Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He Really Is

Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat.

To understand the corruption, chaos, and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now, it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies.

During last week’s Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. Charlie Kirk, the young Trump acolyte who opened the proceedings, declared, “I am here tonight to tell you—to warn you—that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.” President Trump, who closed the proceedings, said, “Your vote will decide

“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether,” a St. Louis couple who had brandished weapons against demonstrators outside their home, told viewers. “Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And “anything” turns out to be quite a lot.
In just the past two weeks, the president has praised supporters of the right-wing conspiracy theory

This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump’s supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.

This phenomenon has no shortage of explanations, but perhaps the most convincing is the terror the president’s backers feel. Time and again, I’ve had conversations with Trump supporters who believe the president is all that stands between them and cultural revolution. Trump and his advisers know it, which is why the through line of the RNC was portraying Joe Biden as a Jacobin.

Republicans chose that theme despite the fact that during his almost 50 years in politics, Biden hasn’t left any discernible ideological imprint on either the nation or his own party. Indeed, Biden is notable for his success over the course of his political career in forging alliances with many Republicans. I worked at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the early 1990s when William Bennett was its director and George H. W. Bush was president. Biden was then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; he and his staff were supportive of our work, and not in the least ideological. There will be no remaking of the calendar if Joe Biden becomes president.

Still, in the minds of Trump’s supporters lingers the belief that a Biden presidency would usher in a reign of terror. Many of them simply have to believe that. Justifying their fealty to a man who is so obviously a moral wreck requires them to turn Joe Biden and the Democratic Party into an existential threat. The narrative is set; the actual identity of the nominee is almost incidental.
A powerful tribal identity bonds the president to his supporters. As Amy Chua, the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, has argued, the tribal instinct is not just to belong, but also to exclude and to attack. “When groups feel threatened,” Chua writes, “they retreat into tribalism. They close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.”

That works both ways. Fear strengthens tribalistic instincts, and tribalistic instincts amplify fear. Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat. In the presence of such an enemy, members of tribal groups look outward rather than inward, at others and never at themselves or their own kind.

The danger of this mindset—in which the means, however unethical, justify the ends of survival—is obvious. And so in this case, Trump supporters will tolerate everything he does, from

  • making hush-money payments to porn stars and
  • engaging in sexually predatory behavior, to
  • inviting America’s adversaries to intervene in our elections, to
  • pressuring American allies to dig up dirt on the president’s opponent, to
  • cozying up to some of the worst dictators in the world, to
  • peddling crazed conspiracy theories, to
  • mishandling a pandemic at the cost of untold lives, to
  • countless other ethical and governing transgressions.

Trump is given carte blanche by his supporters because they perceive him as their protector, transforming his ruthlessness from a vice into a virtue.

In my experience, if Trump supporters are asked to turn their gaze away from their perceived opponents, and instead to focus and reflect on him and on his failures, they respond in a couple of consistent ways. Many shift the topic immediately back to Democrats, because offering a vigorous moral defense of Donald Trump isn’t an easy task. It’s like asking people to stare directly into the sun; they might do it for an instant, but then they look away. But if you do succeed in keeping the topic on Trump, they often twist themselves into knots in order to defend him, and in some cases they simply deny reality.

“Motivation conditions cognition,” Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, wisely told me. Very few Trump supporters I know are able to offer an honest appraisal of the man. To do so creates too much cognitive dissonance.

That they are defending a person who is fundamentally malicious, even if he makes judicial appointments of which they approve, is too painful for them to admit. They are similarly unable to admit they are defending an ethic that is at odds with what they have long championed. They have accepted, excused, and applauded Trump’s behavior and tactics, allowing his ends to justify his means. In important respects, this is antithetical to a virtue ethic. So once again, it’s easier for them to look away or engage in self-deception; to convince themselves that Donald Trump is not who he so clearly is.
These reactions aren’t confined to Trump supporters; people across the political spectrum struggle with confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, in giving too much benefit of the doubt to those with whom we agree and judging too harshly and unfairly those with whom we disagree. That is part of the human condition. The degree to which Democrats, including feminists, overlooked or accepted Bill Clinton’s sexually predatory behavior—including his campaign’s effort to smear his accusers and its use of a private investigator to destroy Gennifer Flowers’s reputationbeyond all recognition”—is an illustration of this. So Flowers was branded a “bimbo” and a “pathological liar,” even though Clinton later, under oath, admitted to having an affair with her.

