What Price Victory?

Virtually the entire political class has now united to defeat Donald Trump, with Morning Joe today staging a Michael Hayden appearance that served largely to allow Scarborough to tell the story of Trump asking three times in a foreign policy briefing why the US couldn’t use its nukes. As Dan Drezner pointed out on Twitter, Scarborough says the event happened months ago — when the primary was still going on — but has just now staged its telling.

Beating Donald Trump is important. He’s a racist who aims to win by promising white working class people they can resume persecuting people of color again, and he is dangerously inconsistent. That said, he does want to spend lots on infrastructure and protect workers from the ravages of globalization, something often forgotten in depictions of him as entirely policy free.

But the transpartisan obsession with beating Trump has largely applauded two developments that, for liberals, for democrats, for those who believe in peace, for progressives, should be a worry.

First, the Neocon establishment has come out in enthusiastic support for Clinton, with ideologue Eliot Cohen orchestrating serial efforts (one that even includes John Yoo!!) to oppose Trump. They point to Trump’s erratic nature and more recently the theories of Putin’s influence. They do so even in the face of a report that Paul Manafort, through whom any Putin influence would be managed, is checking out.

I exchanged messages Tuesday evening with a longtime ally of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, whom I asked about who was calling the shots in the campaign. The response indicated that Manafort, a veteran of Republican politics brought in this spring for the transition from primaries to the general election, has lost control over his candidate.

“Manafort not challenging (Trump) anymore,” Manafort’s ally wrote. “Mailing it in. Staff suicidal.”

I’m getting whiplash following the Manchurian Trump stories. Maybe the ones suggesting Bill Clinton was behind the Trump run are the true ones after all.

And even while the focus has been on Russia’s alleged influence with Trump, there has been no focus on Hillary’s unquestioning support of Saudi Arabia (the country that had ties to 9/11) and Israel. Or on Hillary’s equally troubling policy proposals, such as starting a No Fly Zone over Russian planes.  As Will Bunch noted in a great column, Democrats have become the party that shuns people who chant No More War.

The delegates didn’t hear from an Andrew Bacevich or the equivalent of James Madison, but they did get Panetta, who — as noted in this excellent analysis — has supported expanded war powers for the White House, failed to push for real accountability on Bush-era torture, and once suggested that “a 30-year war” will be needed against terrorism. Was it really rude for some of the DNC delegates to chant “no more war!” during Panetta’s speech? Or were some citizens desperately trying to be heard with a different point of view, in a nation so eager to squelch any public debate?

It should be a scandal that the United States drops bombs from flying death robots or our obscenely expensive military jets over countries like Libya, swaths of Africa, or Syria based only on a 15-year-old congressional resolution passed after an attack carried out mostly by Saudi Arabians loyal to a terrorist group that barely exists in 2016. But we’re afraid of any frank discussion of that, or the recent admission by the Obama administration that U.S. military actions in nations with which we’re not technically at war have killed 116 innocent civilians. That’s a number that experts find ridiculously low, by the way, and doesn’t as include as many as 85 Syrian civilians who were killed in late July by a U.S. airstrike — a story that was all but ignored in the media. Even if you strongly believe that such collateral damage is necessary to defeat international terrorism, chanting “USA! USA!” to support militarism is both jingoistic and crudely callous toward the dead.

Not only has Hillary gotten the support of the people who brought us into Iraq based on a lie (she told her own little stretchers to get us into Libya), but we’re now drowning out any voice for peace.

Then there’s the parade of heinous billionaires Hillary has rolled out, with Mark Cuban, Mike Bloomberg, and now Meg Whitman. NYT’s coverage of Whitman’s announcement emphasizes that Hillary has been courting Republican billionaires since before she finalized the nomination and that Hillary’s pick of the pro-TPP pro-Wall Street Tim Kaine is what sealed the deal for Whitman.

