Archive for the ‘Trump presidency’ category

How should Trump deal with the deep state?

June 15, 2017

How should Trump deal with the deep state? Fox News via YouTube, June 14, 2017

 

Destroying Donald Trump is all that matters in the newsrooms of the mainstream media

May 19, 2017

Destroying Donald Trump is all that matters in the newsrooms of the mainstream media, Washington Times,

(America can survive, and probably prosper, under President Trump. The “mainstream media?” Maybe not. — DM)

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now anything goes. All restraints are loosened, all self-discipline trashed. There’s no cure or even treatment for Trump Derangement Syndrome, a disease as wild and as swiftly lethal as anything imported from the Ebola River valley of the dark continent. The rules and taboos that once guided even the sleaziest excuse for a newspaper no longer apply.

Destroying Donald Trump is all that matters in the newsrooms of the mainstream media, so called, and by any means necessary. Rarely have so many hysterics contributed so much of the national conversation.

A columnist in The New York Times, ground zero in the epidemic of Trump Derangement Syndrome, suggests that a mutiny at the White House is the “more appropriate” way to rid the nation of the legitimate 46th duly elected president of the United States. Why waste time on impeachment? Mike Pence, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell could organize the ambush. The columnist likens them to “stewards for a syphilitic emperor.”

Ross Douthat is regarded as a “conservative” at The New York Times, and he thinks impeachment would take too long, be too messy, and recommends invoking the Twenty-fifth Amendment, which permits the president’s Cabinet to remove the president if a majority of the secretaries tells Congress that the president can no longer perform his duties.

Ultimately, he writes in the newspaper once known as “the old gray lady” and which has become “the old crazy lady,” he does not believe “our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office he holds, the nature of the legal constraints that are supposed to bind him, perhaps even the nature of normal human interactions, to be guilty of obstruction of justice in the Nixonian or even Clintonian sense of the phrase.”

A half-century ago a certain magazine thought a long-distance psychiatric examination of a presidential candidate was in order, and asked 12,000 psychiatrists (who knew there were so many headshrinkers on the fruited plain?) whether they thought Barry Goldwater was crazy, and 1,189 responded with a diagnosis: Mr. Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president in 1964, was nothing less than nuts. The American Psychiatric Association, sensitive to the public outrage that followed, told their members never to do it again.

But since the psychiatrists wouldn’t do it, Ross Douthat was fitted out with degrees in medicine and psychiatry (honorary degrees, we must hope), and told to get to work. (He is expected to retire his shingle once President Trump has been dispatched to the nut house, but who knows? On the Upper East Side there’s never enough psychiatrists.) Dr. Douthat writes that the president has no aides, friends and confidantes who have any remaining regard for him. “They have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpate with contempt for him, and to regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.”

Since impeachment would take so long, Dr. Douthat would “respectfully ask Mike Pence and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to reconsider their support for a man who never should have had his party’s nomination, never should have been elevated to this office, never should have been endorsed and propped up and defended by people who understood his unfitness all along.”

It’s hard to imagine anything more calculated to invoke a Second Amendment answer to such a Twenty-fifth Amendment coup, and it would be nothing less than a coup by the Republican elites and the press that so many Americans believe have “rigged” the elections meant to express the nation’s will. You don’t have to be a Trump friend, supporter or voter to see where this would inevitably lead. The United States has never been a banana republic or a third world dump where elections are ultimately determined in the streets, but this would be the ultimate national indignity, wrought by just those who would go to civil war to depose an indignity.

The two stories that have dominated the news this week were the work of the very two newspapers, The Washington Post and The New York Times, that have become the not-so-loyal opposition, drivers of the coup with tales told in every edition. The Post accuses the president of dispensing national secrets to the Russians, based on the word of an anonymous source who concedes he wasn’t in the meeting, and denied by those who were. The New York Times says it heard a passage read from a memo written by James Comey, telling how the president asked him go easy on Mike Flynn, and denied by the White House.