“If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” James Carville said in response to Paula Jones’s claim that Clinton sexually harassed her. In defending President Clinton against the charges of sexual harassment made by Kathleen Willey, who accused Clinton of groping her without her consent, Gloria Steinem wrote, “The truth is that even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.” And Nina Burleigh, who covered the White House for Time magazine, said, “I’d be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.” So Democrats should be careful about looking down at others for accommodating themselves to unsavory and even repulsive characters for the sake of partisanship.

But what’s different in this case is that Trump, because of the corruption that seems to pervade every area of his life and his damaged psychological and emotional state, has shown us just how much people will accept in their leaders as a result of “negative partisanship,” the force that binds parties together less in common purpose than in opposition to a shared opponent. As the conservative writer David French has put it, with Donald Trump and his supporters we are seeing “negative partisanship in its near-pure form, and it’s the best way to explain Trump’s current appeal to the Republican party.” His ideology is almost entirely beside the point, according to French: “His identity matters more, and his identity is clear—the Republican champion against the hated Democratic foe.”

I know plenty of Trump supporters, and I know many of them to be people of integrity in important areas of their lives. Indeed, some are friends I cherish. But if there is a line Donald Trump could cross that would forfeit the loyalty of his core supporters—including, and in some respects especially, white evangelical Christians—I can’t imagine what it would be. And that is a rather depressing thing to admit.

Polarization and political tribalism are not new to America; fear and hatred for our fellow citizens have been increasing for decades. We’ve had plenty of presidents who have failed us, in ways large and small. But this moment is different because Donald Trump is different, and because Donald Trump is president. His relentless assault on truth and the institutions of democracy—his provocations and abuse of power, his psychological instability and his emotional volatility, his delusions and his incompetence—are unlike anything we’ve seen before. He needs to be stopped. And his supporters can’t say, as they did in 2016, that they just didn’t know. Now we know. It’s not too late—it’s never too late—to do the right thing.

 

 

Martin Gugino is a Catholic peace activist, not an ‘Antifa provocateur,’ friends say

(RNS) — Is Martin Gugino an Antifa provocateur?

Or a beloved Catholic peace activist who was the victim of police brutality in Buffalo, New York?

A Tuesday morning (June 9) tweet from President Donald Trump suggested the former, drawing a wave of shock and outrage from friends of the 75-year-old activist who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police during a protest last Thursday outside City Hall.

The incident, captured on video, went viral and has become symbolic of the kind of police brutality that has sparked calls for fundamental reforms to American policing. In the video, an officer is seen shoving Gugino, who falls to the sidewalk, hitting his head. As Gugino lies unmoving and bleeding, the officer who pushed him is seen hurrying away.


RELATED: Click here for complete coverage of the George Floyd protests on RNS


Gugino remains in the Erie County Medical Center in serious condition, though he is no longer in intensive care, a friend said.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?

219K people are talking about this

Buffalo’s police commissioner suspended two Buffalo police officers involved in the incident without pay, prompting dozens of other officers to step down from the department’s crowd control unit in protest. On Saturday two of the officers were charged with felony assault.

The president referred to the conservative news site One America News Network in making his unfounded claim.

“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump wrote. “75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Friends of the retired computer scientist described Gugino as a devout Catholic and a graduate of Canisius High School, a private Jesuit school in Buffalo, who is a passionate advocate for multiple causes on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Gugino spent his retirement lending a hand to multiple causes, among them Black Lives Matter.

Martin has a passion for social justice,” said Mark Colville, who runs Amistad Catholic Worker  in New Haven, Connecticut, and has known Gugino for years. “When he sees wrong he wants to be involved in making it right.”

