Trump and Political Correctness

by John Holbo on June 10, 2016

There’s a chance the wheels come off the Trump Train in a spectacular, generally-acknowledged way between now and the election. But probably not. And if not, negative partisanship means that, by November, almost all Republicans will be solidly pro-Trump. That means: Republicans (and conservatives, to the extent that there is a distinction) will have talked themselves into this thing making a crazy kind of sense, after all. A lot of this will be pure negative: crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary. Or anti-establishment: burn it down! But some of it is going to be negative-spun-as-positive. There’s a good chance Trump will make conservatives not-unhappy with Supreme Court picks. Beyond that, the only Trump-is-actually-good line that makes sense – even as confabulatory spin – is that Trump is going to be proudly politically incorrect. Anti-PC is standard conservative rhetoric and has been for decades. But this bubble is going expand, massively, in the vacuum of Trump’s lack of any agenda. I don’t think anyone really believes in that wall. No one knows where Trump would go, so how can you say you are in favor? Answer: it’s not the destination, it’s being a jerk on the journey! The three-legged stool – social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, strong military – is going to be whittled down to one leg – anti-PC. Before we can make America great again, Job #1 is smashing the tyranny of PC, the hegemony of the SJW’s! Conservatives and Republicans are going to talk themselves into this, because what other leg have they got to stand on? I predict that, by November, we’re going to hearing an awful lot more like this. Republicans are going to tend towards somewhat novel alt-right-lite postures under a broad ‘stop the PC madness!’ banner.

What do you think? Trump won the nomination because a solid plurality of Republican voters liked him best. Now that he has got it, the rest – many of whom recently liked him least – need to think themselves into liking him best, after all. Negative partisanship demands it! What sorts of confabulations do you predict will prove necessary/psychically efficacious, to achieve this realignment, over the next 5 months? What sorts of changes to the Republican Party and the conservative mind will it mean, even if Trump loses? How permanent will they be?

Of course, if Trump flames out, like, next month, all bets are off.



le Roi d'Ys 06.10.16 at 6:27 am

Perhaps the return of real humanity, in all its tribal glory, rather than the pitiful and nice version of humanity that the politically correct esteem?


JeffreyG 06.10.16 at 6:50 am

Seeing as both candidates have historically high unfavorables, the likely scenarios is that each will run as ‘not the other’ with as little positive ideological content as necessary.

For what positive content we may be presented: I don’t foresee ‘PC culture’ being as big of a target for the Trump campaign as ‘globalism’ will be.* I anticipate a lot of the messaging is going to focus on the economy: blaming trade, Dem corruption, and maybe even taxes/debt & deficits. The people concerned about the PC stuff are going to have a louder voice, however – which makes sense given the relevant groups and their concerns.
(ie- lower skill workers hurt by trade deals vs the set of people like the couple in the article who live in SF and are concerned about the finer points of admissions processes at elite colleges).

Additionally, liberals will exercise their own negative partisanship, and focus on the anti-PC types among Trump supporters while generally disregarding the economic angle. The former reinforces the liberal’s self-assurance in them being part of the moral elect, whereas the latter calls attention to their own political failures.

The reaction against identity politics (not equivalent to anti-PC, but overlapping in significant ways) is going to be a much longer game, as the causes are more diverse on a much longer term.

* bracketing of course the significance of this aspect of Trump among the Stormfront set.


christian_h 06.10.16 at 7:15 am

Interesting question. I think the racist and sexist rhetoric was necessary for a Trump campaign to get off the ground organizationally given his lack of party political machine, and to keep him in the media spotlight. But what put him over the top in the primaries, and what presents a chance for him in the general elections is the anti-political mood out there. Anti-politics in the US is weird because it has such a long tradition within organized politics. But lately – maybe with the advent of social media and attendant decline of multipliers (talk radio etc) that have in the past sold insider politics as outside rebellion – this inclusion of anti-politics within US politics seems to have broken down. So I’ll predict that “not part of the political establishment” will be the angle reconciling the conservative base with Trunpism. Anti-PC will be a part of this (it’s those dang politicians that make it illegal to just say it like you believe you know), but only a part.


Ecrasez l'Infame 06.10.16 at 7:56 am

The important thing is that while PC is usually an attack on the left, Trump’s using it against the right. The conservative movement has been very heavily policed, certain views will get you purged. When Trump is against PC he means only being able to speak within the pro free-market, limited government, cultural traditionalist, hawkish consensus which has defined the parameters of debate on the right, as much as anything on the left.

Have you read Hawley’s Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism?


PlutoniumKun 06.10.16 at 8:07 am

I don’t really think Trump is likely to bother too much with being ‘anti-PC’ at all – except in that being a little ‘rude’ and ‘outspoken’ will be seen as his marker of anti-establishment credentials. Clinton’s weaknesses are manifold – Trump is at his most impressive as a politician when he is being aggressive. He will attack, attack, attack – he will focus on Clintons corruption and double talk on trade most of all. That she is part of an east coast establishment will be left unsaid, but will be the underlying message at all times. If Clinton attacks his sexism, he’ll simply point out her enabling of her husbands little sex crimes. If she attacks his racism, he’ll point out her love of killing non-Americans in wars. If she makes fun of his hair he will make fun of her $12,000 Armani suit she wore while talking about inequality.


Phil 06.10.16 at 8:16 am

That guy in the Atlantic is scary. Took me back to arguments which I thought had been won years, possibly decades, ago. At least, I say arguments – it was more a matter of stating the obvious over and over again…
Our immigration/policing policy isn’t racist, we just want to crack down on illegal immigrants/Black criminals!
“Yes, it is. It is racist.”
I’m shocked you should even say such a thing! We just want to crack down on illegal immigrants/Black criminals!
“No, it’s racist.”
…and repeat.

Mind you, the guy’s not exactly a random apolitical white guy – I particularly liked the way he referred to himself as a Libertarian while also expressing “support for law and order, and an intense dislike of disruptive protests”, not to mention advocating dealing with illegal immigration through the biggest and most intrusive policing operation since the Stasi. I guess those Men. With. Guns! aren’t as scary when they’re only coercing the other guys.


George 06.10.16 at 9:40 am

Nice article


Metatone 06.10.16 at 11:10 am

I’m no fan of Trump, but it does seem to me that various commenters so far have nailed it. Trump is going to run on a (hypocritical) anti-trade, anti-globalism platform.
It also dovetails neatly with his messianic (“Only I could negotiate us a better deal”) instincts. The Republicans will swing behind this. Few of them were all that committed to the free-trade malarky in the first place.

Anti-PC functions more as a convenient firebreak regarding his tendency to improvise when speaking and end up saying racist and sexist things.


Lee A. Arnold 06.10.16 at 11:35 am

Members of the GOP establishment are already taking the public stance of supporting the Republicans, while signaling in every other way possible that voting for their frontrunner is a truly bad idea. The verbal contortions are a rhetorician’s goldmine.

Trump may already be down by 5 to 10 points. So the Republicans may see if they can quietly keep it that way. Then, pick up the pieces of their party after the election.

Currently they are at the stage of, “If Mr. Trump shows that he can tone it down, in the month before the convention, maybe he should have our support.” But this may NOT be an actual promise. Why?

Well, with another candidate, it might have been. The GOP would have gratefully confabulated. After all, most of the “anti PC” stuff is dismissible nonsense. Most of it could have been “walked back” after the election: Trump’s GOP would go back to business as usual, and the 22 year olds would be none the wiser (& most of them never are).

But for one big, big problem:

Conservatives concerned with foreign policy and security issues know that the “War on Terror” is a guerrilla war. Waging a war of this sort has certain fundamental principles. Principles which have been broken by Trump. Badly broken.

He cannot put it back into the bottle. There is no “walking back” his anti Muslim rhetoric and stupidity. Electing Trump would only confirm to enemies that the US can be defeated, and it would show a very clever geopolitical way to do it. People who are interested in guerrilla strategy can fill in the details.

Thus, establishment Republicans must know that Trump’s thoughtless flipflopping trashtalk worked well for trolling the Republican Party, but he will be a real disaster in the Oval Office.

What the hell is he going to say next that puts people in danger? What guarantee can there ever be, that a 70 year old will change his spots? None, ever.

If I were a Republican, I would push an alternative candidate at the Cleveland Trumpvention, to help the sane Republicans downballot, and at the same time splitting Trump’s November vote by late 3rd party registration and/or write ins.

Strategize for the future around the CERTAIN loss of the Oval Office this time around. Sacrifice the big pawn!

This might push Trump’s plurality of GOP voters into 3rd party status, but even then, it’s not so bad. They could have big cable TV shows and websites and so on for the next 15 years. Trump could advertise his products during the commercial breaks. You yourself could go on camera as a wise old GOP doyen and blabber away about how they have to get it all back together… It’s a win win win win, people!


Peter T 06.10.16 at 11:56 am

It’s going to be a negative campaign and, while Hillary has her negatives, Trump has many more – and of a kind that resonates with a large-ish chunk of the right constituency. He’s a construction/casino/hotel magnate -lots of short-changed staff, customers, contractors out there, lots of dodgy tax deals, corruption. USA Today just ran one piece like this, and there will be more. So I’d agree with Lee that the GOP will try to save the furniture, but let the Trump burn. Be interesting to see what they grab at, and how the base reacts.


cs 06.10.16 at 12:55 pm

To be fair, you could say something similar about Clinton (except for the anti-PC part): I don’t think she has much of an agenda, at least not that she is emphasizing in her campaign. The bulk of the messaging will be about stop Trump, experience and qualifications, and historic candidacy, but at least for her that should be enough to win.


Eszter Hargittai 06.10.16 at 1:12 pm

This seems to go along with what you’re suggesting (although I can’t get myself to believe the headline):


politicalfootball 06.10.16 at 1:22 pm

I think it’s absolutely correct to say that the core of Trump’s campaign is opposition to political correctness. Trump’s key innovation is that he discovered that racist dog whistles are, themselves, a form of political correctness. Subtle racism is just a sop to the Social Justice Warriors!

As for how this plays out in Republican-land, I think many of the elitist Republicans I hang out with are actually going to sit this one out or even vote Hillary. (That’s what they’re saying right now, and while negative partisanship is strong, I think most of them will stick with it.)

My elitist friends and family don’t have the cultural affinity with Trump – he’s too low class; he’s not on their team. And they also believe in the importance of dog whistles. If they can’t keep their racism deniable, they might have to stop being racists. Unacceptable!

We’ve watched Paul Ryan struggle with this, but Paul Ryan actually has to deal with Republican voters. So despite being an elitist, he’s got to come up with some kind of rationalization. And my lower socioeconomic Republican friends don’t need a rationalization – they are happy and proud to vote for Trump.

Negative partisanship is going to drive a lot of voters to Trump, but their rationalization is easy. Rubio has pioneered it most directly: We can’t let Hillary be president.


Loviatar 06.10.16 at 1:33 pm

What I’ve had confirmed by the 2016 Republican primary.

– 1/3 of the Republican base are racist.
– 1/3 of the Republican base while they may not be personally racist will willing support a racist (does that make them semi-racist).
– 1/3 of the Republican base is shitting their pants because it is now public knowledge that 2/3 of their party are racist or will willing support a racist.

Is that non-PC enough for you.


kidneystones 06.10.16 at 1:43 pm

There’s actually been rather a lot of pretty good journalism done on Trump feeding off hostility a great many feel towards being told what to think and say by the moral minority.
Here’s the CBC

Trump will not win the WH through the backlash, but it is clear (to me) that the entire narrative for all media against any GOP nominee is an endless series of accusations of racism. I’m not a big fan of seven-dimensional chess arguments, but I did read one fairly persuasive piece (perhaps by Sean Trende) suggesting that Trump used his claims of ethnic bias, which should cost him with voters, to solidify his base, drive the narrative and suck the air from HRC’s big speech and big moment. In a sense, this approach has been textbook Trump for the last 12 months: Get the media talking about Donald Trump.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I continue to support Sanders, Trump and anyone but HRC (almost) in that order. I’m not immune to the sense of satisfaction many feel that a woman is the Dem nominee.

Whatever blinders the CT community may be wearing at the moment, please be aware that there are a great many very negative stories circulating in the press about the ‘coronation’ of an individual and her husband – both of whom have made a great many enemies among Democrats. Stories of Trump supporters ‘running for their lives’ because the San Jose police feared that protecting these people leaving the rally would further inflame the mob have gained international coverage. Ditto the FBI investigation into the email server. Ditto verbatim lies of both HRC and Bill lying their fucking faces off on TV as they denigrate and vilify ‘crazed’ victims of Bill’s predatory passions who had the temerity to ask to be treated as, you know, human beings, not human tissues.

Old news to old-timers. But new news to an audience ripe to hear horror stories of serial abuse about a corrupt Lothario and his partner in crimes.

If the Dems go forward with the coronation I fully expect to see Teh Donald in the WH.


bob mcmanus 06.10.16 at 1:46 pm

Clinton is gonna be indicted after the convention. Obama will call for Party Unity behind Biden/Kerry/VP. Sanders voters will feel cheated and stay home, because it will be obvious that Obama et al knew it was coming. Trump will be elected President. Clintonites will put 100% of the blame on Sanders voters.


bob mcmanus 06.10.16 at 1:59 pm

And 16 gives good odds to Warren being the VP pick then nominee, not because she will get elected in the midst of the Clinton scandal, but because she will make it even easier to blame Sanders voters for the loss.

And I really doubt the opponent will be Trump anyway, likely Kasich, Bush, or Ryan.

It is a year of bait-and-switch, and we have a long way to go.


jake the antisoshul soshulist 06.10.16 at 2:21 pm

@Loviator #14
slight correction
1/3 of Republican voters are white supremacists
1/3 of Republican voters are white-christian nationalists
1/3 of Republican voters want lower taxes and cheap labor


Glen Tomkins 06.10.16 at 3:25 pm

You’re absolutely right to start the discussion from the idea that Trump could flame out overnight, making any discussion of the downstream effects of his campaign irrelevant. But I think it’s best to stay with that caveat of yours until we’ve unpacked it, because I think it’s the whole discussion, not just a preliminary difficulty we have to assume away to get at the real subject.

The first thing to point out about the caveat that Trump could flame out at any minute, is that, as they say in my native New Orleans these days, “Been like that.”. People have been predicting his imminent flameout from the day he announced. At first this was too obvious to dwell on, but then as he kept doing well in the polls, and then in actual contests, we entered a cycle of a flurry of stories about Trump’s imminent flame-out every two weeks or so. That died out only after he repeatedly failed to flame out, and his nomination win started to seem inevitable. We’re back to flame out speculation now, though, because we’re in the general election now, so who knows, maybe nomination rules no longer apply.

Why do people keep expecting him to flame out, after he keeps not flaming out?

Trump isn’t just running an incompetent campaign according to the conventional rules of campaigning, he’s running an anti-campaign. He gaffes on purpose, then refuses to crab-walk his outrageous statements back with any of the usual messaging apparatus. Of course he’s about to flame out. You can’t be elected dog catcher in the US unless you campaign via messaging. This involves the careful and categorical avoidance of public policy content in any and everything the candidate says, plus a messaging operation. This messaging operation has two tasks. Put out the zero-content themes calculated to make voters (who don’t, after all, have any public policy differences between candidates to guide them in deciding whom to vote for) inclined to vote your way, and do damage-control on the inevitable gaffes. Your candidate, sadly, does have to go on saying things. It’s expected. Earlier ages were more clever about this, and the candidate stayed home and said nothing, but we live in sadly degenerate times. Now, saying anything runs the risk of some actual content leaking in, no matter how disciplined your candidate. For a politician to say something with any content, especially if they actually mean it, is what we call a gaffe, and gaffes have to be messaged away after they happen.

So when you talk about “PC”, presumably, the force behind that label, the reason actual voters, and not just hyperventilating right-wing pundits, actually have scorn for political correctness, is that to them it means this highly artificial business we’ve let our politics become. Both parties rely on the mere label of R vs D to pull in the base for whoever carries the label. They don’t have to stand for anything explicitly to get their bases to vote their way, because the base already knows what they stand for. And being explicit risks alienating swing voters, who by definition aren’t paying much attention, and might be gulled into voting your way if only you don’t screw the pooch by going explicit and thereby telling them why they shouldn’t vote your way. But we’ve been at this avoidance of standing for anything so long, that by now it’s wheels within wheels, and nobody really knows what the Ds or the Rs stand for, not even the Ds and the Rs.

An illustration just to clarify what I’m talking about. Trump’s salient gaffe has been his pronouncement that all 11 million people in this country illegally should be deported forthwith, and then a huge wall built on our border to keep more people from coming in illegally. In support of these draconian solutions, he offers the idea that these illegals are murderers and rapists.

This is a gaffe because it honestly states the public policy embodied in current US immigration law, and the only rationale that makes that public policy reasonable. We only truly need closed borders if it is indeed true that they are sending us their murderers and rapists.

In a political universe in which we talked about these things, instead of engaged in messaging, one party, presumably the Ds, would be against immigration laws. Their response, to Trump — but equally to Rs who phrased their support of continuing these laws with less “flare” — would be that we should repeal these laws and grant immediate amnesty and citizenship to the 11 million. But that’s not the universe we live in. In our actual political universe, the Ds decry Trump’s gaffe and the racism behind it, but then do two things. They avoid their own gaffe, by not coming out for ending these stupid laws. And they (well, the politicians on our side anyway) never fail to temper their criticism of the nativism behind the Rs’ stance by coming out for tougher and smarter enforcement of these stupid laws that “secure our border”. God forbid we lose the votes of even the one or two nativist swing voters who haven’t yet noticed that it’s the Rs they should be voting for.

There isn’t perfect symmetry between the parties. While the Rs fail, as much as our side has, to act on their professed belief that the immigration laws are vital to our national security, they do tolerate in their camp the existence of a pressure group (these days, roughly, the Teahadists) that, among other things, does plump for taking these laws to their logical conclusion, Trump’s plan. It decries both Ds and moderate Rs for their very real hypocrisy and avoidance of the nub of the whole point of immigration laws. Of course the rest of us discount the attack on hypocrisy, this anti-PC campaign, we won’t allow their criticism to have any force, because it is transparently in service to their own side’s reality avoidance. The Teahadists are house boys to their party. They growl and snap when its suits their party’s strategy, but they stay on the leash.

What Trump is doing is, at least so far, pretty clearly distinct from this war on PC. His truth-telling is not solely directed at our side’s shibboleths. One of his early “fatal” gaffes, and to date my favorite, was the time he called McCain a loser for being captured by the Vietnamese. And he has come out for ending free trade agreements, which is not an axe that the party wants ground.

Trump is at war with the conventional politicians in his own party at least as much as he is at war with our side. And his war with his party is the more immediate fight. He wants to run this year’s campaign against messaging, and messaging is the only way the conventional Rs know how to run a campaign. He’s not going to fall out with them over his ideological transgressions, he’s in a life-and-death struggle with them over methods.

To return to where this discussion started, I think it is the big question right now whether Trump is going to flame out in the next few weeks. But I doubt that he will flame out because his anti-messaging strategy will suddenly stop working. If pursued to the hilt, it may or may not win him the general, but if pursued to the hilt, I think he at least gets close. He only craters if he foolishly tries to go conventional at this late date. He would be terrible at messaging, and it would destroy his credibility with the people who now find him credible, without doing him much good with everybody else.

So, yes, Trump flames out if he goes conventional, but, no, that’s not likely because it seems obviously counter-productive for him. I think the more likely flame-out scenario is that the implications of where the anti-messaging path is leading him sink in, and he backs away from that, he chooses not to grab the dagger that is leading him on to dictatorship, to put it in terms of the Scottish play. Or, to be less dramatic, he flounders, he doesn’t do the anti-messaging strategy with enough consistency, conviction and ruthlessness to make it work because he just backed into it accidentally and has no concept of the consequences, which will become increasingly clear the closer he gets to success. The actors don’t refer to the play by its actual name for a reason, that it is an uncomfortable play to star in.

Let’s hope that reality TV has not sufficiently prepared our man for this role, that tragedy will replay as farce. But you never know. The conditions of reality TV and crony capitalism don’t really test the participants, don’t show us what they’re made of or are lacking. Trump may turn out to have hidden talents never required of him up until now.


RNB 06.10.16 at 3:39 pm

A couple of months ago, I played around with Christina Bicchieri’s writings on norms, and wrote something like this.

A lot of people don’t have moral norms against prejudice against non-Americans and American minorities; they could see that other people were empirically conforming to the norms, and many had the belief that others believed that they should be conforming to these norms.

So what Trump does is bring them out of their epistemic ignorance and allows them to discover that so many others, like themselves, were just complying to these norms only because they thought others would comply with them out of a normative commitment.

Trump is a coming out party–Americans again can be confident not to comply with the norms they never valued in the first place.

Trump also holds the “promise” of breaking norms about gender as well.

Is this a big part of his campaign? Yes, I think so.


politicalfootball 06.10.16 at 3:39 pm

What sorts of confabulations do you predict will prove necessary/psychically efficacious, to achieve this realignment, over the next 5 months?

The rest of us our hypothesizing from an intellectual distance about how this is going to play out, but kidneystones @15 gets it in his or her very bones.

What sorts of changes to the Republican Party and the conservative mind will it mean, even if Trump loses? How permanent will they be?

k-stones didn’t directly address this, but I’d certainly be interested in his or her view.

Quoting k-stones:

If the Dems go forward with the coronation I fully expect to see Teh Donald in the WH.

I know there’s a lot of literature out there about what happens to cultists when the world doesn’t end on schedule, but I’ll also be interested in seeing how folks rationalize Trump’s defeat. What’s it going to be, k-stones? Electoral fraud? Media bias?


Alex K--- 06.10.16 at 3:57 pm

“But this bubble is going expand, massively, in the vacuum of Trump’s lack of any agenda.”

His agenda consists of two and a half bullet points. One: cutting down on mass immigration from certain parts of the world. Two: doing something about unrestricted free trade. Two and a half: everything else, subject to change.

A helpful guide would be Edward Luttwak, starting from his 1990s books. You can begin with “Why Fascism is the Way of the Future” in the LRB if you haven’t already.

You might want to read Trump’s Playboy interview from 1991. The (anti-)global(ist) trade agenda is already there. On Bullet Point Two, the man’s feelings have been pretty consistent. Even the import tariff proposal is already there.

One could add that these 2.5 points are clouded/shrouded in some vague, semi-mystical “greatness” meta-agenda but I’m not going there.


RNB 06.10.16 at 4:09 pm

On Trump and immigration, I am wondering whether he was influenced long ago and perhaps still today by Peter Brimelow who about 20 years ago wrote what I remember as a complementary book to the Bell Curve on the “dysgenic” consequences of immigration. Brimelow joined the American tradition set by Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, as I remember. It’s not like I kept the book on my shelves. I don’t know whether this possible connection has been explored yet, but there may be something there.


RNB 06.10.16 at 4:15 pm

OK google is turning up a lot on Brimelow in support of Trump. I think this connection will reveal a lot about the nature of Trump’s racist, white nationalist candidacy.


RNB 06.10.16 at 4:34 pm

Yes it would seem that if we want to understand how Trump will attack political correctness or what is behind the attack if not always explictily said, we should look at the kind of vitriol that Peter Brimelow produces with his friends at the v-dare site, a white nationalist operation. I am wondering whether Trump ever referenced Brimelow favorably in 90s and after that. Brimelow is a birther too.


politicalfootball 06.10.16 at 4:39 pm

Mark Schmitt (I think) once said: “It’s not what you say about the issues; it’s what the issues say about you.” Trump’s political commitments, to the extent that he has any, are all meant to reflect his racist core. Even among his supporters, I doubt that many think Mexico is going to pay for a wall.


harry b 06.10.16 at 4:41 pm

Trump woon’t flame out till September. At that point all the stuff HRC campaign will have dug out on him will start to come to light. And then we’ll see. The Republicans may just get away with it, but they have every reason to be very scared. Men like that, who spend all their early and middle years NOT thinking about elected office — there’s a lot of bad stuff on them.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 4:55 pm

There’s a chance the wheels come off the Trump Train in a spectacular, generally-acknowledged way between now and the election. But probably not. And if not, negative partisanship means that, by November, almost all Republicans will be solidly pro-Trump.

Not sure I buy this. Republicans are politicians after all, and plenty of them see him (right now anyway) as a drag on the ticket. They have votes to earn, and proximity to Trump hurts.

It’s an age of wonders.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 4:56 pm

Even among his supporters, I doubt that many think Mexico is going to pay for a wall.

He’ll MAKE them pay for the wall. DUH.


MPAVictoria 06.10.16 at 5:12 pm

A lot of derp in the comment section today…


Colin Danby 06.10.16 at 5:35 pm

1. PC might mean many things and opposition to it might mean many things. But opposition to “PC” is functioning rhetorically, in the US at the moment, as simple code for defending racism. More fully it’s a theory that (a) there is no structural racism so (b) all claims of racism are just people getting needlessly offended. So “being a jerk” is part of the theory and associated rhetorical performance, not the essence.

2. If racist nativism is the core of a campaign, then other “policy” elements will function metaphorically (or perhaps allegorically, if nativism itself is an unscratchable itch). Mr. Trump’s positions on immigration and trade are plainly not drawn from thoughtful examination of economic or social pros and cons. They’re metaphors for excluding the bad foreign whatever that is infecting and weakening the national body. Not all protectionists are nativist, but every nativist is an ardent protectionist.

3. How useful is “conservative” here as a category? If its core is authoritarianism, as Corey Robin has argued, then Mr. Trump fits. If its core is a respect for tradition and institutional continuity, with institutional continuity including family and neighborhood and community as well as parts of governments like courts and judges, then HRC is by a mile the more conservative of the two major-party candidates. Readers of Hayek will remember the stress he places on respect for contracts, a value of which Mr. Trump is proudly transgressive.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 5:39 pm

What do you think? Trump won the nomination because a solid plurality of Republican voters liked him best.

I would point out here that primary turnout is pretty crappy. A solid plurality of Republican voters didn’t bother choosing between Trump or the other denizens of the clown car.


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 5:48 pm

I would point out here that primary turnout is pretty crappy.

Traditionally, Republican turnout (percentage-wise) in primaries is about half the Democratic standard, which is maybe on the order of 10% of registrations. Trump raised Republican turnout pretty markedly. Clinton depressed turnout pretty markedly. Make of that what you will.


Plume 06.10.16 at 5:59 pm

Everyone knows that an emphasis on polite, civil communication, on not deliberately trying to offend others, is the single greatest danger to America. The PC pen is mightier than any sword but Trump’s. His is a short sword, so it’s mightier than short pens, by definition.

Everyone also knows that when we are forced, at gun point, which happens every day in America, to use certain phrases and not others — like “misunderstood freedom fighters” instead of “Godless Islamic terrorist infidels” — we’re giving them nukes to drop on us and kill us all.

Everyone also knows that by calling undocumented workers “undocumented workers,” instead of “killer bee rapists,” we’re just cutting and running and letting those mad terrorist rapists drop nukes on us and kill us all. Even the roaches.

Everyone also knows that Trump will single-handedly put a stop to all of that, because he can fire everyone who does it. And he will. And that’s how to protect our democracy from tyrants and killer hordes of racist Mexican judges, too.


Layman 06.10.16 at 6:00 pm

“Clinton is gonna be indicted after the convention.”

“Hillary Clinton likely won’t face any criminal charges as a result of an FBI probe into her handling of classified information through a private email server, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing several law-enforcement sources.”


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 6:10 pm

Glen Tomkins @ 19

I thought that was a really insightful comment.

I disagree a bit in regard to your analysis of immigration policy (which made your example distracting for me) and its relation to the rhetoric of controlled messaging, but not what I take to be your main point: the scheme of controlled messaging is to keep policy choice as far away from voters as possible. Most people do not know anything about policy or its relation to politics, and things are kept this way by design.

Trump has not thought about immigration policy nor is he some deeply serious white supremacist racist. He doesn’t care about that stuff. He gets in front of an audience and he goes with what will get him the emotional reaction he wants.

My own judgment is that Trump is the greatest gift the Clinton campaign could hope for. She can organize her electoral coalition around Trump’s repulsiveness and get a comfortable majority of the popular and electoral college vote. That’s my null hypothesis that things are as they have been.

My alternative hypothesis is more along the lines of Scott Adams. (Link provided by Eszter Hargittai @ 12)

Glen Tomkins @ 19 actually has a pretty good analysis of why Trump is unlikely to be able to manage the pivots Scott Adams thinks he’s capable of. As Glen says, the Scottish Play is a tough one and Trump may not grasp the dagger with sufficient style or confidence.

There are two parts to Scott Adams’ thesis though. He thinks Trump is a great conman and communicator. He also thinks Clinton has bad judgement about communication tropes — that she and her team have absolutely terrible instincts.


KPChief 06.10.16 at 6:11 pm

Eszter Hargitti @ 12. That is scary but then there is


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 6:17 pm

|-|> is completely understandable in this moment, but it would be a terrible Democratic campaign strategy, and I think Clinton and her campaign may not quite understand all the reasons how and why.


Val 06.10.16 at 6:20 pm

Could you indulge a furriner with a comprehension problem, bruce wilder? Isn’t Bernie Sanders said to have increased turnout by bringing a lot of new, young etc voters into the primaries? And Hillary Clinton beat him (sorry to have to be so mean as to mention that) by getting more votes, right? So how did she depress turnout?


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 6:29 pm

Not to rain on Sanders’ campaign after the big fail, but, objectively, he wasn’t particularly effective as a movement builder — he did get a response that was apparently a big surprise to the political class.

Sanders, not Clinton, got the votes of young women. Here’s why:

If that embed code doesn’t work, here’s a link.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 6:30 pm


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 6:43 pm

The Democratic Party apparatus did a lot to handicap Sanders. Early on, they made sure there were many fewer debates than the Republicans were having, and the debates were deliberately scheduled with an eye to minimizing voter attention. Where they could, as in New York State and in my own California, they got in the way. (Sometimes, as in Puerto Rico, where bad conduct does not affect general election prospects, they went way over the top, cutting turnout by a factor of 10) California’s vote totals as reported this week only modestly topped the 2000 primary where Al Gore was the presumptive nominee before the vote happened. (Honestly, I don’t know how accurate that vote total is, or even how accurate the result — counting takes so long in California, that it is quite possible, Clinton will turn out to have lost the State, which would be a hell of a headline, but I’m presuming the fix is in, and there’s no chance that provisional ballots will be counted or that mail-in ballots will be allowed to affect the outcome.)


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 6:48 pm

Per Temporary Name’s link, while in 2008, Dems made up 2/3s of the record vote in the Primaries, in 2016, Dems were slightly less than half of the total. So, Trump attracted a lot of voters; Bernie v Hillary, not so much. (One of Trump’s more telling stunts was the occasion when he staged his own debate and beat the official Republican debate in the television ratings.)


Val 06.10.16 at 6:51 pm

Thanks. So there’s no evidence for bruce wilder’s claim that Hillary Clinton “depressed turnout pretty markedly”, then?

As an observer, I often wonder how many of the negative claims by Clinton’s opponents at CT are actually evidence based.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 6:53 pm

So, Trump attracted a lot of voters; Bernie v Hillary, not so much.

I wouldn’t say the Bern/Hill turnout was depressed at all (depressing is another matter). It was a good year as far as such anemic American exercises go. The simplest thing to say is that Bernie was not a vote-driver on the order of Obama.


bianca steele 06.10.16 at 6:56 pm

Richard III seems like a better fit.


SamChevre 06.10.16 at 6:56 pm

Val @ 44

I’d say there’s pretty strong evidence for Bruce Wilder’s claim.

Overall turnout for primaries was about the same as 2008, but Democratic turnout was only about 75% of what it was in 2008. Sanders voters clearly turned out heavily; that means the rest of the Demoncrats–the Hillary voters–turned out at less than 75% of the 2008 rate.


RNB 06.10.16 at 6:57 pm

@ 31 Colin Danby writes: “But opposition to “PC” is functioning rhetorically, in the US at the moment, as simple code for defending racism. More fully it’s a theory that (a) there is no structural racism so (b) all claims of racism are just people getting needlessly offended.”

No, opposition to PC is not a theory of the absence of racism and the misguided nature of anti-racism; opposition to PC is a vigorous assertion of rights to express and act on spontaneous racial prejudice without having to reflect on and justify one’s beliefs and actions.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 7:06 pm

Sam, 2008 was a phenomenal year.


Val 06.10.16 at 7:19 pm

You can’t have it both ways – if turnout for Sanders was good, then turnout for Clinton must have been better, since she beat him.

Also if you look at the graph that TTN linked to, you can see that 2008 was very high compared with preceding years. In that context, it seems clearly more realistic to say there was a relatively high turnout in 2016, though not as high as 2008.


medrawt 06.10.16 at 7:20 pm

Val –

whether correct or incorrect, the CT comment section, most of the time, is not the place to put your finger on the pulse of the USA electoral conversation.


Glen Tomkins 06.10.16 at 7:21 pm

Bianca Steele,

I don’t know. I can’t see Trump making public appearances deep in consult with holy anchorites, so there goes my favorite scene in that play.

Richard III, the play, it seems to me, is mostly about Richard projecting an image as a conventional, model leader of his era, when he is far from that in every way. It doesn’t get into what this imaging, and the reality that diverges more and more from the projection, does to the protagonist as deeply as Macbeth does. Macbeth has to project normality as well, so those parts of the play make it clear that my analogy doesn’t really cover the imaging that Trump displays.

Trump isn’t trying to appear to be our era’s equivalent of a wise, pious and chivalrous ruler. He’s trying to poke an elbow in the eye of that equivalent model, so he’s an anti-Richard in that sense. I’m not sure what the tragic conflict would be in a play about Trump. Let’s hope such a tragedy is never written, that it stays farce.


bianca steele 06.10.16 at 7:28 pm

Yeah, Val, don’t you know this is a place for rhetoric, not science?


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 7:31 pm

The Temporary Name @ 45

By what standard of anemia?

Sure, as your linked chart showed, it was “good” by the standard of post-Clinton — 1996, 2000, 2004 — but it was not as good as even the Reagan years — 1984, 1988.

It is a big deal, because the politics of the Clinton machine has long been to corrupt and destroy the independent Party apparatus while eating the brand for lunch. And, because the success of Clinton in the general election could well turn out to be a contest for turnout, particularly in states where the Party apparatus (and capacity for GOTV) is weak.

Both Clinton and Trump are widely despised and for good reason. Going in, their priors are going to depress turnout over all. Where Obama could count on a huge surge in the minority vote, Clinton isn’t going to get the same kind of net surge out of being female, in the States most needed for Electoral College reasons. She will get strong support from blacks and latinos, I have no doubt, but not quite the numbers that put Obama across in two elections. If Trump cooperates and continues to be repulsive to women and racial minorities, that will certainly help a lot, but it remains a contest of handicapped turnout, with Democrats coming to voter depression and its remedies, late.


bianca steele 06.10.16 at 7:41 pm


I think I’d see Richard III as a despised outsider overriding the wishes of the other members of the elite by fooling them or intimidating them, and appealing directly to the public as when he appears with the priests, with nothing to stop him until an equal and opposite force is raised up by his own destructive force. Macbeth rises in a more tried and true way, betraying the king who elevated him and being killed in straightforward battle by a rival. I’m not certain of what you gain by focusing on what the people (who aren’t in the play) might think of how they respectively rule.


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 7:52 pm

Val @ 50: if turnout for Sanders was good, then turnout for Clinton must have been better, since she beat him.

But, Clinton 2016 couldn’t beat Clinton 2008 and that is an indication of some things moving in the wrong direction.

I wouldn’t take “Bernie or Bust” much more seriously statistically than those who claimed to be bitterly disappointed in 2008, but not because the fissure opening in the Democratic coalition isn’t a potentially much more serious divide.

Voting matters so very little to policy in America now that not-voting is an increasingly popular candidate in any election and Hillary Clinton is running against not-voting even more than she is running against Trump. Trump’s repulsiveness is just leverage to use against not-voting. It is a dubious stratagem when her own repulsiveness is a large factor.


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 7:56 pm

Ze K @ 56

PC is an obsolete term, to be sure, but among my personal acquaintances, people commonly say they like Donald Trump because he “doesn’t talk like a politician”.

I don’t get it, because I think he talks like a third-grader, but that’s what other people have said to me, so I take the analysis Glen offered seriously.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 8:14 pm

An inspiration for all sorts of drama:

What if a campaign existed only to take the party as hostage? Maybe Trump could be a real billionaire again if they bought him out.


Suzanne 06.10.16 at 8:28 pm

@15: I would say that almost for the first time, his “strategy” is working against him. He got everyone talking about Trump in the worst way, by making a vicious racist attack on a Federal judge, raising serious constitutional issues in doing so, and succeeded in distracting everyone – not from Hillary’s Big Moment, which went off rather well, but from the latest news on her e-mails, which was not horrible but was also not particularly flattering.

Also, you forgot Hillary the closet lesbian who shot Vince Foster. However, I quite like “Bill’s Predatory Passions.” Made for TV.

@42: In my California, the rules were clearly explained to all voters by multiple mailings. CA is pretty good that way. The Clinton campaign was also very savvy in its early concentration on early voters, which paid off. Jerry Brown’s endorsement of HRC, aimed primarily and cannily at voters who might be thinking of going for Sanders, probably didn’t help.

(Not that it mattered, because Sanders had, uh, already lost……..)


