I don’t know that I have ever read a more devastating takedown of a president than this one by Peggy Noonan, of Donald Trump. She annihilates him, as only a woman could, and as only a fellow New Yorker could. She knows that to liken a New York male like Donald Trump to Woody Allen (without the sense of humor) is about the lowest blow there is. But nearly every line is savage.
The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling.
.. I was explaining to my kids that the way Donald Trump and Anthony Scaramucci conduct themselves is the opposite of what it means to be a man.
.. It’s how disgusting punks with no respect for themselves or anybody else behaves. Don’t be like that, ever, I said, don’t ever trust men like that, don’t look up to men like that, no matter how rich they are, and don’t ever be friends with men like that, because it will only drag you into the mud.
You wouldn’t say that Preston Brooks sucker-punched Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber in 1856—but only because he used a cane. Brooks, a South Carolina congressman, began bludgeoning Sumner, the anti-slavery Massachusetts senator, while Sumner wasn’t looking, and beat him unconscious as Sumner was still bent under his desk trying to stand up.
.. Brooks and his supporters in the South saw the incident as an act of great valor, as the historian Manisha Sinha writes. Brooks bragged that “for the first five or six licks he offered to make fight but I plied him so rapidly that he did not touch me. Towards the last he bellowed like a calf.” The pro-slavery Richmond Enquirer wrote that it considered the act “good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequence.” Other “southern defenders of Brooks,” Sinha writes, praised Brooks for his “manly spirit” and mocked Sumner for his “unmanly submission.” It would have been manlier for the unarmed Sumner not to have been ambushed... Sumner gave a speech accusing Butler of having chosen “the harlot, slavery,” as his “mistress.” Brooks’s defense of Southern honor was to ambush an unarmed man reaching under his desk. As Sinha writes, Brooks later said that attacking Sumner with a cane, rather than challenging him to a duel, was an attempt to humiliate Sumner for his abolitionism by treating him like a slave... Northern papers rightly saw Brooks’s act of violence against Sumner as an attack on free speech.. Despite Brooks’s public bravado, many of his contemporaries understood that what he had done was an act of cowardice... Anson Burlingame, a representative from Massachusetts, denounced Brooks on the House floor... The Times reported at the time that the proprietor of the shooting gallery “had witnessed, in his time, some accurate shooting, but nothing that equaled this.”.. Brooks’s headstone would later say that heaven itself never opened its arms to a “manlier spirit.”.. The antebellum South was a society built on the violent exploitation of defenseless people; it is in no sense strange or odd that slaveholders would see no incompatibility between their concept of freedom and valor, and ambushing and caning a man who said something that hurt their feelings... Gianforte attacked a man professionally obligated not to fight back. He initially accused Jacobs of being the aggressor and justified the assault by describing him as a “liberal reporter.” He hid from reporters all through election day, and as Brian Beutler points out, apologized only after he had won the seat... Physically attacking journalists for asking questions is cowardly. Every single person who defends it is engaging in an act of cowardice. The notion that Gianforte was merely channeling the rugged frontier culture of Western mountain men when he attacked someone who asked him a question is laughable and patronizing... It is not 1856, but these are the politics of a false valor forged by fear. It is the undercurrent of a politics that defends grown men who stalk black teenagers in the night and then gun them down when they raise their hands in their own defense; it is the politics that rationalizes Ohio police shooting a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun without so much as a chance to surrender; it is the politics of mass deportation and Muslim bans and Blue Lives Matter bills. It is the political logic of frightened people who need to tell themselves they are brave. This is not valor; it is the celebration of violence against those who cannot respond in kind... That logic is properly realized in the avatar of a president who mocks those who served and suffered while having avoided service himself; who brags about sexual assault behind closed doors and threatens to silence the women who say he assaulted them; who ridicules disabled people then denies doing so; who calls the press the “enemy of the people” when reporters write stories that upset him; who attacks religious fundamentalism from the safety of a podium in this country and then genuflects before its most powerful representatives abroad. Brooks is long dead, but the heirs to his peculiar notion of bravery govern America still.
The Florida-based Republican, Aaron Nevins, received and published Russian-hacked material—and in return, advised the hackers how to release their material to increase its damage to Democratic candidates. Nevins was not himself a high-ranking person in the Republican world. But the information Nevins obtained from Guccifer 2.0 was used by other Republican campaigns, including the national Republican congressional effort and Paul Ryan’s own super PAC. The earlier claim that Republicans were purely passive and unwitting beneficiaries of Russian espionage in the 2016 election has now been pierced.
In at least one instance, the cooperation was active, conscious, and initiated on the American side, not the Russian: collusion, in a word.
.. At the time, Kushner had already spent months trying to arrange fresh financing for a troubled building his family owns, 666 Fifth Avenue.
After one of those meetings, Kislyak arranged a meeting between Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, the powerful chief executive of a major Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, also known as VEB.
The U.S. had imposed financial sanctions on VEB because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military incursions in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. (During this period the Russians were also meeting with Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser.)
VEB has close ties to the Kremlin, and Gorkov attended a training academy for members of Russia’s security and intelligence services. A Trump spokeswoman has described Kushner’s meetings with the Russians as routine, which they may have been given his role at the time as Trump’s liaison to foreign powers.
But given the significance of 666 Fifth Avenue to Kushner and his family’s fortunes, it’s also possible that he saw the Russians as potential investors.
.. A remarkable number of those talkers condoned the attack, either outright or by pointing to other bad things that have happened elsewhere on earth at various points in the past. Rush Limbaugh went furthest, theatrically condemning the attack—but denigrating the reporter as a “smug and arrogant” Millennial “pajama boy” (a hugely derisive term in the conservative political lexicon) and praising Gianforte as “manly and studly.” (It’s hard to miss in some of the commentary from Trump’s elderly base a nostalgic yearning for lost physical prowess—and intense resentment of the vitality of younger generations with different views.)
.. Half a century ago, conservative commentators often blamed the riots of the 1960s on the “moral holiday” declared by permissive authorities. Leaders who might have delegitimized violence instead acquiesced in it, thus inviting more of it. For many conservatives, May 25 was a moral holiday of their own.
.. These four events each represent one of the great themes of the Trump era:
- The anti-alliance pro-Russia tilt of administration policy
- Collusion with hostile foreign nations for domestic political advantage
- Use of political power for personal financial advantage
- The breakdown of inhibitions and the weakening of sanctions against political violence.
.. But Greg Gianforte is headed to Congress. Jared Kushner and Donald Trump will soon return to the West Wing. There, they’ll continue to deploy the powers of the presidency to protect themselves. They’ll leverage dark and dangerous forces in American society to help them. Someday, maybe, they will cease to get away with it. But not yet.