Colville said Gugino made multiple trips from his home in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst to New Haven — a six-and-a-half-hour drive — to help prepare and serve meals at Amistad, a house of hospitality that describes its mission as “follow(ing) Jesus in seeking justice for the poor.”

Gugino never wanted to draw attention to his work, Colville said. He’s a private person who lived alone. He cared for his mother until she died, and he recently lost his sister, too.

In this 2016 photo, Martin Gugino, right, holds a sign reading “Resist Racism,” in Washington, D.C., as part of a protest over the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, an African American boy from Cleveland. Photo by Mark Colville

On Saturday, Colville drove up to Buffalo to see if he could visit his friend in the hospital. He was not allowed past the reception desk but instead did the next best thing. He went downtown to take Gugino’s place at a protest on the street where videos had captured police knocking Gugino to the ground while clearing protesters away from City Hall.

“ trump-twitter-outragous-martin-gugino,” Colville said. “He likes his privacy. He doesn’t make a spectacle of himself. He likes to show up and be present. He likes to be involved in these movements for justice. But he doesn’t do it in a self-promoting kind of way.”

The two have worked for years to advocate for the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. detention camp in Cuba where terrorism suspects could be detained without process.

Gugino is active in Witness Against Torture, an organization formed in 2005 to protest the treatment of detainees on the base. Each January, group members travel to Washington, D.C., to fast and hold vigil outside the Department of Justice.

Much of the work was done on behalf of Muslim prisoners, many of whom were picked up by the CIA and taken to Guantanamo after the 9/11 terrorist strikes.

People, including Martin, made connections between their own faith and the faith of people detained because of their own faith,” said Matt Daloisio, a New York state public defender and one of the organizers of Witness Against Torture.

Daloisio and several others say they’ve been texting Gugino in the hospital and he’s been responding with emoji hearts rather than texts.

Guigino’s Twitter account and YouTube videos have been deactivated. He is represented by lawyer Kelly Zarcone, who said Tuesday:  “We are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted in response to Trump that “there’s no greater sin than the abuse of power,” and Biden mentioned that he, like Gugino, is a Catholic.

Joe Biden

@JoeBiden

My Dad used to say there’s no greater sin than the abuse of power.

Whether it’s an officer bloodying a peaceful protester or a President defending him with a conspiracy theory he saw on TV.

I’m a Catholic – just like Martin. Our faith says that we can’t accept either.

26.5K people are talking about this

Tom Casey, a retired civil engineer from Buffalo and a local coordinator for Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement, said the idea that Gugino is a provocateur is ludicrous. Gugino was certainly opinionated, Casey said, but always respectful of others.

I have never heard him use a vile or angry word against anybody and I spent a lot of time talking to him,” Casey said.


RELATED: Judge sentences 80-year-old Catholic activist for breaking into nuclear submarine base


Gugino was also active on behalf of Black Lives Matter. After the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy who was shot by a police officer, Gugino traveled to Cleveland to meet with Rice’s parents. In 2016, Gugino participated in a protest in front of the Justice Department in which demonstrators called for murder charges against the officer who shot Rice.

Gugino’s presence at the Black Lives Matter protest last week was typical of his activism. He is also active with the Western New York Peace Center and PUSH Buffalo, a coalition working on affordable housing.

This fall, Jericho Road, a community health clinic in Buffalo, featured Gugino in its newsletter’s “donor spotlight.” Asked why he gives, Gugino wrote: “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty.”

Martin is consistent,” said Mary Anne Grady Flores, an Ithaca New York Catholic Worker who participated with Gugino in multiple protests against Hancock Field Air Force Base’s use of remotely piloted drones to kill insurgents in Afghanistan and elsewhere. “He’s a gentle giant, who is so articulate, so thoughtful.”

Trump sounds just like a right-wing talk-radio host

Talk radio has President Trump’s back. “Where does it say in the Constitution that if Washington’s establishment doesn’t like the results of a presidential election, they get to do whatever they want to do to overturn them?” asked the broadcast king, Rush Limbaugh, after the House formalized its impeachment inquiry in October. “They have been trying to get rid of Donald Trump under false, lying premises since election night.” Mark Levin claimed that several of the witnesses testifying in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings “exposed themselves as part of a cabal.”