Layman 06.10.16 at 8:50 pm

“But, Clinton 2016 couldn’t beat Clinton 2008 and that is an indication of some things moving in the wrong direction.”

Or it’s an indication that fewer people felt the outcome was in doubt. In any event, I’ve read (can’t say where) that turnout in the primaries is not at all predictive of turnout in the general election. With the Dem’s structural advantage, and the GOP nominating a buffoon most of them can’t stand, I’m guessing it will be a bit of a cakewalk.


Cranky Observer 06.10.16 at 9:00 pm

“But, Clinton 2016 couldn’t beat Clinton 2008 and that is an indication of some things moving in the wrong direction.”

Or that a large percentage of Dem registered voters felt the primary was a choice between a sister & brother arguing over who gets to sit on the left side of the couch and said “call me in November when I really need to vote”.


Omega Centauri 06.10.16 at 9:00 pm

I think you could say in a statistical sense, that Hillary mostly got people who normally vote in a Democratic primary, and Bernie got a lot of first time primary voters. If the former category declined in numbers, while the later increased, but still the Hillary voters outnumbered the Bernie voters, then the paradox is solved. (No I don’t have any data to back that up.)


cassander 06.10.16 at 9:01 pm


>– 1/3 of the Republican base are racist.
– 1/3 of the Republican base while they may not be personally racist will willing support a racist (does that make them semi-racist).
– 1/3 of the Republican base is shitting their pants because it is now public knowledge that 2/3 of their party are racist or will willing support a racist.

There’s only one political party in the that promises to take things from people of one race and give them to people of other races, solely for reasons of race. It’s not the republicans.

@Ecrasez l’Infame 06.10.16 at 7:56 am

>The important thing is that while PC is usually an attack on the left, Trump’s using it against the right. The conservative movement has been very heavily policed, certain views will get you purged.

Trump seems to me rather clear proof that this is NOT the case.

@kidneystones 06.10.16 at 1:43 pm

>Trump will not win the WH through the backlash, but it is clear (to me) that the entire narrative for all media against any GOP nominee is an endless series of accusations of racism.

I can show you a Salon, or similar, article explaining in excruciating detail how each republican candidate is racist. When you fling the accusation at literally everyone on the other side, you can’t be surprised when, eventually, it stops having much an an impact.

@Colin Danby 06.10.16 at 5:35 pm

>1. PC might mean many things and opposition to it might mean many things. But opposition to “PC” is functioning rhetorically, in the US at the moment, as simple code for defending racism.

As a rule, arguments that state “everyone who disagrees with me is evil!” should not be taken seriously.

>More fully it’s a theory that (a) there is no structural racism so (b) all claims of racism are just people getting needlessly offended. So “being a jerk” is part of the theory and associated rhetorical performance, not the essence.

I defy you to find anyone who would actually defend B, which does not, in any case, follow logically from A. It is perfectly possible to 1, think structural racism is real but not very important, 2 think it’s real and important but that the left wing solutions don’t work, 3 agree with the left on structural racism and its solutions but are still tired of the left flinging accusations of racism at every target in sight and think that some claims are indeed a bridge too far. And that’s just off the top of my head.

>2. Mr. Trump’s positions on immigration and trade are plainly not drawn from thoughtful examination of economic or social pros and cons. They’re metaphors for excluding the bad foreign whatever that is infecting and weakening the national body.

So, in other words, he uses policies as ways of appealing to voters instincts? That monster!

>3. How useful is “conservative” here as a category? If its core is authoritarianism, as Corey Robin has argued,

It’s not. remember what I said about not just assuming everyone who disagrees with you is evil?


kidneystones 06.10.16 at 9:55 pm

Trump has won every race whilst inviting the hostility of the media. Indeed, it’s extremely rare for Trump to opine on any topic without a planned, focused attack on the media, particularly the political media class as – really bad people, the most dishonest of the dishonest, sleazy, etc. etc. etc. So, if Trump is making media bias an essential part of his narrative of victory, only the true idiots would expect him to change his narrative for any reason over the course of his path to victory. Expect regular media bashing to be a feature of his presidency.

Pissing off the media is clearly a feature of campaigning Trump loves. And his crowds roar every time he ‘calls the media out.’ Trump is second only, perhaps, to Obama in understanding how easily the media can be spun and they’ve been playing his tunes since the ‘famous escalator ride.’ When Trump called out ‘Pocahontas’ twas a reporter who provided the PC counter-point ‘offensive’, Trump doubled down ‘Pocahontas?’ The nameless reporter shrieked right on cue ‘very offensive!!‘ The dunce in the press corps didn’t even realize she was being played. Trump got the three-fer: Get in the news, remind Americans that Warren spent a substantial part of her career claiming to be a native American, and elicit a PC attempt to suppress a legitimate criticism of a key member of team blue. Trump’s entire press strategy is built around outraging the PC dunces who shriek on command whilst Trump grins, shrugs, and builds brand.

The reason why Trump will win is that a/this is a change election; b/ Trump is a much better campaigner; c/ the entire election cycle is developing in a way that makes a Trump victory far more likely than an HRC victory.

Trump=Hitler, and “Let them eat confetti” is all HRC can offer. That’s it. Trump offers something very different. Fill in the blanks, but if all you come up with is “Trump=Hitler” you’re back where you started.

Trump himself, case you aren’t paying attention, is the principal architect of the “Trump=Hitler” meme that so drives the media cycles and allows Trump to grab hold of the news cycle anytime he likes. Anytime he needs to regain control of the news cycle Trump just drops a little Pocahontas reference, the judge is biased against me turd for the media to gobble-up and right on cue that’s just what they do. These words are not going to affect the outcome of the election.

Because Trump isn’t claiming to be polite, he’s claiming to be honest. Get it? And like it or not, many many people are sick to death of PC culture for any number of reasons.

Trumps Crooked Hillary meme has already defined HRC for large sections of the electorate. She’s a terrible liar and she’s surrounded by absolute morons. Here’s what a sizeable portion of the internet audience is reading right now.

“Hillary Clinton’s publisher removed a section of her memoir dealing with the Trans-Pacific Partnership from the book’s paperback version. The controversial trade deal makes regular appearances in Donald Trump’s speeches, and Hillary Clinton was for it before she was against it. She changed course last October when Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley clobbered her about the Obama administration’s position
Clinton boasted in her 2014 book ‘Hard Choices’ that she had encouraged nations in the Americas to join the TPP agreement, but a paragraph about that cheerleading has disappeared from the paperback edition. Simon & Schuster included a brief but vague acknowledgement that part of the book were zapped ‘to accommodate a shorter length.’

The media was intensely invested in electing Obama in 2008. That’s not the case in 2016. HRC doesn’t give press conferences, she gives speeches on inequality whilst wearing $12, 000 Armani jackets, and Trump is about to spend the next six months linking her decades long career of lying on every topic from Bill’s infidelities, to ‘landing under sniper-fire’ to ‘wiping down’ the server, TPP support to the millions HRC has received from foreign governments. She’s already been condemned by Human Rights Groups for influence peddling. A very long list of 225k a pop speeches she’s given both inside and outside the US is very available and now, today, HRC is getting bounced for deleting her support for the TPP from her own memoirs.

Trump=Hitler is a provably false meme, and one that Trump relies on to get his message out. Crooked Hillary is a provable true meme, and one that put Trump in the WH.

Have a nice weekend!


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 10:03 pm

Trump=Hitler is a provably false meme

Hitler made it to power, Trump won’t.


politicalfootball 06.10.16 at 10:17 pm

k-stones: It’s too bad you’re not interested in Holbo’s questions about the nature of conservatism in the era of Trump. I think you’d shed an interesting light.

I think you’re absolutely right that the media has worked in Trump’s favor and will continue to do so. So what is your explanation going to be when he loses? How are you going to accommodate that in your worldview?

I mean, I guess you’re not able at this stage to acknowledge the near-inevitability of his defeat, but what set of circumstances to you think might possibly lead to his defeat? Or do you think that victory is inevitable?


kidneystones 06.10.16 at 10:31 pm

And right on cue:

66@ With all due respect – you’re a fucking idiot.

Do I actually need to explain to you, again, that Trump is using ‘scary words’ to drive debate, control the media, and define his political opponents? As long as you focus on Trump’s language, you ignore any substantive criticism that might be made of him. HRC has to spend money (See Jeb Bush) and compete for media air-time in order to play defense against Trump’s attacks. Do you not understand at all what has happened over the last year?

The Dems attempted to run an historic candidate unopposed in the 2016 elections. Rather than see democratic primary voters denied even the appearance of a choice, a socialist independent from the tiny state of Vermont decided to throw hi his hat in the ring to take on the HRC Goliath to wide-spread guffaws. To the surprise and delight of an extremely large section of the left-leaning electorate. Bernie won, and won, and won, and won, and no matter how many times Bernie won – the story remained the same Goliath deserves the nomination and the WH because history.

That’s not flying with a substantial portion of the young, who do not equate crowning a former president’s wife as president of a nation where voters actually matter. Support for HRC among women and African-Americans is likely to remain fairly solid, but even with the active involvement of Obama I don’t see how young people turn out in anything like the numbers who flocked to free concerts/political rallies. Not for that old fart, beloved and iconic as she may be to some/many older voters.

As for Trump – think of a lizard, a very particular kind of lizard – one with a highly intelligent brain and a long, blue tail. You keep attacking the tail and the lizard just gets stronger and stronger.


kidneystones 06.10.16 at 10:34 pm

@67 Sorry, I missed the part about conservatism. I’m not sure. One of us clearly is struggling with the prospect of defeat and I suspect it’s not me.


J-D 06.10.16 at 10:41 pm

Eszter Hargittai @12

I only got as far as ‘His stated credentials in this arena, says Adams … largely involve being a certified hypnotist …’

Then I cracked up.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 10:43 pm

66@ With all due respect – you’re a fucking idiot.Do I actually need to explain to you, again



Yankee 06.10.16 at 10:44 pm

People stared incredulously when I expressed fear that the insecurities of the NPR crowd made it a fertile field for Trumpism. We are fng lucky he doesn’t appear to have put himself in a position to exploit it. Fire next time? We should better get some stuff fixed.


Bruce B. 06.10.16 at 10:45 pm

Eszter Hargitti@12: It’s important to consider the source, though. Scott Adams “reasoned” his way into being a creationist, and is convinced that Clinton partisans would assassinate him if he didn’t declare support for her. He believes in the validity of Pascal’s wager as formulated with only the Christian God in mind, and is dancing on the edges of Holocaust denial rather than being willing to do any research into how the death tolls were established. And he’s a full-bore misogynistic men’s rights activist.

In short, he is not to be trusted on any subject whatsoever. If anything, he’s one of those pundits whose endorsement of anything or anyone should be treated as reason to doubt it.


J-D 06.10.16 at 10:47 pm

kidneystones @15

‘Whatever blinders the CT community may be wearing at the moment, please be aware that there are a great many very negative stories circulating in the press about the “coronation” of an individual and her husband …’

There are negative stories in the press about the Clintons? What!? No! Really? Are you sure? My goodness me, thank you so much for drawing this to our attention! How can it possibly be that this phenomenon has escaped us until now? Please, how long has this been going on?


js. 06.10.16 at 10:56 pm

I kinda want more of the Macbeth angle? (I haven’t read Richard III. I know, I know, I’m a fucking philistine, what can I do?) Anyway, Duncan’s obviously the Republican Party, gored and served and all that. But who’s Lady Macbeth? Or wait! The party’s actually Lady M.!? But then who’s Duncan? Help me out here.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 11:19 pm

One witch stirring the pot is Obama at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner brutalizing Trump via comedy.


J-D 06.10.16 at 11:36 pm

kidneystones @65
‘And like it or not, many many people are sick to death of PC culture for any number of reasons.’

That’s true. That’s plainly true.

However, none of those reasons are good reasons.


kidneystones 06.10.16 at 11:40 pm

@ 67 you’re not able at this stage to acknowledge the near-inevitability of his defeat…Or do you think that victory is inevitable?

As noted, your real prognostication of Trump’s near-inevitable defeat makes you the only person deploying the term ‘inevitable.’ But I’ll join you on that limb, if nowhere else.

I’d say at this point a GOP presidential victory is pretty much baked into the cake. I’m not convinced that even with Bush’s appalling record and Obama’s immense appeal, O could have won without an extremely large amount of voter fatigue with a GOP presidency. That’s what virtually guarantees the Dem candidate’s defeat in 2016. Only partisans are naturally happy with successive 8 year periods of rule by the same party. The variables are noteworthy in 2016, of course. Any other woman might stand an excellent chance of reversing this trend because of the historic nature of such a candidacy. Indeed, HRC may yet pull it off.

HRC’s overwhelming negatives among white males are extremely unlikely to change. The attack lines that are going to open in the coming week will play into two factually-established memes. The first we know: Crooked Hillary. HRC is defensive and cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Her ride to the nomination, fixed from the outset, is emblematic of her character and her style of governance. The second is new, but dovetails perfectly with the first. Crooked Hillary will be joined by Corrupt Hillary. Married to Bill, the two have long been partners in corrupt, dishonest, self-advancement at the expense of just about everyone – from Ray Rector (a mentally incompetent death-penalty victim Bill executed to demonstrate his willingness to pull the trigger) to the American worker. Fast forward through Welfare Reform, NAFTA, Iraq No Fly Zones, the Iraq war, Syria, Libya, and TPP. The Clinton Foundation will feature prominently as voters are introduced to Corrupt Hillary. Voters will learn why Crooked Hillary is so dishonest. Crooked Hillary is so dishonest because Crooked Hillary is not only Crooked, but Corrupt. Crooked Hillary has to be crooked all the time because Crooked Hillary has to lie all the time to everyone about Corrupt Hillary’s many crooked schemes selling influence along with her Crooked Husband Bill.

Why did Crooked Hillary sign and promote so many agreements that run counter to the interests of American workers, African-Americans, women, Hispanics, and young people? Because Corrupt Hillary needed millions to further advance her own political ambitions and those of the Crooked establishment who rigged the Democratic nominating process in favor of the Wall Street candidate: Crooked Hillary, who accepted six-figure sums from Goldman-Sachs for ‘speeches,’ not influence. Not influence?

That’s what Crooked Hillary is asking voters to believe? That’s scale of self-delusion HRC supporters are expecting voters to swallow, leveraged with repeated references to the Trump=Hitler scare doll and calorie-free portions of historical moment fluff.

That’s a tall order at the best of times. Add that to the fact that HRC committed most of the most egregious offenses whilst serving as the number 2 figure in an administration many will be happy to leave behind, and I’d say – yes, a GOP White House victory this year is almost inevitable, even with the Trump=Hitler scare doll as the nominee.


RNB 06.10.16 at 11:42 pm

@68 Trump is not strategizing, manipulating or dissimulating. He’s just responding to whatever he sees on cable news. Cable news made him listen to the Trump Univ fraud charges. And he erupted in racism.

His racism is not an act. It’s who he is. His family was in the Klan, his family got busted for racism in one of its housing projects, he called for the death penalty for black kids who were later shown to be innocent and never reconsidered, he has talked about how much it easier it would be to succeed as black than as a white man in America, he wants to create a secret police force to deport 12 million Mexicans, he favors wanton torture and the violation of international when it comes to Muslims whom he wants to register one and all and ban as well.

He can’t walk all this back. His racism isn’t a suit he can take off when he wants. It’s who he is. He can’t use his racism strategically. He can only express it.

Additionally, he has two roles for women: a small one for some managerial work and a big one for sex objects who are here on earth to visually please him. He’s not sure where his daughter fits here.

This is who he is; this is what comes out when he talks. He just erupts and babbles. He can’t finish a complex line of thought. He can’t stay on message unless he reads from a teleprompter and then is immediately drugged.

He is not playing anyone; he is just talking and for some time he seem more surprised than anyone that people would actually vote for him in these numbers.


bianca steele 06.10.16 at 11:47 pm

js.: I kind of like the Robert Downey Jr. film of RIII. Can’t remember if I’ve seen the McKellan version.

I think you can stream Patrick Stewart as Macbeth on demand, set in WWI.


bruce wilder 06.10.16 at 11:49 pm

TTN @ 66: Hitler made it to power, Trump won’t.

politicalfootball @ 67: So what is your explanation going to be when he loses? How are you going to accommodate that in your worldview?

The early smugness fascinates me. I usually find the “anything could happen crowd” harder to take, as I usually think political campaigns don’t really matter very much and the outcome is pretty predictable far in advance. If Obama had not won the general election in 2008 or 2012, I would have been really shocked. I used a slight variation on Ray Fair’s method to make a bet on Obama’s popular vote margin in 2008 and hit the target right on, several weeks in advance — and I could have done so months in advance.

Trump looks like a weak candidate and a fat target. There are enough idiots and habitual Republicans that he will manage a respectable enough vote total — respectable enough that people will wonder if there really are that many complete idiots in the country. (“More” is the simple answer to that one: consider how many voted for Clinton.)

Trump only wins, on kidneystones’ theory or Scott Adams’, if the campaign really does matter: that is that persuasiveness matters. That would overturn my long held view that there really are not very many persuadables voting, and the ones who are, are mostly ill-informed idiots who vote pretty much at random in Pavlovian response to well-designed acts of campaign advertising and messaging and dirty tricks. So professionally-run political campaigns cancel each other out, and you are left in November with the economics and sociodemographics you had in February.

You’d have to have an unusually high number of undecideds and young people with no established party loyalties and a lot of skepticism and/or cynicism about the nature and efficacy of politics and the trustworthiness of elites and the establishment.

If Trump flames out early, my view of American Presidential electoral politics will remain undisturbed. I will be seriously distressed to see Clinton win the Presidency, because I see many indications that her Administration would be a series of disasters. I think Trump will contribute to the weakness of her Presidency, because he will be effective in undermining her legitimacy even if he cannot manage to win enough votes, but that’s the limit of his power as a celebrity-model spokesperson candidate.


The Temporary Name 06.10.16 at 11:52 pm

The early smugness fascinates me.



J-D 06.10.16 at 11:53 pm

kidneystones @78
‘I’m not convinced that even with Bush’s appalling record and Obama’s immense appeal, O could have won without an extremely large amount of voter fatigue with a GOP presidency. That’s what virtually guarantees the Dem candidate’s defeat in 2016. Only partisans are naturally happy with successive 8 year periods of rule by the same party.’

There have been fifteen occasions in US history where a party which has held the Presidency for eight years has contested a third consecutive Presidential election; the incumbent party has won eight of them (although sometimes only narrowly) and lost seven (although sometimes only narrowly).


kidneystones 06.10.16 at 11:56 pm

@ 79 Been to any Trump rallies lately? You’ll get your chance.

But the threats you’ll face will come from people who’ve internalized your hate-speech. Your bigoted comments about people you’ve never met are a matter of record here: Trump rallies=Klan rallies.

Maybe you can make the crafting of a Trump=Klan scare doll a family project. You like to bring your kids into these discussions. A Trump=Klan=Hitler scare-doll should be enough to make civil rights activists and holocaust victims spin in their graves, but at least you’ll pass on your bigotry and fear to your kids.

You’re a peach.


Layman 06.10.16 at 11:58 pm

“I kind of like the Robert Downey Jr. film of RIII. Can’t remember if I’ve seen the McKellan version.”

I’m pretty sure Downey is IN the McKellan version…?

Is there another version with Downey?


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 12:00 am

[LITANY OF DECEPTIONS EXCISED] That’s what Crooked Hillary is asking voters to believe?

Let’s take all that as a given. Most of Trump’s career has involved rip-off artistry, it’s easy to prove, and more importantly it’s really easy to represent in ads. Trump is easily the oilier snake-oil salesman, a remarkable and easily-caught liar. That’s not a good sign for the GOP.


RNB 06.11.16 at 12:02 am

@84 Don’t really want to reflect on what Trump’s impulsive, outrageous and racist attack on Curiel is revealing. You do know that it’s not only minority lefty types like me who are done with him. But not you. Got it.


bianca steele 06.11.16 at 12:03 am

Is there another version with Downey?

Apparently not. I tried to find another movie Downey might have been in that I was misremembering. Does he ride a motorcycle in Richard III or is that McKellan?


milx 06.11.16 at 12:04 am

kidneystones, while I think your argument has a lot of merit when it comes to non-college educated white people, the current demographic trends strongly suggest that Trump will lose college-educated whites, women, blacks, and latinos in droves to Hillary. This coalition is largely what got Obama into office (and has only grown since then) and it’s unclear to me that Trump has anything to offer them that could a. make them forget about the things he said that were bigoted, b. make them prefer his platform to Hillary’s.

You argue that Hillary’s past policies had negative impacts on these groups but Trump is not promising better results. Some of these people will be concerned by his new-found wish to end abortion rights, some will be concerned by the idea that their families will suffer from discrimination and possible deportation in Trump’s America, and others will notice that while Hillary has devoted large portions of her campaign to issues like criminal reform, Donald Trump is running on a campaign that explicitly dismisses the concerns of minorities.

This doesn’t even get into the major infrastructural issues I see for Trump. His inability to run a professional, national election campaign. His inability to unify the Republican Party behind him. The fact that extremely popular Democratic figures like Obama, Biden, Warren, and potentially Sanders will be stumping for Hillary. His very poor command of electoral strategy (cf his wasting resources trying to win NY and CA — even if you believed he could win those states they are the least efficient place for him to compete since any election where he won NY + CA he would surely have won enough electoral votes from places like OH, VA, and FL to have won without them). On and on.

He has some unconventional skills that may be hard to gauge such as his ability to command lots of media attention and generating free press. Much of it is negative but you may believe that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Other than that though everything about his profile indicates weakness. For instance his biggest strength – his success as a businessman – is contradicted by the numerous bankruptcies his companies went into, that he is a lousy vendor who doesn’t pay his bills, that he believes in taking lines of credit and as a strategy paying them back pennies on the dollar (such that almost no banks in America will continue to do business with him), and that many financial reporters believe he won’t release his tax returns because they indicate that he is worth significantly less than reported (a millionaire and not a billionaire).

So personally speaking I’m not worried about President Trump (though admittedly even if he had a 20% chance of winning that should mean that 1 out of every 5 universes he does beat Hillary). I think from a personal, institutional, and demographic perspective he is a huge underdog. The only possible reason I can think of that someone might think he’s a sure thing despite all these issues is that he did so well in the Republican primaries despite all of these deficiencies. I would suggest that his success in the Republican primaries was due to a few reasons: 1. a split field where the ‘establishment’ Republicans failed until the very end to coalesce around one non-Trump figure, 2. a winner-take-all delegate system that gave the winner of a plurality many, many more votes than they would get in a proportional system, 3. a Republican party that has been using covert racism and social issue wedges to sneak the very free market, tax breaks for the wealthy platform that Trump’s base most decries – aka a party that really agreed on very few important policies and disagreed strongly about the most important ones, 4. a polity that is primarily white. None of these things suggest that he will be able to repeat his success in the general election.


milx 06.11.16 at 12:09 am

Oh and I forgot maybe the most damaging aspect to Trump’s campaign: that the only serious third party challenge, Gary Johnson, draws directly on Republican voters that Trump desperately needs to have any shot at winning. I’ve seen a number of people suggest that he could end up getting between 10-15% of the vote but even if he just took a couple percentage points away from Trump it would be devastating. If anything, I’m trying to determine how likely it is that the bloodbath in November decimates the Republicans down ticket and wins the Senate and Congress back from the Republicans as well.


js. 06.11.16 at 12:12 am

@bianca steele & Layman — I’ve never been a giant fan of Branagh adaptations of Shakespeare I guess (Hamlet was particularly awful but even the other ones I’ve seen I didn’t love). But I have an odd liking of RD Jr. so maybe I’ll check it out. (I do really hope I’m remembering correctly that the film in question was a Branagh film.)


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 12:12 am

@ 83 More of your crap.

For those interested in the challenge facing any Democrat candidate in 2016, see this:

@ 81 BW. The question of turn-out is key, to say the least. There are a large number of independents and young people who will either stay home, or choose a candidate. These people are persuadable. I very much doubt Trump will be able to wave his magic wand and make America’s problems disappear, especially when the powers-that-be, do so well from the status-quo. Sanders might pull it off, HRC isn’t remotely interested in anything but her place at the trough and in the history books.

A compelling narrative of change will win the election. I see Trump far better situated to make that case. That plus the economic and political landscape puts him in the WH.


js. 06.11.16 at 12:14 am

Nope! I was completely wrong.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 12:16 am

@ 89 & 90. Thanks for these.

@ 90 is much more compelling, largely because the NeverTrump vote needs and will need a ‘respectable’ place to make a stand.


lurker 06.11.16 at 12:31 am

“As for Trump – think of a lizard, a very particular kind of lizard – one with a highly intelligent brain and a long, blue tail. You keep attacking the tail and the lizard just gets stronger and stronger.”

On the other hand, Trump is the weakest Republican candidate in 50 years; a gift to Clinton. Election narrative continues to be Trump’s theatrics, and “aren’t the white working-class he enthuses repulsive?” Fending off Sanders, Clintonoids now merely stand still through October and intone of Trump’s scariness. Clinton rides demographics to WH without articulating or defending an agenda. Heck, she could be for fracking, or staging another Syria in Libya, or propping up unlikeable aggressor types in the Knesset. However, we’ll not much know or inquire about it, because it’s more fascinating to have takes about the lost cause of Trump and Milo Yiannopoulos’s “anti-pc strategy” (haha, they’re so trifling amirite?).


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 12:31 am

Trump winning the primary is a symptom of the GOP’s weakness, not its strength. It would be interesting to have an actual Trump supporter comment here: kidneystones says that he isn’t one, and of course he’s the authority on his own beliefs. But I see no sign that kidneystones really understands much about the U.S., which seems to be pretty literally a foreign country to him at this point. In particular kidneystones claimed that Trump was going to campaign to pick up Sanders supporters, and I see nearly zero chance of this happening. Young, left-leaning people may stay home, and Trump could conceivably win for that reason, but they aren’t going to vote for him in significant numbers.

So, given that Trump is a worse candidate than even Romney was, and given the demographics of the electoral map, this is HRC’s election to lose. She could still lose it, but it would have to be mostly self inflicted.

What kinds of confabulations will Republicans tell themselves to justify support of Trump? Sure, there will be lesser evilism, and there will be sticking it to PC. But I think that a lot of it will be straightforward defense of party institutions. If they don’t vote Trump, then the GOP loses power in some sense and this hurts the whole package of allied causes they’ve built into it.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 12:33 am

@ 87 You do know that it’s not only minority lefty types like me who are done with him. [Trump].

So, you too were once a member of the Klan? [Trump supporter] At what point precisely in the last year did you ‘decide’ you were done with the Klan, and why?

Meanwhile. Gay? Good; young Hispanic? Better; registered Republican? Huh? Trump-supporter?. WTF? !!!!!! — Run for your fucking life fagg#t.


milx 06.11.16 at 12:37 am

“But I think that a lot of it will be straightforward defense of party institutions. If they don’t vote Trump, then the GOP loses power in some sense and this hurts the whole package of allied causes they’ve built into it.”

I wonder if that could end up hurting the GOP. Someone made the case recently (but don’t recall where) that associating progressivism with McCarthy’s campaign (and VP disaster) damaged it as an ideological cause for years. Paul Ryan and the rest of the party is going to have to walk a very thin line between supporting Trump without been tarred w/ Trump. That alone is going to hurt Trump’s chances since the party (and its funding base) can only align half-heartedly behind him. Already the Koch brothers are refusing to contribute to his campaign and to the July convention. In a worst case scenario the Republican party becomes synonymous with Trump (a little skeptical of this happening, esp if Trumpism is discredited with a brutal Nov loss) and the ongoing left-wing shift of young Americans since GWB’s presidency will continue apace.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 12:50 am

@ 95 You’re quite right. The US is a foreign country.

Given that I recognized and predicted Trump’s appeal (thx to the link to a Trump speech provided by Lee Arnold last September) long before most others here (Lee Arnold excepted), I’d suggest that perhaps a measure of distance from bubble-land has some merit. Certainly, we have a far greater number of ass-hats on the left, right, and here with prediction records far worse than my own, both on US politics and those in the UK. Demonizing an EU referendum deformed Labor into Conservative light, provided Cameron with a win, and decimated Labor in Scotland.

Ignoring the concerns of working-class Americans has made HRC into the candidate of the establishment whether she and her supporters embrace that role, or not.

I confess I find the majority of your comments a fantastic waste of time. You’re endless complaints of victimization at the hands of a select number of commenters ‘…you said, did not, did so…’ add nothing to discussions already too frequently free of fact and nuance.


js. 06.11.16 at 12:55 am

Sam Wang has Clinton with a 65% probability to win as of now, downgraded from 70% a few weeks back. For entirely normal sorts of reasons, you’d expect that probability to go back up to around the earlier figure in the coming weeks. (Which isn’t to rule out abnormal reasons intervening.) Mostly, I’d worry about exogenous factors—economic indicators in particular, but some other obvious stuff too. With genuine respect to the sensible commenters saying sensible things, all the rest of this is an utter fucking waste of time.


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 1:05 am

kidneystones: “I confess I find the majority of your comments a fantastic waste of time. ”

If you want to be that way about it, then I’ll mention that I think that you’re busily giving an illustration of exactly what attracted people to fascism before they knew where it led. But they didn’t know better, and you supposedly do. All of your nonsense about how Trump is going to really show those elites would be sad if it wasn’t also the kind of thing that a complete creep writes. Your judgement is horrible and I don’t expect you to apologize or learn anything from your mistakes after Trump loses.


milx 06.11.16 at 1:08 am

I think the two biggest risks are a dramatic enough financial downturn or potentially a national security crisis. Recent jobs reports have been disappointing but from what I understand not dramatic enough to make the difference in an election. For eg, in the last report they only added 38,000 jobs against expectations of 160,000 (lowest since 2010). By contrast in Nov 2008 the US economy lost 803,000 jobs.

And I’ve seen claims that other indicators are promising even in light of the slowdown:

Regarding a national security crisis I do believe that Clinton’s so-called hawkishness might end up being an electoral advantage if voters begin to believe that she will better be able to protect them than Donald Trump. He owns some of the potential reactionary elements of the issue with his wall and Muslim but Clinton is no slouch and her recent FP speech that the pundits were going ga-ga over convincingly delivered her belief in American exceptionalism, extensive knowledge of world affairs, and power through strength and diplomacy. I can only speak for myself (a white, male, religious, pro-Israel, married parent who lives in the potential swing state of PA) but I trust Clinton to protect my family far, far, far more than I do Donald Trump. It probably bums imperialism critics out to hear it but this part of her platform was maybe her savviest move (putting aside how much of it she truly believes – I’m sure when she speaks to Kissinger they don’t giggle over the number of Cambodians he killed).


LFC 06.11.16 at 1:12 am

milx @97 — you mean McGovern, not McCarthy. (I don’t want to get into the substance of the pt mostly b.c it’s been discussed here before.)


milx 06.11.16 at 1:14 am

Yes – sorry. Typo. And also in my most recent posts – “Muslim” meant his Muslim policies.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 1:39 am

@ 101 Your comments are illuminating, frank, and most welcome. I’m sure many hawks find a great deal more to like and trust in HRC, than in Trump.

@ 100. Please don’t pout. I’m well aware that many morons conflate accurate analysis with endorsement. I’ve made it clear, repeatedly, that I favor Sanders and his policies by far over those of Trump and Clinton.

As for what I’ve written about a Trump presidency’s impact on conservatism, I replied to a direct question on this thread with: “I don’t know.”

I’m equally uncertain about how Trump will govern. However, I’m openly skeptical that Trump will do much/anything to rein in the power of elites at I stated explicitly on this thread: “I very much doubt Trump will be able to wave his magic wand and make America’s problems disappear, especially when the powers-that-be, do so well from the status-quo.”

You may have missed that part whilst wiping away your tears. I’m inclined, however, to put your error down to your usual inability read simple English, you translate this skepticism into Rich-speak: “All of your nonsense about how Trump is going to really show those elites…”

Indeed, Trump’s victories are very likely to end the day he’s inaugurated. His treatment at the hands of Ryan and the GOP elite, following Trump securing the nomination is an excellent preview of what his relations with the RNC will be. As to what Trump will actually do in power, I seriously doubt even he knows, or cares.

Trump’ll be better, of that much he is sure. Many already agree.

You’re a dunce. I make no other claims at all about what Trump will do once elected, except those you discover in your belly-button lint. I fully expect him to come away considerably richer in the purest material sense of the word, whether he wins the WH, or not. I hope that doesn’t surprise, or shock you too much.

Now, which part of “I don’t know” would you like me to apologize for?


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 1:53 am

kidneystones: “I’m well aware that many morons conflate accurate analysis with endorsement.”

Too bad that yours isn’t accurate. Where is the Trump campaign to win over Sanders voters that you said was going to happen? Where is the supposed success of that campaign?

And your bit about how Trump is really going to show those elites comes up in pretty much every one of your comments with regard to the election. He’s supposed to be playing to exactly what will confound the elites, according to you. But he’s not. He’s a loser running a losing campaign. It’s possible that HRC is an even bigger loser, so anything could happen, but the chances of that are pretty low, and if it does happen it won’t really be because of anything that Trump did.


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 2:48 am

For those interested in the challenge facing any Democrat candidate in 2016, see this:

Unfortunately for Dan MacLaughlin, the GOP got Trump, making any opponent’s job so much easier.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 2:52 am

@ 105. I know you like to argue. And I know you don’t like to provide evidence. But perhaps you should.

If Trump is a loser, what is HRC, or Sanders for that matter? How exactly does one define losing? Because Trump’s level of support has broken all kinds of records already. Is this further evidence of losing? Trump is campaigning to attract Bernie supporters and there is ample evidence that these appeals have some traction, already. I’m not, however, going to do all of the work for you.

Should you find it within your skill set to actually click on the link in the gay Hispanic Trump supporter comment in @ 96, you’ll see evidence of the genuine affection that Trump supporter has for Trump and for Trump’s embrace of Sanders’ supporters.

If you can’t figure out by now that a very substantial number of Trump supporters once voted Democrat, and may have voted and organized for Obama in 2008, then you really aren’t paying attention. Trump repeatedly appeals to Sanders’ supporters and praises Sanders on trade. Only someone seriously committed to knowing as little as possible about an issue, someone like you for example, could be unaware of the common threads liking Trump’s protectionist policies and those of Sanders.

As for the cross-over appeal, there’s an article at Slate, which I haven’t bothered to read on the very subject of Sanders’ supporters voting for Trump. My own view is that some will. What percentage? Too early too tell.

You make despair a virtue and the only possible option. I strongly disagree. I very much want to see manufacturing and other jobs return to first world nations. Helping Viet Nam and China, for example, transition towards capitalism/state capitalism may well have been a worthwhile goal. I see no reason, however, to remain bound to failed policies in trade and in education.

Can this happen under Trump? Maybe. Will this happen under Clinton? Her record says no. See her above support for TPP. HRC and her husband, and Obama are champions of the ruling class who are happy to use globalization to drive down wages, reduce the power of workers, and make the rich richer.


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 2:55 am

js., I hope you’ve seen the Ralph Fiennes Coriolanus. It’s terrific.


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 3:09 am

If Trump is a loser, what is HRC, or Sanders for that matter?

The latter two have run for political office and won. Neither of them have started fake universities.


js. 06.11.16 at 3:34 am

TTN — Yes, I really liked that!


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 3:58 am

kidneystones: “How exactly does one define losing?”

In an election, there’s a really easy way to define losing. I wonder if you can figure out what that is? Sure, Trump won the primary — something that I figured would happen too, if that matters — but as I wrote above, that shows the GOP’s weakness. He’s a horrible general election candidate.

Here’s an article about actual polling data, not anecdotes about one gay Hispanic Trump supporter who has been voting for conservative candidates for 15 years. Trump is trailing vs HRC in every national poll for the last 3 weeks. Polls aren’t infallible predictors of the future, but they’re better than the bullshit anecdotes that you like, always dressing them up with statements about how a “substantial number” of people are doing something or other. The number of people involved in a Presidential campaign is large, and you can always find a few people to support any narrative you want to support. But Trump just isn’t doing well enough among groups that he has to get. And no, he’s not going pick up Sanders supporters by telling people that a Mexican judge should be disqualified from ruling on his court case, and really only your enthusiasm for him as the guy who’s really going to show up the media or the elites of whoever could make you believe that he can.


cassander 06.11.16 at 4:06 am

@bruce wilder

Ill informed idiots might not be persuaded in any meaningful philosophical sense, but can still moved to coming out to vote or not. about 5 fewer people voted in 2012 vs 2008, 20 million more in 2004 compared to to 2000. It’s perfectly possible to accept that most campaigns don’t move the needle much, but some clearly do, whether that’s because of candidates, their campaigns, or circumstances.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 4:20 am

@111 This is better from you.

Unfortunately, Nate Silver has appalling record of predictions regarding Trump, as he has been forced to acknowledge. As I pointed out to my students, the key problem most pollsters have with Trump is that they treat Trump as a politician, rather than as what he is – a self-constructed reality TV star who’s made the US electoral process his very own TV show. Even the generally-reliable Corey Robin made the same fatal error in comparing Trump to ‘other’ politicians, rather than to Silvio Berlusconi.

