter was a somewhat decent man and Trump a thoroughly indecent one. Nor that Carter was an Evangelical Democrat and Trump a Pagan Republican.
Because life’s just a Warren Zevon song now. Take your pick:
On the occasion of more “resignations” at FBI (following “demotions” and “firings” that have bled the agency’s top management for months–most at the behest of Obama appointed Inspector General Michael Horowitz), and a Federal Judge rebuking former FBI head Robert Mueller’s team for “lying about the scope of the investigation” into Trump fixer Paul Manafort which, you will be shocked to learn, is not really about Manafort’s ten-year-old fraud cases (which couldn’t have been new news even to Robert Mueller).
The judge, who had previously deemed Manafort a serious flight risk, was also a bit perturbed to discover that Mueller is using a warrant obtained in an FBI counterintelligence operation to pursue criminal prosecutions.
Apparently, that’s a no-no. Abuse of power or something.
What? By a Special Prosecutor who used to head the FBI? Say it ain’t so.
I haven’t quite been able to credit it before–and there’s a long way to go–but the Security State is, for the moment, back on its heels. The Trump administration, boxing from the shadows for a year-and-a-half, has now surpassed Jimmy Carter’s mass firing at Langley in the late 70s, and become the most serious threat to the real government behind the shadow puppets we elect every 2 to 4 years since John Kennedy threatened to smash the CIA in the early 60s.
We all know how it worked out for Kennedy and Carter…And Donald Trump might not be bound by whatever moral or legal constraints those men would have recognized should he, unlike them, emerge victorious.
So I ‘m not dancing a jig. We must all be careful what we wish for and one thing thirty-five years of knowing who’s really in charge has taught me is to trust no one.
But I am watching the dread institutions who must be disbanded before any other progress can be made–CIA, FBI, NSA, DNI, etc.–circle the drain.
As a fan of Liberal Democracy, who does not accept that free people need spy services, secret police forces or star chambers, I’d take a final flushing over Peace in Our Time, 2 percent Real Unemployment, a Balanced Budget, or a 30,000 Dow Average every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I didn’t have time to do monthly reports on the one or two books I was finishing each month in the first quarter, so I decided just to round them all up here. I’ve got mini-reviews of a ready made bestseller about Hillary Clinton’s almost successful presidential campaign and the first four novels in the Inspector Maigret series. The latter are better than the former…
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign (2017)
Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
We’ve since moved on to other things, and swiftly enough that this book is already forgotten. It probably deserves to be, but it’s not without interest.as a window on the world Hilary Clinton (and her husband) moved in for decades, a world in which the authors themselves are so thoroughly entrenched they’re hardly aware of their own insularity. It would take a skilled novelist to do the job of tackling the roiling psychodrama that is Hillary Clinton right. Allen and Parnes are barely competent as lackey journalists.
But, perhaps for that reason, they’re less likely to have any sort of filter. Expecting to do what Theodore White did for the 1960 election and what Mark Halperin and John Heillemann did for the 2008 election (i.e., insinuate themselves into history on the winning side) they were just as shocked as you were when Ms. Clinton lost. And, like many people, they were also not only shocked but hurt–not just because it was likely to cut sales in half. At no point do they draw any kind of bead on Donald Trump (the real story of the 2016 election even if he had lost). Having set out to write a book with a preconceived narrative–the first woman president’s stroll to victory–they were forced to backtrack.
When it was all said and done, they found every vindictive Clinton loyalist under every rock on the road meant to pave Hillary’s Napoleonic assault on the presidency. The Little Corporal’s field commanders were likely kinder to their fallen leader on the retreat from Moscow than the toadies interviewed here.
That said, Ms. Clinton must take full responsibility for the quality of her help. She handpicked them and, worse yet (displaying a quality Trump will never be accused of), trusted them.