To these radio hosts, Trump’s voters are the ones who are really under attack: “He’s a surrogate for their hatred for us,” said Limbaugh. Given this robust defense, it’s not surprising that Trump regularly retweets or quotes hosts like LimbaughLevin and Laura Ingraham.

But there’s more to these apologetics than the fact that right-wing talk radio hosts agree with the president’s views. Trump sounds just like them. Reality TV may have enshrined his celebrity, but Trump’s tone, his concerns and his willingness to shock people are most at home on the radio waves during rush hour.

He calls the House investigation “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” and a “hoax.” He asserts without evidence that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is “a corrupt politician and a criminal” and that Republicans are dealing with “human scum.”

It’s rants like these — which mimic what millions of conservative Americans consume on the airwaves — that have helped Trump build and cement a durable bond with these voters. This relationship might prove to be the president’s political salvation, propelling him not only past impeachment but maybe even to a second term.

When Trump declared his candidacy in 2015, reporters and analysts of all political stripes dismissed him as a sideshow. Not only did he lack political experience, but he kept saying things that politicians just weren’t allowed to say. One astute observer thought otherwise: Limbaugh. He said he and his producer were “laughing ourselves silly” during Trump’s announcement speech, but he also presciently observed: “This is gonna resonate with a lot of people, I guarantee you, and the Drive-Bys” — Limbaugh’s term for mainstream journalists — “are gonna pooh-pooh it. They’re gonna relegate it to the carnival characteristics of the campaign and so forth, but it’s gonna resonate, just like [1992 and 1996 presidential candidate Ross] Perot did.”

How did Limbaugh know that Trump’s message would connect? Maybe because a lot of what the candidate said sounded like his show. The most controversial line in Trump’s campaign announcement speech was his assertion that Mexico was sending the United States “rapists” and others who brought drugs and crime with them. This claim horrified many Americans. But later that summer, after Trump was pushed on the point during the first Republican primary debate, Limbaugh defended himarguing: “You know, they try to dump on Trump, demand proof from him that the Mexican government is knowingly sending rapists, murderers and purse snatchers, and this kind of thing. They are! It’s something I know full well. We’ve had the stories. We’ve done them on this program.” And indeed, he had: For more than a decade, Limbaugh had been railing about “violent criminals” that “countries like Mexico” were “unwilling to take back.” To Limbaugh and his audience, Trump was showing a refreshing willingness to tell uncomfortable truths that Republican politicians shy away from because they are afraid of offending liberal sensibilities or being accused of bigotry.

Stylistically, Trump is far more talk-radio host than buttoned-down politician. For instance, he employs snarky nicknames to rip the mainstream media. While Levin bemoans the “Washington Compost” and “MSLSD,” Trump lashes out at the “Failing New York Times,” “Deface the Nation” and “Very Low Ratings” CNN.

The extreme rhetoric Trump uses, especially on immigration, has long been a staple of talk radio (and other conservative media, like Fox News and Breitbart). During the 2007 debate over bipartisan immigration reform, Limbaugh warned that the Senate bill would “fundamentally, and perhaps permanently, alter American society for the worse.” Fellow talker Michael Savage said then-Senate Republican leader Trent Lott (Miss.) was engaged in “gansterism” after Lott compained about talk-radio hosts.

Seven years later, when Republican House Speaker John Boehner revealed his principles for immigration reform, Limbaugh exploded again. To him, the push to admit immigrants who, he claimed, saw the United States as “no place special” was one more part of the left’s campaign to degrade America. Liberals were teaching young Americans in public schools, he said, “not only not to love the country, but they’re being lied to about how the country was founded, why it was founded, who founded it and what its purpose is.” And now, with immigration reform, Limbaugh fumed, the Republican Party wanted “the end of the country as we know it.” While Ingraham admitted in 2014 that she personally liked Boehner, she, too, declared that what he was doing on immigration was “a nightmare. It is political suicide both for the free market and ultimately for small-government conservatism.”