There isn’t enough reliable polling data yet to predict outcomes. I wouldn’t at all be surprised by any development, including a severe drop in declared support for Trump. At the same time, however, I find nothing to support a sizeable increase in support for HRC. She’s already hit her ceiling with minorities, I expect. Nor do I see her exciting support among the young. So, she’s relying entirely on holding onto and turning out her base.

milx makes the most persuasive current case against a Trump victory. In a three-way race a sizeable number of unhappy establishment Republican voters may turn to the libertarian as a ‘respectable’ form of protest. Down ticket, things get a lot trickier for the GOP. If HRC’s numbers fall, or she’s indicted by the FBI, or the Sanders supporters stay mad, or she can’t fend off Trump’s attacks, I don’t see her recovering.

We’re a long way out, yet. I expect it to be close right up to the vote, but in this cycle who knows?


Faustusnotes 06.11.16 at 4:24 am

Kidneystones a new poll out today shows sanders supporters prefer Clinton over trump by a huge margin – this before sanders concedes and turns all his campaign energy to supporting Clinton (which he will). Trumps endorsement bounce is fading fast – and we haven’t begun to see the dirt that’s going to be dug up. Meanwhile there are multiple reports that his campaign has no money and no plan, or even staff. Unless he can completely get the never trumpers to enthusiastically support him he faces a big turnout problem which he apparently doesn’t have the organization to address. Check the GOP website – no mention of him at all. Why do you think that is? Meanwhile his campaign director and chief of staff are at each other’s throats and he doesn’t have a strategy.

Of course he could be just being really wily, but the more likely explanation is that he’s an income person racist fool.

While we’re on the topic of predictions, how about this one: after the election is over we discover that trump has no money and this whole thing was a desperate attempt to save himself from personal bankruptcy. Similar to Clive Palmer in Australia …


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 4:29 am

Check the GOP website – no mention of him at all.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 4:48 am

@ 114. The last poll I saw indicated a greater number of Nevertrump supporters willing to cross over for HRC, than Sanders supporters willing to vote for Trump. I expect the number of Sanders supporters willing to vote for HRC to rise, not fall.

You make sense about half the time. I find it utterly implausible that Bill and Hillary would attend the wedding of a racist fool, but anything is possible in politics. If there were any evidence to support your claim – the Bush campaign and the Never Trumps would have unearthed the proof 65,000 attack adds and 200 million dollars ago.

The Wapo and the NYT have committed similar resources to the same task and nothing. Trump engages in dog whistle politics and appeals to xenophobia. So what? The current Democratic president has assassination lists for US citizens, has expanded the Cheney-Bush security/secrecy apparatus, and maintains close ties with regimes that regularly torture and kill ‘enemies of the state.’

I’m pleased to read the rhetorical excesses, however. I think it quite unlikely we’ll discover Trump is broke. Stories of campaign dissent and of Trump’s racist views and hatred of women are fixtures in the narrative. As I said, up thread, Trump understands exactly what he wants to say, when, and why for the most part. Trump is in charge of a great deal of the media narrative.

If you want to understand the logic, consider this – would Trump have defeated the entire GOP field and won over large numbers of Democratic and independent primary voters by running any other kind of campaign. Twas the same in 2007. At a certain point, one had to concede that O was an unusually-gifted political actor.

In your scenario, Trump won because the entire GOP establishment and all other candidates wanted to lose. Trump beat them all, including Christie, Bush, Walker, Perry, Graham, and Cruz, to name a few. Trump did what it took to win. Bill Clinton did the same. Is Trump a racist? At this point, I’m not sure if it even matters. He’s going to be called a racist in precisely the same terms as HRC, Bill, and their supporters were and for exactly the same reasons.

Just ask Geraldine Ferraro, the last historic Democratic female candidate. If winning means your opponent must be racist, then that’s exactly what the racist HRC must be.

Because in US politics it’s about facts and honesty, not spin and lies.


J-D 06.11.16 at 6:30 am

kidneystones @92

‘@ 83 More of your crap.’

Have I touched a nerve there?

The pattern I described is there in the historical record; anybody can check that.

‘For those interested in the challenge facing any Democrat candidate in 2016, see this:

That pattern is there in the historical record too. There’s a long statistical run there. Hillary Clinton can’t win without breaking that pattern.

On the other hand, Donald Trump can’t win without breaking another pattern: up to now, everybody who has been elected President has previously held some public office, elected, appointed, or military.

So one of those patterns is going to have to be broken this year.

The thing about statistical runs is that they always come to an end. Nobody knows that this is the year that will happen, but nobody knows that it isn’t.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 7:04 am

118 Nope.

Wrong about patterns, wrong about public office, (see ), and wrong about the nature of this election. You demonstrate precisely why dunces like you have been wrong about Trump from the beginning, and wrong about so much else.

Trump is not a politician. Should we applaud for noticing that much? Nor has he ever been an employee of government in any capacity, which summarizes more accurately the most distinctive features of his candidacy without erroneously conflating military service with employment in government as ‘public office,’ as you do.

That’s pretty much Trump’s entire platform – and explains, in part, why Trump is doing so well.

You were saying?


J-D 06.11.16 at 7:27 am

kidneystones @119

‘You were saying?’

I was saying ‘Have I touched a nerve there?’


J-D 06.11.16 at 7:30 am

js. @99

Sam Wang has also written that any projected probability (from his model) between 20% and 80% should be interpreted as a toss-up.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 8:01 am

@ 120 Thanks. Just checking.


Benikesh 06.11.16 at 10:02 am



JPL 06.11.16 at 10:41 am

Donald Trump is a schmuck, pure and simple, undeniably; anybody who looks at him and believes he is capable of bringing about any good in the world, inside politics or out, is a schlemiel and a sap. Sad that so many Americans are so blinded by their primitively conventional racial hatreds that they would follow such a figure. But follow him they do. Communities associated with that demographic seem to be in bad shape economically, and they would need some attention and tangible benefits from a Clinton administration. The Trump “university” scam exemplifies his characteristic approach to the world. He has revealed to us the “real Donald Trump”.

(Sorry for my unusually strong language, but in the case of this puerile would- be dictator I wish people wouldn’t be so easily fooled. BTW, any glance at a publication or website aimed at that audience reveals that Trump is not the only one to recognize a bunch of easy marks.)


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 11:02 am

Poll Numbers on issues that matter most to Americans, especially to those looking for work, such as the enormous numbers of African-Americans Democrats take for granted, for example.

Trump enjoys a 10 point advantage over HRC on the economy 53 to 43
Trump enjoys a 7 point advantage over HRC on jobs 52 to 45
Trump enjoys a 4 point advantage over HRC on national security 50 to 46

Why Trump will win. Trump is already ahead on economic issues. Trump can absolutely improve his standing on national security and on trade. Clinton can keep education, but right now I don’t see Clinton’s numbers rising much.

With all due respect to @123, Trump’s loopy comments regarding Trump U. are probably sufficient to obscure the details of the case, except to partisans. Corrupt Hillary selling out American interests to foreign powers in return for Clinton foundation cash? That’s a problem of a whole different order, especially as Sanders had cemented Crooked Hillary’s standing as the candidate of Wall St. in the minds of independents and many younger Dems. Bernie is making it quite clear he’s not abandoning the young, or their idealism. So, don’t expect HRC to be able to walk away from her six-figure speeches, or 12,000 dollar Armani jackets anytime soon.

My guess is that we’ll see an ‘unexpected’ rise in new job numbers after the last two dismal months.


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 12:24 pm

kidneystones: ” As I said, up thread, Trump understands exactly what he wants to say, when, and why for the most part.”

And that is nonsense. Trump hit on a formula for winning the GOP base, and therefore won the primary. Other people are not part of the GOP base. In particular, anyone actively voting for Sanders could have been in the GOP if they’d wanted to, but they’d already decided not to, exactly because whatever interest they had in anti-elite economic issues was also accompanied by a lack of attraction to GOP racism. If Trump understood what he wanted to say to win the election, when, and why, he would not be baiting the media — or whatever your theory is — with bits about disqualifying judges, because I can’t think of anything better calculated to ensure that disappointed Sanders supporters don’t turn to supporting him at the moment when they’re deciding who to support.

Your “for the most part” just glosses over the fact that your predictions are wrong. You insisted that you were particularly good at reading the situation and that you analyzed facts when other people didn’t. But that isn’t true: you’re simply extremely credulous when it comes to believing what you want to believe, and your “analysis” comes by choosing some kind of poorly sourced anecdote to support what you want to believe.


Layman 06.11.16 at 12:33 pm

kidneystones: “As I pointed out to my students, the key problem most pollsters have with Trump is that they treat Trump as a politician…”

This image is priceless. Are you paid to teach politics, or is your hectoring something they get as a bonus?


bob mcmanus 06.11.16 at 12:49 pm

Naked Capitalism commenting on Beverly Mann of Angry Bear who was commenting on a story from Time magazine.

Two weeks ago when the details from the Trump University deposition and other documents emerged after the judge ordered them released I thought the Trump campaign could not survive it. But as the headlines and details became a major news story Trump made his big play: the judge is biased because he is, Trump thinks, Mexican, and what he’s doing is an outrage and he should be looked into.

Voila! Gone were the headlines, and the media conversations, and consideration by the Clinton campaign (if there had been consideration) of running ads detailing these reports, about the Trump University scam operation and exactly whom it targeted, and how. Instead, the last 10 days or so have been about what Trump said about the judge.

Mission accomplished.

We will see how it goes.

To reduce it a notch further, to a drone heard for months with half an ear:

Clinton: “Racist. Racist. Sexist. Racist.”
Trump:” Those people really hate folks like you, and it’s not fair”
Clinton:”Racist. Sexist. Racist. Not you, the other guy, not you. Join me, help me. Repeat after me. Racist. Sexist.”

We will see which side gets angrier.


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 1:03 pm

bob mcm, one can agree — and I have — that HRC is running on “vote for me or you’re racist or sexist” and “there is no alternative, because Trump” to people to her left and agree that it’s a pretty bad campaign tactic but still have an understanding of what Sanders voters’ basic political commitments are. Appeals to “dislike of PC” aren’t going to work, even as the HRC campaign and her supporters make jerks out of themselves. Political identity doesn’t change that quickly.

The problem for HRC is not that people could get angry and switch sides. The problem is, as I’ve always said, that they could stay home. I’ve seen no sign that her campaign is responding to obvious red flags any more than Trump’s is.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 1:09 pm


Actually, I’m paid to teach communication, debate, rhetorical analysis, culture, and a number of other skills.

Speaking of priceless images – wasn’t that you claiming just a few weeks ago that Trump couldn’t possibly compete under any circumstances in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio – only to have Trump tie, or lead HRC in all three states the following week?

Or, how about some of your other claims about the impossibility of a Trump presidency over the last 11 months. Like many here, you’ve a remarkably consistent record of getting the basics wrong. Sorry ’bout the ‘hectoring,’ but I save that for here.

With my students, when the subject comes up, I describe the unique nature of the Trump candidacy. When a student describes discovering the Trump=Hitler meme on the tubes, I simply ask my students to consider whether a sizeable number of US voters today actually support Hitler. Seems far-fetched to me. Of course, I don’t equate Hitler with Trump, despite my preferences for Sanders. You, on the other hand, may actually believe that many Trump supporters want Trump to become president because they believe Trump really is Hitler. Lucky you!

I encourage my students to disagree with their teachers, and many do. All I ask is for them to provide evidence and a response to any counter-arguments that may arise. No doubt, you disapprove.

Or, perhaps discovering that Trump – Hitler leads HRC on the economy, jobs, and national security is simply too much reality for one snowflake to handle in single day.

Good times!


Layman 06.11.16 at 1:16 pm

“The problem is, as I’ve always said, that they could stay home.”

Maybe, but I think the larger concern is what seems to me to be a very large number of undecideds – for polling in June once the nominees are known. Some 10% don’t know what to do with these nominees, and that’s on top of the 5% saying they’ll vote for someone else. I checked the poll averages for 2008 and 2012, and there was nothing like this large an undecided pool in June of those years.


Layman 06.11.16 at 1:20 pm

kidneystones: “…wasn’t that you claiming just a few weeks ago that Trump couldn’t possibly compete under any circumstances in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio…”

Just because you’re a rhetorical extremist, it doesn’t mean other people are. I did not say ‘couldn’t possibly…under any circumstances’ because I’m not your kind of fool. And, Clinton leads in polling averages in all those states, right?


AcademicLurker 06.11.16 at 1:29 pm

Maybe, but I think the larger concern is what seems to me to be a very large number of undecideds

My impression is that many studies have concluded that the whole “independents” and “undecideds” thing is mostly a mirage. People like to self-identify as independents and respond to polls by saying that they’re still making up their minds because they think that makes them sound thoughtful. But in fact when you look at the voting records of self-styled independents, the vast majority vote a straight partisan ticket every time.

Maybe that’s different this year because a lot of things seem to be different this year, but it’s what most studies have concluded in the past.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 1:52 pm

@ 131 Your extremism, if memory serves, is precisely that absolute.

On the other hand, perhaps describing a possible Trump victory in these three states as ‘nonsense’ is simply your way of saying ‘Trump could very well win the states in question.’

Always a pleasure.


Layman 06.11.16 at 1:53 pm

‘My impression is that many studies have concluded that the whole “independents” and “undecideds” thing is mostly a mirage. ‘

I’ve read the same thing, but the ‘undecided’ number in e.g. 2008 at this point in the cycle was very low single digits, vs 10+ now. It means something.


Suzanne 06.11.16 at 1:57 pm

@55: The McKellen movie of Richard III highlighted, inadvertently, the absence of “the people” in the play by presenting Richard as a neo-fascist hero of the mob; the images went largely unsupported by the text.

I understand the GOP elites are talking about rules changes post-Trump, including a return to closed primaries. Closing the primaries would likely deliver them Cruz instead of Trump. Not sure if that would be a huge improvement.


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 2:50 pm

With all due respect to @123, Trump’s loopy comments regarding Trump U. are probably sufficient to obscure the details of the case, except to partisans.

The thing is it’s not going to be Trump talking about Trump U, and right now “partisans” are a majority of those polled who will defeat Trump. It’s easy to believe the guy’s a bullshit artist, because he demonstrates it as often as possible.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 3:27 pm

@ 136 So, according to you, voters, including the millions of unemployed, will suddenly stop regarding Trump as 1o points better on the economy, 7 points better on jobs, and 4 points better on national security than HRC and vote for the weaker candidate cause Trump U.

You could be right. However, I think HRC’s multiple 225 k fees, not for influence are a bigger problem for a candidate fewer voters trust on the key issues of the economy, jobs, and national security.

You’re right, btw, Trump is a master bullshitter, almost as good, perhaps, as Obama and Bill.

That’s the problem. Fewer than 4/10 people trust Crooked Hillary, in large part cause she lies so badly and so often. O, on the other hand, can promise to lower the seas blah-blah-blah, close Gitmo, end America’s wars, put all legislation on the internet for public scrutiny, read all legislation before it’s signed, be the most open and transparent government in history, etc, and a sizeable number of gullible rubes still believe him.

So, you’re right about HRC’s inability to convince voters she’s telling the truth.

Because sexism.


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 3:42 pm

@ 136 So, according to you, voters, including the millions of unemployed, will suddenly stop regarding Trump as 1o points better on the economy, 7 points better on jobs, and 4 points better on national security than HRC and vote for the weaker candidate cause Trump U.

Yes. Giving you the benefit of the doubt that the numbers are what you say they are, Trump is ready willing and able to sabotage all that. And brag about it. And he’s down in the polls as it is. If he can’t top Hillary with these massive advantages you describe, he loses.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 3:56 pm

@ 138 I sometimes don’t check comments up thread. The numbers are from Gallup linked. As a former Hillary supporter in 2007, I’d very much prefer her to be the character I once believed she could be.

It’s entirely possible she’ll win, but I doubt it.

The Gallup numbers cited will certainly change. I suspect the changes on these three issues will determine the winner in November.


The Temporary Name 06.11.16 at 4:07 pm

And yet Trump has never led in the polls. Mysterious!


RNB 06.11.16 at 4:11 pm

I superficially know three minorities who are supporting Trump. Two have sexual harassment charges in their past; one treated his wife miserably as he cheated on her. They are not voting for a woman. Of course Trump could win with a coalition of sexists and racists and nativists who scapegoat immigrants for everything that has gone wrong in their lives. There are a lot of them in our country. Surprise!

No one in his right mind could vote for Trump of Trump University (sic) over Clinton on the issue of honesty and integrity. He can’t win on national security given what military leaders have and will say about him. His business failures and the poor performance on his inheritance money will tarnish his image as an economic leader.

All he has is the promise of redemption for sexual harassers and racists and nativists. He trashed Mexicans this week and got his crowd to break out in Indian war cries while invoking Pochahontas. Next week he’ll harass Megyn Kelley about her menstrual cycle.


Patrick 06.11.16 at 4:36 pm

Trump isn’t going to start up anti PC messaging to get votes. He already has the constituency that would actually turn out for that.

Trump is going to use this line of argument defensively.

His biggest weakness as a candidate is a (broadly speaking, justified) popular conception that anyone who actually supports Trump is an idiot. A potentially violent, crackpot nutcase who supports a joke candidate who shouldn’t be taken seriously. People who like to think of themselves as part of serious, mature society are staying away from because their peers have made it clear that supporting Trump disqualifies you from truly being one of them.

Using “just look at the loony left!” style attacks addresses this. If people can be persuaded that Trumps opposition contains equal numbers of yahoos, then Trumps supporters look less like the idiots in the room, and more like a faction that happens to contain some idiots. In fact, he’ll probably argue that the media has unfairly focused on the (allegedly and in his likely words) rare misdeeds of his supporters, and unfairly neglected the (similarly allegedly) widespread nature of his opponents misdeeds.

I don’t think this will win him an election. But he’ll have some success with it, because what for lack of a better term we might call social justice culture really is filled with shallow, self righteous buffoons who are so full of themselves that they feel entitled to do and say things to which their targets can justifiably object. This blog has a few such persons, for example. You may recall previous conversations in which I argued that the best response to Trump was to protest politely but consistently, and others argued that it was perfectly valid to attempt to use civil disobedience to stop his rallies from going forward, then to publicly crow with pride at having achieved that goal when successful.


RNB 06.11.16 at 5:34 pm

Yes Fox News will focus non-stop on the few violent anti-Trump protestors and disruptors rather than on the dissension in the GOP that Trump is creating or the Trump Univ problems or the military leaders who criticize Trump’s mutterings. They will have a hard time pinning this violence on HRC while they are also ridiculing her for her pant suits.
But, yes, images of Zapatistas in the United States will make some people work really hard for Trump’s victory. So Trump may hold a lot of rallies on the US-Mexico border or where there are a lot of Latinos, like San Jose. Next stop should be a rally in a Latino community with Joe Arpaio. Fox News will be there! Trump needs the media attention; he doesn’t have the money to buy ads or pay staff to canvass. Then he’ll write a really nasty letter to those recent Valedictorians who don’t have documents; that should get a lot of press or at least divert it from his missing taxes.
Trump has 4+ months to poison American culture.


bruce wilder 06.11.16 at 6:24 pm

Trump has 4+ months to poison American culture.

If only he started sooner or had more help, heh?


Lupita 06.11.16 at 7:24 pm

images of Zapatistas in the United States will make some people work really hard for Trump’s victory

Of course! Since the Zapatistas are the original anti-NAFTAists, way before any PhD IMF economist suspected anything could ever go amiss, Americans would undoubtedly interpret their presence on US soil as support for ditching the trade agreement and inspire them to work harder for their anti-NAFTA candidate: Trump.


RNB 06.11.16 at 7:42 pm

Yes on the clown point by that logic we should vote in Chip Baskets for President because the neocons and banksters would rather have HRC than Chip or even his brother Dale.


RNB 06.11.16 at 7:50 pm

Ze K: “Chip Baskets for a President.”
Sane person: “But he’s a clown.”
Ze K: “Yeah but I know banksters and neocons would vote for HRC over him, and that’s good enough for me.”


RNB 06.11.16 at 7:57 pm

Actually it’s Dale, not Chip, who runs the equivalent of Trump U. So, Ze K, are you saying that you would vote for Dale Baskets over HRC?


engels 06.11.16 at 8:48 pm


Rich Puchalsky 06.11.16 at 9:10 pm

BW: “If only he started sooner or had more help, heh?”

Hey, David Brock was helping out as much as he could.

Contrary to the claims of enthusiasts on both sides, I don’t see how negative campaigning is going to be the deciding factor. Both candidates have huge negatives, both are so well-known that they’re pretty much immunized against their negatives for anyone who’d let those negatives decide their vote. I don’t believe that Corrupt Hillary or Dangerous Donald is going to be a new, surprising image that’s going to sway a lot of people. Sure, the negative ads will run, but so what. Nor do I think that anyone really cares about Hillary’s Email server or Trump’s “university” or think that any new and exciting legal scandal is going to substantially change things.

I think it’s going to come down to demographics. Trump isn’t going to get any large group of people that he doesn’t already have. He doesn’t have enough. As the article linked upthread points out, if he gets more poorly educated white people, he tends to lose more highly educated white people who have more money and are more likely to vote.

So it’s Hillary’s to lose. The most likely reason for an upset is some kind of unforced error on her campaign’s part, or perhaps just the accumulative effect of a horrible campaign. The fact that HRC’s victory celebration here was 1/3 “isn’t it great that a woman won even though I don’t actually support her policies” and 2/3 about those horrible Bernie Bros was a tiny reflection of the messaging coming out of her campaign, which appears to be putting her well along the possible path for this upset.


engels 06.11.16 at 9:40 pm

Comments disappearing again. Why?


engels 06.11.16 at 9:43 pm

I know Holbo isn’t deleting them – it’s a techinical thing. But why? I don’t get the moderation message, they just completely disappear.


Patrick 06.11.16 at 9:51 pm

I agree that HRC has intentionally stoked the “a vote for me is an act of feminist triumph” narrative, but I think that the only reason it seems as central to her pitch is that her primary pitch is that she’s a professional Serious Business politician and a Trump isn’t. I don’t think she’s pushed it very hard. And I don’t think she’s at all responsible for the Bernie Bro thing. I definitely agree that’s a negative for her, but I think her supporters (very predictably) did that on their own, for the most part because that’s the only lens through which they can perceive politics.


James Wimberley 06.11.16 at 10:07 pm

A remarkably useless and angel-counting thread. Of course Clinton is going to win. The polls say so, and they include all her negatives. Far more things that might happen before November favour her than Trump. These include the spectacular incompetence of the Trump campaign, money troubles, distancing by GOP insiders, and the end of the honeymoon with the media.

For the record, the OP sets up a false dichotomy at the end. There is a third possibility for Trump, IMHO likelier than winning or flaming out: fading into irrelevance. In October, Trump will still be campaigning, like Raith Rovers playing out the end of the football season. The press will have given up on the horse-race narrative, and will be covering more interesting races like McCain’s fight to keep his Senate seat.


J-D 06.11.16 at 10:50 pm

The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor the election victory to the candidate who leads in the opinion polls, but that’s the way to bet.

What people are telling the opinion pollsters now about how they intend to vote is not an infallible guide to how people actually will vote on election day, but it’s a better guide than anything else available.


Lupita 06.11.16 at 10:58 pm

I don’t think my comment was immoderate at all. At the most, it was a bit sarcastic but then, RNB pinned Trump’s future victory on innocent Zapatistas.


RNB 06.11.16 at 11:21 pm

@153 I would say that Hillary Clinton is more a liberal technocrat than a professional serious business politician. I can understand that this may be a distinction without a difference. But see

In my opinion the fundamental question about the state revolves around the theoretical limits of stabilization policy and the repressive form the state takes when those limits are hit. That is, I do not think that the only limit to stabilization policy is political as Krugman suggests in his A Pause That Distresses in a June 6th NYT piece. The limits are more fundamental and when they are reached the repressive nature of the state comes more clearly into view.

But this is problem far out of the orbit of the Clinton or Sanders’ camp or even Jill Stein’s Green Party. And we’re not at such a point presently.


kidneystones 06.11.16 at 11:41 pm

@ 140 The entire poll can be downloaded. It’s particularly useful in that it differs from other polls by avoiding emotionally loaded words and simply asks participants to rank issues as ‘extremely important’ etc. and then asks which candidate can be trusted to do a better job on these issues. Selected highlights.

HRC much higher on climate change, treatment of minorities, education: +38 + 38 +26.
Trump ahead on Wall st. reform., taxes, efficiency gov., deficit +11 + 18 + 8 + 14 + 18

Check for yourself. There may be errors in this cribbed transcription. There are some interesting tidbits. Wealth inequality and income distribution. Clinton over Trump by 8, 51-43, yet with 2 same and 4 undecided. Cue the predictable: Trump has hit his ceiling.

No, he hasn’t. Indeed, his numbers are already very respectable for a GOP candidate (comparison needed) and a key indicator of an area where Trump will try to get some cross-over from Sanders voters. HRC, on the other hand, may have hit her ceiling. Her barely over 50 number coupled with Trump’s double-digit lead on Wall st. reform, plus Trump’s lead on jobs and the economy suggest possible contours of the coming campaigns.

Climate change and social issues, two of HRC’s strongest advantages, are ranked as extremely important, or very important by less than 50 percent of those polled. Employment and jobs are the two most important issues at 92 and 87.

Nobody should underestimate the competence of the Clinton campaign to micro-target key constituencies and turn out that vote.

All in all it looks to be close, to me at least, right up to the vote. HRC may well win.

Those convinced that either candidate has to lose are whistling past the graveyard.


Rich Puchalsky 06.12.16 at 2:54 am

engels: “I know Holbo isn’t deleting them – it’s a techinical thing. But why? I don’t get the moderation message, they just completely disappear.”

Any poster can delete comments on any other poster’s threads. That’s what EH wrote was being done on the other one. I interpret Lupita’s comment above as meaning that she wrote something about Zapatistas that was deleted.


RNB 06.12.16 at 5:21 am

Alright I’ll say something potentially controversial.

Trump is clear about what he represents; he’s not appealing to people on the basis of his Wall Street reform package or a plan to control federal budget deficits. So kidneystones, please keep a minimal relationship to reality. He wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and his fiscal policy would explode the federal budget deficits.

Trump wants to bully people. Trump is selling real Americans the promise of dominance, i.e. he’ll use gunboat diplomacy for a neo-mercantilist trade policy, he’ll run a protection racket on US allies, he’ll shock and awe terrorists with threats of wanton torture and even atomic weapons, he’ll seize valuable natural resources abroad, and he’ll fill with fear anyone who may think of migrating from a poor country to the US.

As Joseph Henrich pointed out months ago in the Washington Post, Trump sees the world in zero sum terms–so others can’t have an advantage that is not cancelled by a disadvantage on our side. The foreign country gets export revenue or military protection from the US and we get only deficits; the migrant benefits from coming to the US and Americans suffer job losses; enemies benefit from US recognizing human rights and the US gets weakened security.

For Trump none of this could also benefit the US. So the US must dominate in a zero-sum world.

Maybe this goes back to his business experience where people are supposed to make deals that make both parties better off, but he knows that he has been taken advantage of; and he knows that he has made others suffer losses that made them worse off before dealing with Big Fraud Don (see Trump University).

Trump knows the deal is just an opportunity to sell snake oil, to perpetrate fraud, to gain at the expense of others who had not been aware of the losses they would suffer.

For Trump it’s a vicious zero-sum world and only the dominant can take the benefits and not suffer the losses.

He’ll end what he takes to be Obama’s gambit for the US after George W. Bush to lead by making American prestigious again–a country which others want to emulate, learn from, and associate with.

He wants none of this soft power stuff and wants to revert to a strategy of dominance based overtly on fear and threat (some here would say that Trump would only disencumber a bit the use of US force in the world). But for Trump a “foreign-born” black man and a woman can’t make America great again.

Of course this world view wouldn’t make America or anyone else great, prosperous or safe. But the desire for dominance in perceived zero-sum games is powerful. It’s a simple way of looking at the world. The desire for dominance can even become an end in itself. And Trump could win.


js. 06.12.16 at 6:26 am

@engels — I’d bet money it’s just a weird CT gremlins thing. This used to happen to me a lot, and then it stopped. (Oddly, when I changed my wireless network, but at this point, maybe I’m just imagining things.) In any case, if you post a comment and it just doesn’t show up, it’s almost certainly not an intentional block/deletion type of thing. (I believe.)


bianca steele 06.12.16 at 3:17 pm


Shakespeareans love their subtext! The new BBC Scottish play seemed to be painting Mb as unlike Banquo, not a part of the inner circle, which I think is also not in the text (but may be part of stage tradition for all I know). I only saw the beginning, there was a nicely ominous mood.


RNB 06.12.16 at 4:24 pm

Homophobe, religious extremist, terrorist, assault rifle owner, citizenship by jus soli, on and off FBI watch list. I have no idea where things go from here, but I suppose Hillary Clinton will band Dylan Roof and Omar Mateen together and talk about subcultures of hate and intolerance, coupled with easy access to assault rifles.


engels 06.12.16 at 4:42 pm

Rich, Js., Ze – Thanks for the explanations. Imo the ones on Ezster’s Hillary thread were deleted along with Phil’s and Bloix’s (who’s banned) because the first one showed up then vanished and second showed as ‘in moderation’ then vanished. On this thread, it’s the thing Ze’s describing, which imo is the software.

Anyway, the substance was to inform Js. Laurence Olivier’s 1950s film of Richard III is free to watch on a streaming site (haven’t seen it myself)


Layman 06.12.16 at 5:00 pm

Olivier’s Richard III is very good, if a bit stage-y. But the play was made for someone with Olivier’s gift for chewing up the scenery.


engels 06.12.16 at 6:26 pm

I’m sure Putin will grant him full military honours


RNB 06.12.16 at 6:30 pm

One other source of Trump’s opposition to PC is his own biography. He very much insists on the importance of genetics; he often claims in politically incorrect fashion that he has the same genes for intelligence that his uncle the distinguished MIT professor had and that his father had, the reason for his having no college degrees being quite plausibly that he financed his equally brilliant brother’s education.

Trump very much believes that some lineages are just smarter than others and that ability is as hereditary as the fortune he got from his dad. Which is why he insists that he would have made a fortune even if he had not inherited one; all he needed was the genetic inheritance. So he’s a Galtonian, I would think.

Interestingly he makes no reference to his mother who emigrated to the US as a domestic intending to overstay her Visa in his talk about his terrific hereditary abilities and seems to think genealogy should be traced through descendants and co-descendants on the father’s side only.

And he has never explained what he understands by regression to the mean.


RNB 06.12.16 at 6:52 pm

Did ISIS lead Omar Mateen to a homicidal homophobia? Or did homophobia lead Omar Mateen to homicidal religious fundamentalism? Or is it just a vicious circle? I think what will get underplayed here is how Omar Mateen’s inner violent sexual tensions may have led him into the most fundamentalist version of the religion he knew and that religion then gave him the means to justify or even strengthen his homophobia. That may not get at why he did what he did. He may have just went after an easy target of perceived Western decadence which could have just as easily been a rock concert venue as in Paris. This is horrific.


bruce wilder 06.12.16 at 6:52 pm

RNB @ 160: Alright I’ll say something potentially controversial.


RNB @ 157 linked to a New York Times op-ed on Clinton by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, where Hacker and Pierson argued that Clinton is a latter-day pragmatist of a type common in both Parties before roughly Reagan. Hacker & Pierson:

A few decades ago, Mrs. Clinton would have been seen as a common political type: an evidence-oriented pragmatist committed to using public authority to solve big problems. Her proposals clearly indicate that she believes in an active and responsive government that supplements, channels and polices markets. Moreover, unlike Mr. Sanders, she sees this role as primarily focused on correcting the shortcomings of weakly regulated markets rather than redistributing income and wealth. In a phrase, Mrs. Clinton believes in a “mixed economy” in which government serves as an essential supplement to and regulator of markets . . .

Hacker & Pierson continue a narrative that is more about the evolution of American politics and governance since the last hurrah of the New Deal in the 1960s than it is about Clinton, and more about the effects of the long rise of Movement Conservatism on popular confidence that the state can be trusted or competent. [In other words, Hacker & Pierson are indirectly addressing Holbo’s original post questions about where does conservative thinking go from the deadend that is Trump.] They summarize Clinton’s place in this evolution of politics:

Mrs. Clinton is heir to an enormously successful bipartisan governing tradition. Yet this tradition has been disowned by the Republican Party and has lost allure within a significant segment of the Democratic Party; it also runs sharply against the grain of current public sentiments about government and politicians. In this hostile environment, it should come as no surprise that Mrs. Clinton has proved reluctant to lead the charge for a more balanced discussion of government’s role.

If the image of “leading the charge” for “a more balanced discussion” seems to mix clichés in particularly un-compelling ways, I guess that’s part of arguing for Clinton as the Women in the Grey Flannel Pantsuit.

As a description of where Clinton fits in the long narrative trajectory of American politics, I think Hacker & Pierson have done a credible job in some respects, but they fail to take sufficient notice of dynamic changes to the political economy and society. They nostalgically take note that mid-century policy triumphs of this pragmatic centrist politics produced economic growth and extended life expectancy dramatically — The Clean Air Act (1963, 1967, 1970) they note may have added two years to life spans. What they do not take sufficient alarm at is where we have arrived in our arching path — that life expectancy, for example, appears to have declined in the latest reporting period. Theirs is a good news story that conspicuously omits some pertinent bad news.

Someone who is “focused on correcting the shortcomings of weakly regulated markets rather than redistributing income and wealth” as Hacker and Pierson say Clinton is, is deliberately overlooking two elephants in the room: 1.) why are those markets weakly regulated? who is to blame for that? 2.) when many of the most serious economic problems revolve the extremities reached in the inequality of wealth and income, how can you even pretend to ignore it?

Holbo talks in the OP about how ideologically conservative Republicans have the challenge of reconciling themselves to Trump and asks how that will change the nature of the “conservative mind”. But, the Democrats face a similar problem: they are going to nominate an establishment figure, who is basically a philosophical conservative, running on a platform of very modest reforms (or just the promise of continued modestly effectual resistance to radical right proposals) to preserve and extend an economic and foreign policy status quo that seems radically unsatisfactory in several respects (judged from what used to be fairly standard progressive and centre-left perspectives).


RNB 06.12.16 at 7:09 pm

@170 To state the obvious this is Gay Pride Month, and Omar Mateen may have had a violent reaction to the assertions of gay pride and gay sexuality that he was observing with perhaps an interest that surprised and tormented him.


Cranky Observer 06.12.16 at 7:10 pm

“For Trump none of this could also benefit the US. So the US must dominate in a zero-sum world.”

Interestingly I suspect that is the post-1998 Dick Cheney’s worldview,albeit with a bit more sophistication.


bruce wilder 06.12.16 at 9:41 pm

RNB @ 160: Trump wants to bully people.

Well, yeah. Duh.

Trump is making populist appeals to people who have the political attitudes typical of “authoritarian followers” (quotes to indicate that I am using the phrase in the sense of the term defined in the work of Robert Altemeyer, author of The Authoritarians (available as a free pdf online). He’s being a demagogue in common parlance. The political dynamic is well-understood, by which someone who is oriented toward social dominance and has few ethical or ego bounds demonstrates their ability to persuade and lead the easily led “authoritarian followers”.

I think you attribute way too much specificity to Trump. He’s not making policy proposals, not even in the Clintonian arch-indirect manner of making “serious” policy proposals (“A lot of people have said I have the most comprehensive, effective, comprehensive plan to make sure Wall Street never wrecks Main Street again . . .”)

Trump says hyperbolic things and talks like a 3rd Grader to get attention and an emotional reaction, but like all politicians since time immemorial he qualifies and equivocates and contradicts himself.

My personal judgement is that Trump has painted himself into a corner with his buffoonery and demagoguery. The push-pull of political coalition-building is such that if you make yourself appealing to certain subcultures in the society, you make yourself repulsive to others. That’s why politicians often seem to be caught in uncomfortable straddles and the stilted, formulaic ways of speaking that’s being called “PC” in the context of the OP. (Occasionally, they stage a Sister Souljah moment, as another Clinton did, to artfully bridge the gaps.)

But, let’s entertain the possibility that Trump has unexpected skills, that he can use anti-PC and anti-Media themes effectively to attract attention and shape the campaign to his advantage. Like I said, I don’t believe it, but I am willing to entertain the possibility that I am wrong, especially given that I wrongly thought the Republican Party would not let him win the nomination.

Someone who thinks Trump will win the Presidency is Scott Adams. Here’s what he told the Washington Examiner in an interview:

[Trump] has told us that he uses hyperbole for effect. It is in his book. He said it during the campaign. He has also said that if he hadn’t acted the way he has acted, he probably wouldn’t be where he is today. I think most people would agree with that. He wouldn’t have gotten the attention, he wouldn’t have gotten the emotion that brought the crowds.

He is doing a most interesting thing because he has to run for president of a country that is mostly dumb people who aren’t paying attention and maybe a few smart people who are. He has got to get all of those groups on his side because the smart people might have the money and the dumb people have the votes. So you kind of need both of them.

So what he is doing really is he is running two campaigns simultaneously and he is not hiding any of it. He is saying outrageous things because some people like to hear those and they’ll vote for him because of it. At the same time he is winking right at the camera and saying, “I say things for effect. I’ll probably be more presidential.”

Now, there is no other way to interpret that than the fact that he is being a little bit outrageous right now to suck all of the attention away from the competition, which is working. He is running as a common-sense conservative. He is basically saying, “I am going to do what makes sense, what works and I am going to do it right in front of you.”

