No Heroes Will Save Us

WaPo is running an excerpt from the book A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America that shows us what happened when the adults in the room tried to explain foreign policy to the Creature. The Joint Chiefs and other top military brass were there.

Mattis, Cohn, and Tillerson and their aides decided to use maps, graphics, and charts to tutor the president, figuring they would help keep him from getting bored. Mattis opened with a slide show punctuated by lots of dollar signs. Mattis devised a strategy to use terms the impatient president, schooled in real estate, would appreciate to impress upon him the value of U.S. investments abroad. He sought to explain why U.S. troops were deployed in so many regions and why America’s safety hinged on a complex web of trade deals, alliances, and bases across the globe.

All of this went right over Trump’s empty head. Skipping to the end of the meeting …

“I want to win,” he said. “We don’t win any wars anymore .?.?. We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we’re not winning anymore.”

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.

Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

Here was Cadet Bone Spurs insulting a room full of officers who had fought real wars and had given their lives to national defense. They were devastated, the text says. Do read the whole thing if you haven’t already. The only one who talked back was Rex Tillerson, who flat-out told Trump he was wrong. Flat lot of good that did.

Now, let’s skip to what Paul Waldman wrote about this:

… one thing their account makes clear is that there are only two kinds of people in Trump’s orbit: the utterly morally compromised, and the slightly less but still profoundly morally compromised. …

…Reading this account, one is tempted to honor Tillerson for his courage in standing up to the president. The story recounts that others thanked the secretary of state for doing so, and he did it again at a subsequent meeting.

But here’s what Tillerson didn’t do. He didn’t call a news conference to announce that he was resigning and explain that he could not in good conscience work for a president who had such dangerous ideas about how to wield power and held the military in such contempt. Instead, he stayed on the job for another eight months — until Trump fired him.

And ever since, Tillerson has been practically silent. So too has Mattis, who stayed in Trump’s employ for nearly two years, then resigned and sealed his lips shut. We’ve heard stories about how Mattis tried to calm Trump down or, at times, simply ignored the president’s more erratic orders, such as the time Trump called him after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack and said “Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them.”

It’s certainly a good thing that Mattis, like others in the administration, at times quietly kept Trump from acting on his most abhorrent impulses. But Mattis chose not to take an extraordinary opportunity — and still makes that choice.


One of the central values of the American military is that they are subservient to civilian authority, and civilian authority is personified in the Commander in Chief. So exposing the POTUS as a monster would be extraordinarily difficult thing for them, no question. But more difficult than, say, storming Normandy Beach?

Further, the Right would publicly eviscerate them, no doubt. They’d be subject to vicious  scorn and ridicule for the rest of their lives. Their right-wing friends would disown them. But these are not stupid men (and they are pretty much all men). Surely they see that something is terribly wrong that cannot be allowed to continue. Yet they stay silent.

And who is talking? A mid-level mobster named Lev Parnas. And Parnas is talking, he says, because he felt disrespected by his former colleagues who didn’t defend him when he was indicted. Plus, he is afraid of Bill Barr.

“They’re trying to scare me into not talking,” Parnas said of officials in the Justice Department, adding that “My wife is scared. My kids are nervous.”

He’s not waiting around to be asked to testify in court. He’s showing the world everything he’s got. They can’t shut him up if he’s already talked.

Parnas, who is free on bond, described a tense meeting in jail with his former lawyer John Dowd, who also represented Trump. According to Parnas, Dowd and Kevin Downing visited Parnas in jail to try to talk him out of cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry.

“Were they telling you to sacrifice yourself to protect the president?” Maddow asked.

“That’s the way I felt,” Parnas replied, adding that he told the two lawyers, “If you don’t get out of here right now, something bad is going to happen.” He then fired them. His current lawyer, Joseph Bondy, was at his side for the interview.

Well, you take what you get. The logical step for the Trumpers is to try to undermine Parnas, but so far all they’ve come up with is to deny knowing him …

Parnas also released a video showing himself and Trump together at some function at Mar-a-Lago.

The Right appears to be falling back on the “so what?” defense.

It has long been obvious that Republicans would ultimately converge on this final defense of President Trump: Even if he did everything he has been accused of doing, and perhaps a lot more that we don’t know about, it’s absolutely fine!

We now have a particularly ugly preview of what this defense may look like, as Trump’s Senate trial gets underway. On Sean Hannity’s Thursday night show, former Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus said:

Sometimes the best defense is the ‘so what’ defense. If everything the Democrats said is true, it’s still not impeachable. If everything Lev Parnas said is true, it’s still not impeachable. That’s what this is about.

Hannity endorsed the argument. Parnas is the former accomplice of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani who just revealed explosive details about Trump’s scheme to extort Ukraine into doing his dirty political deeds.

See also

Last week on Fox, Brit Hume said the quiet part loud when trying to explain the GOP senators’ actions:

Just for the sake of discussion. If John Bolton comes in and he says: “Yep the president wanted the Bidens, and he withheld the aid for a time to try and get that done”—I don’t think that adds anything to the sum of our knowledge. I don’t think very many senators are going to say that they think Trump did that or that he’s guilty of that but I think most of them think that he did.

Okie dokie then.

The weird thing about this is that Hume seems to think that by admitting that GOP senators privately know the president pressured a foreign government to launch a sham investigation against his political rival, he’s providing cover for the senators rather than revealing their dishonesty.

There are two kinds of Republicans now. The worst of them believe that any dirty, underhanded, unlawful thing Trump does to get re-elected is righteous, because otherwise liberals will win. And that is unthinkable, because … well, because. The rest of them know that Trump is guilty and depraved but don’t turn on him because doing so would destroy the careers and connections they’ve spent a lifetime cultivating.  And they’re afraid of Trump.

Patriotism? What’s that?

Chief Justice Roberts probably doesn’t want to go anywhere near this. He’ll want to appear to be nonpartisan, but in our current political landscape that isn’t possible, and no matter what he does, he will piss off a lot of people. He’s expected to defer to the will of the Senate in all things. However, in the case of a 50-50 vote, he’s the tie-breaker, not the Vice President. Oh, I bet he’s hoping there’s no 50-50 vote.

Steve M found a tweet about a woman who caucused for Sanders in 2016, then voted for a Trump. She supports Medicare for All but plans to vote for Buttigieg, and if Buttigieg isn’t nominated she plans to vote for Trump again. Yes, this woman is a flaming idiot, and I would dearly love to smack her. But here’s the point —

It’s politics as lifehack. She’s looking for One Weird Trick that will solve all of America’s problems. Revolution! MAGA! A gay millennial! The only surprise is that she’s not supporting Andrew Yang, the ultimate lifehack candidate.

There will be no one wierd trick that will fix our politics, folks. There is no magic wand, no magic bullet. There’s not even a Magic Candidate. Even if your favorite candidate is elected president, the policies that person is promising won’t get through Congress intact. Even if a minority in Congress, Republicans aren’t gong to come to their senses and behave like normal people by 2021. And there will be no heroes who will come forward to save us from Trump and stop his re-election. We have to do that ourselves.