What enraged hosts and listeners the most was that, instead of going to war to defeat such dangerous ideas, establishment Republicans like Boehner were proposing them and trying to punish the few courageous conservatives who dared to fight back. That’s what happened to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) in 2015 when he voted against a procedural rule on a trade bill that would have given President Barack Obama authority to negotiate deals faster. Leadership’s attempt to punish Meadows enraged Levin, who called Boehner a “fool” and a “moron” and demanded: “We need a new Republican Party that’s principled, that’s conservative, that believes in America. Not this crap that goes on inside the Beltway.”

Listening to talk radio, it was clear that many of the people in right-wing audiences wanted this sort of fire from politicians, too. But they had concluded that most Republican politicians were too weak or too interested in currying favor in the clubby world of Washington to adequately battle Democrats. Later that summer, after analysts panned Trump’s performance in the first Republican debate, a Limbaugh caller named Chris epitomized this sentiment, explaining that pundits underestimated the anger of Republicans like him toward their party. These voters felt “almost betrayed.” To Chris, instead of two parties arrayed against each other, “like Republican versus Democrat,” it was “almost like two versions of one party, and the other side is the outsiders that aren’t part of it.”

This belief created fertile ground for Trump: His blunt calls to build a border wall, his willingness to sneer at norms dictating what he couldn’t say or do, and his instinct to punch back at critics thrilled conservatives who had been looking for a pugilistic politician who sounded like their favorite warriors on the airwaves.

And far from becoming more presidential after winning office, Trump has continued to shred norms, sticking to the sort of rhetoric more commonly found on talk radio than in the White House — especially on his Twitter feed. A New York Times analysis last month revealed that between Inauguration Day in 2017 and early this November, Trump had attacked someone or something in 5,889 tweets, while 1,710 tweets promoted conspiracy theories, also common on conservative airwaves. The impeachment inquiry has turned the president’s Twitter feed positively molten: He has labeled Schiff “sick and suggested that the chairman be arrested for treason. He has dubbed Democrats a “disgrace” and questioned their sanity. Like the radio hosts, he has called the impeachment investigation “bulls—,” a “coup” intended to take away people’s “freedoms.” He has demanded that lawmakers such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) be impeached (which isn’t constitutionally possible) and even endorsed the theory that his removal might lead to a “Civil War like fracture.”

To Trump’s base, rather than being unpresidential or dangerous, this rhetoric proves he’s a fighter willing to tell inconvenient truths and take on their burden — just as hosts like Limbaugh, Levin and Ingraham have for decades. Listeners believe that their values — such as a belief in traditional nuclear families and gender roles, patriotism, religiosity and economic freedom from government intrusion — which they see as crucial to American greatness, are under attack. And Trump has the power, the megaphone and the willingness to battle back against a cruel and intolerant liberal establishment that increasingly dominates society, no matter the firestorm he creates. As long as he’s doing that, his base isn’t going to let him be destroyed by the forces seeking to cripple the country they love.

Trump’s EPIC Meltdown During Fox & Friends Interview

Trump has an epic meltdown during a live Fox & Friends interview.

Trump recites conspiracy theory about the “DNC server”

The expansive remarks by the president came during a rambling, roughly hourlong phone call to “Fox & Friends,” in an exercise co-host Brian Kilmeade dubbed a “stress release.”
The previous two weeks have been a period of intense pressure for the White House, as impeachment investigators have heard televised testimony from a dozen witnesses detailing a sweeping campaign by the Trump administration seeking Ukraine-led probes into the president’s political opponents.”

