Why Right Wing Crazies Are Trying to Destroy One of the Few Things George W. Bush Got Right, and Other News

Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney report at Politico that Trump’s co-defendants are begining to turn on him. Apparently their lawyers think their best defense is that they were just following Trump’s orders.

In court documents and hearings, lawyers for people in Trump’s orbit — both high-level advisers and lesser known associates — are starting to reveal glimmers of a tried-and-true strategy in cases with many defendants: Portray yourself as a hapless pawn while piling blame on the apparent kingpin. …

… In late August, an information technology aide at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort dramatically changed his story about alleged efforts to erase surveillance video and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Jack Smith, who has charged Trump with hoarding classified documents. The aide, Yuscil Taveras, was not charged in the case, but his flip may help him dodge a possible perjury charge prosecutors were floating — and it is likely to bolster Smith’s obstruction-of-justice case against Trump and two other aides.

Then, three GOP activists who were indicted alongside Trump in Georgia for trying to interfere with the certification of President Joe Biden’s win in the state asserted that their actions were all taken at Trump’s behest.

And last week, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows — also charged in the Georgia case — signaled that his defense is likely to include blaming the former president as the primary driver of the effort.

That’s the problem with coups d’état. Yeah, there’s power and glory if you win, but you’re in a heap o’ trouble if you lose.

Last week some of the co-defendants were complaining that Trump wasn’t helping them with their legal bills. Indeed, some of them who were doing legal work for the “campaign” were stiffed.

Several of the attorneys who spearheaded President Donald Trump’s frenzied effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election tried, and failed, to collect payment for the work they did for Trump’s political operation, according to testimony to congressional investigators and Federal Election Commission records. This is despite the fact that their lawsuits and false claims of election interference helped the Trump campaign and allied committees raise $250 million in the weeks following the November vote, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot said in its final report.

So no power, no glory, and no money. And no point falling on any swords on behalf of Trump.

In other news: A Catholic priest named Richard W. Bauer is genuinely horrified that the anti-abortion movement is working to kill a very successful U.S.-funded anti-AIDS program.

Some House Republicans refuse to move forward with a five-year reauthorization of the program in its current form because of evidence-free insinuations that it indirectly funds abortion. PEPFAR’s legislative authorization expires at the end of this month. Unless Congress acts urgently to renew it, the world could lose PEPFAR as we know it.

PEPFAR is the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a George W. Bush initiative that actually had excellent results. Father Bauer spent years in Africa working with AIDS patients and saw the results himself. “The results were astounding,” he said. “PEPFAR has meant that millions of H.I.V.-positive children and adults who were near death have been brought back to life.”

Father Bauer traced the rumor that PEPFAR is funding abortions to a report from the Heritage Foundation that claimed, without evidence, that PEPFAR is promoting abortion in Africa. “That same report callously referred to H.I.V. as a ‘lifestyle disease’ and framed antiretroviral therapy as a partisan talking point,” Father Bauer wrote. He emphasizes that the programs is saving countless lives, which he has seen for himself, and that the program has always been closely monitored to be sure the money is being spent as intended.

My first reaction to this was that the anti-abortion movement has always traded in lies. Over the years they’ve claimed abortions cause breast cancer; that women who abort suffer psychological damage; that women don’t get pregnant from rape; that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal body parts. I’ve written about the lies of the Fetus People a lot over the years; see, for example, “Smoke and Mirrors and Abortion” from 2013. Most of them can’t get basic facts about gestation right. It’s a wonder they reproduce, yet they somehow do so.

And, of course, with righties, little details like facts and evidence are meaningless. They believe what they want to believe, or whatever somebody decides is expedient for them to believe.

So it is that the entire right-wing anti-abortion political infrastructure in the U.S. has decided that PEPFAR is evil and must be destroyed. Politico reports today that the law governing PEPFAR expires at the end of this month, and at the moment there seems to be no way it will be renewed. The only hope is probably some short-term funding that will have to be re-fought every few months.

And of course on the Right there’s no political penalty to allowing African babies to die of preventable disease. At least they aren’t being aborted! Priorities, you know.

