Friday, December 02, 2022

Listening To This Was Embarrassing

If you are reading this blog you are probably familiar with an MSNBC subsidiary called The Bulwark..  Part of MSNBC's larger, Bush regime dead-ender reputation rehabilitation project, The Bulwark is basically The Weekly Standard 2.0, cloaked in the tattered remains of MSNBC's credibility and underwritten by continuous air-time devoted to promoting Bulwark employees.  

And, if you are a regular reader, you might also know that I am a Very Bad Liberal because I occasionally write harsh-but-true things about the opinions of various Bulwark employees.  In fact, there are a regular cadre of anonymous minders who stop by once or twice a week to scold me for paying too much attention to our new Never Trump supervisors and not enough time to something something the terrible sins of the Democratic party.  

Since such comments are always lengthy, blathery and deeply offended that I have written something  harsh-but-fair about my Never Trump betters, I'm guessing that these are the burner accounts of Charlie Sykes or Tom Nichols or Davis Brooks' research assistant.  In any event, they are adorable and the give me a chuckle each time I consign them to digital oblivion.

Anyway, the invariably condescending and/or self-aggrandizing communiques from our Never Trumper supervisors sometimes provokes an indignant reaction from me.  Sometimes eye rolls.  Sometimes bafflement.  But this time what I felt was embarrassment.  For them.

Sure, it's cringy.   

And unintentionally hilarious.

And confirms exactly what I'd predicted.  

But mostly embarrassing.

It is a conversation between Peter Wehner and Charlie Sykes.  

Wehner, in case you are unfamiliar, is one of those Superchristian, Bush-era guys who spent most of his career preening about the moral superiority of the GOP, and seething about the depravity of people like you and me.  He was a big Iraq War booster, a former speechwriter for both Bushes,  and a "vocal critic of the Obama administration", contending that President Barack Obama has "undermined America's moral self-confidence".

So obviously he is now a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, has an open invitation to op-ed pretty much anywhere he pleases and frequently drops by The Bulwark to christian up the joint.

This is from Tuesday, and as you read it, please note several themes.

You will notice that Democrats have disappeared entirely from their political universe.  "The Resistance" is now just the Never Trumpers and whoever they decide to let into their clubhouse.

You will hear them exerting the unquestioned authority to determine which Republicans shall be forgiven and "welcomed back".

You will hear that basically all the scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans who finally found a way to squeak out words of mild protest after Trump dines with a Holocaust-denying monster should be forgiven and "welcomed back" for, y'know, the good of the nation.

If you're asking yourself, "Welcomed back...where?  As what?" I would say those are very good questions. 

You will also hear them crowing about how they predicted all of this and they warned about this "four, five, six years ago", but noooo, these scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans refused to listen.

You will also hear them bitching about how they've "been out here taking the slings and arrows" from these same scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans.  

You will also hear them bellyaching that these late-arriving scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans now just want to show up, unrepentant, and have  the "fatted calf slain" and served to them.  

Are you weeping for their terrible suffering yet?

You will also hear them bellyaching even louder that these same late-arriving scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans don't even have the common decency to admit that they'd been wrong and the Never Trumper had been right.  

O tempora, o mores!

But, in the end, in the name of superchristian Conservative"grace" -- or what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as "cheap grace; grace without confession repentance or atonement -- all of these late-arriving scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans should be welcomed back without bitterness or acrimony.  In fact, without changing their depraved ideology in any meaningful way.  

And if you're still asking yourself, "Welcomed back these late-arriving scumbag, Trump-loving Republicans...where?  To what? As what?" I'd repeat that those are very good questions.  And the very next time I'm invited to share my views with Bulwark listeners, I'll ask those questions.  

Peter Wehner:  ... the other thing that is required [in order for Republicans to prove their party loyalty] ... is not to admit the critics of Trump [like Peter Wehner and Charlie Sykes] over the last six years were right in any respect.  They can't bring themselves to say that.   
driftglass:  Cry me a fucking river, Pete.

Charlie Sykes:  And I want to come back to that.  The [Bill] Barr position makes no sense morally, but of course it's completely consistent with what Republican leaders have done over the last five or six years, which is that no matter what he has done, they will ultimately support his return to power.