All this to support tales of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, which Democrats and Republicans agree that no one has yet found any evidence of. There’s no fire and only a few wisps of something that might be smoke, or more likely, the passing of partisan gas.

The Trump method

April 29, 2017

The Trump method, Washington Examiner, W. James Antle III, April 29, 2017

President Trump has been more measured toward China, despite near-constant criticism of that burgeoning strategic rival during the presidential campaign. “President Xi wants to do the right thing,” Trump said of his Chinese counterpart in a press conference. “We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together.” (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)

When President Trump held a reception for conservative media at the White House in April, he was asked whether he was being tough enough on China. Beijing was dumping steel, his interlocutor said, and should also be designated a currency manipulator.

Trump responded, according to several attendees, with a certain incredulity, asking why he would label China a currency manipulator while it is helping to contain North Korea’s increasingly belligerent behavior. It’s a variant of a line he debuted on Twitter earlier in the month.

“No, it’s not going to be the Trump doctrine,” Trump memorably said of his foreign policy approach during the campaign. “Because in life, you have to be flexible. You have to have flexibility. You have to change. You know, you may say one thing and then the following year you want to change it, because circumstances are different.”

The president has come under fire from some of his fiercest defenders for saying one thing while running for office and then a year later wanting to “change it” on the core issues that got him elected. He relented on funding of the border wall with the continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown. He hasn’t fully rescinded former President Obama’s immigration executive actions. He ordered strikes on Syria after promising a less interventionist “America First” foreign policy.

Trump spoke favorably of Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen. He declared NATO was no longer obsolete. He signaled support for the Export-Import Bank, even as he nominated a conservative critic to run it. He endorsed a GOP healthcare bill that seemed to advance few of his campaign policy goals.

All these position changes came shortly after there were ubiquitous reports of White House palace intrigue suggesting the populist, nationalist faction associated with chief strategist Stephen Bannon was being marginalized in favor of Trump’s centrist son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

“We may as well have had Jeb,” lamented conservative columnist Ann Coulter, author of the election yearbook In Trump We Trust. She now tweets daily about the number of miles of border wall completed since Inauguration Day. The number is always zero. “Do you want war with Russia, all of you idiots, all of you fools who are pounding the war drums?” protested pro-Trump veteran radio talk show host Michael Savage after the Syria intervention.

Some Trump supporters think all this is a misreading of the president. Washington is used to ideologues, they say. Trump is a pragmatist. They maintain he is a master negotiator straight out of The Art of the Deal and there is a method even to his apparent Twitter madness.

“When President Trump negotiates, nothing is off the table,” said a former Republican national security official. “He leverages the full resources of the American government. He brings the economy into the picture even when doing diplomacy. He outright says, ‘If you want a better trade deal, you will help us with North Korea.'”

The new president is, in other words, making a bonfire of the pieties, discarding the idea, perhaps the pretense, of principled consistency, and instead does piecemeal what he believes will work at that moment.

Asked if this wasn’t par for the course in presidential negotiations, the official agreed but said there were two important caveats that make Trump different: “Trump says it publicly instead of dancing around it. And don’t underestimate how much our people try to make humanitarian arguments to foreign governments that just aren’t very humanitarian.”

A Republican diplomat concurred, saying there was an overreliance on moral arguments in difficult negotiations with foreign countries sometimes led by people who do not share our values. “These moral arguments don’t work with China or Russia,” the diplomat said. “They’re hit or miss with Egypt or Saudi Arabia. They’re not working with Turkey.”

So Trump took a harder line on Russia, or at least allowed his appointees to do so. This isn’t surprising from United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, for example, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a past recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship, and yet he said Moscow was “complicit or simply incompetent” when it came to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

And Trump has been more measured toward China, despite near-constant criticism of that burgeoning strategic rival during the presidential campaign. “President Xi wants to do the right thing,” Trump said of his Chinese counterpart in a press conference. “We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together.”