13 thoughts on “Why Right Wing Crazies Are Trying to Destroy One of the Few Things George W. Bush Got Right, and Other News

  1. There's a temptation to say "Oh look at the hypocrisy of the Talibangelicals, with their record of lies and bullshit," but really this is what you can expect for any religion that gets to be politically dominant. In the sense that "people who buy into that religion are politically dominant," and being in good graces with the institutions of the religion becomes essential to political success.

    This causes the religion to attract poseurs and hangers-on, to whom the religion is purely instrumental to their political and/or economic objectives. I'm sure if we were fluent in Burmese, for example, and following their national news regularly, we would find so-called "Buddhist spokesmen" acting in the role of Mouth of Sauron for things happening there.

    • Whether the fault is primarily with religion, or primarily with ignorance and craving for power that gets mixed up into religion, is a matter of dispute. I'm all for separation of church and state, note. A theocracy cannot be a democracy. But note that the guy calling our attention to this atrocity is a Catholic priest, and many of the institutions he specifically complains aobut — the Heritage Foundation; the Susan B. Anthony Fund — are primarily political. 

  2. Some people see evil everywhere for about the same reason that a person with jaundice sees yellow everywhere.

    So some rightists are, in effect, pro-AIDS. Well, this has been so for awhile. Also some rightists have lately been, in effect, pro-covid. And lately some have come out against vaccination for rabies. So, in effect, pro-rabies. I detect a pattern.


      • One of the comments I heard from some talking head in reference to Tarrio's situation was that…."Evidently, Tarrio wasn't aware that he was playing in the sedition sandbox".

         I guess that's what happens when you get cocky in being the leader of a bunch of malcontents and misfits. You kind of get caught up in your own glorification.

  3. I remember a comment attributed to Jimmy Carter – paraphrasing – that in a meeting about when Bush took office, Jimmy asked Bush to intervene for Africa on AIDS. Carter wasn't taking credit – quite the opposite. He praised Bush for action that saved the continent of Africa.     

    The comment by paradoctor is astute. The Trumpsters refused to let Trump take credit for the vaccine. (And Trump tried several times and was booed by his own people.) The explanation that makes the most sense to me is that they are anti-science because they won't allow rational thinking to interfere with knee-jerk reactions. To anything. 

    Again, as an opinion, they are at war with rational thinking. Vulcans are their least favorite aliens. Drive low-income Mexican labor out of your state (like Florida). CHEERS! Lay waste to the agricultural industry for lack of labor to bring in crops? Oh, well. It's OK if we bankrupt farmers if we kicked ass on furreners. The people who developed vaccines were/are the same scientists who tried to affect the spread of COVID-19 by affecting behavior. FREEDUM! It wasn't enough to ignore the advice – they had to attack anyone who followed the advice. And they are in denial of the body count of COVID-19 in the same way they are in denial of the outcome of the election.

    Facts are not facts unless they support your bigotries and prejudice. Some Democrats need to be direct about this. Republicans need to rejoin the real world. Facts matter.  We all had a crazy uncle growing up who was detached from reality. Now that describes a significant chunk of the voting population and a lot of elected officials. 

    These people need to be mocked and ridiculed even on the floor of the House for every venture into fantasy land. That includes for accusations against Biden that are not supported by fact. (I'll be the first to support Biden's impeachment if there are facts that prove corruption.) So far, the investigations have been platforms for wild theories with no evidence. 

    "Detached from reality" needs to be a buzzword (buzzphrase) that turns voters who can appreciate facts and the scientific method to reject irrational arguments offered by people who would not know a fact if it bit them on the behind.

    • The Trumpsters refused to let Trump take credit for the vaccine. (And Trump tried several times and was booed by his own people.) 

      What I found interesting about that is here was a case where Dear Leader was actually vehemently disputed by the followers.  Which says several things, among them being there are core "far-right" beliefs (that are now mainstream within the GOP) that transcend any one leader, which is bad news for the rest of us, in that Trump is less the problem as he is a symptom of what the problem is in the GOP and on the right.  "Trumpism" will remain after Orange Julius exits stage left.  Trump is essentially a con man out for himself who saw an opportunity and got in front of the parade.  But the minute he strayed from orthodoxy that existed previous to him, his chain got yanked. He got back in line because Trump knows, to get what he wants, he has to give them what they want.

