I, for one …

by John Q on April 19, 2016

This para, presented matter-of-factly in the middle of a New York Times piece about the Repub convention bringing older strategists out of retirement, surprised more than, perhaps, it should

Paul Manafort, 67, all but disappeared from American politics in recent decades to advise international leaders, including strongmen like Ferdinand E. Marcos, the former dictator of the Philippines, and Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed former president of Ukraine. Now, though, Mr. Manafort, who worked for the Ford campaign 40 years ago, is the lead convention strategist for Donald J. Trump

Combined with the link back to Joe McCarthy, I feel a bit as if we have moved on to some alternative reality timeline (I remember a great one, where Nixon won in 1960, and an author is trying to pitch the actual history of the 60s as an alternate reality story – can anyone point to this).



M. Bouffant 04.19.16 at 7:02 am


Malzberg, Barry N. “January 1975”
Divergence: 1960 CE
What if: Nixon was elected president in 1960.
Summary: A writer in that timeline tries to convince his editor to accept a series of stories based on the premise that Kennedy was elected.


John Kozak 04.19.16 at 7:18 am

“Philip K Dick is Dead, Alas” by Michael Bishop?


Soullite 04.19.16 at 8:28 am

Oh, look, more ‘Trump is gearing up to be the next Hitler!’ bullshit from the left.

This is why I can’t take this site seriously. You all claim to be sober intellectuals. And then you devolve into McCarthystic smears that have very little basis in reality. I mean, where are all your reports of the shady, less-than-Democratic people involved with Clinton? she actually is gearing up to be the next Nixon, but you don’t care about that because she has a D next to her name. But one guy with shady clients is plenty of proof that Trump is a monster.

It’s laughable. I mean, do you all think anyone but the hardcore political whackjobs on your side of things will buy what you’re selling here? Or is this a George Costanza ‘it’s not a lie if you believe it!’ kind of thing?


Sam Dodsworth 04.19.16 at 9:25 am

This is why I can’t take this site seriously.

Don’t worry. This site won’t be on the test.

If there’s a sense of alternate history here then presumably it’s because Trump’s outside the Republican party establishment and is having to find advisers who didn’t join it on this timeline?


John Quiggin 04.19.16 at 10:34 am

@1 I don’t think that’s it. This wasn’t a serious alternate history. Rather, the author was desperately trying to justify the multiple assassinations and other plot elements the editor regarded as contrived and implausible. The only reference to the Nixon wins alternate universe was a brief complaint at the end about being snubbed at the Torture Games.


John Quiggin 04.19.16 at 10:39 am

OK, now @1, which I just rescued from moderation is right, and my @5 refers to @2. That’s shifting timelines, CT style.


kidneystones 04.19.16 at 11:48 am

Manafort evidently disappeared from American politics in the same way David Axelrod ‘disappeared’ from America to the UK to help sink Labour at precisely the same time as another Dem vote-counter for hire Jim Messina also ‘disappeared’ to the UK and had rather better fortunes working for the Tories. Or else credit for the Tory victory goes to the Lytton Crosby, yet another expert vote-getter who similarly ‘disappeared’ only this time from Australian politics to work for Cameron’s Tories. Manafort, like the other aforementioned characters is a political fixer of considerable stature and like Axelrod, he doesn’t come cheap. Axelrod billed Labour 500 k to help them lose and them blamed the pollsters.

The only real question regarding Manafort is why it took Trump so long to understand the need to bring someone like Manafort on board. This Wapo piece confirms that Manafort’s focus on principally international clients can be more reliably dated to 2012, not ‘decades’ ago. According to the Wapo piece Manafort has been close to the heart of Republican politics for most of his adult life. He’s also worked for Trump before and lives close enough to Trump to share elevators.


