Decoding the Deep State

by Henry on August 17, 2018

Robert Litt has a piece in Lawfare, which probably deserves some further attention, if only because smart people seem to be misinterpreting it:


I’ve never met Litt personally, but I’ve some idea of his modus operandi, from other research (he played a significant role in negotiations that Abraham Newman and I discuss in our forthcoming book on transatlantic battles over homeland security). His primary objective throughout these negotiations was to ensure that intelligence agencies could continue to do what intelligence agencies do, with a minimum of outside interference. That, I am pretty sure, explains the Lawfare piece. He isn’t handwringing about norms- he’s going to bat for the people who he used to work for.

The argument of the piece isn’t aimed at the general public – it is aimed at Brennan and others who may get their security clearances revoked by Trump in the coming days and weeks. And while the piece is rhetorically framed as an attack on Trump, it is really a warning to Brennan et alia – that if they take Trump on directly in the law courts, they will compound the damage that Trump is doing (as Litt sees it). Litt’s argument is the following:

For years, courts have declined to review the merits of security clearance determinations … Even when Congress established protections for intelligence whistleblowers, it provided only for administrative, rather than judicial, review. … In revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, President Trump has undercut this position. As Judge Gregory Katsas recently noted in a concurring opinion in Palmieri v. United States, “whether a plaintiff can seek to undo the denial or revocation of a security clearance, based on non-frivolous constitutional challenges” has not yet been definitively determined. And it’s hard to imagine a stronger constitutional case than the president has just handed advocates of judicial review. So far as is apparent, there was no process at all, let alone due process, or even any consultation with intelligence agencies in stripping Brennan’s clearance.

I don’t know whether or not Brennan intends to challenge the revocation of his clearance in court. There are good reasons not to, including the burdens inherent in litigation and the fact that he likely has little need for the clearance. But if he does, he should have little difficulty in persuading a court that his clearance was revoked in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment right to criticize the president. That will then squarely present the issue of whether courts are powerless to prevent such abuse of the clearance system—and the result may be that the president’s control over security clearances, long jealously guarded, will have been weakened as a result of one president’s tantrum.

Again, while the direct criticisms are aimed at Trump, the implicit message is that Brennan, if he takes legal action, will very likely damage presidential power and the independence of intelligence agencies. His action will oblige courts to straightforwardly confront an issue that they have been able to avoid in the past – whether or not there is a constitutional need to balance the ability of the presidency to control the security clearance and classification system against people’s First Amendment rights to say what they want. Furthermore, any legal action by Brennan would present the argument in ways that would make it more likely that the judge would rule for Brennan’s First Amendment privileges, and against the president’s authority. This action would have the former director of the CIA as the plaintiff. Public statements by Trump make it clear that there wasn’t, in fact, a plausible national security rationale for revoking Brennan’s clearance. All of this would mean that the judge would be far less likely to defer to the national security interest of the state, and the unique ability of the administration (which has access to classified information) to determine what that interest should be.

This – and now we are getting to what I imagine Litt’s motivation for writing the piece to be – could create a quite dangerous precedent, as far as intelligence agencies are concerned. The mention of “intelligence whistleblowers” is not just a random example. It’s dropping a strong hint that a judgment that says that First Amendment rights can trump the intelligence community and executive branch’s judgment could set a precedent that would be built on, in other situations where the First Amendment and intelligence needs are in conflicts. Future Edward Snowdens could find themselves in a significantly stronger legal position – and we’d never want that to happen, would we.

Unlike some people on the left, I’m basically OK with a tactical alliance with people in the national security establishment, insofar as there are shared political interests. Trump is a disaster across many dimensions, and you look for allies where you can get them. But you should also be clear about the places where your interests and the interests of your allies diverge. Litt’s piece implicitly highlights a very sharp divergence of interests. I can see why Litt might object to court actions that could strengthen free speech at the expense of the intelligence community’s autonomy. I can’t see why this is a likely problem for the left, or for genuine liberals either.

{ 93 comments }

1

CJColucci 08.17.18 at 1:21 pm

Oddly enough, though I don’t disagree with your analysis of Litt’s thinking and likely motivations, I had come to fear the opposite — that a supine judiciary would find the matter unreviewable. We can survive an insane President who does stupid shit like this. (Any sane President will restore Brenna’s security clearance and few would try such a stunt again.) I’m not sure we’d survive a ruling legitimating it.

2

Heshel 08.17.18 at 5:23 pm

I am also not so sanguine about the outcome of such a ruling. Haven’t some of the upper level appellate courts already decided that the publicly stated (often racist) justifications a president uses for doing a(n often horrible) thing cannot be used to undermine the president’s right to do that (often not great) thing?

3

Eric 08.17.18 at 6:44 pm

Henry,
I defer to your greater knowledge of these sorts of things, and I find your analysis interesting.

I think we probably even share much the same point of political view.

My question is this:
What evidence do we have that any of the players; Trump, Hillary, the Agencies, the Congress, have any deep and abiding interest in law or precedent?

What evidence do we have of any of these players deferring to anything other than raw power?

When was the last time anyone more highly placed than Peter Strozk or Oliver North was brought before a court of law?

I think that you are correct that all the warring factions are interested in preserving their tools and advantages, and that they must operate in an environment that is characterized by laws and norms and precedents. Still, I believe that they are all doing whatever they think they can get away with.

With that perspective, I think that beyond the burst of bad press, the rescinding of Brennan’s clearance was mostly about taking away some of his income stream, while simultaneously daring him to do something stupid to try to defend himself.

4

Chip Daniels 08.17.18 at 8:06 pm

I can’t possibly be the only one who is bewildered by how the phrase “Deep State” scarcely existed in the American lexicon until January 2017, when it suddenly arouse and is now self explanatory and assumed to exist.

Its weird, like out of Orwell where just suddenly without discussion or debate, this thing called a Deep State just appeared, but we are all supposed to pretend that it has always existed, and we have always been at war with it.

5

WLGR 08.17.18 at 8:28 pm

You’ve got a lot of elision going on in that phrase “insofar as there are shared political interests.” Isn’t your piece gesturing toward a basic understanding that there aren’t really shared political interests here at all? Some people have a substantive critique of Trump for furthering the fundamentally evil cause of racist US global empire, while others have a procedural critique of Trump for harming this fundamentally noble cause by carrying it out incompetently, if not a purely aesthetic critique for harming this fundamentally noble cause by making it look too gauche and uncouth. Those two styles of critique are fundamentally at odds, and acting as if they can be reconciled seems far too dangerous to justify the potential gains of having one’s anti-Trump take retweeted by some ex Assistant Deputy Undersecretary For The Deployment Of Multibillion Dollar Guided Missile Systems Against Villages Full Of Brown People.

(Granted I’d wager that neither of the latter two critiques from within the halls of established power really captures their underlying fury at Trump, who aside from his Twitter histrionics has largely turned the day-to-day policy grind of his administration over to the same roster of Heritage Foundation approved shills as a President Romney or a President Rubio would have done. I’d say the underlying fury at Trump among establishment types is far pettier and more ritualistic, a backbiting resentment for disrespectfully “jumping the line” and not genuflecting deeply enough before the proscribed institutional shibboleths on his path to power, a similar phenomenon to the anti-Clinton rage Sally Quinn captured so perfectly in this classic WaPo column.)

Even in the best case scenario, joining forces with those types means giving them wiggle room to steer your opposition along the same path as theirs, a path deliberately intended to challenge approximately zero of the substance of what actually makes Trump so awful. So why do it?

6

Heliopause 08.17.18 at 9:00 pm

“Public statements by Trump make it clear that there wasn’t, in fact, a plausible national security rationale for revoking Brennan’s clearance.”

This is false, the White House has released more than one statement about Brennan’s lying and unhinged behavior, whether you accept them or not. And in fact Brennan has made a number of hysterically deranged statements, most notably around the time of the Putin summit, that would make even Joe McCarthy blush.

And this latest Constitutional principle that we’ve suddenly discovered, that a top security clearance is a form of speech, opens a large can of worms. The implications are so obvious that spelling it out seems unnecessary, I’ll just note that when I get the security clearance that is my inalienable right as an American I won’t be using it for my own selfish ends.

“I’m basically OK with a tactical alliance with people in the national security establishment, insofar as there are shared political interests. Trump is a disaster across many dimensions”

Got it. Our choice is either the Fuhrer or the Deputy Reichsfuhrer. Gosh, I wonder why so many Americans are disconnected from the political process…

7

ph 08.17.18 at 11:12 pm

@4 Seems to get this right, imo. The best and simplest identification of this class of self-interested profiteers, ‘patriots,’policy wonks, grifters, and their minions and water-carriers in elected office and the media was made by Eisenhower in his farewell speech.

Henry is entirely right to recognize they are as permanent as the weather, and as much a feature of life as they were during Chaucer’s time. This is their world, we just live in it.

The pedigrees and connections identified in @4 exist to ensure that the public face of the corporation masquerading as an individual (to quote RN) looks and sounds ‘right.’

That’s what made the 44th president absolutely ideal. Even better he proved a loyal and willing servant – expanding the Bush/Cheney security state, drone strikes, and surveillance and execution of US citizens occasionally deemed enemies of the state. 45 has fewer allies in that community, but he’s proving more far more difficult to remove than many had thought. Henry is right – this looks very much like an inside baseball story.

Whatever Trump does or does not accomplish, the profits from violence, manipulation, and duplicity via the wheels of government will remain and be one of the principal driving forces in nation-state external and internal relations for a very long time.

8

Whirrlaway 08.18.18 at 12:10 am

I wonder how this is going to play around the release of Muller’s report which I suppose will have to navigate some declassification slalom. Hopefully Trump has cratered his options there as Litt worries.

9

John 08.18.18 at 12:34 am

“This is false, the White House has released more than one statement about Brennan’s lying and unhinged behavior, whether you accept them or not.”

Which statements do you find to be the most exemplary of that kind of behavior?

10

Harry 08.18.18 at 2:04 am

Chip — this is pretty interesting, and says that it came via Turkey. Worth listening to:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06hnbr4

11

Chip Daniels 08.18.18 at 2:56 am

Yeah, I’ve read that it comes from Turkey, but I don’t recall even the most vehement left critics (myself included) of the national security apparatus during the Bush years using the term.

But like “Crony Capitalism”, Deep State seems to be a bit of cultish conspiracy terminology by their old opponents that has been suddenly snatched up by the Trump forces.

Because the entire Trump faction in America resembles a conspiracy minded cult more than a political party. The seething grievance at shadowy sinister forces, the insular sense of being besieged even as they control the levers of power, the Great Man at its center it all feels more like North Korea than anything.

12

John Quiggin 08.18.18 at 3:25 am

I always thought of “Deep State” as derived from discussion of Turkey following Erdogan’s election, which has some obvious and scary parallels.

13

J-D 08.18.18 at 4:19 am

Wikipedia tells me that:

The term “deep state” was defined in 2014 by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. congressional aide, as “a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.” According to the journalist Robert Worth, “The expression `deep state` had originated in Turkey in the 1990s, where the military colluded with drug traffickers and hit men to wage a dirty war against Kurdish insurgents”.

14

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 4:21 am

Boy there sure are a lotta Russian stooges commenting on this thread. CT should take this as a compliment — that they’re relevant enough, influential enough, for Boris/Natasha to come by and spread their disinformation.

All these exclamations that Brennan and the IC are just as corrupt as Trump are …. pretty rich. We have the Shitlord on tape before worldwide audiences, committing treason (no, not the legal definition — the one we all use every goddamn day) and violating his oath of office.

Anybody who defends this man and his administration is a traitor. Buy your plane ticket to Moscow, Boris.

15

ph 08.18.18 at 5:06 am

“the entire Trump faction in America resembles a conspiracy minded cult more than a political party. The seething grievance at shadowy sinister forces, the insular sense of being besieged even as they control the levers of power…”

Which levers of power exactly do the 30 percent of Hispanics who voted for Trump control? How about women? As the New Republic points out Trump won, in large part because women voted for Trump, rather than for the first female president TM. Are you suggesting that women who voted for Trump see him as some sort of ‘Daddy’ figure riding to their rescue? Trump women have a cult-like adoration of Dear Leader, or just a need to be dominated by a ‘strong’ male?

