CPAC Goes Full Orbán
The right launders its support for Putin through the Hungarian autocrat
“Where is the security that the Security Council needs to guarantee? It’s not there, although there is a security council. So where is the peace? Where are those guarantees that the United Nations needs to guarantee?
“Show how we can reform and work for peace,” otherwise, “dissolve yourself altogether, if there is nothing you can do besides conversation.” —Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky in remarks to the U.N. Security Council.
CPAC Embraces Putin-Lite
These are awkward days for Putin fans of various ideological stripes. As scenes of Russian atrocities flash across televisions, it’s increasingly awkward for many of the political and media figures who had lavished praise on the genius, patriotism, and savvy of Vladimir Putin.
This, for example, has not aged well:
“I do respect him. Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get along with them,” [Donald] Trump told O'Reilly.
O'Reilly pressed on, declaring to the president that “Putin is a killer.”
Unfazed, Trump didn't back away, but rather compared Putin's reputation for extrajudicial killings with the United States'.
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
When Putin launched his invasion, Trump was still gushing:
“Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. ‘I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. ... We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.”
Trump went on to rhapsodize about his relationship with Putin — “He liked me. I liked him.” — and to praise him as someone with a lot of “charm and a lot of pride” who “loves his country.”
But that was thousands of war crimes ago. Burned and mangled bodies. Dead children. Bombed homes. Cruelty and savagery that has horrified the world.
Trump still occasionally slips and asks Putin for favors, but apologias for the Monster of Bucha have become increasingly toxic.
Long gone are the days when a smiling Tucker Carlson could casually declare on Fox News: “Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? I'm serious. Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which by the way I am."
Even Tulsi Gabbard, who like Carlson has become a fixture of Russian propaganda, seems to be backing away from her overt Putin fandom.
It turns out that rationalizing atrocities can be bad for your brand, so now much of the pro-Russian right has shifted from pro-Putin to anti-anti-Putin.
A new manifesto from the rad-trad isolationists at Compact Magazine, for instance, blames “leading interventionists in the United States and Europe,” (not Putin) for “goading the West into an abyss of war and suffering.”
Increasingly, the right has also decided to launder its Putinism though their support for Putin’s leading European ally, Viktor Orbán.
Conservative Rod Dreher has long flirted with anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian propaganda:
But this week he tweeted:
The newly re-elected Hungarian strongman has made no secret of his position on the war.
In his victory speech Sunday night, Orban lashed out at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had urged Budapest to do more for its neighbors, placing the Ukrainian leader in a constellation of perceived leftist and liberal enemies of his Christian nationalist project. Orban said his triumph came despite the efforts of the “left at home, the international left all around, the Brussels bureaucrats, the [George] Soros empire with all its money, the international mainstream media, and in the end, even the Ukrainian president.”
This is what the folks at CPAC are celebrating
Even as the bodies are still being gathered in the suburbs of Kyiv, as the death toll of children mounts, and Putin continues to target civilians in his campaign of genocide, CPAC has decided to go ahead with its festival of Orbánism.
April 5 (Reuters) - America’s most prominent conservative gathering, founded on ideals of personal liberty and limited government, convenes in Budapest next month to celebrate a European leader accused of undermining democracy and individual rights.
The May meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is seen by some Republicans as a test of how closely American conservatives are willing align themselves with a global movement of far-right, Russia-friendly strongmen embraced by former U.S. President Donald Trump.
As it often does, CPAC is following the lead of the right’s entertainment wing. Tucker Carlson has emerged as Orbán’s leading American fluffer, broadcasting from Budapest last year, and airing a fawning interview of the new avatar of illiberalism.
“In the last few nights in Budapest,” mused Tucker Carlson, US rightwing media star, “I’ve run into a number of Americans who have come here because they want to be around people who agree with them, who agree with you. Do you see Budapest as a kind of capital of this kind of thinking?”
While Orbán’s appeal may be elusive to those of you who think that liberal democracy defines the West, his attraction for Tucker and other elements of the right is obvious. A substantial faction of the conservative movement now regards his government “which censors LGBT content, demonizes immigrants and ethnic minorities, extols the virtues of the traditional family, and feuds constantly with the supposed globalists of the European Union” as a political model.
In other words, Orbán gives them that sweet autocratic dopamine hit they so desperately crave, without the whole rotting corpse, war crime, genocide thing.
This is who they have become.
Bonus: 63 Republicans vote against resolution expressing support for NATO.
Cotton’s Cheap Shot
Tom Cotton’s hackish attack on KBJ — suggesting that she would defend the Nazis at Nuremberg — was too much even for NR’s Charles C.W. Cooke.
Cotton made sure to acknowledge that “it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a lawyer for being willing to take on an unpopular case.” But that’s what he did, over and over and over again, and no amount of throat-clearing could hide it.
And ICYMI: “Ted Cruz Is a Hypocrite on Public Defenders.”