On the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump floated an executive order terminating the United States’ participation in the pact, and almost immediately received phone calls from the president of Mexico and prime minister of Canada. Having got their attention, he walked back his threat while speaking magnanimously about those two allies.

“I decided rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big, you know, shock to the system, we will renegotiate,” Trump told reporters. He had previously issued a statement praising the leaders of Mexico and Canada: “It is an honor to deal with both President Pena Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”

To some, this reflects the “strategic ambiguity” Trump promised last year and a willingness to make a deal wherever possible. Others regard it as the kind of incoherence one might expect from a politically inexperienced president who hasn’t shown much interest in policy. The New York Times described Mexican elites as increasingly seeing Trump as a poker table “bluffer.”

This is a debate that dates back to before Trump was in office and extends to domestic policy as well. Is Trump simply more flexible than your average politician or is he less aware of what he is doing?

“What elitists misinterpret as uneven principles, entrepreneurs understand as adaptability,” SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci argued in the Wall Street Journal. He went on to claim, “Mr. Trump would be the greatest pragmatist and deal maker Washington has ever seen.”

“In the political sense, pragmatists reject the traditional left/right binary, which they may derisively view as dogma,” Christopher Scalia wrote in a Washington Post piece on Trump’s ideological flexibility. “They are willing to sample widely from the smorgasbord of political ideas to find the best solution to a pressing problem.”

Trump’s critics have also described him as a pragmatist. “I … think that he is coming to this office with fewer set, hard-and-fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents might be arriving with. I don’t think he is ideological,” Obama told reporters at the White House after the election. “I think ultimately he’s pragmatic in that way, and that can serve him well as long as he’s got good people around him and he has a good sense of direction.”

Ben Shapiro argued in National Review that Trump was pragmatic, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. “That’s because pragmatism is a progressive philosophy,” he wrote. “There is no clear consensus on ‘what works.’ This is why elections matter, and why political ideology matters. It’s an empty conceit of arrogant politicians that they alone can determine, based on expert reading of facts, the best solution; they can’t.”

This tendency hampered Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. He negotiated with the conservative Freedom Caucus, occasionally driving a hard bargain. “I’m coming after you,” Trump quipped to the group’s chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., at one point during the talks.

But Trump’s jibes against the conservative lawmakers got more serious. The president tweeted that the Freedom Caucus would “hurt the entire Republican agenda” if they failed to get on board and that they needed to be fought as well as the Democrats in 2018.

“Tweets, statements and blame don’t change facts,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. Meadows said Trump’s scathing comments made it “harder” to arrive at a healthcare compromise. A Republican congressional aide said Trump’s tactics merely “emboldened” GOP holdouts.

Trump and the Freedom Caucus have since reconciled on Obamacare. Some even stick up for his handling of the early healthcare discussions.

“I think he did everything he could on healthcare in round one,” said Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed. “The president was speed dialing members of Congress on their cellphones.”

“The biggest problem you had under Bush and under Obama is that each party on the Hill thought the White House didn’t talk to them,” said Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, who added that all the feedback he has gotten has indicated improved communications under this administration. “Trump’s leadership is to talk about the Reagan agenda in terms of creating jobs.”

Nevertheless, Trump had difficulty out of the gate because he did not understand how to strike a deal that was only partly about dollars and cents. Freedom Caucus members dissented from the first version of the American Health Care Act because of values and ideology too. Trump’s pragmatic language made no allowance for that.

“He had nothing to sell us,” said a GOP legislative assistant. Trump’s arguments centered on Republican political survival, the need to fulfill campaign promises on Obamacare but relatively little to say about the merits of the bill.

Debates over the efficacy of Trump’s methods often break down over a question that has hung over him ever since the national media began to hang on his every tweet, upending politics as we know it: is he clever or just lucky?

“Occasionally, Trump displays moments of pure genius with his use of Twitter to change the subject away from bad storylines,” said Republican strategist Liz Mair. “Frequently, however, he uses Twitter to keep what are, for him, extremely bad narratives alive and to beclown himself in the eyes of most observers who are vaguely politically astute. Sometimes, he also just gets lucky and does something stupid on Twitter that coincidentally detracts from something bad, news-wise, but where you’re pretty confident it wasn’t intentional, it was just random.”

