Trump Picks an Enemy: Us
The Orange Caligula sides with Russia.
For a moment, set aside the buzz about an impending indictment, bank bailouts, and even how badly your March Madness bracket is doing.
Pay attention to this. Please.
Because on Earth 2.0, this would be the stuff of endless news cycles and nightmares.
Here is Donald Trump channeling Kremlin propaganda, siding with Russia, even as he declares that our real enemy is . . . other Americans.
Despite the wishcasting punditry, the magical thinking of his rivals, and the fervent hopes of the Hollow Men of the GOP, this man is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party, and therefore possibly the next president of the United States. (The DeSantis bubble hasn’t burst. But it’s leaking.)
I don’t mean to alarm you. You should be alarmed.
Let’s break this down:
TRUMP: The State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest need to be completely overhauled and reconstituted to fire the Deep Staters and put America first.
We have to put America first.
At a time of growing international tension, the former president is threatening a massive purge of the nation’s defense infrastructure. He proposes dismantling — and completely overhauling — the Defense Department, the nation’s intelligence agencies (our eyes and ears), and the country’s foreign policy capabilities.
Mass firings, the loss of centuries of experience. A purge of independent, adult voices, and anyone else who might tell the new president “no.”
More important though, after the purge of the “Deep Staters,” he would “reconstitute” the country’s destroyed defenses, presumably by stacking the agencies with his own loyalists.
All while Russia advances, China rattles sabers, and the Middle East boils.
TRUMP: Finally, we have to finish the process we began under my administration of fundamentally reevaluating NATO's purpose and NATO's mission.
Don’t assume he’s bluffing.
His former national security director, John Bolton, has said that Trump would have pulled the United States out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization if he been re-elected in 2020. Via the Wapo:
During his presidency, Trump frequently sought to undermine the alliance, accusing its members of being “delinquents” and repeatedly telling aides he wanted to leave it. According to the New York Times, Trump told his top national security officials that he did not understand why the military alliance existed, and often described it as a drain on the U.S.
Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, one of Trump’s former chiefs of staff, has also been described as saying that “one of the most difficult tasks he faced with Trump was trying to stop him from pulling out of NATO.”
For Putin, this would be a gift beyond the dreams of even his avarice. In other words: Make Russia Great Again.
*Blame America First
TRUMP: Our foreign policy establishment keeps trying to pull the world into conflict with a nuclear armed Russia, based on the lie that Russia represents our greatest threat.
Compare and contrast this line to a propaganda bleat from the Kremlin. Indistinguishable.
Once again, he blames America, not Russia. Trump accuses the U.S. “foreign policy establishment” of lying about Russia because it is trying to “pull the world into a conflict with a nuclear armed Russia.”
It is we who are the warmongers, trying to foment WWIII. It is the United States — not Putin — who is risking nuclear war.
And, even as he suggests we should fear Putin’s wrath, he downplays the danger of a country waging a genocidal war against its neighbor.
*Our real enemy: other Americans
TRUMP: But the greatest threat to Western civilization today is not Russia… it is probably, more than anything else, ourselves and some of the horrible, USA-hating people that represent us.
Here we get the nub of Trump’s message. We should not fear Putin or Russia… but, rather, ourselves. Or, rather, we should fear other Americans.
Our real enemy is one another.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of Trumpism. The Divider in Chief.
“If a Democratic president were to say these things—dismissing Russia as a threat, cowering before China, preaching moral equivalence, and blaming America for Russia’s war—every Republican presidential candidate would denounce that president as a gutless, soulless, Putin-loving traitor,” Will Saletan wrote this week. He was talking about Ron DeSantis, but how much more does it apply to the former president himself?
So far, though, Republicans have been reluctant to push back against the Orange Caligula himself. As our Joe Perticone noted in his newsletter Thursday:
It didn’t seem to matter to Republican critics of DeSantis that Trump not only advocates the same stance but was even impeached for withholding aid to Ukraine for political reasons—potentially encouraging Putin to see Zelensky as enjoying something less than full American support in the years leading up to the invasion.
Focusing their criticism on DeSantis allows these Republicans to attack a policy they wholeheartedly disagree with without incurring the wrath of their party’s 2024 frontrunner and de facto leader.
But it is hard to overstate what a departure this is from what the GOP once stood for. Writes David French:
Whereas Reagan was a man of strength, confidence and clarity in the face of a daunting military threat, DeSantis and Trump represent weakness, insularity and moral ambiguity in the face of a weaker power. Forty years after Reagan’s defiance, DeSantis and Trump personify the G.O.P.’s descent…
In the face of daunting odds, Reagan projected strength and moral clarity. Now, when NATO is clearly stronger than Russia, DeSantis and Trump project moral confusion and profound timidity.
Over at Defense One, Kevin Baron asks: “Who Else Would Trump and DeSantis Abandon?”
Well, now we know that Ron DeSantis won’t defend Europeans from Vladimir Putin’s war. Not to the end, at least. Neither would Donald Trump, as he’s made clear.
Why then should anyone—especially their hawkish fellow Republicans—think that, if elected president, either of them would defend Taiwan from China?