  4. They who live in the "Mirror World" with reflected distortions oppose the medical solutions of western medicine even for members of their own tribe.  Credit Michelle Goldberg and/or Naomi Klien for the "Mirror World" concept.  I can't quit figure out who to credit.  

    In “Doppelganger,” Klein offers a half-joking formula to explain onetime leftists or liberals who migrate to the authoritarian right: “Narcissism(Grandiosity) + Social media addiction + Midlife crisis ÷ Public shaming = Right wing meltdown.” As Klein emphasizes, Wolf’s journey into the Mirror World can’t really be described as a fall. She and others like her, says Klein, “are getting everything they had and more, through a warped mirror.” For Klein, the more important question is less about Wolf’s motivations than those of her followers. Somehow, Wolf’s apocalyptic pronouncements about sinister drug companies and imminent technological tyranny speak to these people in a way that the left does not.


    That obsession, in turn, guides Klein into an examination of what she calls “the Mirror World,” the vertigo-inducing inversion of reality common to contemporary far-right movements. Think, for example, of Vladimir Putin claiming that he’s liberating Ukraine from fascism or Donald Trump howling that his multiple prosecutions are a racist plot to subvert a presidential election. When I spoke to Klein recently, she described how jarring it was to watch protests against Covid measures appropriating left-wing language — common slogans were “I can’t breathe” and “My body, my choice” — making them “this weird doppelganger of the movements that I had been a part of and supported.”

    Goldberg for sure deserves credit for "the vertigo-inducing inversion of reality common to contemporary far-right movements".  

    paradoctor gets the credit for anti-semantic.  (the hyphen gets it past the spell checker).

    All seem to qualify as very insightful.

    Block quotes from recent Goldberg opinion piece.



  5. @doug wrote: they are at war with rational thinking
    @paradoctor wrote: I call that “antisemantic”; that is, being against words having meanings.

    These are features of what Orwell talked about decades ago, “Newspeak”. About 20 years ago, David Niewert wrote Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism. It’s a long essay, some excerpts:

    …This is a classic case of Newspeak — diminishing the range of thought (it’s telling that Limbaugh originally filed this under “Making the Complex Understandable”) by nullifying the meaning of words.

    Limbaugh’s rhetoric, in fact, is almost a model of how Newspeak works: It renders language meaningless by positing a meaning of a word that is in fact its near or precise opposite.

    Conservatives, led by Limbaugh’s blazing example, in the past decade have become masters of Newspeak, the Orwellian twisting of language that not only propagandizes but actually distorts reality. As a character in 1984 puts it:

    “You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right … But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.”

    Another character explains its long-term purpose:
    “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

    Newspeak permeates the political environment right now. The core agenda of the Bush administration, mouthed by a hundred talking heads on cable TV, is now neatly summed up by two of the core truisms of Newspeak:

    “War is peace.” [The purpose of the Iraq war, and the War on Terror generally, is to ensure peace and security at home, we are told.]

    “Ignorance is strength.” [Consider the way Bush’s fumbled syntax and express anti-intellectualism is integral to his crafted image of homespun integrity.]

    Newspeak serves two functions:
    — It deflates the opposition by nullifying its defining issues, and throws the nominal logic of the public debate into disarray.

    — It provides rhetorical and ontological cover for its speakers’ own activities and agenda.

    I would argue that Newspeak, by destroying language, atomizes its opposition, because it’s the shared meanings behind language that hold us together. It’s a way of rendering Newspeak’s opponents impotent. It’s also how polarization has occurred in this country. We no longer have shared meanings, thanks to Newspeak.

    Side note: I sent an e-card to Gulag on Saturday, but I haven’t received any notification that he picked it up. I was afraid he was too sick (or worse) to be using email, and so far that seems to be confirmed.

  6. "And of course on the Right there’s no political penalty to allowing African babies to die of preventable disease"

    True, though on the right there really doesn't seem to be political penalties for anything except not being MAGAT!

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