Sykes:  ...and I think this is the dilemma the Republicans have.  Even if you have the donors, the political operatives, even former White House staff members, even the Murdoch empire, even if elected Republicans turn against him, as you point out in your piece in the Times, the break wouldn't come clean or easy... And you look at the numbers, and you still have about 40% of Republicans are Always Trumpers, right?  They will never abandon him.  You get about 50% who are Maybe Trumpers.  So I guess, Peter, the question is how does he go away? 

Wehner:  But look, their [Republican leadership] are responsible for [Trump].  They created him.  They supported him...

Sykes: You bought this ticket, they're taking the ride now.

Wehner:  They propagated his lies.  They allowed the base to get radicalized?

driftglass:  "They"?   "Allowed"?  "They allowed"?  Engineering a base of reprogrammable meatbags was the fucking plan all along. 

Wehner:  And then they thought, well, when the time comes, we'll just hit the "Off" switch.  Guess what?  There's no "Off" switch.

driftglass:  Again with the fucking "they".  No, it's assholes like you who did this.  You who built this monster machine.  However it is heartening to know that all these Never Trumpers who block me and pretend Liberals do not exist, also listen to my podcast, read my blog and feel so free to "borrow" from me whenever they need to.  From "The Doomsday Machine":

...For decades, while the establishment media masturbated itself blind in their Platonic Cave, the GOP has been worked diligently to create an unstoppable Gingrich/Limbaugh political Doomsday Machine.

A Doomsday Machine that could not be reasoned with or bargained with.

A Doomsday Machine with no "off" switch.

And they succeeded. 

Sykes: Republicans need to, if they're ever going to move past this, they're not just going to have to denounce Trump, they're going to have to go after that base.  They're going to have to go after this [white nationalist] Groyper army  just the way William F. Buckley...

driftglass:   Yadda yadda yadda.  I shall spare you the weepy Conservative nostalgia whitewashing of Buckley's career which goes on for several minutes.

Wehner:  Yeah, a lot of these people are, y'know, shocked! shocked! that Trump has gone in this direction -- these ugly and dark forces and passions have been unleashed -- and this was so predictable.

driftglass:  This is when I started laughing.  

Wehner:  You could see this coming...six years ago.

Wehner then recounts more of the Imaginary Good Old Days of the GOP when morality and republican virtues and civic values were all the rage.

Wehner:  All of us, to some degree, have gotten inured to this.  

Sykes:  And, again, this was predictable.  This was not something that just happened as a one-off.   I know you remember 2015 and 2016.

driftglass:  Guess what?  I remember 2015 and 2016 too!  And I remember 2014.  And 2013.  And 2011.  And 2009.  And 2008.  And 2005.   And 2001.  And 1998.  And 1994.  And... 

Sykes: You know, when I wrote my book...

driftglass:  You know, when I started my blog...

Sykes: I wrote a piece for the Weekly Standard...this has been building for years!

Sykes:  The other point that I think it's important to stress here is that, the modern Conservative movement, which I would trace back to Buckley and the National Review.  

driftglass:  I shall again spare you several more minutes of weepy Conservative nostalgia whitewashing of Buckley's career.

Sykes:  Again, every single thing here was done in the open.  None of this was a secret.  And so I guess this really tests their capacity for denial.  Which has been pretty amazing.  The degree to which they can engage in denialism.  I mean, how many years did Paul Ryan spend saying, "Well, I didn't read the Tweets.  I never read the Tweets."?

driftglass:  Wait for it...

Sykes:  And again, I don't know if you feel this way about it...

driftglass:  Wait for it...

Sykes:  ...I am prepared to lower the bar and open the gates a little bit.  That if you're willing to speak out now, let's not relitigate all of the failures in the past.  I...I think it's a good thing that they are speaking now.

driftglass: There we go!   

But wait!  There's more!

Sykes:  Although...

Wait for it...

Sykes:  ...for those of us who had taken the slings and arrows for seven years!  And been derided and sneered at by many of the anti-anti-Trumpers...

driftglass:  I can't.  I just can't.  I just hope your terrible privation was somewhat buffered by you and all of your colleagues being gifted various influential and profitable gigs all over the same Liberal media which you spent decades deriding and sneering at. 