I have serious doubts about Trump’s ability to actually put across that double-message, but something like that will have to succeed if he is to win the election. A lot of people will have to be convinced to dismiss the buffoonery and believe that Trump can be “a common-sense conservative” in whatever sense those voters conceive of it.

Now, I am calling it buffoonery and not hate-speech, so in some people’s view, maybe I am already half-way there. I think it is buffoonery and disqualifying because it indicates to me that Trump has probably never thought seriously about how to govern. (Adams doesn’t think that matters much — I disagree.) My idea of “a common-sense conservative” is a self-righteous kleptocrat who cannot distinguish grift from governance and so even if Trump convinces me he will govern as “a common-sense conservative” and not as a deranged refugee from reality teevee, he’s not getting my support. But, enough about me.

Scott Adams says something else that’s interesting. (I am using him as my source of alternative hypotheses I don’t much believe, but this is something that I think goes directly to what may be a critical distinction between Clinton and Trump in this campaign.) The syntax is a little fractured here, but I want to quote Adams directly [I added the emphasis though]:

[Clinton has been harping] on her “risky-risky-risky” play, which is probably going to backfire because risk is exactly why people like [Trump]. People are trying to hire a hand grenade. And Clinton saying, “Watch out for the hand grenade. It might explode.” And the voters are saying, “No, that is the whole point: We want an explode-y hand grenade. We are throwing it into Congress. We are going to blow up some stuff and we think we can fix it [that way].”

This is a bit of a contradiction with the idea that Trump can put across a double-message in which one-half of the message is: Trump will govern as “a common-sense conservative” and one can trust that and its implication of continued stability. Of course, Adams would say none of this makes any rational sense, because politics makes no rational sense, because people are not rational, they are emotional and intuitive and act out of unconscious motives and suggestions.

What I would say is that people generally do not understand politics or policy in a rational sense, but they pick up some things, some patterns irrationally. Mass democracy assigns the people a choice among only two buttons to push: keep our guy(s), and throw the bums out. Hillary’s campaign very deliberately attached itself to the first button (“I’m with Hillary”) and Trump’s grabbed the second button.

Hacker & Pierson (see my earlier comment) made the case for Clinton as a policy dinosaur, a throwback to an earlier glorious era of effective policymaking without (imho) acknowledging the extent to which popular discontent is motivated by the felt reality that that system and framework of policy is corrupt, degenerate, worn-out and past its sell-by date. Corey Robin made a different but parallel point a while back: Clinton will be the last Democratic Presidential Candidate who can use the Third-Way themes her husband pioneered as a way of wresting power from the Republicans after the Reagan Triumph.

Both Trump and Clinton are right-wing candidates — they are just different flavors of right-wing: one is conservative, motivated by self-satisfied complacency about the status quo and wants to preserve the system, perhaps with some modest tweaks and pareto improvements. The other presents as potentially more radical, more willing to see a system that is not working satisfactorily for many of its constituents, break.

Now a broken system doesn’t work, almost by definition implying “for anyone”, so wanting the system to break is a bit irrational. But, the radical right has seen staged crisis as a means to its ends. You’d think a broken system wouldn’t work for any one, but that hasn’t been the recent experience of Republicans, while Democrats have pressed themselves into the service of the plutocracy as repair crews and preservationists.

Now, Clinton has an argument for why she is “progressive” and not conservative, even as she also has arguments for why she is conservative (Kissinger thinks she did a bang-up job running the State Department!). She’s going to peal away some conservative Republicans with the latter arguments. Some of the neocons have dutifully lined up in this round and many of the law and economics types have long since found Clinton-Obama economics cordial enough. Those are elites, though — I don’t think there are numerically as many votes as headlines from having a Robert Kagan (or Richard Posner) endorse Clinton.

So, there’s an argument — and Clinton herself has made a version of it — that hers is a left-wing politics after all because economics isn’t everything.

“Not everything is about an economic theory, right? If we broke up the big banks tomorrow . . . would that end racism? . . . Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?” I say that’s a right-wing argument. ymmv But, at the very least, it marks out a fault-line in the Democratic Party that puts a lot of Democratic voters on the far side of a fissure separating them from Hillary — Hillary is not with them. It probably doesn’t matter to this election, since Donald isn’t with them, either.


bruce wilder 06.12.16 at 9:50 pm

Shorter version of myself: Trump, in campaigning against the Media and the Establishment and the Establishment Candidate and PC, is offering the electorate a super-duper version of the “throw the bums out” button. The Democrats in 2006-8 benefitted from offering a “throw the bums out” button, but didn’t follow through very effectively in implementing change and now they are promising to continue to preserve an unsatisfactory status quo, with some modest tweaks and social progress for the economically secure.

In an election with two flavors of conservative on offer — radical-reactionary and complacent-reactionary — it is the nominally leftish Party that is ultimately going to suffer the most from cognitive dissonance, even if they (the Dems) win, as I expect they will.


RNB 06.12.16 at 10:16 pm

Shorter version of myself or actually a shorter version of what is plain for all to see. Trump is selling not policies but a promise to restore leadership through dominance by which America can reverse losses by imposing them on others. Dominance is a different strategy for leadership than prestige, according to Joseph Henrich.
From Politico:
‘He [Trump] says his nuclear concerns stem partly from his MIT professor uncle’s tutoring on the subject, but in any case his interest is deep-seated. Trump once even expressed a wish during the Reagan years to lead the negotiations with the Soviets to reduce strategic nuclear weapons. At a reception in New York City around 1990, he ran into the U.S. START negotiator, Ambassador Richard Burt. According to Burt, Trump expressed envy of Burt’s position and proceeded to offer advice on how best to cut a “terrific” deal with the Soviets. Trump told Burt to arrive late to the next negotiating session, walk into the room where his fuming counterpart sits waiting impatiently, remain standing and looking down at him, stick his finger into his chest and say “Fuck you!”’

Read more:
Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook


RNB 06.12.16 at 11:00 pm

Anyone who says Omar Mateen was probably more driven by sexual violence than radical Islam is going to get shouted down as unAmerican. But he beat his wife; the FBI investigated and did not uncover any connection to ISIS; he was not known to read the Koran or visit any mosque as far as I know; and he was known to make homophobic comments at work. This happened during Gay Pride Month. That he was a mentally unstable person acting violently in defense of his ugly masculine identity will be dismissed as the kind of pc apologetics for radical Islam born of multicultural relatatvism. But where else does the evidence lead but to the conclusion of sexual violence?


kidneystones 06.12.16 at 11:20 pm

Mordecai Richler – Bad Jew

On a bad day, it’s may help to consider on iconic writer

“Since publishing the book this fall, he [Foran, Richler’s biographer] has discovered during various interviews and Richler-related events just how deep-seated the old antipathies remain, both among the Quebec nationalists whose project Richler savaged so effectively and among fellow Jews who saw him as a renegade exposing his community to the ridicule of anti-Semites.

Richler likewise offends contemporary literary sensibilities, according to Foran, especially what he considers to be the “pinched and ahistorical and impoverished notion of literature” that currently rules the academy. “More and more we want our novels – even those novels taught at the university level – to have simple and clear, preferably progressive thematic concerns,” he says. “They have to relate to progressive politics, they have to relate to social justice. What are these words doing mixed up with literature?”

There are no such programs in Richler novels. The author is condemned because “Duddy cashes the cheque,” according to Foran. The final event of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the hero swindling his friend. The moral is opaque, to say the least…”

I just finished Perfidia, another masterpiece from a different writer equally willing to give iconoclasts the finger. Tis a good day to recall we’re not here to agree.


Rich Puchalsky 06.12.16 at 11:51 pm

RNB: “Anyone who says Omar Mateen was probably more driven by sexual violence than radical Islam is going to get shouted down as unAmerican.”

That’s what I’d really want on the day that I got gunned down at a club — someone on the Internet instantly spinning the event for all he’s worth, complete with pseudo-psychological long distance diagnosis.


bruce wilder 06.13.16 at 1:23 am

RNB @ 177 [Story about START and Trump’s remarks to Burt circa 1990]

Mildly interesting. Of course, this is exactly the way many professionals talk, for good and ill, mostly ill. Richard Armitage could be quite foul-mouthed in private. Victoria Nuland was famously captured on tape (and it’s on YouTube). Some of Richard Holbrooke’s stories sounded like an adolescent’s fantasy of how to talk to a dictator. Kissinger, as is well-known, has no moral compass and there’s serious reason to doubt that Madeleine Albright has one.

I am not discounting the implicit criticism of Trump as a narcissistic, immature egomaniac — just pointing out that U.S. foreign policy has long been driven by short-sighted amoral aholes. Trump is surely no remedy, but he also would be no particular novelty.


RNB 06.13.16 at 3:24 am

I worried that we won’t be able to deal with the full complexity of Omar Mateen’s psychology, though just watching cable news I must say that there is a lot more recognition of how complex and how little we know about the situation than I thought there would be.

At this point there is evidence from his former wife of his being bipolar, from a former coworker of him as man of unremitting hates towards gays and blacks (the coworker seemed frustrated that the employer would not fire him), from the FBI of thin evidence of a commitment to radical Islam, from his father of him as a homophobe, and from himself at the moment of murder as an ISIS loyalist. One of the reporters has even raised the possibility of steroid rage.

We don’t know, so we should not settle on a simple story about his being driven to this by an ISIS commitment that may have been made only at the time of the mass murder and should not lose sight of how hateful and homicidal homophobia can be in the political debates about foreign policy and immigration.

I do wonder though whether the very availability of assault rifles makes it possible for people to imagine and plan mass killings that they otherwise would not have. That is, I wonder whether a ban on assault rifles would not only reduce the opportunity for deranged people to commit mass murder but also perhaps make it less likely that people would even ever imagine themselves carrying out mass murder.


js. 06.13.16 at 4:14 am

Gary Younge in The Nation. Or I could just listen to crotchety old dudes on CT threads. Difficult choice!


JeffreyF 06.13.16 at 4:46 am

Thanks for the link js.


RNB 06.13.16 at 7:22 am

Trump spews nonsense. He responds to today’s tragedy with a renewed call for a ban on Muslims. Omar Mateen was born in the US to a father who may well have been welcomed here as a CIA accomplice (he was apparently given a green card under Reagan’s administration).

But Trump is not saying that we should think twice about Reagan’s policy of supporting and letting mujahidin supporters into the US or that this is not a problem of immigration at all but a home-grown one like Dylann Roof and Timothy McVeigh are home grown problems. He is going to try to get Americans to believe that this kind of violence comes from Muslims abroad mainly. He’s a demagogue.

With his ban Trump wouldn’t let Syrians or Libyans fleeing ISIS or Afghanis fleeing the Taliban or drug lords, or South Asian Muslim engineers and doctors into the US. He’s evil, and I mean this in the sense Susan Neiman has defined evil.

He wants a blanket ban on a billion people, and the effect of that ban will be to create discrimination against a lot more people than that.

Omar Mateen is home grown, and the Trump ban would only alienate American Muslims whose cooperation has proven helpful in other cases in ratting out increasingly deranged persons who the FBI can’t bust on the basis of known ties to actual terrorist networks

It will be a terrible moment in American history if Trump as the leading candidate of a major party actually blasts his call for a ban on Muslims tomorrow, and it seems set to happen. Paul Ryan is not going to rein him in. Romney has failed. Meg Whitman has failed. Lindsay Graham has failed. Mitch McConnell is a weasel.

What could help is a ban on assault rifles, a more effective system against spousal abuse, a more effective mental health system, a community more alert to the violence that can and does result from homophobia, and apparently (according to the former wife) better safeguards against steroid abuse. Here Trump won’t say a word.

What won’t help is a ban on Muslims or even the collection of useless information by forcing all Muslims to register.

Others can address Trump’s anti-pc common sense on domestic terrorism and hate crimes which at best he’ll do nothing to reduce. Or they can speak about his wall or his charges of Chinese currency manipulation. It’s all the same BS that Trump University is.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 1:17 pm

kidneystones can correct me if I’m mistaken, but I think the k-stones thesis is that events like Orlando are politically helpful to Trump.

It’s hard to argue against that — extremists feed off their opposing extremists, and ISIS will be watching closely to see if this helps Trump — but I think Trump is going to get a lot less out of this than one might suspect, if anything at all. A temporary bounce, probably.

But we’ll see!


kidneystones 06.13.16 at 1:29 pm

@ 187 I don’t believe the murder of 50 innocents is ‘helpful’ to anyone ever.

Please feel to wade through the blood with RNB to weigh the scales without me.

Fucking ghouls.


Layman 06.13.16 at 1:36 pm

Ze K: “I must admit I’ve never heard any Trump speech directly…”

Ah, then your authority on the matter is clear!


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 2:02 pm

I don’t believe the murder of 50 innocents is ‘helpful’ to anyone ever.

Why do you suppose that terrorists kill innocents, then? Why do you suppose that Trump attempts to capitalize politically on the murder of innocents?

The interesting issue is not whether such things are ‘helpful’ — it’s pretty obvious that they can be, given a certain set of goals. The question is: Will ISIS succeed in its goals? Will Trump?

I can see why you want to shut down this line of inquiry, though. It’s pretty inevitably going to lead to some uncomfortable conclusions for you.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 2:07 pm

If you can’t think about the goals of terrorists or Trump, then you’re going to continue to be suckered by them.

Why did bin Laden speak before the 2004 election? Was he not trying to benefit in some fashion?

What does ISIS want the US to do now?


kidneystones 06.13.16 at 2:15 pm

@ 190. You’re sick. The bodies aren’t in the ground yet. I’ve already asked you to leave me out of your loathsome speculations.

I’m not about to speculate about the efficacy of murder under any circumstances no matter what. Please fuck off.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 2:44 pm

192: Fair enough, but do you have an opinion on what bin Laden was trying to accomplish with his speech in 2004?


kidneystones 06.13.16 at 3:09 pm

@ 193 I’ve told you to fuck off already. I can’t prevent you from reading my comment, but be assured you’re not my intended audience.

The only part of the Orlando tragedy that I’m willing to discuss are the victims and future targets – gay people. Because whatever else this attack was/might be, it was unquestionably an attack on gay people – and the most devastating ever.

Owen Jones just walked off a Sky TV review of the news because the standard line seems to be ‘this was an attack on everyone., how can we use this to advance our cause.” Owen quite justifiably shot back that if a lunatic had walked into a synagogue and gunned down fifty Jewish people, the attack would unquestionably described as anti-Semitic. So, maybe, just maybe we can focus on the fact that all the victims of this terror attack shared one characteristic – twasn’t about being Muslim, or not Muslm – twas about living a life every bit as deserving of respect as any other.

We’ve seen already how dismissing the legitimate concerns of minorities can backfire on elites. The sense I get from reading the press is the people most likely to change behavior over this event are the future victims, who pretty clearly feel targeted by religious cranks. Ted Cruz was on stage with his father with a pastor who openly calls for the death of homosexuals (busted for it, Cruz later whined ‘Twas a mistake).

I won’t bother to link to the pieces (winning a lot of attention) about/by gay people who are going through a fairly serious period of reflection over their choice of political affiliation. What does one say to gay people when we learn that the lunatic was a known hater of homosexuality who been interviewed three times by the FBI?

Don’t worry? We’ll protect you from people who want to hang you from cranes, or shoot you dead in night clubs?

It’s a bad time for gay people in particular. The rest of us really can’t imagine what our gay friends must be going through right now as they try to simply live their lives, all the time aware that hate screeds are tolerated and accepted because they are couched in the language of ‘faith.’

It’s a fucking joke. Richler was right.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 3:11 pm

194: I was thinking of the timing – a few days before the election. After all, bin Laden could arrange for publicity in this fashion any time. Why choose this particular time?

He was very critical of George W. Bush in the speech. It seems likely he was trying to influence the election. What do you think?


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 3:43 pm

Here’s Trump in a naked effort to capitalize politically on the tragedy.

The original post addressed this issue:

What sorts of confabulations do you predict will prove necessary/psychically efficacious, to achieve this realignment, over the next 5 months?

How will Republicans rationalize their vote for Trump? I think it approaches consensus in the Republican Party that Obama has been insufficiently hostile to Islam, and that the threat of Islam is an existential crisis, or close to it, for the US.

I think Trump has a real problem, though, in that what works among Republicans will often shock the conscience of decent people.


bruce wilder 06.13.16 at 3:54 pm

politicalfootball @ 196

I think Karl Rove was trying to influence the election with a planned terror alert, and succeeded. Using terror alerts (remember the color codes) to get a bump in the polls had been rehearsed. Bush’s Homeland Security chief was pretty distressed about the cynical manipulation involved and the whole color-coded alerts scheme was scrapped.

And, yes, we continue to be suckered by our politicians.

Did Bin Laden sucker any one? I cannot speak to his reception among Muslims. I think Cheney et alia saw their opportunities and took them.

Meanwhile our great democracy is asked to choose between two forms of probable catastrophe, and manipulation is the order of every day.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 3:55 pm

Note Trump’s position on the victims. Unless I’ve missed it, he hasn’t mentioned gay people at all.


bruce wilder 06.13.16 at 4:02 pm

Yes, because Republicans could never be decent people.

Also, the righteous idealism of the Berns — doesn’t it make you sick? Sure, H isn’t perfect, but there has never been any evidence that she is corrupt.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 4:38 pm

I think the CIA basically got it right, per Wikipedia. bin Laden understood U.S. politics very well:

Ron Suskind noted that the CIA analysis of the video led them to the consensus view that the tape was designed strategically to help President Bush win reelection in 2004. Deputy CIA director John E. McLaughlin noted at one meeting, “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.” Suskind quoted Jami Miscik, CIA deputy associate director for intelligence, as saying “Certainly, he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.”[4] The same speculation has been made by Bahukutumbi Raman.[5]


RNB 06.13.16 at 4:52 pm

Trump is saying that bombing ISIS abroad would have reduced the chances of this happening, though there is no evidence that ISIS commanded Omar Mateen to carry this out. Then Trump says that American Muslims are coddling terrorists, but Omar Mateen had already been brought to the attention of the FBI who could not arrest him for merely reading extremist ideology and saying hateful things, and his former wife probably left a record in the courts that she thought he was bipolar, deranged and violent. The FBI was not ignorant of who he was, but he could not charge him on mental health grounds. Adam Lanza probably should have been institutionalized on mental health grounds before the Sandy Hook massacre.

Omar Mateen was known to our domestic security forces. It did not help.

But a ban on AR-15s would, especially given the number of people with untreated mental health problems and the existence of subcultures of vitriolic hate; a ban on Muslims, a rhetorical war on American Muslims and carpet bombing Daesh controlled territory would not.


engels 06.13.16 at 4:54 pm


RNB 06.13.16 at 5:00 pm

@204 Another false equivalence, engels. Saying that “radical Islamic” terrorists justify their attacks with a perverse interpretation of Islam (Clinton) is different from saying that the religion itself should be cast under suspicion and implying that extremists express its real essence and declaring its adherents should be banned from entering the US (Trump).


engels 06.13.16 at 5:08 pm

Saying that “radical Islamic” terrorists justify their attacks with a perverse interpretation of Islam (Clinton) is different from saying that the religion itself should be cast under suspicion

Logically, yes. Politically—I think have enough experience of the ‘intelligent’ Islamophobia in Britain over the last decade to know how this plays out. The shooter was a homophobe, a wife-beater and a wannabe cop—but in Clinton’s eyes it’s all about one thing…


Robespierre 06.13.16 at 5:13 pm

Isn’t it? Ideas are kind of important.


The Temporary Name 06.13.16 at 5:23 pm

“Hillary Clinton agrees that radical Islam yadda yadda, only she’s not going to do anything about it and I will.” And then he names Joe Arpaio as ubergruppenfuhrer of homeland security.


engels 06.13.16 at 5:26 pm

Robbespierre, if you want to waste strangers’ time playing a vacuous game of ‘oh no he isn’t oh yes he is’ you should probably try to find a slightly less tragic and horrendous topic


bruce wilder 06.13.16 at 5:38 pm

political football @ 202

Deputy CIA director John E. McLaughlin resigned in Nov 2004. Bush had brought in Porter Goss to purge the Agency. Goss brought in Kyle Foggo as his number 3. Foggo would later go to jail for his part in the Cunningham procurement scandal.


js. 06.13.16 at 5:49 pm

I don’t have time to link right now, but see Greg Sargent and Glenn Greenwald on Twitter re @204.


Ronan(rf) 06.13.16 at 6:33 pm

It obviously isn’t “racist” to use the phrase “radical Islamism”. Perhaps it’s inaccurate, but racist it ain’t.


engels 06.13.16 at 6:47 pm

I didn’t say it was.


politicalfootball 06.13.16 at 6:54 pm

but in Clinton’s eyes it’s all about one thing

In her discussions of this, Clinton has given priority to generalized bigotry and gun control – only later mentioning ‘radical Islam,” defined in such a way as to exclude the vast majority of Muslims.

When you define the conversation in such a way as to deny the existence of things that exist, you are necessarily going to be led astray.


LFC 06.13.16 at 6:56 pm

Trump speaking live just now (caught 5 seconds on WaPo site):
“We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the U.S.”

Of course there is no tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the U.S.; it’s more like a trickle. This is like (occurred to me since Shakespeare has been mentioned in this thread) that line in ‘Henry IV Pt 1’ where Hal says to Falstaff (I’m paraphrasing v. loosely): “These lies are like their progenitor: enormous, palpable” etc.


LFC 06.13.16 at 7:22 pm

@Ze K
I can’t imagine why bin Laden would care who American preznit is

Bin Laden wanted to encourage U.S. and Western belligerence/aggression in the M.E. and environs b.c he had a vision of an apocalyptic battle in which the true faith (i.e., his) would triumph. You can’t have an apocalyptic battle if the other side doesn’t cooperate in providing one. Hence bin Laden had a definite interest in who the US pres. was and what policies he wd follow.


kidneystones 06.13.16 at 9:33 pm

On the question of bans and intolerance, who needs Trump when we have…

52% of Muslims in Britain want homosexuals to be classed as criminals in their own country. 11% of non-Muslims in Britain hold a similar view.

‘Recognizing’ the ‘legitimacy’ of anti-gay bigotry grounded in ‘faith’ seems to me a very peculiar way to promote tolerance and respect. Either we have laws protecting the rights of all, or we don’t. The so-called cultural differences we are asked to respect center in many cases in abrogating the rights of women and other non-male ‘sub-humans.’

But, hey, it’s all about the respect and the tolerance!


Val 06.13.16 at 9:35 pm

A terrorism expert here (Australia) last night suggested that another factor that might reduce the risk of such attacks by people who align themselves with ISIS in some way (in addition to better gun regulation), is if police and security forces had better relationships with Muslim communities in the US. If that is correct, Trump is a danger since his rhetoric is likely to make relationships worse.


LFC 06.13.16 at 10:06 pm

Val @223
Agree as a general matter, but w/r/t this attack in Fla., based on the still somewhat fragmentary info about it, I’m not sure that (i.e., better police-community relations) wd have made much — or any — difference here. The FBI had interviewed the perpetrator previously, so he wasn’t unknown to law enforcement. Moreover, the motives (for lack of a better word) are still being investigated, and it’s not yet clear precisely what the mixture of them was, notwithstanding his ‘pledge’ to ISIS at the end.


LFC 06.13.16 at 10:14 pm

p.s. Apparently he had made favorable remarks at some point about *both* ISIS and Hezbollah, suggesting at a minimum a very low amount of knowledge and/or high amount of confusion.


Val 06.13.16 at 10:32 pm

Yes I agree that such people (including Man Monis here) wouldn’t necessarily have any real knowledge of ISIS, it seems more that they use it as a justification for their desire to do violence which arises from other causes. And I agree that better relations with the community wouldn’t necessarily have prevented this case, although one could think of hypotheticals, eg if someone knew he had recently purchased a weapon and reported that. But it is more about the general consequences of demonising communities.

The other aspect of demonising communities is the issue of second generation radicalisation. I taught in inner city London schools in the 1970s and the way that Pakistani kids were treated there was awful. It is not surprising if some grow up with a legacy of anger (not that I am trying to excuse anything, as I’m sure you would know, but some others might not).


Faustusnotes 06.13.16 at 10:56 pm

This idiot claimed allegiance to ISIS and their enemies in the Al Nusra front. He was a bog-standard American homophobe and misogynist, who cloaked his homophobia and misogyny in its commonest cloth. A servant of radical Islam he was not.


js. 06.13.16 at 11:11 pm

Right. This guy beat his wife. He had a long history of making homophobic and racist comments. He apparently wanted to be a cop? If this were 1970, he would probably have sworn allegiance to the SLA. But let’s talk about online radicalisation and ISIS.


Ecrasez l'Infame 06.13.16 at 11:39 pm

Right. This guy beat his wife had a long history of making homophobic and racist comments.

Wait, that remind me of someone!

“Listen! Treat women kindly; they are like prisoners in your hands. Beyond this you do not owe anything from them. Should they be guilty of flagrant misbehaviour, you may remove them from your beds, and beat them but do not inflict upon them any severe punishment.”

“Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Loot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.

“You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.”


politicalfootball 06.14.16 at 12:03 am

I’m sure everyone will be shocked to find out that the shooter was a regular at the club.

I guess he must have been doing three years worth of reconnaissance.


LFC 06.14.16 at 1:06 am

I’d suppose all kinds of motives and thoughts can get tangled up in a confused way in someone who is mentally unstable. No reason as of now to conclude that a confused strain of ‘extremism’ could not have formed part of the tangle. But pending the detailed investigations, I think it’s too soon to say anything definitive.

This was a ‘Latin night’ at this gay club, and those murdered were mostly Latino and (to judge from a partial list of names and ages that I saw) mostly fairly young. The particular identities of the victims are probably irrelevant to ISIS, which at this point seems to be praising any mass shooting in the U.S. that can somehow be fit into its worldview, such as it is.


LFC 06.14.16 at 1:13 am

p.s. I shd have said ‘any mass shooting or other terrorist act’.


Val 06.14.16 at 2:36 am

227 and 228
I can’t speak for anyone else but I hope it’s clear I wasn’t suggesting that Islamism (radical or otherwise) is to blame for this latest attack. In fact I was suggesting that people like this shooter use causes like ISIS as a justification for their violence, which actually comes from other causes.

In terms of my research interests, though, I think that all three of the big monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have been patriarchal and that homophobia is part of this. In the case of Islam, because it’s the newest, the patriarchy and homophobia may still be more apparent, but I certainly don’t think it’s unique to Islam.


js. 06.14.16 at 2:53 am

Val — I didn’t mean to direct my comment at you particularly, or even anyone in particular on this thread. It’s just annoying that the conversation around this is primarily revolving around ISIS, radicalisation, etc. (to some extent here, much more so in general), when it seems more and more clear that that is at best a minor part of the story.


JeffreyG 06.14.16 at 3:17 am

shooter was gay himself & reported as a regular at that very nightclub.


Val 06.14.16 at 3:25 am

js. I guess that’s because this is a thread about Trump. But yeah I agree that it’s certainly worth reiterating, as political football said upthread @202, that Trump doesn’t seem to be acknowledging the victims, gay people or homophobia at all (in what I’ve seen so far).


LFC 06.14.16 at 3:56 am

Certain facts or reported facts about the perpetrator (Mateen) have emerged, among them: (1) he married a woman he met online, (2) the woman has said that, after an initial period of normalcy (for lack of a better word), Mateen became abusive and ‘unstable’, (3) according to his father, Mateen was angered (apparently on more than one occasion) when he saw men kissing; (4) according to a report in Gawker, and now apparently picked up more widely, linked by p. football @230, Mateen had showed up at the club w some regularity and had “exchanged messages with at least one gay man on a gay dating app.”

Based on the foregoing, I would hesitate to draw the inference that JeffreyG draws in the first four words of his comment @235. The picture is confused and to leap to conclusions, including conclusions about the killer’s sexual orientation, seems unjustified. (It may be that certain of the speculations upthread by RNB about the perpetrator’s psychology will turn out to have some basis, but again I’d hesitate to conclude that now.)

Btw, Trump has acknowledged LGBT people were the victims, but the mention was somewhat lost in the midst of his call for more immigration restrictions, etc.


LFC 06.14.16 at 4:01 am

p.s. One thing that is reasonably clear is that the victim was mentally unstable, which given the nature of the crime almost goes without saying.


LFC 06.14.16 at 4:03 am

pps correction: “perpetrator” not “victim”. Too late in the evening to be commenting


RNB 06.14.16 at 5:53 am

*CNN reports that Trump was right to say Hillary Clinton is proposing to accept 65,000 Syrian refugees, more than 5x the number Obama has set. Trump accused her of accepting a Trojan Horse, but she has not yet backed down. If she backs down, Trump can boast; if she does not, she is leaving herself vulnerable to Trump’s attacks. Clinton may feel that such a humanitarian gesture is the right thing to do, and is necessary to keep the good will of the allies with whom the US cooperates, and is in the interest of the US. For example Iranians escaping theocracy have contributed greatly to this country. Our children had the benefit of two brilliant and Persian-born pre-school teachers.

But Trump has a big symbolic, anti pc attack on Clinton for her putative naivety towards Muslim migrants, and this will probably get very ugly in the debates.

*The security firm at which Omar Mateen worked lost hundreds of millions of dollars of value today, I think. Why did the firm keep him after complaints that he was hateful and potentially violent? Did this global firm need his language skills, though it seems that all his work was in Florida ? Could the firm be sued for retaining someone they knew was unstable and possibly providing him the training and income needed to carry out an attack like this? His coworker Gilroy said that he repeatedly complained that Mateen was unstable and should not be at the firm. I would be interested in what the investigation of Mateen’s workplace shows and whether the firm will come under scrutiny for not having disclosed to the FBI something important about this employee whom they valued for unknown reasons.


bruce wilder 06.14.16 at 6:15 am

Same security firm that muffed the London Olympics — by someone’s count one of largest private employers in the world and probably one giant bundle of grifts.


PGD 06.14.16 at 7:31 am

Radical Islam was certainly one driver of this attack. America has certainly had lots of hateful aggressive assholes before, but this is the first one to shoot down 50 people in a nightclub. It’s somewhat of a copycat killing to the Paris Bataclan attack. It’s foolish and clearly politically motivated to try to separate out radical Islam from other motives such that if someone had another motive they could not have been influenced by the ISIS movement. If ISIS is inspiring Muslims who are otherwise unstable/have free floating rage to more extreme behavior then that is part of their impact. If Mateen had been an otherwise identical white Christian who namechecked some far right domestic terrorist movement in committing his crimes, none of the commenters here would have the slightest hesitation in ascribing the whole thing to right wing terrorism, and perhaps even to the Republican party.

As for Trump, he not only acknowledged that the victims were gay, he used it as a talking point. He claimed that you cannot support gay rights and favor admission of Muslim immigrants. Shades of the late Pim Fortuyn and others on the European right who have made similar arguments.


Layman 06.14.16 at 11:48 am

PGD: “…certainly…certainly…clearly…”

You keep using those words. I’m not sure they mean what you think they mean.


engels 06.14.16 at 1:12 pm

It’s somewhat of a copycat killing to the Paris Bataclan attack.

Think how much lower our taxes could be if the FBI sacked all its forensic psychologists and instead relied in blowhards with internet connections


politicalfootball 06.14.16 at 1:42 pm

As for Trump, he not only acknowledged that the victims were gay, he used it as a talking point.

It’s true, I missed that. For some reason the media didn’t focus on this – the gay solidarity stuff was much more prominent in reporting on Hillary. Media bias, I guess.

Hillary issued statements of solidarity with gay people, and you hear that loud and clear. Trump talks about banning Muslim entry to help gay people, and the media treats this as being all about the Muslims, and not the gay people Trump wants to help.

I think the question of motivation is an interesting and important one. Would Mateen have acted if ISIS didn’t exist? He didn’t seem to be all that fastidious about which Islamic radical group he was following — the reports say he also was a big fan of Hezbollah and al Qaeda.

But okay, let’s wipe out all the Islamic radicals — they’re all the same anyway, right? Is it likely that a young gay man taught self-hatred from the day he was born would react violently in the absence of radical Islamic teaching?

I think it’s fair to say that folks in this thread are minimizing ISIS’ influence in the sense that people are saying there was a lot more going on, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody here saying that ISIS wasn’t a factor. ISIS was pretty obviously a factor.


RNB 06.14.16 at 2:51 pm

@244 The US American Republican base wouldn’t show up to vote for an American version of Pim Fortuyn (butler and all) and even for Pim Fortuyn’s politics. Trump will accommodate himself to the Republican base and speak of the security benefits of his Muslim ban, not its protection of sexual diversity of a liberal country. He cannot attack the Democrats as unwilling to take the radical security steps needed to protect LGBT rights specifically and hope to win the Republican base.

ps at this point I would not take as reliable the eye witness reports that Mateen was a regular visitor of gay bars and user of gay dating sites until there is independent confirmation in the form of credit card receipts, computer records and/or video. Very early in this discussion I raised the possibility that Mateen may have been horrified by his own fascination with the assertions of gay pride and sexuality this month. But we don’t know this yet.


faustusnotes 06.14.16 at 2:58 pm

Engels at 246 for the win.


bruce wilder 06.14.16 at 2:59 pm

A lot going on?

In the mixed madness of kings and iguanas?


RNB 06.14.16 at 3:02 pm

If Omar Mateen was a follower of ISIS at war with the West, why did he kill people who to him represent the decadence of West and presumably be weakening it? Doesn’t ISIS kill only gay people they find in their own ranks as a way of strengthening and purifying themselves? This is partly why I am suspecting that the real driver here was homophobia, not a commitment to ISIS’ vision and politics.

Still it does seem very likely that Omar Matee’s reading of certain radical jihadist websites strengthened his hatred of LGBT people and contributed to his willingness to commit this atrocity. President Obama said as much yesterday. @244 I see little reason to deny this.

But the evidence seems strong that homophobia was an independent driver of his actions and perhaps the most powerful one.


RNB 06.14.16 at 3:28 pm

Put it this way: If your intention as a terrorist is to spread fear in an enemy population so that it would accede to your political demands, then why would you mass murder a despised minority in the enemy population? This is not likely to create a generalized panic in the population. You would mass murder those despised minorities because you hate them, not for political ends. This is why I suspect homophobia drove this.


politicalfootball 06.14.16 at 3:37 pm

Trump will accommodate himself to the Republican base and speak of the security benefits of his Muslim ban, not its protection of sexual diversity of a liberal country. He cannot attack the Democrats as unwilling to take the radical security steps needed to protect LGBT rights specifically and hope to win the Republican base.

Radical warmongers often invoke liberal preferences to show how awesome war is and how hypocritical liberals are. The conservatives eat that shit up.

I think PGD errs in suggesting that Trump actually cares about gay people — I think (my previous sarcasm aside) that the media has been correct to emphasize Trump’s real message: that we must ban Muslims; that Obama is an accomplice – witting or unwitting – of Radical Islam, etc.

But yeah, it’s a perfectly ordinary move among conservatives to suggest that liberals are too wimpy to defend their own sick, perverted policy preferences.

GW Bush performed the exact same maneuver. You don’t think we should invade Iraq? Don’t you care about the gays? Don’t you care about the women? Don’t you care about democracy?


bianca steele 06.14.16 at 3:37 pm


From what I’ve read about Americans who’ve been radicalized, the idea that America is decadent played a large role in getting them to the point where they wanted to take violent action. This idea is shared by many groups, including religious reactionaries and groups that identify around “men’s rights,” both of which tend to be homophobic (and misogynist) and frequently racist. Which fight they join probably has to do with where they were radicalized, though sometimes maybe they go out and pick a group subsequent to radicalization.

This is exactly the kind of place where “America is too far left” is going to play badly, but that’s what they believe.


Cranky Observer 06.14.16 at 3:43 pm

“America has certainly had lots of hateful aggressive assholes before, but this is the first one to shoot down 50 people in a nightclub. ”

Over at LGM they’ve been cataloging instances of settlers, local governments, and/or military forces killing more than 50 Native Anericans at a time in cold blood (that is, not even in a formal battle). Now they’re moving in to African Anerican massacres post-Civil War. Quite a few over 50…


politicalfootball 06.14.16 at 3:49 pm

252: That’s not a question for Mateen, whose motives (I agree) weren’t limited to Islamic radicalism. That’s a question for ISIS itself, which was proud to associate itself with Mateen’s attack. What does ISIS have to gain from such action?

I agree with PGD that we ought not be reluctant to ponder the motives of terrorists. (Ze K can’t imagine why bin Laden might be interested in the outcome of the presidential race!) You’re really going to be lost if you can’t try to grasp the actual motives of the bad guys.

I truly admire Obama on this. He seems to have a genuine grip on what ISIS is up to.


bruce wilder 06.14.16 at 3:58 pm

I worry about Americans not being willing to grasp the consequences of the idiocy of our guys.

It is not like we had nothing to do with destroying Afganistan or Iraq and creating ISIS.

They wouldn’t be over here if we weren’t over there, to coin a phrase.


bruce wilder 06.14.16 at 4:10 pm

We have spent a trillion dollars and 15 years not winning a war in Afganistan, one of the poorest places on earth. We invaded and occupied Iraq, creating the conditions for ISIS.

We have spent secret billions on a surveillance state, but a madman “known to the FBI” buys an assault rifle and ammo and no one does anything.