“Paul has been involved in internal Republican politics for almost all of his adult life,” (my italics) said Vin Weber, a lobbyist and a Republican former congressman from Minnesota who is a longtime friend of Manafort. “He’s one of the true first-rate professionals in the Republican Party. There’s only a handful of people, I really mean that, that can honestly say they know how a national convention works. He’s one of them.”
Weber, who advises Kasich, is no fan of Trump but lauded his choice of Manafort all the same. “This is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen the Trump organization do,” Weber said. “Maybe the only impressive thing.” After BMS&K was sold to Burson-Marsteller, Manafort formed Davis Manafort in 1995 with former John McCain adviser Rick Davis. It effectively disbanded after the 2008 election, Politico reported in 2014. Davis did not immediately return a request seeking comment. Manafort then founded DMP International, a business and international-affairs firm. The firm was formed in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in 2012, according to the state’s business records.”

We’re certain to learn more, but Manafort had strong links to McCain until 2006.


Snarki, child of Loki 04.19.16 at 12:15 pm

The actual timestream divergence occurred on 1 Jan 2000.

WE got the universe with minimal Y2K disruptions, but Dubya and his merry band of war-criminals.

THOSE OTHER lucky bastids had a massive Y2K economic crash, but wound up with Gore, twin towers still standing, two less wars, etc.


oldster 04.19.16 at 12:24 pm

…and a global solution to global warming which involved minimal economic disruption and a burst of green energy technology.

This is all part of why Fat Tony is now roasting in torments, screaming that he repents and repents, while St. Peter says, “perhaps. get back to me in a few eons.”


Ed 04.19.16 at 12:26 pm

I apologize for these comments being somewhat scattered:

1. Most top political consultants run international businesses.

2. After World War 2, the US “establishment” ran a complicated game where they supported dictators in most countries, but for European and English speaking countries allowed not only democracy but social democracy, with what is frankly limited democracy for the US. Advising some third world despot one year how best to feed people to tigers, then helping the Tories win in the UK the next year, and then help fixing a judicial race in Texas is not that unusual.

3. To the extent that this has an anti-Trump angle, this is not that unusual. It doesn’t even say much about the Trump campaign, since there are only a few political consultants who no how to fight a contested convention. The last time theses came even close to happening in the US was 1976 for the Republicans and 1980 for the Democrats.

4. Contested conventions are where the limited part of the limited US democracy comes out into the open, and one area of the specialized expertise consultants will have is how best to bribe delegates. These people are not all about ad buys.

5. This particular guy does seem unusually slimy, even for the trade. Remember Trump dealt with mob bosses in the normal course of doing business, like every other real estate developer in NY and NJ. He is used, probably too used, to working with these types of people.


Phil 04.19.16 at 1:37 pm

Well, probably not what you’re thinking of, but the Alan Moore graphic novel “The Watchmen” featured a long-serving President Richard Nixon. Also, in the novel Fatherland featured a different President Kennedy, it was his father who got elected. JFK was killed in the war.


Fiddlin Bill 04.19.16 at 3:50 pm

viz Soullite’s comment above: it doesn’t take a liberal to wonder about Trump, since he quotes Musollini favorably on his own, supports torture and revenge murder, attacks whole ethnic groups, etc. Whether he could actually become a dictator with abolute power is unlikely given the massive legal structure the US incorporates. There are many limits on Presidential power. Anyways, it looks like Cruz these days. He’s only for turning back Supreme Court decisions on segregation, interracial marriage, same sex marriage, and whatever else his Confederate backers want.


Ed 04.19.16 at 4:04 pm

The “Nixon is President forever” theme of the Watchman is a joke. The idea is that the US uses nukes (“Dr. Manhattan”) to win the Vietnam War, allowing Nixon to stay in the White House forever, constitution be damned.

For someone like me who was born during the Nixon administration, and who has seen how his successors have done in office, the amount of hatred of intellectual types on the left for Nixon is quite honestly puzzling. The Nixon joke in “The Watchman” hasn’t aged well.

