It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, this time with a cartoon-worthy villain who has featured in previous posts.
Roger Stone Found Guilty on All Count – Longtime Trump adviser convicted of lying to Congress under oath about WikiLeaks. Who would have guessed that the man who got Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, and has for years lied about being a member of Nixon’s Presidential Campaign (last year the Nixon Foundation issues an offical refutation of the claim because all of the headlines that were referring to him as a campaign aide or a Nixon aide).
In case you don’t recall this criminal, Stone is a longtime Trump associate who, during the 2016 campaign, communicated (through intermediaries) with Wikileaks people to find out what was in those hacked Clinton campaign emails and similar bits of information. When we was subpoenaed by Congress a couple years ago, he denied all of it. He also communicated (often by text and email, the idiot) to others who had been subpoened and told them to lie, threatening them if they didn’t. This week, prosecutors laid that all out to a jury. Stone’s lawyers countered mostly by saying that laying under oath isn’t really a crime (which it is), and even if is it, so what? Fortunately, Assistant US Attorney Michael Marando had an answer:
“So what? So what?” Marando asked, with what seemed like real indignation. “If that’s the state of affairs that we’re in, I’m pretty shocked. Truth matters. Truth still matters, okay.” “…in our institutions of self governance, courts of law or committee hearings, where people have to testify under oath, truth still matters.”
“Mr. Stone came in and he lied to Congress,” Marando thundered at jurors. “He obstructed their investigation and he tampered with a witness, and that matters. And you don’t look at that and you don’t say: ‘So what?’ For those reasons we ask you to find him guilty of the charged offenses.”
—as quoted by Dan Friedman writing for Mother Jones, Prosecutors Just Rested Their Case Over Roger Stone’s Lies: “Truth Matters”.
Of course, this isn’t completely over:
Roger Stone was found guilty. Now all eyes turn to Trump – The president will face pressure to pardon Stone after the GOP operative was found guilty of charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. Donald took a few minutes out of his unhinged rage tweet-storm yesterday smearing and threatening the former Ambassador to Ukraine while she was testifying in the impeachment hearing, to tweet out typical what-about-ism nonsense. Basically, if Stone has to go to jail for lying, why aren’t other people who Trump claims have lied going to jail.
Stone got his pal, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to broadcast a plea to President Trump to pardon him. That fact came up in court on Friday, as prosecutors argued that it was a violation of the judge’s gag order on Stone about talking to the media. In a twist that I can’t say I complete disapprove of, the judge decided that Jones isn’t a journalist, merely a media figure. I’m glad that someone is starting to realize that just because someone posts video lies and distortions doesn’t mean they’re a journalist.
Because, you know, the truth matters.
I know that we’re soon going to be flooded with stories trying to generate sympathy for Stone. After all, earlier this year Stone and his wife were forced to move out of the 9-bedroom mansion they had been renting for nearly $10,000 a month into a one bedroom apartment! Not only that, they had to do the move themselves! His poor wife had to actually rent a U-Haul truck!? On the indignity!
I mention that specifically because one of the claims Trump and his allies have made is that Stone wasn’t even working for Trump when he was talking with Wikileaks and asking for dirt on the Clinton campaign and giving that dirt to members of the Trump campaign. That’s a pretty hard notion to swallow just on it’s own. But Stone’s careers has consisted mostly of getting hired as a consultant or advisor by wealthy men with little or no political experience who are considering running for office, or at least like to threaten to run for office. He’s always made his money by working as a so-called political consultant, and it is well known that he never does anything that he isn’t getting paid for.Someone was paying him enough to continue to afford to rent that big mansion in Florida, to keep buying his ostentatious wardrobe, to keep wining and dining people and jetsetting around while he was spending all that time finding information that would benefit the Trump campaign. If it wasn’t some part of the Trump organization, who was it?
Of course, even if he wasn’t being paid by Trump to do it, it was still illegal. Just as lying under oath to a government entity investigating a possible crime later was illegal. And it doesn’t become legal just because you think some people who disagree with have said things you disagree with and have decided to label as “lies.”