Whitman, who said she would remain a Republican, brings with her a considerable network of contributors, some of whom she said were open to giving to Mrs. Clinton. She said she was willing to campaign for Mrs. Clinton, said she would do her best to gather checks for her campaign and indicated she would personally give to both Mrs. Clinton and her affiliated “super PACs.” An aide to Ms. Whitman said she would personally give at least an amount in the “mid-six figures” to the Clinton effort.

While Democrats openly appealed at their convention last week to Republicans uneasy with Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton and her top supporters have been making a similar cross-party pitch in private since before the Democratic nomination fight even came to its conclusion.


She said she had told Mrs. Clinton that she wanted to see the two parties’ conventions and assess the running mates that each nominee chose before making her decision. When Mrs. Clinton selected Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a consensus-oriented figure, “that was a positive for me,” Ms. Whitman said.

Whitman’s nod to Kaine is of particular concern to me, as Democrats downplayed his anti-choice and pro-business policies, at least in public, until after the convention. Now, if anything happens to Hillary (who has some dangerously unhinged enemies), we’ll basically have a moderate Republican running the country.

It’s not just that Hillary has secretly been courting oligarchs since before she cemented the nomination. It’s that her post-convention politicking has focused on it, as if the approval of oligarchs is what it will take to win in midwest swing states.

The guy who will likely become Majority Leader is even more aggressively pursuing typical Republican voters (though this view — admittedly filtered through the potentially inaccurate National Review — has some huge logical contradictions, not to mention an odd idea of what it would take for Democrats to continue to win Illinois).

“No guarantees, there never are, but the odds are more like than not that we will take back the Senate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said at a forum sponsored by the Washington Post Thursday afternoon. Schumer will be the next majority or minority leader of the Senate Democrats, depending upon how November unfolds. He suggested that the electorate’s sense of economic gloom was actually working to his party’s advantage: “The electorate is moving in a more Democratic direction. When middle class incomes decline, people tend to move in a more progressive direction.”

Schumer’s optimism is driven more by national demographics than by the specific traits of his candidates. He contends that Millennials, or voters aged 18 to 35, will be the largest age group voting in this year’s electorate, even if they don’t turn out in massive numbers.

“The number one factor in whether we retake the Senate is whether Hillary Clinton does well, and I think she’s going to do really well,” Schumer says of his former fellow New York senator. He notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Senate Republicans in difficult races to localize their elections, rather than get too tied to Trump’s positions and comments and scoffs, “Sorry, Mitch, this is a national election if there ever was one.”

At least publicly, Schumer has no worries about his party’s dwindling fortunes among working-class white voters. “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

Democrats, it appears, want to become the party of the Republican soccer mom, which may work well with the bellicose warmongering, but which seems to view economic malaise as an opportunity rather than a problem.

So yeah, by all means, let’s beat the orange crazy man.

But let’s also be cognizant of the more politically palatable craziness that gets embraced in the process.

27 replies
  1. Betty says:

    This about covers all the concerns we “Bernie Bros” had about the Clinton campaign from day one. (Big, heavy sigh.)

  2. John Casper says:

    “I’m getting whiplash…”
    Spew AlertI know better than to read you with coffee in my mouth. Wiping liquids off the monitor.
    Great title, brilliant, accessible breaking of, “news-as-it-happens,” from all sides of the political spectrum. Thank you for watching Morning Joe, so I don’t have to.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    In a world where Barack Obama won a Nobel Prize for the sole reason he was “not GWB”, yet two terms later must list his most notable achievement as having normalized the malevolence of the Bush administration’s disregard for the Constitution, it is fascinating that Hillary is most likely to be elected for “not being Trump” and will most likely continue all of Obama’s most unfortunate policies without noticeable objection. And the fact is, since Obama’s circumvention of little things like constitutional rights and separation of powers were conducted on the Etch-a-Sketch of executive orders, it’s actually probably still preferable to elect Hillary — and this time with possible down-ticket Democratic majorities — in the earnest hope that maybe something can be done to reinstate some of the principles that Bush abandoned out of madness, Obama continued out of expediency, and Trump would ignore and finalize out of narcissism. Hillary is a devil we know and Trump is a devil without limits.