This is some tawdry, and frankly offensive, generalizing here. Most women in America, I suggest, have met a man much like the Donald Trump of the Access Hollywood variety. This type of male is far more prevalent than some might wish to imagine – these women are the daughters of such men, sisters, mothers in some cases, and often girl-friends and wives, so it’s quite likely that these Trump supporters take the bad with the good.

Which doesn’t sound at all to me like blind devotion, but go with it if you like.

Comparing America to Turkey sounds fun, too! Looking forward to more ‘parallels.’

16

Neville Morley 08.18.18 at 5:13 am

My immediate reaction to Chip’s question was puzzlement, as I don’t have a sense of “deep state” as a new and unfamiliar concept at all; I’m now wondering why, as I don’t spend *that* much time on conspiracy websites… I would instinctively associate the phrase not with Egypt or Turkey, but much earlier, specifically Cold War Italy – but with no evidence whatsoever to back up this idea. Maybe just the fondness of Italians for this sort of conspiracy theory…

17

Nodnarb the Nasty 08.18.18 at 5:17 am

John,

The Turkey connection is spot on. I don’t if you read him or not, but Barry Stocker is an English political philosopher based in Istanbul and he has some good stuff on the political history of Turkey (see here, for example).

18

bad Jim 08.18.18 at 5:25 am

The norms of the mavens who used to helm the deep state are becoming clear. Admiral William McRaven wrote in the Washington Post

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

And then

another 13 former generals and spy chiefs signed a letter in support of Brennan

The CIA World Factbook is a pretty handy reference. As far as I know, it’s dependable, fact-based and up-to-date, as it ought to be. Its assessment of the U.S. is pretty brutal. Harbor whatever fantasies about the powers that be that you prefer, it’s always going to be the case that accurate information is preferable to any alternative.

19

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 6:41 am

I’m very impressed with the sophistry of ph@7 and the way he is able to pervert (ISTM) Chip Daniels@4. It seems clear to me (but hey, maybe I’m misreading) that CD@4 is wondering how suddenly in Jan 2017 (gosh one wonders what happened at that time) the Deep State became a “thing” when it wasn’t before. And let’s be honest: this characterization of “Deep State” started with the Reichwing and their sycophants, as Putinfluffer declared internecine war on his own bureaucracy. We shouldn’t fool ourselves about that.

And so, ph@7 is very, very clever, as he pretends that what’s really going, on, is that somehow we all “woke up” to the “Deep State” that had existenced since before Eisenhower warned is against it. It’s lovely how ph@7 is is able to conflate Bush/Cheney’s excesses, with Obama, hence to lump them both into the same bucket of authoritarian, human-rights-evading, drone-bombing, assassinating MIC evildoers.

And so, he’s then able to argue that Shitlord is just a continuation of this tradition — that he’s not worse, nonono, he’s not different, he’s just the same. So, if you weren’t concerned under Bush, if you weren’t concerned under Obama, you have no cause for concern today.

BraVO, ph@7. BraVO.

20

Hidari 08.18.18 at 6:45 am

‘Some people have a substantive critique of Trump for furthering the fundamentally evil cause of racist US global empire, while others have a procedural critique of Trump for harming this fundamentally noble cause by carrying it out incompetently, if not a purely aesthetic critique for harming this fundamentally noble cause by making it look too gauche and uncouth. Those two styles of critique are fundamentally at odds.’

This seems to me to be fundamentally the point. Particularly when (in the case of Russia and North Korea) the Democrats and the (majority of the) corporate media are essentially trying to outflank Trump on the Right, and the more or less complete failure of the Left to oppose in any meaningful way American machinations in Syria or Libya (with a few honourable exceptions),

With very few exceptions (mainly on trivial issues) Trump has governed absolutely and precisely as any Republican would have done. His ‘base’ is almost exactly the same as Romney’s.* There was no ‘Trump surge’. He didn’t win the election, Clinton (a weak candidate) lost it. Despite the hysteria, most of his deviations from ‘the norm’ have been in a more imperial direction (e.g. his desire for a stronger NATO which, rather unbelievably, was reported in the worthless media as a desire to destroy NATO). Trump’s disgusting and hypocritical sanctions on Russia (which will cause much suffering of ordinary people) have, to the best of my knowledge, not been criticised by any leftist, anywhere, although the insane fantasy that he is ‘soft on Russia’ is quite popular (with the implication that he should be ‘tougher’ on Russia, maybe risking nuclear war) presumably because it fits in with the increasingly deranged Russiagate nonsense. CF also his more aggressive stance towards China (another nuclear power) which again risks nuclear war, and which has again, passed almost uncommented on in elite discourse (to be fair he follows in Obama’s footsteps here).

I might add that Trump’s most egregious and disgraceful departure from the ‘consensus’, permitting the American Embassy to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has also passed more or less uncriticised, as the Democrats still instinctively obsequiously grovel to the far right Netanyahu when they get the chance, whimpering like whipped dogs (this simile is unfair to dogs).

Meanwhile the corporate media get hysterical about which apparatchik got fired or got their security clearance revoked for some reason or something and who said what to whom or whatever….it’s all so boring I can scarcely type it out (and in fact I haven’t).

*Almost the first thing Trump arranged was a tax cut for his rich cronies.

21

John Quiggin 08.18.18 at 6:52 am

“Comparing America to Turkey sounds fun, too! Looking forward to more ‘parallels.’”

I assume this is meant ironically, but I’d be interested to know what you find implausible, and in what direction. To be sure, Trump and Erdogan have fallen out recently, but they were part of a mutual admiration society until then.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/351791-trump-praises-erdogan-hes-become-a-close-friend

Or are you claiming that conservative rural Turks really are theocratic rubes, while their US counterparts are making a sophisticated trade-off? I’d say that your defense of Trump supporters would apply equally to Erdogan’s – they may not like everything about him but the economy has (until recently) done well, and he sticks it to the secular urban elite which has always looked down on them and their religion.

The Turkish Deep State was strong enough that it’s taken Erdogan 15 years to subdue it. I’d say that, given similar electoral success and the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, Trump could achieve something similar in the same timeframe.

22

Hidari 08.18.18 at 7:12 am

‘This type of male is far more prevalent than some might wish to imagine – these women are the daughters of such men, sisters, mothers in some cases, and often girl-friends and wives, so it’s quite likely that these Trump supporters take the bad with the good.’

Yes, Trump has always struck me as an absolutely normal and standard man of his generation, publicly ‘decent’ (at least in his own eyes) but sexist when he thinks (wrongly) the microphones aren’t on, publicly ‘non-racist’ but (allegedly) using the ‘n’ word when he thinks (wrongly) the cameras aren’t on, etc. etc. etc, stating ‘I’m not a racist’ but then making racist comments about (e.g.) Mexicans (comments aren’t racist to him).

Needless to say Trump has spent his life in the company of American capitalists, most of whom have the morals of sewer rats, and in the field of real estate as well, which is unbelievably corrupt and sleazy even by the miserably low standards of American capitalism. So his behaviour and language shouldn’t really surprise anyone, and his behaviour and language is in any case no worse than Lyndon Johnson’s or Nixon’s.

23

bad Jim 08.18.18 at 7:35 am

George (Slam Dunk!) Tenet hasn’t signed on; perhaps there’s some threshold of evil, or some sense of the distinction between exigency and principle, what plays to the crowd and what actually works.

24

Hidari 08.18.18 at 7:37 am

‘And let’s be honest: this characterization of “Deep State” started with the Reichwing and their sycophants, as Putinfluffer declared internecine war on his own bureaucracy.’

Could someone on the ‘editorial team’ explain to me why this homophobic comment is not a breach of the CT commenting policies? Thanks!

25

ph 08.18.18 at 7:58 am

@21 You have the better of me. I’d never considered comparing Trump to Erdogan, wouldn’t, and find no parallels connecting America to Turkey. Your comparison, and your job to provide evidence, if you like. Should be easy, yes?

Such a rich palette to choose from, I’m sure you’ll create a masterpiece, especially if you have help from the like-minded. I respect your skills, but you’ve set yourself a challenge. The differences between the demography and political history of Turkey and America are such that you’ll have to do more than point to rural vs. urban, conflicts which normally favor the cities. I’m no position to speak with even minimal authority on Turkey, but like I said – let’s hear it.

@20. Yes.

@19. I’m a slippery SOB, am I not? Thanks for your compliments. I’m dead serious all the same.

When Trump convinces Canadians to pursue another American war of choice or two, I’ll start to find him as threatening as Blair, Obama, Hillary, or Bush.

Till then, he’s light years better than the above. In all other respects slightly better on some issues, worse on others. Normal? Absolutely – what’s more American than bragging about American exceptionalism and GREAT POWER. The rest of us have lived most of our lives listening to this crap from one mouth piece after another.

Still, I remain an admirer of the people, the values, and the good America does around the globe. True.

That’s it for me.

26

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 8:02 am

I wrote a comment excoriating ph@7 for his bothsiderism and normalization of Donnie Dollhands. But I think it might be relevant to write what many liberals -do- think about the “national security establishment” (which is what Trumpists call the “Deep State”). Henry puts it well:

Unlike some people on the left, I’m basically OK with a tactical alliance with people in the national security establishment, insofar as there are shared political interests.

So I think it’s important to state what those shared political interests are. I claim that both “national security state” conservatives and progressives, are partisans of American Power. We want to preserve and extend the postwar institutions that America built, and that enmesh the major industrial powers in a web of rules that were written in our favor, and continue to act in our favor. Believing that C- Augustus had an imbecilic foreign policy (and yes, war criminal), that Obama was foolish to continue using the many tools created by Dubya, instead of destroying them, does not mean we think America is always wrong, Russia is always right, and American Power must be dismantled. We can disagree about the methods and ends of American Power, while agreeing that American Power and autonomy are a valuable thing that we ought not to give up. And that American Power is both hard (military) and soft (institutions and persuasion).

And on this latter, contra Hidari,[1] It’s crystal clear that Corporal Heel Spurs has worked to dismantle American Power. Our allies worldwide are in disarray and planning for a world where they chart their paths without us[2]; our clients in the Middle East are actively bribing our government into committing atrocities (Yemen) and yet more self-harm (Iran)[3], and they’re cozying up to our geopolitical adversaries (Russia and China)[4]. Further, it is equally absolutely clear that Shitlord is not governing as “any Republican would” when it comes to foreign policy. Such a belief requires that we forget GHWB’s assembling an international coalition to repulse Saddam Hussein, as well as his son’s attempt to do the same for his Iraq War. And of course, that only one nation has invoked NATO Article 5 (the United States). Putinfluffer has gone so far as to suggest that we might not want to come to the aid of other NATO signatories, when we’re the ONLY country that requested such aid. Under a Republican President. Maybe Hidari means that the *contemporary* Republican Party would govern as Lord Dampnut has. But this is more because he’s reshaped the Party to his ends (recall that even as recently as 2012 Mitt Romney (the GOP Presidential candidate, note well) named Russia as our most important geopolitical competitor — even a stopped clock can be right, ha!)

[1] Only a GRU troll or an idiot would believe that Trump is -strengthening- NATO. That’s a patent falsehood. Don’t piss up my leg and tell me it’s raining, Hidari.
[2] Merkel said this pretty much explicitly — that Europe would need to look to themselves for security, and no longer rely on the US.
[3] KSA is using us to prosecute their sectarian wars with Iran, to the point where we’re helping AQ in Yemen, for God’s sake.
[4] Turkey is a good example, but Putin is rampant all over the Middle East.

27

ph 08.18.18 at 8:17 am

Hi Henry. Just checked and discovered JQ does not have an active thread. So, I hope you’ll allow me a single non-snark comment.