I don’t know if Trump is going to pardon Roger. Roger is, afterall, the sixth person so far to get convicted for crimes on the Trump campaign’s behalf, and he hasn’t pardoned any of the previous five. In Trump’s mind, loyalty only goes one way. You must be loyal to him. He will never to loyal to you. So I don’t think he will.
And, hey, Stone doesn’t get sentenced until February. By then, maybe Trump won’t be the person holding the power of pardoning.
A guy can dream, can’t he?
So, the basic headline first: Roger Stone, Longtime Trump Associate, Arrested After Mueller Indictment. He has been indicted for one count of obstruction of proceeding (interfering with an investigation into one or more crimes), five counts of making false statements (lying to Congress under oath), and one count of witness tampering. Let’s be clear, this means that a grand jury has found that the prosecutors have established a prima facia case that he is probably guilty of these crimes.
According to the indictment, Stone informed members of the Trump campaign that wikileaks was illegally in possession of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, which he could make available to the campaign so that campaign may use the information in the political campaign. I want to note, here, that nothing in the hacked emails indicated that any crimes were being conducted by anyone in the Clinton campaign or the DNC. The so-called damaging information was either stuff that could easily be taken out of context to imply more unsavory things, or indications that many of the running a bunch of political campaigns were ruthless and sometimes held grudges. It can be embarrassing, but hardly illegal.
Obtaining the emails, on the other hand, is a criminal act. Using illegally obtained personal communications can also be a crime.
Anyway, Stone is charged with lying about this under oath multiple times, trying to convince at least one other witness to lie, and generally attempting to impede any legal investigation into the crime of hacking the email servers, stealing the information, and sharing it. This is serious, not just because it ties someone with long-running close ties to the Alleged President to the Russian Collusion case. It also implies that Congressional Republicans didn’t try very hard while investigation Russian interference: Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves the House Republicans’ Russia Investigation Was a Whitewash.
Stone has been an infamous figure in Republican politics for years. He’s well known for various dirty tricks. Be he is also well known for his obsession with disgraced former President Richard Nixon. Stone famously has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back (seriously, be posts pictures of the tattoo on line, himself!). When he came out of federal court on Friday after posting bail, he literally (and intentionally) posed in a manner identical to one of Nixon’s famous things: holding both hands out at an angle from his body, fingers on each handing making a V for Victory, and grinning like a madman.Less pertinent to any actual crimes, but the source of many memes out there comparing Stone to the character of Judge Doom, the villain in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Look at these pictures! This is how the guy dresses when he is going to places. He looks like he’s cosplaying a a villain from the campy 1960s Batman TV show, for goodness sake! There are more, so many, many more! And I know it is silly and superficial to focus on such a thing, but there is more to his cartoon-ish personality and life choices.
And that is relevant in a few ways: Roger Stone’s Greatest Liability – The longtime Trump adviser’s attention-seeking ways made him an easy target for Robert Mueller.. An easy target, much easier than any one of the thirty-four other people who have either already pled guilty to various crimes related to the Trump campaign or have been indicted before Stone. That Mueller waited this long to get Stone tells us that he has already locked down enough to start going for big fish, as it were.
There is a bit more, though. I mentioned above that Stone is obsessed with Nixon and likes to talk up his relationship to Nixon all the time. Dozens of stories, including at least one of those I’ve already linked to, often refer to his time working on one of Nixon’s presidential campaigns. Specifically indicated that he was involved in the official Nixon campaign organization. That, it turns out, isn’t true: Nixon Foundation disowns Roger Stone.
You have to be pretty bad to have the Nixon Foundation disavow you!
The truth is that Stone was 16 years old the Nixon successfully ran for President in 1968. He was 20 years old when Nixon ran for re-election, and it is true that he volunteered for re-election activities. It is even true that his official title in that capacity was as a “junior scheduler.” But he was not working for the Nixon campaign. He wasn’t even working for one of the state-level committees to re-elect the President. He was the junior scheduler for the committee that was formed by his University’s Young Republican Club to promote Nixon on campus.