00:00
I do want always corruption I say that
00:04
to anybody like technically a slip of
00:08
the tongue I guess some would say a
00:09
Freudian slip perhaps with that Donald
00:12
Trump Brewer than you purposed so
00:14
exactly exactly so there Donald Trump
00:18
president of these United States called
00:21
up Fox and Friends and they tried to
00:25
interview him I can’t say that they
00:27
interviewed him because that implied
00:28
that he ever stopped talking and they
00:30
got an a questioning they did get
00:32
questions in occasion essentially and it
00:34
was the kind of question where they just
00:35
repeat what he just said in astonishment
00:38
mm-hmm like you don’t what you want a
00:39
great example of that let’s do let’s go
00:41
to our first clip because we got a feel
00:42
that we’re to go to but Donald Trump
00:44
he’s not going to be deterred by like
00:46
Fiona Hills testimony yesterday about
00:49
how the whole CrowdStrike Ukraine 2016
00:52
thing is a Russian promoted conspiracy
00:55
theory to get the suspicion off of them
00:57
for interfering with US elections that
00:59
was just yesterday that was debunked yet
01:01
again a Donald Trump today spreading it
01:04
on Fox and Friends from the DNC
01:06
Democratic National Committee who has
01:08
the sir know the FBI went and they told
01:10
him get out of here you’re not kidding
01:12
we’re not giving it to you
01:13
they gave the server to CrowdStrike or
01:16
whatever it’s called which is a country
01:18
which is a company owned by a very
01:20
wealthy Ukrainian and I still wanted to
01:23
see that server you know the FBI has
01:24
never gotten that server that’s a big
01:27
part of this whole thing why did they
01:29
give it to a Ukrainian company where you
01:31
sure they did that are you sure they
01:33
gave it to Ukraine well the next word
01:38
start a Trump are like that’s what I
01:39
hear that that’s a word that’s the word
01:41
that’s there’s a lot of words on the
01:44
internet you should not trust most of
01:46
them these of them are bad words this is
01:48
so horrible mm-hmm like that
01:50
specifically is so horrible and a
01:54
microcosm of what’s been happening in
01:56
media discourse
01:57
under the trump presidency like those
02:00
are jesters this was a four there’s a
02:01
fifty minute interview with Donald Trump
02:04
a fifty minute show and never anywhere
02:07
else has it been so apparent that Fox
02:09
and Friends are the court jesters
02:11
because jesters job was to come before
02:13
the king
02:13
and put on a show just before the king
02:16
as he doesn’t care if they live or die
02:18
as he toys with them to his heart’s
02:20
content either laughing at them and
02:22
rewarding them with praise or not being
02:25
satisfied with their performance and
02:27
then like literally tarring and
02:29
feathering them I like the metaphor and
02:32
I think that there’s something to that
02:33
but like the Jester is supposed to be
02:36
able to talk every once in a while like
02:37
this is the gesture like are you sure
02:39
you want don’t don’t pick that up no
02:41
don’t throw that when mr. president
02:43
seriously we don’t eat that that’s not
02:45
every other day when he’s not on the
02:46
show is the jesters performance because
02:48
this is that moment where the Justin
02:50
where the court with a the the King
02:52
gives them feedback gives them feedback
02:54
yeah that’s it and it becomes so
02:57
apparent in this moment as they just
02:59
stare and the producers need to do
03:00
something else basically with that I cut
03:03
them like and I don’t understand how
03:04
people watching that at home don’t see
03:06
their beloved Fox and Friends faces yeah
03:09
just melting with a sad you sure about
03:13
that and like occasionally I want Jarrow
03:15
to make a mashup for the main show but
03:17
he’ll be talking talking talking like
03:19
start talking and John stop talking
03:20
yours okay I’ve decided right what
03:25
happened was the tightness in the shots
03:26
what they do he keeps talking they try
03:28
to get a question because he’s rambling
03:30
off and they try to get in and they
03:33
can’t and then they smile at the camera
03:34
because they know this is this is
03:36
pointless we don’t even need to be here
03:38
we should just given him you know sent
03:39
him a webcam and he could broadcast an
03:41
hour to the Fox audience but anyway to
the content of what he said there he
said they the FBI came into the DNC and
tried to get the server and they said get
out of here FBI
which is a thing you can
legally do somehow and they didn’t give
this the server all of that is nonsense
and it’s it’s so many steps of nonsense
that it makes you just feel like a crazy
person CrowdStrike is not a Ukrainian
company it’s a it’s a company based in
California that’s what it is
there wasn’t a server there were 140
servers some of them physical servers
some of them digital servers information
existing in the cloud which is a concept
you’re not going to get the president to
understand there was no one server to
hand over there were many servers which
were imaged and all of the information
was given to the FBI the FBI which by
the way along with 16 other intelligence
services the United States all agree
that Ukraine was not meddling in the
2016 election it was Russia but he is
spreading this conspiracy theory which
can be if you go back far enough the
origins are the Russian intelligence
services themselves he is continuing to
spread and already many times debunked
conspiracy theory in the midst of this
impeachment inquiry and well that’s his
defense and he isn’t even spreading it
right which only serves the purpose of
conspiracy conspiracy theories at large
which is just this cloud of doubt is a a
bunch of sand that is his only goal
[Music]
05:09
thank you for watching this clip from
05:11
the damage report for more content from
05:13
the show and access to TYT Network
05:14
members-only exclusives go to t
05:16
y-t-dot-com / Brooke wait no it’s TYT
05:20
comm / Jon go to TYT comm / Jon to sign
05:24
up