John, I suspect you get the need to provide better policy solutions. I read your remarks re: racism and cultural animus in your recent OP as trolling, or a red herring. Your assessment of the weaknesses of the Trump policies have merit from what I can tell, and I certainly respect your chops.

What some here really don’t understand are the opportunity costs of excessive TRUMP IS NOT NORMAL hysteria. I take it as a given that a substantial subsection of the discourse involves characterizing one’s opponent as ‘unfit for office.’ That’s regular. What is most troubling to me re: TINN is the intellectual flabbiness of the claim, and the fact that a sizeable percentage of the ‘resistance’ seems to believe that if they simply repeat TINN, that somehow that will change the economic facts on the ground. For any number of reasons these folks are preaching to the choir, and to the extent that TINN is heard by Trump supporters – well, it’s music to our ears. We don’t want normal, we want different.

As I’ve stated, I’ve been impressed by your post-2015-17 OPs for what little that may be worth. I just watched Bob Wright’s latest discussion which I highly recommend. Changes are afoot, but fewer and more substantive than many surmise. It’s fun to banter about Turkey, but if folks actually believe that TINN and that therefore makes it impossible for him to win in 2015-2024, there’s no clearer indication he will. Holbo doesn’t believe anti-Trump hubris was my most reliable metric predicting Trump’s victory. It was. Dem’s never made a compelling economic argument. Didn’t feel they needed to. Still don’t.

That’s a problem. And pretty much everything I have to say on the current state of affairs.

Cheers.

28

Hidari 08.18.18 at 8:46 am

‘Only a GRU troll or an idiot would believe that Trump is -strengthening- NATO. That’s a patent falsehood. Don’t piss up my leg and tell me it’s raining, Hidari.’

Trump literally ordered the rubes in the American controlled Nato to double their ‘defence’ spending in order to face up to the ‘Russian threat’. It’s not my imagination. That’s literally what he said. In order to get them to produce more guns to kill Russians. Of course they briefed the media that they were unhappy: puppet states of the American Empire like Germany and the UK don’t like being reminded of their vassal status. But at the end of the day, they will do what they are told, because the US runs the world.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nato-summit-trump-spending/trump-tells-nato-leaders-to-increase-defense-spend-to-4-percent-idUSKBN1K12BW

Trump also accused Merkel of being a Russian operative (essentially): strange behaviour if Trump is a Russian puppet (this was passed over in bewildered silence by the endlessly conformist drones of your worthless corporate media).

President Macron (for once, telling the truth) pointed out ‘“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from Nato,” .

The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg…stated clearly that the discussions have, and I quote, ‘made Nato stronger.’ You calling him a liar? I thought Trump was the only politician in political history to lie.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/12/donald-trump-nato-summit-chaos-germany-attack-defence-spending

All the rest of it, literally all of it, is Trumpian lies uttered to make him look tough, or lies by the incoherent illiterate nonentities of rags like the New York Times or the Guardian.

Incidentally, I love your racist insinuation that I am an operative for the ‘bestial subhuman Slavs’. If only Trump would stand up to the slavic hordes like that well known leftist Adolf Hitler did. Congrats on the homophobia as well, I hope it’s working out well for you. I hear it’s terribly fashionable nowadays, especially amongst Americans.

29

J-D 08.18.18 at 9:04 am

Hidari

I thought Trump was the only politician in political history to lie.

If you really believed that, you would have nothing of value to contribute to this discussion. Of course, I do know about sarcasm. But if you think that particular piece of sarcasm was apposite, then … you have nothing of value to contribute to this discussion.

30

Hidari 08.18.18 at 9:09 am

‘ We can disagree about the methods and ends of American Power, while agreeing that American Power and autonomy are a valuable thing that we ought not to give up.’

They’re not, and you should.

31

Hidari 08.18.18 at 9:33 am

‘Of course, I do know about sarcasm’.

Are you being sarcastic?

32

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 9:50 am

‘ We can disagree about the methods and ends of American Power, while agreeing that American Power and autonomy are a valuable thing that we ought not to give up.’

They’re not, and you should.

I’m an American citizen. I don’t know if you are or not. If you are, I suggest that you consider exile adn renouncing that citizenship. It is one thing to wish for one’s country to behave better. To wish for one’s country to be less powerful in the world …. that’s unpatriotic and beneath an American citizen. This is an important point: the Right used to use “America, love it or leave it” as a cudgel against the Left. But today, it is the Left, who stand for America, and the Right, who wish to cozy up to Russia (witness those “better russian than dem” tshirts, as well as the rising percentage of Trumpists who think Russia and Putin are better than the Democrats).

It’s clear that their hatred of the “Deep State” is part and parcel of their belief that if they can’t have America they way they want it (with white people on top) then they’re quite happy for America to disintegrate, to fail. And they see the “Deep State”‘s defense of America as dangerous precisely because it stands in the way of restoring the America they want — aided by Putin and his spies.

Also, you’re right about one of the epithets I used for Donnie Dollhands. [I call him by his name or title as rarely as possible, b/c he’s illegitimate and a traitor.] Henceforth, I will cease to use that epithet, which you identified as homophobic (and while I don’t agree, I can see why people might see it that way). Luckily, there’s a nearby scatological epithet I can substitute just as well.

33

John Quiggin 08.18.18 at 11:42 am

@27 Trump is not normal: We’ve gone over this quite a few times, notably in Corey’s threads. On the one hand, in all sorts of ways, Trump is a typical Republican. And there are precedents for almost everything he’s done, from overt racism to the use of state power against political opponents, the subject of the OP. To complicate things further, it’s not just Trump. The whole Republican Party is Not Normal, and not just because of Trump. Sarah Palin was an obvious precursor, and McConnell’s packing of the SC was a very big deal which preceded Trump..

Taken all in all, there’s something very different about Trump’s Administration compared those of any recent Republican President except the obvious comparator, Richard Nixon. To me, it’s one of those things where a series of small changes adds up to a qualitative transformation.

34

J-D 08.18.18 at 11:51 am

Chetan Murthy

I’m an American citizen. I don’t know if you are or not. If you are, I suggest that you consider exile adn renouncing that citizenship. It is one thing to wish for one’s country to behave better. To wish for one’s country to be less powerful in the world …. that’s unpatriotic and beneath an American citizen.

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

I don’t know whether Hidari is an American or not, but I am not one: so if I said I wanted America to be less powerful, what would you have to say to me?

Actually, I don’t particularly want America to lose its power; but I also don’t particularly want it to retain its power. Also, I feel pretty much the same way about my own country. What I notice is that, in general, the people of more powerful countries don’t tend to have better lives than the people of less powerful countries. That’s not to say they generally tend to have worse lives; there’s just no obvious correlation between the two variables. I want the people of my country to have better lives; but then, I also want the people of other countries to have better lives; and none of that seems to have anything to do with how powerful which countries are, so that seems a wrong thing to waste concern on. If that makes me unpatriotic, I’m glad to accept the label.

35

hix 08.18.18 at 12:03 pm

“To wish for one’s country to be less powerful in the world …. that’s unpatriotic and beneath an American citizen”

?????? just insane.

36

Hidari 08.18.18 at 12:09 pm

Trump’s not normal, but that’s mainly because he’s not a professional politician. He says things that a professional politician would never say. Also his ‘values’ such as they are, are those of reality TV: cruelty, thuggishness, viciousness for its own sake: the values of the reality TV shows that the Guardian (e.g.) spent most of the 1990s telling us were good harmless fun. Also he’s corrupt (I mean, legally corrupt, so to speak) even by the miserably low standards of American capitalism, which makes it more difficult to uphold the myth of American Exceptionalism. The fact that he is a capitalist who more or less openly became President to further his business interests is also hard to square with the mythology of American ‘democracy’: which is one of the many reasons he is despised by the liberal elite.

However, don’t discount the fact that Trump started the fight with the media. Immediately after his election, the media were more than prepared to genuflect to him, as they instinctively do to all rich powerful white men, but he spurned them. I know this, as in the UK you have essentially the same kind of people: the racist Alan Sugar (who is the ‘star’ of the UK Apprentice) and the racist, homophobic misogynist Boris Johnson, both of whom are essentially the same as Trump but who get fawned over by the media in a way Trump doesn’t because they play the game and he won’t.

Anyway here’s an interview with Steve Bannon which didn’t go viral because it didn’t fit the narrative of Trumpism begin a completely new and extraordinary political novelty.

‘Mr Bannon, who ran Mr Trump’s successful campaign to become President in 2016, said that Mr Trump’s policies were based on “pure Thatcherism”.

Mr Bannon told Chopper’s Brexit Podcast on the Telegraph’s website: “What we are trying to do is get a piece of action for the little guy.

“That’s better jobs, better wages, there is also entrepreneurial finance, giving access to capital,…’

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/07/13/revealed-brutal-advice-donald-trump-gave-theresa-may-brexit/

37

ph 08.18.18 at 2:08 pm

JQ It’s about the economics and the culture. The only thing materially different about Trump is that he’s hated more by the Republican establishment than by most Dems, plus their deep-state allies. Period.

https://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/hillary-clinton-rural-voters-trump-231266

“Hillary lost rural America 3 to 1,” said one Democratic insider, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the campaign. “If she had lost rural America 2 to 1, it would have broken differently.” …Clinton’s support among rural voters declined more than 8 percentage points from President Barack Obama’s in 2012. Obama’s support in rural America also eroded between 2008 and 2012, from a high of 41 percent to 38 percent. But Clinton took it to a new low: 29 percent. The campaign never named a rural council, as Obama did in 2012 and 2008. It also didn’t build a robust rural-dedicated campaign infrastructure. In 2008, Obama had a small staff at campaign headquarters dedicated to rural messaging and organizing efforts and had state-level rural coordinators in several battleground states throughout the Midwest and Rust Belt. The Clinton campaign did not respond to questions about whether it had a rural strategy. One source said a staffer in Brooklyn was dedicated to rural outreach, but the assignment came just weeks before the election….
…while Clinton released policy plans, Trump did campaign stops in small towns. Dee Davis, founder of the Center for Rural Strategies, a non-partisan organization, said he believes the Trump appeal across the heartland has almost nothing to do with policy. “What Trump did in rural areas was try to appeal to folks culturally,” Davis said … “We think people are talking down to us. What ends up happening is that we don’t focus on the policy — we focus on the tones, the references, the culture.”

Note the Bill Clinton lost college-educated voters in 1992 and won the WH. Bill Clinton continued to press for real engagement with rural voters while his intellectual and political betters laughed at him, especially after the Wisconsin primary which Hillary lost.

https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/bernie-sanders-wins-wisconsin-s-democratic-primary/article_edd9a2e8-cd74-58ca-9217-099501bd2da6.html

Hillary was the second choice of Wisconsin Democratic party voters and her response was to ignore Wisconsin Democratic voters, rather than attempt to mend a ruptured relationship. Her majesty didn’t visit Wisconsin once between the primary and the general, and then she lost again, this time to Trump! Surprise! No economic message and open contempt for rural voters – Winning! Must have been Comey, or Russia!

TINN wasn’t enough to win in 2016 and won’t be in 2018, 2020. Waiting for Mueller to indict Trump is an equally costly waste of time, time Dems don’t have. Treat Trump’s victory as normal. Act normally, and maybe, maybe, Democrats and their supporters might start to accept that they lost the election fair and square, as the election results confirm, and start developing candidates, policies; and practices that will win. Cause that’s the only way they will. Learning to like the voters helps.

Or, continue with the Hillary-speak – “actually, I won!”

https://bloggingheads.tv/videos/53438 Bob Wright and Robert P. George

@36 Yes, but as Wright observes, Bannon wanted Trump to raise taxes on the rich.
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/3/15914750/steve-bannon-trump-tax-rich

38

WLGR 08.18.18 at 2:14 pm

I second Hidari’s point that homophobic epithets should have no place here, whether it’s the umpteenth sub-Borowitz-level-unfunny Trump/Putin gay joke, or anything else. Purplebaiting has a long and disgraceful history in Western political discourse, peaking back in the McCarthy days when anticommunist ideology was explicitly wrapped up in the defense of traditional Christian family values, but assuming nobody here is a right-wing evangelical who thinks Trump’s “putinfluffing” is a sign of his Godless communist hatred for good old fashioned Western patriarchal culture, you still shouldn’t need a primer on why exactly it’s unacceptable to use effeminate sexual behavior as an analogy for geopolitical weakness. (Here’s a primer anyway just in case.)

