I Hope This Is A Silly Conspiracy Theory…

A daily email I receive combines several stories from a variety of sources. A recent one included a really terrifying–and not entirely implausible–assertion. The letter detailed the hundreds of holds that Senator Tuberville has placed on military appointments, and went on to point out that Rand Paul has been blocking Ambassadors and other State Department nominees, that J.D. Vance is blocking appointees to the Department of Justice, and Josh Hawley is similarly blocking Army civilian appointments.

The item concluded with “They’re keeping the roles open for Trump. The next coup is already underway.”

Now, I have to believe that this is a wild surmise–that the anti-American buffoonery of these MAGA culture warriors is simply more evidence of GOP idiocy and dysfunction.

But I will admit that reading the list and assertion made shivers run down my spine.

I’d been aware of Tuberville’s holds. Anyone who reads the news has seen stories about the damage his intransigence continues to do to America’s military readiness. But I have assumed that Tuberville’s obvious stupidity and deep investment in culture war rhetoric explained it. (You will recall that, just after being elected to the U.S. Senate, Tuberville –whose past experience was as a college football coach–was unable to identify the three branches of government.)

I hadn’t been aware of the other machinations to block government activity, so I did some checking. According to CBS News, Rand Paul has announced his intent to block all State Department nominees until the Biden administration releases documents related to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Senate to “swiftly” confirm more than 60 nominees to key foreign policy positions, warning in a letter sent to all senators Monday that leaving the roles unfilled was damaging to America’s global standing and national security interests.

“Vacant posts have a long-term negative impact on U.S. national security, including our ability to reassure Allies and partners, and counter diplomatic efforts by our adversaries,” Blinken wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CBS News. “The United States needs to be present, leading, and engaging worldwide with our democratic values at the forefront.”

There are currently 62 nominees awaiting confirmation in the Senate, of which 38 are for ambassadorial roles across multiple continents. Of those, “several” have been pending for more than 18 months, a State Department official said.

Rolling Stone has reported that J.D. Vance has been handing out “wokeness” questionnaires to State Department nominees whose Senate confirmations he’s placed on hold.

Vance claimed that the point of the surveys was to establish if any of the nominees had “radical” viewpoints that would cloud their treatment of foreign policy. “If you are injecting your own personal politics in a way that harms American national security and diplomacy, that’s not fine,” Vance told Politico. “The questions all try to get at those issues.”

Politico has confirmed that odious Senator Josh Hawley has been at this for quite a while–he caused chaos in 2021 by blocking  confirmation of several State Department nominees, in a continuation of what Politico characterized then as “the unprecedented GOP-led campaign to slow-walk most of President Joe Biden’s picks for top foreign policy posts.”

Hawley apparently continues to play the blackmail game; in January of this year, Defense News reported

The Senate is on track to confirm many of President Joe Biden’s seven remaining Pentagon nominees after Democrats reached an agreement with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., to break his yearlong logjam on Defense Department confirmations in the last Congress.

And just this October, a month ago, according to a publication of the American Legion, Hawley announced that he would put a hold on Army civilian nominations until the service earmarks $41 million for new housing at Fort Leonard Wood.

After doing the above-reported, fairly superficial research (i.e. asking Dr. Google), I’ve concluded that these self-important characters are probably not capable of co-ordinating and conducting a coup. That doesn’t mean that their tantrums aren’t doing a considerable amount of damage. 

“I won’t do my job until you give me what I want” isn’t a particularly attractive way to conduct Senate business, but then, the Republicans in the House and Senate are–to put it kindly–immature and self-promoting. Forget putting country above party–these pompous jerks won’t put country above self.

When We The People wonder why the federal government isn’t functioning well, I think we have a significant part of the answer.


I Guess Indoctrination Failed..

I was reading a recent column by Dana Milbank--and appreciating the snark–when it hit me. Milbank was engaging in (very appropriate) takedown of several Republican high-profile opponents of those snobby American “elites,” and pointing out that all of them turn out to be privileged White male members of that same elite.

But the column brought to mind an even more annoying hypocrisy than the one Milbank was highlighting–the persistent Republican attacks on higher education for “indoctrinating” students with liberal ideas–accusations leveled by individuals who clearly escaped that supposedly inescapable indoctrination.

The charge has always been bogus, of course, for a number of reasons. As someone who taught at a university for more than 20 years, I can attest to the fact that just imparting facts–let alone inculcating ideologies at odds with those the student came with–is a lot harder than it looks. For that matter, the opportunities for “indoctrination” are pretty limited. As a recent column from the Palm Beach Post put it, most courses have nothing to do with social policy or politics. There’s no potential for “indoctrination” in algebra, construction management or chemistry.

The United States has thousands of small colleges and universities, many of them quite religious, that are less frequently accused of planting “socialist” predilections in their students than the Ivy League, elitist, hard-to-get-into universities. What about those hotbeds of “woke” philosophies? That’s where the indoctrination is occurring–right?

Um…not so much. Milbank brings the evidence.

He quotes Senator Tom Cotton who, during the confirmation hearings, said he “doesn’t want a justice who follows the “views of the legal elite,” (would that mean rejecting a nominee who pledges to follow precedent?) and later complaining that “a bunch of elite lawyers” such as nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson “think that sentences for child pornography are too harsh. I don’t and I bet a lot of normal Americans don’t, either.”

And where was this representative of “normal Americans” educated? Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Then there’s Louisiana’s John Neely Kennedy, who routinely attacks the evil “managerial elite” of media, academics, bureaucrats and corporations. (Typical accusation: “This cabal think they are smarter and more virtuous than the American people.”)  This “man of the people” has a “degree with first class honors from Oxford University (Magdalen College),” and was Phi Beta Kappa at Vanderbilt. That was before he got elected by denouncing the “goat’s-milk-latte-drinkin’, avocado-toast-eating insider’s elite.”