My grandpa used to like to tell the story about when I was four years old and I got into an argument with my dad because I thought that Barry Goldwater would be a better President than Lyndon B. Johnson. That didn’t make me a Goldwater campaign aide. And being a member of a campus Young Republican Club supporting the re-election of the then current Republican President doesn’t make one a Presidential Campaign Aide, either.
Stone eventually became the national president of the Young Republicans, and he became infamous for amassing dossiers on all 800 delegates to the national meeting of the club. He and his close friend Paul Manafort used information in those dossiers to blackmail other members of the organization in order to make them vote for his proposals.
Stone did work for the Nixon Administration briefly after college, but he was an extremely low-level Federal employee. As the Nixon Foundation’s official statement said, “Nowhere in the Presidential Daily Diaries from 1972 to 1974 does the name “Roger Stone” appear.” Stone later worked briefly for Senator Bob Dole, but was fired over allegations that he had been involved in various unethical campaign activities.
He did become a campaign strategist for a Republican gubernatorial candidate and later worked on both of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns and for the elder President Bush’s first election campaign. He was one of many founders of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. He worked on various Senatorial election campaigns. And in the 1990s he became a paid lobbyist for one of Donald Trump’s companies
He went to work for Senator Dole again while Dole was running for President, and then had to quit when it was discovered that he and his second wife had been placing ads in various “racy” publications seeking sexual partners for threesomes and more-somes. At the time, he accused a former employee with a drug problem of placing all the ads to embarrass him, but later admitted that the ads were his. And while I don’t think the ads or the private sexual practices of he and his second wife made are usually anyone’s business—remember that politicians he has worked for and promoted and raised money for have actively tried to restrict and criminalize the consensual sexual activities of other people, so it becomes relevant. And then, of course, trying to frame someone else for it is also indicative of his being an immoral, unethical liar.
So it should be no surprise that Trump has praised him: “Roger’s a good guy. He’s been so loyal and so wonderful.”
A senior Democratic aide told the Daily News that the deal started with a meeting between Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office Thursday evening.
McConnell proposed a short-term funding bill with a down payment on the wall, but Schumer rejected that, suggesting Democrats would commit to the path that Trump announced — an agreement for the House and Senate to work out border security in a conference committee.
And I want to get the timeline completely clear: Back in December, before the shutdown, when the Republicans still controlled both Houses of Congress, Democrats and Republicans hammered our a spending deal, Trump had agreed to sign in, and then, when presented with the actual bill that he had already agreed to, Donald changed his mind. Vice President Pence urged Trump to sign the bill and not shutdown the government. Trump, apparently being egged on by one of his slimiest advisors, Stephen Miller, vetoed the bill. A couple weeks later, Democrats officially took control of the lower House and immediately passed the exact same bill that Trump had originally agreed to. Senate Majority Piddler Mitch McConnell, despite private calls from other Republican Senators, refused to even schedule a vote of the bill. As the House passed 9 more versions of the spending bill (one unanimously), members of McConnell’s party began to publicly call for him to schedule a vote.
Pelosi informed the President that there would be no State of the Union Address while the shutdown was going on. Donald got into a snit, seeming to think that the earlier letter from Pelosi suggesting the date (back when everyone assumed the Senate Republicans were going to vote to re-open government sooner) somehow constituted a legal contract(?). Then insisted he could just show up and give the speech. At which point finally pundits on Fox News even had to admit that it doesn’t work that way. The State of the Union is defined in the Constitution as a report from the President to the Congress. And the Constitution also makes the Congress and co-equal branch of the government, and gives each House absolute control over its own chamber. The President cannot address either House without a resolution from the House inviting him. The Senate might pass such a resolution (though it was looking as if that wasn’t certain), but if the House doesn’t pass a matching resolution, and if Pelosi doesn’t approve turning the cameras on in the House Chamber, Donald isn’t going to get his big stage and those hundreds of thousands of viewers that he craves.