Maybe Trump’s luck will eventually run out. For now, however, when this pragmatist walks into a roomful of ideologues, he sits at the head of the table.

A Times Source Outs Herself

March 29, 2017

A Times Source Outs Herself, Power Line, Scott Johnson, Power Line, March 29, 2017

(Weaponizing intelligence information for political purposes:

Meanwhile, the Democrat media continue to try to shift public focus to alleged Russian ties of Trump and his colleagues while ignoring the very substantial ties of the Clintons, Podestas, et al. — DM)

Evelyn Farkas is the former Obama administration deputy secretary of defense — and now an MSNBC analyst. Appearing on air among her friends at MSNBC yesterday, she all but outed herself as a key source for the seminal New York Times story on the Obama administration’s efforts to subvert the incoming Trump administration.

The March 1 Times story ran under the headline “Obama administration rushed to preserve intelligence of Russian election hacking” under the byline of Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt. The Times reporters noted that they protected the identity of their sources because, you know, their cooperation with the Times was criminal or because their actions were otherwise legally problematic. The Times reporters put it this way in their March 1 story:

More than a half-dozen current and former officials described various aspects of the effort to preserve and distribute the intelligence, and some said they were speaking to draw attention to the material and ensure proper investigation by Congress. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified information, nearly all of which remains secret.

In her comments on MSNBC Farkas uses one term of art that requires translation. The term of art is “the Hill,” i.e., Capitol Hill. By “the Hill” Farkas means congressional Democrats and their staffers. As MSNBC flashed an image of the Times story on the screen, Mika Brzezinski states that Farkas “actually knew about this attempt to get and preserve information…and were doing some work yourself.” That’s nice “work” if you can get it.

Thus spake Farkas:

Well, I was urging my former colleagues, and, and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill, it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can – get as much intelligence as you can – before President Obama leaves the administration. Because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left. So it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy, um, that the Trump folks – if they found out HOW we knew what we knew about their, the Trump staff, dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods — meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried because not enough was coming out into the open and I knew that there was more. We have very good intelligence on Russia. So then I had talked to some of my former colleagues and I knew that they were also trying to help get information to the Hill…That’s why you have the leaking.

The video of Farkas’s response is below. The entire segment including Senator Debbie Stabenow is posted here.

(The video is at the link. A longer video, with similar but longer content is at the Fox News article linked below.– DM)

I have lifted the video and slightly modified the transcript of Farkas’s response from the post here by Sundance at the The Conservative Tree House site. Sundance has more in the way of commentary in an update that may or may not be on point or withstand scrutiny. I agree with Sundance on this point: “Looks like Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee ha[ve] a new person to bring in for testimony.” Yes, indeed, let us hear more from Ms. Farkas regarding “the Hill people” and her underlying project under oath.

UPDATE: FOX News covers the story here. (Here is the video embedded in the Fox News post. — DM)

 

What’s really hidden deep within all this intel squabbling

March 24, 2017

What’s really hidden deep within all this intel squabbling, Hot Air, Andrew Malcolm, March 24, 2017

(Please see also, Will Smoking Gun Documents Vindicate Trump? — DM)

One of the tricks in political communications when experiencing difficult times is to drag several other issues into the fray, muddying the waters to distract attention from the main controversy.

That’s what you’re witnessing now in the arcane kerfluffle over wiretapping, eavesdropping, surveillance and congressional protocol. So, let’s clear things up.

Forget President Trump’s unsubstantiated tweets about being wiretapped by a certain ex-president who’s fled to French Polynesia for a month. Forget about Russians and what they may or may not have done last year. And ignore the manners expected of a House committee chairman. In other words, disregard all the pots calling all the kettles black.