This was her principal failing and the real reason for her downfall. Unable to organize a boat race in a bathtub–a fact that has been in evidence since at least those early days when her husband set her up to botch HillaryCare back in his first administration and a weakness which Allen and Parnes zero in on early and often, like mosquitoes feasting on a bulging vein–she also demonstrated, through two presidential campaigns and a disastrous reign as Secretary of State, that she had no capacity for choosing people who could do the job for her.
What that meant, in the end, was a constant need to intervene–or have blind loyalist toadies like Huma Abadin do it for her.
We all saw how that worked out.
Now it’s possible that the talent pool in our modern political parties is so dry no one can be rescued from themselves. Clinton did at least get within shouting distance of the prize. That’s more than you can say for Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, who started with just as much love from the people whose job it is to limit our choices each election cycle. Trump’s nomination (let alone his election) was an Establishment failure all around–their first since the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, and one with, I suspect, more far-reaching consequences.
Donald Trump is president because he was/is opposed by those who, like the ubiquitous sources–named and unnamed–quoted endlessly here, tend to describe anyone who opposes them as shit-for-brains.
Like Hillary Clinton, and the authors themselves, they cannot quite grasp their fundamental error–refusal to look in the mirror.
Worth reading, then, for those who need reminding.
Pietr the Latvian (1931) The Late Monsieur Gallet (1931) The Carter of La Providence (1931) The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien (1931)
These are the first four novels in Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series, which eventually ran to the 1970s and 75 volumes. Simenon wrote good mysteries. Maigret is an interesting character sketch (who perhaps became more than a sketch over so many books–I’ve only read a handful of the others before so I’m not prepared to make a judgment on that as yet).
But the principal merit of the Maigret novels is in capturing a time and place–Europe, France, Paris, before, during and after WWII.
That’s a sufficiently daunting task–and broad pallete–that, in combination with Simenon’s skill in choosing, page after page, just-right details to both establish a pointillist milieu and sustain a world-weary mood, it would stand as a considerable literary achievement even if Europe, France, Paris (before, during and after WWII), were of a great deal less interest to the present and future than they are.
All the books held my interest. But that Simenon (already incredibly prolific–he published all these in the same year) was just beginning to hit his stride is suggested by the fourth, The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien, being by far the strongest. It’s the first to pass from standard, if well-made, mystery plotting to a brush with both psychological horror and the air of political menace we all assume was an essential component of so many personal and national moods between the wars. It’s one thing to have written such novels after the war, with the benefit of hindsight. But this precedes even Hitler’s rise to power–and you can still feel something stirring that won’t be contained by mere politics. Meaning, in a presumably pulp form, you find conversation like this, as part of an explanation for three dead bodies:
‘And it was if we were rediscovering the world all on our own, naturally! We were full of opinions on every great problem, and full of scorn for society, established truths and everything bourgeois. When we’d had a few drinks and smoked up a storm, we’d spout the most cock-eyed nonsense, a hodgepodge of Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Moses, Confucius, Jesus Christ…
‘Here’s an example: I don’t remember which one of us discovered that pain doesn’t exist, the brain’s simply imagining it. One night I became so enthralled with the idea that, surrounded by my excited audience, I stabbed myself in the upper arm with a pocket knife and forced myself to smile about it.
‘And we had other wild inspirations like that…We were an elite, a coterie of geniuses who’d come together by chance and were way above the conventional world with its laws and preconceived opinions. A gathering of the gods, hey? Gods who were sometimes dying of hunger but strode through the streets with their heads high, crushing passers-by with their contempt.
….I don’t remember anymore who shouted, “True genius is destructive!”
It ends in murder, of course. And that’s only the beginning…of course. The survivors of the blood bath learn the hard way that it isn’t genius that’s destructive but nonsense and the only thing they end up destroying is each other.
The denouement has some real emotional power, unusual in detective novels and almost unheard of in procedurals. There was a reason Simenon drew raves from the likes of William Faulkner and Andre Gide.