The “Watchman” book and movie are sort of alternative history, in that they explore what the world would like like if comic book superheroes actually existed. The theme is that this would change the behavior of the non-superheros in all sorts of ways. The director of the “Watchman” movie, Zach Synder, went on to direct two conventional superhero movies, one of which just got released. The second movie turned out to be “The Watchman”, except with a bigger budget and non-parody superheros, and flopped with the critics who were expecting something else.

The 1960 election is a good alternative history starting point because it was so close. At least in terms of popular vote percentage (0.7%) , it was the closest election in the twentieth century, if not US history. Kennedy’s national popular vote margin of roughly 12,000 votes includes his margin of 81,000 in Alabama, which is probably not accurate because the Democrats ran a mixture of Kennedy electors and unpledged electors who wound up voting for someone else in the Electoral College. At any rate, this is a really easy election result to reverse.

An alternate history based on Nixon’s election in 1960 has to determine if Nixon too winds up assassinated. Also what the Kennedy’s wind up doing, and how many butterflies are released by Henry Cabot Lodge being in DC and not in a poilcy-making position in Vietnam. Also what happens to the 1964 Goldwater candidacy, LBJ staying in the Senate (plus no election of John Tower), and the fact that Nixon’s close electoral defeat changed him and resulted in a somewhat different Nixon in 1969-74. This is one event where the ramifications are not obvious, and would be a good alternative history novel.


Ben 04.19.16 at 7:18 pm

Rick Perlstein on Trump’s policitcs as an extension of the reactionary political wing of New York (link)

Marginally related, but it’s Perlstein. I fear no reprisal.


Ben 04.19.16 at 7:19 pm

(except on spelling)

(and content: reactionary political *history* of NY)


Bloix 04.19.16 at 7:46 pm

#12 – “Whether he could actually become a dictator with abolute power is unlikely given the massive legal structure the US incorporates.”

The wording of the 22nd Amendment is so clear that it’s hard to imagine even the most determined Supreme Court holding that a person could be president for more than eight years.

But we could easily have a one-party state that would perpetuate itself with a combination of voter suppression, gerrymandering, use of the criminal law and surveillance to suppress dissent, and crony capitalism to feed tax dollars to supporters who then kick back donations to the party. This arrangement worked in Mexico under the PRI for over seventy years. Mexico has a six-year one term limit for president, and the system smoothly transferred the presidency from one corrupt party boss to another. I firmly believe that this sort of arrangement was what the Bush/Cheney regime was working toward, and they could have succeeded if they hadn’t been unlucky. Katrina was one factor in preserving democracy. The refusal of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to die of cancer was another. George Allen saying “macaca” was a third. But the people who tried it last time have not given up or gone away.

And there’s nothing in the Constitution to prevent a person from serving as vice-president for life. As we saw with Cheney, the VP can be a very powerful person. We could have a president who leaves office only to become VP under a handpicked lightweight, somewhat like the way that Putin became Prime Minister when he was not eligible to run again for president.

With the right Supreme Court, almost all if not quite all things are possible. It’s impossible to overstate how lucky we are that Scalia died, and how much better off we’d be if he had died before Shelby County.


Brett Dunbar 04.19.16 at 7:55 pm

The US policy after the second world war was inconsistent and self contradictory. For example in South Korea before the war the State department had done everything they could to keep out Rhee, who they considered an untrustworthy troublemaker who was a threat to Korean chances of democracy. The defence department military administration him a passport and flew him to Korea, they saw only his anti communism and frustrated the state department’s policy. It’s often enlightening to distinguish between government policy and department policy.


John Quiggin 04.19.16 at 8:13 pm

As I tried to say in the OP, it’s not the facts so much as the oddness of the linkages (in the Trump-Cohn-McCarthy case) and the prosaic nature of the reporting wrt Manafort. With apologies to Malzberg, it’s very much like reading a Reuters item along the lines “X was appointed Deputy Director of the CIA today, returning to the agency where he began his career as a trainee torturer under JJ Angleton 30 years ago”.


