The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

Boiling to Death in Paranoia

“The entire Trump phenomenon was, from the very beginning, about conservative fear of losing America.” — Zack Beauchamp, Vox

Now that we’ve had a few hours to digest the documents case indictments — wow, this was worse than I imagined. He had boxes containing highly classified documents stuffed all over Mar-a-Lago, including in publicly accessible bathrooms and ballrooms and whatnot. And Jack Smith has testimony that on some occasions Trump showed this stuff to random people. And he knew good and well he wasn’t supposed to have those documents, or else why go to such lengths to hide them from the National Archives and FBI?

I see that people still on Twitter are linking to a 2022 interview of Kid Rock by Tucker Carlson, in which Kid Rock seems to be saying Trump showed him a classified map of North Korea. Let that sink in.

Trump is a grotesquely warped person. We knew that all along. I’m not terribly surprised any more at anything he does. I believe I’ve said before that he makes more sense if you imagine him to be a spoiled pre-adolescent boy. But what’s frustrating is the rest of the Republican Party and its institutional support structure.

A lot of us are old enough to remember the televised Watergate and Nixon impeachment hearings, in which Republicans for the most part treated the hearings seriously, asked intelligent questions, and made intelligent comments. I don’t remember anyone gaslighting the proceedings to turn it into a clown show to protect Nixon. And we’ve all heard the story about how bleeping Barry Goldwater and other senators told Nixon he’d better just resign. In those days, Republicans knew when it was time to cut somebody loose. Not now. Even now nearly all of the Republican/right wing establishment is pushing the claim that President Biden ordered the indictments to knock Trump out of the 2024 presidential race.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote today, “Americans will inevitably see this as a Garland-Biden indictment, and they are right to think so.” Seriously? WSJ continues,

Thirty-one of the counts are for violating the ancient and seldom-enforced Espionage Act for the “willful retention of national defense information.”

But it’s striking, and legally notable, that the indictment never mentions the Presidential Records Act (PRA) that allows a President access to documents, both classified and unclassified, once he leaves office. It allows for good-faith negotiation with the National Archives. Yet the indictment assumes that Mr. Trump had no right to take any classified documents.

Did they bleeping even read the indictments? At what point was Trump in any way engaging in “good faith negotiations” with the National Archives? And the thing continues with the usual whataboutism. Joe Biden had classified documents in his garage! Hillary Clinton’s emails!

The editors of the National Review, who were the original Never Trumpers as I recall, at least admit that Trump deserves to be prosecuted. But to get to that part you have to wade through verbiage about how those nefarious lefties have been twisting the law to get to Trump.

Trump fans online are calling for civil war and mass murder. We’ll see if they get off their sofas to actually do anything, though.

What’s the difference between 1974 Republicans and 2023 Republicans? It’s not as if the Republican Party hasn’t gone off the rails before. They famously were the party of Joe McCarthy some years earlier. But even then, when McCarthy was exposed for what he was in the televised Army-McCarthy hearings and Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now program, McCarthy was cut loose. In 1954 he was censured by the Senate in a bipartisan vote. And fortunately for America he didn’t live long enough after that to make a comeback.

At this point, one would have to be genuinely demented to not see that Trump is utterly unfit to be President. But we have a lot of genuinely demented people in this country.

Philip Bump had an interesting comment today

Last week, CNN reported on the existence of a recording, taped at Donald Trump’s golf club in New Jersey, in which the former president is heard talking to writers working on a book being written by Trump’s last chief of staff. In the recording, Trump made note of a document in his possession that was classified, a significant admission, given the indictment handed up against him this week.

Hours after news of the indictment broke Thursday, CNN published excerpts of the conversation.

“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says, according to CNN. “This was done by the military and given to me.”

Understandably, much of the focus on that quote has centered on the first part, in which Trump tells a visitor to his club about classified material. But what’s more broadly telling is the second part: where he says that the document was “given to me.”

The military did not give that document to Donald Trump, the guy sitting at Bedminster on the day the recording was made. The military gave that document to the president of the United States, to inform his decision-making on some national security issues. At the moment the document was handed over to the president, the person who received it happened to be Trump.