    But focusing on “what’s likely to happen with the CIA” is a great way to start thinking about a Hillary presidency.

  4. lefty665 says:

    Trump certainly seems to be doing everything he can to unbalance the record that he and Hillary are equally horrid but in different ways. However, the idea that NeoLib, NeoCon, corrupt Clinton will be swept into office by a huge majority with a big mandate is frightening for both the country and the world.
    The idea that Trump’s recent antics have not turned off his supporters is scary. However, the lack of real wage growth for most workers since 1978 and US growth averaging less than 1% over the last 3 quarters is a pretty strong incentive for people who feel they have no stake in the system. If they believe they will just be further screwed if Hillary is elected that may mean they’ll risk Trump to change it. As Newtie declared in the ’90’s “If I have to destroy this institution to change it, I will”.
    The combination of HRC and Schumer will make our mid-east policy a wholly pwned subsidiary of Netanyahoo and the right wing Likud party. That is profoundly scary to much of the world, but apparently domestically here not so much.
    It seems you’ve identified it with “… politically palatable craziness that gets embraced in the process”. Unfortunately, the closer one looks at what will be unleashed with a crushing Clinton win the scarier it becomes. Thanks for opening that door and peeking in.
    So far we’re sticking with Green as a way to start changing a profoundly corrupt political system. The idea, as Bernie laid out to Dem caucus boos, is that is more important than the results of a single election. As Trump and Clinton make the consequences of losing, or winning, more profound the stakes get higher for all of us.
    The old Chinese curse goes “May you live in interesting times”. The prospects are that the next roughly 100 days will be very interesting, and those beyond even more so. It’s enough to make me almost glad I’m getting old, but I fear for my grand kids.

    • John Casper says:

      You wrote, “So far we’re sticking with Green as a way to start changing a profoundly corrupt political system.”
      1. Who is, “we?”
      2. What actions does, “…sticking with Green…,” entail, beyond capitalizing the, “g?”
      3. Will you vote in Virginia’s primaries?
      4. If so, for whom will you vote?
      You wrote, “It’s enough to make me almost glad I’m getting old, but I fear for my grand kids.”
      If you understood the possible scenarios of climate change, you’d be worried about yourself and your kids too.

      • lefty665 says:

        Twit: Green is to green as Democratic is to democratic. Is English not your native language? Virginia’s primaries are long past. None of your damn business who I voted for or how I express political support. Nobody needs silly lectures on climate change from the likes of you.

        • John Casper says:

          You wrote, “Green is to green as Democratic is to democratic.”
          5. Is “Democrat,” a primary color?
          You wrote, “Is English not your native language?
          You wrote, “Virginia’s primaries are long past.”
          You can educate us. Thank you.
          6. In November, who are you supporting in your local and state races?
          You wrote, “None of your damn business…”
          7. Did you forget writing “Tsk, tsk, touchy aren’t we…,” to Rayne back here https://www.emptywheel.net/2016/07/22/friday-the-end-of-the-world/ ?
          What goes around, comes around.
          You wrote, “…who I voted for or how I express political support.”
          8. Then why did you write, “So far we’re sticking with Green as a way to start changing a profoundly corrupt political system?”
          You wrote, “Nobody needs silly lectures on climate change…”
          8.1 So you agree that when you said you weren’t worried about yourself or your kids, I was correct to rebut a, “silly,” fossil fuel talking point?
          8.2 Does “…from the likes of you,” mean that you understand you’ve got a lot to learn about climate change?