John Quiggin 04.19.16 at 8:38 pm

@7 I’m happy to say Lynton Crosby came a cropper in Canada, heroically jumping ship when it became apparent that his racist dog whistle wasn’t doing Harper any good.


LFC 04.19.16 at 9:43 pm

Ed @13
For someone like me who was born during the Nixon administration, and who has seen how his successors have done in office, the amount of hatred of intellectual types on the left for Nixon is quite honestly puzzling.

Nixon’s early career and Congress/Senate campaigns were a study in red-baiting. He does not seem to have had many strong convictions on domestic policy/issues other than ‘do whatever redounds to the benefit of Nixon’. His real interest was always foreign policy, and there the record of his administration contains grave crimes as well as some accomplishments, but the latter don’t outweigh the former.

When you add up the negative side of the Nixon ledger (starting with the early campaigns and going on to Cambodia/Vietnam, Chile, Bangladesh, Watergate), it *substantially* outweighs the positive side.


Dean C. Rowan 04.19.16 at 10:01 pm

Along similar lines, and inspired by the same Politico piece: http://www.sharynemery.com/teaching-angels-in-america

Personally, I have an easier time with “historiographic metafiction” and “alternative reality timeline” than with “postmodernism.” I don’t recognize anything “postmodern” about “Angels in America.” But then I didn’t recognize anything “Angels in America” about “Angels in America” when, after seeing it in workshop in Los Angeles in a small black box theater I attended the full production at the Music Center. For all of the splash and glitter, the latter was an etiolated wisp of the promise afforded by the workshop.

Speaking of Angleton, it’d be fun if CT would host a “seminar” or whatever you care to call it on Mailer’s “Harlot’s Ghost.” Rich historiographic metafiction there!


Kiwanda 04.19.16 at 10:01 pm

This recent essay on Nixon is relevant. Nixon’s interference in the Paris peace talks, and continuation of the war just for political advantage, and massive bombing campaigns, were particularly evil. Even Reagan’s pre-election dealings with Iran, and Iran/Contra, and Grenada-invasion-as-distraction, were comparatively small potatoes.


Darren Keane 04.19.16 at 11:50 pm

Trump should have started playing Cruz’s game of buying delegates for the second ballot a long time ago in case he doesn’t get to the magic number. IMHO that is why Manafort was brought in.


LFC 04.20.16 at 12:24 am

Thank you for that link. (Must get in the habit of glancing at NYRB a bit more often.)


Moz of Yarramulla 04.20.16 at 1:18 am

the 22nd Amendment is so clear that it’s hard to imagine even the most determined Supreme Court holding that a person could be president for more than eight years.

What happens if the VP is a former president? Does the promotion then bypass the VP and go to someone else? I am thinking of Putin’s shuffle specifically, wondering whether DrEvil could rule as president for 8 years, then run as VP to someone who resigns a few days after appointment.


J-D 04.20.16 at 1:29 am

Moz of Yarramulla @25

See the last sentence of the Twelfth Amendment:
‘But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.’


J-D 04.20.16 at 1:41 am

Soullite @3

If you can’t take this site seriously, should your own comments be taken seriously? or should I just laugh at them?

Will you be here all week?


Moz of Yarramulla 04.20.16 at 1:56 am

J-D: presumably then the rest of the line of succession just get skipped if they’re ineligible (as for the natural born citizen – which I presume includes those born by caesarian section but not IVF?) There’s a whole list and I can’t imagine they all have to be able to become president in order to get appointed.


Bloix 04.20.16 at 2:07 am

@26 – the 22nd amendment does not say that a person who has served two terms is “constitutionally ineligible” to the office of President. It says that “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.” Elected. That’s a very different thing.


