Burn It Down, Rex

Since the beginning of this nightmare administration, we’ve been assured — via well-placed anonymous sources — that a few sober, trustworthy people in the White House were checking Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims. A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country. Through strategic leaks they presented themselves as guardians of American democracy rather than collaborators in its undoing.

.. Last August, after the president said there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Va., senior officials rationalized their continued role in the administration to Mike Allen of Axios. “If they weren’t there, they say, we would have a trade war with China, massive deportations, and a government shutdown to force construction of a Southern wall,”

.. Since then, we’ve had a government shutdown over immigration, albeit a brief one. A trade war appears imminent. Arrests of undocumented immigrants — particularly those without criminal records — have continued to surge.

.. Over the past 14 months we’ve also seen monstrous levels of corruption and chaos, a plummeting of America’s standing in the world and the obliteration of a host of democratic norms. Yet things could always be worse; the economy is doing well and Trump has not yet started any real wars.

The former Deputy National Security Adviser

  • Dina Powell left in January.
  • Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, announced his resignation on March 6. Secretary of State
  • Rex Tillerson was terminated by tweet on Tuesday. National Security Adviser
  • H. R. McMaster will reportedly be among the next to go, and Trump may soon fire Attorney General
  • Jeff Sessions, possibly as a prelude to shutting down the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Adding to the tumult, a parade of lesser officials have either quit or been fired, including the White House communications director

  • Hope Hicks, staff secretary
  • Rob Porter and Trump’s personal aide
  • John McEntee.

The self-styled grown-ups are, for the most part, being replaced by lackeys and ideologues. Larry Kudlow, the CNBC pundit Trump has appointed to succeed Cohn, is known for the consistent wrongness of his predictions.

.. John Roberts of Fox News reported that McMaster could be replaced by uberhawk John Bolton, who last month wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” (Bolton has described proposed talks between Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea as an opportunity to deliver a harsh ultimatum.)

.. This new stage of unbound Trumpism might make the administration’s first year look stable in comparison. That would partly vindicate the adults’ claims that things would be even messier without them. But it would also mean that by protecting the country from the consequences of an unhinged president, they helped Trump consolidate his power while he learned how to transcend restraints.

Whatever their accomplishments, if from their privileged perches these people saw the president as a dangerous fool in need of babysitting, it’s now time for some of them to say so publicly.

.. That logic, however, only holds for those who remain on decent terms with Trump. Which means that if there’s one person who has no excuse for not speaking out, it’s Tillerson, once one of the most powerful private citizens in America, now humbled and defiled by his time in Trump’s orbit.
.. “Rex is never going to be back in a position where he can have any degree of influence or respect from this president,” my Republican source said. Because of that, the source continued, “Rex is under a moral mandate to do his best to burn it down.” That would mean telling the truth “about how concerned he is about the leadership in the Oval Office, and what underpins those concerns and what he’s seen.”
..  patriotism and self-interest point in the same direction.
.. If Tillerson came out and said that the president is unfit, and perhaps even that venal concerns for private gain have influenced his foreign policy, impeachment wouldn’t begin tomorrow, but Trump’s already narrow public support would shrink further.
.. Republican members of Congress like Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, might be induced to rediscover their spines and perform proper oversight.

Mike Pompeo Is Good for Diplomacy

dwell for a moment on the awfulness of Tillerson.

He came to office with no discernible worldview other than the jaded transactionalism he acquired as ExxonMobil’s C.E.O. He leaves office with no discernible accomplishment except a broken department and a traumatized staff.

Six of the 10 top positions at State are vacant; even now the United States does not have an ambassador to South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa or the European Union, among other posts.

.. he did seem to figure out that Vladimir Putin is a bad guy. But that’s progress only because he was previously the Russian despot’s premier apologist.

.. he opposed the president’s two best foreign policy decisions: moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and decertifying the Iran deal.

.. Some secretaries of state — Colin Powell, for instance — alienate their bosses by siding with the bureaucracy. Others, like Henry Kissinger, do the opposite. Tillerson is the rare bird who managed to do both.