So that was the first surrender that Donald made this week: because it was clear that even his loyal Fox News wouldn’t call or cover any speech given anywhere else the same as a State of the Union.
I’ve been seeing a bunch of people claim that Pelosi didn’t really win the fight over the shutdown, that the Air Traffic Controllers did, as delays started to occur at major hub airports. I understand the attraction of that argument, but the timing is off. Trump already had caved, and was sending his surrogates to find a way to give in while saving face before that happened. Yes, the Air Traffic Control situation surely is what pushed a bunch of Congressional Republicans who had been holding out before, but Trump was already giving up.
Don’t believe me? Well, would you believe one of Donald’s most fervent fanboys from Fox News? Lou Dobbs: Nancy Pelosi “Just Whipped” The President.
“She has just whipped the president of the United States. You know I’m an animated, energetic supporter of this president, but you’ve got to call it as it is. This president said it was going to be conditional, border security, building that wall, and he just reversed himself. That’s a victory for Nancy Pelosi.”
—Lou Dobbs, Fox Business January 25, 2019
I know it’s more complicated than just one person. ‘Complete, total surrender’: Why Trump waved the white flag – The sudden erosion of support from Senate Republicans ultimately forced Trump’s hand. But that’s the way it is with these battles. There is a context.
And obviously, the fight isn’t over. The bipartisan conference committee has to meet and hammer out some kind of deal. And clearly our Alleged President is willing to throw anyone and everyone under the bus to try to get his way. But I’ll take victories when we get them.
One of the stories I didn’t link to yesterday was a Buzzfeed piece that only broke on Thursday, but by the time I was working on the Friday Five Thursday night, I had seen so many people link to it or re-reported it that it felt both like old news or at least something that everyone saw, so I didn’t link. Let me remedy that because late Friday a boatload of new developments happened: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.
I should also admit that, besides seeing so many links to it throughout Thursday, it also just feels like a headline you’ve already read, right? I mean, didn’t we already know this? Except we didn’t know this one, and if a fraction of the details are right, it’s a bigger deal than some of the other well-documented lies and corrupt acts of the Alleged President: BuzzFeed’s Trump-Cohen Story Describes Clearly Impeachable Crimes- The tale of a presidential coverup is familiar — and troubling. This is different than most of the other things we’ve heard about this case because, if the story is correct, it is talking about things Trump did after taking office. If true, it also is a serious crime (and criminal conspiracy) regardless of whether the interactions of the Trump’s campaign organization with Russian officials rise to the legal definition of collusion.
Lying to Congress is a crime. Lying to Congress under oath is a serious crime. A government official (including by not limited to the President) instructing someone else to lie to Congress under oath is a crime. Doing so for the explicit purpose of obstructing one or more criminal investigations (and remember, Mueller’s office is not the only one investigating various possible criminal activities surrounding these events) is a serious crime.
Of course, supporters of the Alleged President got what they think is vindication Friday night (and even he thinks it is, because of course he’s tweeted about it already): Special counsel office: Parts of Buzzfeed article tying Trump to Cohen’s lies to Congress are not accurate. Oh, well, in that case, never mind, right?
Well, no, because you need to both read the actual statement from the Special Counsel’s Office, and you need to think like a prosecutor when you do:
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Parse that like a lawyer and you realize that all the Special Counsel’s Office is saying is that 1) the don’t have all the details right, and 2) there are nuances or details which the article omits or misinterprets.
It is not a repudiation of the core of the story: Here’s What Legal Experts and Former Gov’t. Officials Say Mueller’s Statement on the Buzzfeed Story Means. In other words, what the Special Counsel’s Office is saying is that parts of the story are right, parts are wrong, but they can’t tell us which parts are without revealing information that would compromise the current investigation.