39

Chip Daniels 08.18.18 at 3:02 pm

What makes Trump apologists so cult-like is their Orwellian ability to hold wildly incompatible truths in a single sentence.

E.g., America has always been a great and noble nation, and also harbored a malevolent conspiracy of intelligence and security officials.

We must make America great again by restoring its previous state of being; Trump’s corruption is nothing out of the ordinary, since America’s business elites have historically been staggeringly corrupt.

Trump wants peace with Russia and demands that NATO increase its spending to prepare for war with Russia.

Trump wants to destroy the neoliberal elite, by stocking his cabinet with billionaire Wall Streeters and delivering massive tax cuts to them.

I disagree slightly with the thesis that Trump is simply a standard conservative; the conservative faction has long had a lunatic fringe, the Birchers and white supremacists that Buckley famously called the “kooks”.
They were relegated to the margins and while they reliably delivered votes, they were kept away from the front office for obvious reasons. Now though, they have metastasized and taken over the body.

40

Donald 08.18.18 at 5:46 pm

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/08/john-brennan-trump-hayden-clapper

I mostly agree with WLGR and hidari. Trump is a war criminal because of Yemen, but that issue, while it is becoming unavoidable given the Saudi propensity for doing things like bombing school buses, can’t be criticized anywhere near as harshly as it deserves because Obama was almost as bad. Democrats in Congress are mostly critical of the war now, but when Obama was in office it was a roughly even split. So that has put a damper on any partisan Resistance type who might otherwise want to call Trump a war criminal, which he is.

I linked above to a piece on John Brennan ( and others) who is currently seen by liberal resisters as Jimmy Stewart speaking truth to power. I would call this Orwellian, but that just dignifies it too much. This is slapstick comedy. Brennan is the man who flat out lied to Congress when the CIA was accused of spying on Senate Democrats who were investigating the torture policies of Bush. Brennan didn’t just deny it, he basically said it was absurd. He should have been jailed, though maybe since I am not a lawyer I don’t understand the subtleties involved when a shadowy intelligence agency spies on Congress and its leader lies about it when testifying. To me that seems like a direct undermining of the Constitution—it almost smacks of a Deep State behavior. But now people are all rallying around Brennan because his security clearance was revoked. It is a violation of his first amendment rights, even as he writes a column in the NYT with delirious praise for him by starstruck liberals in the comments section. Nobody in the mainstream press even mentions his past, and I haven’t given all of it.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s too over the top ridiculous to work as plausible satire. People couldn’t be this stupid.

41

Hidari 08.18.18 at 6:41 pm

‘@36 Yes, but as Wright observes, Bannon wanted Trump to raise taxes on the rich.
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/3/15914750/steve-bannon-trump-tax-rich

That might have been true….then. However, Bannon was never the puppet master (Trump is a capitalist who has never listened to anyone else apart from his own messy ego in his life: the idea that he would be a puppet for anyone, Bannon, Putin or whatever, is risible). Without wanting to raise from the dead the ‘Trump is teh Hitler’ meme: there is a very very tiny grain of truth in it, just as there is a very very tiny grain of truth in the right wing idea that Hitler was a socialist because his party had the word ‘socialist’ in it. Hitler’s initial programme really did have a tiny element of ‘socialism’ in it, and some elements of the working class (shamefully) swallowed the lies and gained him votes.

But it was never real and Hitler was never going to deliver. He dealt with the Brownshirts (the most authentically ‘working class’ and ‘socialist’ part of the Nazi movement) in the Night of the Long Knives, and from that point on, the ‘socialist’ parts of the Nazi programme were steadily ditched, as the regime became more and more strongly right wing throughout the ’30s.

Same with Trump (in this respect only). It’s true that in the run up to the election he threw some scraps to the working class, and some of his protectionist rhetoric swung him some states in the Rust Belt. Some union supporters, to their shame, trooped along to the White House soon after.

But Trump, a right wing Republican who is, as I’ve said, far more orthodox a Republican than the media would have you believe, was never going to deliver. Bannon was the most ‘left wing’ of Trump’s circle (and as his admiration for Thatcher makes clear, he was never very left wing) and he was quickly cast out. Trump did not, in fact, ‘drain the swamp’ and nor did he try. His major economic policy has turned out to be….tax cuts for the rich. And he has totally failed to follow through on the (interesting) isolationist rhetoric he used in his election campaign (despite the fact that some of us hoped otherwise). He has turned out to be as much of a warmonger as Obama or even Bush jr (even towards Russia, again despite what the media would have you believe).

And we haven’t heard too much about that ‘trillion dollar’ investment in infrastructure recently have we?

The problem is that the Democrats have concentrated on the (mainly trivial and uninteresting) ways in which Trump differs from previous Republican Presidents (the lies, the silly tweets, the dubious rhetoric) and have therefore persuaded themselves that this ‘unorthodox’ President will have to be removed by ‘unorthodox means’. ‘Tain’t so. Trump will be removed the only way any President (except Nixon) has ever been removed since the dawn of the Republic: by the opposing party organising, developing a strong program that people can believe in, and getting out the core vote. No election has ever been won any other way. In the case of the Democrats this means using the might and money of organised labour and activists to get candidates who can inspire and who have a genuinely progressive message that resonates with people.

Democrats, #Russiagate will not save you. Getting your core vote out to vote for a genuinely progressive candidate, will.

42

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 7:21 pm

J-D@34:

I am not one [an American citizen]: so if I said I wanted America to be less powerful, what would you have to say to me?

There’s nothing wrong with your position. How *could* there be? I don’t expect citizens of the Russian Federation to want America to be powerful: after all, I don’t want the Russian Federation to be powerful — they’re a geopolitical adversary, and they’re doing damage to allies — democracies — around the world.

43

Salazar 08.18.18 at 7:34 pm

Chetan Murphy @32:
“To wish for one’s country to be less powerful in the world …. that’s unpatriotic and beneath an American citizen.”

That’s a fascinating comment. Leaving the American citizen part of the sentence aside: I have some professional acquaintance with German policy elites. A large segment of those welcome NATO and European integration, and U.S. global supremacy PRECISELY because it helps keep German power in check. These aren’t crackpot conspiracy theorists. We’re talking about think tankers, elected officials and senior civil servants. These are people who genuinely believe, for historical reasons, that someone need’s to contain their country’s sway in world affairs, and channel its influence in world affairs. Along those lines, you wonder how many Russian, Chinese, and U.S. intellectuals take a similar view of their country’s role in world politics.

“But today, it is the Left, who stand for America, and the Right, who wish to cozy up to Russia (witness those “better russian than dem” tshirts, as well as the rising percentage of Trumpists who think Russia and Putin are better than the Democrats).”

If by “Left,” you mean HRC Democrats, then yes, there’s no question they’re full partners in the U.S.-led global order worldview. By contrast, what I’d call the “emergent left,” i.e. figures like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and other self-described democratic socialists, have no discernible international affairs worldview or platform.

44

Hidari 08.18.18 at 7:35 pm

I might add that nothing Trump has done (yet) is as bad as Bush Jrs attack on Iraq, or Iran-Contra, an orgy of illegality that still takes the breath away (Reagan was very very lucky not to get impeached for it). George Bush sr (probably) lied about the extent of his involvement in that particular scandal.

45

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 9:39 pm

Salazar@43:

Do you think that Germany (a) actively wants to be powerless? Or (b) that it wants to bind itself into a web of institutions with other countries, so that their power is exercised in concert, remains strong in concert, and cannot be exercised unilaterally?

From everything — everything — I’ve read, it’s #b, not #a. And this brings me to the entire point of the progressive’s defense of American Power. Sure, we despire American unilateralism. Sure, we want American Power to be bound up with institutions where our allies and partners have a strong say. We only *wish* that our European allies could have dissuaded us from that interminable series of war crimes we committed in Iraq (and from the never-ending quagmire of Afghanistan). But there’s a difference between that, and thinking that Russia and China ought to have more power in this world (b/c that *is* the goal of Putin/Xi and hence of Spanky McTrump).

This idea that somehow Russia and China are a priori better than America, or that somehow, American (and Western) disarray and weakness won’t translate into greater power for Russia & china …. that’s some serious Glenn Greenwald-level shit. On LG&M there’s a term for it: Murc’s Law (the “America” corollary) — that only America has agency, and for sure Putin doesn’t, why, he’s just reacting to what America does.

46

Chetan Murthy 08.18.18 at 10:00 pm

I feel like I’ve [contributed to] derailed the OP. Where it[the OP]’s actually important. So I thought I’d comment on it directly.

They say that the FBI/CIA have been running a counterintelligence investigation, and that that investigation’s fruits will never be show in court, for two reasons: (a) inadmissible evidence, and (b) imperative to not disclose sources&methods. So they must “parallel construct” evidence from admissible sources and methods.

There are obvious weaknesses to this approach: well-executed treason may not be provable from admissible evidence. As a free polity, we take that risk, b/c we understand about the flip side: “secret, unreviewable justice”. But Litt’s point can, I think, be fairly interpreted as saying that the -counterintelligence- process itself could be hampered (perhaps fatally) by an attempt to introduce judicial safeguards into the process of granting/revoking security clearances.

What happens if there’s an enemy agent in the DOJ (or, heck, CIA?) with secret access, and we’re unable to revoke their clearance b/c we can’t prove in court that they’re a clear & present danger? You say: “oh, that’ll never happen” to which I riposte “Mike Flynn”. [set aside Shitmidas, since he’s a special case]. Heck, there’s Devin Nunes, who -continues- to have clearance by virtue of his seat in Congress.

So that’s a problem, and even if I find Litt’s defense of a bureaucracy responsible for so much despicable and contemptible in our history to itself be troubling, I also find troubling the idea that we might make ourselves more defenseless.

Which brings me to another worry. We talk about (and I believe) that trial by jury is necessary for convicting traitors. But when those traitors are at the top of our government, and the bureaucracy is trying to root them out, then every measure taken to hobble the prosecution is a measure that hastens the day of civil war.

B/c if we can’t remove this tumor on the body politic by peaceful means, it’ll be war between the states. There’s no way the brown/black/Asian American population will go to their deaths like some meek lambs. We learned from what happened to the Jews (or, more precisely, the survivors, and their writings, have taught us the futility of trying to reason with evil).

P.S. Re: the term “Deep State”, yeah, I think it comes from Turkey. And the Turkish Deep State was a power center that deposed the elected government several times. But the comparison between America’s “government bureaucrats” and the Turkish Deep State is disingenuous; only a bullshitter can look at the actions of America’s bureaucrats in investigating Russia’s attacks on our political system, in investigating Russian and other money-laundering, as some sort of “conspiracy”.

P.P.S. Oh, and to those who would normalize Lord Dampnut: I don’t actually care what you think about all this. Defenders of this Predisent[sic] are fascists and enablers of fascists. Oh, but I repeat myself. So go on and defend him. Really, please proceed.

47

likbez 08.19.18 at 12:19 am

The idea to revoke security clearance originated from Senator Rand Paul. Brennan is implicated in torture, attacks using drones, and pandering to Saudis. So in a larger scheme of things punishment of Brennan of any sort is a positive event. Just too little too late.

We also should be for the separation of intelligence agencies and MSM much like the separation of church and state. The level of CIA control of the MSM, implied in the current Brennan (and Clapper, Morell, etc) position, is a very bad thing.

Some interesting information about Brennan is available in today Moon of Alabama post and, especially, the comment thread:
http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/08/john-brennan-is-no-match-for-trump-.html#comments

A couple of comments to this post

I think this is the right move and it may indeed turn out to be a political win. But before giving Trump all the credit, it should be noted that Senator Rand Paul, a man who has consistently been critical of US foreign policy, publicly proposed the idea of canceling Brennan’s security clearance last month.