You can fill in your own rant about various bits of incompetence and failure to perform, but when we try to make sense of an insane horror like this, it seems to me we ought to take notice.


engels 06.14.16 at 5:11 pm


William Timberman 06.14.16 at 5:12 pm

Yeah, but Hillary — she has experience. Comforting, no?

Given that the people who locked us in this madhouse remain in here with us, not taking notice isn’t really an option.


Ronan(rf) 06.14.16 at 6:00 pm

A few things:

(1) whether or not someone knows the difference between Isis, Hezbollah or al nusra isn’t a definitive data point against whether same person was radicalized into an extreme Islamic based ideology. Neither is the fact that they might not be great theologians or religiously sophisticated. Perhaps in some alternative universe the same person would have just been radicalized into some other extremist group, but we live in this universe so why not try and understand it on its own terms ? Can we move on from Fox news vs repetitive liberal talking points?

(2) There are a lot of homophobes out there. A lot of wife beaters and people with grievances. What you need to do is understand why some commit mass violence whereas others don’t.


(3) What radical jihadism does is offer a story for (primarily) a subset of young males who might be dissatisfied, feel out of place or persecuted. It allows them to make Sense of their grievances, gives them an ideology to justify violence, and a cause to kill and die for.

(4) what we see in the demographics who become radicalized is a mixed bag. They are not primarily mentally unstable (though perhaps in this case he was, for whatever definition of mentally unstable), they are not generally sophisticated religious scholars, they are not always people who are obviously impoverished or oppressed (though some are). They come from different socio economic, ethnic and educational backgrounds.

(5) Isis, among others, provides the narrative laid out in 3. They provide the story to give their lifes meaning, the ideology to justify violence, and the cause to die for. Would you, for example, look at the dyllan roof mass murder and say this has nothing to do with white supremacy, southern traditions of violence against blacks, or organisations and sites that roof frequented before the attack? He was simply mentally deranged/a bog standard racist/in another context he might have joined the Tamil tigers etc. Of course not, that would be idiotic.

“I taught in inner city London schools in the 1970s and the way that Pakistani kids were treated there was awful. ”

Right, but they didn’t blow up London in the 70s. The people who did were irish radicals. And the reasons they did it wasn’t reducible to their oppression or due to mental illness, but because they had a cause they believed in, an ideology that justified violence, and militant organisations to channel their frustrations.

Everyone who joined a militant org in NI didn’t have a sophisticated understanding of their groups political goals, but they were socialised into its aims and were tied into it through relationships to other militants, a larger community and an idealised in group under attack. *One* of the reasons (there are others) it developed in that specific part of the uk and not somewhere else, is because these traditions, ideologies and justifications for violence had more historical and political resonance in NI. This is the same, at the moment, for radical Islamist terrorism in the west. (Perhaps not to the same extent globally)

Ie all religions being patriarchal/potentially violent. Of course. But at this moment in time “Islam” is something of an outlier in reactionary political and social attitudes in the west, and there’s evidence that second generation immigrants (ie those born and brought up in the west rather than who.moved here) are developing more reactionary views than their parents. (Shadi hamid’s book “Islamic exceptionalism” has a decent overview of the evidence on this)

None of this means (1) I want to scapegoat Muslims (2) I think Islam is a monolith (3) I support a new war against terror (4) I support more extensive surveillance of Muslim communities (5) I want to restrict migration from Muslim majority countries etc.
But there are genuine questions over a divergence of social and political values between some Muslim communities and “the mainstream”, and the threat posed from radicalized groups and individuals.


bianca steele 06.14.16 at 6:18 pm


Do we really need to get into the generalities of all the different kinds of ideological and violent commitment here? It seems like a kind of voyeurism. Even if so, what are the odds Unionist or Repiblican


bianca steele 06.14.16 at 6:20 pm

sorry, Irish Republican ideology would be relevant to 21st century US residents? The structure of society and the relevant tensions are so different that I can’t begin to imagine how they’d map.


Ronan(rf) 06.14.16 at 6:28 pm

Bianca, I was using it as a comparison, at the end of a long comment with plenty of other points, in the context of the conversation on “radical Islamic terror” and Isis that had moved on from this specific shooting . If you actually read the comment it was specifically in response to a point made about the UK. I have no idea what your objection is as it’s obvious irish republicanism isn’t particularly relevant in this shooting.


bianca steele 06.14.16 at 7:04 pm


The fact is almost none of what you say seems relevant, though I agree that “he’s got the ideology wrong” is a waste of time. Lots of people mix and match theologies and ideologies and don’t turn into terrorists.

But the Internet makes an enormous difference in how people get radicalized and what groups they have access to, how they interact with those groups, etc. Plus, how many young American men (just restricting it to men for the time being) do you think are angry? I’d say quite a lot, and I’d guess a lot more than in Ireland (generally) or Australia. The trope of the young person with anger they can’t attach to anything objective, or to any ideology, is pretty old.

There’s an idea that “toxic masculinity” doesn’t come from traditional cultures (and thus is different from “patriarchy”) but from the absence of traditional culture: that you can’t radicalize someone who was raised traditionally. This is read as the reason the second generation is more radical. I think there’s some truth to this but it’s overblown: the fact is that toxic reaction is reaction, and it comes from a confrontation between an intense attachment to a perceived tradition and revulsion at a perceived lawlessness, and can borrow the rhetoric of pacific nostalgia. On the other hand, suggesting that an angry guy fits into all the other angry guy frameworks throughout history doesn’t seem helpful, either. There are both differences and similarities.

(And actually pro-IRA sentiment was pretty common in this part of the US, but separated from the community it was supposed to be defending, took some especially unsavory turns. It does seem plausible that pro-ISIS sentiment at a distance might have some similarities to that. But less so that an analysis of the IRA in Belfast would.)


Ronan(rf) 06.14.16 at 7:30 pm

Bianca, it’s relevant in so far as we know how international Islamist radicals try to racialise sympathisers in the west (online, through normalizing violence and extremist ideologies). It’s also relevant in so far as we know part of Isis strategy is to “inspire” these kinds of attacks and then take credit for them.
Are American men more angry ? Perhaps? But so what? That might mean they are more susceptible to a certain type of message, and might carry out an attack differently (ie because access to weapons) than a counterpart somewhere else would. But this is still an internationalized ideology/organisation, with similar goals across numerous different countries, so there are similarities in messaging, targets and organisation.

I know there are “both differences and similarities” but so what? What does that even mean beyond the trivial ? You initially pulled me up for “generalising” (while also, bizarrely, accusing me of voyeurism). Now after engaging in generalisations yourself you’re acknowledging there are differences *and* similarities? Well, I agree?
Yes the context is different with the paramilitaries in NI and these “lone wolf” shooters. I thought, riffing from Val, it might have enabled me to make the point I was getting at above a little clearer. It’s only muddied the waters though so ignore it.

“The trope of the young person with anger they can’t attach to anything objective, or to any ideology, is pretty old.”

I don’t know if this is the “trope” I’m working from. It’s more the argument put forward by people like Scott atran and Olivier Roy.

Nb: I’m not making any argument necessarily about this case specifically. We don’t know enough yet, and it’s a little off to play politics so soon after the attack. I’m making a more General point about the threat from radical Islamist terror , and this does (so far at least )seem to have some of the hallmarks of these attacks


bianca steele 06.14.16 at 8:11 pm


That’s true if he was really radicalized by Islamists. If he was just generally radicalized, or radicalized by people who played at being Islamists be had no connection to an international movement, or radicalized by people who made him aware of the importance of a Muslim background in his being alienated from society, what ISIS or whoever does in the radicalization process doesn’t seem to matter as much.

As to whether someone was angry first and radicalized afterward, it affects whether your story holds, the one where radicalization by being socialized into a community, is still relevant in this case.

And by “trope”, I mean that it’s a kind of meme used by people who’ve never read something by Atran or anyone similar and don’t ever intend to.

I think we probably agree on more than we disagree. I was objecting to what seemed to be your trying to fit this case into what you happen to know about, and making this into a discussion about that instead of the specific horrific case. To the extent Val is doing the same thing, I object to her doing it too.


Ronan(rf) 06.14.16 at 8:22 pm

Fair enough. I agree with you it might just be a homophobic and violent man who very loosely latched onto an Islamist identity to justify his violence. I do think that tends to be the fall back explanation whenever one of these or similar attacks happen (ie Paris), even when the answer is undoubtedly more complicated.( I really only interjected after engels cryptic comment at 260. )


bianca steele 06.14.16 at 9:00 pm

Not to beat a dead horse (and at the risk of putting those Billy Joel lyrics into my head), Masha Gessen wrote something that I think ties in pretty closely to what you’re saying, but is kind of the other side of the coin: that it isn’t reaction at all, or nostalgia, but an entirely imaginary fantasy. IOW, either it’s a real army or it’s all in the perp’s head. That seems like a vast chasm of a dichotomy to me.


Val 06.14.16 at 9:28 pm

Bianca and Ronan, I think the point I was making may have missed you both, sorry (I was making some different and unconnected points). In the Pakistani example, I was talking about why second generation immigrants may become angry, and why Trump’s behaviour in stigmatising whole groups is so dangerous.

The London bombings in 2005, which also killed about 52 people, were carried out by four men ranging from 18-30. Wikipedia describes them as Islamic separatists. Three were sons of Pakistani immigrants. The children I taught in the 70s would have been around 40 by 2005, so somewhat older, but I’m assuming those bombers may have had similar experiences. At the inner north London school I taught at, ‘Paki’ children were a small minority (unlike say West Indians, who were 30-40% of kids) and were absolutely bottom of the heap, treated with overt contempt. I am suggesting such experiences may contribute to second generation anger. Of course there are many other factors about the immigrant experience that may also contribute to anger and radicalisation, I won’t go into this any further here.

The point is that stigmatising immigrant groups, in the way Trump does, presumably feeds into anger and alienation (as well as fear) in those groups, and also makes them more likely to experience everyday racism, for example in schools or public places. I don’t think that’s particularly controversial.


Val 06.14.16 at 9:42 pm

And btw, I recognise that this case is very different, because of the shooter targeting gay people. The reason I got onto the issue of Trump stigmatising immigrant groups was because this is a thread about Trump originally, but happy to let that go now.

Also on the subject of religion, Ronan, I didn’t say all religions were patriarchal and homophobic, I said the three main (recent) monotheistic religions were. It’s important historically.

I also read a Facebook meme yesterday that said ‘homophobia’ was a misleading word, because people who hate gays aren’t irrationally scared, they’re just arseholes. Obviously it’s a simplification, and the self- and other-hating fear of being gay that RNB is talking about has some meaning in particular, but I think there’s some truth in it.


Layman 06.14.16 at 9:42 pm

As I recall, a man once shot the President and then said he did it for Jodie Foster. Now, it could be that he was radicalized by Foster, or it could be that he was going to do something like what he did eventually, whether or not Foster even existed. I know which seems more likely to me, absent any evidence of communication and direction from Foster on the matter.


novakant 06.14.16 at 10:04 pm

Well, about a generation ago – people now in their 70s and up – almost everybody was pretty homophobic and true equality before the law is only a very recent phenomenon. So I’m not sure if vilifying religion is the way forward, especially since e.g. the Protestant church in Germany has recently proven to be perfectly compatible with homosexuality and London elected a mayor with a conservative Muslim background who nevertheless embraces gay marriage. Homophobia often has other, deeper roots.


Val 06.14.16 at 10:12 pm

I’m not trying to vilify religion, novakant, just talking as a historian. The historical evidence that Judaism, Christianity and Islam were patriarchal and homophobic doesn’t mean they have to remain that way or that all their current followers are that way.


Ronan(rf) 06.14.16 at 10:13 pm

Val, I got what you were saying, I just don’t find it overly convincing because (1) if stigmatisation is so widespread, how can it explain such a rare occurrence ie terrorist violence (2) the sorts of people who become radicalized seem to be a pretty mixed bag, in terms of age, background, socio economic position etc. The life experiences seem to vary quite broadly. But I take your point.
I agree feeling like an outsider(whether caught between their parents traditional culture and values and the more liberal one they’re growing up in, or by facing racism and discrimination) can be an important part of radicalisation. I just think it’s overplayed. (Scott atran claims that one of the best predictors of who will become radicalized is the company they keep. Close friends radicalizing each other in small groups, ie football teams, neighbourhood groups etc). That obviously doesn’t rule out stigmatisation as a collective grievance, so I wouldn’t really argue against your point too strongly.


Plume 06.14.16 at 10:38 pm

New information keeps reshaping the narrative. But, right now, it looks like this is a case of a deeply conflicted, self-hating man, in denial about his sexuality, likely surrounded by all kinds of horrible messages about the supposedly “sinful” nature of same-sex desire. Apparently, he went to Pulse on several occasions before the massacre. More people are speaking out about seeing him there, even speaking with him, long before it. And he allegedly used apps designed for same-sex dating.

To me, this shouldn’t be called “terrorism” at all, much less “Islamic Terrorism.” Trump is his usual ignorant, moronic self on this issue. Terrorism assumes a political rationale, a motive of effecting some political agenda/change. None was remotely accomplished in Orlando. This looks far more like a profoundly disturbed human being, who finally snapped, with a mix of hatred toward others and (most importantly) himself. Our society’s insane worship of guns, its glorification of gun culture, and its refusal to do anything to prevent easy access to high-capacity weapons, weaponized his hate. In a sense, it put the weapon of mass destruction in his hands for him — it’s that easy these days.

It’s basically irrelevant what we call this, in light of such a tragedy. It really doesn’t matter. But if anything fits, it’s “mass shooter.” And I don’t think his religion had anything to do with this, either, other than the usual ultra-conservative messages about “sin” and sexuality, which the three monotheisms of the Levant share. No “Christian” should feel a sense of superiority in this case. Their bible is every bit as ultra-reactionary on the subject, to monstrous effect.


politicalfootball 06.14.16 at 11:05 pm

Layman @274. The differing reactions of Foster and Isis seem relevant here.


js. 06.14.16 at 11:38 pm

Some people here seem to be arguing as if people other than Muslims (nominal or otherwise) are never responsible for mass shootings/mass killings. Meanwhile—and leaving aside Cranky Observer’s historical point—here in this country (the US) motherfuckers go on murdering rampages with an utterly depressing regularity. And they claim inspiration from everything from ISIS to some neo-Confederate/neo-fascist fantasy to MRA websites and fora. And whether someone screams “ISIS!” or “I’m an incel!” five seconds before going out in a fucking blaze of glory seems to me not all that relevant. Alternatively, maybe we should start classifying MRA websites as national security threats.

As for ISIS happily claiming responsibility. Well, of course! That’s their entire MO. Why everyone else is so ready to oblige them is less clear.


Suzanne 06.14.16 at 11:56 pm

@247: Trump doesn’t want to help anybody, although I doubt he has anything against gays personally. The “Muslims hate gays” cudgel has now been taken up by people who care very little for gays, but at present find it to be useful for beating up on Muslims.


LFC 06.15.16 at 12:14 am

Obama’s statement today — part of a longer speech — in which he explained why he doesn’t use the phrase ‘radical Islam’ w.r.t ISIS, and why the Trump/Repub talking point on this is counterproductive nonsense, was quite good.


LFC 06.15.16 at 12:24 am

p.s. At the same time Obama made clear that, in his view, there is such a thing as ‘radicalization/inspiration via internet’ — the point was rather that the label ‘radical Islam’ plays into ISIS’s hands by reinforcing their desired narrative of ‘West v. Islam’. This is actually one of the few things GW Bush got right when he insisted (after 9/11 and subsequently) that lumping all Muslims together and demonizing an entire religion was wrong and counterproductive.

The attempt, by implication or otherwise, to blame the religion and all its adherents is something that not only Trump and his followers, but (at least supposedly) more intellectual voices, like Aayan Hirsi Ali (sorry for probable misspelling), have pushed. But it does seem to me v. counterproductive.


Lupita 06.15.16 at 1:04 am

The problem with viewing all types of violence committed by Muslims as caused by a mysterious process called “radicalization”, which has yet to be described but appears to be a series of thoughts that can be countered by some sort of mixture of cognitive rehabilitation, respect, tolerance, a job, and love, is that it depoliticizes a phenomenon that could well be labeled the World Civil War I.

I don’t think that the psychology of those who join WCW I, are inspired by it, support it, befriend it as someone on Facebook, or invoke it when committing mass murder, is of any particular importance, as neither is the psychology of those who join a drug cartel or volunteered to invade Iraq. Let’s just agree it’s macho and, given the opportunity of war and violence, there will always be participants.

What I consider pertinent is that the West colonized, illegitimately deposed legitimate leaders, bombed, and occupied Muslim countries, that there is now a reaction by Islamists, (what did people expect, Guadalupanos?), and it has turned violent. Now what?


bruce wilder 06.15.16 at 1:14 am

Yes, Lupita.

Whatever the mysterious psychology of this particular murderer, we need to look to the politics of our own chosen views. Not to lock ourselves into an imagined struggle, but to see plainly the actual, on-going war.


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 1:16 am

Don’t mention the war.


Layman 06.15.16 at 2:11 am

politicalfootball: “The differing reactions of Foster and Isis seem relevant here.”

How, or why?


js. 06.15.16 at 2:21 am

One other thing: It actually matters if Mateen couldn’t tell the difference between ISIS and Hezbollah (etc.). Ronan makes a fair point that you wouldn’t expect or require every adherent of a movement to have a sophisticated grasp of the movement’s ideology, methods, etc. But you need *some* grasp of what the group is about; e.g., you should be able to distinguish it from its sworn enemies. I mean, if I swore allegiance to ETA, LTTE, and Shining Path* all at once, that wouldn’t make me a “separatist”. It would make me an incoherent idiot.

*I know, I know. I needed three and couldn’t think of a suitable third instance.


LFC 06.15.16 at 2:36 am

Lupita @284
What I consider pertinent is that the West colonized, illegitimately deposed legitimate leaders, bombed, and occupied Muslim countries

There are a lot of pertinent things; this is one set of pertinent considerations, but far from the only one.

The original movements for liberation from colonial rule in many Muslim countries were largely secularist and radical-nationalist, not Islamist. And most of these countries have been formally independent for decades. One has to look at particular histories, which are complicated, and I don’t think homogenizing everything into something labeled ‘World Civil War 1’ is either esp. useful or esp. accurate.

As for the psychology of those who commit particular acts of violence, that wd seem to be of some importance — along w other things — if one is interested in reducing their incidence. (None of this is to excuse the West’s various crimes and blunders in its historical relations w the Muslim world, or some of what has been done more recently, but the question is what to do from now on.)

Given the ideology and modus operandi of ISIS in particular — and granting the role of the misconceived invasion of Iraq in setting the stage for its emergence — it’s not easy to see what alternative there is, again w/r/t ISIS in particular, to a policy of clear opposition.


politicalfootball 06.15.16 at 2:42 am

How, or why?

I took your original point to be that John Hinckley Jr. was basically a nut, and the fact that he attributed his crime to Jodie Foster didn’t reflect on Jodie Foster (or Hinckley’s actual motives) in any sensible way.

My point about Mateen is that, whatever his other issues, he correctly understood himself to be serving the goals of Isis.


LFC 06.15.16 at 2:49 am

p.s. my comment @289 is not meant to be a comment spec. on Mateen or his crime, but a more general response to Lupita’s comment.


Lupita 06.15.16 at 4:11 am


I don’t think homogenizing everything into something labeled ‘World Civil War 1’ is either esp. useful or esp. accurate.

If it is accurate to talk of the US being the sole superpower, then a global ideology that rejects Western liberal democracy, that is fighting on several fronts, and uses 21st century guerrilla tactics (terrorism), could indeed be called the first global civil war.

Given the ideology and modus operandi of ISIS in particular — and granting the role of the misconceived invasion of Iraq in setting the stage for its emergence — it’s not easy to see what alternative there is, again w/r/t ISIS in particular, to a policy of clear opposition.

This is where viewing Islamism as a civil war against Western hegemony may prove useful. This is what countries with internal violent opposition (a guerrilla) do:

1) The initial reaction is usually bombing, torture, and death squads but, this being the 21st century with recording cell phones, YouTube, and Twitter, it creates a backlash.
2) Amnesty International and the Red Cross write reports and provincial governors, academics, and celebrities mumble about freedom, justice, inequality, discrimination, or whatever.
3) The State begins to lose moral authority and legitimacy, realizes it cannot win, and negotiates.

This is more or less what happened with the Zapatistas. The violence has more or less ceased and the Zapatistas are more ore less autonomous.

The sole superpower is currently halfway through point three.


RNB 06.15.16 at 6:48 am

Trump said on Hannity that American Muslims do not assimilate even after two or three generations.


RNB 06.15.16 at 7:07 am

along the same lines of what js has said


Ronan(rf) 06.15.16 at 7:43 am

Now that I think about it, I kind of wish Jodie foster did take credit for the attempted assassination of Reagan


engels 06.15.16 at 9:30 am

Hillary Clinton on Monday said the “mind numbingly familiar” attack at an Orlando nightclub makes clear the U.S. “must defeat” ISIS and proposed beefing up intelligence gathering tools to help better identify lone wolf attackers. “The Orlando terrorist may be dead. But the virus that poisoned his mind is very much alive,” Clinton said at an event in Cleveland. A gunman killed 49 people at a gay club in Orlando early Sunday before being killed in a shootout with police. The attacker, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, had sworn allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call shortly before the attack, according to law enforcement. Mateen had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, but he was not under surveillance when he carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. “The attack in Orlando makes it all the more clear, we cannot contain this threat, we must defeat it,” Clinton said


engels 06.15.16 at 9:42 am


I have no doubt — I have no doubt we can meet this challenge if we meet it together. Whatever we learn about this killer, his motives in the days ahead, we know already the barbarity that we face from radical jihadists is profound. In the Middle East, ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities. They are slaughtering Muslims who refuse to accept their medieval ways. They are beheading civilians, including executing LGBT people. They are murdering Americans and Europeans, enslaving, torturing and raping women and girls. In speeches like this one, after Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino, I have laid out a plan to defeat ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups in the region and beyond. The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear, we cannot contain this threat. We must defeat it. And the good news is that the coalition effort in Syria and Iraq has made recent gains in the last months….


PGD 06.15.16 at 10:18 am

Lupita nails it @284. This is obviously connected to the worldwide Jihadist movement. The attempt to use some preferred domestic political cause (gay rights! gun control!) as an excuse to ignore that connection is not going to be convincing to anybody outside of some internet ideological bubble. The general public sees somebody who has been talking about jihad in various contexts for years, triggering multiple FBI investigations, and assured everyone that he is committing jihad as he kills his victims. Mateen himself was a deeply disturbed guy who would have had some criminal behavior in his life regardless, but the form and intensity of his violence was pretty clearly shaped by the political context of being a Muslim of Afghan background.

What I find most disturbing about the attempt on the left to deny the connection is that it indicates that there is no desire or willingness to push back against the rising tide of violent US imperialism abroad and the way it feeds violence here. It ought to be obvious that wrecking nations and fomenting civil war abroad will make it harder to maintain an open society here. We will pay and are paying a domestic price for our stupidity abroad. In the context of aggressive US imperialism Trump’s proposals on immigration are going to sound at least as sensible as Hillary’s apparent desire to double down on the ultraviolence abroad while taking in more immigrants or refugees from the smoking ruins left in the wake of that violence. Somebody needs to question the violence itself. Mechanically repeating ‘sexism-racism-homophobia-gun control!’ every time something happens is not a coherent political response to what is happening in this country.

Unfortunately, the political task is made far more difficult than it was fifteen years ago by the nihilistic violence our actions have unleashed, violence that is properly viewed as evil in itself. It’s hard to look at the blowback we are experiencing and see a clear path to e.g. negotiations or the like. But we at least need to see that we are in a hole and that it is imperative to stop digging.


PGD 06.15.16 at 10:27 am

Quote from a survivor of Matteen’s attack, from WaPo article:

“We heard him talking to 911 saying the reason why he’s doing this is because he wants Americans to stop bombing his country,” said Patience Carter, a survivor of Sunday’s shootings.


engels 06.15.16 at 10:37 am

it indicates that there is no desire or willingness to push back against the rising tide of violent US imperialism abroad

That is unbelievably idiotic


PGD 06.15.16 at 10:58 am

Try making an actual logical argument instead of spewing invective. Someone might suspect you have nothing to say.


Collin Street 06.15.16 at 11:35 am

Trump said on Hannity that American Muslims do not assimilate even after two or three generations.

They said the same thing about the jews, of course.

[but seriously… what sort of mental defects do you have that people with a different culture to you are such an affront or a mental challenge that you want them far away in otherplacia where you don’t have to think about them or even acknowledge their existence? Even at the most charitable, “assimilation” seems like a pointless thing to wish for.]


engels 06.15.16 at 11:56 am

Dumpf: this was obviously an act of WAR we need to ramp up the WAR between Islam and US
Shillary: it was an act of WAR we need to ramp up the WAR between radical Islam and US (#NotAllMuslims)
Radical US Internet people: an act of WAR we need to ramp up the (heroic) WAR (of liberation) between Islam and US (empire) and anyone who disagrees with me (re mentally disturbed homophobic mass-murderer’s psychology) is a pussy


Layman 06.15.16 at 12:06 pm

politicalfootball: “My point about Mateen is that, whatever his other issues, he correctly understood himself to be serving the goals of Isis.”

This may turn out to be the case, but thus far it isn’t clear he even knew what ISIS is. Sure, he saw them on the TV, knew they killed people for Islam, pointed to them when he did the same. If his connection with ISIS is not substantially greater than that, then the reaction – ISIS is coming! – is just more pants-wetting of the kind we don’t need.


Lynne 06.15.16 at 12:08 pm

From outside the US, *how* this crime was committed is really, really important. It’s the guns, people. However angry a man might be, and however full of hate (and please, let’s not define anger and hatred and violence as mental illnesses) he can do much less damage if he can’t get hold of a gun. Especially a machine gun.


Layman 06.15.16 at 12:10 pm

PGD: “What I find most disturbing about the attempt on the left to deny the connection is that it indicates that there is no desire or willingness to push back against the rising tide of violent US imperialism abroad and the way it feeds violence here. ”

I second engels’ notion that this is idiotic. Why would ‘denying the connection’ necessarily have any impact at all on ‘desire or willingness to push back etc’?


Layman 06.15.16 at 12:19 pm

“It’s the guns, people. ”

Yes, of course, it is the guns. Absent easy access to guns, this attack doesn’t happen. Sure, it happened in Paris, but only through a complicated scheme to smuggle guns overland from a war zone where they were readily available to a target where they were not; which scheme necessarily requires many people, communications, infrastructure, all of which are detectable by intelligence and / or law enforcement.

Here, it’s easy, because anyone can buy the guns, anywhere. It will keep happening, as long as it’s easy to get the guns, and regardless of the motivation claimed by the perpetrators. Even if we destroy ISIS, it will keep happening. They’ll just cite Jodie Foster, or the constitution, or the Symbionese Liberation Army, or ennui.


Donald 06.15.16 at 12:30 pm

PGD overstates it, but for some centrist libs as well as conservatives there is a desire to deny any connection between terrorism here and our bombing overseas. Whether that is happening in this case I don’t know– I haven’t been paying close attention to the various forms of posturing.


bianca steele 06.15.16 at 12:40 pm

I don’t think either Iris or Holden has properly taken responsibility for the consequences of their actions.


politicalfootball 06.15.16 at 1:10 pm

ISIS is coming! – is just more pants-wetting of the kind we don’t need.

Well, sure. I think PGD has the wrong read on this. The political choice that PGD proposes – playing up the connection of Mateen to ISIS – plays fast and loose with the facts and politically plays into the hands of Trump. If Americans are going to be convinced to stop solving problems with violence, it’s not going to be done in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that is attributed solely to people we ought not be dropping bombs on.

And emphasizing Mateen’s (so far, seemingly minimal) connection to ISIS also takes attention away from the other problems exposed by the shootings: Most obviously, easy access to guns and American homophobia.


Z 06.15.16 at 1:24 pm

From outside the US, *how* this crime was committed is really, really important. It’s the guns, people.

An eye-catching factoid in that respect: apparently, the number of casualties in Orlando is comparable to the number of people yearly killed in the US each year by… children under 3. So yeah, ideology is not nothing, but when toddlers are as deadly as Daech, you have a problem.


Collin Street 06.15.16 at 1:34 pm

If Americans are going to be convinced to stop solving problems with violence, it’s not going to be done in the aftermath of a terrorist attack

Terribly ironic, really, given that terror is itself an attempt to solve problems with violence and what you just wrote demonstrates exactly why it doesn’t work; if violence worked, it’d work both ways.


engels 06.15.16 at 1:40 pm

It is possible to address the wider context of prejudice and mental illness without discussing the murder in a nightclub of 20 gay men by an abusive and disturbed American citizen as ’21st century guerilla tactics’ in a ‘global civil war’ between the US empire and its subject peoples…


kidneystones 06.15.16 at 1:43 pm

Timothy McVeigh Truck Bomb – 76 deaths – Pulse Night Club Rifle – 51.

Most read at RCP at the moment. I’m generally pleased to live among people who don’t own guns. High number of gun owners suggest to me a high number of people who see weapons as problem solving tools.

However, for the dedicated maniac determined to take life, the legality and the easy availability of guns seems not to be a problem. The critical factor is wanting to kill a large number of people. One of the most horrific cases in Japan involved a lunatic who climbed over a kindergarten wall with a knife and slaughtered a number of children and adults. Indeed, the cited article breaks down the number of people killed in the US by rifles versus knives. Three guesses which weapon kills more people.

The horrific rate of gun deaths in Chicago, a ‘gun-free’ city confirms that banning guns doesn’t mean much to those willing to kill people, whether with guns, or other weapons.

This unhappy marriage, it seems, of homophobia, self-loathing, parental tensions (his Dad seems a loon) and anti-gay religious dogma produced a great deal of suffering and far t00 much (already) political posturing. The murder rate in Chicago is set to double this year and a far greater number of Americans there are going to die to the concern of practically nobody. Couldn’t be because the victims are primarily black and poor, of course in a city controlled by Democrats.

Whatever the solution may be banning guns hasn’t helped the victims of gun violence in Chicago one bit. Nor will the banning of guns stop a maniac determined to take life. Check out the article – many others are. Makes for interesting reading.


Lynne 06.15.16 at 1:58 pm

When the Orlando shooting happened, it was the 133rd mass shooting in the US *this year.*


LFC 06.15.16 at 2:07 pm

PGD @298

Starting at the end w the reference to ‘negotiations’:

One should draw a distinction betw, for ex., the Afghan Taliban on one hand and ISIS on the other. Negotiations w/ the Taliban to end the Afghan war, possibly via some kind of regional autonomy or power-sharing arrangement, are within the realm of conceivability; though efforts at negotiation so far haven’t yielded any results to speak of, they are still worth pursuing. The Afghan Taliban want to run all of (or, failing that, parts of) Afghanistan but they have no interest, at least afaik, in extending their control beyond the borders of Afghanistan (though they have benefited from the ill-controlled borders betw Pakistan and Afghanistan and the longstanding tacit or not-so-tacit support from elements of the Pakistani mil and intel services).

By contrast, ISIS poses a challenge not only to particular govts and regimes but to the state system, or, to use a phrase w somewhat diff connotations, the society of states. In this particular respect, ISIS is like al-Qaeda, though arguably even moreso.

I don’t see what basis there is for negotiations w ISIS. One could say: yes, you can have your caliphate within which you are free to enslave, engage in religious and ethnic ‘cleansing’, install a horribly oppressive form of theocracy, etc. That would not be a negotiation, however, but a capitulation, and one which its regional opponents, incl the govts of Iraq and Iran, would never agree to — even if the U.S. and allies were to withdraw completely from the region tomorrow.

If there is a relevant civil war here, it is not a ‘World Civil War’ per Lupita but a civil war w/in the Muslim world itself, or perhaps multiple civil wars. Claiming that this was all caused by “US imperialism” is wrong. The ’03 invasion of Iraq was v. stupid and caused a lot of bad consequences, but there is some reason to suppose that some of the upheavals in the region, incl the 2011 abortive revolutions (the ‘Arab spring’) and the Syrian civil war, would have happened if the invasion of Iraq had never occurred. Can’t re-run history, but it seems plausible.

More to the point and unfortunately, it is not possible to turn the clock back to February 2003. The invasion of Iraq happened. The consequences (incl. the growth of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq and subsequent rise of ISIS) happened. So one has to deal w the situation as it presents itself now, which is one in where there are no good policy options, only ‘less bad’ ones, and I don’t think acquiescing to the establishment of ISIS’s ‘state’, and what that would entail, is the answer.


LFC 06.15.16 at 2:14 pm

Or take the civil war in Yemen, and the regional competition betw Saudi Arabia and Iran to which it is connected. Hard to put all of that at the doorstep of ‘US imperialism’.


Layman 06.15.16 at 2:16 pm

“Whatever the solution may be banning guns hasn’t helped the victims of gun violence in Chicago one bit.”

…probably because guns are not banned in Chicago, or in any city in the U.S.

“Indeed, the cited article breaks down the number of people killed in the US by rifles versus knives. Three guesses which weapon kills more people.”

Indeed, if the question is the utility of rifles, or any guns, vs knives in mass killings, using the statistics for ALL killings, rather than for mass killings, seems odd.


kidneystones 06.15.16 at 2:28 pm

133 mass shootings in 2016!!!!!! Horrific fucking …. abuse of statistics, and no wonder nobody takes gun safety advocates seriously. For example: there were 5 ‘mass shootings’ from May 29th to May 31st alone.

How can we be unaware of these 5 mass shooting, given the implied horrific death toll? Perhaps because the 133 mass shootings have devised metrics paper over the fact that the total number of deaths in the 5 horrific mass shootings is exactly – zero.


RNB 06.15.16 at 2:37 pm

@316 is a dose of reality. A very important post. LFC may know that some of the Sanders supporters are angrier at HRC for saying that she would continue the fight against ISIS than they are at Trump for his call for a Muslim ban. They are not criticizing Clinton for a reluctance to cooperate with the Kurds or Iran in the fight against ISIS or prioritizing the overthrow of Assad to the fight against ISIS; some of them are just angry for her willingness to continue military actions against ISIS and have given her the sobriquet Killary. Some of the criticism of Hillary coming from people who think they are far left is unhinged.


kidneystones 06.15.16 at 2:50 pm

@ 318. Fair enough. Chicago’s ‘efforts to restrict and control’ gun ownership.

Nice try switching metrics to ‘utility’ rather than ease of access and the more important total number of deaths. You could be spinning for the gunviolencearchive, where the murder of 51 by 1 in Florida carries less statistical weight than the murder of nobody five times.

Dead is dead and those who died and their families deserve something better than cynics planting flags in the corpses. But, twas ever thus.


LFC 06.15.16 at 2:56 pm

RNB @320: thanks. I haven’t been following the specific criticisms of HRC on this. In the end I think most (not all, but most) of the Sanders people will vote for her — I guess we’ll see soon enough.


bob mcmanus 06.15.16 at 3:00 pm

317: Time Online US Arm Sales Spike in 2014

“The United States remains the world’s preeminent exporter of arms, with more than 50 percent of the global weaponry market controlled by the United States as of 2014.”


Layman 06.15.16 at 3:15 pm

kidneystones: “Nice try switching metrics to ‘utility’ rather than ease of access and the more important total number of deaths.”

This is pretty weak tea, considering that your entire post @314 is irrelevant to the question of whether easy access to guns makes mass killings more likely; as is the argument to which you linked. If you want to compare the rate of mass killings to places where guns were not readily available, there’s a whole world out there, and you would not choose Chicago. On the other hand, if you wanted to make the case that other things are more dangerous than guns, you would not compare to knives, you would compare to cars. On yet another hand (are you counting?), if you want to make the comparison to McVeigh and car bombs, you would be forced to acknowledge that the US now tracks the sale of all bomb-making materials, restricts the sale of much if it, and investigates those purchases that seem suspicious; and wonder if that doesn’t suggest a solution to the problem of easy access to guns.

Finally, you’re ignorant as to what makes military-style weapons functional to their purpose, and it is not by and large the automatic fire rate(*). It is, instead, things like large magazines (which enhance the ‘combat effectiveness’ of the user), and pistol grips (which enhance the accuracy of the weapon in high-intensity action immensely), and flash suppressors (which make it hard to locate the shooter). And any fool (except you, apparently!) knows that a folding stock- originally invented for use by airborne forces – makes it easier to conceal the weapon, which is why it is objectionable for civilian use.

* Indeed, soldiers are trained not to use full automatic fire, except for the purpose of blind fire suppression, because most soldiers cannot reliably hit a barn on full automatic fire. There is a reason machine guns have structural supports and constraints, like bipeds, traversing locks, etc.


Lupita 06.15.16 at 3:44 pm

Dear Engels,

I was not discussing the nightclub mass murder. I was discussing Islamism. Chill.


engels 06.15.16 at 3:53 pm

Dear Lupita,

I wasn’t responding to PGD’s citation of your comment:

Lupita nails it @284. This is obviously connected to the worldwide Jihadist movement

If that wasn’t your intended meaning, you should take that up with him not me.


engels 06.15.16 at 3:54 pm

_was_ responding


Lupita 06.15.16 at 4:06 pm


Negotiations w/ the Taliban to end the Afghan war

ISIS poses a challenge not only to particular govts and regimes but to the state system

Claiming that this was all caused by “US imperialism” is wrong

I see a contradiction between the two first statements and the last. How is it that the US determines whether to continue or end war in Afghanistan, whether to negotiate or not, and whether Daesh poses a challenge to the world system or not, and what to do about it, and yet, to not recognize that the global system is managed from Washington and that the fates of nations are determined by “the most powerful person on Earth”? Of course not everything is caused by US imperialism, but if the US continues pursuing its sole superpower agenda, then it is only natural that world events are analyzed in this context.