Meanwhile, in Michigan
Inside the GOP’s Purge of Local Election Officials in Michigan:
Since the 2020 election, Republican leaders in Michigan have purged GOP canvassers in eight of the largest counties, including Macomb, Washtenaw, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Livingston, Saginaw and Genesee, according to a report by The Detroit News last year. At least half of them have been replaced with people who have publicly cast doubt on the 2020 election results….
Indeed, Republicans have mobilized against GOP officials who didn’t go along with Trump’s plan to stop the certification across the country. They’ve worked to unseat many of those officials and place election deniers in key positions, from county clerks to canvassers and up to the secretary of state, attorney general and even governor.
Altogether, the movement raises the specter that a campaign to overturn the 2024 election could be much more coordinated than 2020 and face much less resistance.
Eric Greitens, still shameless
ICYMI, last month I wrote:
In Donald Trump’s GOP, shamelessness can be a kind of superpower. But in Missouri, Eric Greitens is testing the limits of his party’s post-shame politics.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Sheena Chestnut Greitens says since she accused Eric Greitens, her ex-husband and former Missouri governor, of abuse, he has become “unhinged,” launching a campaign to destroy her reputation…
“I will provide contemporaneous documentation of the relevant communications, as well as photographic evidence of my child’s 2019 injuries, to the court at the appropriate time,” she said.
Sheena Greitens said in addition to causing one son to lose a tooth, during an argument in April 2018, “Eric knocked me down and confiscated my cell phone, wallet, and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home at Innsbrook.”
As the NYT Politics newsletter notes, Greitens’s support may be softening. “The latest public poll of the primary, by the Trafalgar Group, showed Greitens falling into second place among likely primary voters for the first time. Another recent survey commissioned by Schmitt’s campaign showed similar results.”
But, he’s still in the Missouri senate race. Still as shameless as ever.
1. The Republican Party Is Trump Steaks
This is so good. Tim Miller writes that Truth Social, the president’s latest private sector scam to flop, was promoted relentlessly by official GOP accounts.
It’s been an inauspicious start for TRUTH Social, the former president’s new Twitter knock-off, helmed by bovine ex-congressman Devin Nunes.
Like the other Trump schemes—airlines, steaks, board game, university, magic pills, magazine, etc. etc. etc…—from the jump TRUTH had all the marks of a media buzz Potemkin Village that allows the first family of grift to cash in, but doesn’t deliver anything of value to the marks who got swept up in the hype.
2. DeSantis is "the ultimate agent for the normalization of extremism"
In his latest newsletter, Aaron Rupar interviews Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on authoritarianism and professor of history and Italian studies at NYU.
DeSantis has this veneer of respectability and he has less baggage in terms of the criminal past — the suspected money laundering, the Putin ties — and so there’s the danger that he would be the ultimate agent for the normalization of extremism. And people could look at him and say, "Well, he's not a far-right extremist." Whereas Trump has more of this bluster and he goes off the cuff and he's preached violence openly, DeSantis is more careful. I mean, he's a Harvard-trained lawyer. He's more careful with his speech. So many people who might find Trump distasteful could get behind him.
One freaking minute apart: (Hat tip: @Numbersmuncher)
The bad-faith attacks by Republican Senators against a public defender for taking on unsavory clients is just disgusting. These Senators are smart; they're just conniving assholes. They know full well the role of the public defender, and how little latitude one has in accepting clients. I know a lot of Americans don't know their history, but it's in front of mind for these Senators that John Adams defended the British who shot at the colonists in Boston in March of 1770, and took his job so seriously that he secured acquittals. Are we impugning the patriotism of John Adams? Is that what the GOP is?
Republican politicians do this because their voters let them get away with it. Their voters are paranoid and stupid, which is how people like Donald Trump and Mo Brooks incited them into an attack on the Capitol. And Republican politicians cynically take advantage of this paranoia and stupidity, rather than trying to lead their constituents to some sort of understanding based in reality.
I just wish Democrats would consider a campaign along the following lines: Republicans think you are stupid. Republicans don't actually believe the election was stolen, but they tell you they believe it, because they think you are stupid. Republicans don't think KBJ thinks racist babies are a thing, but they want to put on some embarrassing performance in the Senate, because they think you're stupid. Republicans know what the job of a public defender is, and how everyone has a right to competent defense in court, but they want to hide this from you, because they think you are stupid. Republicans are constantly telling you lies that they themselves don't believe, because they think you are stupid. Republicans run campaign ads where they are in a gym lifting weights or shooting automatic rifles and blowing shit up because they think you're too stupid to realize that this is just performative nonsense, and that it indicates nothing about whether they are qualified to hold the office for which they're running (if anything, it indicates lack of qualifications). Democrats won't lie to you; we respect you more than that.
After seeing this latest on Michigan and similar happenings in other states controlled by the GOP , the potential to slide into Banana Republic and quasi authoritarianism is getting real by the minute. I think Lincoln's Secretary of State William Seward said " There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare", we squeaked by in 2020...Do we have enough left in 2022 and 2024??