I’m planning to read all the Maigret’s before I die. I read Maigret’s First Case before I started on these (being under the mistaken assumption it was the first written), so I’ve got seventy to go. I’m thinking I’ll need to live a few years at least…but I’m happy they’ve been put out in handsome, uniform editions. The spines will make a nice display on whatever shelf they finally adorn en toto.
But, on the strength of these, I suspect that what’s inside will always be more valuable.
….and the Betrayed: Suffer them for they are with you always.
As of this morning, the strongest voices–virtually the only voices–pushing back against the war drums beating in the Near and Far East, are Tulsi Gabbard and the Paleo-Right (Jones, Savage, Rockwell, Coulter).
The crazies, in other words. Business as usual.
The Responsible Democracts (now led by HIllary Clinton, with Obama, having served faithfully and well, conveniently inabsentia, she spent the morning of Trump’s strike against a single airbase calling for the destruction of all Syrian airbases…of course she did) joined by Responsible Republicans (led always by Ms. Clinton’s erstwhile ally, John McCain, who, behind his death-mask grin, assures us that order has been restored) are working hard to get Donald Trump (who ran against all of them and, for the first time, seems politically, as opposed to morally or intellectually, confused) on their side.
In other words, they’re warming up to him.
If Trump keeps going along, expect confusion on Twitter, Facebook and CNN, as Lefties try to adjust….We’ll hear a lot of “Well he’s a horrible human being of course, but….”
What comes after “but” won’t matter.
I’m not saying it will go this way. Just that if the first step–Trump’s public capitulation to business-as-usual Security Statism–isn’t reversed by concrete action, and soon, the rest will follow as naturally as water running downhill. Even having gone no further than this, Howard Dean and other reliable bellwethers of Elite Opinion are already calling for Gabbard’s removal. It’s unclear whether they think the “people of Hawaii” should wait for one of those silly old elections.
Get your bets down now on how long it is before they’re calling her a Russian Agent.
I’m laying six-fifty-and-even on a week from Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Trump’s actions are only surprising in that they constitute his first serious misreading of his base. Bringing back jobs and Build That Wall won’t matter much if he goes all Slim Pickens and brings us “toe to toe with the Russkies.”
And he won’t dodge the matrix of fates he turned into serious possibilities by opposing the Security State in the first place.
Playing nice won’t help him avoid the Standard Options: assassination (the Kennedy Option), impeachment/removal (the Nixon Option) or political humiliation, up to and including possible sabotage of military operations (the Carter Option).
The Intelligence Community won’t stop hating him if he becomes their puppet.
And they won’t start trusting him, no matter how hemmed in or subservient he becomes.
They’ll just stop fearing him.
Until last week, he seemed smart enough to understand this–that losing the fight he picked will mean death or disgrace. Now, it’s anyone’s guess. Since I place no faith in him (nor, per Isaiah, any Prince), I won’t be surprised if he turns out to be less cunning than he has so far seemed.
Unless, of course, this was what he intended all along, which would make him very cunning indeed.
And how different will this sound, closing those rallies, if it turns out he had a deal in place all along….If it was always pointed at his supporters, rather than his enemies.
This is not a political blog. I routinely insert political thoughts (and more occasionally, theological ones) into my regular writing because that’s the way I see life. As I said to a friend of mine when I started the blog: “You know me. Rock and roll is just a way of seeing the world.”
But since we now live in such interesting times, I’ve been revisiting my history of little personal political insights and what’s a blog for if not to share random thoughts that invade the mind, unbidden, now and again?
At the end, I might just talk myself into making a prediction about the direction of Donald Trump’s presidency. Before all that, you can check my track record.
From this, all else grows…
1974 (Age 13): Richard Nixon resigns from the presidency to avoid impeachment and conviction. He is pardoned by Gerald Ford. Me: “I bet there’s gonna be a lot of criminal presidents from now on.”
My logic: If Richard Nixon was as bad as everybody said he was–and everybody said it, even in my Nixon-supporting part of the world–and the penalty for whatever he did was early retirement, then it didn’t seem like much of a deterrence.