J-D 04.20.16 at 2:47 am

Bloix @29

It’s not a very different thing, it’s exactly the same thing. The etymological root of both the English word ‘elect’ and the English word ‘eligible’ is the Latin verb ‘eligere’, meaning ‘choose’. Etymology is not identity and obviously both words have developed more specific meanings in English, but in modern English (and this is/was even more emphatically the case in the English of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) ‘choose’ is still one of the meanings of ‘elect’ and ‘capable of being chosen’ or ‘available to be chosen’ is still one of the meanings of ‘eligible’. In this context, a person who is constitutionally incapable of being elected to an office is ineligible to the office.

If you don’t think ‘constitutionally ineligible’, in this specific context, means ‘constitutionally barred from being elected’, what very different meaning do you think it has?


peterv 04.20.16 at 5:27 am

Suppose person A is elected to be president of the USA and person B elected, at the same election, as her Vice President. A dies in late December between the meeting of the Electoral College and the Inauguration. So B asks person C to be her Veep. C’s appointment is confirmed by the Senate in a session in early January, in time for the Inauguration. But B also dies between that confirmation and the Inauguration. (No, this is not the plot of the next House of Cards season.) Person C now becomes President. Her first term is one for which she was not elected. Is it then possible, under the constitution, for C to serve three full terms, 12 years, by being elected for her second and third terms?


Bruce B. 04.20.16 at 5:33 am

I’m not just sure why Soullite’s “I am the true left, and the coloreds and queers and chicks can piss off” thing requires loyalty to both-sides-do-it dogma, but apparently it does. Well, it won’t be the first inconvenient truth he blows past.


Bruce B. 04.20.16 at 5:34 am

On Watchmen, the simple answer is of course that Moore simply misread the role of the 22nd Amendment in American civic life. As sins go, it’s not a big one.

Going with the extrapolative flow, though, looking at how the Supreme Court has been this century, I wonder if a Nixon-packed court would find a way to declare the amendment invalid for some stupid reason.


J-D 04.20.16 at 5:39 am

peterv @31


From the Twenty-second Amendment: ‘… no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.’


J-D 04.20.16 at 5:44 am

peterv @31

In any case, the scenario you outlined is not within the scope of what’s permitted by Section 2 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment: ‘Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.’

If the President-elect dies between the meetings of the electors and the inauguration (or, for that matter, if the Vice-President-elect does), that doesn’t create a vacancy in the office of Vice-President. The vacancy in the office of Vice-President would only commence after the inauguration, and it’s only from that point that the President would be empowered to nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy. There’s nothing empowering a President-elect to nominate a candidate to fill a vacancy in the position of Vice-President-elect.


ZM 04.20.16 at 8:50 am

“But then I didn’t recognize anything “Angels in America” about “Angels in America” when, after seeing it in workshop in Los Angeles in a small black box theater I attended the full production at the Music Center. For all of the splash and glitter, the latter was an etiolated wisp of the promise afforded by the workshop.”

Angels In America much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the workshop version which was all to me,
But as at first in Los Angeles, when I watched you there.

Can it be you that I hear Angels In America? Let me view you, then,
Playing as when I drew near to the version in its embryo
Enthralled by you playing for me: yes, as I watched you then,
Even to the original promise of the black box theatre show!


Bryn Davies 04.20.16 at 10:56 am

JD @35 – So that means that the maximum that someone can be POTUS is 10 years minus one day?


max 04.20.16 at 1:59 pm

Combined with the link back to Joe McCarthy, I feel a bit as if we have moved on to some alternative reality timeline (I remember a great one, where Nixon won in 1960, and an author is trying to pitch the actual history of the 60s as an alternate reality story – can anyone point to this).