        • lefty665 says:

          Emptywheel is an interesting blog, and has been for quite a few years now. The posters are bright and usually well informed as are, generally, the comments. Analysis that gets down into the weeds often provides insights into issues and events. There tends to be little of the flaming or other nonsense that is common on the web
          Your ad hominem attacks on me are off topic and don’t add to the conversation, in addition to being lies. I’m going to try to avoid taking the bait and responding to your slurs in the future. In addition to refraining from personal attacks I would encourage you to wait until you have something more substantive to say than “Scoop” before posting, although that is simply inane as long as you don’t add large graphics.
          One last time through since you seem to be having a hard time with simple concepts, Green and Democratic refer to political parties while green and democratic have other meanings. Have a nice day.

        • bmaz says:

          Lefty AND John Casper: Both of you have been around these parts for a long time, and both are valued for both your presence and the content you supply. So, do me a favor and tone down the sniping. You are both above that, and the comment threads will be far better off.

  5. jerryy says:

    The right wing corporatists have pretty much locked things down at the top, but they have some loose ends to attend to before they can rest easy.
    If Mr. Trump is replaced too soon, for whatever reason, the media will have to go to very, very absurd lengths to exclude the other party candidates from the upcoming debates…
    The Standing Permanent Select Committee On All Things Benghazi has not been dissolved. That group probably has Articles of Impeachment ready to go, just fill in the date and file them.

  6. P J Evans says:

    I suspect the neoliberals are hoping they can get Clinton to move to the right, but they definitely don’t want Trump, who is all over the map every day and can’t be predicted.

  7. RUKidding says:

    I feel like Alice through the Looking Glass. It’s just bizarro world anymore. I cannot support Trump, esp given his latest ridiculous escapades. And yet we’re stuck supposedly to clap and cheer when each passing day brings us more and more mega-rich GOP pillaging, plundering billionaires voicing loud praise for Empress Clinton. Well, why wouldn’t they? Clinton’s DNC Convention looked like an RNC convention to me… like back (not that long ago) when the GOP was semi, sort of sane. War mongering Gen Allen, anyone?? I had to turn off my radio, esp with all the GOP “USA! USA! USA!” disgusting chants, and then of course the Barackstar just hadda quote Zombie Reagan.
    I’ve been spanked on numerous blogs for not prostrating myself before the glorious visiage of La Clinton, who will give us all a sparkle pony that shits rainbows.
    Anyhoo, we’re screwed no matter what, but I simply cannot vote for Trump. No thanks. That dude’s just too frickin’ weird.
    Jill Stein, sadly, has aligned herself with Anti-Vaxxers and some other kooks, leading me to not like her so much either.
    Sigh. What a world. Good luck to us all.

    • Jim McKay says:

      > Jill Stein, sadly, has aligned herself with Anti-Vaxxers and some other kooks, leading me to not like her so much either. <

      I don't know about "other kooks" (???), but for whatever reasons MSM is trying to blow this anti-vaxxer association way out of proportion. Slate quotes her WP interview on Friday:

      I think there’s no question that vaccines have transformed public health and been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases—smallpox, polio, etc. So vaccines are an invaluable medication. Like any medication, they also should be—what shall we say?—approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. And I think right now, that is the problem. That people do not trust a Food and Drug Administration, or even the CDC for that matter, where corporate influence and the pharmaceutical industry has a lot of influence.

      I don’t see anything in that statement I disagree with.

      I think Stein mis-spoke (over generalized) in her statement in Reddit question forum, but they’ve twisted her words and vastly blown her oft stated position out of proportion.

      Snopes took a look at this:


      … worth a read IMO. They provide this quote from Reddit forum that started all this:

      I don’t know if we have an “official” stance, but I can tell you my personal stance at this point. According to the most recent review of vaccination policies across the globe, mandatory vaccination that doesn’t allow for medical exemptions is practically unheard of. In most countries, people trust their regulatory agencies and have very high rates of vaccination through voluntary programs. In the US, however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the US. So who wouldn’t be skeptical? I think dropping vaccinations rates that can and must be fixed in order to get at the vaccination issue: the widespread distrust of the medical-industrial complex.