That would not be a negotiation, however, but a capitulation

Capitulation of what? Supremacy? Your whole argument takes for granted that the US rules the world.


engels 06.15.16 at 4:35 pm

I was wondering how quickly this thread would polarise between ‘thank God we have Hillary to defend us’ and ‘chickens coming home to roost’…


Val 06.15.16 at 4:35 pm

Further to what Layman said @325, both Kidneystones and the article he linked to in 314 are using statistics misleadingly. What the statistics linked in the article show is that the number of murders in the US declined by 17% between 2003 and 2014, but the proportion committed using firearms remained the same (about 2/3). The number committed using rifles appears to have declined by 36% but this figure should not be relied on, as the number of firearms where the type is not stated has increased a lot – by 864 or 80%.

The point about the semi-automatic weapons is of course that one person cannot shoot such a large number of people so rapidly without a gun that will fire very rapidly. That is why gun control laws were introduced in Australia following the Port Arthur shooting where 35 people were killed.

Regarding the mass shootings mentioned by Lynne, in spite of suggesting that Lynne and/or the gun violence archive are committing “horrific fucking … abuse of statistics”, it is again Kidneystones who is using statistics misleadingly. He selects one short period in 2016 in which there were five shootings with no fatalities, and uses that to suggest that the whole archive is misleading. To believe that, one presumably has to believe that being shot at and injured, rather than killed, is unimportant, and that the approximately 160 people who have been killed in mass shootings in 2016, in addition to the Orlando victims, are also unimportant.


js. 06.15.16 at 5:23 pm

connection between terrorism here and our bombing overseas.

This is undoubtedly a thing, and it is a thing it would be good to try to understand. Whether something called “radical Islam” helps or hinders understanding is a separate question.


bruce wilder 06.15.16 at 5:37 pm

engels @ 330

Is anyone commenting here “thankful” to hear Clinton bluster?

I would think even her partisans would shudder a bit.

LFC @ 316 illustrates the quicksand of “there is no alternative”.

Whether the U.S. should or should not intervene has become secondary to the problems caused by the degeneracy of American power. The U.S. is not acting from a coherent set of purposes and interests of its own in any of these countries. Military impotence and self-imposed lack of moral integrity are different aspects of the same problem: expedience without a considered purpose. The palsy of American policy serves to amplify the chaos.

There is no set of distinctions between local groups that can rescue American policy in Syria or the Arabian peninsula or Iraq or Afganistan or Libya from its own incoherence. No mythical set of moderates can be conjured from the dust that will make the umpteenth iteration of train and equip an effective tactic for a strategy empty of moral or practical purpose.

When the U.S. decided to invade Iraq based on lies and let its reconstruction program become a exercise in looting, when the need to understand became a need to torture prisoners, the U.S. lost its capacity to conduct a foreign policy. No one can negotiate with that kind of craziness.

Clinton is campaigning on the basis of compounding the stupidity. But, this is a political dynamic deeper than personality, because at base, it is denying, doubling down on elite betrayal and incompetence.


LFC 06.15.16 at 6:10 pm

bruce wilder @333

So your prescription presumably would be to immediately end all U.S. operations in support of the Iraqi army and other forces opposing ISIS, and if ISIS ends up regaining the territory it has lost over the past year and proceeds to wipe out particular civilian populations whom it dislikes, such as the Yazidis for ex., well, so be it. Btw the number of Iraqis who fled Mosul and other places to avoid having to live under ISIS rule there speaks for itself as to how most Iraqis saw the prospect.

On one hand Lupita @329 faults the U.S. for pursuing its “sole superpower agenda” while b.w. on the other hand asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq and torture of prisoners etc. resulted in the loss of the U.S.’s “capacity to conduct a foreign policy.”

The last phrase sounds impressive but on scrutiny makes, to me at least, little sense. No “capacity to conduct a foreign policy,” a “strategy empty of moral and practical purpose,” “elite betrayal and incompetence” are nice-sounding phrases, but not a substitute for actual analysis, imo.


Layman 06.15.16 at 6:49 pm

“So your prescription presumably would be to immediately end all U.S. operations in support of the Iraqi army and other forces opposing ISIS…”

This is a good idea! We could combine it with ‘get the fuck out of Afghanistan and stop blowing up wedding parties, etc, by remote control’. Where can I vote for this?


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 6:50 pm

Simply extending the air campaign, without any robust effort to follow up and oust ISIS from Iraq, seems to me the worst option. This strategy is straight from the ‘well we have to do something’ school of foreign policy, but I have never heard a coherent case for how this ‘something’ translates into strategic victory. (This excludes close air support for the Kurds, who have a functional society and held territory that can be supported, and for whom close air support provides a unique compliment to their fairly robust military capacity on the ground).

If bombing is unable to actually achieve the successful outcome that we desire (again, I have not seen the case that it can, but am open to that argument), continued air strikes will serve to 1) attract the ire of ISIS against the US and US targets, hurting our security; & 2) will empower the more militant elements within ISIS itself, who can use US strikes as ‘proof’ of their ideology and a rallying cry for their war. As I see it, the air campaign is actively detrimental to US interests in the region, provided that you exclude the profit margins of US arms manufacturers from your definition of US interest.

If the US were to be serious about ousting ISIS, we would need to stage a full ground invasion, and be prepared to leave troops in for a series of years, following up with a Marshall Plan style reconstruction effort. The success of this sort of strategy presumes the competence and right-intentions of the relevant actors, elements which also may be reasonably doubted given our recent history.

‘Bad things are happening’ only naturally prescribes action on our part under the assumption that US intervention cannot make things worse.


engels 06.15.16 at 6:59 pm

I would think even her partisans would shudder a bit.

I would hope so but there’s little sign if it if so—perhaps they’re just good at hiding it.


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 7:36 pm

Ze K – “ISIS and similar Sunni forces in the region are a US-sponsored project”

There is something to this, but as phrased I do not think it is accurate. I think your statement only works if you accept a transitive property of sponsorship (that sponsored by whom we sponsor is therefore sponsored by us), and/or define sponsor to include unintentional (but arguably predictable) effects of one’s action.

Certainly, American support for Saudi Arabia, and US opposition to Assad, serve as major barriers to ‘the US being serious about ousting ISIS’ in any coherent way. But unless you know something I do not (if so please share), your comment oversteps what we (laypeople) can conclude from the record.


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 7:49 pm


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 8:14 pm

Ze K
That is presuming much more continuity along the mujaheddeen -> Al-Q -> ISIS trajectory that I think is reasonable.

ISIS is more directly a descendant of the Islamic State of Iraq, which arises during the Iraq War (post-Fallujah, pre-surge, in reaction to the political consolidation by Iraqi Shia in 2005 & 2006). There is a long period of time in which US forces and early-ISIS were in direct and heavy conflict – your comment completely elides this history.

This is not to say that there have not been times when US action has quite knowingly supplied weapons and resources to forces allied/congruent with ISIS. But again, your version involves quite a stretch from what the record tells us.


LFC 06.15.16 at 8:47 pm

JeffreyG @336
The strategy as I understand it is air strikes coupled w advice/training and logistical support for the Iraqi army and certain forces in Syria; also insertion of relatively small numbers of special-ops forces. I don’t know whether this will lead to the desired outcome and don’t follow the sit. w/ minutely close attention. ISIS apparently has lost a lot of ground in the past year or so. OTOH I am fairly certain that the air strikes have caused more civilian casualties than the Pentagon admits to (anecdotally e.g. there was a wrenching piece in WaPo about civilian casualties from a 2015 mistaken strike on two cars near a checkpt outside Mosul) and I’ve read a Nation piece from last summer, I think it was, marshalling some independently collected data showing considerably more civilian casualties than the Pentagon’s figure, which (something like 40 total in the whole campaign) is almost unbelievable on its face. So I think that is a real concern and it’s one of those situations where the balance of harms to civilians from different approaches (current one vs. doing nothing) is hard to weigh.

As for a full ground invasion etc., even if one thought that necessary or desirable (which I don’t), it’s not politically feasible.

Btw, Peter T., who has followed the situation more closely than I have, wrote this last October:

I used to work as an intelligence analyst, a profession notorious for hedging bets. But, if I were pressed to give a definite forecast, I would say that ISIS is unlikely to hang on as an organised force for more than another two years, and the defeat of ISIS is a precondition for any resolution of the Syrian civil war. That said, the defeat of ISIS is contingent on the coalition against them maintaining its present loose unity, and on the ability of the Damascus regime to avoid further major losses of territory. (emphasis added)


bruce wilder 06.15.16 at 8:51 pm

I think U.S. power gets hijacked pretty easily in the Middle East, in various collaborations, as self-interested and sometimes corrupt elements in U.S. politics and state apparatus interact with kleptocrats and opportunists in various Islamic and other states in the region.

To a large extent, I would attribute this to the severe weakness of the domestic political coalitions that might take an interest in the public purposes of U.S. foreign policy and the lack of a moral compass among prominent political leaders. No one constrains the Dick Cheneys or Victoria Nulands. This is compounded by sheer stupidity and ignorance, as no one as smart as, say, Henry Kissinger even comes near U.S. foreign policy.

I seriously doubt that “U.S. planning” (an oxymoron) of any sort of “project” figures in the current chaos in Syria and northern Iraq. There are so many dimensions to the power conflict among Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel and the deeply fractured communities and polities of Kurds, Alawites, Maronites, Yazidis, Hezbollah, Daesh . . . it makes me long for the days when George W Bush was struggling to distinguish Shia and Sunni. Should we mention Lebanon, Cyprus, Hashemite Jordan, Palestine or the current regime in Baghdad, just to test our computational capacity?

There’s no natural and stable alliance structure anywhere that I can see — certainly nothing that could be resolved into a winnable war or negotiable conflict between two sets of antagonists that ends in some agreement.

I think U.S. power gets hijacked via elite corruption and deep state degeneracy. If the U.S. has a genuine national interest, or a genuine “international” interest as global hegemon, it would be in projects of global stability, development and good government. But, designing such idealistic projects requires considerable resources and elite cadres to articulate and carry them out.

Instead we’ve got a Pentagon dominated by a military-industrial complex with a deep interest in selling weaponry; a massive global oil industry suddenly confronting its own mortality; a kleptocratic global system of banking and investment hiding ownership and cash for everyone from Russian oligarchs to Saudi princes, . . .

I do not think the American alliance with Saudi Arabia makes any sense without U.S. interests pressing their dubious case. (Yes, I am looking at the Bush family selling the country out.) I do not think role of right-wing Israeli’s in American politics is healthy for the U.S. I do see how U.S. support for Pakistan makes any sense, as Pakistan gives North Korea the bomb and harbors Bin Laden, aids Gaddafi and so on.

In the absence of a sophisticated moral and practical framework for understanding the politics of deeply fractured and damaged polities, we are left to the expedient of identifying the greater evil, the Hitler du jour, and opposing him or it, willy nilly and with no anticipation of consequences, the next move, and so on — just chaos begetting more chaos.

Given the weakness of the national will, yes, I think neo-isolationism might well be the best policy the U.S. could adopt, for its sake if not for the sake of the larger world (which may well suffer acutely from a withdrawal of dominating American military force and the final fading of a liberal ideal of cosmopolitanism). I don’t see neo-isolationism as a first-best or even a second-best policy, but it may be the only feasible alternative to riding “there is no alternative” over the cliff of imperial overreach and collapse.


Collin Street 06.15.16 at 8:54 pm

But of course on the other hand — I think this is hand number 4 — stopping “ISIS” doesn’t have any huge connection to reducing the rates at which crazy people shoot up bars full of happy gay people, for reasons I think it’s pretty useless to go into.


bruce wilder 06.15.16 at 8:55 pm

I do see not how U.S. support for Pakistan . . .


bruce wilder 06.15.16 at 9:05 pm

Collin Street @ 346

As blowback of a kind, the very lack of policy efficacy may be a feature for experienced politicians eager to distract from their muted confessions of past “mistakes were made”.


LFC 06.15.16 at 9:17 pm

The passage I quoted from Peter T. is from this post from last October:


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 9:24 pm

First – ” air strikes coupled w advice/training and logistical support for the Iraqi army and certain forces in Syria; also insertion of relatively small numbers of special-ops forces” – do you think that this is a viable strategy? (honest Q, but it sounds like you have major doubts yourself)? The US has been providing ‘training and logistical support’ for the past 10+ years in Afg and Iraq with little to show for it.

ISIS is currently losing due to 2 trends: 1) Assad is winning in Syria (hooray I guess?), and 2) the ‘blockade’ strategy wrt to its finances is cutting into their capacity. But military set-backs, even military victory, is distinct from the sort of political resolution that is necessary for long-term stability.

[Note that both #1 and #2 are compatible with a ‘get the *$%* out’ approach to the Middle East, and that #1 especially would not have happened if US policy was more aggressively interventionist in the region.]

Yes to that last bit in bold. My issue is that US policy is at best half-hearted in its efforts to assemble/strengthen that coalition, which is likely a necessary ingredient to ousting ISIS in any scenario (and definitely necessary for a bombing campaign to end in success).

Honestly, in terms of regional allies our interests overlap with those of Iran more than those of Saudi Arabia at this point. A reason that ‘get the &*$% out’ is so appealing is that it can serve as the opportunity to reconsider some of our partnerships in the region and whether they truly advance or impede our strategic interests. Geopolitical conditions have shifted quite markedly since the beginning of the Iraq War, and our foreign policy is fraught with tension (if not open contradiction) due to the tangle of our past commitments.

Finally – let us reflect for a moment on the trade-off being made in all of this. In Syria the ouster of ISIS – an agent deplored for its widespread violence against civilians – brings in Assad – an actor openly shelling and gassing his citizenry. ISIS is terrible, sure, but most of the alternatives on the table are nearly as terrible (life under Assad, life during a war with the US), or non-viable over the medium-term (ie expecting the Iraqi government to step in and effectively govern). The point being that the moral ‘gain’ that we can reasonably expect from defeating ISIS is not as significant as it may appear on first glance – whatever fills that vacuum is likely to be a humanitarian atrocity of one sort or another. All this coming back to the fact that ISIS is just as much a symptom as it is a cause.


bob mcmanus 06.15.16 at 9:25 pm

I assume there are other places, but I glance over at Sic Semper Tyrannis and Pat Lang for informed “sitreps” about Syria and the wars. Better than guessing or comments here.

Sample: “The map above was made two days ago. As of this morning the YPG/SDF forces may have completed the encirclement of Manbij or they may have left an escape route to the northwest open. They definitely have continued further west to Al’Arimah. They are halfway to Al-Bab. All those yellow dots on the map are Kurdish villages and towns just begging to be connected. Now that the chase is on, I don’t see how those YPG fighters can resist the temptation to fulfill their Rojavan dream… or at least try.”

I am not so confidant that the Levant trends toward peace after ISIL is defeated. Erdogan and Kurds have their own ambitions.


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 9:39 pm

Air support + training/advisory/building local capacity + overall ‘economy’ of approach | this all maps pretty well onto the failed Bush strategy in Afghanistan. We even have the added difficulty of managing a coalition with various levels of commitment to the objective as with the ISAF. Afg may be a uniquely un-governable space (it probably is), but the abject failure of this strategy in Afghanistan does not leave me hopeful.


Lynne 06.15.16 at 10:03 pm

Collin Street @ 346
I do wish you and others would stop equating evil with craziness. No understanding is gained, and if you really mean by crazy, “mentally ill”, then you aren’t diagnosing mental illness so much as defining certain acts as such. And how then can the shooters be held legally responsible for their violence, if they are mentally ill? Not to mention the way this careless useage taints the concept for those struggling with psychiatric difficulties.

Not to pick on you especially; you’re just the most recent.


kidneystones 06.15.16 at 10:09 pm

@325. Now, what did I tell you about using wiki as a source. You make a lot of sense at times, especially you’re suggestion that this is an excellent time to get the f out of Afghanistan. However, that, too, is always a good idea.

You’re little speech on magazine sizes, pistol grips, etc. actually makes my case re: Chicago, or California, to choose a different locale. Because restricting magazine, sizes, folding stocks, pistol grips, location of gun stores, etc. are exactly the policies that have done so little to save lives.

Have you ever fired a machine gun? I have and I was pretty good at it. Ditto rifles and pistols. Once one makes the adjustment to carrying a loaded weapon constantly at work several changes take place. It’s a piece of equipment one doesn’t want to misplace, or lose. It’s a massive pain in the ass to clean manually. Last, but not least, they’re dangerous and have to be treated with respect, much like an automobile.

Most males in many generations make precisely the same discoveries. A subset of males in some countries today know practically nothing about carrying and maintaining weapons. You’re clearly one of them.

As for the efficacy of weapons, one of other important life-saving lessons one is forced to learn in the military, or other professions involving weapons, is what to do should one not have a rifle or ‘assault weapon’ at hand. As always, it’s all about the willingness to take life using any means at hand.

Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Bet my life on it.


LFC 06.15.16 at 10:32 pm

JeffreyG @350
I appreciate your thoughtful engagement here, and I agree on certain points. I am just ‘commented-out’ on this subject for now.


JeffreyG 06.15.16 at 10:47 pm

LFC – thanks, & for sure, I’ve just got all this stuff on the mind at the moment is all.


Layman 06.15.16 at 10:50 pm

“Have you ever fired a machine gun?”

Yes, I’ve fired a number of them. I’ve been trained to fire them.

“I have and I was pretty good at it.”

Which ones? What does ‘pretty good’ mean? What range were you firing at, and which targets? What sort of mount did you use? Did you employ a traversing lock & bar?

“A subset of males in some countries today know practically nothing about carrying and maintaining weapons. You’re clearly one of them.”

This would come as a big surprise to the 2nd Armored Division and the 35th Infantry Division, who thought I was pretty good at it.

Reminiscing aside, what was the point of your post again? Something about easy access to weapons not being a significant factor in mass killings? Have you found anything at all useful to support that nonsense, other than your notion that there are no guns in Chicago?


engels 06.15.16 at 10:57 pm

And speaking of guns… another world-historic victory for feminism


J-D 06.16.16 at 1:00 am


Peter T 06.16.16 at 1:51 am

I wish people here would stop using the word “Islam” so broadly. Religion is more central to politics in the Middle East than in, say, Europe, so religious flavours, doctrines, histories matter more (which is not to say the religious dimension is the only one – there are as many Sunni supporting Assad as in rebellion, the Kurds are mostly Sunni and so on). Which makes generalisations about Islam or Sunnis or Shi’a decidedly unhelpful unless you are at the Donald Trump level of obtuseness.

Ditto generalisations about military force. It’s inherently dangerous and there’s always an element of unpredictability, so sensible people see it as very much a last resort. But it’s not the same everywhere or all the time – it’s highly contingent. The US air campaign in Syria and Iraq has been very effective in aiding the Kurds and Iraqi forces against ISIS. Yes there have been more civilian casualties then the Pentagon acknowledges. The alternative for civilians is life under ISIS, with daily executions. In both Iraq and Syria, people seem to prefer liberation even at the cost of casualties. Afghanistan is a different case again.

BW makes some good points, but overlooks that the US is the largest concentration of financial, military and political power on the plant. EVERYONE wants to use some or other of that, one way or another, and has developed channels into the various US centres. The US system of government makes it difficult to prevent this. It also makes coherent policy difficult. In the Syrian case, some parts of the US government prioritise Assad’s ouster, others the removal of ISIS. These are at odds (bit like the US and UK had decided to both fight Germany and oust Stalin). Again, the US system of government means that bringing the policy into one line would involve a major political shit-fight, so it’s easier to go with both, shifting the emphasis bit by bit. If you want a different outcome, change the constitution.


J-D 06.16.16 at 6:41 am


Peter T 06.16.16 at 7:39 am

Ze K

You might want to check what’s happening on the ground (and not in conspiracy-obsessed minor news outlets) before you pronounce so confidently.


RichieRich 06.16.16 at 8:01 am

Which makes generalisations about Islam or Sunnis or Shi’a decidedly unhelpful unless you are at the Donald Trump level of obtuseness.

Obama’s not been exactly shy either when it comes to making generalizations about Islam . One in a very long line of politicians desperately eager to spout the “religion of peace” meme.


RNB 06.16.16 at 8:33 am

Peter: “some parts of the US government prioritise Assad’s ouster, others the removal of ISIS.”

I read Mearsheimer and Walt prioritizing neither; except for recommending some tactical support to those who would fight ISIS, they would leave ISIS alone since they believe it does not pose threat to American interests, no matter the humanitarian catastrophes it may create. Moreover, these realists would let Russia prop up Assad and stabilize (sic) Syria even if that meant the country would be broken up in the long term.

Again they think the US has no real interests here. As Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic interview with Obama revealed, Obama has come close to this conclusion. Mearscheimer and Walt’s opposition to deeper intervention is not rooted in humanitarian sympathy for the victims of imperialism often expressed here at Crooked Timber. In fact they express what Gilbert Achcar would call a disconcerting disregard for the fate of the people whom they would abandon to ISIS.

Six out of 10–more than 10 million–Syrians have been displaced; the refugee crisis may have unexpected political consequences that will make US disregard seem short-sighted.

Clinton on other hand would use limited aerial power against ISIS while arming Kurdish and some democratic Arab forces to fight ISIS. Trump and his friend and fellow maniac Bill O’Reilly would unleash aerial warfare without any concern for “collateral damage”.

As is well known, Clinton wanted not to bomb but to supply the Free Syrian Army and provide it aerial protection to carry out its resistance to the slaughterous rule of Assad who she may have thought–and this is a guess–actually supported ISIS at one point to disorient and marginalize the democratic opposition he was facing. This moment seems to have passed. Then Jeffrey Sachs accused Clinton of proposing a hawkish foreign policy that would be in the interests of Israel and KSA.

At present she has not said that she would cooperate with or even not stand in the way of Iranian forces striking ISIS, as recommended by Mohammad Ayoob. Cooperation with Iran here would be sure to anger the Saudis. She will not put troops on the ground and has called for cooperating with the Kurds and new Arab forces. ISIS is on its back heels, but one suspects that Juan Cole is correct that opposition will at some point find new form as it has in the past after temporarily successful military actions.


Peter T 06.16.16 at 9:34 am

Ze K

The internet is a great research tool – one can find on it reports of what military and political action each party is taking without leaving home. Try it (without specs on)!


Mearsheimer and Walt are not the American government. I was referring to the CIA (wants to oust Assad) and the Pentagon (puts ISIS first). State is slowly moving positions as the reality sinks in that the only parties with any real power in Syria are the regime, the Islamists and the Kurds. Each of these has their own backers in Congress, the media and the executive. Obama has backed the Pentagon more, but not provoked a fight with the CIA. A settlement between the Kurds and the regime is possible if Russia and Iran lean hard, but neither will compromise with the Islamists (nor they with the regime or the Kurds).

The US has been very slow to grasp that the locals have their own agendas, and ways to evade or co-opt US power.


Peter T 06.16.16 at 10:54 am

Ze K

The Wolfowitz doctrine was a Bush I Pentagon document, quickly watered down, some parts resuscitated under Bush II, now dead. Relevance now is? And which “well-known facts”?


John Holbo 06.16.16 at 10:58 am

Goodness, the thread is still alive! (Sorry, I’ve been busy. I hope you’ve been behaving yourselves.)


Peter T 06.16.16 at 11:24 am

Ze K

Quick check shows ABC reported US DoS supplied 43 Toyota trucks to non-ISIS Syrian rebels. And that the US was querying Toyota on sales to Iraq and Syria. Oil sales through Turkey are not news (Erdogan’s son seems to have been involved). If the US approves, the campaign in recent months targeting tanker trucks and ISIS-operated refineries that has reduced flow to a trickle must be all down to a mistake?

Any other “facts”?


JPL 06.16.16 at 12:11 pm

This thread, it looks like, has been all over the place, and I haven’t time to comment now, but I think the research reported in this article might be significant in the effort to understand mass shootings like the Orlando massacre and deeper roots of the ISIS phenomenon, as well as the authoritarian mentality of men who are among the Trump supporters and before that tea partiers and racist gun nuts. Anyway, it’s something to consider. It may be that in the search for a causal explanation the political or “religious” motives for the violent actions of these groups will be relatively superficial compared to the dark undercurrent of the male social norm of domination and control on the principle of physical power.


kidneystones 06.16.16 at 12:17 pm

@ 357. Holy smokes!

Your familiarity with weapons and your training makes your loopy remarks about magazine sizes and pistol grips all the more inexcusable. Ditto, your bizarre claim that there are no guns in Chicago. Huh? There are plenty of guns and gun deaths despite Chicago’s efforts to move gun stores to specific locations, etc. etc. etc.

For the first time the number of people killed by cars equals those killed by guns. Not because the number of gun deaths is rising, but primarily because the number of people killed in automobiles has declined steeply in the last decade, or so.

My own view is that removing the reasons people might want to use guns against others makes more sense than trying to restrict access to weapons. See – Iraq, Assad, invasions, war-crimes, torture, targeted assassinations, drone strikes, etc,

In the case of Chicago, that might include stigmatizing gun violence in music and popular culture. Ditto hate crimes against women and gay folks.

This NYT piece is quite good on gangs and social media as a factor in the high rate of gun death in Chicago and on the failure of restrictive laws to do anything to reduce the increasing number of gun deaths.

But, hey! Terrorist! Automatic weapons! Lone Wolf Muslims comin’ te getcha!


Layman 06.16.16 at 12:27 pm

“My own view is that removing the reasons people might want to use guns against others makes more sense than trying to restrict access to weapons.”

No one really knows what your own view is. You’ll say pretty much anything. I’m still hoping for some exposition on your skill with machine guns. Do you tell your students about it? Are they impressed?


Layman 06.16.16 at 12:40 pm

Also, this.

kidneystones: “See – Iraq, Assad, invasions, war-crimes, torture, targeted assassinations, drone strikes, etc,”

It’s frankly baffling. Here we are having a conversation about the availability of weapons and how that impacts mass shootings, and you offer this. Are you under the impression that all, or most, or more than even a tiny fraction of mass shootings in the US are motivated by US foreign policy, wars, Islam, etc? The Sandy Hook shooter was enraged by the invasion of Iraq? The Columbine shooters were opposed to targeted killings using drones, even before there were targeted killings using drones? The Charleston shooter was motivated by his allegiance to ISIS? Are you daft?


Cranky Observer 06.16.16 at 1:49 pm

“Your familiarity with weapons and your training makes your loopy remarks about magazine sizes and pistol grips all the more inexcusable. ”

All reality-based people are aware that there is absolutely less than zero value in arguing gun fetishists over terminology or hardware – no rhetorical value, no political value, no personal value. Once the discussion moves onto those grounds rational thought has ended and the thread should be closed.


Layman 06.16.16 at 4:56 pm

“Once the discussion moves onto those grounds rational thought has ended and the thread should be closed.”

That, or you should stop reading it.


bruce wilder 06.16.16 at 5:14 pm

Peter T @ 360: I wish people . . . would stop using the word “Islam” so broadly. . . . . Ditto generalisations about military force. it’s not the same everywhere or all the time – it’s highly contingent. . . .

I wish people would choose to analyze more the beer and less the froth. I am not saying you are doing that, but you’re not not-doing that either. Still, what’s the order of things? When I hear journalists, in their cliché-filled reports, talking of tribalism and fundamentalist religion, I usually presume they are talking, whether they know it or not, about a polity coming apart at the seams, its social institutions degraded and the population under stress. Trying to weave details of ancient doctrines and sectarian rivalries into the consequences of a society confronting the stress of approaching Malthusian limits or coping with neoliberal immiseration seems to me to be talking about the wrong things — or at least talking about them in the wrong order and frequently leaving out key parts, like, oh say, the capacity to produce sufficient surplus from agriculture or trade to support and busy an urbanized population, or the demographics (e.g. the often all-important age structure — how many testosterone-filled young men are available for riots and war?)

When the corrupt centrists and their handmaidens on the neocon Right follow the high-flown pedantry of a Clash of Civilizations with the minutiae of tactical military or political maneuvers, my eyes glaze over. Once you’ve broken a society’s foundation stones, and the harsh unreasoning discipline of fundamentalist religions or the atavism of tribal loyalties are the only structures of social cooperation anyone can cling to, to survive, it is hard to see how blowing up the sand pile is going to turn anything around within the next Friedman unit. Contingent my ass.

Peter T @ 360: BW . . . overlooks that the US is the largest concentration of financial, military and political power on the plan[e]t.

Did I overlook that? Use of the term “global hegemon” might indicate otherwise.

Peter T @ 360: The US system of government makes it difficult to prevent this. It also makes coherent policy difficult. . . . If you want a different outcome, change the constitution.

It seems to me that any modern nation-state synthesizes policy from conflicts of faction and interest. Scratch “modern”. Intrigue was a feature of feudal monarchy; deliberative parliaments and rotation in responsible office, taking more notice of bourgeois interest in trade, finance and industry and less in dynastic alliances were a marked improvement in terms of consistency, commitment and rationality. That’s how we got constitutions.

A small-c constitution is just a framework for the political dynamics of accumulation and habit, merging the logistic curves of development into the cosine rhythms of anacyclosis. The gradual build-up of the complex set of interests in the military-industrial complex and its deep state, combined with the steady increase in the proportionate costs of complexity and corruption, puts a lot of pressure on the small-c constitution. One and the other will break and give way to some new configuration — that much is certain, because as they say, if something cannot go on indefinitely, it won’t go on forever.

Constitutions — especially small-c constitutions — are plastic enough. They do change to accommodate and re-channel the pressures placed on their polities. Republics become Empires and Empires fail and collapse. Understanding what part of the outcome can be controlled is almost misunderstanding the nature of a statesman’s choice, which is rarely a outcome itself. Rather, the statesman is asked to choose a path to opportunities to choose in the future. It is a matter of choosing to occupy the high ground, knowing that will be an advantage in any case, and the trick is to know what is high ground and how it can be secured.

I fear we are focused politically on the wrong things, the wrong questions, following a figure-8 path of Friedman units nowhere, because we cannot or will not lift our eyes to the horizon to form some idea and goal of enlightened self-interest that might guide fashioning a better constitution for the next phase of the global order, one that will have to cope without the U.S. as a global hegemon, because the U.S. is either not generating a sufficient surplus from its superior position or that surplus is being skimmed away and the material basis of U.S. hegemony has eroded away. We may well discover that the U.S. has become a hollow hegemon in some global crisis. U.S. hegemony has not been such an unalloyed good that I, personally, would mourn its passing, except that I fear that we are so stupidly and stubbornly ignoring the inevitability of its passing without preparing even an idea of an order in succession.


RNB 06.16.16 at 5:43 pm

BW: “one that will have to cope without the U.S. as a global hegemon”
As the Goldberg Atlantic interview with Obama indicated, Obama has given up on democraticizing or even defending human rights in countries in which he does not think the US has vital interests. Obama indicated that he was happy to see Putin drain his country’s resources in an infinite war to keep the Baathist regime in power in Syria. That Obama stepped back even after Assad used chemical weapons represents something of a shift in US foreign policy as does his abandonment of Libya after the killing of Qaddafi. Obama also entered into diplomatic relations with Iran. There already has been a movement away from the use of US power.
I know that you think Obama is most dangerous in terms of NATO expansion setting off a hot war with Russia, which the risk of which I think you are greatly exaggerating as does Paul Craig Roberts from whom you may take your inspiration. Do you see your arguments as similar to those of Roberts?


Peter T 06.17.16 at 12:12 am


Sure. But when you have taken into account the environmental, demographic and other drivers, there’s still a lot of yards to cover before you get to the tactical minutiae. Politics makes what it can in coping with the challenges out of the materials available, and the materials in, say, Iran, with its imperial and high-cultural traditions and Shi’a political/religious fusion is very different from the materials available in China. It’s foreign policy’s job to take that into account – figure out where these people are coming from – and work towards the best achievable outcome. US policy discourse seems to have trouble finding the middle ground between the large-scale and the minute where good policy is mostly made.

The sheer size, loose structure and federal nature of the US system provides a lot of openings that are simply not there in smaller, tighter states (as a minor example, the invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress in defiance of the White House would simply not happen in the UK or Germany). Couple that with enormous wealth and it’s an open invitation to wheeler-dealers everywhere.


RNB 06.17.16 at 2:09 am

50 State Department officials signed an internal memo of dissent over Obama’s foreign policy in Syria. In the NYT today, there is this:

‘In the memo, the State Department officials wrote that the Assad government’s continuing violations of the partial cease-fire, known as a cessation of hostilities, will doom efforts to broker a political settlement because Mr. Assad will feel no pressure to negotiate with the moderate opposition or other factions fighting him. The government’s barrel bombing of civilians, it said, is the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”’


LFC 06.17.16 at 2:17 am

Relevant to some of the foregoing discussion — T. Burke referring to “a system of checks and balances [having] turned into a system of chokepoints and barriers.”

In a long-ish post that I only read part of (link in next box).


LFC 06.17.16 at 2:18 am


bruce wilder 06.17.16 at 2:36 am

RNB @ 381

Obama has given up on democraticizing or even defending human rights in countries in which he does not think the US has vital interests.

The U.S. had a long record of trading away other peoples’s democracies and human rights for the flimsiest of reasons long before Obama emerged into politics.

Obama has not always been willing to defend Constitutional rights in the United States, as was dramatically demonstrated in the case of Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning’s conditions of imprisonment and he’s blown up his share of weddings and funerals abroad.

RNB: That Obama stepped back even after Assad used chemical weapons represents something of a shift in US foreign policy . . .

I’m not sure who used chemical weapons; the most obvious reason to use chemical weapons was to try to get the U.S. to respond in knee-jerk fashion. It is to Obama’s great good credit that he resisted the impulse, and to the credit of Putin’s diplomacy that Obama had a face-saving opportunity to resist.

RNB: I know that you think Obama is most dangerous in terms of NATO expansion setting off a hot war with Russia . . .

I don’t think Obama in person is at all dangerous in that respect, but I do think the “system” is out-of-control (and, honestly, his inability or unwillingness to rein in the many rogue elements will be on him in the history books).

Though I hesitate to attribute it to a constitutional defect, I think Peter T is correct that U.S. policy at this moment has grave difficulty finding coherence and making commitments (that is to say, making commitments that antagonists are confident that it will remember, let alone keep). Debating the role of the constitution in this malaise of the national will is far less important than clearly acknowledging it as a critically important fact contributing to the palsy of national policy.

The U.S. doesn’t deliberate much on national policy: values, goals and means. We are notoriously self-righteous, to the point of giving righteousness a bad name, and that self-righteousness attaches itself with very little memory of the immediate past or understanding of consequences to fictitious narratives designed to give play to that sense of righteousness. We have lurid made-for-cable-teevee stories about, say, the grave risk of a nuclear-armed North Korea or an Iran determined to get the bomb. And, anyone can volunteer a narrative, apparently. OK, maybe not anyone, but it is not like anyone fact checks the narratives offered.

There is some vague memory in U.S. policy of having stood in the past for constitutional democracy, but there’s little understanding of the original rationales for such a policy and the exceptions and betrayals have piled up high. There is some vague memory in the U.S. of having once shied away from war as terrible, cruel waste, but, again, the example of the U.S. committing the war crime of aggressive war in invading Iraq, compounded by the inability or unwillingness of the Bush Administration to prevent Reconstruction from being blown up by complete idiocy and looting, stands as a capital fact, embarrassing every bit of idealistic rhetoric uttered by this country’s representatives.

The U.S. made an agreement with Russia concerning the political and economic alignment of Ukraine and it seems to have been forgotten even why that commitment was made (hint: nuclear arms limitation). Letting a neocon undermine constitutional democracy and foment civil war in Ukraine in pursuit of some dream of neoliberal looting is not sensible policymaking.

It is not like this is the only big risk the U.S. is taking in the world at any moment. The U.S. has bought quite a number of losing lottery tickets in the service of someone’s narrowly self-interested or simply bad judgment. The military wants to overthrow the liberal President of Honduras? Sure, why not? Couldn’t possibly be any connection to that country’s emergence as murder capital of the world or the crisis on the U.S. border as massive numbers of unaccompanied minors flee Central America. (Hillary has such varied experience: she knows how to get things done.)

And, while we are playing Manichean checkers in an apparent fugue state of national (unconsciousness), the world’s financial system, based on our dollar, stumbles about, China’s economy implodes, and a global ecological crisis looms as an extermination event gathers force. Wot me worry?


bruce wilder 06.17.16 at 2:52 am

RNB @ 383: The government’s barrel bombing of civilians, it said, is the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”

International Business Times: [According to the dissent memo], the U.S. should use “stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.” (Stand-off weapons are missiles or bombs launched from a distance outside the range of defending forces’ return fire.)

Assad blows things up, so the U.S. should blow things up. Because a diplomatic process combined with blowing things up has worked so well in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

You cannot parody this stuff.


