Indicting Appeasement in Munich
Plus: The dishonorable J.D. Vance
“Has our world completely forgotten the mistakes of the 20th century? Where does the appeasement policy usually lead to?” — Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine
(Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)
I’ll get to J.D. Vance and General McCaffrey in a bit, but let’s start with this extraordinary moment yesterday in Munich. I don’t think I have to point out the historical ironies at work here.
Via Axios: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a searing criticism of Western inaction against Russian aggression on Saturday, arguing that Ukraine has acted as a ‘shield’ for the past eight years and that Europe's security architecture has utterly failed.”
Zelensky pushed back hard against the we-are-all-united NATO happy talk:
“How did we end up in the biggest security crisis since the end of the Cold War? To me, as the president of the country which lost part of its territory, thousands of people, the country surrounded by 150,000 troops on our borders, this answer is obvious.”
"The security architecture of Europe and beyond is almost destroyed. It's too late now to talk about fixing it. It's high time for a new one," he continued.
"15 years ago, it was the Russian Federation that made a statement here challenging the global security order. How did the world respond? Appeasement."
You can watch here:
The Dishonorable J.D.
Frankly, I wrestled with whether to include this today, because, how many times do we have to be reminded that J.D. Vance is a disgraceful troll and that there is no bottom?
But, we do need to be reminded. And not numbed.
ICYMI: Vance engaged in this bit of performative assholery yesterday, when the one-time best selling author and now deplorable senate candidate lashed out at General Barry McCAffrey, who had — quite accurately — described Vance as a “stooge for Russian aggression.”
Just to be clear here, as David French noted: “He’s talking about a guy with three Purple Hearts, two silver stars, and who commanded 24th ID in Desert Storm, leading the attack that led to one of the most decisive military victories in American history.
“This is such a sad and shameful attack on an honorable man.”
McCaffrey himself responded.
Exit dunk (which needs no literary gloss).
Trump’s Terrible Week in Court
Former President Donald Trump faced one legal setback after another this week as a judge ruled he must sit for a deposition in New York to answer questions about his business practices, his accounting firm declared his financial statements unreliable, another judge rejected his efforts to dismiss conspiracy lawsuits and the National Archives confirmed that he took classified information to Florida as he left White House.
Whatever happens, said Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a Washington lawyer who has been following the investigations, “I think the weeks will get worse for him.”
ICYMI: George Conway thinks that Trump’s luck may finally be running out. He’s seen enough to hedge his bets, writing that “It has often been tempting, but never a safe wager, to predict the demise of Donald Trump.”
Conway notes that the New York judge’s “opinion brutally rejected Trump’s arguments for blocking the depositions: It would have been “blatant dereliction of duty” for the attorney general not to take the testimony, the judge explained, because prosecutors have unearthed “copious evidence of possible financial fraud” in Trump’s business.
That evidence includes a letter that might turn out to be, as a practical matter, the biggest blow Trump has ever suffered, even bigger than his six corporate bankruptcies and two presidential impeachments. A blow dealt not by prosecutors, plaintiffs, politicos or the press — but by his own longtime accountants.
Exit take: Trump is on an extended legal losing streak. And it’s likely not over.
The attack on academic testing
As we continue to hash over the results from San Francisco, Matt Yglesias made an important point.
That, of course, has national implications. Yglesias writes in his SlowBoring newsletter:
Even though it’s true, as Democrats say, that teachers are not “teaching Critical Race Theory in school,” it’s also true that Critical Race Theory has become influential in graduate schools of education and in left-wing thinking on education policy….
And again if you read these scholars — or more popular writers like Ibram Kendi — they are not making narrow critiques of the sort you hear all the time from normal people like “I wish they didn’t do so much testing in my daughter’s school” or “high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum.” They are making the extremely strong claim that the whole enterprise is invalid. And that to me is antithetical to the important policy goal of making schools better in general and, in particular, of making them more effective at serving marginalized students.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin:
“Fringe Scheme to Reverse 2020 Election Splits Wisconsin G.O.P.” Via the NYT:
Now, more than 15 months after former President Donald J. Trump lost the state by 20,682 votes, an increasingly vocal segment of the Republican Party is getting behind a new scheme: decertifying the results of the 2020 presidential election in hopes of reinstalling Mr. Trump in the White House.
Wisconsin is closer to the next federal election than the last, but the Republican effort to overturn the election results here is picking up steam rather than fading away — and spiraling further from reality as it goes. The latest turn, which has been fueled by Mr. Trump, bogus legal theories and a new candidate for governor, is creating chaos in the Republican Party and threatening to undermine its push to win the contests this year for governor and the Senate.
The situation in Wisconsin may be the most striking example of the struggle by Republican leaders to hold together their party when many of its most animated voters simply will not accept the reality of Mr. Trump’s loss.
But wait. Here’s the truly crazy-making part of this story. While the fringe is crazy, the Wisconsin GOP establishment is only marginally less so:
MADISON – Assembly Republicans sought Friday to jail the chairwoman of the state Elections Commission, Racine’s mayor and other officials as part of their months-long review of the 2020 presidential election.