Of course, we already know about Ted (“Do you know who I am?”) Cruz–who Bret Stephens recently described as a” one-man reminder of why sentient people hate politicians.” He graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law, and regularly inveighs against the “coastal elites.”

We’ve also seen more than enough of Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, formerly of Stanford University and Yale Law School. Hawley, as Milbank reminds us, fancies himself standing with the proletariat in “the great divide” between the “leadership elite and the great and broad middle of our society.”

Cruz, Hawley and Cotton are all contemplating presidential runs — where they might meet in the Republican primary another man of the people, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A graduate of Yale and Harvard Law, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Don’t Trust the Elites,” and he rails routinely about “elites” trying to shove this or that “down the throats of the American people.”

Milbank has a number of other examples, and students of stunning hypocrisy will find his column well worth reading in its entirety. Whether you focus on the humbug of men who are obviously part of the “elite” pretending to be “just folks” or whether–like me–you ponder the abject failure of schools like Harvard, Yale and Stanford to properly indoctrinate these strutting peacocks, a couple of conclusions are inescapable.

First, institutions of higher education are rather obviously failing to turn out graduates who’ve been successfully indoctrinated with a liberal philosophy. (For that matter, they don’t seem to be doing all that well instilling civility and simple honesty…Perhaps we should acknowledge that both sets of values come from a variety of sources outside the classroom.)

Second, despite how ridiculous they sound to many of us, these men aren’t stupid. They are promoting policies that they clearly know  to be dangerous and unfounded, and they are asserting “facts” that they just as clearly know to be out-and-out lies.

Stupidity is unfortunate, but inescapable and thus forgivable. A willingness to prostitute oneself for electoral advantage, a willingness to undermine democracy in order to appeal to an ignorant, frightened and angry GOP base– is not.


Deserving Of Contempt

Today, America will inaugurate an actual President. I have hopes for a resurrection of governing.

Biden’s success will rest to a considerable extent on what happens to today’s totally dysfunctional and arguably treasonous GOP, where signs of schism are growing.

Among those signs are two columns written by longtime Republican conservatives–Michael Gerson and George Will. It bears emphasizing that both of these examples were published on January 4th–before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Both are representative of the pre-Trump GOP. In other words, sane. (Although in Will’s case, also irritating and supercilious.)

Michael Gerson was a speechwriter for George W. Bush; he is a committed Christian Evangelical. His column in the Washington Post focused on the leaked telephone call between Trump and Georgia’s Secretary of State–the Republican officeholder who oversaw Georgia’s election. As Gerson says, the great virtue of that recording is that it “clarifies the goals of all concerned.”

And those goals, as he points out, were not to expose abuses in the electoral system. 

Trump intended to pressure the elected official of an American political subdivision to falsify the state’s electoral outcome–to “squeeze out” 11,780 additional votes in his favor– in order to overturn his loss in Georgia.

His cynical, delusional justifications are beside the point. He would say anything — invent any lie, allege any conspiracy, defame any opponent, spread any discredited rumor — to perpetuate his power.

Gerson then turned to Trump’s Congressional enablers.

This, in turn, illuminates the motives of his congressional enablers. In light of Trump’s clarifying call, the term “enablers” now seems too weak. When Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and their GOP colleagues try to disrupt and overturn a free and fair election, they are no longer just allies of a subversive; they become instruments of subversion. They not only help a liar; they become liars. They not only empower conspiracy theories; they join a conspiracy against American democracy. They not only excuse institutional arson; they set fire to the Constitution and dance around the flame.

In the remainder of the column, Gerson excoriated this attack on the constitutional order and pointed out that Republican “populism” ( a nicer word for the GOP’s current Nazification)  is diametrically opposed to actual conservatism and other former Republican beliefs: in law and order, in the U.S. constitutional system, in individual liberty and federalism, in judicial restraint. Worse still,

Anti-constitutional Republicans are teaching, in essence, that partisan and ideological victory is more important than democratic self-government. They may try to dress up their betrayal as fighting against socialism, or against the “deep state,” or against multiculturalism, or against antifa, or against secularists, or for white pride, or for a Christian America. But what they are really saying to their supporters is this: Your anger is more important than our republic. 

Gerson writes that these anti-constitutional Republicans are shredding the work of America’s founders, and deserve nothing but contempt.

For his part, George Will writes that Josh Hawley’s announced intent to challenge certification of the Electoral vote is evidence that Hawley’s conscience “compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.”

Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”..

Never mind. Hawley — has there ever been such a high ratio of ambition to accomplishment? — and Cruz have already nimbly begun to monetize their high-mindedness through fundraising appeals.

Will then enumerates what rational Americans all know–that allegations of election fraud are themselves fraudulent. He concludes that the Hawley-Cruz cohort is in violation their oaths of office; despite swearing to defend the Constitution from enemies “foreign and domestic” they have become the most dangerous of those domestic enemies.

Over the past couple of decades, the Republican Party has slowly but steadily lost membership– it has barely managed to retain power through gerrymandering and vote suppression. Public defections of more high-profile Republicans began with Trump’s election and have continued. But the transformation of those who remain in the GOP–their metamorphosis into Trumpers–has also accelerated.

Sane people–including conservatives like Gerson and Will–can only hope that the abomination that is today’s GOP goes the way of the Whigs. It needs to be replaced by an adult, responsible center-right party that understands the importance of negotiation and compromise.

America needs differing perspectives on policy–it doesn’t need existential battles between a political party and a racist cult.