Here’s what really matters: During the waning days of the Obama administration U.S. intelligence was indeed monitoring the conversations of foreign persons of interest after the Nov. 8 election and before the Jan. 20 inauguration. That’s normal and actually encouraging given how many key things those agencies have missed in recent years.

In those eaves-droppings they overheard Trump aides being mentioned or talking to agencies’ foreign targets. That’s called “incidental contact” in the intel world. That means they weren’t supposed to be targeting the American, but he or she came up. That’s unavoidable in intelligence-gathering if you’re doing a thorough job.

T o avoid “unmasking” those innocent bystanders, t ranscripts of those overheard conversations refer to the foreign target by name and identify the other person simply as American No. 1 or American No. 2. A very small number of very senior intelligence officials will know the actual identity of the American, people like, oh, then-CIA director John Brennan or Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser.

Remember Trump’s first national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn? He was picked up talking with the Russian ambassador as part of his transition work. Subsequently, he was fired , not for the conversation but for misrepresenting that conversation to Trump teammates, including Vice President Pence. Trump accurately saw that as fatally corroding the trust he needs in such a close aide.

But here’s the deal: We should never have known it was Flynn.

Yes, as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Flynn was very unpopular among Obama administration members and indeed was frozen out of contact with the commander-in-chief because he favored a much stronger response to ISIS, among other things. Talk about a president dodging opposing views.

Like Flynn or not, it is illegal — as in against the law — for anyone to reveal the name of an incidentally-overheard American. Someone in a small circle of Obama intelligence officials who knew the identity of that American No. 1 committed a felony by leaking Flynn’s name to media.

Safe to say the leak, like numerous others since Hillary Clinton was not inaugurated as president, was not intended to facilitate the smooth presidential transition that Obama so often publicly promised.

Before you faint from the revelation of illegal duplicity among partisan spies in Washington, hear this. Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has made public appeals for information on intelligence matters, beyond official intel briefings.

On Wednesday Nunes, who was on Trump’s transition, said, “I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions the intelligence community … collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” The chairman said the monitorings involved transition team members and possibly Trump himself, adding, “I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.”

Nunes then briefed Trump at the White House, a violation of political protocol because he did not first tell committee Democrats. They went into immediate p hoto-op orbit to — wait for it — distract from the actual revelation about their departed dear leader.

But forget such hissy fits. Also, ignore whether this supports Trump’s claim of being “wiretapped” by Obama.

We now know Obama administration intelligence operatives listened in on Trump aides’ conversations. We now know they illegally leaked the identities. And it’s not a stretch in this poisonous partisan environment to wonder if those intel encounters were truly incidental.

Or perhaps did the monitoring use foreign officials as mere covers to gather information, hopefully damning, on the Republican’s transition team and on this Trump usurper who had no business upsetting Clinton on Nov. 8?

Tapped Out: Surveillance Nation

March 9, 2017

Tapped Out: Surveillance Nation, Bill Whittle Channel via YouTube, March 9, 2017

News, Fake News, Very Fake News: A Primer

February 27, 2017

News, Fake News, Very Fake News: A Primer, PJ MediaRoger Kimball, February 27, 2017

spiceynewsconfWhite House Press secretary Sean Spicer takes questions from the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The motor of fake news is not inaccuracy. It’s malice.

I had an insight into this important truth a couple weeks back when I was at a swank New York club for an evening event. The establishment in question is overwhelmingly conventional, i.e., leftish in that smug “We’re-all-beautiful-people-who-are-you?” sort of way that publications like The New Yorker and the New York Times, along with such media outlets as CNN and MSNBC, exude like the cloying aroma of paperwhites.

I ran into an acquaintance, a female journalist I hadn’t seen in years. I knew that her politics were echt conventional in the above sense, but I had also found her an amusing and lively person. We were chatting with a couple of other people about this and that when someone she knew from the Times joined in. I then overheard him explain to her that she had to be careful about what she posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc., because anything too explicitly anti-Trump could be used against her when that glorious day came and “they” — the conventional fraternity of groupthink scribblers — finally took down that horrible, despicable man.