My track record: After Jimmy Carter, they all look like crooks to me. If only some of them look that way to you, you might want to open that other eye. Unless, of course, you’ve accepted ol’ Dick’s logic that it’s not criminal if the president does it!
1980 (Age 19): Campaigning for president, Ronald Reagan promises that he will increase spending, cut taxes and eliminate the budget deficit, which was then standing at a scandalous sixty-something billion dollars. Me: “I bet if he wins, we’re gonna have a whole lot more debt.”
My logic: Math.
My track record: Reagan won. By 1988, when he left office, the deficit stood at a hundred and eighty-something billion dollars and we had switched to a permanent credit economy which would allow us to borrow without limits and never have to pay it back. The deficit is now around twenty trillion. We rack up another sixty billion every week or two. Good going, 1980.
1984 (Age 23): At the Democratic National Convention, party nominee Walter Mondale uses his acceptance speech to capitulate (I always assumed it was his attempt at imitating Franklin Roosevelt in Firesign Theater’s “Nick Danger, Third Eye” bit). I decide I will not vote in the election. I also decide I will not vote in any future elections.
My logic: What’s the point if it doesn’t matter?
My track record: Mondale lost in a record landslide. I have voted in every election since. I’m not going to discuss who I voted for in any of those elections because it has not mattered.
1990 (Age 29): We invade Iraq. In the run-up up to the invasion, Christopher Hitchens, still lucid at that point, says if we invade it will be the start of a new hundred years’ war. Me: “That sounds about right.”
My logic: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to….yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.” Santayana. Smart guy.
My track record: We’ve entered the war’s 27th year. Christopher Hitchens, who began supporting the war around it’s twelfth year, lies a-moldering in his grave. The war goes on. A hundred years still sounds about right.
1990s (Age “sometime in my thirties”): Me, apropos of nothing: “Free people do not need a security state…”
My logic: “….Because security states exist to preserve themselves, not freedom.” Me in my thirties. Not Santayana, but not half bad.
My track record: Hard to tell. But I used to say: “Everything I really needed to know I learned from rock and roll.” Now I say: “Everything I really needed to know, I learned from Philip K. Dick novels.”
2001 (Age 40): On September 11, the World Trade Center is leveled by terrorists in hi-jacked planes. The Pentagon is attacked by another. Another goes down in a Pennsylvania field, prevented by the passengers from incinerating either the White House or the Capitol. George W. Bush responds by fleeing from Florida to Nebraska. Later, much later, after everyone has patted his hand and told him everything will be alright, he gives a speech to a joint session of congress. Then him and Tom Daschle (Remember him? No? Lucky you.) give each other a big ol’ bear hug to celebrate our victory. (As imitations of “Nick Danger, Third Eye” go, this was almost hallucinatory). Me, in an e-mail to a friend: “I hope we don’t need leaders in this fight, because we ain’t exactly got Churchill.” My friend tries to assure me it will be alright because the generals know what they are doing. I refuse to be comforted.
My logic: Wars are not won by men who return to Washington from Florida by way of Nebraska because Washington might be dangerous. You can be stupid and win a war. You can be a criminal and win a war. You can be a mama’s boy who, in Ann Richards’ immortal phrase, “was born on third base and thought he hit a triple” and win a war. You can’t be a coward.
My track record: Well, if we ever do win that war, it won’t be on the coward’s watch.
2004 (Age 43): John Kerry runs for president. He debates George W. Bush. Bush sends a batting practice fastball down the middle, saying that it sounded to him like if Kerry had been president (on the aforementioned 9/11), Saddam Hussein would still have been in power. Instead of saying “If I’d been president, Saddam would be in jail and Osama Bin Laden would be in the cell next to him,” Kerry gave a two-thousand word response that amounted to “Now that’s no necessarily so.” Me: “Goodbye.”
My logic: The coward or the pedant? Who cares.