Buzzfeed has since responded that they stand by their story. The speculation is that someone in one of the other prosecuting offices has leaked this information. I mentioned above that Mueller’s office isn’t the only one, right? We know that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is also investigating many of these things, because they have been filing joint motions to federal judges regarding sentencing and so forth of a bunch of the conspirators who have already either pled guilty or been indicted. We know that prosecutors in Germany are investigating some aspects because of raids they have conducted on bank offices and such over there, and the public warrants filed in conjunction with those raids. There is a strong suspicion (but less public proof) that state prosecutors in New York are also conducting a parallel investigation. There are hints in some of the other activities that numerous other state prosecutors have been given information relevant to state crimes that the Special Counsel’s Office as uncovered—this is not unusual for federal investigators, when finding evidence of crimes that they can’t pursue in federal courts to refer that information to the jurisdictions that can prosecute the crimes.
So it is very possible that someone in one of these other offices, for whatever reason, decided to leak the information to the press. One possibility is that several of the statements made this week by the Attorney General nominee have made it seem likely that he will let Mueller complete his investigation, but then not pass the report on to Congress, instead writing his own summary report. This could make law enforcement officials believe that the information is never going to reach Congress or the public unless someone leaks some of it and gets enough people looking into it that it becomes impossible for a corrupt Attorney General to suppress.
This, by the way, was the motivation that led an FBI official named Mark Felt to start passing information about crimes committed on Nixon’s behalf to two reporters for the Washington Post. Those leaks eventually led to the Watergate investigation and created enough public furor that Nixon resigned from office before Congress could impeach him. For many years, the two reporters refused to reveal the name of their source of secret information, referring to him only as Deep Throat.
This raises the question, why would Mueller say anything at all about it, if it wasn’t his office that leaked it? My guess is two reasons. First, he probably believes that he has already set up enough contingencies against interference from a new Attorney General that the investigation’s results will reach the public. Second, he is very angry at whoever did leak it, even though he isn’t sure who did the leaking. He isn’t worried that the information he gathers won’t eventually become public (because of his contingencies) but he is worried that a spooked Alleged President will find another way to shut down the investigation before he finishes.
So, issuing this statement calms Cadet Bonespur down, giving him reason to tweet about how even Mueller agrees with him the Buzzfeed is wrong. And buys Mueller a bit more time.
Which makes me suspect that he is really, really close to nailing down irrefutable evidence on something. He’s got a lot of people who have been found or had pled guilty to all sorts of things already, which means he’s got a lot of thumbscrews being twisted to flush out more evidence.
It might be time to break out the popcorn soon!
Anyway, the winners are:
The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)
“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:
Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:
The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
Editor, Short Form:
Editor, Long Form:
Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman
Series:(Special Category added by option of Worldcon 75)
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards)
And I’m sure that in certain corners of the trollnet there is a lot of angry thrashing: Women swept nearly every category at the 2017 Hugo Awards. To paraphrase Ruth Bader Ginsburg: and for how many years were the categories literally swept by men (and almost always white men, at that)? Let me repeat: I’m an old, literally grey bearded, cis male white fan who literally learned how to read from Robert A. Heinlein novels, and every single one of this year’s winners were fabulous sf/f works that deserve that award because they are awesome stories.
So, congratulations to all the winners!
Oh, another thing announced yesterday: Worldcon 2019 will be in Dublin, Ireland! It’ll be the first Irish Worldcon! Yay! There’s a lot of other fun news from the con, you can see a bunch of pictures and more here.
On to other things: Terry Gross is one of my favorite people to listen to on the radio. She’s been interviewing people for years, and much of what I like about her show is how many times she made me really connect with and care about people I didn’t expect to. Anyway, she was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week, and it was funny in a way I absolutely did not expect. Watch the whole clip to learn about her process, but also to get a really good laugh when she tells the story of the time Bill O’Reilly angrily stormed out of an interview.
NPR’s Terry Gross Has a Sick Burn for Bill O’Reilly Walking Out on Their Fresh Air Interview:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.