      Vaccines in general have made a huge contribution to public health. Reducing or eliminating devastating diseases like smallpox and polio. In Canada, where I happen to have some numbers, hundreds of annual death from measles and whooping cough were eliminated after vaccines were introduced. Still, vaccines should be treated like any medical procedure — each one needs to be tested and regulated by parties that do not have a financial interest in them. In an age when industry lobbyists and CEOs are routinely appointed to key regulatory positions through the notorious revolving door, its no wonder many Americans don’t trust the FDA to be an unbiased source of sound advice. Monsanto lobbyists and CEOs like Michael Taylor, former high-ranking DEA official, should not decide what food is safe for you to eat. Same goes for vaccines and pharmaceuticals. We need to take the corporate influence out of government so people will trust our health authorities, and the rest of the government for that matter. End the revolving door. Appoint qualified professionals without a financial interest in the product being regulated. Create public funding of elections to stop the buying of elections by corporations and the super-rich.

      I consider that a 95% positive statement, would love to hear Dems talking about that. Funny, none of her “anti-Vaxxer” articles all over Google right now mention the rest of her statement… eg. packing CDC & FDA with “Michael Taylor”(s) and such.

      This kind’a stuff reminds me of HJL’s comment here the other day claiming large Gulen influence over HRC campaign and Clinton foundation

  8. bevin says:

    A very wise post.
    The great problem, which has been highlighted since the Democrats’ Convention, is that in the anxiety not only to beat Trump but to establish a comfortable place on the Dump Trump bandwagon, there has been a stampede away from critical evaluations of Hillary’s policies and towards the view that the slightest hesitation in backing her, wholeheartedly, indicates secret support for Donald.
    This is Stalinism of the lowest kind: those who are not enthusiastic supporters of the worst warmonger ever to run for the Presidency- a woman promising war, wrapped in hostility to both China and Russia, the first candidate to run on a platform of Israeli annexation of the lands occupied in 1967- are backers of Trump (“objectively” is the Stalinist phrase) and at best, useful idiots in the service of President Putin.
    What we are left with is a political terrain in which-in obedience to the triangulation scheme- no voices to the left of Netanyahu and Bill Kristol are to be heard.
    And, in the meantime, the neo-cons, properly viewed in the world as certifiably insane, are being escorted, like contestants in a Game Show, to places of honour in centre stage.
    While the widespread and demonstrable frauds practised on Primary voters go not merely unpunished but unmentioned, lest Donald should use them to question Clinton’s fitness for office.
    As you point out there appears to be almost unanimity, amongst the powerful and polite, to deny Trump even the merest courtesy of the chance to air his views.
    It is often forgotten that the worst lynch mobs, were always those led by office holders and newspaper proprietors. And that they were almost invariably leaders of the local Democratic party.

    No good would be likely to come from a Trump Presidency. But the real danger now is that of a Hillary Clinton Presidency, untrammeled by voices calling for peace and unanimously backed by an oligarch media drunk with the sudden appearance of absolute power, after centuries of being forced to compromise with popular concerns: employment, healthcare, policing and the growing gap between those who have and those who have not even food stamps.

  9. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    Barry Goldwater (Hillary’s first political idol) was too scary to be president. Then Johnson escalated Vietnam, the Dems punched some hippies and helped usher in Nixon.

    Not that I’m voting for Trump, but holy shite who’s more likely to bomb Iran? Plus we’re already building the fucking wall while deporting thousands. What more can he do besides be an idiot?

    The Dems want you scared, and they’ll take it as a mandate to make more war/profit. This ain’t new.

    Hillary will make so many lives so much worse.

  10. gmoke says:

    Yes, everything depends upon that one person we elect to the Presidency. After citizens cast a vote on the first Tuesday of November, they no longer have any agency left or political leverage at all, at all. The entire democratic process is vested in that singular person in the White House. That’s it. Game over. You voted. Now go back to sleep.