RNB 06.17.16 at 3:08 am

The Jeffrey Sachs-led Sanders left has claimed that al-Assad would have been willing to enter a peace agreement had Hillary Clinton not cooperated with the Saudis to subvert his regime. Sachs obviously does not understand the character of al-Assad’s regime.


bruce wilder 06.17.16 at 3:13 am

Maybe Hillary does understand the nature of the Saudi regime, and just doesn’t care.


js. 06.17.16 at 3:48 am

RNB @294 — I just got around to reading the Cole piece you linked. It says much better what I was trying to say (unsurprisingly!) Cheers.


Faustusnotes 06.17.16 at 4:05 am

Kidneystones notes that the number of vehicle deaths has been declining for years, which is why they now match gun deaths. I wonder, kidneystones , do you have any special insights to share with your avid readers as to why car deaths have been on this slow march towards zero? Any particular policy innovations since the 1970s that you could identify? Any lessons from that for other public health issues that are currently a popular topic of discussion?


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 4:52 am


RNB 06.17.16 at 5:11 am

@392 The points are not incompatible. George W. Bush’s war crime of overthrowing Saddam Hussein probably hardened al-Assad and changed the character of his regime (academic books have been written about this), but this hardening of his regime led to its responding to domestic opposition in unbelievably brutal ways, including the likely use of chemical weapons, and create the catastrophe that Syria now is.

Obama decided to walk away from the catastrophe of 400,000 dead and over 10 million people displaced, creating a refugee crisis that could possibly led to the “fascisizaton” of European culture. Mid-level people in the State Department have rebelled and insisted that some kind of military pressure be put on Assad whose repressive acts creates the humiliations out of which ISIS grows.

Others do not want any challenge to Assad to distract from the fight against ISIS; and there are those here apparently would want to replace US air strikes against ISIS with nothing. At least Obama owns the consequences of inaction in Syria and forthrightly says that no US national interest is undermined by a bloodbath in a country such as Syria where the US has no vital stakes. Again see Goldberg interview of Obama in The Atlantic.


bruce wilder 06.17.16 at 5:40 am

Assad, not the U.S. intervention in Iraq, creates ISIS. Convenient storytelling. And nowhere do we hear about climate change or neoliberal trade policy putting pressure on the lowest income tier across the Arab mildest.


Alex K--- 06.17.16 at 6:30 am

@32: ” How useful is “conservative” here as a category? If its core is authoritarianism, as Corey Robin has argued, then Mr. Trump fits.”

It can be useful if you are willing to use Corey Robin’s definition of “reactionary” or “conservative” — he refuses to distinguish between the two. if you have not read The Reactionary Mind, you might want to read this interview with Prof. Robin. To put it roughly, Robin’s reactionary is motivated by a sense of loss and is seeking to reestablish a social hierarchy of some sort. “Making America great again” is a recognition that America’s greatness has been lost: the first condition has been met. I’m not sure about the second, but I’m sure that HRC does not meet the “loss” condition so cannot qualify as a conservative or reactionary as defined by Prof. Robin.


Peter T 06.17.16 at 6:30 am

It’s not either/or. It’s easier to start a fire in a drought. Climate change, trade policy, rapid population growth, internal repression (the Baathist regime under Assad’s father shelled rebellious Hama into submission in 1982), Saudi proselytising, changes in the Shi’a political outlook, US pea and thimble games with Saddam, the Kurds and Iran, oil prices all played their different parts in bringing about this fire.

The aim of good policy is to put the fire out in the shortest, least costly in human terms, way possible. Obama, to give him some credit, seems to be feeling his way to that aim. The State Dept officers, not so much.


Peter T 06.17.16 at 8:03 am

” it was a prosperous, secular, and relatively liberal state”.

Want to buy a unicorn?


Rich Puchalsky 06.17.16 at 12:49 pm

LFC @ 384: “In a long-ish post that I only read part of (link in next box).”

It’s not bad. Especially with the discussion of _Seeing Like a State_ in comments. (LFC, you have a writing tic of saying that you haven’t fully read whatever you’re referring to, and you shouldn’t write that. Either don’t comment, or read it, or at worst pretend that you did. Announcing that you’re not reading whatever you’re commenting on is annoying to me and, I suspect, to many people.)

Timothy Burke (from the above-linked article):
“The general problem is that the modern liberal nation-state and its characteristic institutions are simply no longer capable of delivering on their baseline promises and possibilities to any national population anywhere. ”

Yes. This is basically why I’m an anarchist. The accumulated baggage of prior political commitments need to be dropped so that new ones can be picked up. Look at Timothy Burke makes his argument and then goes back to the old standards: we need passionate, visionary leadership that speaks honestly and straightforwardly. What if honesty isn’t enough? There are plenty of people who speak honestly: what is that worth, really? Almost nothing within our system.

What Timothy Burke’s argument doesn’t really consider is the time scale of our problems. It’s common to say that “things that can’t go on will some day stop” or some variant, and to say that our system is in a bad place and that some day it will have to change. But for global climate change we really have a ten year deadline to make very major, sweeping changes. Right now we’re betting on the magic of the marketplace plus some minor technocratic nudges and international diplomacy because we have nothing else. Maybe that will work: it’s what people are working on because there’s nothing else. If it doesn’t work, we can’t just kick the can down the road indefinitely. Confusion of timescales is one of the main problems in responding to global environmental crises.

OK, people can go back to their discussion of manliness and machine guns and who is favored to win a political race because someone killed 50 people now.


LFC 06.17.16 at 12:54 pm

Announcing that you’re not reading whatever you’re commenting on is annoying to me and, I suspect, to many people.

I did not say that I had not read the post. I said I only read part of it. I’m not sure why you find that annoying, but I’m sorry to have annoyed you. (Though not esp. sorry, in view of your general attitude as a commenter.)

I have no intention of lying and pretending to have read the entirety of something when I’ve only read part of it. If you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to do something simply b.c R. P. wants me to.


LFC 06.17.16 at 1:02 pm

Ze K @399

it was a prosperous, secular, and relatively liberal state

“Relatively liberal”? It was basically a one-party dictatorship, under Hafez al-Assad and then Bashar.

The comment is either a flat-out lie or an indication that the commenter doesn’t understand the common meaning of certain non-obscure English words.


LFC 06.17.16 at 1:06 pm

This is of a piece w the alternative universe in which the ‘Wolfowitz doctrine’ governs US for. policy and the US is backing ISIS against the so-called Sh’ia crescent. Right.


LFC 06.17.16 at 1:28 pm

I never said S.A. and Jordan “are the paragons of progress and freedom.”


Layman 06.17.16 at 1:45 pm

Rich P: “This is basically why I’m an anarchist.”

Yes, but what does it mean to say you’re an anarchist? It seems to mean you’re like any other polemicist on the Internet, only with a different shirt and without the illusions of power and effectiveness. I agree with a lot of what you have to say, Rich, but the ‘gruff anarchist’ act is, well, tedious. What acts of anarchy have you committed this year?


RNB 06.17.16 at 3:09 pm

@406 Well yes it could be that the 50 State Dept officials see Assad’s possible consolidation of power as an existential threat to US allies Israel and KSA and fear regional chaos from the disruption of the regional balance of power. These State Dept officials may want Obama to force Assad’s ouster or at least his acceptance of some kind of negotiated settlement that would greatly weaken his powers.

Still it is Syria that is unraveling; no other country in the region is suffering a crisis on this scale with 400,000 dead in five years and 60% of the population displaced. And as Peter T notes above, there are those in the USG who think the situation cannot be stabilized without the ouster of Assad. I am not sure whether Hillary Clinton remains one of them. But they may be right. Obama does not deny this; he simply says that it’s not in the US interest to bring stability to a country in which the US has no vital interest.


RNB 06.17.16 at 3:17 pm

Has anyone read good informed commentary on what this internal State Department memo means? Please recommend.


Matt 06.17.16 at 4:09 pm

The USA should directly target Syrian government forces (and inevitably but oh-so-regrettably-and-collaterally killing their Iranian and Russian allies) in order to turn Syria into something like other beneficiaries of American air power — Afghanistan? Libya? Iraq? Thanks, but no thanks. It might be tempting if the USA had a track record of bombarding foreign nations into peaceful prosperity. But the USA hasn’t managed that once in my lifetime, so there’s nothing attractive about the proposal.

The different factions fighting against the Syrian central government fight each other too. If the central government capitulated we could expect years more of fighting among the different non-government factions. The situation cannot be stabilized in the next year without the ouster of Assad. The situation cannot be stabilized in the next year with the ouster of Assad either. The situation just cannot be stabilized in the near future. (Not that the USA’s actions really exhibit respect for stability in Syria. If they wanted stability they wouldn’t be funneling weapons to any of the rebel factions. (Not that I think “stability” is so great by itself; I rather wish that the USA didn’t help to keep the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stably under its hereditary dictatorship.))


RNB 06.17.16 at 4:27 pm

Well, Matt, that’s the point. The US took your advice and did not forcibly oust Assad as NATO did with Qaddafi. The consequences have been even more terrible than they were in Libya and are likely to become even more terrifying with Assad with full Russian support promising to take back every inch of Syria. The State Dept officials are obviously worried that Assad’s new offensive will result in siege being laid to whole cities and even genocide resulting, among other things.

Some will fear State Dept propaganda here just as some who are so angry about how hawkish Hillary Clinton sounded about ISIS may think the UN report on ISIS genocide against the Yazidis may be propaganda.


Cranky Observer 06.17.16 at 4:38 pm

Kevin Drum had some good observations about Syria and the State Dept “dissent” memo:

[in the Bush/Cheney era those 50 would have been lucky to be transferred to a remote desert island; thise without clout or who had been appointed by WJC might have been sent to Guantanamo prison]


RNB 06.17.16 at 4:40 pm

Matt the anti-intervention left also got its way in Libya. Obama refused to provide any support to the post-Qaddafi government; as noted it has gotten its way in Syria over the last several years. I think you make an honest reckoning in your post that both intervention and anti-intervention have had horrifying consequences. The left could and did stand opposed to CIA-orchestrated over throws of Mossadegh, Arbenz, Trujillo, Allende and stand opposed to the support of Duarte and Rios Montt and of course stand opposed to US intervention against the nationalist movement in Vietnam. I found it easy and imperative to organize against both wars in Iraq. If anything Iraq was stable in the early 2000s due to the monstrous sanctions giving Saddam inordinate power over society. But Syria is not stable now; and what Assad is threatening is terrifying.


RNB 06.17.16 at 4:43 pm

@414 The State Dept officials probably see aerial power being used to explicitly support fighters on the ground supported by the US military. Drum is brilliant, and always worth reading.


Cranky Observer 06.17.16 at 4:47 pm

@RNB: “Matt the anti-intervention left also got its way in Libya. Obama refused to provide any support to the post-Qaddafi government; as noted it has gotten its way in Syria over the last several years. I think you make an honest reckoning in your post that both intervention and anti-intervention have had horrifying consequences.”

How many votes you reckon there are in the US House for a package including (1) universal conscription with no Cheney-style deferments in an amount sufficient to support a real occupying force (2) income tax increase sufficient to fund this occupation adventure, up to WWII 95% top rate, with heavy enforcement against the top 5%?

No? Then you’re not serious.


bruce wilder 06.17.16 at 5:27 pm

LFC @ 384-5, RP @ 402

I thought the Timothy Burke essay was stimulating in a way, though maybe that was not his best effort — it did bring together a number of disparate observations and sentiments around foreboding about the future and deep ambivalence about Clinton’s path to coronation.

I’ve read Burke’s stuff before and he suffers a bit from Tom Friedman’s disease — wishing for a Goldilocks politics that is just right — and in his case, it involves a longing for charismatic, hero politicians, especially for the office of President. He’s the kind of voter for whom John F Kennedy wrote, Profiles in Courage, the kind who believes in the politician as a chivalric knight, selflessly championing a cause or principle even to the point of self-sacrifice as if that cause was a damsel in distress, or in general, pursuing some grand purpose as if it were the holy grail. And, though he writes with an easy style and grace, he is prone to anodyne formulas when he cannot quite say more specifically what he means without offending.

I think he’s on to something here:

I think Clinton and all the people surrounding her are very nearly incapable of recognizing, let alone responding to, the actual crisis they will be facing. That crisis is not Islamic militants. It is not political stalemate or Republican obstructionism. It is not police brutality and the scourge of racism. It is not income inequality or a lack of financial regulation. It is not even or only the structural transformation of the global political economy through technological change and social reorganization.

I do think Clinton and her most ardent supporters are far more complacent than our actual situation justifies. Obtuse, even. That last quoted sentence above, though, hints at a turn in Burke’s way of thinking away from agency and toward the ineffably abstract that troubles me.

Burke summarizes: “The general problem is that the modern liberal nation-state and its characteristic institutions are simply no longer capable of delivering on their baseline promises and possibilities to any national population anywhere.” The passive voice has swallowed agency (the liberal state is no longer capable — what could that even mean?), while the rhetorical trope has run away with any possibility of evidentiary analysis (really? any nation anywhere?).

As he expands on this thesis, he leans on his taste for charisma and the grand gesture. “Very little policy gets made because it’s the right thing to do” he complains. “Every play is a scrum in the middle that moves the ball inches, never yards. “ The state of political rhetoric troubles him deeply: “Political elites around the world either speak in laughably dishonest ways about hope and aspiration or stick to grey, cramped horizons of plausibly incremental managerialism.”

There is other stuff floating in his soup to be sure. He seems to have cut off bits of other arguments and added them in, like nuggets of meat or slices of carrot. Because it fits with arguments I often find myself making, I predictably found this appealing: “The brief moment of reform in which capital seemed to be harnessed to social democracy is very nearly over, and the difference between illicit and licit economies now seems paper-thin at best.”

In comments, Burke offered a one-sentence analytical expansion on the reasons for nation-state palsy that had me nodding in agreement:

. . . liberal governance and the nation-state are in crisis everywhere for some similar underlying reasons–fundamentally, that it is proving nearly impossible to keep political elites from using the state as a means of extraction and from allowing the state to be used by capital for similar ends, and that the ties people feel to their governments are everywhere fraying or devolving into pure client-patron relationships. I think this is turning the entire field of social relations within states into winner-take-all affairs, and leading to an ever-waning interest in any idea of a public sphere or public goods in which one might feel that an immediate benefit to other people might ultimately be a benefit to all.

At the very end of comments, there’s another bit that’s important, because it questions “progress” and brings to the surface some of the deep ambivalence in many leftish critiques about how the modern world got built.

. . . the modernist state was capable of coordinating large-scale projects of construction and administration that current states (all around the world) seem largely incapable of carrying out, and it was capable of speaking in confident, progress-embracing terms about a better future, a way of speaking which the political class seems largely uninterested in today. The part of that change that isn’t simply a case of going from good to bad is that those modernist projects were often destructive or at least mixed in their impact and they required some profoundly undemocratic strategies for ignoring, overriding or compelling the action of communities affected by such planning.

I happen to think that’s some seriously muddled thinking. It does raise questions in my mind about why he has latched onto “large-scale projects of construction and administration” as a key component in formulating his thesis. Is it true in a factual sense? Maybe in some factual sense, but it seems like engaging with facts to test which works and which fails might pay off in a more refined and subtle sense of where we are and what our critical problems are. (London or Los Angeles seem to be able to extend their rail systems; the Swiss finished the Gotthard Base Tunnel; I’m sure I could come up with a long list.)

The fact is that technological progress has continued to accelerate and some very large-scale projects have been completed in recent decades, but they don’t astound us in quite the same way. There is an odd wishing for “flying cars” that goes on, alongside a dyspepsia about the past being tainted by racism or sexism or ecological madness or just a general philistinism. And, large-scale projects, because of the steady progress of technological capability and the general increase in our surplus of wealth (in the developed world at least, which has by the magic of compound growth risen to astonishing heights, even if it is way too concentrated in a very few hands), do not require the same kind of Fordist mass mobilization that gave the Second Industrial Revolution echoes of the field at Valmy.

What troubles me most profoundly is not the absence of high-flying rhetoric in our shared political narratives; it is the absence of critical thought. Burke casts this as a deficit of honesty. I rolled my eyes at this Tom Friedman-like sentiment, worthy of the second worst kind of hand-wringing op-ed: “The first thing she [Clinton] or other leaders could do is simply start talking honestly and straightforwardly about these problems–with a bit of real passion and anger mixed in. “ Rhetorical “honesty” is an ambiguous quality, suggesting the other Marx: “the key is sincerity; if you can fake that . . .”

Critical thought is harder, especially for a mass polity, not least because it requires real resources of time and effort, as people try to understand their common predicament. But, it is the only way politics can escape meandering back-and-forth aimlessly at the edge of unacknowledged cliffs. Enlightened self-interest requires a higher level of understanding of choice and consequence than the mere feel-good incrementalism of, say, adjusting interest rates to avoid a stock market crash or hoping that gas prices stay low.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 5:40 pm

“the anti-intervention left also got its way in Libya”
Please explain how this makes any sense.


Rich Puchalsky 06.17.16 at 5:50 pm

BW: “The passive voice has swallowed agency (the liberal state is no longer capable — what could that even mean?), while the rhetorical trope has run away with any possibility of evidentiary analysis (really? any nation anywhere?).”

Whatever the problems with the passive voice, on the level of evidence it appears to me to be true. Even the old stalwarts like the Scandinavian states are reluctantly falling into line with neoliberalism. If we’re really talking about a worldwide phenomenon, then agency becomes questionable once again: we can talk about something being the fault of particular elites, but it becomes more tempting to refer to it as structural.

BW: “It does raise questions in my mind about why he has latched onto “large-scale projects of construction and administration” as a key component in formulating his thesis.”

There does seem to be some confusion there between high modernism and “large-scale projects.” Renewable power was 59% of net additions to global power capacity in 2014 and by the end of that year was supplying 23% of global electricity (source). Non-hydro increased from 85 to 657 GW over the last decade. Was this due to large-scale projects? Generally not. High modernism requires a plan — in theory, made by technocrats, but in practice, generally originated by one theorist — and a charismatic leader who forces adoption of the plan. Large-scale change doesn’t have to operate that way.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 5:50 pm

What is it called when the US military is deployed to another country to “pave the way for a genuine political transition” through the use of combined air and sea power?

“NATO plans to take command of enforcing the no-fly zone but for now the United States continues to coordinate coalition strikes. Coalition aircraft have carried out 1,600 missions since March 19, with US aircraft involved in 60 percent of the runs.”


bob mcmanus 06.17.16 at 5:55 pm

…do not require the same kind of Fordist mass mobilization that gave the Second Industrial Revolution echoes of the field at Valmy. Inspired, this is. Just purty. I agree about Burke

As long as we are linking and critiqin, here’s some Nancy Fraser Legitimation Crisis? On the Political Contradictions of Financialized Capitalism, Fall 2015, free trial of Critical Historical Studies, so read it or save it while link lasts, she gets some pushback against her post-Marxian analysis, if you look around the site a little. Via Jacobin.

“Hidden in Plain Sight: A Note on Legitimation Crises and the Racial Order
Michael C. Dawson” response to Fraser

“Expropriation and Exploitation in Racialized Capitalism: A Reply to Michael Dawson”
Nancy Fraser response to the response

The last two are Spring 2016, and long and deep as months can allow them


The Temporary Name 06.17.16 at 6:02 pm

Who said the ‘USG’ (yes, USG, the institution, the world empire; “those in the USG” is a meaningless phrase) wants the situation stabilized? Why would it want that?

Come on. It’s better to imagine a shadowy cabal pulling the strings than pretending you don’t know why political institutions might want to avoid big political messes.


RNB 06.17.16 at 6:06 pm

@419 Qaddafi had already lost a big portion of the country, perhaps 30% if I remember correctly. He was either going to be defeated or find himself in a bloody protracted civil war. The NATO intervention did not create deadly chaos in Libya. What I mean by the anti-intervention left getting its way is that Clinton loudly called for some deployment to protect the democratically elected govt in Libya and Obama said that the air strikes would be the sum total of US intervention, and he said that because of the deep effect the anti-interventionists had and have on his foreign policy.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 6:10 pm

“Legitimation Crisis?”
Yes. Yes x 100.
(Thanks for the links; I have been suppressing the urge to shout ‘don’t you see, it’s a legitimation crisis!’ for some time now, lacking a proper defense of that position which I could easily point to)


Matt 06.17.16 at 6:12 pm

Matt the anti-intervention left also got its way in Libya.

Oh, it was the anti-intervention left that ordered US airstrikes in Libya, was it?

“Obama refused to provide any support to the post-Qaddafi government” — Libya no longer had a national government afterward, it had competing aspirants to a national government. As Syria will if Assad’s government falls. The implicit acknowledgement that destroying Libya’s bad old national government did not lead to a good new national government seems like reason enough to not do it again in Syria.

If you want the US to save the lives of innocent vulnerable people, spending resources on sanitation and health projects in poor-but-not-warring parts of the world will spare more children, prevent more suffering, avert more deaths than spending resources on military interventions will. It might be different in a world where the only suffering and poor people left were those in war zones, so every decision about helping the global poor was also a decision about interventions in wars; but that’s not the world we inhabit now or for the foreseeable future. If you want to help vulnerable people, think of toilets and water treatment, not drones and missiles.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 6:30 pm

“What I mean by the anti-intervention left getting its way is…that the air strikes would be the sum total of US intervention”

And this is why I call you a charlatan.


Alex K--- 06.17.16 at 6:56 pm

@ bruce wilder (386): “Letting a neocon undermine constitutional democracy and foment civil war in Ukraine in pursuit of some dream of neoliberal looting is not sensible policymaking.”

I’m afraid you’re quoting Putin on Ukraine uncritically; at any rate, you are denying agency to the Ukrainians who stood up to Yanukovich after he had reneged on his promise to sign an association agreement with the EU. The US and the EU may have been guilty of falsely assuring the opposition of their support – which they failed to provide when Russian forces attacked in Crimea and in the East. The “civil war” in Ukraine has been almost entirely Moscow’s doing; it’s essentially a war between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine’s problem has long been its remarkably corrupt institutions, and for all the cheap gas that Russia could offer, it does not have decent, well-functioning institutions for export, unlike the EU. The smart opinion in Ukraine in 2013 was, without the EU’s gravitational pull, the country would not be able to follow the example of the Baltics and Eastern Europeans in building a functioning state; therefore, Yanukovich’s volte-face on the EU doomed the country, turning it into a failed state forever.


bob mcmanus 06.17.16 at 7:22 pm

426: Well, I would have to re-read the Fraser closely, but I think she is saying that Habermas is no longer applicable, that there no longer a polity left to legitimate anything, and legitimation may no longer be necessary. But she is in dialogue with the Habermas, so there is plenty there for you to work with.

BW:…do not require the same kind of Fordist mass mobilization that gave the Second Industrial Revolution echoes of the field at Valmy.

I can’t get over this, cause it does connect with the Fraser and Dawson of 423. And I liked the Puchalsky of 421. Fraser, along with so many of an older Marxian or social democratic Left, still imagines some kind of mass mobilization that is very likely no longer available to anyone.

The Spirit of Valmy is dead, and the era of mass mobilizations and industrial high-modernist nation-states, their wars and grand infrastructure projects, unions and universal social movements, are buried with them.

This goes to both Trump and Clinton, but focusing on Trump, he is a charlatan, a performer, an entrepreneur, this is why he won the nomination. I hope everybody read the tweets from the rally,Trump’s followers don’t look anything like the regiments at Nuremburg a Trump Rally looks more like a slow riot a festival…a carnival. Bakhtin?
T-shirts, pot-bellies and shorts, gimme caps, undisciplined drunks…anybody seeing Himmler’s snappy dressers here have their own purposes disconnected from Trumpism.

And the shooters in Orlando and Britain, it feels to me like we are the ones attributing a social meaning to entrepeneurial and arbitrarily ascriptive acts, that the Jo Cox murder could easily be interpreted as a crime against women as a protest against Brexit. The point is again that there is no single interpretive polity, just a collective of entrepreneurs using the events. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

If this appears all incoherent and rambling, it’s cause reality has gone all fractal. Anarchy. Meso. Trying to find a place to stand between the Frasers and Dawsons has left me confused and depressed again. Still.


The Temporary Name 06.17.16 at 8:06 pm

If this appears all incoherent and rambling, it’s cause reality has gone all fractal.

Fractals are very orderly things.


Rich Puchalsky 06.17.16 at 8:38 pm

I probably don’t know enough about legitimation crises, but… the most common way to resolve a legitimation crisis, as I understand it, is re-legitimation of what is basically the existing system rather than its crash and replacement by a new system. For example: the U.S. goes through a legitimation crisis during the Civil Rights era, and is re-legitimized by granting people civil rights more or less. French Revolution kinds of legitimation crises seem less common.

If we’re in a crisis of the first kind, then what people seem to want is symbolic representation, and the system is realigning to give them that. The acrobatics of paid and volunteer HRC supporters aside, the main argument for HRC is apparently that she’s a woman. We can get through a whole lot of neoliberal Presidents if each of them is a member of a different discriminated-against class, and maybe that will legitimize the system at least locally.

If the system is in a crisis of the second kind, then … well, there’s a characteristic way that Marxism-influenced thinkers describe anarchism. You can see it in the Fraser piece.

In Europe, by contrast, dislike of neoliberalism is palpable. But its principal expressions are authoritarian populism and xenophobic anti-Europeanism, on the one hand, and demoralized passivity and antiprogrammatic neo-anarchism, on the other hand. Typical of the latter, and symptomatic, is France’s “le Zadisme,” a movement that aims to “defend” delimited “zones” from corporate predation, while relinquishing the more ambitious goal of transforming the larger order that enables such predation in the first place.

What must be done? Antiprogrammism goes along with “demoralization” and “passivity” apparently.

Begun in Chiapas and Seattle and propagated through the World Social Forum, this “alter-globalization” strategy has forged impressive connections among far-flung activist currents and social movements. But it too is hobbled by anarchist suspicions of organization, public power, and large-scale programmatic thinking.

What does it mean to be hobbled by what you are? Is there any way in which this strategy could even exist without these characteristics? What does it really mean to not be suspicious of public power and large-scale programmatic thinking in this context? (I’ll leave out “organization.” Non-anarchists always think that anarchists are against organization.)


Rich Puchalsky 06.17.16 at 8:39 pm

Second to last paragraph above was supposed to be in block quotes: it’s a quote from Fraser.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 9:02 pm

Rich P
As much as I agree with your distaste for the storied (and politically useless) bashing of anarchism by those of a Marx-ish persuasion, at a certain point your objections start to look like a similar sort of turf-defense.

Anarchism will never be wholly defensible at the theoretical level – it is intrinsically incapable of summoning that sort of account for itself. Anarchism’s value will always be demonstrated in term of practical (anti)politics, not in the sort of Theory that leads to book deals and a cushy professorship.

Honestly, pay these sorts of potshots no mind. The dangers facing this world are sufficiently great that we do not need a fleshed-out positive programme to spur practical action. When confronted with the very real possibility of ecological apocalypse, a programme of ‘not that’ will suffice in the interim.

We can save the purges and manifestos for after the revolution; at this rate, we will be lucky if we end up having that luxury.


RNB 06.17.16 at 9:24 pm

@428 If you don’t see that anti-interventionist sentiment deeply affected the nature of US involvement in post-Qaddafi Libya, fine. But you have a test case of non-intervention in Syria. Clinton’s hawkish policy was rejected by the Obama administration. She has been saying insistently that things have turned out worse in Syria than Libya. As a Bernie bro, you can call me a charlatan all you want–I don’t abuse you–but I don’t see a word of engagement with what Clinton has been saying for a year now. Sanders’ views on what to do in Syria may be as muddled as they are for a reason: he has no idea what he could propose to do that would make things even marginally better.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 9:58 pm

You conveniently sidestep all of the above arguments to pursue your single-minded obsession with demonstrating that HRC will save the world. Matt has already detailed how the resources and political will that would be expended in any Syrian campaign would be put to more effective use if devoted to other avenues. You have nothing to say to Matt’s comment because your interest in Syria here is less out of humanitarian concerns, and more about using the events there as a political cudgel in support of your favorite candidate.

Please elaborate on how US intervention will improve the current situation in Syria. For starters – who will take the seat of government after the US ousts Assad? How can we be assured that this individual will be capable of 1) creating a modicum of domestic stability; 2) not reverting to authoritarian violence; and 3) effectively working to curtail the growth of ISIS? Go ahead – let us hear the details of this effective path to peace that has been left so conspicuously on the table by Obama and the “anti-interventionist left”.

You want to get rid of Assad? By all means, go ahead – I hear the FSA is recruiting. But before you start recommending that we put the commonweal on the line and piss away another trillion dollars and countless lives on another quixotic war of liberation in the middle east, you had better come up with a feasible plan for success first.


Lupita 06.17.16 at 10:10 pm

your interest in Syria here is less out of humanitarian concerns, and more about using the events there as a political cudgel in support of your favorite candidate.

When the Empire falls, RNB’s arguments will be used as examples of the decadence that brought it about, much like the orgies of ancient Romans.


JeffreyG 06.17.16 at 10:22 pm

Yes, but participating in RNB’s arguments is sadly not quite as exhilarating as those Roman orgies.


kidneystones 06.17.16 at 10:25 pm

@427 Spot-on. One of the critical disconnects between the people supporting HRC and reality is the proven fact that consequences down matter to the clown princess. Iraq taught her nothing. Libya taught her nothing. Supplanting a government either means occupying and rebuilding the nation – see Germany, Japan, or creating more ISIL. There appears to be no other option in the ME at the moment. It isn’t clear whether that rebuilding Iraq, or Syria, will require more US money and lives, or less.

What is clear is that the current arc of actions is leading to the prospect of real conflict, possibly between US and Russia, definitely by proxy and perhaps directly in Syria and the Ukraine, with other arenas possible across the Balkans and eastern Europe. Ditto, in the South China Sea. The current policy of simply allowing China to militarize sand and coral at no cost has encouraged China’s expansionist ambitions. Allies are noticing.

The failure to rally around Sanders may well be the worst of long line of bad decisions American have made in selecting leaders. HRC is absolutely the candidate of Wall St, international globalization, and the establishment. Trump is the insurgent and all the forces of power are now rallying to defeat the final obstacle to four-eight years of the same only much worse.

The GOP, HRC, and the DNC are lock-step in agreement on war, surveillance, and secrecy. The only debate is which rights to remove, which nations to bomb, and who to shake down first for protection money – see exemptions from the Affordable Care Act etc.


RNB 06.17.16 at 10:40 pm

You all probably won’t find reading the State Department memo that interesting either but it lays out a strategy for putting military pressure on Assad not for the goal of regime change but to pursue diplomatic objectives and concessions to non-Daesh Sunni groups (without which Daesh cannot be defeated). It lays out the atrocities that Assad is committing and the instability that the crisis is creating in the region and even for Europe which may see its character changed in response to the refugee crisis.

Without a political stabilization of Syria it goes without saying that humanitarian development projects cannot be completed or would be destroyed upon completion. Like Obama we can reject the military intervention the State Department is calling as too unlikely to succeed given its cost to support. Or we can say that we don’t give a damn what happens in Syria and to the Syrian people. Clinton disagrees with you. You all may be right. But you are far from obviously right.


kidneystones 06.17.16 at 10:47 pm

Meanwhile, the execution of a senior anti-terror police officer and his wife in their home in a quiet village in France raises more troubling questions about how to cope with asymmetrical attacks on the polity. The story is all too familiar and very different from the tragic attack in England. The murderer was a confirmed ‘terrorist’ and known to security forces. How he managed to locate his targets does not require much imagination. Data bases are not secure.

The identity of virtually every individual recruited to keep the citizenry safe from criminals, and those of their loved ones, is now accessible to any virtually anyone with the expertise, or cash, to access these date banks.

What does that mean? Francois Hollande announced new measures to keep the identity of police people secret. Huh? That’s the solution?

The notion is, of course, completely unworkable and would rightly cause a great deal of consternation among the populace, should the effort achieve any measure of success. More disturbing is the message this sort of attack sends to rank and file police officers, many of whom already go to some lengths to maintain their anonymity in their communities, especially those living in areas where there is a great deal of hostility towards the police – university campuses, for example.

Currently France is failing to provide protections to those entrusted to protect the public. And don’t think the cleverer police folks and their families aren’t noticing. Those with options that include more reliable protections and a safer environment will be considering whether to leave, or continue to serve an often hostile public.

What happens when the good cops quit? Don’t ask.


LFC 06.17.16 at 11:05 pm

From a summary at the Atlantic of the story re the State Dept ‘dissent’ letter, last paragraphs:

In a statement, Mary Ellen O’Connell, professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, said the [State Dept officials’] letter is, in essence, “calling for a grave breach of international law.” She said the U.S. military intervention in Libya had been an “unmitigated disaster,” and “[a]ttacking Syria will have no better results.”

“Diplomacy is the way to end the Syrian civil war,” she said. “State Department officials need to get on that job—not pass the buck again to the military.”

With all due respect to Prof. O’Connell, I doubt that what the letter calls for amounts to “a grave breach of international law.” It may very well be unwise on policy grounds, but that’s a different matter.

Also, the last part of the quote draws a sharp contrast betw diplomacy and mil. action, whereas the letter, as summarized, calls for “judicious” (whatever that means exactly) use of force vs. Assad as a way to make diplomacy more likely to succeed.

Again, that may be right or wrong, wise or unwise policy. (I would tend to lean against it, but frankly I’m not sure.) But the only even arguably persuasive part of the O’Connell quotes is the reference to the Libyan intervention. The rest is really not that persuasive, imo.


LFC 06.17.16 at 11:08 pm


kidneystones 06.17.16 at 11:37 pm

Ban all Muslims from entering the US (oh-oh)

Those speculating on how recent events have affected the populace now have firm evidence.

Early into this game. Ahead in the first quarter is better than behind, but…


Matt 06.17.16 at 11:55 pm

With all due respect to Prof. O’Connell, I doubt that what the letter calls for amounts to “a grave breach of international law.” It may very well be unwise on policy grounds, but that’s a different matter.

Is it not calling for a war that is not in self-defense, aka a war of aggression, aka “supreme crime”?

War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

It’s perhaps easy to forget that it’s worse than “unwise on policy grounds” because the USA has done it so often and cannot be held accountable.


Faustusnotes 06.18.16 at 12:07 am

I’m liking how kidney stones cites polls on public opinion of trumps policies but never polls of public intention to vote.


LFC 06.18.16 at 12:08 am

Is it not calling for a war that is not in self-defense, aka a war of aggression, aka “supreme crime”?

Not all uses of force that are not in self-defense amount to illegal wars of aggression. Seems to me this would fall under the old customary intl law standard for humanitarian intervention inasmuch as Assad’s actions ‘shock the conscience’, to use the old phrase. However, she is a professor of international law and I’m not, so I’ll leave it at that (except to note that some other intl lawyer somewhere can prob be found to disagree).


kidneystones 06.18.16 at 12:21 am

@ 446 I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem you like anything about me, or my comments.

I blame it on your racist family. Still, waiting for your ‘facts’ how British Brexiters recently outed themselves as racists.

Between HRC’s support for war, globalization, and regime change and the witless inflexibility of liberals to threats, real and otherwise, to the American people.

You’ve a proven track record of getting this election cycle wrong. Perhaps you should pay attention to policies that voters actually, you know, support instead of your lazy-ass belly-button lint prognostications, your biases, bigotries, and keen desire to label pretty much everyone who holds views different to your own as ‘evil, stupid, and/or racist.’

The election is in November, btw.


kidneystones 06.18.16 at 12:23 am

Oops, multi-tasking is always a bad idea. “Between…’ should read ‘Between…people, there’s a real chance she could, you know, lose.


kidneystones 06.18.16 at 12:27 am

Head-exploding presentation on ‘racism’ and ‘policy’ by…

Short, but not for the faint of heart.


JeffreyG 06.18.16 at 12:49 am

“The White House strongly denied Tuesday that regime change is part of its mission in Libya”

For some reason I am not reassured when you tell me that regime change is not part of the plan.


JeffreyG 06.18.16 at 1:03 am

More generally – conditions on the ground move quickly, and war is the epitome of the unpredictable and uncontrollable. Even if we are certain at the outset that our plan is not regime change (a big if), local actors, not to mention Fortuna herself, may have different ideas. Once the bombs start falling, what was once unthinkable may soon come to be seen as ‘necessary’. Call it ‘mission creep’, call it chaos – if anyone tells you that the hostilities will go just this far and no further, I call that bull*@#$.


JeffreyG 06.18.16 at 1:15 am

kidneystones –
I appreciate you holding to your unconventional opinions and swimming against the main current here (sincerely, I do), but please quit the Trump boosterism. It is a long way until November, and people here are fully capable of looking up Trump’s talking points themselves. There is a fine line between passionately arguing your side and crass signal-boosting of campaign propaganda, but comments like #450 [where you just drop a youtube video of a Trump rally without any explanation/analysis] imo crosses it.


kidneystones 06.18.16 at 3:32 am

@ 454 Thanks for this and the kind words. I don’t make a habit of linking to any Trump positive pieces, and there are lots, as you know.

As much as I agree that many are ‘capable’ of doing a great many things, I’d much prefer folks to get a small taste of a rare clip – an Asian, Republican, Vietnamese legal immigrant, served in the armed forces, and begins his tirade with the declaration that he’s for Trump and if the price he has to pay for being an ‘out’ Trump supporter is the charge of being a racist, then BY GOD, that’s a price he’ll willing pay 100 fold.