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article216755630.html

Posted by: gogaijin | Aug 17, 2018 4:41:57 PM | 7

and another one (abriged):

…I would prefer for all who are Ex-BigSpy,Inc to have their security clearances revoked as soon as they become “ex.” Sadly, that’s apparently not how it’s done. I fully disagree with a policy of letting these “ex” types keep their security clearance as “a matter of courtesy.” Perhaps this whole kerfuffle will lead to a review of this practice and a change but not holding my breath.

Although I kinda personally “like” it that Trump revoked Brennan’s clearance, I am also troubled by it. I don’t think Trump followed proper channels, and the way it was done – and for the reasons stated – are questionable. IMO, it has at least a bit of a stink of Dictatorship about it.

Ergo, I’m not all “down” with what Trump did. Yeah, yeah, he fired a shot across the bow of BigSpy, Inc. In some ways, that’s a good thing. But as usual, Trump does this in such a stupidly dumb and ham-handed way that it pretty much negates the potential “good” this might do.

Just my 2 cents worth. Trump’s a stooge, and nearly 100% of what he does is solely and only to bully someone whom Trump perceives has having stood up to him (Trump). It’s not so much about Trump taking on BigSpy, Inc, in any meaningful or substantive way. It’s about Trump being a big-assed bully and throwing his considerable weight around… without accomplishing much other than smacking down Brennan — deservedly but with no real ongoing lasting useful effect.

Posted by: RUKidding | Aug 17, 2018 4:57:57 PM | 12

Now the post critical of both Trump and Brennan

Trumps connections with the Russian Mafia were certainly reason for concern. Too bad the DeepState Media downplayed this angle and some other angles , perhaps that would have prevented Trump from winning.

Post Brennan the Trump administration is not only expanding the use of drones, it is also obscuring the facts about how many drones are being used, how many people are being killed by them, and where. His CIA Director Gina Haspel is certainly just as evil as Brennan and even better versed in water boarding.

Anyways, big whoop that Brennan lost his security clearance . I doubt he needs Food Stamps now.

Posted by: Pft | Aug 17, 2018 5:12:59 PM | 19

48

J-D 08.19.18 at 12:43 am

Hidari

Trump will be removed the only way any President (except Nixon) has ever been removed since the dawn of the Republic: by the opposing party organising, developing a strong program that people can believe in, and getting out the core vote. No election has ever been won any other way. In the case of the Democrats this means using the might and money of organised labour and activists to get candidates who can inspire and who have a genuinely progressive message that resonates with people.

Since ‘the dawn of the Republic’, there have been five or possibly six cases in which an incumbent President has been defeated at an election by a Democratic candidate: GHW Bush’s defeat by Clinton in 1992; Ford’s defeat by Carter in 1976; Hoover’s defeat by FD Roosevelt in 1932; Taft’s defeat by Wilson in 1912; Benjamin Harrison’s defeat by Cleveland in 1892; and (if you count Jefferson as a Democrat) John Adams’s defeat by Jefferson in 1800. Taking these a group, it’s not clear that they match the description you’ve given.

(For completeness, there have been four other instances in which an incumbent President has been defeated at an election, but where the successful candidate was not a Democrat: Carter’s defeat by Reagan in 1980; Cleveland’s defeat by Benjamin Harrison in 1888; Van Buren’s defeat by WH Harrison in 1840; and JQ Adams’s defeat by Jackson in 1828.)

49

Salazar 08.19.18 at 1:15 am

Cletan Murphy @45:

“Do you think that Germany (a) actively wants to be powerless? Or (b) that it wants to bind itself into a web of institutions with other countries, so that their power is exercised in concert, remains strong in concert, and cannot be exercised unilaterally?”

False choice. I’d argue (b) represents a clear constraint on Germany’s power, with the full consent of German elites.

“This idea that somehow Russia and China are a priori better than America, or that somehow, American (and Western) disarray and weakness won’t translate into greater power for Russia & china …. that’s some serious Glenn Greenwald-level shit. “

I don’t care much for the idea of Russian or Chinese hegemony either. I rather doubt Putin’s ability to deliver the former, given the demographic and economic challenges his country faces.

50

J-D 08.19.18 at 1:34 am

Chetan Murthy

I notice that I’m not the only commenter here to be struck by the way you treat it as unquestionable that there’s no way to judge a question like this except by ‘How does it affect my country’s power?’, but I’m particularly struck by it as, in the comment of mine that I’m responding you, I’ve already told you explicitly how else I judge.

51

J-D 08.19.18 at 1:52 am

Chetan Murthy

What happens if there’s an enemy agent in the DOJ (or, heck, CIA?) with secret access, and we’re unable to revoke their clearance b/c we can’t prove in court that they’re a clear & present danger?

Well, I don’t know. What does happen?

There have been employees of the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and other agencies of the US government who have been convicted of espionage (you can find a list of some of them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_imprisoned_spies); how has the US been affected by their activities?

52

Salazar 08.19.18 at 1:58 am

Chetan Murthy, apologies for misspelling your name, BTW.

53

likbez 08.19.18 at 3:08 am

@Hidari 08.18.18 at 6:41 pm

Powerful post and a veryclear thinking. Thank you !
Also an interesting analogy with NSDAP the 25-point Plan of 1928

Hitler’s initial programme really did have a tiny element of ‘socialism’ in it, and some elements of the working class (shamefully) swallowed the lies and gained him votes.
But it was never real, and Hitler was never going to deliver. He dealt with the Brownshirts (the most authentically ‘working class’ and ‘socialist’ part of the Nazi movement) in the Night of the Long Knives, and from that point on, the ‘socialist’ parts of the Nazi programme were steadily ditched, as the regime became more and more strongly right wing throughout the ’30s.
Same with Trump (in this respect only). It’s true that in the run-up to the election he threw some scraps to the working class, and some of his protectionist rhetoric swung him some states in the Rust Belt. Some union supporters, to their shame, trooped along to the White House soon after.

Actually NSAP program of 1928 has some political demands which are to the left of Sanders such as “Abolition of unearned (work and labor) incomes”, “.We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).” and “We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.”

7.We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens… … …
… … …
9.All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.
10.The first obligation of every citizen must be to productively work mentally or physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all. Consequently, we demand:
11.Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of debt (interest)-slavery.
12.In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore, we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
13.We demand the nationalisation of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
14.We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
15.We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.
16.We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.
17.We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
18.We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.
… … …
21.The state is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.
22.We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.
23.We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press…
…. … …
24.We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race…

But I think Trump was de-facto impeached with the appointment of Mueller. And that was the plan ( “insurance” as Strzok called it). Mueller task is just to formalize impeachment.

Pence already is calling the shots in foreign policy via members of his close circle (which includes Pompeo). The recent “unilateral” actions of State Department are a slap in the face and, simultaneously, a nasty trap for Trump (he can cancel those sanctions only at a huge political cost to himself) and are a clear sign that Trump does not control even his administration. Here is how Philip Giraldi described this obvious slap in the face:

The most recent is the new sanctioning of Russia over the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury England. For those not following developments, last week Washington abruptly and without any new evidence being presented, imposed additional trade sanctions on Russia in the belief that Moscow ordered and carried out the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th. The report of the new sanctions was particularly surprising as Yulia Skripal has recently announced that she intends to return to her home in Russia, leading to the conclusion that even one of the alleged victims does not believe the narrative being promoted by the British and American governments.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded with restraint, avoiding a tit-for-tat, he is reported to be angry about the new move by the US government and now believes it to be an unreliable negotiating partner. Considering the friendly recent exchanges between Putin and Trump, the punishment of Russia has to be viewed as something of a surprise, suggesting that the president of the United States may not be in control of his own foreign policy.

From the very beginning, any anti-globalization initiative of Trump was sabotaged and often reversed. Haley is one example here. She does not coordinate some of her actions with Trump or the Secretary of State unliterary defining the US foreign policy.

Her ambitions worry Trump, but he can so very little: she is supported by Pence and Pence faction in the administration. Rumors “Haley/Pence 2020” surfaced and probably somewhat poison atmosphere in the WH.

Add to this that Trump has hostile to him Justice Department, CIA, and FBI. He also does not control some critical appointments such as the recent appointment of CIA director (who in no way can be called Trump loyalist).

Which means that in some ways Trump already is a hostage and more ceremonial President than a real.

54

Chetan Murthy 08.19.18 at 3:29 am

J-D@50:

there’s no way to judge a question like this except by ‘How does it affect my country’s power?

Three things: (1) I think you’d find that that’s a shorthand for “how does this affect the {soft, hard} power and cohesion of the Western Alliance”. If you think (somehow) that our closest allies like what’s happening to America and American power, you’re sadly mistaken.

(2) Fascism and white supremacy are rising in America, abetted by our chief geopolitical adversary, newly resurgent, and you’re asking me to think about other considerations?

[crass epithet removed], do you not realize that if things keep going this way, we might have a war between the States, the disintegration of the USA? Do you think this would be salubrious for the world?

(3) and finally, HOW ELSE should a citizen of the USA think about developments in the USA? I don’t see Ireland offering me CITIZENSHIP. The first duty of a citizen is to ensure that their homeland survives in one piece and at peace.

Lordy, CT needs a better class of troll.

55

J-D 08.19.18 at 8:06 am

Chetan Murthy

(1) Your meaning is unclear. Are you suggesting that nobody at all can judge questions like these except by how they affect the power and cohesion of the Western Alliance, or are you suggesting that nobody in countries which are part of the Western Alliance can judge questions like these except by how they affect the power and cohesion of the Western Alliance?

(2) No, I’m not asking you to think about other considerations, you’re asking me to think about other considerations. If we judge everything only by how it affects the power of the USA, then it’s not clear how the rise of fascism and white supremacy in the USA affects the power of the USA, but I don’t need to know the answer to that question in order to judge that the rise of fascism and white supremacy in the USA would be a bad thing.

There is no prospect of a war between the States: for that to happen, there’d need to be two sides each with its own armed forces; that’s not the present situation, and there’s no prospect of such a situation arising. If in some different future situation there were a war betweeen the States, it’s reasonable to expect that it would cause terrible suffering and many deaths in the US, as that’s what usually happens in civil wars, including your own previous one, so I hope there isn’t one. However, I don’t see any connection between that and the rise or decline of US power. Civil wars have happened in countries with great power and countries with little power, in countries whose power was rising and in countries whose power was declining. Also, terrible as another American Civil War would be for people in the USA, it’s not clear what effect it would have on the people of the rest of the world (how did the previous one affect the people of the rest of the world?); still less is it clear how the disintegration of the USA without a war (although this is something else of which there is no current prospect) would affect the people of the rest of the world, or even the people of the USA.

(3) I pointed out previously that you asked me how else these things could be judged when I had already told you how else I judge them. Now you’ve asked me the question twice since I answered it, even though I told you the first time. Are you actually attending to what I have written before responding to it? If I repeat myself, will you pay attention this time?

The first duty of a citizen is to ensure that their homeland survives in one piece and at peace.

Obviously secessionists all over the world do not agree that their first duty is to keep their countries in one piece; what is your justification for disagreeing with them. In my country as in yours there is no serious prospect at present of separation into several different countries, but if there were I can’t see what would be so objectionable about it. If my sister had to use her passport to visit the rest of the family, or if I had to use my passport to visit her, it needn’t be more than a trivial administrative burden.