.. unlike Tillerson, he will have credibility with foreign governments. Just as importantly, he’s been willing to contradict the president, meaning he’ll be able to act as a check on him, too.

Trump isn’t going to be disciplined by someone whose views are dovish or establishmentarian. But he might listen to, and be tempered by, a responsible hawk.

.. The notion that Kim Jong-un is going to abandon his nuclear arsenal is risible. What, other than reunification of Korea on Pyongyang’s terms, would Kim exchange his arsenal for?

Equally risible is the idea that his regime will ever abide by the terms of a deal. North Korea violates every agreement it signs.

.. might strike it at South Korea’s and perhaps Japan’s expense. This president has never been particularly fond of our two closest Asian allies, much less of the cost to the United States of aiding in their defense.

.. The promise of Pompeo is that he can provide ballast against some of Trump’s other gusts, particularly when it comes to the Kremlin.

  • On Syria, he dismisses the possibility of a collaborative relationship with Russia.
  • On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he insists, “America has an obligation to push back.”
  • On WikiLeaks, he calls it a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
  • On Russian interference in the U.S. election, he acknowledges it as incontrovertible fact and warns of the “Gerasimov doctrine” — the Russian conviction that it can use disinformation to win a bloodless war with the West.

.. If the thought that Putin has strings to pull with this president alarms you, Pompeo’s presence should be reassuring. However much you might otherwise disagree with him, the guy who graduated first in his class from West Point is not a Russian stooge.

.. he’d be smart to model his behavior on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the administration’s one undisputed star, who thrives in his job because he’s plainly not afraid of losing it, much less of speaking his mind.

Steinem, Sandberg and Judd on How to End Sex Harassment

“Fathers have a big chance to do this just by listening to their daughters, and showing them that they’re worth listening to. Co-workers can do this by not commenting on a woman’s appearance when they wouldn’t say the same of a man.

“This is not rocket science,” Steinem added. “It’s empathy.”

.. We need not just sensitivity training, but also accountability. That means firing not only the men who sexually harass but also the men and women who are complicit.

.. “People need to be afraid not just of doing these things, but also of not doing anything when someone around them does it,” Sandberg said.

.. One dismissal sends a stronger message throughout an organization than 10,000 hours of sensitivity training.

.. Men have sometimes been prone to disbelieve victims’ stories, and one of the most distasteful aspects of the Harvey Weinstein scandal was a rush to refocus blame by questioning why female victims didn’t speak up earlier or go to the police. That tendency to victim-shame is precisely why survivors are reluctant to speak up

.. a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 54 percent of American women report having received unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances
.. Civil rights weren’t just a “black problem,” the Holocaust wasn’t just a “Jewish problem” and sexual harassment and discrimination are more than just a “women’s problem.”
.. “Put peer pressure on each other to treat women better.”

Antifa: The Other Evil Political Force

a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.”

.. “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.” When Portland police said they lacked the resources to provide adequate security, the organizers canceled the parade. It was a sign of things to come.

.. If you believe the president of the United States is leading a racist, fascist movement that threatens the rights, if not the lives, of vulnerable minorities, how far are you willing to go to stop it?

.. For a while, antifa has remained on the fringes of the Left, smashing up storefronts to protest globalism, and things like that. But:

.. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.)

.. An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”

.. The legitimization by mainstream people of violent political action is a Rubicon. Mark my words, it will be followed by the same thing on the Right.

.. And, as Beinart notes, these violent attacks on people on the Right, making no distinction between true fascists like Richard Spencer and ordinary Republicans, is being cheered by some on the mainstream Left. Thus, antifa — which reserves to itself the right to determine who is allowed to speak publicly — is growing.

.. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

.. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it.

Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction:

  1. entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution;
  2. increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows;
  3. weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary;
  4. a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership;
  5. and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

Seems to me that the only one of these conditions not in place is the final one. Charlottesville may have changed that. People of goodwill on both sides have to hold the line against the legitimization of political violence. Empathy — the ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone unlike yourself — is a fundamental quality of liberal democracy. Losing the capacity for empathy is a precursor of political violence.