Luckily, Trump Is an Unstable Non-Genius

His mental deficiencies may save American democracy.

The surprising thing about the constitutional crisis we’re now facing is that it took so long to happen. It was obvious from early on that the president of the United States is a would-be autocrat who accepts no limits on his power and considers criticism a form of treason, and he is backed by a party that has denied the legitimacy of its opposition for many years. Something like this moment was inevitable.

What still hangs in the balance is the outcome. And if democracy survives — which is by no means certain — it will largely be thanks to one unpredictable piece of good luck: Donald Trump’s mental deficiency.

I don’t mean that Trump is stupid; a stupid man couldn’t have managed to defraud so many people over so many years. Nor do I mean that he’s crazy, although his speeches and tweets (“my great and unmatched wisdom”; the Kurds weren’t there on D-Day) keep sounding loonier.

He is, however, lazy, utterly incurious and too insecure to listen to advice or ever admit to a mistake. And given that he is in fact what he accuses others of being — an enemy of the people — we should be thankful for his flaws.

Never mind the clear demonstration that the G.O.P.’s Obama-era hyperventilating about deficits was completely hypocritical. The more important point is that $300 billion is a lot of money, and it should have been enough to buy Trump a lot of political gain.

After all, other white nationalists trying to do what Trump is trying to do — subvert the rule of law and convert their nations from democracies on paper to one-party autocracies in practice — have solidified their grasp on power by delivering at least a bit on their populist promises. In Poland, for example, the Law and Justice party has increased social spending and is now promising a big rise in the minimum wage.

Trump’s domestic economic policy, however, has been standard Republican top-down class warfare. None of that $300 billion went for social benefits or even his continually promised, never-delivered infrastructure plan. Instead, it went mainly into tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that have done little to boost investment.

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At the same time, Trump has pursued his personal tariff obsession despite mounting evidence that it’s hurting growth. The economy was supposed to be his big political selling point. Instead, polls of his net job approval on economic policy are, on average, barely positive even now — and likely to get worse as tariffs on consumer goods bite and the economy slows.

But Trump’s squandered economic opportunities are, of course, secondary at this point to his de facto self-impeachment.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed that Trump would skate on charges both of colluding with Russia to subvert the 2016 election and of obstruction of justice; the Mueller report was basically a bust, partly because the story was complicated, partly because of Robert Mueller’s diffidence.

But Trump has managed to make things clear enough for everyone to understand. First he demanded that foreign regimes produce dirt on domestic political rivals, not just in phone calls but right there on camera. Now he’s engaged in a crude, obvious effort to stonewall the House impeachment inquiry that is clearly an impeachable offense in itself.

Why did he hand the defenders of democracy so much ammunition? Partly he seems to have gotten high on his own supply — he actually seems to believe the bizarre conspiracy theories his supporters drum up to excuse his actions. Also, he evidently lacks any kind of self-restraint. Even if he considers any effort to hold him accountable a form of treason, he should have known better than to blurt it out in public.

