Today’s News Bits

The MAL documents case is going nowhere, and at a snail’s pace at that. It’s too obvious that Loose Cannon is deliberately trying to do Trump favors. And the bobbleheads on MSNBC last night said that the screwups that will certainly throw Cannon’s trial schedule way out of wack could very well impact the other Trump trials scheduled for 2024. But so far what Cannon is doing isn’t quite blatant enough to force her to recuse herself. Here’s a rundown.

Yesterday was Let’s Laugh at George Santos Day. The Ethics Committee Report came out, and it’s a doozy. He used campaign funds to shop in luxury stores and get Botox treatments. He made a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes, for example. And he lied to everybody about where money was coming from and where it was going. There’s always been a level of exceptable graft in Washington; as long as it’s subtle and doesn’t leave a paper trail. But Santos was off the charts. Even his campaign staff told him he needed psychiatric help.

“House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, a Mississippi Republican, introduced a resolution Friday to expel GOP Rep. George Santos of New York from Congress,” it says here. But they won’t be voting on it until they get back from Thanksgiving break. Santos has announced he won’t be running for re-election. Well, no, I’m sure he won’t. And he won’t qualify for any congressional pension.

Is Trump Getting Crazier? This is a question from James D. Zirin at Washington Monthly. In recent speeches Trump has confused Joe Biden with Barack Obama, called Viktor Orban the President of Turkey, and mis-stated what city he was in at the time. He also appears to be having a harder time with basic words,

But it’s not just misidentification. It’s the cadence and slurring of speech, too. Trump is having trouble with names. “On purpose” came out as “on perfect.” Adherents of Karl Marx came out as “markers,” not Marxists. He warned that Biden is drifting us into World War II.

He’s been doing stuff like that all along, though. Remember “covfefe” and the time George Washington’s Continental Army took over the airports? Trump’s head was never screwed on all the way. If his mental bumbling seems to be getting more frequent, it might be dementia, or it might be the stress of impending criminal charges. Or maybe all that hydroxychloroquine he said he was taking scrambled his brain.

Tom Nichols writes at The Atlantic that he’s been reluctant to call Trump a fascist.

Fascism is not mere oppression. It is a more holistic ideology that elevates the state over the individual (except for a sole leader, around whom there is a cult of personality), glorifies hypernationalism and racism, worships military power, hates liberal democracy, and wallows in nostalgia and historical grievances. It asserts that all public activity should serve the regime, and that all power must be gathered in the fist of the leader and exercised only by his party.

I argued that for most of Trump’s time as a public figure, he was not a fascist but rather a wannabe caudillo, the kind of Latin American strongman who cared little about what people believed so long as they feared him and left him in power. When he would make forays into the public square, his politics were insubstantial and mostly focused on exploiting reflexive resentment and racism, such as when he called for the death penalty for the Black youths wrongly accused in the infamous Central Park–jogger case. But Trump in those days was never able to square his desperate wish to be accepted in Manhattan society with his need to play the role of an outer-borough tough guy. He was an obnoxious and racist gadfly, perhaps, but he was still a long way from fascism.

As a candidate and as president, he had little in the way of a political program for the GOP beyond his exhausting narcissism. He had only two consistent issues: hatred of immigrants and love for foreign autocrats. Even now, his rants contain little political substance; when he veers off into actual issues, such as abortion and taxes, he does not seem to understand or care about them very much, and he will turn on a dime when he thinks it is to his advantage.

Trump had long wanted to be somebody in politics, but he is also rather indolent—again, not a characteristic of previous fascists—and he did not necessarily want to be saddled with any actual responsibilities. According to somereports, he never expected to win in 2016. But even then, in the run-up to the election, Trump’s opponents were already calling hima fascist. I counseled against such usage at the time, because Trump, as a person and as a public figure, is just so obviously ridiculous; fascists, by contrast, are dangerously serious people, and in many circumstances, their leaders have been unnervingly tough and courageous. Trump—whiny, childish, unmanly—hardly fits that bill. (A rare benefit of his disordered character is that his defensiveness and pettiness likely continue to limit the size of his personality cult.)

But now, Nichol says, his moment as a fascist has arrived. His recent rhetoric and stated plans for his second term put him squarely in the fascist camp. The problem is that so many people have been calling him a fascist all along that it’s not registering now.