Well, we are. We’re in the one that had the defeat of Gore by Bush in 2000, the loss of the Twin Towers, and the idiocies of the Bush administration, but did not have (across several variant lines), the American invasion of Iran, the US-Russia war of 2008 (which ended life on earth), the New New Deal of 2009 (and the subsequent Banker War) and also, several variants involving military coups in 2010/11/12, and finally, we’re not in the ones featuring the most prominent event across many lines, the Second American Civil War of 2012-2020 or so.

Oh, and we’re not in the US-Russia war of 2014 (which ended all life on earth). (All life with a vertebrae, anyways.) Or the general Middle Eastern conflagration of post-2013, which came to be known as World War III.

Of course, we’re not in any of the ones where the EU partially or fully collapsed, which arguably makes this one of the worse ones.

So, on one view, we’re doing pretty good, considering.

[‘On the other view, we’re on one of the worst ones that doesn’t feature the use of nuclear weapons.’]


Kiwanda 04.20.16 at 2:18 pm

“We’re in the one that had the defeat of Gore by Bush in 2000,”

By a five to four margin. Still not over it.


Dean C. Rowan 04.20.16 at 5:50 pm

ZM @36: I’m not blaming Kushner, mind you.


JimV 04.20.16 at 6:28 pm

“The 22nd Amendment is so clear that it’s hard to imagine even the most determined Supreme Court holding that a person could be president for more than eight years.”

Factually incorrect, as other commenters have pointed out. I’m old enough to remember that LBJ, who served for more than four years after JFK’s assignation, having been elected himself once, could have run for a second term and clocked more than eight years if elected – but chose not to run for a second term.


Priest 04.20.16 at 10:26 pm

If Obama should later become Speaker of the House, and both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency became vacant, he could serve as President for the remainder of the term, regardless of the length. The 22nd Amendment only restricts the number of times a person can be elected to the office. As to whether Obama could be appointed Vice-President I am less sure – the 12th Amendment reference to ineligibility was referencing the original Constitutional requirements (35, natural born, etc.), in the context of the Electoral College or a Senate election of Vice-President, and does contemplate an appointed Vice-President or the distinction being being elected to office as opposed to serving in office. The 25th Amendment does not put any additional qualification on who may be appointed Vice-President.


J-D 04.21.16 at 1:14 am

If the words ‘ineligible’ and ‘eligible’ in the Twelfth Amendment are construed in parallel fashion (which seems plausible), it would mean that nobody who is constitutionally barred from being elected President can be elected Vice-President; so it could be argued that it does not prohibit the appointment as Vice-President of somebody who is constitutionally barred from being elected President. On that interpretation, somebody who had served eight years as President could (under the procedures of the Twenty-fifth Amendment) fill a Vice-Presidential vacancy and then succeed to the Presidency when it fell vacant. The Twenty-fifth Amendment imposes no explicit restrictions on who can be appointed to fill a Vice-Presidential vacancy, so in theory it could be somebody who failed to fulfil other usual requirements (age and citizenship).

That’s a possible interpretation, but I predict that if the Supreme Court had to rule on the issue, it would rule differently; but I also predict that the Supreme Court won’t be asked to rule on the issue because nobody’s going to try it on.


J-D 04.21.16 at 1:16 am

We’re in the alternative reality where Alexander the Great was not killed at the Granicus, and where also Frederick the Great was not killed at Kunersdorf.


Ogden Wernstrom 04.22.16 at 5:16 pm

I, for one, hope we’re not in the version reality in which Trump makes a deal that makes Kasich his running-mate in exchange for the Republican nomination, and voter suppression, voter apathy (esp. among Bernie believers) and a combination of other effects conspire to elect Trump.

Trumplusconi goes on to pack his cabinet with more women than any previous cabinet – but few are US-born, so the line of succession is short. Secretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, Attorney General Trey Gowdy and Secretary of Transportation Chris Christie end up being the only cabinet members eligible to hold the office.

Now, I’m beginning to worry about one major branch of realities after that – does Trump declare martial law after the assassination attempt, or does Kasich impose martial law upon assuming office?

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