Saturday, September 08, 2018

Convenient Timing

Following release of excerpts from Bob Woodward's "Fear" etc. and publication in The New York Times of the piece by the anonymous staffer alarmed by President Trump's persona, The New Yorker's Susan B. Glasser wrote

As Thomas Wright, a Brookings scholar who has emerged as one of the most insightful analysts of Trump’s foreign policy, told me, “It’s the first time, maybe in history, key advisers have gone into the Administration to stop the President, not to enable him”—and that was back in January. The call has always been coming from inside the building.

Credit Wright with being right at the time he wrote that months ago. But fault Glasser for making the argument now.

Consider the ideological arguments made byAnonymous:

-To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

-Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

-Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

This piece was written by a right-winger, probably one pleased with the nomination to the US Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh.

Admittedly, once the identity of the author is revealed, he will not be labeled a right-winger, and in most circles, not even a conservative.  As a critic of the President's style, manner, and fitness for the job, one who has not criticized ethnic minorities, immigrants, or the gay community, he will not be tarred as extremist by either the left nor the centrist, establishment media. Republicans, who do nothing but defend the President, will not credit the dissenter as any kind of conservative.

(The pronoun "he" is used only because there are more men than women in the Administration, thus making it more likely- statistically- that the culprit is a man.)

But make no mistake. The remarks of Anonymous are the words and sentiments of someone on the far right rather than of a moderate, of whom there are close to zero in Washington. They are the words and sentiments also of, in the popular psycho-jargon, an "enabler.," 

That is in part because, as David Frum observes, "what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president's willfulness." This may have been unintentional on the part of  the author but it is almost inconceivable that he would be unaware of the impact of the op-ed given its timing.

The majority- nearly the entirety, if Democrats retake the House in November- of President Trump's agenda already has taken place. Erasing health and safety regulations, pushing income and wealth upward by a huge tax cut, weakening labor, emasculating the Affordable Care Act, and establishing the federal government as a tool of the powerful and privileged have been largely accomplished.

Not all, of course. While attention was focused on revelations of the chaos inside the Administration, placing a second right-wing judge on the Supreme Court took a step forward. This despite, as the Times editorialized, Brett Kavanaugh this past week

testified that Roe v. Wade is “settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court.” But he said essentially the opposite in a 2003 email leaked to The Times. “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” he wrote then....

At his 2004 confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, he denied any involvement in the vetting of a controversial judicial nominee while serving as one of President George W. Bush’s White House lawyers. The nominee, William Pryor Jr., had among other things called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” In fact, Mr. Kavanaugh was more than a little involved, as emails from that period— which Senate Republicans had withheld until early Thursday morning — made clear.

In that 2004 hearing and again in 2006, when he was being considered for a seat on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., Mr. Kavanaugh told Congress, under oath, that he knew nothing about the extensive theft of secret strategy documents from Democratic senators’ computers by Republican staffers. As it turns out, he did in fact receive those documents or summaries of them. But he now claims that he had no reason to believe that they had been stolen, even though one email he got had the subject line “spying” and began, “I have a friend who is a mole for us on the left.”

Kavanaugh's honesty is impressive only when compared to that of the man who nominated him, who himself may be shielded from the consequences of his actions by a judge who has "a monarchical view of the presidency."  The nominee, who in testimony compared birth-control to "abortion-induced drugs," is both a forced-birth and anti-labor extremist. He deftly combines cultural and economic radicalism in one package.

Of course it does. However, it doesn't matter because no one can hear it. Similarly, while testimony and documents released this past week demonstrated the danger posed by confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, there was almost no one around to hear it.  The country was transfixed (insofar as it could be on anything coming out of Washington) on Woodward's book and Anonymous' op-ed. The timing of the latter was unfortunate- and more than a little suspicious.

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