Now, not to get too deep into the weeds on this, but it may come as a tremendous shock to many in the US and western Europe to learn that ‘racism’ is alive and positively thriving in many parts of Asia. Ethnicity and gene distribution patterns play a dominant role in national and cultural identity. Indeed, the idea of a ‘melting pot’ is about as far from any sense of identity in Korea or Japan as can be, no matter that there are countless links tying the two cultures together. A couple of different genes – and kaboom! Rabid racism on a national level that is always bubbling beneath the surface and above in varying degrees according to the demographic. But, I digress.

Rather than editorialize on the video, I decided to let others decide whether to click through, or not. It’s not Trump himself bombastulating and it’s unusual for several reasons.

To the larger point – my motto is know your enemy. I’m an old-school believer in the UN and peaceful conflict resolutions. All wars are by definition wrong. Being attacked, nations have the right to defend themselves. But people don’t get to drop bombs on folks they don’t like. As I’ve argued before, the fact we don’t drop bombs on China, or Russia, or any other nation capable of dropping a few on us confirms that ‘we’ are willing to negotiate when we have to. We’d prefer to negotiate with lesser powers, but as we’ve seen and see, there’s an unhealthy group of ‘lefties’ like Obama, Marshall, HRC, Biden and on and on and on who feel it positively necessary to express US will using force against the weak.

It’s a fucking disgrace. So, no apologies from me, I’m afraid.

I like your stuff, too, btw.


kidneystones 06.18.16 at 5:09 am


RNB 06.18.16 at 4:04 pm

@453 The NYT makes clear that the Pentagon does not want to risk a deeper conflagration with the Russians who along with Iranians have given Assad full spectrum support that allows him to commit mass homicide against his technologically inferior opponents (and drives otherwise moderate people into the hands of ISIS). The Pentagon seems also unwilling to back off its game of whack-the-mole with ISIS. And Obama sides with the Pentagon, so this memo will find its way to the trash-bin soon.

But given the support al-Assad has I do not think US actions would easily lead to regime change; they just may pressure him to accept some compromises that would allow the war to end. Otherwise as a State Department official is quoted as saying, the US and international community is giving al-Assad a free pass to mass homicide as he takes back every inch of Syria.


Cranky Observer 06.18.16 at 4:15 pm

How are you doing on getting the draft back in operation and tax increases in place to pay for all this aggressive world policing/restructuring? And pay the Iraq War II debt while we are at it? For certain specialties the US Army will accept new recruits up to age 43 – have you talked to your local Armed Forces Recruiter about signing up?

No? Very Serious(tm) proposals you’ve got there.


RNB 06.18.16 at 4:36 pm

@458 OK you oppose Clinton’s hawkishness due to its cost not out of solidarity with whom you think would its victims; actually you are implying they are not worth protecting given the costs of doing so. That’s of course a reasonable point, and perhaps a recognition of real fiscal constraint. And your argument is not based on the self-deluding belief of many revolutionary Bernie Bros here that they are opposing Clinton’s hawkishness due to their profound solidarity with the Syrian people.

By the way, it’s not surprising to me that Bernie Bro JeffreyG and Trump apologist kidneystones have more mutual admiration for each other and speak more nicely to each other than they treat a supporter of Clinton here. It’s what it always was.


RNB 06.18.16 at 4:41 pm

@455 I hope that Trump chooses as his VP the man who introduces him in the video. Of course he may have no choice. He may be the only who accepts the offer, and he is sure to turn away half of Trump’s racist supporters.


RNB 06.18.16 at 4:53 pm

Speaking of Asian-American VP’s, Nate Cohn of the NYT is floating the idea that Clinton’s choice may be Gary Locke.


novakant 06.18.16 at 5:35 pm

actually you are implying they are not worth protecting given the costs of doing so.

If only the US would stop “protecting” people in the Middle East much would be gained.


Cranky Observer 06.18.16 at 5:48 pm

No RNB, in my comments I’m not advocating for or against any specific policy [1]. I’m pointing out that like many Very Serious People you are advocating policies that have very high cost in human blood and treasure without taking any responsibility for whence those resources will be obtained. Knock a few million Midwesterners out of work via trade policies, render their central cities uninhabitable through taxation and education policies, then set up lots of Army recruiting stations in the devastated areas? Works for you. As long as no one in the DC elite has to go to war themselves or see their children off at the gates of the induction center. Please tell us how exactly you are going to pay for your war and occupation policies, with no Paul Ryan magic asterisks please.

And if you are advocating red war the only moral way to do that is as Churchill and Roosevelt did [2], and Bush/Cheney did not, and plan for a thorough occupation and rebuilding. An occupation of that scope requires hundreds of thousands of military and civilian personnel [3] and the money to pay for them, which could not be provided absent a draft. If you’re not willing to discuss that honestly then you aren’t discussing your own advocated policy honestly and you have no scope to criticize others.

fn1: If you need to know, I am in absolute agreement with President Obama’s policies of not doing stupid stuff and minimizing US intervention abroad to the greatest extent possible. I’d go a bit farther and add $500 billion in subsidies for renewable electricty generation, grid modernization, and electric car implementation so the US can get out the Middle East entirely, but I know that’s crazy talk compared to ordering 3,000 F-35s

fn2: Both Churchill and the US Army set up occupation planning groups in 1940

fn3: Look up the numbers of the percentage of US draftees from 1944-1954 who were designated for the Army of Occupation, an entirely separate command from the combat armies


RNB 06.18.16 at 8:23 pm

@464 You raise important points, and perhaps I skirt them by saying that on the very debatable assumption that US military force could induce Assad to make concessions that the State Department dissidents hope for–linked above is Kevin Drum calling this snake oil–you may be gravely underestimating the costs of inaction which the State Dept memo also lays out: a stronger Daesh, continued wasted expenses in the whack-a-mole campaign against Daesh, a refugee crisis that could destabilize the Middle East and Europe, and huge losses of Syrian lives.


RNB 06.18.16 at 8:26 pm

Given the stakes Arab and European states have in stopping al-Assad from using overwhelming force to take back every inch of Syria, they should bear most of the costs.


Layman 06.18.16 at 9:04 pm

Cranky Observer @ 464, bravo!


RNB 06.18.16 at 9:07 pm

From Ian Black’s Guardian review of Gilbert Achcar’s latest book:

‘In Syria, Achchar [sic] concludes, the rebels misread the lesson of Libya, believing wrongly that Bashar al-Assad would stand down rather than risk the fate of Muammar Gaddafi. But others made fatal errors too: Barack Obama’s failure to back the anti-Assad forces was born, he says, “of deep human indifference to the fate of the population of an oil-poor Arab country” – a sin of omission in his view as bad as George Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq a decade earlier.

US and western failure adequately to back the Syrian opposition created a vacuum that allowed al-Qaida to thrive and Isis to emerge. And Assad promoted extremism too, releasing jailed jihadis (who he had previously sent to fight the Americans in Iraq) and even providing them with weapons. His strategy was to frighten the West and the country’s minorities and present himself as the only alternative – anything but “risk the contagious potential of democracy,” in Achcar’s words. And Assad’s “preferred enemy” were the “preferred friends” of Turkey and the Gulf monarchies.’


Layman 06.18.16 at 9:24 pm

@ RNB, if Achcar’s book really claims that Obama’s decision not to launch a war against the Assad regime was the result of “of deep human indifference to the fate of the population of an oil-poor Arab country”, I’d say that’s a book you can safely skip.


RNB 06.18.16 at 9:27 pm

Libya has oil. Sure, I’ll skip Achcar to read the informed commentary here. That sounds like solid advice.


Layman 06.18.16 at 9:39 pm

@ RNB, I don’t care if Libya has liquid gold flowing across the land, free for any to dip a pail into; anyone who thinks Obama operates from “deep human indifference to the fate of” ANY population is such a poor observer of human nature I can’t imagine they have any insights of value. So, yes, you probably ARE better off reading the commentary here, as some of it is not written by such apparent cretins.


RNB 06.18.16 at 9:50 pm

I am surprised that anyone as informed as you Laymand could not be disturbed the indifference that President Obama has expressed towards the Syrian people in his Atlantic interview with Goldberg who writes: “Despite this threat, Obama seemed to many critics to be coldly detached from the suffering of innocent Syrians.”

Here is a bit from an interview in a European publication late last year with Achcar who interestingly has been featured in Jacobin which has stridently supported Sanders who favored Obama’s inaction in Syria over Clinton.

Q.: Many say that what we have now in Syria, with the Russian intervention, is a total failure of US policy. A few others believe that there is a hidden US plan to involve Russia in this conflict. And there is apparently a real split in the American elite around the Syrian question. What do you think is the US position in this situation?

Achcar: There has definitely been an ongoing disagreement at the top level in the US with regard to Syria. It is no secret that there was a dispute on the issue of providing support to the Syrian mainstream opposition between Obama and Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, with others in the military and the CIA sharing her view. In 2012, when this debate started, the mainstream opposition, the Free Syrian army, was still the dominant force in the opposition. It is actually this mainstream Syrian opposition’s weakness, due to the lack of support from Washington and especially the US veto on its supply with anti-aircraft defensive means, which enabled Islamic “jihadist” forces to develop in parallel and later become more important in the armed opposition to the Syrian regime. Those who advocated support to the mainstream opposition, like Clinton and then-CIA director David Petraeus, now believe that the events proved them right, that the catastrophic development of the situation in Syria is, to a large extent, a result of Obama’s wrong policy.

Obama is confronted indeed with a terribly negative balance-sheet of his policy on Syria. It’s a total disaster from whichever point of view you look at it, humanitarian or strategic. European Union countries are quite worried about the huge wave of refugees, the outcome of a massive humanitarian disaster. The Obama administration is trying to console itself by saying that Russia is falling in a trap, that it will be its second Afghanistan. It is no coincidence that, in his recent criticism of the Russian intervention, Obama used the term “quagmire” – a term applied to the US in Vietnam, and to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Russia is now said to be getting into a quagmire in Syria. This is wishful thinking again, aiming at sweetening the pill of a major failure.


JeffreyG 06.18.16 at 9:57 pm

“that the catastrophic development of the situation in Syria is, to a large extent, a result of Obama’s wrong policy”

This is true only in so far as the US intervention in Libya served as a lesson to actors in the region, encouraging the Syrian rebels to precipitate a humanitarian catastrophe in order to induce US military assistance to serve their desired political ends.

see Alan Kuperman.


RNB 06.18.16 at 10:12 pm

Thanks, I’ll read Kuperman’s piece in Foreign Affairs after I read Achcar’s book. Interesting that you seem to think the rebels were more responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe than al-Assad has been (is that Sanders’ understanding of al-Assad–no!), and you seem to be suggesting that this is Alan Kuperman’s position as well. We’ll see.


JeffreyG 06.18.16 at 11:11 pm

Again a blatant misrepresentation . You are shameless.


JeffreyG 06.18.16 at 11:15 pm

Don’t bother responding to me, I am no longer interested in anything you have to say.


kidneystones 06.18.16 at 11:21 pm

@465 You’re either scrupulously dishonest, or a fucking moron.

You don’t ‘skirt’ the Grand Canyon Size gap in your own argument as much as pretend it doesn’t exist. You’re careful, however, to demand only that others step out into the air and commit their children to another poorly-planned and executed exercise in ‘we can kill, so we will.’

The precise challenges presented by deposing a despot in the region were ‘gamed out’ in real life twice in Iraq, first in Desert Storm and then by Bush. And here you are acting like the examples are nothing more than a book you’ll get around to reading when you have a spare moment.

People fucking die in these little experiments in fp you are advocating. They are not exercises for ivory-tower pinheads such as yourself to play out.

Put a helmet on both those kids you like talking about so much and tell them we’re going to play a game with guns and real bullets.

If you’re not ready to that, please stop suggesting other people (draftees and guess which demographic these folks usually come from) risk their own lives and limbs. All so you don’t have to admit you support a war-mongering cynic.

You’re not just an HRC supporter, you’re a mayhem-loving sociopath, and that’s why you attract condemnation from so many quarters. I have no expectations you’ll change.


Layman 06.18.16 at 11:27 pm


‘I am surprised that anyone as informed as you Laymand could not be disturbed the indifference that President Obama has expressed towards the Syrian people in his Atlantic interview with Goldberg who writes: “Despite this threat, Obama seemed to many critics to be coldly detached from the suffering of innocent Syrians.”’

I’m surprised you bother to read, if this is the level at which you understand it. In the piece you quote, claiming Obama has ‘expressed’ ‘indifference’, Goldberg does not say Obama ‘expressed indifference’. Instead, he said people who criticize Obama think he is ‘coldly detached’. This is Goldberg reporting that some other people think bad things about Obama; it says nothing at all about Obama.

When are you enlisting, RNB?


LFC 06.19.16 at 12:00 am


That a policy has not worked well, or has failed, does not necessarily mean that a different policy would have led to a better outcome. Sometimes a good outcome is not achievable no matter what policy is followed.

If the U.S. had more vigorously armed the FSA in 2012, or if the U.S. had bombed certain Assad regime airfields as HRC apparently advocated in internal admin deliberations, would that have led to Assad’s fall or to his negotiated departure? Or would it have led to more or less where we are now, albeit by a different route? I doubt anyone knows the answer to these questions w anything approaching certainty.

I think Obama’s view was that, bit by bit, the U.S. would be sucked into another civil war in the region and even if Assad fell, the FSA might not have been able to consolidate control and there would have been an ongoing civil war as in Libya, which would have required probably a significant soldiers-on-the-ground commitment to resolve (or, alternatively, J. Stacey’s chimerical “largest UN peacekeeping force in history” that would have been vetoed by the Russians). In sum, Obama’s judgment might have been mistaken, but I think it was a sincere call, not the product of “indifference.” Hindsight is 20-20, and from the perspective of today it’s easy to say things should have been done differently. W/r/t future policy, I am unsure about whether the State Dept dissenters are right; haven’t followed the coverage closely enough.


LFC 06.19.16 at 12:16 am

In other words, I’m trying to emphasize uncertainty — which I think there was a lot of, incl. probably among the relatively small group of Syria experts (at least outside the govt.). I’d also suggest – though I’ve no idea whether this is actually the case — that Obama might have been influenced by the long and rather public debate over the ‘Afghan surge’ that he announced in Dec. ’09. It’s possible he was having second thoughts about having gone w/ the military brass’s recommendation in that situation, and was determined to be more skeptical here. Pure speculation on my part. We’ll have to wait a while for a thoroughly sourced history of the Obama admin’s for. policy decisions to be published.


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:19 am

@478 Assuming that you have read the entire Goldberg interview, I have to ask you whether you do not think he comes as coldly indifferent to the fate of the Syrian people. I quoted that bit only to indicate that inside critics have also drawn that conclusion. I encourage all to read this historically important piece and draw their own conclusions about what Obama himself is quoted as saying.

@473 Jeffrey G says that the Syrian rebels precipitated a human catastrophe. But don’t call him an Assad apologist. He means something else, he insists. Funny to see where the Bernie Bros will go due to their hatred of Hillary Clinton.

@477 kidneystones loses his cool and calls me a sociopath and a moron, though I am saying that we should consider seriously what 51 State Department officials are saying even if we disagree with their recommendations. It could well be that the diplomats are wrong that there is some way at this point to put the requisite military pressure on Assad to make the concessions they hope for. But there is already a horrific bloodbath in Syria possibly due to inaction at the right time.

Hillary Clinton is to blame for this iff there was a possibility of Assad actually agreeing to and complying with the terms of Annan’s negotiated settlement were she not subverting negotiations with covert support for the rebels. Stephen Kinzer for example says: “At the recent debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton claimed that United Nations peace efforts in Syria were based on “an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva.” The precise opposite is true. In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton joined Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a successful effort to kill Kofi Annan’s UN peace plan because it would have accommodated Iran and kept Assad in power, at least temporarily. No one on the Milwaukee stage knew enough to challenge her.”

I do not think al-Assad’s recent violation of the cease-fire gives any support to the idea that Assad could have been trusted then and can be trusted now without military pressure being brought to bear on him. That does not mean it is worth the human and financial costs of bringing that pressure to bear on him.


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:28 am

@479 Obama may not have been indifferent in the early stages but the way Goldberg quotes him he does not come across that way to me now. I think it is very difficult to argue that things would have been as bad or worse on the Syrian side had Obama accepted HRC’s proposal. Again we are talking about 400,000 dead people and 12 million people displaced. We are talking about how this has strengthened Daesh; we are talking about a refugee crisis that may yet change the fundamental character of Europe and destabilize the Middle East. Again I think the damning charges of of Hillary as a war-monger are justified only if in fact Assad was willing to comply with a peace agreement that Clinton scuttled as Stephen Kinzer and Jeffrey Sachs are saying, but I do not see how we can believe this given Assad’s behavior during this cease-fire. I am not saying they are wrong. Russia also struck US allies fighting ISIL (probably opponents of Assad as well) in the last few days.


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:30 am

typo: Obama may not have been indifferent in the early stages but the way Goldberg quotes him he does INDEED come across that way to me now.


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:38 am

Another angle people are missing here perhaps because they have not read the State Department memo: Americans are already risking their lives in the struggle against Daesh, and the diplomats are arguing that their struggle has become more difficult due to the way Assad’s horrifying actions marginalize less radical forms of dissent and end up filling the ranks of Daesh. In some ways the State Dept diplomats are not asking for more military intervention and war but its partial refocusing so that Assad does not have a free pass on mass homicide.


Layman 06.19.16 at 12:40 am

“I have to ask you whether you do not think he comes as coldly indifferent to the fate of the Syrian people.”

He does not. He does to you because you’re a simpleton, someone who thinks that something must be done! and bombing Assad is something!, so it must be done!, and anyone who doesn’t agree must be indifferent to the fate of the Syrian people. In the real world, there’s no reason to believe that bombing Assad will improve the lot of the Syrian people, and good reason to believe it won’t (see Iraq, Libya, Vietnam, etc).


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:43 am

@485 I have not read the interview in a while but when he says that the US has not vital interest in Syria and that Russia is caught in a quagmire, that does read to me as indifferent. The interview was to me startling and disturbing. But I certainly see how people may read it differently.


Layman 06.19.16 at 12:44 am

“Again we are talking about 400,000 dead people and 12 million people displaced. ”

The Iraq war killed a million Iraqis, and displaced millions more. So, maybe intervention isn’t such a slam-dunk after all.


Layman 06.19.16 at 12:46 am

“that does read to me as indifferent. ”

Please see response @485, text beginning “…because you’re a simpleton…”


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:47 am

Absolutely, Layman. It’s not a slam dunk. Everything LFC says about uncertainty is exactly correct. But the difference is that the US destabilized Iraq and caused the tragedy that unfolded while the US refused to support millions of peaceful dissidents in an already chaotic society.


RNB 06.19.16 at 12:55 am

@488 Well at some point we should go to Goldberg’s piece. Just going to the end is this:
‘This is why the fight against isis, a group he considers to be a direct, though not existential, threat to the U.S., is his most urgent priority for the remainder of his presidency; killing the so-called caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is one of the top goals of the American national-security apparatus in Obama’s last year.

Of course, isis was midwifed into existence, in part, by the Assad regime. Yet by Obama’s stringent standards, Assad’s continued rule for the moment still doesn’t rise to the level of direct challenge to America’s national security.

This is what is so controversial about the president’s approach, and what will be controversial for years to come—the standard he has used to define what, exactly, constitutes a direct threat.’

So the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria is not a sufficient enough challenge to America’s national security….


kidneystones 06.19.16 at 1:10 am

@ 481. Wrong. I called you a “mayhem-loving sociopath” and [either] “scrupulously dishonest” or a fucking moron.” All three clearly fit.

Put some skin in the game chicken-hawk, or stop suggesting other people be killed.

Deal with the hard evidence that Iraq twice and Libya once confirm that HRC’s plan’s for endless war without committing enormous US resources towards nation building over 5 decades minimum do nothing but create more refugees, more suffering, less stability and more justifications for more regime change and, btw, a never-ending money train for arms and munitions producers, military technology companies, military and security companies, and the pricks who profit from the preceding.

It’s about the fucking money. And please do not assume that I have lost my cool. I deploy profanity as a norm when people supporting death and suffering deploy academic language to obscure lies and the obscenity of needless death and suffering.

So, I suppose we can add “f’ing ghoul” to the above. (Sop to those comfortable with calls for endless war, but uncomfortable with a particular class of intensifiers.)

You’re entire series of posts here can be boiled down to ‘help me hide from the truth.’ Doubtless you’ll continue to try to draw others in to help you ‘skirt’ you willingness to kill, but not fight.


lupita 06.19.16 at 1:24 am

RNB reminds me of HAL 9000. Anytime now he’s going to start singing nursery rhymes.


LFC 06.19.16 at 1:46 am

RNB @486
I have not read the interview in a while but when he says that the US has no vital interest in Syria and that Russia is caught in a quagmire, that does read to me as indifferent.

“Vital interest” is a fairly standard phrase in the f.p. lexicon typically used as a rough synonym for ‘vital strategic interest’ — so that cd be a wrong judgment but does not indicate indifference, at least to me; if he had said “no vital humanitarian interest” that wd indicate indifference.

(Btw & FTR, I don’t think kidneystone’s insults are doing much of anything except muddying things up and relieving his feelings)


kidneystones 06.19.16 at 2:20 am

@ 493 FTR

Please review your comments here and elsewhere and count the number of times you describe your lack of understanding of a given topic and finish the mess with an all-purpose ” I’m unsure…”

Your comments towards me, btw, are uniformly insulting, not that I mind. I just enjoy pointing out that you’re too dense to recognize this simple fact evident to all.

Your commonplace bumbling efforts to express a cogent argument amuse and offer a certain charm.

RBC, on the other hand, in case you haven’t noticed, is an open and unapologetic bigot: “Trump rallies=Klan rallies” and an advocate of illegal wars. Like most of life, RNB’s bigotry and support for endless death and destruction in the cause of peace probably comes as big surprise to you.

Have a nice day!


RNB 06.19.16 at 2:42 am

@494 kidneystones:

(1) can you give me some, any evidence that Assad would have complied with Annan’s peace agreement had Hillary Clinton not subverted the process as Jeffrey Sachs and Stephen Kinzer are alleging (and do note that I am the one to have brought attention to their most serious criticisms of HRC which frankly have much greater significance and importance than your angry posts here)? I have said repeatedly–in fact I think this was the issue I raised in my first post on the Democratic nomination struggle–that I would count this as a devastating criticism of Hillary Clinton. I just don’t see how Sachs and Kinzer are not exaggerating the willingness of al-Assad to have made and to make any compromises given his actions during this supposed cease-fire even when he has an overwhelming military advantage, as a result of full spectrum support from the Russians and Iranians. But perhaps Sachs and Kinzer are right; I just don’t see their case being argued against contrary evidence.

(2) You seem not to understand that US troops are already at risk in the military actions against ISIL. In fact they are now even at risk from Russian forces who may be lumping all anti-Assad forces in with ISIL. The question which the State Dept diplomats have raised is whether it will be possible to reduce the risk posed by ISIL to the the people of the region and to American troops without forcing Assad to make major concessions or even to oust him. I don’t see how you have spoken to their memo at all. They are calling for a refocusing of military intervention in the region, not necessarily more military intervention. But a change in mission. They could be dead wrong, but not a word you have written speaks to their concerns.

(3) You can follow Mearsheimer and Walt and argue for the US not to take military action against Assad and ISIL (except for some tactical supports to some groups fighting them). This is certainly a discussion worth having, but this position is contrary to Trump, Clinton and Sanders.


kidneystones 06.19.16 at 3:07 am

@ 495 Your bigotry, hate-speech, intellectual dishonesty, advocacy for illegal wars, moral, and (now) physical cowardice is a matter of record. When you admit to any of the preceding we might begin to have a discussion. I say only because I’m immensely confident that you are not going to square-up even to the impossible-for-anyone-but-you-to ignore gaps in your own calls for death – which frame as ‘arguments.’

Please don’t try to get enlist me in your obscene defense of bigotry and illegal wars. Really.


RNB 06.19.16 at 3:12 am

We won’t get along, but, hey, Bernie Bro Jeffrey G appreciates your posts. It’s great the CT has allowed the partisan divide between Trump and Sanders supporters to be bridged and for you both to have a civil conversation that you can’t have with those of us voting for Clinton.


RNB 06.19.16 at 3:57 am

From Goldberg’s piece and why I said against Layman’s insulting rebukes why it read to me as Obama had become indifferent to the millions of lives tragically affected by the Syrian conflict:

‘Syria, for Obama, represented a slope potentially as slippery as Iraq. In his first term, he came to believe that only a handful of threats in the Middle East conceivably warranted direct U.S. military intervention. These included the threat posed by al‑Qaeda; threats to the continued existence of Israel (“It would be a moral failing for me as president of the United States” not to defend Israel, he once told me); and, not unrelated to Israel’s security, the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. The danger to the United States posed by the Assad regime did not rise to the level of these challenges.’
‘“No,” he said. “Do I think that had we not invaded Iraq and were we not still involved in sending billions of dollars and a number of military trainers and advisers into Afghanistan, would I potentially have thought about taking on some additional risk to help try to shape the Syria situation? I don’t know.”

What has struck me is that, even as his secretary of state warns about a dire, Syria-fueled European apocalypse, Obama has not recategorized the country’s civil war as a top-tier security threat.’

‘If you are a supporter of the president, his strategy makes eminent sense: Double down in those parts of the world where success is plausible, and limit America’s exposure to the rest. His critics believe, however, that problems like those presented by the Middle East don’t solve themselves—that, without American intervention, they metastasize.

At the moment, Syria, where history appears to be bending toward greater chaos, poses the most direct challenge to the president’s worldview.’


Peter T 06.19.16 at 5:34 am

There are certain fixed assumptions floating around here which are, to put it politely, just not grounded in reality.

There are people in the Middle East, with their own ideologies, aspirations and calculations. These are quite different to those of US policymakers, and often different to those of the US population generally.

The US occupation of Iraq was a failure not because the US failed to flood the country with troops and money, but because Shi’a Iraqis and the Kurds had their own agendas. The Shia had been shifting from their traditionally apolitical stance from the 70s, the Kurds wanted a high degree of autonomy and return to the lands Saddam had driven them from. Neither were (nor are) compatible with Sunni political dominance. When the US tried compromise, the Shi’a gave them a forceful nudge. As in “you’re having trouble with the 10-20% of the population unhappy with things – we can make that 80% any time we choose – here’s a few bombings as a reminder”.

Quite simply, Iraq was not Germany post 1945, nor Japan either. And No US policy was going to make it so.

The Assad regime is wantonly brutal. It is not genocidal. The main opposition groups are genocidal, insofar as the term can be applied to sectarian conflict. An-Nusra and allies and ISIS both openly declare their intention to wipe out the Alawites (ISIS also wants to wipe out Ismailis, Christians, Druze, non-conforming Sunnis, Kurds….An-Nusra wants to forcibly convert them) . Both have carried out massacres in accordance with these aims. Many of the internal refugees in Syria are moderate Sunnis sheltering in regime-controlled areas, and the regime has a fair number of Sunnis, including quite a few in high positions (the governor of Latakia, for instance).

The secular opposition was always a small and ineffectual group. If the regime goes, it’s an-Nusra or ISIS (probably an-Nusra. Massacres, the flight of Alawis, Christians and Druze into Lebanon, a fight to the death between the Islamists and the Kurds. Probably an invasion by Iraqi militias in defence of the sacred shrines the Islamists keep trying to blow up. Maybe Saudi intervention. In short, an even bigger, nastier, less containable mess.

Just because Washington geeks can imagine a better outcome does not mean one is achievable. Again, policy-makers spinning stories about how this might just work is not a substitute for understanding what those people over there want and will fight for. The State Dept 50 think you can throw a small grenade into a four-cornered gang-fight in a glass factory and predict the result. They’re delusional.


Layman 06.19.16 at 12:47 pm

RNB: “…why it read to me…”

Again, read my response at 485. It seems this way to you because you have a simpleton’s view of the problem: Either one intervenes to ‘save’ Syrians, or one is indifferent to their fate. In truth, the problem is much more complicated, and there are reasons not to intervene which are not based on indifference. One could believe, as in Iraq, that intervention would do more harm than good. One could understand that there is no way to intervene which would not in fact kill more Syrians, without leading to a state of safety and security for the survivors. The lesson of Vietnam was supposed to be that there are limits to the efficacy of force and US military power. Some problems can’t be solved with bombs, unless you mean simply to kill them all as a solution.

There is, for example, astonishing poverty and misery across Africa. American economic and industrial power could be deployed there to the great benefit of millions, bringing safe drinking water, reliable food supplies, economic opportunity, etc. Instead, you’d rather spend that money and power on killing Syrians, in the hope that it will help other Syrians. Can I say, then, that you’re indifferent to the fate of the various African peoples?


LFC 06.19.16 at 3:05 pm

Please review your comments here and elsewhere and count the number of times you describe your lack of understanding of a given topic and finish the mess with an all-purpose ” I’m unsure…”

Pls review yr comments here and elsewhere and count the number of times you wantonly display stupidity and ignorance, capping it all w a confident declaration of opinion based on nothing more than a concatenation of prejudices devoid of any grounding in reality. Lack of certainty need not stem from “lack of understanding” but rather from an accurate recognition of the limits of one’s own expertise, something that you don’t understand b/c you regard yourself as omniscient and fit to pronounce definitively on things you know little or nothing about.

Your commonplace bumbling efforts to express a cogent argument amuse and offer a certain charm.

You wouldn’t know a cogent argument if it hit you in the face.


RNB 06.19.16 at 3:51 pm

Obama has not been willing to risk greater intervention in Syria not only due to assessments of costs and likely outcomes but also because the humanitarian catastrophe of Syria does not rise for Obama to a top-level security threat to the US (see quotes at @490 and @498). Layman insists that only a simpleton would read this as indifference, yet that is how many of Obama’s insiders have also interpreted his stance!

I do think the evidence in the Goldberg interview allows for and encourages this interpretation, but reasonable people can disagree. So call me a simpleton or an ignoramus or whatever the term of abuse du jour is for me (moron, sociopath, bigot, shameless propagandist, unthinking stooge).

For a different perspective from Peter T on whether Assad moving to the Geneva compromise would indeed strengthen the moderate opposition and weaken ISIS and whether some military counter-force could possibly make him as pliant as he seemed to be be just before Russia’s full spectrum support, see


Layman 06.19.16 at 4:36 pm

RNB: “Obama has not been willing to risk greater intervention in Syria not only due to assessments of costs and likely outcomes but also because the humanitarian catastrophe of Syria does not rise for Obama to a top-level security threat to the US (see quotes at @490 and @498). ”

I’ve already pointed out your careless reading. The quotes you cite at 490 and 498 do not mention ‘the humanitarian catastrophe of Syria’.

At 490, Obama is not quoted all; rather, Goldberg says Obama believes ISIS is a threat to the US but not an existential threat, and Goldberg says Obama believes the Assad regime is not a threat to US national security. The only mention of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in that post is your own mention.

In 498, Goldberg quotes Obama as saying (again) that the Assad regime is not a threat to national security. There is no mention of weighing the ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ to determine if it is a threat to US national security, because that would be an absurdity.

“Layman insists that only a simpleton would read this as indifference”

And you happily continue to demonstrate that.


RNB 06.19.16 at 4:47 pm

Yes what is happening in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe, one of the greatest since WWII. Obama still won’t elevate its importance to the point where it would be worth risk taking action. He has not found the Syrian catastrophe important enough in his realist scale of values to risk action in spite of the enormity of the catastrophe. His realism makes him coldly indifferent to humanitarian catastrophe even of this scale. You read the evidence differently. Fine. I can see that, You see him mentally anguished by what is transpiring in Syria and really impotent to act effectively, especially given hard budget constraints. I think his inaction speaks louder than that.


Lee A. Arnold 06.19.16 at 4:57 pm

RNB #505: “Obama still won’t elevate its importance to the point where it would be worth risk taking action.”

This is ridiculous. There are about a half dozen different actors directly involved in Syria. The question is, what do you YOURSELF think that the US should do. Give us the details your own preferred policy.


Layman 06.19.16 at 4:59 pm

“Yes what is happening in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe”

This is not in question.

“Obama still won’t elevate its importance to the point where it would be worth risk taking action.”

Or he judges that intervention would kill more Syrians. Or he judges that toppling the Assad regime would create a vacuum which would make things worse. Or he judges that intervention and toppling Assad without creating a vacuum would take a commitment beyond America’s effective capacity. It’s a complicated problem, beyond simpleminded chicken hawk analyses.


RNB 06.19.16 at 5:06 pm

But he is also saying that even if thought intervention may not make things worse in Syria or lead to worse governance, intervention still could not be justified as Syria does not have that great importance in his realist scale of values in spite of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding.


RNB 06.19.16 at 5:07 pm

@506 The discussion is about the military action the State Department dissenters are calling for. Obama will almost certainly not act on the memo.


Lee A. Arnold 06.19.16 at 5:23 pm

@510 And from this you assume that Obama is indifferent to the suffering? That makes no sense.

1. You don’t know that Obama won’t act on it in the future. 2. You don’t know that, if Obama does follow the advice, it will work. 3. State Dept. diplomats send dissent letters all the time, it is part of the usual process and it looks like this one was leaked for political reasons. 4. The last thing the U.S. public knew about the Syria situation (not that anyone was paying attention) was that Kerry and Putin appeared to have a deal on what to do about Assad, but we know very little about the outlines of that understanding.

Again, this is a pretty complicated situation. Why don’t you walk us through the details of your OWN solution of the matter? Or else take a break from commenting?


RNB 06.19.16 at 5:33 pm

Assad has broken the cease fire. The State Dept officials are calling for military action against Assad–reprisals for barrel bombing, strikes against attempts to lay siege to cities where rebels are concentrated, perhaps no fly zones where he uses his huge advantage in aerial power against regime opponents. I am not clear as to exactly which military tactics would be used. The State Dept is recommending a refocusing of military action against Daesh only to action against Assad’s regime as well. State Depts under both Clinton and Kerry disagreed with President Obama here. Lee, if you just read through the New Yorker piece I posted here or the State Dept memo, this would be clear to you.


Lee A. Arnold 06.19.16 at 5:59 pm

Clear as mud. I follow the military events on the ground, and generally avoid the interpretative news reportage.


Layman 06.19.16 at 6:43 pm

RNB @ 508, you keep claiming Obama has said things but failing to produce any evidence that he has said them. This latest is no different.


RNB 06.19.16 at 7:04 pm

Please. At any rate, let’s get to the real problem. Obama has kowtowed to the insular American public so he won’t help millions of innocent Syrian civilians due to the putative costs that you and Cranky Observer are complaining about (in a very short-sighted manner, by the way). Sanders could not even get himself to talk for one minute during his campaign about how he would respond himself to one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes since WW2. Then Bernie! played to American insularity by exaggerating the role of NAFTA in US job loss and even threatening to cut off trade with poor countries. All this high moral talk here about protecting innocent third world people from US imperialism is just dissimulation of American insularity here.

Obama the putative Muslim foreign-born socialist caved in to America Firstism as if he were raised by people from Kansas. Oh my god, he’s an American. Really. But look at him! Check out his name.

I am outta here. It’s Father’s Day. I am going to have my double mimosa brunch and then watch the Warriors. Then I am sending money to Hillary Clinton.


Lupita 06.19.16 at 7:38 pm

All this high moral talk here about protecting innocent third world people from US imperialism is just dissimulation of American insularity here.

It’s not only here. There is a lot of talk about protecting innocent third world people from US imperialism out there in the third world, too. Not everything is about Americans. Arguing as if it were so denotes insularity.

Obama the putative Muslim foreign-born socialist caved in to America Firstism as if he were raised by people from Kansas.

As a matter of fact, he was. Or are you being sarcastic?

Then I am sending money to Hillary Clinton.

Are you sure it’s not the other way around?


Rich Puchalsky 06.20.16 at 1:12 am

Huh. I never knew that Duncan Black must have met RNB.

Nah, not really: RNB sounds just like every other “humanitarian” out there.


Suzanne 06.20.16 at 4:25 pm

I have the impression that Obama has washed his hands of Syria and is punting to the next president. He’s not going to be the guy who went into Syria when he on his way out. The Administration has admitted publicly that they’ve mishandled Syria and it sounds as if they can’t think of anything to do at this point that would remedy that. Frustrating for Kerry because he’s out there trying to negotiate but he has no cards to play and everyone knows that.

@514: Tough loss last night, RNB. But no shame in a close loss to LeBron when he has his war paint on (and his supporting cast is healthy). That block on Iguodala was just insane.


RNB 06.20.16 at 5:03 pm

Yeah, I don’t even know how he stopped long enough to block that shot; he seemed that he was rising like a rocket to top of the board. And that was after 43 minutes of play. But I tell you Curry was not right after the injuries early in the playoffs. Otherwise Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love would have been his playthings on the perimeter. And taking Draymond Green out of Game 5 was just terrible; series probably would have been over in 5. The Warriors had won both regular season games, then the first two Final games by historic margins and three of the first four. They were on a roll. Then forced to play Game 5, they lost Bogut in Game 6, and his replacement Ezeli made crucial errors including the 3 pt foul on LeBron and a couple of missed dunks to help the Cavs to the win.

@515 I am sorry to discover Lupita that you have not been writing intentional parodies of some form of Third World radicalism. Yes I was being sarcastic as I thought you always are. But I see that I have been wrong.

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