56

Hidari 08.19.18 at 10:41 am

@53

‘The President is very much a figurehead – he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the (people), but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is … a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.’ (Douglas Adams)

CF Also the LRB:

‘Trump comports himself not as a president or even a politician, but as a reality TV host. He is a showman above all. In a process where the media are cast as reviewers, and voters as spectators, the show is getting bad reviews but doing nicely: the clear sign of success is that nobody can stop talking about the star. He keeps up the suspense with teasers and decoys and unscheduled interruptions, with changes in the sponsors and the supporting cast and production team. The way to match the Trump pace is by tweeting; but that is to play his game – a gambit the White House press corps have found irresistible. Much of the damage to US politics over the last two years has been done by the anti-Trump media themselves, with their mood of perpetual panic and their lack of imagination. But the uncanny gift of Trump is an infectious vulgarity, and with it comes the power to make his enemies act with nearly as little self-restraint as he does. The proof is in the tweets.’

https://www.lrb.co.uk/2018/08/09/david-bromwich/american-breakdown

57

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.18 at 1:26 pm

If Trump finally goes down in history as a crook, some of his supporters will believe to their end of their lives that it was all a “deep state” plot to protect globalization from a glitz-plated hotelier who caters to shell companies, offshore accounts and tax havens.

This is nutty, while it manages to illustrate the GOP fracture in a nutshell.

Back on planet Earth, Brennan chooses his words carefully to avoid the direct verbal implication that there exists a decade (or more) of intelligence suggesting that this elected leader is mobbed-up with criminals and/or enemies, and who so far has been able to avoid criminal liability. Yet Brennan’s high status in the security community points directly to that implication, anyway.

That raises a First Amendment issue: how to distinguish between public statements that are prohibited under non-disclosure of intelligence, and statements that are made on the basis of that intelligence but which are claimed to be under First Amendment protection? I’m not so sure as Litt that the courts would decide in Brennan’s favor.

This entire episode is a remarkable historical turn, not normal at all — however much the Trump Administration really is just GOP business-as-usual in most policy areas, or, perhaps more dangerously, however much you have misled yourself to believe that Trump is no bigger a war threat than Obama was, or Hillary would have been.

58

alfredlordbleep 08.19.18 at 1:47 pm

Underscoring Bromwich who seems to have left the NYRB for the LRB. [link @56] In any case he is a typing and memory shortcut for fellow travelers.

Again, the party that passed Obama’s Iran nuclear deal has seemed indifferent to the preparations for war with Iran that became impossible to mistake when Trump pulled out of the agreement. The chance of war grew steeper when Trump appointed as his second secretary of state Mike Pompeo, a militarist with a particular hatred for Iran, and as his third national security adviser John Bolton, an anti-Muslim fanatic of the Cheney circle. Leaders of both parties continue to nurse the most dangerous illusions about the prospect of regime change in Iran, with the People’s Mujahedin of Iran and other sympathetic terrorist outfits presumably counted on to assist. What seems to be contemplated is an attack by the triple alliance of the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, with the US in the background.

This brings up an awkward question about a country that has meddled in US elections far more persistently and with larger measurable effects than Russia: namely, Israel. The most important financial backer of Netanyahu is also the most important backer of Trump, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who gave $83 million to Republican candidates in 2016 and will do more in 2020, provided the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem is followed by the war Netanyahu wants. The Netanyahu-Adelson-Trump connection is well known to the US and Israeli press, but it has been emphasised by only a few journalists, including Peter Stone, Amy Wilentz and Philip Weiss. Whatever the malignity of Putin’s design, he will never equal the success of Netanyahu’s speeches to Congress in 2011 and 2015, which received a combined total of 55 standing ovations.

Yet any American half-persuaded to try and think about something other than Russia was dragged all the way back by the startling performance of Trump in Helsinki. . .

59

WLGR 08.19.18 at 4:02 pm

On the one hand, Chetan Murthy is correct in a self-reflexive sense that CT needs a better class of troll, on the other hand, their presence here does offer a neat little capsule image of a certain supremely self-confident yet supremely incoherent vision of US liberal nationalism, a vision anybody in liberal cultural circles has definitely had to encounter even if only to roll our eyes at it. Here on Planet Earth, the United States of America was founded on the guiding principle of white supremacy, and the US influence on the world stage has been largely in support of white supremacy (the only real exception being our minor supporting role in helping the USSR defeat Nazi Germany, albeit after we lent Nazism the core inspiration for its own racist genocidal settler-colonial vision).

It’d be one thing if the response to Chetan Murthy was to ask where they’re getting this bizarre idea that US global imperial power and white supremacist fascism are somehow in conflict with one another, but Chetan Murthy has already given their response to that line of thought, which is to shriek in the pitch-perfect imitation of a spittle-flecked jingoistic white reactionary Trump supporter that anybody who lives in the US but opposes US global power should git the hell outta my country, ya gawd damn traitor. So the only real question left for Chetan Murthy is, by all appearances Donald Trump with his bellicose jingoistic ultranationalism should be your guy, so why exactly are you trying so desperately to pretend you oppose him?

60

J-D 08.19.18 at 10:32 pm

alfredlordbleep

What seems to be contemplated is an attack by the triple alliance of the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, with the US in the background.

Anybody who thinks there is a prospect of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates operating in alliance with Israel has not been paying attention and is going to have to stay back after class.

61

WLGR 08.19.18 at 11:09 pm

J-D, it may not be in either country’s interest to admit it openly, but Israel and Saudi Arabia have been operating at common purposes for a long time now. Sort of the same way the US has a history of supporting not just Saudi Arabia, but also Saudi-inspired Wahhabi/Salafi vigilante groups like the people who did 9/11. Or sort of the same way Israel itself supported Hamas back in the day against the PLO/PFLP as a tactic to kneecap the prospects of a cohesive secular/leftist Palestinian movement that could have successfully challenged Israeli apartheid the way the ANC did in South Africa.

Anybody who thinks there is no alliance between Saudi/UAE (or Wahhabi/Salafi extremist groups more broadly) and Israel, has seriously not been paying attention and is going to have to stay back after class.

62

J-D 08.19.18 at 11:50 pm

WLGR

There may be evidence that Israel and Saudi Arabia have collaborated secretly; I don’t know of any myself, and you haven’t indicated any, but that doesn’t prove that it doesn’t exist. Many things fall within the bounds of possibility, and Israel and Saudi Arabia collaborating secretly is certainly one of them, although being possible is not by itself a demonstration that it has actually happened.

What isn’t within the current bounds of possibility is open collaboration between Israel and Saudi Arabia, such as would be required for the purportedly contemplated joint attack on Iran. That’s the suggestion I was commenting on, and that’s what there’s no current prospect of, and even if you did produce evidence of secret collaboration between them, that still wouldn’t make plausible the prospect of their acting together publicly, as you acknowledge yourself.

63

Chetan Murthy 08.20.18 at 12:17 am

It’s not clear that I can respond to WLGR@59 without further derailing this comment thread. But I’ll call out at least one enormous howler in his comment:

the US influence on the world stage has been largely in support of white supremacy (the only real exception being our minor supporting role in helping the USSR defeat Nazi Germany, albeit after we lent Nazism the core inspiration for its own racist genocidal settler-colonial vision)

Brad Delong and many others have noted that America constructed the Western Alliance, and the institutions of the Western Alliance, to bind the adversaries of WWII to each other, to prevent a recurrence of war in Western Europe. Brad once wrote that since 111 BC an army has crossed the Rhine approximately every 37 years to wreak devastation. Until 1945. The 70 years of peace in Western Europe since then, are a gift of American Power to Western Europe (and to the extent that Great Power war in Europe is “total war”, to the world).

But hey, I’m sure it was all just in support of white supremacy.

No, it didn’t stop wars elsewhere. And yes, America proceeded to destabilize and *destroy* states all over the place, including in our own backyard. But dismissing the Western European peace on those grounds is like dismissing Obamacare b/c it didn’t come with an NHS.

And a pony.

64

faustusnotes 08.20.18 at 1:39 am

There are some strange fantasies being bred here, all in support of the idea that Obama and the Democrats are just as bad as Trump, or we shouldn’t worry, or something. Hidari resurrects the “American presidents are powerless” idea at the same time as he is on another thread muttering about “Obama’s wars in Syria and Yemen” (are these dudes powerless or not); we don’t even need to consider the spit-flecked rage of so many of the Trump-friendly Putin left at the prospect of Clinton getting the presidency to know that none of you really believe this. Then we have alfredlordbleep quoting a whole passage about how it’s the Dems fault that the GOP is going to invade Iran because the Dems aren’t very exercised about Trump’s plans. How remarkably that passage manages to avoid pinning any responsibility for a war with Iran on the president who started it! (But we must remember presidents have no power, right? And the only politicians in America with any real power are Dems, even when they are in the minority in both houses of congress and don’t control the presidency). Then we have WLGR riffing on the theme that it doesn’t matter who wields American power – even if the who is an actual white supremacist – because American power has always served white supremacy.

I guess something that all these people have in common is their rock solid belief that if they allow US power to crumble under Putin’s guidance, the resulting state will be better for the world than the current one. Right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong if Putin installs a white supremacist who brings a nuclear armed state to chaos and ruin? Better to help it along than try and right the international order!

65

J-D 08.20.18 at 4:16 am

I made a mistake in my comment above: of the ten instances in which an incumbent President has been defeated at an election, there have been six or perhaps seven in which the elected candidate was a Democrat: I forgot to count Jackson in 1828 in that total. The rest of the comment stands: taken as a group, those instances still don’t match Hidari’s earlier description.

66

Hidari 08.20.18 at 10:48 am

‘I guess something that all these people have in common is their rock solid belief that if they allow US power to crumble …, the resulting state will be better for the world than the current one.’

Why the worldviews of radicals and ‘moderates’ are ultimately incommensurable, lesson no. 10989000.

The radical is against imperialism and colonialism. Ultimately, the ‘liberal’ is in favour of these things (albeit hidden behind euphemisms, vague rhetoric and, frequently, the language of ‘human rights’ or even ‘democracy’).

But yes, although I wouldn’t use the word ‘crumble’….I do want American military power to decline relative to other powers. I do want the United States (and Western Europe/Australasia more generally) to become ‘weaker’ (if you want to use that word) relative to other states. I want a multi-polar world, not a ‘Western’ dominated one. The United States (and, again, Western Europe/Australasia more generally) has too big a military and far too many nuclear weapons. It also has far too many overseas military bases (and if you were looking at the ‘right’ number ‘none’ is the number I would probably hone in on). Not to mention its ‘intelligence community operatives’ and ‘special ops personnel’ doing God knows what in Africa and the Middle East.

So I am not trying to ‘right the international order’: this is correct. It was set up by, and for, the United States, and the ‘West’. You are correct in thinking I want it replaced by something better. But liberals do want to prop it up, to change it, yes, but only superficially. Ultimately they want American/’Western’ hegemony. Radicals do not.

Ultimately, these aims are not compatible.

67

faustusnotes 08.20.18 at 1:19 pm

Hidari, you have spent the past couple of weeks on here claiming that Russia is no worse than the US, and even went so far as to call Trump’s sanctions on Russia “hypocritical and disgusting”. You live in the UK, don’t you? A country that Russia recently attacked with nerve poison, killing a British citizen, injuring another British citizen, and harming a person under British protection. Yet you’re on here advocating for a multi-polar world. I wonder which poles you want to see strengthened? The ones you defend here even after they attack your own citizens for their own geopolitical goals?

Yes the weakening of the US and the growth of a multi-polar world would be good. But not the multi-polar world that you want, where tyrannical and illiberal governments get to do whatever they want in developing nations, and drag us all back to the stone age as they trick countries like America into electing white supremacist nutjobs, and countries like the UK into destroying their own economy. Change isn’t always for the better – although you might think so, with your current blinkered view of Putin an his cronies, you will be proven sadly wrong if he and his kind get to rewrite the international order.

68

WLGR 08.20.18 at 2:43 pm

Hidari gives a reasonable summary of my view on the issue of US imperialism, and the view of the left in general. (Sorry, liberals who support US imperialism, you’re not “the left” and you never were, so stop pretending to be.)