Lots of people have been freaking out about all the nuclear war talk this week. I left most of it out of yesterday’s round up of links other than to link to an analysis of why it is almost certain that we don’t actually need to be worried just yet. But besides most people not understanding the technological hurdles as to why North Korea doesn’t have that missile-capable bomb there’s more. And Nothing New On North Korea Except Donald Trump’s Freak-Out. There actually isn’t any new news. Only one agency is saying this is a possibility, and that same intelligence agency claimed the same thing several years ago and was shown to be wrong then. Furthermore, Donald isn’t suddenly talking about this because of a security briefing he got. He started angrily threatening war when he saw a headline in the Washington Post… which he has also claimed in one of the fake news outlets, but obviously he doesn’t really think that, does he? Anyway, Rachel Maddow’s clip that I linked is really good. And she had an actual
(recently retired) intelligence expert whose specialty was North Korea for decades. It’s really worth the watch.
Related, I’m really irritated that this is even necessary: From the editor in chief of Christianity Today: The Use of Nuclear Weapons Is Inherently Evil. Even though I consider myself a former christian, it angers me to a level that is difficult to describe that there are so-called christian pastors saying the opposite, saying things like Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War. Geezus! Even the religious right’s favorite president, Ronald Reagan, condemned nuclear weapons as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.” And who can forget what the late evangelist Billy Graham said on the subject: “I cannot see any way in which nuclear war could be branded as being God’s will. Such warfare, if it ever happens, will come because of the greed and pride and covetousness of the human heart.”
Well, we certainly have a president who epitomizes greed and pride and covetousness…
Grrrr! And don’t get me started on the literal Nazis marching in North Carolina… but at least some Republicans are waking up: Former GOP Senator Calls For Trump’s Removal “Donald Trump is seriously sick. He is dangerous. As a citizen, a former U.S. Senator and twelve-year member of the Armed Services Committee, I urge you to act at once. This is an emergency.”
I can’t end on a sour note. So, here’s some much better news: ‘Sense8’ is back in production, and the finale is going to be totally ‘epic’ and Formerly Abused Husky Now Helps Children Who Have Been Abused.
There are so many things I could say about this, but I think this tweet sums it up:
Let’s move on to someone who may finally be facing justice. Back in 2012 a high school student in Rhode Island sued to have a religious banner removed from her public school. Shortly after a court ordered the school to remove the mural, state legislator Peter Palumbo said in a radio interview that the student was an “evil little thing.” So a government official, an adult, was bashing a teen-age girl because she had the audacity to stand up for the Constitution. Classic bullying behavior. Well, Palumbo apparently does know a thing or two about evil: RI State Rep. Who Called Teen Atheist “Evil Little Thing” Indicted for Embezzlement.
He lost re-election recently. Not for bullying a teen-age girl, of course, no that didn’t cost him any votes. He was revealed to be involved in a financial scandal. This week, he was indicted on charges of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign funds. This has nothing to do with the contract scandal that cost him his office. This is another illegal not-so-little thing he was doing.
I wish the Rhode Island citizens would have tossed this guy out on his ear back then, but they seemed to have been too busy making death threats and bullying the teen-ager who stood up for the Constitution. At least, now, karma has caught up with one of her bullies.
In pieces such as Timothy Egan’s New York Times op-ed, Trump Is the Poison His Party Concocted, pundits act as if the rightwing activists have been whipping up toxic racism, sexism, and homophobia only during the last decade or so. The truth is that all of that bigotry has been part of the fabric of the religious right going back through the 70s, 60s, 50s, and much, much earlier. Randall Balmer wrote about some of this last year on Politico: The Real Origins of the Religious Right – They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.
I’ve seen a lot people, from reporters to pundits to ordinary folks, make the specific claim that Donald Trump is in the lead among Republican voters not because they agree with his crazy racist and misogynist comments, but because they know his comments drive “liberals” nuts. These folks usually go on to say that eventually the Republican voters will get serious and vote for one of the other candidates once they’re finished yanking our chains. The unspoken proposition in that reasoning is that some of the other candidates are less racist and/or less misogynist than Trump is.