Trump’s failure to understand that distinction — between himself and the office he was granted — is at the heart of nearly every crisis that he’s faced since.

Trump never understood the role of the POTUS. He had no interest in the United States and its people, except as things to exploit to glorify and enrich himself. His efforts to hang on to the position after he lost the election have done serious harm to our political institutions. This is obvious. Even the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal ought to be able to understand that. Yet they won’t. Everywhere, the Republican Party and the institutional infrastructure supporting it and their warped version of “conservatism” works to normalize and protect Trump. In a sane world they’d be cutting him loose. In a sane world they would have cut him loose a long time ago.

Awhile back I wrote a post titled The GOP: A Cornered and Wounded Animal. They’re cornered and wounded because they are on the losing end of too many causes. I wrote: “Unfortunately, they’re not going to stop acting like wounded and cornered animals in the near future. They have staked Trump, abortion, and guns as the hills they’re going to die on, and they may very well do that. So to speak.” But lately I’ve seen a lot of callouts to “paranoid style,” which recalls Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” I read it again and noticed this, after a review of Famous Paranoid Episodes of American History (emphasis added):

The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

Hofstadter wrote this in bleeping 1964. Just short of 60 years ago. And the right wing has only gotten worse. It’s turned itself into a paranoia machine. Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media infrastructure, along with social media, are perpetually feeding the paranoia so much more effectively than in 1964 or 1974.

But this is truly at the heart of Trumpism and why those who support him can’t see him for what he is. He’s a moron, but he has a grifter’s instinct for giving the people what they want, what he can sell. And he has packaged himself as the last hope of the paranoids; the one who might finally slay the evil Left. It’s going to take more than some chiding words from a Joseph Welch equivalent to bring people to their senses.

16 thoughts on “Boiling to Death in Paranoia

  1. JFK wrote a book titled "Profiles in Courage".  When someone writes the sequel "Profiles in Cowardice", it will take multiple volumes to cover all of today's republican politicians who are afraid to speak the truth because it will anger The Donald and 'the base' of white supremacists and christian supremacists.

  2. Since the time when I was still young, but old enough to understand a thing or two about the world, I often wondered what the future would bring.

    What will the world be like at every stage of the short time as a human I get this world; this universe?

    Both on a micro and macro level.

    What I got on the plus side, was a world that would bring me technological wonders beyond even what Isaac Asimov and Alvin Toffler dreamt of.

    On the more personal side though, what I also got was was a world worse even than Orwell and Hofstadter had nightmares about.

    And no flying cars.


  3. Off-topic:  A Woman Trainer trained the winner of the Belmont Stakes!  50 years after Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 132 lengths (owned by a woman).

  4. The MAGA zealots see Trump as an avenging angel. Many, a majority, will expect Trump to vindicate himself at trial. They won't watch CNN or CBS or NBC or follow through PBS. But they will follow every line of the trial for the moment Trump smites their enemies. 

    The judge will disallow a defense based on accusing Biden, Obama, and Clinton. The judge is going to allow Jack Smith to introduce photos, and testimony from officials of the National Archives to lay the groundwork – Trump was told to give up that stuff because he had no right to keep it.

    The most damning testimony will come from Trump's own lawyers who were asked to deceive the FBI. Yeah, there's written notes, an oral memo to self and there will be testimony about how Trump reacted to s subpeona. And Smith is gonna have the evidence – Trump conned his own lawyers by moving stuff around. Trump participated in the deception in a letter to DOJ which falsely said everything had been turned over.

    All these MAGA folks will be hanging on every word – no, it won't be televised – to see how Trump rises up and reveals the TRUTH! Except, the judge will NOT allow grandstanding of the introduction of lies and or speculation framed as "evidence." (Trump's lawyers will be allowed some latitude in opening and closing statements.) 

    For some, the fog will lift. As in for you cinema buffs…


    • Assuming the Drumpf-appointed judge doesn't follow her former Drumpf-bought-and-paid-for behavior.