Sykes: should we think about, y'know, all of those emphatic supporters, uh, of Donald Trump until that moment they decided, "Well, wait.  Maybe he's a loser?"  What should we think about these people?

driftglass:  I know what I think of these people, and I have a fairly good idea of what you think of those people.  But if your real project is to reconstitute the GOP as quickly as possible to exactly the same party that begat Trump  but without Trump, then you will have a very different answer to that question.  

Wehner: Yeah, it's a really intriguing question.  I agree with you.  If people are willing to take an exit ramp from the Trump highway then they should do it.  And we should celebrate that they're doing it.  We should be glad that they're doing it.  Because it's just the essential first step that's required to get the country back on course.  Get the Republican party back on course.  To get the Conservatism back on course.  If all of those things are, in fact, rectified and straightened out.  So that's important to do.  

driftglass:  But didn't you just say that the problem isn't the leadership?  The problem is the fucked up, racist base?  So what's the Big Plan for rectifying and straightening out the fucked up, racist base?   

Wehner: I do think, at the same time, it's important and fair to critique where those people have been and what's motivating them now...  And it also means that there isn't a lot of credit due to them  for getting off at this exit.  It's not as if they've had a revelation of any kind.  Any contemplation, self-reflection.  A sense that they had missed something important.  

driftglass:  Something the Left has been right about the Right all along?

Wehner: And then there's just sort of basic, I don't know...maybe this is some degree of good graces.  Which is, uh, if you've been attacking people who, for five, six, seven years for making essentially the same critique you're making now, to try and explain what they missed about it.  What do you see now that you didn't see before, because, as we've talked about, none of this is surprising about Donald Trump.  There was almost an inevitability to it going here.

driftglass:  Cool.  Cool.  But again, what about attacking Liberals who, for decades, have been making essentially the same critique you're making now?  What about those people?

Wehner: And it would be helpful and impressive for some of the Never Never Trumpers who are now...uh...welcome to the Resistance, to reflect on... on that.  I think it's hard for them for two reasons. 

driftglass:  Attend closely kids.  Peter Wehner gonna explain stuff.

Wehner:  One is, it's not easy for any of us to admit that we were wrong. So I think there is this... tendency ... to just skip over that part of the process.  Just to say, "We were with him, but he's changed, and he's a loser.  Now we're against him."  So they don't want to admit they were wrong on any deep or fundamental sense -- that they missed something important, or that they were morally blind.  

driftglass: I'm still laughing.  Harder now.  Hard enough to be in danger of sharting out the Tater Tots I had for lunch in the high school in 1978.

Wehner:  The other thing is -- I think this is even harder than admitting that they were wrong -- is to admit that the people they had been attacking for the last four or five, six years were right.  I think that's even psychologically more difficult.  

driftglass:  Here come the Tater Tots!  

Wehner:  Because there was so much energy, so much antipathy, um... uh... that's...that's been, uh, um, aimed at critics of Trump.  And those sensibilities had...have been shaved [?].  And now, well, say, look maybe... maybe there was a point... maybe those critics saw things that... that we didn't, is probably asking too much of... of them.

driftglass:  Based on all the stumbling, stuttering and hedging, I'd guess that both of these men just realized they'd wandered into a minefield in which every accusation they've thrown at these nouvelle Never Trumpers is also a confession of how shabbily and viciously they've treated all those Liberals who were right about the Right all along.  

Sykes: Well...well, and as a Never Trumper from before there was a Never Trumper... a Never Trump, I... I do find myself thinking about...

driftglass: All the abuse and scorn you heaped on Liberals for decades?  Liberals who tried to warn you that, if you kept feeding red meat to bigots and imbeciles, your party would end up exactly where it is now?  Is that what you find yourself thinking about, Charlie Sykes?

Sykes: I do find myself thinking about...the prodigal son story.  We've been out here taking the slings and arrows, and then these guys, uh, just sort of show up and everything and they want the fatted calf.  But, their are going to have to be strange alliances, and we're going to have to, uh, um, welcome back people that we've been alienated from...

driftglass:  The "we" he's referring to ain't you and me kids.  You and me are yesterday's allies-of-convenience.  The "we" he's talking about is himself and his fellow Never Trumpers.  And the "people that we've been alienated from" ain't you and me either.  It's Mike Pence and Christ Christie and Bill Barr and   It's the trolls at the National Review and Fox News.  