My track record: John Kerry lost his election. Eventually he became Secretary of State and achieved his life’s goal of turning pedantry into an art form whilst the world burned.
2008 (Age 47): Barrack Obama is elected president. Me: “Interesting. And it’s really nice to check that ‘first African-American president’ box. But, in the midst of all this euphoria, I do wish I could see him.”
My logic: “He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land…” John Lennon: Smart guy.
My track record: Too soon to tell, but if a tide comes in, it does tend to wash away the castles you made of sand. And tides do usually come in.
2015 (Age 54): A couple of Beltway reporters kibitzing on Diane Rehm’s PBS show, spend a few minutes trying to one-up each other on just how impossible it will be for Donald Trump to win the Republican Nomination. Me: “If you think he has no chance, you’re crazy.”
My logic: “Call out the instigators, because there’s something in the air.”
Did I mention that, once upon a time, I learned everything I really needed to know from rock and roll?
My track record: Donald Trump will become president on January 20.
One factor, which peeked through the underbrush throughout the last year-and-a-half as Trump systematically (yes, systematically) ripped through everyone from Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton to real power brokers like Megyn Kelly and Jeff Bezos, is that the Security State is not simply worried but frightened. Since the election the peepin’ and a hidin’ and the slippin’ and a slidin’ has become something close to full-blown warfare. Trump has made it abundantly clear that, on Jan. 20, he intends to become the third sitting president to take on the shadow government.
I have no prediction on how it will come out. It did not work out for John Kennedy or Jimmy Carter, whose respective penalties were death and political humiliation.* The Security State is, on one sense, more powerful than ever. Its tentacles gained strength and length by leaps under Bush the Younger and leaps and bounds under Obama. But it is not the top-down machinery that took down JFK (allegedly) and Carter (allegedly**). Without Cold War clarity, there is deep consensus about needs (more power), but much confusion about goals (to what specific end?). Battling cave-dwellers has simply not been as simple or as satisfying as taking on the old Evil Empire. That, plus the sheer size and scope of its expansion has left the Leviathan dazed and weakened at the moment when it will have to face its greatest threat.
So whether they can defeat a determined Trump is an open question and I have no feel in my stomach’s empty pit for how it will come out.
Neither do I have any feel for how Trump would handle either victory or defeat. The great danger–one which is barely hinted at in all the incoherent babbling about fascism and the like–is that Trump will be both willing and able (and at this point it would be far safer, if that’s the right word, to bet against his will than his ability) to replace the praetorian guard we’ve long allowed, in true fascist style, to build around state security, with one built around a cult of personality, one which could presumably be transferred with little fuss to his handsome, hungry children. I will only say that, should he turn in that direction, there will be precious little to stop him and all who had faith in an ever-deteriorating system–me included, as I did keep “voting”–will share the blame.
I wish there was a song for that.
*Eisenhower doesn’t count, as his famous warning about the military industrial complex, while virtuous, was issued on the way out the door. Of course he was right. But that’s like dissing your tyrannical boss at your retirement ceremony.
There is precious little literature on Carter’s demise and I’m not even up on what does exist. But I can pass along this anecdote.
Back in the early 80’s my dad was a home missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention. One of his duties was to visit local conventions around the country and trade ideas for effective mission work. That put him on kind of a rubber chicken circuit several times a year and, at one congregational supper, he found himself next to a recently retired Army general.
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was a personality and strangers generally had one of two responses to him: run screaming from the room or tell him things they wouldn’t have told their own mother. Evidently, the general was in the latter camp. The subject of Carter came up, as it nearly always did in Southern Baptist circles in those days, and my dad mentioned that, despite everything, he had voted for him.
The general said: “You weren’t wrong.”
From there, the discussion went to the general’s dark knowledge, only a little of which he could share, of course, of the failed Iranian hostage rescue mission. Long story short, the general was of the informed opinion that the mission had been sabotaged. When my dad pressed him as to who would do such a thing, the answer was nonspecific but the general did say the forces behind it were aiming at a change in the presidency. The way my dad reported it to me, the general said: “They were looking to replace him with either Ted Kennedy or George Bush.”
