March 31, 2019First, Matt Taibbi via Andrew O'Hehir:
If you saw what happened in 2016, the political situation was that the ruling neoliberal consensus was under fire from all sides, from radical right movements both in the United States and in Europe; from leftist movements, both in the United States and Europe. The overwhelming voter sentiment everywhere had to do with the rejection of the international global consensus. You saw votes like Brexit, a complete repudiation of a number of things. But Russiagate as a political solution, as a response to that electoral phenomenon, has been extraordinarily effective. Because what it’s done is it’s completely changed the attitude of a huge portion of the population, which now sees the international security services, the global consensus, as the only saviors who are going to rescue them from the evil Trump. And therefore, we have to pursue this case and celebrate authoritarianism and celebrate the FBI and CIA and their heroism, and the European Union and NATO. This story has had some benefit from a propaganda perspective as well.I don't disagree with the last sentence, and I do agree it's been politics making strange bedfellows (though nobody wants to make so mundane an argument) to see "liberals" relying on the veracity of the FBI and former directors of the CIA; but such is life. What bugs me is the highlighted sentence, in the context O'Hehir provides:
The American public at large is only moderately interested in the Russia scandal: No matter what Republicans may wish to claim right now, it played little role in the Democrats’ midterm victory of 2018, and was never likely to be a major factor in the 2020 presidential campaign. But for a specific quadrant of educated, metropolitan liberals — those people most likely to watch Maddow’s show, listen to NPR and read the Times (and Salon) — it has been the focus of almost addictive fascination.
Again, I agree with the last sentence (more or less; more as metaphor, less as literal description), but I also agree with the first sentence: literally. Which is what this observation is about:
So maybe Mueller doesn't meant that much, after all. Given Trump's approval ratings (which haven't really moved since he took office), that's not such a bad thing. Now, the other thing O'Hehir does almost in passing is to drop the idea like a land mine (to explode later!) that interest in the Mueller investigation is primarily interest in undoing the 2016 election (not coincidentally, that's what Mulvaney said to Jake Tapper on CNN today!). No doubt there are some, whom I would compare to Bernie Bros. who still think Clinton stole the nomination from him, who think Trump is equally illegitimate. I don't think so and have never thought so. I never looked to Mueller to undo that election (it's not only a legal impossibility, it's a nullity now anyway, so close to 2020). Maybe a fringe of a fringe have done so, but to intimate that's the majority opinion of those paying attention and opposed to Trump is just...well, it's underhanded analysis. Kind of like claiming on the one hand most Americans aren't paying attention to Mueller's actions (certainly not with the obsession of yours truly and others of like mind), but on the other hand a "huge portion of the population...sees the international security services...as the only saviors who are going to rescue them from the evil Trump." O'Hehir tries to evince some even-handed sympathy for Taibbi and Glen Greenwald, his ideological brother in arms, claiming both are taking an unpopular stance. Or it could be their reasoning is so slip-shod and shotgun (spray words and see it they hit anything!) they inspire response in kind. Simply put, neither Greenwald nor Taibbi seem much worth the effort it takes to shout down the megaphones they undoubtedly have (though I must admit I don't hear them, which may indicate just how small their audiences actually are).The story on polling post-Mueller report isn't that Trump job approval has moved up or down, it's that it hasn't really moved at all.— amy walter (@amyewalter) March 31, 2019
This is the way these "discussions" usually go, though. A sprinkle of bombast ("some people say"), a major helping of contradiction, and a lot of throwing of sand in the air because that makes you look like you're considering "all sides" and "all of the facts." And somehow this passes for reasonable, even rational, argument.
When it's just flapdoodle.
If you're going to quote someone with the idea that they may have a reasonable position, you can't contradict that position with other facts, and call the whole thing a careful consideration of the facts. And O'Hehir does agree with Taibbi, for the most part. Immediately after that long quote, he says:
I’ve made a related case that the liberal fantasy of seeing Trump impeached, convicted and dragged from the White House in irons reflected a childlike desire to make the 2016 election un-happen, and to return to the supposedly normal politics of America under Barack Obama (which were not normal at all).