The court filing marked the latest shift in approach for Michael Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice who is leading the review for the Republicans.
P.J. O’Rourke and the Death of Conservative Humor
Christopher Buckley writes in the NYT:
Humorlessness has crept in its petty pace to the right, where it is conducted with North Korean-level solemnity by the bellowing myrmidons of MAGAdom. A sense of humor, much less self-awareness, are not traits found in cults of personality. If Tucker Carlson has said anything advertently funny, witty or self-knowing from his bully pulpit, I missed it. Maybe you had to be there.
P.J. O’Rourke’s death marks the end of a particular and an essential sensibility. He found humor everywhere and in everything, especially in his fellow Republicans. We’ve lost more than the man The Wall Street Journal called “the funniest writer in America.” We’ve lost the last funny conservative.
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Keep your rants, raves, darts, and laurels coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. And a reminder that Bulwark+ members can comment on any Morning Shots post (and we get lots).
As a long time San Franciscan (well by tech person standards - 10 years), I couldn't help but have a tiny defensive, emotional reaction to your victory lap on San Francisco progressives yesterday. The tiny voice in me went "Well no need to be rude."
Then my more rational part of the brain took over, and I said "YES thank you for pointing out all the insanity in our city politics."
For what it's worth, I think this doesn't bode well for Chesa and probably 'progressive' DAs. I had the privilege of attending two days of jury selection for San Francisco in December. It was a robbery/assault case of some kind, and as the judge went through and asked clarifying questions about people's potential biases, it came out that almost everyone questioned (~40 people) felt that 1) San Francisco was going in the wrong direction safety wise 2) had a personal story of either being robbed, witnessing a crime, or hearing of a close friend/family member have one of those things happen. The only person who didn't say these things flatly declared that the entire judicial system was racist and that he'd vote to acquit no matter what.
I'm not saying a jury pool is a perfect cross section of how people feel about our current city conditions... but it's certainly not what you want to see if you're a believer in Chesa.
As Vladimir Putin stands poised to once again attack a neighboring country, I’ve been seeing a lot of blame casting from the “antiwar” crowd toward the US and NATO. Some folks might find it quixotic that the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard are making common cause with Tucker Carlson in support of Russia, but witnessing the evolution of the antiwar movement since 2003 can explain a lot of it.
As a staunch opponent of the Iraq War, I think there is a misconception that opposition to the war was overwhelmingly left-wing. I found liberal antiwar movements like MoveOn to be overly preachy and misguided on a host of causes, so I mostly got my commentary from more non-partisan sites like Antiwar.com. This site featured a wide range of commentators, from Tom Engelhardt on the left to Pat Buchanan on the, well, fringe right. I remember when a young attorney named Glenn Greenwald became a rising star on this website with his performative antics.
As the Iraq War progressed, I noticed something unsettling about how many antiwar folks viewed Putin: as a sort of champion of the opposition to American unilateralism. This was no more apparent than in the 2008 war in Georgia. At the time many of us viewed it (along with the other “Color Revolutions” of the early 2000s) as more of a sectarian conflict, with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sharing equal blame for the fiasco. But Putin’s true intentions have become a lot clearer since 2008, from the annexation of Crimea to the low-level conflict in Donbas to the meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Yet too many are stuck in the mindset of 15-20 years ago. But don’t take my word for it; look at some of the current headlines on Antiwar.com:
· “Putin Disappoints Biden on Invasion Day”
· “The Russian Invasion Panic”
· “The Empire’s Ukrainian Nazis: Branco Marcetic on Joe Biden’s Azov Battalion”
I’m no uber-hawk on Ukraine, and I realize the potentially catastrophic risks in how we respond. But the same can be said for allowing Putin to continue his naked aggression without adequate consequences. I think that Putin once depended on world opinion viewing the problems in Ukraine (and other places) as local and complex, and that he was only intervening to “protect” Russian speakers. As this farce is now viewed more at face value, and even the people he claims to protect aren’t buying the rhetoric, Putin is resorting to open military aggression. And he has plenty of Western “pacifists” still in his corner.
West Valley City, Utah
I see an opening for a centrist Dem to use "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right" as their campaign slogan in the Senate race against QanonJon.
I'm reading Jeremy Peters' book Insurgency, on the descent of the Republican Party into a cynical nightmare starting with Sarah Palin (even though strands of this started earlier), and something from the book about Palin seems to parallel this whole stupidity with Vance. Peters talks about how Palin made inflammatory and false statements about "death panels" in the ACA on social media (yes, this is the same woman who recently tried to sue the NYT for libel). Fact checkers called her out, President Obama called her out, lots of institutions called her out and corrected what was a malicious lie. But this only amounted to elites trying to correct the record, and elites are not to be trusted.
The very fact that Palin was fact checked by authoritative institutions gave her lies credibility with her minions. And this dynamic has played out repeatedly in the decade and a half since the 2008 election, where politicians on the right can say or do anything without any meaningful consequences, and no accountability from voters in gerrymandered districts. Republican voters are literally dropping dead to give a middle finger to mainstream institutions during a pandemic. Not sure how this gets fixed.