 

.. This, by the way, is why I am so alarmed by Texas A&M Prof. Tommy Curry’s radical racialist rhetoric, and how he is given a pass by academia.

In African American political thought, integration and the hopes of non-violent progress has become the unquestioned foundation of Black political and legal theory. This author believes that the dogmatic allegiance to non-violence is a price that African descended people in America can no longer afford to pay. Historically, the use of violence has been a serious option in the liberation of African people from the cultural tyranny of whiteness, and should again be investigated as a plausible and in some sense necessary political option. 

.. Curry talks about racial violence — about blacks attacking whites — as cleansing, as “anger realized as liberation.”

.. It’s as if the media do not want to see it, or do not want to talk about it for fear of giving fuel to the fire of white racists. The coverage has generally portrayed Dr. Curry as the innocent victim of a right-wing blogger who stirred up the crazies. Never mind that I quoted at length Dr. Curry’s own words. This kind of thing is why so many people on the Right simply do not trust the media.

.. The media should talk about every instance of people on the Left and the Right, especially authority figures (pastors, politicians, academics, and so on) legitimizing violence as a way to solve political disputes. And the rest of us should fight hard to make it taboo, to establish it as a line we as a society will not cross. We have to stop with whataboutism, the habit of responding to revolting things your own side does with “but the other side does it too!” Donald Trump is an accelerant to both the radical Left and the radical Right.

.. Ross Douthat says don’t panic, that we are nowhere near as violent and fraught as we were in 1968. He’s right about that. But if we are going to keep ourselves from going there, it is time for people in authority — whatever authority they have — to speak out forcefully and repeatedly. Not just people on the Right, but people on the Left.

.. It doesn’t matter who’s worse, antifa or the neo-Nazis. Both are capable of doing severe damage to our democracy, because they both hate the political order, and they both love violence.

Real Men Might Get Made Fun Of

“How to build a better white guy” is a conversation that could turn academic fast, replete with all the jargon that the sneering class finds so tedious: intersectionality, emotional labor, systemic oppression, the dreaded “privilege.” But when I sat down with my friends, only one question sprang to mind, and it was personal, not pedantic.

“Do you ever stick up for me?”

.. So, if you care, how often do you say something? Maybe you’ll confront your close friends, but what about more powerful men, famous men, cool men, men who could further your career?

.. One of the subtlest and most pervasive is social ostracism — coding empathy as the fun killer, consideration for others as an embarrassing weakness and dissenting voices as out-of-touch, bleeding-heart dweebs (at best). Coolness is a fierce disciplinarian.

.. People of color not only have to deal with racism; they also have to deal with white people labeling them “angry” or “hostile” or “difficult” for objecting.

.. “SJW” is an acronym for “social justice warrior,” a sarcastic pejorative that purports to refer to online progressive zealots who cross the line from activist to moral scold. In practice, though, the term usually means “anyone asking me to adjust my behavior for reasons I deem annoying or frivolous,”

.. The “dirtbag left,” in contrast to these “warriors,” promises a world in which you can have it both ways: You can be good without ever seeming uncool in front of your buddies, you can be an advocate for social justice without ever considering there might be social forces beyond your ken, you can be a crusader for positive change without ever killing anyone’s buzz, you can be a progressive hero without ever taking identity politics seriously.

.. She testified that she and female colleagues were not invited to a business dinner with Al Gore, the former vice president. “It was said that if there were women there, the conversation would be tempered,” she said, “and it was because women kill the buzz.”

.. I’m frequently contacted by young women weighing the (iffy) benefits and (massive) costs of calling out sexism in their male-dominated industries. I always think: Why is this even our responsibility to fix?

.. One of my podcasting friends told me that he does stick up for women in challenging situations, like testosterone-soaked comedy green rooms, for instance, but complained, “I get mocked for it!”

Yes, I know you do. Welcome. Getting yelled at and made fun of is where many of us live all the time.

Speaking up costs us friends, jobs, credibility and invisible opportunities we’ll never even know enough about to regret.

.. But I need you to absorb that risk. I need you to get yelled at and made fun of, a lot, and if you get kicked out of the club, I need you to be relieved, and I need you to help build a new one.