“We’ve got dozens of people working on it all the time,” he explained, adding that it was only a matter of time before they got the goods on Trump and destroyed him.

There in a nutshell, I thought, is the existential imperative that has been so gloriously productive of fake news and its exacerbated allotrope, first delineated by Donald Trump in his famous media-bashing presser on February 16, “very fake news.”

News is the reporting of facts. Someone says “this happened on such-and-such a day in such-and-such a way,” and independent, publicly available sources confirm that, yes, what was alleged happened at just that time and in just that fashion.

Fake news insinuates a skein of innuendo and a boatload of shared presumption floating on an ocean of fantastic desire into the mix. Repetition, like Rumor in the Iliad, whips this unstable congeries into an intoxicating frenzy:

Trump’s transition is in chaos, pass it on.”

Trump is a puppet of Putin, pass it on.”

Trump is Steve Bannon’s puppet, pass it on.”

Trump, like Steve Bannon, is a white supremacist/racist/homophobic/woman-hating xenophobe, really pass that one along.”

Every one of these fantasies is not only untrue, but ostentatiously, extravagantly untrue. Liberals of sound mind understand this.

Thus the British journalist Piers Morgan, than whom a more reliably left-liberal figure is hard to imagine, noted to Tucker Carlson that the Left’s hatred of Donald Trump has blinded them to reality. Godwin’s law, which states that the longer an online exchange proceeds, the more likely it is that Adolf Hitler will be dragged into the conversation, has been exacerbated in the case of Trump. It is true that every Republican since at least Ronald Reagan has been compared to Hitler, but in the case of Trump the comparisons have taken on an especially surreal tone. This, too, is something that Piers Morgan, in another interview with Tucker Carlson, noted with a sense of exasperated amazement.

In fact, Donald Trump’s first 30-odd days have been extraordinarily successful. That’s the news.

As Charlotte Allen noted in a column for USA Today, to date Trump has been even more successful than was Reagan in beginning to fulfill his campaign promises. All of his cabinet nominees have been confirmed (Trump withdrew his nominee for Labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, after it became clear that the two differed on immigration). He has moved quickly to get the ball rolling on tax cuts, repealing Obamacare, strengthening the military, enforcing the country’s immigration laws, and cutting the jungle of business-sapping regulation down to size. He has, as Allen observes, “already taken steps … to fulfill at least a dozen of his campaign promises.”

But listen to the New York Times or any of the other conventional (see above) “news” sources, and you would think Trump is a malevolent and incompetent monster who, despite his supreme incompetence, is somehow tipping the country into moral Armageddon.

Harken, for example, to Andrew Sullivan, who in a column for New York called “The Madness of King Donald,” tells his readers:

This man is off his rocker. He’s deranged; he’s bizarrely living in an alternative universe; he’s delusional.

Sullivan’s evidence?

There is no anchor any more. At the core of the administration of the most powerful country on earth, there is, instead, madness.

Hmm. The dogs are barking, but the caravan keeps moving along, Andrew.

So there’s news (well, there was news) and then there is fake news. Here’s one bit of news: the stock market has risen by nearly 3000 points since Trump’s election.

Here’s another bit of news: while Trump’s personal popularity remains low for a new president, the mood of the country as a whole has exploded with optimism, whereas towards the end of Barack Obama’s reign, 70% of those polled said that the country was moving in the wrong direction.

But what about “Very Fake News”? One could investigate the Left’s truly bizarre Russian fantasy to get a glimpse of the phantasmagoric nature of very fake news. Memo to CNN: Donald Trump was correct when he said the whole Russian gambit was “a ruse.” One of my favorite lines from the English essayist William Hazlitt is: “Those who lack delicacy hold us in their power.” It is ironical, to say the least, to find the very same people who decried Republicans for “red scare” tactics and the like now turn around and pretend that a man who is actively rebuilding America’s military, encouraging native energy production, and taking steps to unleash economic growth is somehow playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands.