Which, as I say, may be a liberal fantasy of a handful of dead-enders and ideological fanatics, but no one who is sensible is denying we have our Trump-like fanatics on the "left," too. There are probably some liberals who still think Stalin was too soft in imposing communism, too; but they speak only for themselves. Setting up such a "liberal fantasy" in the first place is just erecting a straw man; relying on it for further argument is not the sign of a well thought discussion. Although actually, in American politics, it's perfectly normal. John Adams called Thomas Jefferson an hermaphrodite. The recently sainted-in-death GHWBush relied on Willie Horton to defeat Michael Dukakis. LBJ was a street fighter of a campaigner; the story goes he told an aide to spread a rumor about a political candidate. The aide protested the story was untrue. "I know it's not true!," LBJ reportedly replied. "I wanna see him deny it!" That's a man who could teach Trump a few things about political knife-fights. Nixon could, too. And don't get me started on Bobby Kennedy.
It works in politics (sometimes). It's crap as rational discussion (which seldom works in public any of the time; but still we beat on, boats against the tide.)
The worst part of this is O'Hehir throwing his hands in the air and pretending he's now a font of wisdom, because "things are complicated! Who knows?!":
But the really important part, I believe, is not to keep a scorecard of who’s right and who’s wrong, but to recognize that nobody is 100 percent right about any of this. In the famous words of screenwriter William Goldman, nobody knows anything. The tapestry of historical fragments and patterns that brought us here, to 2019 and President Donald Trump and what I perceive as a global crisis of democratic legitimacy, has so many seen and unseen threads that scholars of the future — assuming there will be a future, not to mention with scholars in it — will not quite be sure what happened a hundred years from now.
Yeah; the sum of his problem solution argument is to say that nobody's got a solution, and a hundred years from now we'll all be dead anyway! Behold the first sentences of the two paragraphs following the quoted one just above:
There has never been any public evidence to suggest a coordinated criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Russians in 2016.Without public evidence we don't know nothin', and we can't do nothin'. Not only do both paragraphs drop the SDNY investigations down the memory hole (investigations SNL managed to mention three times in the cold open last night!), the second paragraph turns both paragraphs inside out in just two sentences:
On the other hand, it was certainly conceivable that Mueller would go deeper into Trump’s long and murky history of corrupt or dubious business practices than he evidently did, and might uncover damning evidence about the president’s relationships with Russian oligarchs and criminals, who are unquestionably allied with the Putin regime.
Those things — explored over the years, for instance, by investigative reporter David Cay Johnston — long predate the 2016 campaign and may relate to it only distantly or indirectly, or perhaps not at all.
It's conceivable, but we have no public evidence, save for the evidence provided by Mr. Johnson of many years standing, but somehow the latter does not constitute "public evidence," because we already know there isn't any. Which is it? Who knows? It's too complicated, and in 100 years, scholars still won't know!
These things that pass for knowledge I don't understand. Nor do I understand why people think this is sound argument; or even an argument at all. It reads like simple-minded surrender, to me. Or somebody just getting paid to fill out pixels. Because this is how he ends it:
Where does that leave us? Still in the dark, I’m afraid: Consumed by questions and confronting a report we haven’t read that probably won’t answer them. Did Rachel Maddow and her ilk go way too far in ginning up a seductive conspiracy theory that played into the hopeful, narcissistic yearnings of too many liberals? Yes. Have the skeptics declared premature vindication and issued an overly sweeping indictment of the media, when we still don’t know enough about Donald Trump’s evident corruption and his numerous connections to sleazy characters around the world, Russian and otherwise? Yes. Are we any closer to a clear idea of how to defeat Trump and what he represents, and how to begin reclaiming democracy? I almost don’t want to answer that. I don’t know.
No shit, Sherlock. Until that final sentence, I never would have guessed.
(and also, via Salon, we get this:
A month and a half ago I warned in this space that the corporate news media’s obsession with nailing Trump for a conspiracy with Russia was setting themselves and the rest of the country up for his re-election. Why is it the media's fault, you ask? Funny you should ask that:
They were so heavily invested in getting Trump because they had not seen him coming in the first place. Their multi-million dollar polling and pre-election programing had missed the pulse of the nation. His victory had to have been the result of a massive criminal conspiracy, not the consequence of their elitist blind spot for the collapse of the middle class and the abject failure of capitalism.Remember what I was saying about Stalin?
Don't get me started....)