Sykes: ...that we've been alienated from...I think, to get... to get through all of this.  And I say this as somebody... 
driftglass: As somebody who still shits all over the Liberals who were right all along?   As somebody who blocks anyone who brings up the fact that Liberals were right all along?  Is that what you were going to say, Charlie Sykes?

Sykes:  And I say this as somebody that until about a year ago, here in my basement study, had a picture on the wall -- I'm embarrassed to even tell the story -- picture of me with Ted Cruz.  Right before the 2016 Wisconsin primary, saying "I will do anything I can to beat Donald Trump." And of that meant supporting Ted Cruz -- which, by the way, is a choice that does not age well.  I do not feel better over time.  

driftglass:  But I guess were all just gonna have to put up with it because, y'know, Stalin.

Sykes: But, it, y'know, ah, um, I'm sure there were a lot of people who felt that way about Joseph Stalin in World War II.  OK, I went there. But there's going to have to be those moments where we're going to have to make that...that common cause.  And it's not going to be easy for anybody.  

driftglass:  Do it for the children!  Do it for Murrican!

Wehner:  I think it's important to do.  It's important for the good of the country, and the good of this "movement" that we care about.  

driftglass:  What fucking "movement" are you talking about? 

Wehner:  And so it's good in every respect, to be able to welcome people back.

driftglass:  And of course, do it for Jesus!

Wehner:  And beyond that, there's this point about grace.  Reconciliation. We've all failed.  Made misjudgements.  I certainly have, um, too, and... you... um... you don't want those things to... uh... uh... y'know, be a millstone around your neck... um... all the time.  ...  So I think it's completely fair and legit to have those conversations and to say to the people who are now "joining the resistance" to... to reflect.  It doesn't have to be said with bitterness or acrimony.   Doesn't have to be said in a way that says, "We never want you", or, y'know, that you're irredeemable, or anything like that.  That I'm a person of Christian faith, you are as well, and grace is a central concept...

Then comes the saccharine, whitewashing eulogizing of Michael Gerson as a "voice of conscience".

Which I will also spare you.   

Because "mercy" is also a virtue.

I Am The Liberal Media


Just another boomer said...

Perhaps the best thing to say to their arguments is Buckley's "I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said."

Davis said...

40% are "always Trumpers??? Gallup just reported that his approval amount Republicans fell all the way from 87% to 82%. Quinnipac says that 78% want him to run in 2024.

Cheez Whiz said...

Thanks for this peek at 2 Republican pundits brainstorming how to get back control (that they never had) of the Republican Party (which they keep conflating with the voter base for some reason) from Trump. Its like watching 2 fish talk about water. Not a peep about political philosophy, policy, strategy, tactics, logistics, hell not a peep about why Trump is such an apocalyptic problem, just whose fault "it" was and who should be "forgiven". 2 fish having a temper tantrum about the water being too cold.

Ian said...

I am not sure how listen to these goons without having the face melt that occurs at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Thanks for wading through it, I appreciate your writing!

Tony said...

I think they need help finding their mommies.

Robt said...

They're be fining to openly sound like NAZZIS.

Everywhere you go.

So what does a person get A NAZI for Christmas?

Perhaps a bock of history's conspiracies?

Suicide for Dummy NAZIS?

A blind fold to clear and clean their guns with?

The movie CD of Nuremburg Trials?

Perhaps a magnetized wallet to blank out their credit cards?

I still have some difficulty at times differentiating between the wealthy /powerful plantation owners. The KKK. The NAZIS. Alt Right.. QANON. TEA Party. Religious Right. NEVER Trampers (but love his policies). John Birch Society. The Federalist Society. The heritage people. The Club for Growth, MAGA. the republican party. Conservative. Fiscal conservative. And, all I missed.

And the Charlie Sykes of the world whom I haven't yet made a category with a titled name to define and describe but I know it is close to Goebbels.

Professional Left Podcast #690

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