Their reticence to commit arms to stop an invasion on NATO’s borders invites even more unsettling questions. What about Australia? How about Japan? How about NATO’s eastern countries? Would they be willing to sign the orders for American soldiers to deploy and defend any U.S. allies?
The good news: Despite some premature obituaries, conservatives have not yet completely surrendered. Based on past experience, it’s true, Republicans may fall into line behind the Appeasement Caucus.
But that hasn’t happened yet. And this is a fight worth having.
The Tankie Left agrees with Trump
. . . at least on Russia, Ukraine, and NATO.
The anti-war left plans marches this weekend, and their demands are not…modest:
Peace in Ukraine - Negotiations not escalation!
Abolish NATO – End U.S. militarism & sanctions on Syria, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iran and many other nations
Fund people’s needs, not the war machine!
No war with China!
End U.S. aid to racist apartheid Israel!
Fight racism & bigotry at home, not other peoples!
U.S. hands off Haiti!
End the siege on Syria!
Free all political prisoners – Mumia Abu-Jamal, Julian Assange, Leonard Peltier, and many others
An update from the “Free State of Florida”:
In the current lesson on Rosa Parks, segregation is clearly explained: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.”
But in the initial version created for the textbook review, race is mentioned indirectly.
“She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin,” the lesson said.
In the updated version, race is not mentioned at all.
“She was told to move to a different seat,” the lesson said, without an explanation of segregation.
It’s unclear which of the new versions was officially submitted for review. The second version — which doesn’t mention race — was available on the publisher’s website until last week.
This is the current lesson:
Changed to this:
The Return of Sheriff Clarke
Another GOP nightmare . . . “Sheriff David Clarke Dusts Off Cowboy Hat and Eyes Run for Senate.”
During the 2016 election, for instance, Clarke called for Trump supporters to take up “pitchforks and torches” against Democrats and the media. In 2020, Clarke invited the far-right Proud Boys gang to Wisconsin, backed the ex-president’s false claims of election fraud, and urged Jan. 6 rioters not to cooperate with law enforcement.
On other occasions, Clarke went after teenage survivors of the Parkland mass shooting; in 2018, he was temporarily banned from Twitter for calling on his followers to attack members of the media and “MAKE THEM TASTE THEIR OWN BLOOD.”
And this is some of the milder, saner sh*t.
As Joe Perticone notes, Clarke is just one of many headaches the GOP may face in 2024:
Many of the toxic and fringe candidates who lost winnable races in purple or even historically red states such as Arizona and Georgia are looking to give it another go in 2024. That’s stoking fears of repeat “candidate quality” problems among Republicans who are tired of losing competitive statewide races….
The Hill’s Al Weaver reports that Doug Mastriano, the Pennsylvania state senator whose extreme views blew up his gubernatorial bid last year, is angling for a U.S. Senate run against incumbent Democrat Bob Casey….
It doesn’t end in Pennsylvania. Some of the other far-right candidates mulling Senate runs (or reruns) include:
Former Arizona newscaster Kari Lake. In recent weeks, she has visited with Senate Republicans’ official campaign arm and charmed the base at CPAC.
Peter Thiel acolyte Blake Masters. After losing his 2022 senate race to Democrat Mark Kelly, he is reportedly considering a repeat run, although he might stay out if Lake gets in.
Current House Rep. Matt Rosendale. Fresh off helping lead the stonewalling of Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid, Rosendale is widely expected to run against Montana’s Democratic senator, Jon Tester. Rosendale lost to Tester the last time around in 2018. An example of the risks that would attend a Rosendale candidacy came just two weeks ago when he apologized for taking a photo with neo-Nazis outside the U.S. Capitol.
Former Milwaukee Sheriff and aspiring conservative “thought leader” David Clarke. He isn’t taking off the table the idea of mounting a challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, according to Sam Brodey at the Daily Beast.
You should really subscribe to Joe’s newsletter, here.
1. The Anti-Woke Mind Virus
Tim Miller’s latest Not My Party:
2. How the ‘No Labels’ Gambit Could Wreck the 2024 Election
In today’s Bulwark, Norm Ornstein and Dennis Aftergut write that No Labels says it doesn’t want its (as-yet-unchosen) third-party candidate to be a spoiler—but it also doesn’t say who all its funders are.
Third-party candidates have never come close to winning a presidential election. Even the immensely popular Teddy Roosevelt, the most successful third-party candidate ever, gained only 27 percent of the popular vote running in 1912 on his “Bull Moose” ticket. But he had a decisive effect on the election nonetheless: He split the Republican vote, and by taking 88 Electoral College votes he handed the presidency to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
We could see that party result flip in 2024, with a No Labels candidate taking enough electoral votes to cause the incumbent Democrat to lose to the Republican.
“A tankie is a leftist political insult for a communist who defends Stalinism or supports authoritarian or militaristic, anti-capitalist regimes.” — Dictionary.com.
The sad thing about all this is that we really respected Russia's sphere of influence so were cautious about weapons given to Poland for example. But where did that get us? And most observers thought Ukraine would fall in a few weeks. But they did not. So what then?
How can we not (and I mean all of us) respect a brave but small nation that is defending itself against a bully.
This is not about realism it is about righteousness against evil.
The ex-POTUS is a clear and all too present danger.