Making Sense of the New American Right

Keeping track of the Jacksonians, Reformicons, Paleos, and Post-liberals.

I like to start my classes on conservative intellectual history by distinguishing between three groups. There is the Republican party, with its millions of adherents and spectrum of opinion from very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, and yes, liberal. There is the conservative movement, the constellation of single-issue nonprofits that sprung up in the 1970s

  • gun rights,
  • pro-life,
  • taxpayer,
  • right to work

— and continue to influence elected officials. Finally, there is the conservative intellectual movement: writers, scholars, and wonks whose journalistic and political work deals mainly with ideas and, if we’re lucky, their translation into public policy.

The Trump veto threat: Another presidential temper tantrum

Actually it is the president who abandoned the DACA kids. He was offered a deal by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — money for the border wall in exchange for DACA relief — but senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, along with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) nixed it. Or does Trump not remember?

.. Whatever his intention, Trump is communicating to Congress and the entire world that his word is worthless, that when you think you have a deal, you really don’t.

What then are the Europeans, in discussion with the administration over his threatened exit from the Iran nuclear deal, the South Koreans, the North Koreans, our trading partners and just about everyone else on the planet supposed to think?

.. “With Bolton, [Joseph E.] diGenova and [Mike] Pompeo feeding Trump’s worst instincts, we’re entering incredibly dangerous times.”

(He could add to the list Peter Navarro, Cotton, the right-wing echo chamber and his favorite Fox News propagandists — all of whom egg on Trump without regard for the catastrophe that might await us if he followed their advice.)

.. Trump is never going to get better, and chances are he’ll get much worse. Everyone should act accordingly.

Tom Cotton, David Perdue, and the Trap of Lying for Donald Trump

In denigrating anyone who called the President out for his slurs, Senators Cotton and Perdue (pictured here in August) show their willingness to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

.. According to the Post, “Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard ‘shithouse’ rather than ‘shithole,’ allowing them to deny the President’s comments on television over the weekend.” Is that how people sleep at night in Trump’s Washington?

And they are poisonous.

.. It should be clear that the house/hole distinction, should it even have existed, would not count as “allowing” Cotton and Perdue to deny the President’s remarks on any terms. But the ones on which they did so are particularly egregious, because they offered themselves as witnesses to other senators’ supposed dishonor.

.. Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, had confirmed the reported phrase “shithole countries” publicly; Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, had backed up the press accounts more obliquely but unmistakably. Senator Tim Scott, his Republican colleague, who is African-American, told reporters that Graham had confirmed the essentials of the report to him; Graham didn’t dispute that. Graham had also publicly said that there was a racial aspect to the remarks, which he said he’d called the President on, saying, by his account, “America is an idea, not a race.”

.. Cotton, appearing on Sunday news programs, specifically disparaged Durbin’s credibility. “I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was,”

.. Cotton told John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I know, and I know what Dick Durbin has said about the President’s repeated statements is incorrect.” He also said that Durbin had a history of dishonesty.

.. When Dickerson asked Cotton about the thrust of the remarks, as opposed to the President’s word choice, Cotton said, “I did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons.” Perhaps there was another rationalization in there: he was being derogatory about whole populations, not individuals!

.. in the next sentence, Dickerson made the terms of Cotton’s lies clear when he asked, “So the sentiment is totally phony that is attributed to him?”—meaning to the President. Cotton answered, “Yes.”

.. At the same time, Perdue was busy on ABC’s “This Week,” telling George Stephanopoulos, in even more categorical terms, that Durbin was guilty of a “gross misrepresentation” of Trump’s remarks, saying that such “language” was simply not used.

.. When Stephanopoulos noted that there were multiple sources who said otherwise—indeed, the President himself reportedly called friends to brag about what he had said

..  Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, who is the House Majority Leader and has not commented (but, as the Washington Post noted, stood quietly next to the President when he denied the reports on Sunday; Trump also called himself the “least racist person”

.. members of his Administration at first thought that the controversy could be settled in the shady realm of “do not recall,”

.. They were caught by surprise when he started tweeting about how the accounts of his language were outright false.

.. But perhaps he also listened to what the other Republicans were saying, and had an insight that they would, indeed, back him up. It was a bully’s triple play:

  1. first, he got to slur whole nations.
  2. Then he got his guys to gang up on anyone who called him out for it, which produced the final prize:
  3. the acknowledgement that the Republican lawmakers were his guys, subordinate and willing to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

.. What is notable is that, at first, Cotton and Perdue had tried, in a joint statement, to hedge by saying that they did “not recall the President saying these comments specifically.” But, as his lies escalated, so did theirs, to the point where they were backing up the idea that the media was involved in a fake-news conspiracy.

.. But it is, apparently, hard to lie halfway for Trump; he won’t let you.

Kelly calls some of Trump’s campaign pledges on immigration and wall ‘uninformed,’ meeting attendees say

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that some of the hard-line immigration policies President Trump advocated during the campaign were “uninformed,” that the United States will never construct a wall along its entire southern border and that Mexico will never pay for it, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The comments were out of sync with remarks by Trump, who in recent days has reiterated his desire to build a border wall that would be funded by Mexico “indirectly through NAFTA.”

.. “Certain things are said during the campaign that are uninformed,” Kelly said.

“One thing is to campaign, another thing is to govern. It’s really hard,” he added later, according to attendees.

“A concrete wall from sea to shining sea” is not going to happen, Kelly said. Instead, “a physical barrier in many places” is what the administration is requesting. Kelly used the term “physical barrier” several times during the meeting, attendees said.

.. Instead, “we need 700 more miles of barrier,” Kelly said — a concession that a physical barrier does not need to stretch the entire length of the border.

.. “Concrete wall would be good in only certain places,” he added, saying that manpower and drone technology should suffice in some parts.

.. Kelly also said that there will be no wall “that Mexico will pay for.”

.. “In one way or another, it’s possible that we could get the revenue from Mexico, but not directly from their government,” he said.

.. “Drug cartels will always find a way to get their drugs in so long as there’s demand in the U.S.,” Kelly said.

.. Kelly seemed unimpressed by the deal, attendees said, telling the group that Graham and Durbin have always agreed on immigration matters. What would be more impressive, Kelly suggested, is if Hispanic Caucus members worked with conservatives like Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who introduced a conservative-backed proposal on immigration reform last week.