I’d add that the kind of conflict Hidari is describing, between the fundamentally irreconcilable visions of one group of people who wish to see one potential distribution of power and resources versus another group who wish to see another potential distribution, is a crucial aspect of the phenomenon known as “politics.” Both in this thread and in the broader discourse of US politics, a certain blinkered strain of US liberalism seems not to want to understand that this is what politics is, and instead seems to want to bracket off actual political conflict as a “distraction” or “derailment” of what they consider politics, namely the agreeable hashing out of easily reconcilable differences within a political space whose boundaries are defined in advance. What they define as two different politics-related tasks, first “determining the acceptable scope/rules/norms/etc. of politics” and then “politics,” in reality are subsets of the broader field of “politics,” and the first of the two is arguably far more important, which may be precisely why they want to preclude anybody they disagree with from talking or thinking about it.

In other words, no, Chetan Murthy, you’re not derailing anything by expressing your narrowly dogmatic US patriotism, quite the contrary in fact: that’s exactly what you should be doing if you genuinely want to contribute to the discussion, because determining the compatibility or incompatibility of narrowly dogmatic US patriotism like yours with other potential political visions in a broad anti-Trump coalition is the crux of the issue at hand. The only act of derailment you’re committing is your very insistence that focusing the discussion on the basic premises of your narrowly dogmatic US patriotism somehow inherently means derailing it.

69

Hidari 08.21.18 at 5:25 am

The change in content, and tone, of Faustnotes’ posts over the last year or so, from centrist Democrat (justifiably) angry over Clinton’s defeat, to out and out neo-McCarthyite ‘reds under the bed’ paranoid conspiracy theorist, has been most illuminating. If only because one suspects his ‘journey’ is representative.

70

faustusnotes 08.21.18 at 6:22 am

Interesting Hidari. Are you saying that Russia didn’t try and kill the Skripals, and didn’t kill the British citizens who were exposed to Novichok? Are you trying to suggest that they had nothing to do with the US election campaign, even though we know that someone connected to Putin met with the Trump campaign to offer dirt on Clinton, that Trump knew about the dump of Podesta’s emails before they happened, and that Manafort was up to his neck in Russian money? Are you trying to argue that the Russians had nothing to do with Brexit, even though we now know Arron Banks met with people connected to Putin multiple times and was offered lucrative deals? What about the Russian money-laundering through the NRA?

When this is all over and it’s clear as day what the Russians did, and people like Flynn are rotting in jail because of their treachery, you and the other Trump-curious Putin fans on the left are going to look remarkably bad for having pretended that there was nothing to see, and that everyone else was just a neo-McCarthyite paranoid conspiracy theorist.

71

Hidari 08.21.18 at 4:07 pm

@70

Whatever you’re smoking, I would quit.

72

Mark Pontin 08.21.18 at 7:01 pm

@ Chetan Murthy-

Re. the benefits of US hegemony to the world at large, the US has since WWII attacked and bombed all the following countries.

Korea and China 1950-53 (Korean War)
Guatemala 1954
Indonesia 1958
Cuba 1959-1961
Guatemala 1960
Congo 1964
Laos 1964-73
Vietnam 1961-73
Cambodia 1969-70
Guatemala 1967-69
Grenada 1983
Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets)
Libya 1986
El Salvador 1980s
Nicaragua 1980s
Iran 1987
Panama 1989
Iraq 1991 (Persian Gulf War)
Kuwait 1991
Somalia 1993
Bosnia 1994, 1995
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia 1999
Yemen 2002
Iraq 1991-2003 (US/UK on regular basis)
Iraq 2003-2015
Afghanistan 2001-2015
Pakistan 2007-2015
Somalia 2007-8, 2011
Yemen 2009, 2011
Libya 2011, 2015
Syria 2014-2016

73

Tomonthebeach 08.21.18 at 7:08 pm

In the long run, the decision to revoke a security clearance involves a judgement call whether the judge is POTUS, SCOTUS, Congress, or an authorized agent of the executive branch which is the normal way such things are done.

Why this was not done “by the book” by underlings vs POTUS himself speaks volumes about Trump, but is moot on the issues raised by is reckless actions. Congress could fix this, but not THIS congress. They cannot even walk and chew gum.

74

Mark P. 08.21.18 at 7:16 pm

@ faustusnotes:

Re. what the Russians did and didn’t do.

Russia didn’t make 50% of the U.S. population poor and low income.
Russia didn’t make 63% of Americans unable to afford a $1000 emergency.
Russia didn’t make the U.S. have unaffordable college and people buried under mountains of debt.
Russia didn’t help the banks kick 5.1 million people out of their houses, and allow the banks to forge chain of title in 1.5 million cases.
Russia didn’t give the banks preemptive pardons to repair their balance sheets post-2008 by money laundering the $2 trillion of drug cartel money that washes through the global economy every year. Why do you imagine that HSBC thought it could get away with it?
Russia didn’t put the U.S. into eight wars simultaneously, with almost $1 trillion dollars annually going to the U.S. military complex and intel agencies at the same time as Americans in Flint, Michigan, couldn’t get clean water.
Russia didn’t poison the water in Flint.
Russia didn’t frack the U.S..
Russia didn’t stop Barack Obama from implementing a public health option when he could have.

75

WLGR 08.21.18 at 9:25 pm

J-D, I hadn’t previously read this New Yorker piece on the blossoming Israeli/Saudi/UAE alliance (accidentally posted in another thread by Jerry Vinokurov after intending to post it as a response to you in this one) but nothing in it should be especially surprising to anybody who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention. The premise that any Arab and/or Muslim political force just naturally has to be implacably opposed to Israel, I guess through some irresistible gravitational force of ethnoreligious obligation, betrays a surface-level (arguably even Islamophobia-adjacent) misinterpretation of one of the basic dynamics of post-WWI Middle Eastern politics: as a rule of thumb, the forces and movements most opposed to Western imperialism and Israeli settler-colonialism have been the more secular and/or democratic ones, while the forces most open to working as de facto Western imperial proxies have been those most explicitly committed to narrow Islamic traditionalism, especially those influenced by Saudi Wahhabism.

I’ve linked to Timothy Mitchell’s classic 2002 essay “McJihad” here on CT before, but it’s one of those pieces that somehow always keeps managing to be more relevant now than ever. The great Egyptian radical political economist Samir Amin (rest in power) is also worth reading on the topic.

76

WLGR 08.21.18 at 9:31 pm

Faustusnotes, Stephen Cohen is no radical lefty and I can’t say I agree with his worldview in general, but he’s a serious and eminent figure in the history of US-Russian relations (his 1973 book about Bukharin apparently had a profound influence on Gorbachev) and he gave a decent reasonable-people-using-our-inside-voices take on the current Russiagate hysteria in this recent CNN segment with moderator Anderson Cooper and contemptible neocon tool Max Boot:

COOPER: Stephen, you’re saying Russia was not attacking the United States?

COHEN: I know what you’re talking about, that during the 2016 election, Russia attacked the United States. Yes, I don’t think they attacked the United States–

BOOT: OK, and yet you just denied being an apologist for Russia, you’re apologizing for Russia as we speak.

COHEN: Will you ever let me finish? You don’t know what I’m gonna say.

COOPER: Please go ahead.

COHEN: The meddling began, Mr. Cooper, right after the Russian Revolution when Woodrow Wilson sent American troops to fight in the Russian Civil War against the communists–

BOOT: Oh, please…

COHEN: Let me finish. The meddling began on the Soviet and Russian side when the communists formed the Communist International in 1919. Ever since then, Moscow’s meddled in our politics, we’ve meddled in theirs. This is low-level stuff, what went on. It is not an attack. It is not 9/11. It is not Pearl Harbor. It is not Russian paratroopers descending on Washington. This kind of hyperbole, “an attack on America,” suggests we need to attack Russia. So you’ve got Mr. Boot saying Trump should “threaten” Russia. With what? Does he want to attack?

BOOT: Try sanctions…

COHEN: You know what I think? I think Mr. Boot would’ve been happy if Trump had waterboarded Putin at the summit and made him confess. Trump carried out an act of diplomacy fully consistent with the history of American presidencies. Let us see what comes of it, then judge.

77

Faustusnotes 08.22.18 at 2:29 am

Mark P, that’s true. Donald Trump’s friends did all of those things, and Russia helped him get elected.

It’s amusing to see hidari dismiss discussion of the Russian attack on his own country, the day that the Mueller campaign gets its first criminal convictions, including for campaign finance law violations involving Trump.

78

Procopius 08.22.18 at 6:14 am

Excuse me. IANAL. My question is based entirely on the argument presented by LTC

79

Procopius 08.22.18 at 6:36 am

Excuse me. IANAL. This question is based on a description of the classification and clearance explanation by LTC Pat Lang over at Sic Semper Tyrannis. Col. Lang is a retired intelligence officer with lots of experience in the Middle East and continuing friendships with people who are still on active duty. He explains that there is no statute which governs the classification of sensitive material nor controls how the executive will grant access to that material to selected persons to fulfill the needs of the United States. It is entirely the creation of an executive order. We are not like Great Britain with its Official Secrets Act. This has been an annoyance to many government prosecutors over the years, but that’s the way we have chosen to do things. The result is that nobody has a constitutional right to a security clearance. When high ranking officers leave office for whatever reason, in the past it has been practice, as a courtesy, to allow them to retain their clearance to make it easier to consult with them if that should be necessary. They are not supposed to have access to classified material unless they are deemed by the proper authority to have a “need to know.” However some former officials have been able to get highly paid employment due to the idea that they still have “access,” and so will be able to provide valuable insight.

You state,

Public statements by Trump make it clear that there wasn’t, in fact, a plausible national security rationale for revoking Brennan’s clearance.

. I do not understand why the President, the ultimate authority for granting or denying clearances and the ultimate authority for determining the need for a clearance, has to justify revoking a clearance. Maybe the reason is so sensitive to national security the President deems it Top Secret. Also, is the position of Director of National Intelligence not an “at will” position, from which the incumbent can be ejected at any time, at the pleasure of the President, with any explanation or none? Anyway, I do not believe Brennan has the remotest chance of successfully suing the executive over a matter like this. The courts simply won’t touch it.

80

Faustusnotes 08.22.18 at 6:59 am

Wlgr does Cohen know about the Mueller indictment for hacking electoral machines? Being a good historian doesn’t mean he has all the facts on current affairs. What does he think of the NRA taking Russian money? There are many experts who are struggling to accept how bad this is.

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Procopius 08.22.18 at 7:39 am

Sorry, my attempt to comment at #78 got sent prematurely. I started to say that I am not a lawyer and my knowledge of the subject is limited to an explanation of the classification and clearance system by LTC (Ret) Pat Lang, over at Sic Semper Tyrannis. He points out that there is no law that governs the classification of sensitive material nor that prescribes how access to that material shall be granted. It is entirely governed by executive orders. Congress has no say. The Title III Courts have no say. It is not a constitutional matter. It is entirely as ordered by the President. No one has a constitutional right to a security clearance. The President does not have to give a reason for classifying or declassifying a document, nor for granting or denying clearance to somebody. It is at his sole authority. Just like hiring or firing Attorneys General. Sometimes, as a courtesy, departing officials have been permitted to retain their clearances, usually to enable the new officials to consult with them if they need to. Some of them have parlayed that into a paycheck with the “news” media, because they give the impression they still have “access,” either through formal briefing or an informal network of friends who pass interesting stuff on to them. I believe this is why Brennan and McRaven are so upset (incidentally, I firmly believe the President should take McRaven up on his challenge and revoke his clearance). Anyway, there are many things about this President I dislike, but in this case he did the right thing.

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J-D 08.22.18 at 9:11 am

WLGR

I did not assert that Saudi Arabia (to use your words) ‘just naturally has to be implacably opposed to Israel through some irresistible gravitational force of ethnoreligious obligation’. I asserted that it is within the bounds of possibility that Saudi Arabia has secretly collaborated in joint action with Israel, but that Saudi Arabia openly collaborating in joint action within Israel is not within the current bounds of possibility. The writer of the New Yorker article cited by Jerry Vinokurov asserts that Saudi Arabia has secretly collaborated in joint action with Israel and that Saudi Arabia is not prepared to collaborate openly in joint action with Israel. So it doesn’t confute my view, it supports it.