  5. Trump is just a symptom. He's the result of 50 years of propagandizing the masses, dumbing them down, training them who to blame for their woes. Some years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read: FOX NEWS: Rich People Telling Middle-Class People to Blame Poor People.

    The cowardly Republicans who support him are also an effect. They got to where they are because of the dumbed-down masses who put them there. Of course, they'll be power-crazy moral cowards. Anyone with integrity left or was sidelined long ago. Anyone who has real marketable talent isn't interested in being a parasite and living off wingnut welfare and is too smart to suck down the sickening lies and meanness.

    Drop the term conservativism, it has nothing to do with this. Fascism is the closest thing to describe it. It's the pursuit of raw power for its own sake, for the sake of a few. For and by the people pushing the lies. Trump and the Republican Party are just vehicles for this purpose.

    Richard Nixon and Watergate, let alone Joe McCarthy might as well be from the Roman Empire, today is so different from then.  Nixon knew there were lines he couldn't cross, unlike Trump who (as Neal Katyal said this week) "is too dumb to play dumb".  Nixon had both more brains and morals than Trump, and had the maturity of a grown man, unlike the boy-king. It's astonishing that Trump's crimes are completely unforced errors.

    What's shocking is that Trump's case is so clear-cut, so over-the-top and yet his supporters still rally for him. Frightening especially are the calls from the insurrectionist traitors within Congress itself making muted calls for violence and resistance.

    A little more down to earth, this Florida lawyer explains why Aileen Cannon is unlikely to preside over the trial.

    • Thanks for the link. I spent my career practicing in the criminal justice system, but at the state level, not the federal, where the rules are different. Similar, but different.

      Popok explains the various mechanisms that could result in the disqualification or recusal of Cannon. And she needs to be off this case. Her rulings in the search warrant litigation were astonishingly bad and showed not only her favoritism but her incompetence.

  6. Trump never understood the role of the POTUS. He had no interest in the United States and its people, except as things to exploit to glorify and enrich himself.

    That's how they do it in the countries that he clearly, and sometimes explicitly, prefers to this one.

    But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.

    It was written in 1964 and it was old news then. William F. Buckley's Publisher's Statement in the first issue of National Review — which came out in 1954 — lays out the whole project and they haven't deviated an inch from it since: To wit, this country is for old white Christianist men, and if anyone tries to change that we'll stop it by any means necessary, first by moaning and complaining hysterically, but violence isn't off the table.

  7. The Trumpsters are SO hard to reason with. I try, sometimes. If nothing else, it reminds me what we are up against. These people have (largely) rejected critical thinking. By that I mean, they won't look at facts from any source Trump has labeled "fake news." 

    A fact is only a fact if it comes from Fox or Breitbart or Newsmax. A woman at work dismissed J6 as exaggerated and staged by Democrats to persecute Republicans. They think Ashley Babbet is a martyr – they totally disregard the video of her death. The siege, on video, doesn't count any more than location (relative to members of Congress.)

    The disconnect from reality is stunning. A black woman is shot to death in her bed by cops executing a no-knock warrant. That's OK. A woman breaks a window adjacent to a set of doors barricaded and protected by cops. She gets shot for the threat that the mob poses to Congress, and she's a victim. I struggle to remain civil. 

    Some of these people will return to reality – some won't. I'm looking forward to the trial as shock therapy that will revive the minds of some. Because they're gonna tune in. (I think Murdoch hopes Trump will not be the nominee. If the trial happens in time to affect the primary, Fox might almost be honest.) 

    Trump is toast after the trial. The facts, testimony, and evidence will persuade anyone with a working mind. What about the MAGA zombies after the trial. It's the political version of "Night of the Living Dead." They stagger, they lurch, they eat brains. Worst of all, they vote.

    An amazing number who rally behind Trump will continue to do so – until they don't. As soon as there's a distinct trend of MAGAs abandoning Trump, you will see Republicans in Congress easing away, walking back previous endorsements. At this point in time, even the primary challengers of Trump act like fans of Trump. The poll numbers allow nothing else. 

