Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lying Will Now Be Smoother and More Telegenic

Anthony Scaramucci. (photo: Getty Images)
Anthony Scaramucci. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
30 July 17

here are two things I decline to do about the departure of Sean Spicer from behind his White House podium: 1) Care, and 2) Sympathize.

As to the first, it doesn't matter a damn to the country who the next marquee liar representing Camp Runamuck is. Any TV reporter who starts talking about how the "messaging" will now change under the watchful eye of Anthony Scaramucci is telling you that they think the administration's lying will now be smoother and more telegenic. The president will continue to be an unqualified, undereducated dolt. The policies, such as they are, will continue to be retrograde and cruel. Bob Mueller will shrug and get back to work until El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago fires him. The public face of this particular administration is doomed always to be more of a useless bobo than all the press secretaries who have come before. None of that will change.

(The new guy, Anthony Scaramucci, came out on Friday afternoon and said that Donald Trump had "some of the best political instincts in the world." Aces, all of them, all the way down.)

As to the second, we're already starting to hear folks talk about what a good guy Spicer is, and how he can get back to being the good guy he always was. The hell with that. Spicer took the Dolt's Shilling. On his first day on the gig, he willingly lied about the size of the inaugural crowd because the president*'s ego couldn't handle its actual size. He then repeated whatever nonsense he was told to repeat until he became a figure of fun and ridicule. And how are we supposed to believe he left because he was dissatisfied with the fact that he has a new supervisor? 

"I will lie and degrade the public discourse more than any living human being, but I cannot work with THAT MAN." (Sean Spicer's Last Lament, 2017.)

Yeah, that'll fly.

I still think they should have let him meet the pope, though. That was unkind. 

One of the most remarkable events of my lifetime was the sudden explosion of democratic energy in Poland in the summer of 1980. Yes, it all began before St. Ronnie got elected. (During my alternative press days, I used to wear a Solidarnosc T-shirt when I played softball. Not a big deal, but I liked it.) This is why the events in Poland this week had some serious resonance around the shebeen. The new government there leans a bit too far in the direction of non-Communist authoritarianism for folks who still remember what life under actual Communist authoritarianism was like. And they're in the streets again. From CNN:

Tens of thousands of Poles gathered outside the presidential palace in Warsaw on Thursday evening, just hours after the lower house of Parliament passed a bill that would give the populist government the power to push all of the country's Supreme Court judges into retirement. The government-controlled upper house of Parliament could vote on the bill as soon as Friday. Videos shared on social media captured the moment when protesters assembled in the capital sang a resounding version of the national anthem, waving Polish and European Union flags. The public outcry over efforts by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, or PiS, to curtail judiciary independence has flown largely under the radar amid recent high-profile visits from US President Donald Trump and the British royals.

Which brings to mind this interesting column from Tiger Beat On The Potomac. I agree with a lot of it. Many conservatives and Republicans have demonstrated a serious man-crush on Vladmir Putin and, yes, it does conflict with a great deal of conservative rhetoric over the past few decades. But I just can't get with this part.

What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin's Russia. My message for today's GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called—it wants its foreign policy back… How did the party of Ronald Reagan's moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump's moral vacuity? Russia's intelligence operatives are among the world's best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the "evil empire."

History is not the friend of those assertions. Even back in the glory days of Ronald Reagan, conservatives and Republicans loved authoritarians. They just didn't like the Communist ones. They were fine with Pinochet, and the Somozas, and Rios Montt in Guatemala, and Galtieri in Argentina. The Shah was fine with us for decades, and so was Saddam Hussein, now that I think about it. Jeane Kirkpatrick, that splendid meathead who was proven wrong almost daily in the 1980s, most particularly in places like Poland, made her fortune drawing distinctions between Pinochet and Ho Chi Minh. And, for an awfully long time, this was a distressingly bipartisan phenomenon.

Pinochet's people committed an act of murderous terrorism within sight of the U.S. Capitol. The United States government continued to support him for 14 years. In 1980, the American-trained national guard in El Salvador raped and murdered four American nuns. Kirkpatrick intimated that the four nuns had been fighting with the guerrillas in the hills and Alexander Haig speculated that they had died in a running gun battle. I don't recall a great deal of outrage from the ascendant American Right about either the crime or the slander of the murdered women.

In fact, President Jimmy Carter shut off military aid to the El Salvador government, a policy that Reagan reversed almost as soon as he got in the door. Carter was roundly ridiculed by that ascendant Right for making human rights an essential part of his foreign policy, even though his commitment to that principle was admittedly spotty. (The Democrats developed something of a conscience on the issue that never sprung up in the Reagan administration.) Putin has a lot more in common with Pinochet and Galtieri than he does with Andropov or Khrushchev, even though he works in the same office space. If we're all on the same page regarding authoritarian governments oppressing the democratic rights of their citizens now, I rejoice.

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