Reliable assets both.
Take it all with a grain of salt.
But, if that was their aim, they came close enough. And, until Trump the Dread says otherwise, we still live in their world, patiently, and helplessly, awaiting the fate of all who accept a Security State’s version of “safety.”
I was gonna go with hearing “Low Rider” and “Honky Tonk Women” back to back on the radio, which was its own sort of statement and the best radio “up” I’ve heard all year. What could beat that?
Well, nothing could beat it, of course. But something could displace it and that something turned out to be Gerald Ford’s speech at the 1976 Republican Convention and Walter Mondale’s at the 1984 Democratic Convention, played back to back on C-Span.
God help me, I tried to turn away but I couldn’t. Sometimes you forget how sad the past really was until it jumps up out of nowhere and rubs itself in your face. And you’ll never guess what big shared theme was.
Try “Make America Great Again.”
Not in so many words maybe (words were not a highlight of these speeches, though I’m still trying to get my mind around what Mondale meant by “impudent bureaucracy,”**) but unmistakable all the same. And, of course, they both lost, but only because Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan sold the same message better (Reagan did it in those exact words). To listen to these men was to make me fear for my country’s past.
I still say Trump will win and the pod people who replaced the Stones in 1973 will play his inaugural as long as he doesn’t have to pony up more than the cost of the election. There’s no way the cheap bastard will go higher.
And I still say they’ll chicken out on “Honky Tonk Women” and “Brown Sugar” just like they did at the Super Bowl.
Get your bets down now, folks. And remember you heard it here first.
(**My best guess is something like, “They’ve got their hands around your throat? Those scamps. I promise I’ll make them stop!” Whether that’s right or wrong, I was definitely reminded why 1984 was the only election I ever sat out.)
So today The National Enquirer outed the “morality” candidate, Ted Cruz, as a hound dog. Allegedly, of course. Like Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Jessie Jackson, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, and other previous tabloid deniers before him, he has issued heated categorical denials. We shall see.
Anyway, pursuing the leads on-line, I ran across this, which is the most succinct analysis of our present down-the-rabbit-hole state I’ve seen. I mean one is never surprised, but…
Anybody who thinks Donald Trump is merely an obnoxious doofus who sprang from nowhere and is riding a periodic wave of Standard American Nativist Paranoia to inevitable defeat is sadly mistaken. His (or his campaign’s) canny use of popular music was, as I suspected, a canary in the coalmine. He came from this tabloid world, was in fact created by it, and understands it better than anyone he’s running against. Way better.
And, having done his research (boy did he do his research), and smelled an opportunity, he’s tearing it down, board by maggot-ridden board, on his way to a presidency which his five predecessors–three Republicans and two Democrats–have gradually prepared the entire electorate, half the country at a time, to accept as a purely authoritarian office, subject to no oversight but the executive’s own will.
There’s a certain irony in a man who may have privately benefited from our increasingly public combination of social libertinism (the obsession of the Liberals-Who-Do-Not-Liberate, not-so-discreetly enabled by the “right”) and economic feudalism (the obsession of the Conservatives-Who-Do-Not-Conserve, not-so-discreetly enabled by the “left”), more than any other single individual on the planet, taking a wrecking ball to the inevitable consequences. If he does indeed turn out to be some sort of proto-fascist, he’ll have been one of our own making and exactly what we deserve. Donald Trump–and Hilary Clinton (a pure product of the world captured in the link above and now likely the only person who can prevent him from becoming president, thus preserving half the present style of corruption for another round or two)–are what emerge from the walls only after the foundational timbers have rotted.
So here’s to Ted Cruz, while we await his inevitable tearful apology concerning the “pain he caused in his marriage”:
And to the “Republican” Establishment, which finally swallowed its own tongue and threw in with the previously leper-like Cruz mere days before Trump put him in his sights: