Peril: What’s Epilogue to Prologue?

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Guess what book came in the mail last weekend?

Two days after the January 6, 2021, violent assault on the United States Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, General Mark Milley, the nation’s senior military officer and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, placed an urgent call on a top secret, back-channel line at 7:03 a.m. to his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

Milley knew from extensive reports that Li and the Chinese leadership were stunned and disoriented by the televised images of the unprecedented attack on the American Legislature.

Li fired off questions to Milley. Was the American superpower unstable? Collapsing? What was going on? Was the U.S. military going to do something?

“Things may look unsteady,” Milley said, trying to calm Li, whom he had known for five years. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

It took an hour and a half—45 minutes of substance due to the necessary use of interpreters—to try to assure him.

When Milley hung up, he was convinced the situation was grave. Li remained unusually rattled, putting the two nations on the knife-edge of disaster.

That’s the first six paragraphs of the book Peril‘s fucking prologue.

Prologues are typically use to establish a frame or perspective, providing additional exposition for the reader before they enter the main narrative. They’re far more common in fiction than nonfiction.

This isn’t a true prologue. It’s a chapter from an attempted autogolpe told out of chronological sequence to grab the reader’s attention and make them stay with the narrative.

I’ll admit right now I’ve only just cracked the book and I’m juggling it with other reading I’m doing, but Jesus fucking Christ no wonder the media sat up from its moribund position and covered General Milley’s preemptive diplomacy from Peril’s prologue before its commercial release date September 21.

No wonder, too, why the media immediately went on a tear about Milley’s call to China. Peril’s prologue ensured this would happen.

Sadly, I’m juggling more than other reading right now, so I haven’t been able to catch but snippets of the House Armed Services Committee hearings this past week during which some of the substance in Peril was addressed.

~ ~ ~

It’s surprising and yet unsurprising that the media blew up about General Milley’s defense-by-diplomacy immediately following the January 6 insurrection.

First, they bit on the lede with which Costa and Woodward baited them, which means the prologue worked as a hook, but it also reveals a massive hole in reporting following January 6.

Why did the public need to wait until Costa and Woodward published a book NINE MONTHS AFTER the insurrection to learn the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was compelled to engage in diplomacy with his Chinese counterpart?

Second, the media was surprised at the level of concern regarding a peaceful transition of power, but not until NINE MONTHS AFTER the insurrection.

Why weren’t they paying attention to the National Task Force on Election Crises five months before the election and seven months before the insurrection, especially after Trump refused to concede the election, called Georgia’s secretary of state to lean on the state to “find the votes” necessary for Trump to win, and after the January 6 insurrection?

And why did so many media outlets ignore or forget that only Congress has the power to declare war, and that any attack on another nation-state without authorization by Congress would be unlawful?

Lastly, why wasn’t Milley’s oath of office — the same oath taken by all members of the military, similar to the oath taken by federal employees and elected officials — taken into consideration by journalists covering Milley’s diplomatic outreach?

I [name], having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of Second Lieutenant, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.

Support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

So little examination of whether Milley was defending the Constitution and against which enemies.

~ ~ ~

I can’t say I’m fond of Bob Woodward. Some of his work is whitewashing, wallpapering — like Bush At War, which was little more than a massive beat sweetener published to assure ongoing access to the Bush White House.

But therein is the crux of the problem Peril presents us: access journalism has failed and continues to fail us.

There’s an article in The New York Times today which focuses on questionable conservative attorney John Eastman whose role in drafting the plan to overthrow the 2020 election was disclosed and thinly outlined in Peril.

Why after all of the NYT’s access reporting during the Trump administration did we have to hear about Eastman from Woodward and Costa and not from the NYT?

Most especially Maggie Haberman who shares the byline on today’s article with Michael Schmidt — why is she covering Eastman now after a book relying on access journalism was published by other journalists?

Was Haberman’s access journalism even worse than believed?

This graf from today’s NYT article just sets my teeth to grinding:

Then, after the November election, Mr. Eastman wrote the memo for which he is now best known, laying out steps that vice president Mike Pence could take to keep Mr. Trump in power — measures Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have likened to a blueprint for a coup.

Wow, how did Eastman become “best known” for that How-to-Coup memo?

In a two-page memo written by Mr. Eastman that had been circulated to the White House in the days before the certification — revealed in the new book “Peril” by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa — Mr. Eastman said that Mr. Pence as vice president was “the ultimate arbiter” of the election, essentially saying he had the power to determine who won, and that “we should take all of our actions with that in mind.”

Oh. Huh.

~ ~ ~

There are a couple pod casts worth listening to which cover some of the topics addressed in Peril.

While some of the content of this conversation between Nordlinger and Costa appears in Peril, it’s not as obvious as having the author tell you about the subject matter.

Above The Law blog founder David Lat was the featured guest on KCRW’s All the Presidents’ Lawyers podcast hosted by Ken White (a.k.a. Popehat). While the topic is “Trump Derangement Syndrome” covering four lawyers who appear to have gone off the deep end in the service of Donald Trump, one of the lawyers discussed is John Eastman.

Of particular note: the exchange beginning about 9:00 minute mark into the 33:14 program in regards to the Brandenburg standard for incitement of violence.

It’s also worth following the Twitter account of Peril’s author Bob Costa (@costareports); he tweets more about the content and background of Peril as well as new related reporting.

This tweet is particularly important: the insurrection isn’t over. It’s ongoing until the conspirators are stopped — all of them.

It’s this challenge which really makes me angry about Peril and its questionable prologue: the focus became Milley who was one of a few people who prevented January 6th’s aftermath from being so much worse.

The real focus should be that U.S. democracy remains under steady attack with the January 6 insurrection potentially the Krystallnacht which organizes American fascists.

~ ~ ~

I may post more as I continue reading Peril.

If you’re reading Peril as well, feel free to share your takes in comments below.

85 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    There were so many tells about Eastman all along, from his trashy racist op-ed questioning Kamala Harris’s eligibility to be veep because her parents were (brown) immigrants, to this interview with The Takeaway on WBUR in July 2019 when Eastman is rabid and barely contained by the interviewer.

    Access journalists should have had a bead on him sooner — why didn’t they?

    • BobCon says:

      Their world of sources has essentially collapsed in on itself, like a brown dwarf star that lacks the ability to generate much real heat or light anymore.

      I think it’s wild that Haberman and Schmidt went with the framing that Eastman came out of the blue, instead of trying to say “uh, actually, we, the plugged in savvy reporters knew he was embedded in the network. Yeah, that’s the ticket, we knew it all along but kept it a secret for, uh, reasons….”

      The whole NY Times politics desk has been stepping on rakes the past couple of months, showing how badly they understand anything that is going on. Baker, Peters, their slew of congressional reporters– they are only plugged into the rest of the political reporting scene and understand nothing.

      I’m astounded how nobody at the editorial level is able to backstop any of this either. They’re transparently being gaslit by the most obvious fakes in the consulting class, and lack the simplest amount of mental capacity to think through where this might leave them, or realize they need to move quickly to expand and reorient themselves. They are going to end up as self contained anomalies soon if they don’t listen to everyone who is telling them where they’re headed.

      • Rayne says:

        The placement of the second graf excerpted makes it clear NYT based its reporting on Peril but were sheepish about their failure and dickish about giving due credit, parking it roughly half way down a ~2000-word article.

        That podcast with Nordlinger is important because Costa explains he covered Pence; he was often the only reporter on Airforce 2.

        This tells us a lot:
        – NYT fucked up by blowing so much of their access on Trump who spent his days blowing clouds of bullshit to obscure other more important things going on;
        – Pence and his circle of contacts were a considerable resource for this book;
        – We should be watching how Pence is excised from the ongoing conspiracy while he is also managed to keep him inside the circle of control.

        Bannon needs to be removed from all social media. I sure would like to know why he’s not busy defending himself in state courts about the border wall fraud.

        • Rugger9 says:

          To the last point, Bannon is in New York federal court with Steve Kolfage over the border wall crowdfunding in a case brought by the postal inspector. DJT pardoned Bannon and the case was dismissed. I guess it depends on where the the wall was supposed to go, and if that was TX, good luck getting anywhere.

          It would seem to me the best case is to show money was collected to build a specific section of the wall, but was siphoned off in a basic skimming operation. Follow the money to the fraud, and IIRC most states do have laws against defrauding the people in this way, whether it’s used cars or a wall.

        • Tom Marney says:

          – We should be watching how Pence is excised from the ongoing conspiracy while he is also managed to keep him inside the circle of control.

          Last week, former Vice President Mike Pence became the latest pro-Trump figure to fly to Budapest to speak alongside a range of Central and Eastern European politicians, including a number of anti-democratic leaders. Pence’s visit—where he headlined the biennial “Budapest Demographic Summit,” aimed at promoting supposedly pro-family policies—fit a broader trend of Trumpist figures looking to the region for illiberal inspiration, and for potential help in returning to power in the United States.

          Pence’s visit, however, went further than any previous high-level travels to the region—to a shocking degree. While in Hungary, Pence met and schmoozed with Milorad Dodik, a genocide denier directly sanctioned by the United States for his ongoing efforts to break up Bosnia. Photographs from the event showed Pence and Dodik not only sharing the stage but also shaking hands and smiling for the camera:..

          And Dodik, perhaps more than any other regional politician, knows exactly how to play on these legacies, stoking nationalist fires however he can. For instance, he has referred to the Srebrenica genocide—a 1995 atrocity in which Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered over 8,000 Muslim men and boys—as a “fabricated myth.” In 2016, Dodik also applauded the creation of a plaque honoring Radovan Karadžić, a convicted war criminal who oversaw the Srebrenica genocide.

          “The meeting with Dodik and his entire presence at the summit in Budapest is a pretty extraordinary lapse in judgment by Pence and his team,” Jasmin Mujanović, author of a recent book on political dynamics in the Balkans, told me by email yesterday. “Given that Dodik and another leading member of his party are still under U.S. sanctions—which the Trump administration actually expanded—Pence is flirting with breaking U.S. laws so that he can do a photo op with a secessionist, ultra-nationalist, Bosnian Genocide denier, and premier regional Russian asset. It’s really a mind-boggling decision by the former vice president.”

          So why would Pence do this? Why would he choose to publicly glad-hand a genocide denialist who is sanctioned by the United States and who threatens the stability of the entire Balkans?


        • Rayne says:

          That, exactly. Was that meeting with Dodik development of kompromat to keep Pence under their thumbs? Or was it a means to add more nationalist cred to a compliant puppet?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s a global right wing-cum-fascist movement. Boris Johnson in the UK is another example. Not as right wing as his East European counterparts, nor half as competent, he’s a mini-Trump. He’s the anti-Thatcher: he never prepares for anything or its consequences, whether it’s sex or Brexit. The big money and big tech backing him think that’s fine, because for them, chaos is the most profitable and best manure to grow fascism.

        • BobCon says:

          “NYT fucked up by blowing so much of their access on Trump who spent his days blowing clouds of bullshit to obscure other more important things going on”

          It’s a classic case of capture, which is what happens sometimes with law enforcement becoming much too familiar with supposed informants, like Whitey Bulger.

          And obviously it’s still going on. The conspirators are telling them that there is no 1/6 story beyond the people breaking windows, and the Times DC beat has no idea how to build a story without the cooperation of the conspirators.

    • Joseph Andrews says:

      I very much enjoyed reading your piece here and I learned a lot (from reading it) as well. I look forward to your next contribution.

      What follows is intended to be snark-free…sometimes difficult for some (a great deal of sportswriting very much relies on ‘access journalism’).

      I’m trying to understand your criticism of the Times Eastman article (full disclosure–I read it minutes after it was posted and thought it was a good read).

      Then I read your piece here and it caused me to do a deep dive into an article that has 43 (or so) paragraphs, 30 (or so) of which contain exactly one sentence.

      Depending on how you count, there are approximately 15 quotes in the Times article, nine of which to my eyes read as ‘new’ (7 from Eastman and 2 from Bolton) which I presume form the backbone of the article.

      I imagine if you took a granular look at the article your experienced eyes might see nuanced things I don’t see regarding these quotes.

      I have not started reading Peril but your article (and others at emptywheel) and other sources put my head into a place where this 43 paragraph Times article kind of solidifies my thinking about the planning and run-up to Jan 6. In particular, Eastman’s actions (and access to Trump) makes it crystal clear that the primary ‘purpose’ of Jan 6 was to stall for time. Sometimes I’m slow…maybe that’s been obvious to others, but wasn’t yet completely obvious to me. In other words, quite literally: “Stop the Steal”. Maybe when people say who they are I really should listen.

      Anyway, here’s what I think. The Times piece was good…and what I believe to be the last (i.e. most recent) comment (by Mari Metcalf) posted there to it began this way:

      “Four years prior to the attempted coup he helped design was when I first became aware of him. In March 2017, this crackpot was featured as a “legal expert” in an hourlong interview about the then travel-ban. He was so obviously idiotic, I was disgusted that the producers of the (otherwise excellent) show had not filtered him out. I now wonder if he was slithering his way throughout media channels, moving from public radio into the sewer of Fox News.”

      [ I have the comments there sorted by ‘Newest’. The comment section for this article is now closed, and the link is here: ]

      So there were citizens out there who agree with you that the stench of Eastman had been noticed by others and probably should have been the focus of national attention long before it bubbled to the surface (I guess in response to Peril).

      Lordy there were (and remain) so MANY stenches associated with Trump!

      Nevertheless, the tone of the vast majority of the commenters to the Times piece was overwhelmingly positive.


      So what is your complaint? That the Times Eastman piece was ‘a day late’ more than it was ‘a dollar short’?

      To reiterate: no snark intended.

      Thanks for reading.

      • Rayne says:

        Depending on how you count, there are approximately 15 quotes in the Times article, nine of which to my eyes read as ‘new’ (7 from Eastman and 2 from Bolton) which I presume form the backbone of the article.

        All of this effort put into pulling this together happened NINE MONTHS AFTER the insurrection. The journalist about whom many of us complained had so much access to Trump and his White House couldn’t see the insurrection brewing under her nose in time for the public and its representatives to respond.

        I don’t know how much clearer I can make it: access journalism failed us. The point of access journalism is to report useful news obtained at close range. It’s not fucking useful NINE MONTHS AFTER and it’s pretty goddamned shitty when an access journalist has to have their ass kicked by another access journalist before they do their job. The NYT’s piece was a factchecking report, not news.

        As for Peril itself, the public shouldn’t learn what it needs to defend itself in real time from a book published NINE MONTHS AFTER the inciting event.

        I’m going to point out that Eastman tried to kill the Biden presidency before the election with his racist bashing of Harris’s eligibility. I wrote about it here. Perhaps someone with access to the White House and Congress should have stayed on Eastman’s pasty slack ass.

      • bmaz says:

        Mr. Andrews, it does not have diddly squat to do with “Peril”. Eastman has been a known quantity as an extreme right wing kook for a very long time. You seem to think he only became known lately, and that is laughable.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As with Trump’s Supreme Court picks, he came to Trump’s staff’s attention (Trump himself follows only Trump) in the first place because he was already a well-known apologist for power and for gutting the Constitution.

          Twttrworld contains a long list of his known associations, going back decades. Being surprised about Eastman is like being surprised about the Chapman University, the Claremont Institute, or the FedSoc. It can only come from a studied ignorance.

        • Troutwaxer says:

          >>> It can only come from a studied ignorance.

          I hate this approach to new people. It’s probably the best possible way to make sure someone doesn’t comment again, and also doesn’t read the site again. Every one of us aware, knowledgeable people started out being not-knowledgeable. At some point in our lives, every one of us was still inside the cave, knowing only the shadows on the walls… and if he does turn out to be a troll, we can always nuke him later – meanwhile, welcome, Joseph.

        • bmaz says:

          Going to try to be as copacetic as possible here. How about you let us deal with such things?

          I have known about Eastman for a very, very, long time. You may or may not have, but do not feign to tell us what to do.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The studied ignorance I had in mind was the MSM’s. It’s a defense also used by Trump and his supporters when they want to distance themselves from a newly unpopular person or position. Trump uses it frequently. Condi Rice’s “who could have known,” is an earlier example.

        • P J Evans says:

          I recall how many times he said he didn’t know someone who had been in many meetings with him.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        As with Trump’s Supreme Court picks, he came to Trump’s staff’s attention (Trump himself follows only Trump) in the first place because he was already a well-known apologist for power and for gutting the Constitution.

        Twttrworld contains a long list of his known associations, going back decades. Being surprised about Eastman is like being surprised about the Chapman University, the Claremont Institute, or the FedSoc. It can only come from a studied ignorance.

    • Elizabeth Johnson says:

      I am about half-way through *Peril,* and find it a useful narrative for assembling a larger picture of the events if the last year. For that I am grateful. Last week I listened, mystified, to Dan Pfeiffer and Jon Favreau on “Pod Save America” disparage the book. Your post provided the missing perspective. I have listened to British news for years, always admiring reporters’ tough questioning. Lately under Bojo, the press suffers from a similar flaccidity. Woodward’s access journalism seems a useful after the fact first draft if history. American journalists need to work harder. We have much to lose.

    • Elizabeth Johnson says:

      I am about half-way through *Peril,* and find it a useful narrative for assembling a larger picture of the events of the last year. For that I am grateful. Last week I listened, mystified, to Dan Pfeiffer and Jon Favreau on “Pod Save America” disparage the book. Your post provided the missing perspective. I have listened to British news for years, always admiring reporters’ tough questioning. Lately under Bojo, the press suffers from a similar flaccidity. Woodward’s access journalism seems a useful after the fact first draft of history. American journalists need to work harder. We have much to lose.

      • Rayne says:

        British media is wretched, just abysmal. Brexit has exposed all the flaws, including BBC’s complicity in promoting Brexit up to the end of 2020 and now the coverup of both Johnson’s corruption and ineptitude along with the fundamental failure of Brexit as a concept. (BBC literally refuses to mention Brexit as a cause of supply chain failures whether the collapse of British fisheries or the loss of freight truck drivers.) I can’t think of more than two outlets I trust beyond The New European and Byline Times; even The Guardian-UK has had its weak moments. I’d rather read Irish or Scottish outlets than most of the British ones.

        Thankfully US media is not yet that bad, but with consolidation and acquisitions by vulture VCs, the US media situation is still under threat. You’d think the NYT would feel the threat but apparently they’re driven by some other factors.

        • Rayne says:

          While Scotland may have unfortunate regional versions of British papers, and some of its own unfortunate outlets like The Press and Journal which supported Trump’s corrupt golf courses, it does have a selection of outlets like The Herald, The National, and Glasgow Times (all three owned by Herald & Times Group) and its own conservative papers, The Scotsman, The Courier, and Evening Telegraph (owned by National World Llc) as well as a smattering of small local papers.

          In a country with a landmass the size of a single American state, that’s a lot of regional and local papers for a not-separate-country.

  2. Rugger9 says:

    The fact that Bannon even now considers making statements about shock troops is scary. The fact that the MSM did not really report much about it (like with the Eastman memo) is downright complicit in the sedition to come.

    As for Milley’s oath, there is also the section on following the “orders of the President and the officers appointed over me” which is what will continue to rile the RWNM. However, the oath is to support the Constitution against all enemies, not the President. That means that if the President joins in attacking the Constitution (betraying his own oath of office) he is not followed.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    It’s where Chuck Todd and the rest of the MSM keep missing forests for the trees inside them. Doubtless these lawyers are cherry-picking subsets of possible legalities (like John Yoo, who somehow still teaches ConLaw at Berkeley) and thinking that is all that would be important to know.

    American constitutional government was attacked directly on January 6th. How it happened (i.e. planned or spontaneous) is still being investigated, and Bennie Thompson needs to dig very deep here (and if the subpoenas are correct, he is) but Woodward’s book can give him more areas to look at. Let’s not forget that even though Woodward knew this (and when??) he had a book to sell and didn’t sound the alarm in a timely manner (it could have served as a tease).

    OT but typical, it seems DJT believes he was “exonerated” about that Russia thing (far from it, Individual-1) and is demanding that the Pulitzer committee rescind its award for the reporting on the topic. I have a feeling we’re not done with that discussion either and DJT’s stonewalling is a large reason why. I would also observe that letting DJT off the hook like Mueller did invites this kind of garbage. Then again, DJT thinks he’d beat DeathSantis in a primary battle for 2024.

    • Leoghann says:

      All these awards (Nobel, Pulitzer, etc.) are just additional targets, from TFG’s bottomless pit of jealousy.

    • Tom says:

      “… it seems DJT believes he was “exonerated” about that Russia thing … ” I think DJT knows full well that he wasn’t exonerated by the Mueller Report. I also think that Donald Trump knows full well that he lost the 2020 election. Like all of us, Trump is prey to wishful thinking and self-deception, but he knows exactly what he’s doing all the time. He’s fundamentally a liar and a con man and if he sounds quite sincere and believable when he spouts off about “the Russia hoax” and “witch hunts” and “rigged elections” it’s because that’s what a con man does, that’s how he scams his victims, by sounding sincere and believable about whatever dodgy product or scheme he’s selling.

      I understand that when month after month goes by with Trump vomiting the same self-evident lies over and over again there may be a tendency to consider that perhaps he really believes what he’s saying. But that just demonstrates Trump’s well-honed and practiced skills as a liar and a con man. He’s like an actor who lives the part he plays on stage. He may be quite convincing in his role, but it’s still an act.

      • Rayne says:

        I can’t help wondering if Trump thought he “won” 2020 the same way he thought he “won” 2016 — and that his handlers didn’t pull strings for him this time though he may have been led to believe they would, because the ultimate goal was to have him launch a civil war over the 2020 election outcome beginning January 6.

        But of course there’s the effect of COVID on Trump as well. What can we really know to be true about Team Trump’s actions after he was infected and up to Biden’s inauguration, when Trump was even less stable than before, his team mirroring the instability in their own ways?

  4. Leoghann says:

    I can see Woodward and Costa’s reasoning behind their so-called prologue. But instead of setting the stage for the events discussed in the book, which is actually a moot point for the current reader, it explains the title. In doing so, it also drops an information bomb, the likes of which should be in the main text of the book. As a result, it is distracting and confusing.

    Lately, many of the major news outlets seem to be trying to substitute major, blockbuster stories for the ongoing reporting of news stories. This weekend, the Washington Post and other publications have begun reporting on their Pandora Papers, about the hiding of major wealth, and the Wall Street Journal published its first major report from the Facebook Whistleblower, Frances Haugen. Yet they have continued to follow the daily stories by simply reporting on each other’s reporting. As I mentioned in a comment on another post, I really don’t know what to do about the incredible laziness and the adrenaline addiction–began during the last administration–that afflicts the news desks at the major publications. But something needs to happen.

  5. joel fisher says:

    Several state legislatures-GA, PA, MI, WI, AZ–learned that they could have simply not recorded a winner in December 2020 and sent the election to the US House on a one state, one vote basis. Their thinking: “Really? You could have knocked me over with a feather; I won’t make that mistake again.” The 2022 Congressional and state legislative elections may mark the end of the US non-democracy.

  6. RWood says:

    While they may be proven names and have more pull than the usual authors I wouldn’t assume Woodward and Costa have 100% editorial power over the final product. That prologue placement may have been the decision of a marketing head at S&S.

    For them it’s always make money first, stir the pot second.

    • Rayne says:

      Doubtful it’s editors’ choice. Woodward likely has final say given his body of work and profitability for his publishers. I also wouldn’t put it past him to use this prologue to bury something which may underpin the next book in a collaboration.

      Think about it: Woodward wrote Fear and Rage, then collaborated on Peril. As I asked, what’s epilogue? What comes after Peril? Is Woodward already nudging Costa toward whatever that is?

      • Bay State Librul says:

        They should have called the book with another one word title: Treason.
        The attempted overthrow of the government is treason, plain and simple.

        • Joseph Andrews says:

          If ‘the bear’ is who I think it is, the following has been on my mind (and the minds of some colleagues at work, all of whom enjoy emptywheel) for several weeks now:

          We would all be more likely to support emptywheel with more than just an occasional comment (specifically–I’m referring to financial support) if the ‘more heat than light’ approach employed by ‘the bear’ in these comment sections was not a part of emptywheel.

          It is almost as if the spirit of intelligent yet conversational internet-based conversations are not understood by some here, and this sort of understanding is replaced by a proud sort of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ attitude.

          Never a good look, in my opinion. Never.

          I’m speaking as a 26 year veteran of this sort of thing, who writes every day–there is more than one way to grow audience/clicks/readership.

          As for your reference to the word ‘treason’?

          It kind of reminds me the word ‘fascist’…which I’ve learned how to define from reading comments on this very board (I think). But the definition of ‘fascist’ is hard.

          So too is treason, I think, conversationally, as opposed to legally.

          And it is the nexus of conversation and legal that makes emptywheel fun.

          Yes the writers and posters here are almost universally smart…but when the fun is removed…it doesn’t seem quite whole…and some of the smartness of those mentioned previously doesn’t shine quite as brightly.

          Scalpel vs sledgehammer, you know?

          My two cents!

        • Rayne says:

          Look, if you can’t grasp how important and relevant legal definitions are to the work we do here, this may not be the site for you.

          Secondly, I didn’t open the door to bashing contributors/moderators/editors. That’s a no-no and in your case using 144 words to do so also constitutes DDoSing a thread.

        • bmaz says:

          Your “two cents” are worth absolutely nothing. I have spent a fair amount of life and soul into this blog for a very long time. You have been here since February of this year, and mostly seem focused on telling us what to do and demanding things. If you don’t like it here, please feel free to leave and don’t let the door hit you.

          And, by the way, “treason” is not “conversational”. It is straight up a creature of the Constitution, statute and legal precedent. Spewing otherwise is a joke, and wrong. You are a concern troll, and little else. Run along, that is not needed here.

        • Rugger9 says:

          That is especially true considering why the Framers defined treason as they did, because of the history in England. Until we have a declared enemy by act of Congress, there can be no treason.

          For as much as many of these concern trolls claim to be originalists, that’s a pretty big oversight on their part.

        • bmaz says:

          I’ll grant one measure of fairness, a specific AUMF would quite arguably be sufficient. But that, of course, does not apply to 1/6 either. And the US really should get back to formally defining their wars.

        • P J Evans says:

          Also why they put in the bit about “no corruption of blood” – because there was a history of families losing everything when one member was charged with treason. (That also contributed to the “no cruel and unusual punishment”.)

        • Leoghann says:

          So, to summarize, *me and my associates are all really smart and experienced, as are nearly all the people who participate, as long as they agree with me and/or correct my errors*. Honestly, if you’ve been writing professionally, every day, for 26 years, you should understand the importance of consistent and agreed-upon definitions of terms. Unless, of course, you write for a disinformation provider.

          Following the public rehabilitation of most of the officers of the Army of the Confederacy, the public understanding of the word “treason” was pretty clear for two-score years. That only began to change after its incendiary misuse became an ongoing tactic of the John Birch Society, especially in Stormer’s notorious book. Don’t be like those people.

  7. ernesto1581 says:

    Worth going back fifteen years to read Joan Didion on Woodward writing in NYRB, at that time reviewing The Choice. She observed:

    “What seems most remarkable in this new Woodward book is exactly what seemed remarkable in the previous Woodward books, each of which was presented as the insiders’ inside story and each of which went on to become a number-one bestseller: these are books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent.”

    “In any real sense, these books are “about” nothing but the author’s own method, which is not, on the face of it, markedly different from other people’s.”

    “Every reporter, in the development of a story, depends on and coddles, or protects, his or her sources. Only when the protection of the source gets in the way of telling the story does the reporter face a professional, even a moral, choice: he can blow the source and move to another beat or he can roll over, shape the story to continue serving the source.”
    (paywall but I think they let you read the single article for free.)

    Just before picking up a copy of this new one I was reading a recent translation of Moravia’s The Conformist. Interesting pairing.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks for that referral. What a trenchant observation, “books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent.”

      Should have looked through Didion’s work more recently; I still think 15 years later about her essay for NYRB, Cheney: The Fatal Touch ( Funnily enough, it’s a 2015 essay about Didion’s body of work in Vulture which crystalized both her view of Cheney and the danger we faced and continue to face:

      … This leads to Cheney’s concept that “this was a ‘wartime presidency’ and so had special powers.” Didion’s argument about it is neither “abstract,” “tendentious,” or “doctrinaire,” and it’s a crucial insight into our recent history: Presidents wage war because it allows them to exert power without the hindrances of an antagonistic Congress. …

      Trump’s last ditch effort at retaining power wasn’t the insurrection but the invocation of war powers; who was advocating that perspective while Eastman was plugging his coup memo? IMO, the true peril is that this advocate or advocates have not been checked.

      • Joseph Andrews says:

        I want to learn…so I googled:

        trump invocation of war powers

        …and a bunch of stuff came up.

        What are you referring to?

      • BobCon says:

        Didion’s essay Insider Baseball is a fantastic diagnosis of what is wrong with the political press. She wrote about the 1988 campaign, but it’s still scarily relevant three decades later. It’s infuriating how their mentalities are fossilized even after the economic and technological upheavals since then.

        A key point Didion makes is that the political press is not only a collaborator in creating narratives, they are fundamentally dishonest about their role.

        This is a good writeup which includes an excerpt that makes this point:

        Describing the staged games of catch Dukakis would hold for photo opportunities and message projection, Didion writes:

        “What we had in the tarmac arrival with ball tossing then, was an understanding: a repeated moment witnessed by many people, all of whom believed it to be a setup and yet most of whom believed that only an outsider, someone too “naive” to know the rules of the game, would so describe it.”

        The political press is bound by the idea that they are inside the system and would be laughed at as naive if they ever broke the rules of the games. And of course, the GOP project for the past 50 years has been playing outside of the rules while insisting that they are inside.

        The political press simply can’t accept this, because doing so would expose them to the laughter they have been trying so hard to avoid. Their own self image requires them to act like the rules weren’t trashed by the GOP decades ago.

    • SVFranklinS says:

      Shortly after Peril was getting all the attention, someone made a reference to this Tanner Colby Slate article (link below, I hope…) about Woodward’s “methods” and how one should read him with a giant 5 pound bag of salt.

      I suspect that that is a factor here for the other reporters; aside from the embarrassment of missing it, there is the problem of checking whether it in fact happened. That may explain the hesitancy once the story “broke” 9 months late. But I’m certain that Woodward and Costa knew about this months ago, and sat on it to make book sales. More nails in for coffin of democracy.

      I too am baffled that Bannon is not in jail, and is going around calling for shock troops and urging treason-ish insurrection in the open. But I expect the press has a dilemma there, too ignore it like the ravings of a crazyman, or amplify and spread it by reporting it.


      • Rayne says:

        Based on the content of Peril, I think Costa is the Bernstein. That NYT felt compelled to do a follow-on about Eastman instead of blowing off Peril says something.

        • Bay State Librul says:

          I agree Costa is more like Bernstein but not as jolly and experienced. I watch Carl on CNN and he is a pleasure to watch/listen too
          I’m giving SVFranklinS credit for his threading-the-needle term “treason-ish insurrection”
          As our announcer Dennis Eckersley would say, “It’s a wonderful thing”

  8. jaango1 says:

    The JanSixth Political Action is just another example of the many in which Racism is today’s implacable enemy when one makes the effort and time to address our national future as per the White Democracy Versus the Brown Democracy Dynamic, especially when the “measurement stick” is premised on the readily visible pending demographics. And where over 900,000 young Chicanos reach the age of 18, and go on to register and vote during each election cycle. Thus, in the next 20 years, our current White Democracy will have penalized itself and which occurred when the Baby Boomer Era of Reagan and Cheney ended the military draft with the women left homeless in the political arena while still scrambling for their self-identity.

    Of course, more can be said, but I would bore everyone to death. Just the other day, I joked that the approximate 600 “insurrectionists” should be turned over to the local Chicano military vets affiliates to deliver the requisite “justice” that can and should be meted out appropriately. Obviously, the joke was not well received.

    • Rayne says:

      You’re not doing yourself or other BIPOC any favors by referring to the violent attack on our Capitol using such an inert label as “JanSixth Political Action.”

  9. jaango1 says:

    Upon my military charge in 1970, I underwent another “prologue” or “political action” and well known as COINTELPRO, and to include its secondary version. Thus, Chicanos, for having served in the military, underwent a “surveillance” program, and subsequently, was used to determine if Chicano military vets could or would wage a JanSixth “insurrection” given that each of us were ‘trained’ in War Fighting. Thus, first and foremost, is just another machination for the obvious grifting and grafting in the political arena of then and now.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thanks, Rayne. As you point out, Costa and Woodward showed little daring in focusing rapt attention on General Milley’s defense of the Constitution instead of on Trump’s ongoing coup, and the would be fascists comprising his closest aides, the Republican Party and its largest donors. The latter would have put them outside the Beltway’s Overton Pinhole, which would have made them shrill and unprofitable members of the fourth estate.

  11. gmoke says:

    Did a search of NYTimes a week or so after the first news of the Eastman memo came out. Turns out it was mentioned thrice: once in a news story in paragraph 16, and once each by columnists Bouie and Douthat.

    All the news that fits I’m guessing.

    And the Democrats are in disarray again as the Progressive Caucus side with Biden against a couple of Senators and a handful of Blue Dog Representatives, who, of course, are the reasonable ones.

    I suspect Woodward gets as much right about politics as he did with John Belushi.

    • P J Evans says:

      And McConnell saying straight out that he’s not going to allow any Rs to vote to raise the debt limit. But the media aren’t pointing out that that’s economic terrorism, holding the country for ransom because the Rs can’t govern and won’t compromise even if it kills them.

  12. Chetnolian says:

    I have just caught up with this and I have not read peril. I am perhaps too concerned about whether in Brexit Britain, I can get fuel and whether my supermarket shelves are going to get even emptier. .

    As a non-US visitor to the site, Rayne, I wonder if you are misjudging the audience for Peril.

    Most of us to who gather here, even if only occasionally, understand what was going on and how serious it was. Many, in the USA and elsewhere, I would guess, still do not. The news that the top General was scared what his President might do and considered he had to tell his opposite number in China not to panic sends a pretty clear message; “This was so , so serious.”.

    Perhaps that really was worth doing.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s an important message. The more important one, I think, which the MSM studiously ignores, is why he felt he needed to do that. Trump’s behavior, and that of his top aides and his biggest patrons, would seem to be the bigger story, because they’re still working on their coup-in-progress.

      My sympathies about Brexit-empty shelves and petrol stations. Given BoJo’s continuing attempt to shift Brexit blame to the EU, rather than to admit his systemic failure to wrestle with its implications – most recently over Northern Ireland – and his blowing off of a myriad of shortages with “shit happens,” I would stock up now. More than turkeys and petrol will be hard to find by Christmas.

      • Chetnolian says:

        It’s getting weirder than that. This morning Boris is blaming the truck owners and the supermarkets who employ them to move things for relying on cheap labour before Brexit! The sense of a real state of denial because he and his minions have engineered something they cannot now control is strengthening by the day. And I really do recommend against stocking up on gasoline!

    • Rayne says:

      My sympathies about the bolloxed supply chain thanks to Brexit and Bojo. I can’t understand why the Tories remain in power, why their approval rating as a party is so high, when they prove repeatedly they can’t deliver except on xenophobia. It looks worse than in the US, no insurrection by a minority white faction necessary.

      I take your point about a substantive portion of the US needing a wake-up call, but those who slept up to this point will continue sleeping if they didn’t wake up when hundreds of thousands of Americans died because a fascist fuck-up allowed it to happen.

      I also don’t think the wake-up using Milley’s challenge was necessary as prologue. There was plenty to be horrified about without throwing Milley under the bus for having saved our bacon.

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        FYI: In an ironic example of history rhyming rather than repeating itself, HBO has been filming its upcoming drama/mini-series about the Whitehouse Plumbers all around town for the last couple of weeks. It stars Woody Harrelson as E. Howard Hunt (Lena Headey as his wife) and Justin Theroux as G. Gordon Liddy.
        “Peril” doesn’t begin to cover it.
        While the below is from a 7-6-2019 “Gaslit Nation” podcast/post about dealing with Trump’s fascist behavior, it can apply to the nascent christo-fascists in the GOP. Don’t forget, Steven Miller came out of Pence’s office.
        Sarah Kendzior:
        Yeah, I mean that’s just frustrating phenomenon. That’s how Trump has operated throughout his life as a quote unquote “businessman”, and also as a politician, and we’ve known this from the start.
        Right after his inauguration he lied about the size of the crowd in a way that was just a lie that flaunts power.
        We could see photos.
        We knew that this was a lie, we knew that he was lying.
        He knew that we knew that he was lying, and he didn’t care because the point was to show that his perception of reality is so powerful it trumps actual reality.
        So the problem I think at this point is that, you know, we know this play, we know this move.
        The media still struggles with how to cover this.
        We saw this with The New York Times when the Barr memo came out and we got this giant headline saying that Mueller exonerates Trump, which is just not what happened.
        It was reminiscent of their other headline about FBI sees no link between Trump and Russia. People look at headlines and a lot of the headlines just reinforce the lies that Trump tells without debunking them.
        And I think George Lakoff who studies linguistics had good advice about this, that you debunk the lie straight on.
        –you tell the truth first;
        –then refer to the fact that they lied;
        –then explain why they lied;
        –then explain the political motive;
        –describe the agenda behind the lie;
        –then you can address it without falling prey to repeating it because repetition is what Trump is very good at.
        He repeats the same phrases over and over again, so they just kind of rattle around in peoples’ heads subconsciously or not, and I think that that power has been really underestimated by Democrats. I think that they, even years later, don’t seem to understand how to fight it and I think that’s generally true with the media, and I also think quite a bit of the media is on Trump’s side, and that’s an unfortunate thing because that’s not the side of truth.

        • Epicurus says:

          Jennifer Mercieca wrote “Demagogue For President”. This is a good summary of the book. ““America’s marketplace of ideas is the cornerstone of its democracy – or so we thought. Jennifer Mercieca shows that this assumption is being tested in the age of Information Warfare, where words become weapons. Brilliantly decoding Trump’s strategic deployment of his rhetorical arsenal, Mercieca shows how Trump turns America’s foundational pillar – speech – against its own underlying values. Her book is an eye-opening Rosetta Stone for deciphering – and countering – Trump’s oratorical tactics as we approach the 2020 election.”— Asha Rangappa, senior lecturer at the Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.”

        • Epicurus says:

          I have suggested before, as has another poster, to read Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow”. Trump’s rhetoric is extremely effective for the reasons Mercieca notes but in particular because Trump preternaturally understands Kahneman’s System 1 thinking and how effectively/powerfully System 1 thinking can be used to his advantage. The two books together are exceptionally illuminating re: Trump’s gifts and why Facebook/Twitter are so appealing/powerful as communication devices.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          I just got done working my way thru that one… I highly recommend it…

          I was reading the book and then went online to watch Trump at one of his rallies, and it’s like, ‘OMG, he’s doing EXACTLY what Merciera described, over and over and over again…’

          Rather unnerving…

          I also recommend ‘How Democracies Die’ by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

          Really, really well written and truly upsetting.

  13. Stephen Calhoun says:

    The picture that comes to my mind, odd as it is for the current context, is Paul Wolfowitz licking his hair comb in Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit/911. (Next I go on and meditate about the extant threads of right wing extremism betwixt the neocons—called cuckservatives by Trumpists—and today’s Bannonism. Alas, this is a mini-essay not really hooked constructively into the subject here.)

    Still, my musings end: The detail of how all the people inform themselves nowadays may be the scariest data of all.

    (There are notes at the end; a tidbit—here’s an essay many here likely have read recently: The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War, Emma Green (2021)

  14. FiestyBlueBird says:

    Has anyone here read Jon Grinspan’s “The Age Of Acrimony How Americans Fought To Fix Their Democracy, 1865-1915”? If yes, your thoughts? I am about 1/3 through. (“Peril” is next. A physical copy of that is also sitting here in my living room.)

    So far, quite a read. It lends some context to our current era’s ugliness. It was worse in those Gilded Ages years. Last night I read about one Senator shooting another Senator. Senator A probably should not have been sleeping with Senator B’s wife. But that’s just a footnote, kind of, to the overall theme of politics then being much, much more a story of organized crime and violence as the norm. So Grinspan’s thesis is that the 20th century we lived most of our lives in was an aberrant “quiet time” (all things are relative; 60’s and early 70’s weren’t so quiet, I didn’t think then) in American politics. And the sickening worsening can (did!) take place over decades.

    I was not a history major. And though I enjoy reading books and intelligent magazines, I’ve never read a ton of American history. So a lot of this is new to me.


    Totally off topic: Last week I witnessed a praying mantis getting fucked while eating her fuckee. Now that shit’s extreme. It was all very slow motion. I saw the arm being gnawed off while the fucking was ongoing. As it was so slow, I left, came back an hour later and the head was gone. But she was still munching away.

    • bmaz says:

      Ooof. Never saw it happen in real time, but when a kid, saw a black widow in the outside laundry room that seemed awfully fat and happy with no mate longer around. I wanted nothing to do with any of that.

  15. klynn says:

    Rayne, thank you for the peak at Peril. Met Woodward years ago when receiving an award.

    I imagine if I read Peril, the once “awestruck by Woodward” in me will start screaming, “You knew this and held it for a freaking book while our Democracy hangs by a thread? You greedy bastard!”

    Clearly when Woodward had access to such information and decided to title his book “Peril,” he knew the depth of import of all his fact gathering but thought, “I’ll pitch a book,” instead of, “I’ll save democracy.”

    • Rayne says:

      It wasn’t just Woodward but Costa. If you listen to the Nordlinger podcast you’ll learn it was Costa who likely had the best access to Pence and therefore had plenty he should have reported in real time about our nation’s peril.

      Just hoping Costa is more like Bernstein over the long run and less like Woodward.

  16. madwand says:

    Timothy Snyder article on Jan 6, worth the read.

    From the article

    ” because it is so obvious where all of this is heading. President Trump tells a big lie that elections are rigged. This authorizes him and others to seek power in extra-democratic ways. The lie is institutionalized by state legislation that suppresses voting, and that gives state legislatures themselves the right to decide how to allocate the electoral vote in presidential elections.

    The scenario then goes like this. The Republicans win back the House and Senate in 2022, in part thanks to voter suppression. The Republican candidate in 2024 loses the popular vote by several million and the electoral vote by the margin of a few states. State legislatures, claiming fraud, alter the electoral count vote. The House and Senate accept that altered count. The losing candidate becomes the president. We no longer have “democratically elected government.” And people are angry.”

    Listen to NYTimes or Timothy Snyder, not even a real choice, Timothy has been on top of this for a long time.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Here is what Timothy Snyder says about Fiona Hill’s new book:

      “As a memoir this is hard to put down; if you are seeking a better American future you should pick it up.”—Timothy Snyder

      Oh, and the title of Hill’s book:

      “There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century” – Fiona Hill

    • Stephen Calhoun says:

      Is not “the claiming fraud” part required to be anchored to a statutory context of some sort? Are there any states which currently can overturn elections because their laws permit them to make specious claims about fraud?


  17. Argus says:

    “This tweet is particularly important: the insurrection isn’t over. It’s ongoing until the conspirators are stopped — all of them.” – Rayne

    Lafayette C. Baker is your man. Saved the Union through intelligence/counterintelligence, when Washington DC was packed with secessionists.

    I sometimes shift between Thomas and Baker as favorite personages in relation to support of the Union, and usually settle on Baker. But gimme Thomas any day too.

    Under the Insurrection Act, declared by Lincoln, the essential Baker is that all insurrectionists are jailed. If you are loyal, not an insurrectionist, and you are jailed by mistake, it should be okay by you that such a mistake was made. Intelligence operations directed towards the prisoners sometimes revealed such a mistake, and that person was released.

    Today, without the Insurrection Act, I suppose the essential Baker would be to arrest, try, and hopefully convict, anybody participating in an insurrection who is proven to have broken the law.

  18. mospeck says:

    So high fives to Muratov Foreign Agent man, on winning the Nobel prize.
    Also, the posthumous congrats to Anna Politkovskaya who once worked for you.
    Hey, this bud’s for you.
    Meanwhile, vlad, the king of the hounds of hell and his butch dog sidekick peskov are giving you a number and taking way your name

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