That whole Russia narrative is deserving of the epithets served up by Andrew Sullivan: “deranged,” “delusional,” and smack dab in the middle of an alternate universe.

But Very Fake News is really more an attitude, an exfoliation of a moral atmosphere, than a putatively factual account. An exquisite specimen of the genre was vouchsafed us by the New York Times back in July, when the anti-George W. Bush historian Bruce Bartlett revealed that the Republican Party had become … the “party of hate.”

How did that terrible thing happen? Apparently, by a process akin to alchemical transformation.

Bartlett knows that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery in the 19th century, the party of segregation and Jim Crow in the early 20th century, and the party of identity politics, i.e., neo-segregation, now. He also knows, though he doesn’t come right out and say, that the Civil Rights Act was orchestrated overwhelmingly by Republicans over concerted Democratic opposition.

But then afterwards, somehow, Republicans became Democrats, or at least they became Southerners, i.e. the epitome of all that is racist, intolerant, homophobic, etc.

Note the logic: the GOP ushered in the Civil Rights and and the Voting Rights Act, but — pay attention now:

… in the process, Republicans absorbed the traditions of racism, bigotry, populism and rule by plutocrats called “Bourbons” that defined the politics of the South after the Civil War. They also inherited an obsession with self-defense, allegiance to evangelical Christianity, chauvinism, xenophobia and other cultural characteristics long cultivated in the South.

What do you think of that?

You should, I submit, think badly of it, on logical, moral, and historical grounds. Whence this alleged “process” of “absorption”? Is there any justification, any, for the deployment of those negative epithets racism, bigotry, populism? (And how did that last one sneak in?)

Bartlett’s dog’s breakfast of accusation is nothing more than a bagful of insults, utterly without content. He continues the disreputable campaign in the next paragraph:

The Southern states have long followed what are now doctrinaire Republican policies: minuscule taxes, no unions, aggressive pro-business policies, privatized public services and strong police forces that kept minorities in their place. Yet the South is and always has been our poorest region and shows no sign of converging with the Northeast, which has long followed progressive policies opposite those in the South and been the wealthiest region as well.

Personally, I am in favor of “minuscule taxes,” but, alas, the Republicans don’t favor them, at least not the ones writing the laws. Unions? There’s a place for unions in the private sector. But public sector unions, as even FDR understood, are a prescription for corruption. Privatized public services?  Why not? What’s better: FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service? Then there’s “pro-business policies.” I like them, the more  “aggressive” the better. Successful businesses make money, ergo they employ people and add to the country’s material well-being. It is true that Democrats favor the opposite strategy, but is that something to brag about?

As for the police, “strong police forces,” as Heather Mac Donald has shown (and Donald Trump has echoed) are valuable not only because they keep crime low but because they protect minorities, especially those in inner cities.

As for the relative prosperity of North and South, Bartlett is stuck in the 1850s. For more than a decade now, the South has outpaced the North in economic growth if not, thank God, in “progressive,” i.e., leftwing, anti-prosperity attitudes.

Bartlett’s scurrilous essay is one of those productions that, merely contemptible in itself, is nonetheless worth noting as a symptom. It exemplifies, even as it contributes to, that surreal atmosphere of groundless accusation and intimidation that has made the conventional (again, see above) reception of Donald Trump such a carnival of malignancy and groundless apocalyptic self-dramatization.

Steve Bannon was right to brand the media the “opposition party.”

To an extent marvelous to behold, it has become a factory for the production of fake and very fake news: not just the dissemination of lies, half-truths, and unsubstantiated fantasies, but also the perpetuation of that echo-chamber in which political paranoia feeds upon the bitter lees of its impotent irrelevance. As I say, that old adage about the barking dogs and the moving caravan is deeply pertinent to our situation. If Donald Trump is at all successful in his efforts to help the country, we will look back on the behavior of the media and its enablers circa 2017 with a mixture of horror and contempt.