So Trump’s own actions explain why a vote to impeach, which seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago, now looks almost inevitable. Conviction in the Senate is still unlikely, but not as impossible as it once appeared.

The larger point is that if Trump were cannier and more self-controlled, the march to autocracy might well be unstoppable. He has the backing of a party whose elected representatives have shown no sign of democratic scruples. He has de facto state media in the form of Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch empire. He has already managed to corrupt key government agencies, including the Justice Department.

Indeed, these advantages are so large that the assault on democracy may yet prevail. The only reason it might falter is, as I said, Trump’s own deficiencies.

It says a lot about the modern G.O.P. that the party is still solidly behind a man so obviously, grotesquely, not up to the job (although some rank-and-file Republicans now back an impeachment inquiry). But those of us who want America as we know it to survive should be grateful that Trump is so immature and incompetent. His character flaws are the only thing that gives us a fighting chance.

Trump’s Most Loyal Allies Are Putting Him on the Path to Impeachment

I don’t think it’s possible to fully grasp the Ukraine scandal without understanding the dynamic outlined by former homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert last weekend. Recall that he told ABC News and the New York Times that a pernicious cycle had taken hold in the White House — even as aides debunked 2016 conspiracy theories, Trump allies (including Rudy Giuliani) would sell the president once again on wild talesHere’s the Times report on Bossert:

“It is completely debunked,” Mr. Bossert said of the Ukraine theory on ABC. Speaking with George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Bossert blamed Mr. Giuliani for filling the president’s head with misinformation. “I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity.”

And:

Other former aides said separately on Sunday that the president had a particular weakness for conspiracy theories involving Ukraine, which in the past three years has become the focus of far-right media outlets and political figures. Mr. Trump was more willing to listen to outside advisers like Mr. Giuliani than his own national security team.

I’ve heard many of these conspiracy theories, and — like many conspiracies — they can use a base of troubling truth as a launching pad for the most bizarre of claims. For example,

  • the origin of the Steele Dossier is troubling and worth investigating.
  • The Carter Page FISA applications should also be closely examined. It is not at all uncommon (sadly) for to find examples of overreach or abuse in any far-flung and complex investigation — that’s one reason why defense lawyers often spend so much time on suppression motions before trials.

But the theories floating around online Trumpworld go far, far beyond any discernible connection to logic or evidence.

But here’s the problem — the wildest theories are floated in the quarters that are most fiercely devoted to the president.  They’re the ones who constantly to refer to the “real collusion” as the connection between Democrats and the Ukrainian government. They’re the ones who cast doubt on the very idea that Russia interfered in the election at all, much less on Trump’s behalf. They’re the ones constantly using absurd words like “coup” to describe constitutional and legal processes that are adverse to Trump. And, based on the transcript of the call with Volodymyr Zelensky, it seems as if Trump is drinking deeply of their conspiratorial Kool-Aid.

In their click-bait zeal to curry favor with the world’s most powerful man, they are feeding Trump’s worst instincts, and now we know that he’s warped American diplomacy in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods as a result.

In an interview earlier today, I described the scandal as one part corruption, one part fitness. Yes, it’s venal and corrupt to depart from any conventional legal process to urge a dependent foreign government (or a hostile foreign government, like China) to investigate a domestic political rival — especially in the absence of evidence of criminal wrongdoing. But the willingness to believe in conspiracy theories and conduct diplomacy accordingly also speaks less to Trump’s corruption than whether he has the character, knowledge, and temperament to be president. In fact, I’m starting to believe that the fitness aspect of this controversy may well be dominant.

Trump’s most extreme allies have built a large media following, but the most important person in that audience is the current occupant of the Oval Office. They’ve succeeded in convincing the most powerful man in the world that their theories are right. They’re influencing diplomacy at the highest levels. But they just might be planting the seeds of Trump’s political destruction. They’ve helped put their beloved president on the path to impeachment.