    I don’t concentrate on the Presidency or elected representatives. I vote but don’t believe my vote is the beginning and end of my political power. My belief is that democracy is a practice, that independence needs to be exercised – daily, and that I NEVER EVER give up my political power to even a representative that I know and trust.

    The choices for President are indeed abysmal but I work every day on the issues that concern me. I tend not to waste my time on the fireworks and spectacle (thanks, Monsieur DeBord) of electoral politics although it does amuse and, sometimes, infuriate me.

    “How did Solidarity start?” someone once asked Lech Walesa. “By talking loud at the bus stops,” he reportedly replied. Sounds good to me. I talk loud at the bus stops and, cut out Emma Goldman’s middleman, by dancing in the streets, a revolutionary act in my increasingly humbled opinion.

  11. bloopie2 says:

    The Republicans could dump Trump, and go with Pence. That would mean the Trump-fearing Democrats would have no fear any more—good, right? But wouldn’t Pence have a better shot at beating Clinton? Careful what you wish for, Democrats.

    • John Casper says:

      Excellent point.
      Unless Trump voluntarily withdraws,–I’m guessing the GOP has already offered him cash, but not enough–the GOP’s risk in dumping him, is that the media will still cover him and the state fights to see whose name is on the ballot with an, “R,” next to it.
      Trump’s nuts. I don’t see him voluntarily giving up the limelight.

  12. John Casper says:

    “Democrats, it appears, want to become the party of the Republican soccer mom, which may work well with the bellicose warmongering, but which seems to view economic malaise as an opportunity rather than a problem.”
    That left a mark.
    I hope Democrats message one of the few violations of Posse Comitatus Act https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act that I support, President Eisenhower integrating Little Rock Central High School with the 101st Airborne.*

    Here’s about ninety-seconds of 1957 video.
    Per the iconic photo, http://voiceofmoorecounty.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Gen.-Eisenhower-Meeting-with-Troops-Before-D-Day-jefferys.png
    those familiar with Eisenhower’s career know he spent the day before D-Day with U.S. paratroopers, the units he was concerned would suffer the highest casualty rates.
    Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, co-produced, “Band of Brothers,” a World War II miniseries about one company–Easy–in the 101st.

    Would the surviving members of the Little Rock 9, Spielberg, Hanks, cast members, descendants of President Eisenhower, and surviving member of Easy company work with Democrats?
    Iconic photos of the 101st walking children into school would support Democrat’s messaging.
    Fans of the unitary executive will love it.
    *Eisenhower sent the 1,200-man 327th Airborne Battle Group and federalized the 10,000-man Arkansas National Guard, “in order to remove them from the control of Governor Faubus.”


  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Beating the crazy man by further entrenching in government and business the neoliberal thought collective. That might qualify as a Hobson’s choice.

    • bmaz says:

      It truly is. But if the Hobson is all you have, what else does one do but make the sanest choice available?

  14. fnook says:

    Not a Hobson’s choice. Let’s win in November then worry about countering entrenched neoliberalism, please?

  15. pdaly says:

    Assuming Trump wins this election, does the 25th Amendment kick in on election night? or on the steps of the U.S Capital right after the swearing in ceremony?

  16. Bill Michtom says:

    “Democrats have become the party that shuns people who chant No More War.”

    “HAS become”?!?

    Two words: Chicago 1968

  17. Hieronymus Howard says:

    Am tardy to the party here.  But nobody else noticed it & so I had to.
    Last sentence of the fine post reads thusly:  “But let’s also be cognizant of the more politically palatable craziness that gets embraced in the process.”
    That palatable looks like a spell-check snafu.  Shouldn’t it be palpable?  Palatable would be that which is pleasing to the palate; edible.  Whereas palpable concerns that which can be felt.  Is craziness palatable?
    If I’m mistaken, please forgive me.  This south Kansas heat may have swelled my brain up & densified it.

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