    Trump will not risk serving a day in jail. It's a minority opinion, but Trump will leave the country when the handwriting on the wall spells, "j", "a", "i", "l". The MAGA zombies will be without direction. (Trump will try to have the MAGA crowd continue to worship him, but for many, Trump failed. They will not forgive.) Yeah, we have a large mindless mob and a crowd of fascist wannabes screaming for attention. Historically, when a cult loses the cult leader, the group disintegrates. 

    Will the GOP leadership, in response to the donor class, regroup as a non-fascist entity? If they don't, they may be doomed to political irrelevance.

    Remember when Sadaam Hussain was removed in Iraq? All hell broke loose. Without the repressive government he controlled, the factions went to war against each other. The defeated country self-destructed in an orgy of violence. The MAGA zombies revere Trump – without him, they will turn on each other. If the GOP tries to ride that out, they will be consumed and replaced – MAYBE by a sane conservative party.


    • <i>it's a minority opinion, but Trump will leave the country when the handwriting on the wall spells, "j", "a", "i", "l".</i>


      He may try but it is <b>very</b> difficult to think of where he would go.  Internationally, he has no friends.


      Oh wait, maybe St. Helena could dust off Napoleon's  old bed.

  8. "But what’s frustrating is the rest of the Republican Party and its institutional support structure."

    These people have been consuming right-wing media their entire careers, some their whole lives, they don't recognize truth or right and wrong, they only recognize the quest for power and the need for the GQP to stay on top. They believe (rightfully so) that it doesn't matter what they say or do they can always run to FOX and the rest of the wing-nut media for support and rehabilitation. They are completely hopeless!

  9. "There is a cult of ignorance in the US, and there always has been.  The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."  – Isaac Asimov, Newsweek, 21 January 1980

    "Thinking is Hard Work!" – GW Bush, 2000 


    • Georgia GOP chair Kandiss Taylor and her skepticism of globes immediately comes to mind; I never expected the shape of the earth could possibly be a "both sides" controversy among supposedly educated persons, at least not for about the last 500 years.  In her mind both sides means a top and a bottom I suppose.  Makes it easy to reject the idea of global warming if you suspect globes in general are a hoax.  She may be one of the smarter ones.

  10. Go to a hand-picked biased audience and argue your case to an illusion of the court of public opinion.  Moonbat is so correct, these people are well trained and sorted and selected.  Rush Limbaugh's ditto-heads in action.  Not a free and independent thinker in the lot of them.  That way you can get the feedback you need, except this is a stacked court and the decision has already been made for them.  They are just following the script.  Pawns being manipulated so to speak.  Pawns who are useful and expendable, who only exist to protect the king.  

    Unfortunately, the king in this case must be taken out.  As the much larger court of public opinion appears to agree, Trump must never be allowed access to our national secrets given the evidence at hand.  Only those who abide by the rules get that power. 

    The truth is that he had many opportunities to show respect for the rules governing secret information and appeared to oppose and obstruct all efforts to cooperate.  Is he asking for people to try to get him so he can play the victim or is he just a moral moron who never got a Freudian superego?  We do know his id appears to be largely unrestrained.  I'm sure his sister would have good judgement on this question. 

  11. I've been really pissed off (surprise) at the media coverage and the democratic reaction to Stump's indictment.  Most of the media are pretty much just repeating his defense talking points, running video clips of his rally whine, they are also running constant clips of the talking points being parroted by GQP'ers Gym Jordan et-al. Basically calling the DOJ corrupt, ginning up violence, same shit they did after the election. Then we get an occasional democrat who uses careful language such as "serious charges" and "disappointed at the GOP reaction". I sit and watch this shit and think when are these people going to realize how fucking serious this is. Are we going to have to go through another deadly riot (which might happen tomorrow) for these people to get off their asses and start calling this what it is. After J6 the networks and cables (except for FOX) realized that giving Stump air time is deadly and they cut way back, now they are right back at it. CNN is running his campaign ads in heavy rotation. Stumps only real power is his ability to control the narrative, and our media is all to willing to reinforce that power, making big bucks along the way. I found this excellent article (written last month) linked over at DU, it's all about how the democrats can't fight, this dude has it right, short read, check it out!

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