Stars Fell on Alabama

Kid Rock

It has come to Aardvark’s attention that some readers found George Will’s column—see previous post on weather conditions in Hell—locked behind a pay wall.

Will writes of the tempting choices that white people in Alabama have on offer as they go about picking a senator to succeed Jeff Sessions. He reports that three candidates have a chance:

  • Luther Strange, the temporary incumbent, who, Will intimates, exudes the stench of corruption,
  • Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments justice who was twice booted off the Alabama Supreme Court, whom will labels the Ayatollah of Alabama, and
  • Mo Brooks, a nutjob member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Will enlarges on how Mitch McConnell, apparently scared shitless of a Mo Brooks victory, is funneling money to attack Brooks—for being best buddies with Nancy Pelosi and failing to lick Donald Trump’s boots with sufficient enthusiasm.

These attacks, Will avers, are driving Brooks voters to Moore, who may well win the Republican primary—and then, mirabile dictu, lose to a Democrat!

Will concludes thusly:

“Anything that comes out of the South,” said writer Flannery O’Connor, a sometime exemplar of Southern Gothic, “is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” But, realistically, Alabama’s primary says more about Republicans than about this region. A Michigan poll shows rocker-cum-rapper Kid Rock [pictured above] a strong potential Republican Senate candidate against incumbent Debbie Stabenow. Rock says Democrats are “shattin’ in their pantaloons” because if he runs it will be “game on mthrfkers.”

Is this Northern Gothic? No, it is Republican Gothic, the grotesque becoming normal in a national party whose dishonest and, one hopes, futile assault on Brooks is shredding the remnants of its dignity.

Who Leaked the Transcripts?

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And Does the End Justify the Means?

It’s axiomatic that if foreign heads of government cannot have private conversations with the President and others in our government—if they reasonably anticipate that their exact words will be printed in the press—then they will cease to have candid conversations. Either they will stop talking at all, or, if they do talk, they will only mouth the same bullshit they would serve up in a campaign rally.

This is terrible. The reasons are obvious, but David Frum’s analysis is still worth a read.

And, in addition to major injury to American interests, leaking the transcripts was a crime.

Who Done It? And Why?

We know they are the real transcripts because the White House did not claim otherwise, or ask the Washington Post not to publish. (That, per the WaPo’s reporter, on Morning Joe.)

So who leaked the transcripts? To begin with the obvious: you can’t leak the real transcripts unless you have the real transcripts. There are, then, essentially three possibilities.

Scenario Number One: It Was the “National Security Establishment”

One possibility—perhaps the most obvious one—is that someone in the State Department or the military was the leaker. David Frum lays out the case:

Senior national-security professionals regard Trump as something between (at best) a reckless incompetent doofus and (at worst) an outright Russian espionage asset. The fear that a Russian mole has burrowed into the Oval Office may justify, to some, the most extreme actions against that suspected mole.

The nature of this particular leak suggests just such a national-security establishment origin. It is a very elegantly designed leak. The two transcripts belong to calls whose substance was already widely reported in the media; they give away nothing new.

Better still from a national-security establishment point of view: both calls make the foreign leader look good at home. Enrique Peña Nieto will be helped, not hurt, by his dignified defense of Mexican national interests; Malcolm Turnbull is shown being simultaneously compassionate to deserving refugees but stern in his defense of Australian law and preexisting agreements with the United States.

Best of all, from that same national-security point of view, the transcripts reveal Trump as an arrant fool without actually compromising any important U.S. national interest. Speaking to the president of Mexico, Trump claims he won the state of New Hampshire because it is a “drug-infested den.” Trump won the state’s Republican primary, but lost New Hampshire in 2016, and that quote will not help him do better in 2020. The Turnbull transcript confirms the accuracy of early reports that Trump erupted in temper—and exposes Trump’s claims about the call as untrue. …

Scenario Number Two: It Was Trump’s Posse

We have it on good authority that pretty much everybody in the White House is leaking like a sieve. And some of those leaks—especially of late—seem to have come from members of Trump’s coterie who want to reveal just how bad things are getting, as a step toward protecting Trump from himself. For example, this afternoon Jonathan Chait—speaking in general terms, not specifically about the transcript leaks—had this to say:

During his very brief tenure as communications director, Anthony Scaramucci blurted out something very telling: “There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president.” The conviction that Trump is dangerously unfit to hold office is indeed shared widely within his own administration. Leaked accounts consistently depict the president as unable to read briefing materials written at an adult level, easily angered, prone to manipulation through flattery, subject to change his mind frequently to agree with whomever he spoke with last, and consumed with the superficiality of cable television.

Scenario number two seems like a definite possibility.

Scenario Number Three: Trump

Today Morning Joe advanced another highly plausible theory: that the leak was engineered by Trump himself. And who on God’s green earth might he do such a thing, given that the transcripts make him look like an idiot?

Because

  • he’s so oblivious that he doesn’t know the transcripts make him look like an idiot, and because
  • he thinks, correctly, that his base will be pleased to see him being nasty to foreign leaders—and will not grasp that the transcripts make him look like an idiot, and because
  • the obvious damage to national security will allow him to claim, once again, that the press is the enemy of the people.

Now, this is truly a harebrained idea. But it’s the very sort of harebrained idea that an improvisational narcissist would come up with, in the misguided view that he’s cuter than Bambi.

And, By the Way, Does the End Justify the Means?

Under scenario three, obviously not.

Under scenarios one or two, well, as my philosophy professor used to say, if the end does not justify the means, then what does justify them?

 

American White Men Are Not a Credit to their Race

not a credit

According to the Quinnipiac University poll published today,

President Donald Trump plunges to a new low as American voters disapprove 61 – 33 percent of the job he is doing, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. White men are divided 47 – 48 percent and Republicans approve 76 – 17 percent. White voters with no college degree, a key part of the president’s base, disapprove 50 – 43 percent.

Today’s approval rating is down from a 55 – 40 percent disapproval in a June 29 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. This is President Trump’s lowest approval and highest disapproval number since he was inaugurated.

American voters say 54 – 26 percent that they are embarrassed rather than proud to have Trump as president. Voters say 57 – 40 percent he is abusing the powers of his office and say 60 – 36 percent that he believes he is above the law.

President Trump is not levelheaded, say 71 – 26 percent of voters, his worst score on that character trait. Voter opinions of most other Trump qualities drop to new lows:

62 – 34 percent that he is not honest;

63 – 34 percent that he does not have good leadership skills;

59 – 39 percent that he does not care about average Americans;

58 – 39 percent that he is a strong person;

55 – 42 percent that he is intelligent;

63 – 34 percent that he does not share their values.

“It’s hard to pick what is the most alarming number in the troubling trail of new lows for President Donald Trump,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Profound embarrassment over his performance in office and deepening concern over his level-headedness have to raise the biggest red flags.”

More details here.

The “honest” and “intelligent” numbers are interesting. I suppose that I would have said yes to the question, “Is he a strong person?” But I am surprised that 55 percent viewed him as “intelligent.” That said, there are many ways to be smart, and many ways to be stupid.

Takeaway Lesson

The continuing decline of white people as a percentage of the overall American population is a great blessing. Let us pray that it accelerates.

***

Aardvark welcomes his readers in China, Mexico, and Congo–and continues, of course, to be grateful for his readers in Germany and France.

Dr. Faustus Publishes His Memoir

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Jeff Flake, My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump:

[W]e conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial. …

But then the period of collapse and dysfunction set in, amplified by the internet and our growing sense of alienation from each other, and we lost our way and began to rationalize away our principles in the process. But where does such capitulation take us? If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?

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