And I can’t figure out how anyone who has actually heard any of them talk could think that.
I said, half-jokingly, that I wasn’t going to watch the debates last week because I’d wind up drinking an unhealthy amount of alcohol to get through it. I have a much bigger reason not to listen to it: there is no policy differences between any of the 17 Republican candidates. None.
- All of them want to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
- All of them are opposed to marriage equality in particular and gay rights in general (yes, even former Governor Kasich, don’t let his sound byte about attending a “gay marriage” distract you from his decades of voting against and vetoing gay rights bills, funding for heatlh care for domestic partners of state employees, gay adoption, and so on).
- All of them are opposed to a woman’s right to choose.
- All of them are opposed to raising the minimum wage.
- All of them are apposed to restrictions on the same banking and financial institutions that destroyed the economy.
- All of them are in favor of more war.
- All of them want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
- All of them want to cut taxes even further on the rich.
- All of them want to take away the few remaining protections workers have in the work place.
- None of them want to do anything about climate change.
- All of them favor some flavor of “religious liberty” laws that allow people to discriminate.
- All of them oppose anti-bullying programs in public schools that don’t have religious exemptions allowing Christian kids to bully their queer classmates.
- All of them try to blame problems in the economy caused by some of their other policies on immigrants.
- All of them want states to be able to enact more laws designed to keep poor and minority voters from voting…
I could keep going. But, seriously, the only thing that differentiates any of them is the tone of arguments they make on those issues, and which of those things they think is more important. But they’re all in favor of racist and misogynist policies. Each and every one of them. And they believe all of those things because the Republican base supports all of that.
To be fair, a lot of the base is sincere when they claim not to be bigots. This isn’t to say that they aren’t bigots, I’m just saying that they sincerely believe that they aren’t. It’s like one of my relatives who sends me sad messages wondering why my husband and I didn’t come to her Independence Day barbecue, the same day she was posting long tirades on Facebook about how god is going to destroy america because of marriage equality. She doesn’t see the contradiction between claiming she loves and respects us, her gay nephew and his husband, while also insisting that our love is an abomination that is going to cause an apocalypse.
Similarly, they have no qualms getting angry at the Black Lives Matter protestors by insisting “the blacks” should be grateful to the police for all the good they do. And “those blacks” shouldn’t be out protesting because of a “thug” who got what was coming to him. And if “those blacks” had real jobs instead of “taking welfare all the time” they wouldn’t have time to be protesting. But they insist they aren’t racist and it is a terrible slander for someone like me to point it out. Oh, and how dare I be offended about the confederate flag when “that damn president covered the white house in the immoral rainbow after the gay marriage ruling!”
But they aren’t bigots, no, not at all.
One of the local news people, when he expressed the hope that all this apparent support for the candidate saying the most obviously racist and misogynist things is some sort of put-on, said he did so because he hoped that the American people weren’t that bigoted. “The majority can’t really believe that stuff, can they?” The problem he’s having is the assumption that the Republican base represents the American population as a whole.
Let’s do some very rough math. In the last presidential election, the Republican candidate got only 47% of the vote. Less than a majority. And we know from other polling that the got less than a third of the so-called swing voters (that notion is worth its own blog post). So let’s say that roughly 45% of the population aligns with the Republicans. Other statistics show us that less than one-third of voters participate in primaries and caucuses. So that means that at most, 15% of the population falls into the category of “likely Republican primary voter.” And at most, 25% of those people support Donald Trump. So, 25% of 15% leaves us with 3.75%. In other words, less than 4% of all voters support the blatantly racist, misogynist b.s. that Trump is spewing.
Unfortunately, other polling indicates that at least 60% of likely Republican voters oppose gay rights, pro-choice policies, and civil rights protections. Which is why the other 16 clowns officially in the race for the nomination all have policies statements that align with Trump’s, they’re just a bit more genteel in their language (some times). But lest you despair, that’s 60% of the 45% mentioned earlier. So while these positions will continue to dominate the Republican party, by sticking to these ideas the candidates are only appealing to 27% of the entire electorate; in the process alienating most of the remaining 73%.