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Hidari 08.22.18 at 9:23 am

Notwithstanding the DSA insurgency (which may or may not lead to anything….and if it does, the resulting ‘anti-semitism’ storm will make what has happened recently in the UK look like the cliched ‘tempest in a teapot’), the majority of the Democratic elite remain committed to imperialism, remain committed to colonialism, remain committed to American hegemony, remain committed, intellectually, emotionally and, for all I know, spiritually, to the American Empire. Comments by The Usual Suspects on this thread merely state openly what senior Democrats think covertly.

The #Russiagate discourse is a neo-colonial discourse because it presumes that the US is the ‘indispensable nation’ and what happens to it is and should be of overwhelming concern to the rest of the world. As @76 shows, the reality, which is that both the US and Russia (and China) are imperial powers who try and influence each others’ politics all the time (the US far more successfully than the Russians, or China for that matter) is elided or ignored. It’s just realpolitik between Empires, the kind of thing that has been going on since the year dot (and in any case the case for open collusion between Trump and Putin remains very weak, at least at the moment). No Democrat has ever spoken out against American attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia (or China), because they are in favour of this.

Democrats who oppose Trump are (mostly) like the Senatorial class in Rome who objected to Caligula and Nero, not because they opposed the Empire, but because Caligula’s/Nero’s highjinks were bringing the Empire into disrespute.

In any case, as WLGR points out, anyone who is, openly, or covertly, in favour of imperialism/colonialism/Empire is not on the ‘left’ in any shape or form, whatever they might think.

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J-D 08.22.18 at 10:35 am

Hidari

I wish I knew who you meant by ‘the Usual Suspects’.

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WLGR 08.22.18 at 3:14 pm

Faustusnotes, my position (which as far as I know is close to Hidari’s position, maybe even close to Stephen Cohen’s position too) is that even assuming the wildest Russiagate-related speculations and assertions are all 100% true, none of what’s been alleged is particularly surprising or even out of the ordinary. The difference is, people like me take it for granted that this kind of sleazy, underhanded, antidemocratic backroom maneuvering is plainly and simply the way our political and economic system functions in general, from sleazy corrupt New York real estate moguls like Donald Trump to sleazy corrupt DC lobbyists like Paul Manafort. Our core objection to Russiagate has nothing to do with whether anybody connected with the Russian state did or didn’t commit any particular transgression, what we object to is how Russiagate serves the interests of the people who commit these kinds of transgressions more generally, by implicitly letting them off the hook for committing the exact same transgressions in ways that don’t happen to cross a particular geopolitical boundary. This is especially striking when nobody even tries to deny, except by omission, that states like Israel or Saudi Arabia are far more intertwined in this kind of foreign meddling at the highest levels of US politics than Russia could ever hope to be; even the outfit that social media sites have been turning to for help rooting out Russian дезинформация is a financial slushpit for meddling by GCC governments and Western weapons manufacturers.

Not that the two are necessarily comparable in specific historical details, but the way a certain kind of Russiagate obsessive can look at corruption, election meddling, or attacks on democracy and see them specifically as Russian corruption, Russian election meddling, or Russian attacks on American democracy, plays a similar ideological role to the way an old-school European anti-Semite can look at banking, financial conspiracies, or exploitation of workers and see them specifically as Jewish banking, Jewish financial conspiracies, or Jewish exploitation of Christian workers. In both cases, when systemic problems grow too obvious and devastating to deny outright, the way to preserve one’s delusional faith in the integrity of the overall system is to racialize one’s understanding of its problems, crafting a narrative where if only we could root out the nefarious influence of the foreign intruder, the better world that allegedly existed before their intrusion would return. Ironically but maybe not surprisingly, the ideological maneuver of Russiagate-focused anti-Trumpism ends up looking strikingly similar to the ideological maneuver of Trumpism itself.

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Nigel 08.22.18 at 4:12 pm

‘The #Russiagate discourse is a neo-colonial discourse because it presumes that the US is the ‘indispensable nation’ and what happens to it is and should be of overwhelming concern to the rest of the world’

I’m gonna say this is a bit like the lefties who denied that Stalin was a wee bit of a monster during the heyday of the Cold War. Personally I think it’s in the interests of countries that are neither the US nor Russia to know as much as possible about how, why and to what effect modern states interfere in other state’s democratic processes. I can’t think of anything more stupid than to get snippy about the importance of that knowledge because it might risk painting the US as the victim in this particular instance.

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faustusnotes 08.23.18 at 11:38 am

I want to explore some of these equivocations by hidari and WLGR a little more. First hidari says:

As @76 shows, the reality, which is that both the US and Russia (and China) are imperial powers who try and influence each others’ politics all the time (the US far more successfully than the Russians, or China for that matter) is elided or ignored. It’s just realpolitik between Empires, the kind of thing that has been going on since the year dot (and in any case the case for open collusion between Trump and Putin remains very weak, at least at the moment). No Democrat has ever spoken out against American attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia (or China), because they are in favour of this.

So are you going to try and pretend to us that President Xi is an American puppet? Perhaps you think Putin was installed by Clinton? No, you don’t. Do you have any evidence that China hacked US voting machines, or used Facebook to sway the election towards any candidate? Do you think Obama was a Chinese plant? Do you seriously expect us to believe that the US has significant assets embedded in the higher echelons of the Chinese Communist Party? These suggestions are ridiculous. They’re obviously not true. But it is obviously true that Putin owns Trump. This stuff is not suddenly news because it was always happening and a few Democrats managed to suddenly make it an issue. It’s suddenly news precisely because it has never happened before. You can pretend otherwise, but it’ll just make you look bad as more information comes out, and you – as Nigel observes – look more and more like the old stalinists pretending that Czechoslovakians wanted to be invaded.

Then WLGR says

Our core objection to Russiagate has nothing to do with whether anybody connected with the Russian state did or didn’t commit any particular transgression, what we object to is how Russiagate serves the interests of the people who commit these kinds of transgressions more generally, by implicitly letting them off the hook for committing the exact same transgressions in ways that don’t happen to cross a particular geopolitical boundary.

So do you want us to believe that Clinton used campaign money to fly her rabbit on holiday? Did Obama use money hidden in a foreign bank account to buy an Ostrich jacket? Did Obama have multiple overseas accounts that he was funneling Ukrainian Oligarch money into? Did DSW send an email to her Russian associates offering to sell her position on the DNC in order to get herself out of a deep financial hole? Were the Clintons using their position in power to funnel money into their hotel businesses?

None of these things happened. The scale and type of corruption is completely different. You want to pretend that they’re the same so you can maintain the stupid fiction that Both Sides Do It and Neoliberal Killery Was Just as Bad. Except they don’t, and she wasn’t, and it’s patently obvious that not everyone is doing what Trump and his criminal confederates are doing – you simply need to swap names in the indictments to see how ludicrous everything you’re saying is.

There is no equivalence between the two sides. You won’t get your revolution by pretending there is. All you’ll do is drag out the cruelties being inflicted on poor Americans. If you want those cruelties to be reduced, you need a Democrat government, that you drag to the left through hard work within the party. If you don’t want to do that hard work, just admit it instead of wasting pixels on these foolish stories that are obviously nonsense.

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faustusnotes 08.23.18 at 11:39 am

Also Hidari the US is the indispensable nation because it doesn’t matter one whit what the rest of the world does about global warming, if the US doesn’t act we all burn. That means what happens in the US is of epochal, civilization-ending significance to the rest of us. This one single issue is more important than anything else in the history of humanity. Unless you can come to terms with that simple fact, you’re just pissing in the wind.

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Orange Watch 08.23.18 at 3:41 pm

FN@88:

The same is true of China and India. Which means that, no, the US is not the indispensable nation even by this meteric. Responsibility on its part is necessary, but it’s not sufficient; it is one among several megastates that need to behave responsibly on this score.

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Hidari 08.23.18 at 4:48 pm

@86
Yes luckily we have proud, principled left wingers to stand up to the Russian threat. Proud unapologetic democratic socialists like (checks notes) John Bolton.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/23/us-russia-expected-restart-nuclear-arms-dialogue-geneva-talks

Please note that Bolton nixed the whole Geneva discussions, which might have brought some positive changes to the current (terrible) relationship between the two nuclear armed powers, specifically because Bolton insisted that a reference to the Russiagate nonsense be inserted into the final statement. Obviously the Russians were never going to tolerate that, so a small piece of progress towards ridding the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons was stopped because of #Russiagate.

This conspiracy theory is now getting beyond a joke and is actually starting to menace positive international relations, peaceful coexistance between nuclear powers, and arms reduction strategies. As Chomsky has been one of the few to point out, there is still a real risk of nuclear war breaking out, albeit accidentally, and #Russiagate is making this tense situation much worse.

Enough.

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Neville Morley 08.23.18 at 5:50 pm

“Democrats who oppose Trump are (mostly) like the Senatorial class in Rome who objected to Caligula and Nero, not because they opposed the Empire, but because Caligula’s/Nero’s highjinks were bringing the Empire into disrespute.”

‘Tis the ancient history bat signal! Fire up the pedantmobile! Look, I know this was only an aside, but…what? Into disrepute with whom, the Persians?

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WLGR 08.23.18 at 11:55 pm

Perhaps you think Putin was installed by Clinton? No, you don’t.

A fine illustration of how little you care to think about the consequences of US imperial meddling in other countries’ politics. Putin ascended to the Russian presidency as the personally handpicked successor of US shock-therapy proxy and Trumplike right-wing vulgarian Boris Yeltsin, and the Clinton administration’s repeated meddling in Russian politics to sustain Yeltsin’s regime throughout the 1990s was extensive enough to make even the most dire Russiagate-related meddling allegations look as fleeting and trivial as a single Missed Connections ad on craigslist. Especially notable was the US backing of Yeltsin during the September 1993 constitutional crisis, in which he used army tanks to forcibly dissolve his own parliament after it voted to impeach him; during the December 1993 referendum on a new constitution, which created the extremely centralized presidential system and rubber-stamp show parliament that Putin enjoys today, and was won through outright electoral fraud; and during the 1996 presidential election, in which Yeltsin was re-elected through a combination of extensive support from US political operatives, US-backed disinformation campaigns against Yeltsin’s main opponent, and further electoral fraud.

Putin’s early rise through the Russian security-state nomenklatura was as a nondescript technocratic administrator akin to someone like Mueller or Brennan, and his popularity with Russia’s cosmopolitan liberal class in the early to mid 2000s (before he switched gears to a more demagogic red-state Bush-cowboy style appeal in the 2010s) was largely because he eschewed Yeltsin’s proto-Trumpian image for a no-nonsense no-drama affectation more reminiscent of Obama. And yes, from the beginning of Putin’s presidency until 2002-03, when he refused to send troops to Iraq and put the kibosh on Western energy companies’ plans to acquire de facto control of Russia’s fossil fuel reserves, the US under both Clinton and Bush readily supported him as “our man in the Kremlin” the way we’d supported Yeltsin before him.

(I peppered that description with analogies from recent US federal politics hoping that that might leave a lasting impression, since nothing else either Hidari or I have said seems to have done the trick. Maybe it’s futile anyway, especially given how mindlessly you keep banging the drum of willfully refusing to understand what a radical systemic critique might actually mean, but hey, might as well be worth a shot?)

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WLGR 08.24.18 at 12:03 am

That said, you could be onto something that the US is “the indispensable nation,” but not the way you might think. US military and political power is the lynchpin of the global capitalist economic order as it currently exists, and that order itself is what threatens us with cataclysms like global warming, so yes, what happens in the US is of epochal, civilization-ending significance to the rest of us — if we want to avert these catastrophes, the apparatus of US military and political control over the rest of the world must be brought to an end. It could well be the case that this one single issue, defeating US imperialism, is more important than anything else in the history of humanity, far more important for example than splitting hairs about the relative goodness or badness of any of the US’s current geopolitical rivals like Russia or China, let alone Iran, Syria, Venezuela, or North Korea.

Unless you can come to terms with that simple fact, then yes, you are just pissing in the wind.

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