So it isn’t likely to be a winning strategy in the end. And while it’s scary to realize there are folks who feel that way, I think it’s good that things like this remind us who they are.
We had some of my husband’s relatives in town over Memorial Day weekend, and as we were driving somewhere on Memorial Day itself, I mentioned how my Grandmother had insisted on calling it “Decoration Day” her entire life. That she had, in fact, died literally in the middle of putting silk flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud on the Friday before Memorial Day, because to her the holiday had always been about putting flowers on the graves of all of your family members who had passed away, and having a family gathering to celebrate the lives of our loved ones no longer with us. To which my sister-in-law said, “That’s how I grew up celebrating it, too! Sometimes with a picnic at the cemetery.”
It was later that I saw a cartoon that talked about how every even vaguely-patriot holiday seems to be inexorably transformed into Veteran’s Day: so Memorial Day is now Veteran’s Day May, Independence Day is now Veteran’s Day July, Labor Day is sometimes Veteran’s Day September, and the actual Veteran’s Day is now merely Veteran’s Day November.
If Flag Day joins that list I’m going to start slapping people.
I saw that a lot of news sites had posted articles like this one: Why you shouldn’t confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Of course, I thought that maybe the cartoon was going a bit far when it suggested people were confusing Labor Day with Veterans day, until I saw this story: Get it straight: The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day which mentions seeing “thank the troops” events being scheduled on Labor Day.
This lunacy must stop. I know that my own wish to keep the original (and it does predate the declaration of the first memorial day for troops issued by General Logan in 1868 by decades) meaning of the May holiday as a day to commemorate the lives of all of our loved ones who have died is probably a lost battle. But this re-defining of patriotism as supporting the troops (which has itself already very unpatriotically been re-defined as supporting the notion of sending troops to die to further political aims rather than to actually defend the nation), and therefore coopting all other commemorations of our nation’s history and principles into yet another chance to thank the troops, isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous.
We’re currently in the middle of a war on “terror” which is being used by government officials of both parties to trample all over our civil rights and the Constitution itself. The vast transfer of completely inappropriate military hardware to police departments is a direct result of this ill-conceived and poorly-defined war. A war which is not being waged against an actual threat, but merely the idea of possible threats. And the escalating violence by police against the citizens they are supposed to protect is enabled and excused because of a myth we’ve been sold that these are people risking their lives to protect us, therefore we must support the cops, because not doing so would be the same as not supporting the troops, and we already know that all patriots always support the troops.
And let’s not forget the actual men and women in uniform who were sent to Iraq because of lies (which Bush administration officials are finally admitting they were intentional lies), far too many of whom have come home wounded, maimed, and otherwise in need of care which our congresscritters seem unwilling to pay for. I’m still one of those weirdos who thinks that the first step in supporting the troops is not to vote for politicians who authorized military action when it isn’t needed, and not to vote for those who don’t adequately fund veterans’ hospitals, et cetera.
We don’t have the funds to pay returning veterans a living wage or get them proper medical care, but we do have money to pay for things like this: US Defense Department paid 14 NFL teams $5.4M to honor soldiers. The NFL didn’t give free tickets to those soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines. Each of those tickets was paid for by your tax dollars! And the tickets are a fraction of the amount paid to the league. But the money is well spent, according to the folks who approved the contracts, because it’s a great recruiting tool.
So we are paying a very successful business millions of tax dollars to pretend to be patriotic in order to distract us from asking questions about why those troops are being sent into harm’s way and to lure more people into volunteering to be sent into harm’s way. You can’t get more capitalist or cynical than that!
Let’s stop blurring the lines between the holidays. Let’s stop blurring the lines between supporting the troops and supporting the politicians and industries that profit from exploiting the troops. Let’s stop blurring patriotism into cynicism—while we still can!