A long time ago our favorite pundits chose a side and sold themselves to the 1%. Since then they have steadily and publicly debased and humiliated themselves in the name of passing on their masters' propaganda. These pundits demonstrated that they hoped to keep on grifting the public under Trump. They could bide their time, pin every disaster on liberals or Trump, and benefit from the tax windfall that Paul Ryan was about to grant them. Even now, Ross Douthat is still trying to benefit from the disasters Trump will inflict.
Douthat wrote a hasty-produced-looking post today that attempts to normalize the abnormal so Trump can continue to wreak havoc and Paul Ryan et al can continue to pillage and punish--and so Ross can continue to live in luxury. Let's take a look at the language he employs in his efforts.
Normally at the end of a new administration’s tumultuous first week, it’s the pundit’s job to sit back and chin-stroke and explain everything that the president and his aides are doing right or wrong. In the Donald Trump era, though, there’s a distinctive problem: Before he can be defended or criticized, we have to figure out what’s actually happening. And for several reasons, that’s going to be harder in this presidency than ever before.Douthat presents the Trump Administration as eccentric but essentially normal. His policies should be analyzed and supported/criticized just like every other president's policies. By refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of our situation and Trump's actions, Douthat normalizes them.
First: This is clearly going to be an administration with multiple centers of gravity, with more fractiousness and freelancing than in the relatively-tight ships that Barack Obama and George W. Bush ran. The Trump White House has a weak chief of staff surrounded by rivalrous advisers. The Trump cabinet is not necessarily on the same ideological page as the president’s inner circle. Trump himself is famous for agreeing with the last person who bent his ear. So there is no trustworthy voice providing public clarity — least of all poor Sean Spicer — in cases where multiple balls and trial balloons are airborne.Douthat immediately jumps to lying in support of Trump. The Chief of Staff is a white supremacist and he seems to be running the show, rather than being a weak man surrounded by rivals. [Error: correction in comments.] The Cabinet is run by people chosen specifically for their desires to destroy their departments and the inner circle is Trump's children. "Poor" Sean Spicer is a despicable toady. The "balls" are unconstitutional orders and the "trial balloons" are executive orders.
Second: The establishment press, as I warned last week, is being pressured to lead the resistance to Trumpism, which makes it more likely to run with the most shocking interpretations (muzzled bureaucrats! mass resignations!) of whatever the White House happens to be doing. At the same time, the Trump inner circle clearly intends to lean into this phenomenon, to encourage the press-as-opposition narrative, seeing mainstream-media mistakes as a way of shoring up its own base’s loyalty. And then the technological forces shaping media coverage also encourage errors and overreach — a dubious story or even a misleading live-tweet of a press conference can go around the online world long before the more prosaic truth has reached your Facebook feed. (A self-serving suggestion: In such a climate, the discerning citizen may come to appreciate anew the tortoise-like pace of print journalism.)Douthat is nothing if not self-serving, as well as Trump-serving. He is trying to accuse the press of hysterical over-reaction to Trump to intimidate them into silence and persuade people to ignore them. He treats Trump's trampling of the press as typical beltway give-and-take and calls the facts "a narrative." Douthat drops little hints such as "mistakes," "error," "overreach," "dubious," "misleading," and over-interpretation. Like every conservative ever, no matter how young, he blames advances in technology for whatever he seeks to excuse. Finally he attempts to flatter the vanity of supposedly ego-centric New York Times readers. Douthat is an incredibly clumsy propagandist and also greatly admired for his supposed skill and nuanced intellectual superiority, which is yet another reason why we have Trump.
Third: Trumpism is an ideological cocktail that doesn’t fit the patterns we’re used to in American politics, and Trump has arrayed himself against bipartisan habits of mind on all sorts of issues. This means, as The Week columnist Damon Linker notes perceptively, that he’s guaranteed to do things that seem “abnormal” and that take both the press corps and D.C. mandarins aback —– like, say, actually enforcing already on-the-books immigration laws. The trick for the public will be figuring where what’s “abnormal” is obviously “alarming” and where it makes more sense to wait and see. Which will be hard for reasons one and two, and also because …It's not that Trump is abnormal, it's just that the DC liberal mandarins, with their effete long fingernails and robes, are taken aback by someone who actually follows the law--Trump. Therefore we should do nothing.
… Trump himself is a loose cannon whose public interventions tend to make his own policies harder to interpret. Is his administration planning a trade war with Mexico, as his tweets suggest, or just pushing a wonky border-adjustment tax that’s been part of G.O.P. proposals for a while? Are we actually considering reviving waterboarding, or is that just an empty executive order left over from the Romney transition that James Mattis and Mike Pompeo have no intention of operationalizing? Is the administration about to embark on a racially-coded war against phantom voter fraud based on random anecdotes and conspiracy theories … or is this just a “Twitter promise,” not a real one? Of course time will bring a certain clarity. We’ll find out whether Trump’s refugee and visa freezes from Muslim countries are actually temporary, a means to stricter screening, or whether they become permanent. We’ll move from speculation to reality on Russia policy. We’ll find out how far the president intends to run with the voter-fraud nonsense. We’ll see how often his angry tweets and behind-the-scenes obsessions cash out, and how often they’re just a way of venting.Trump's erratic behavior is "venting." Trump's hints of purging voter rolls are "nonsense." He's not playing chicken with Mexico, he's a wonk pushing an old tax. He says he's in favor of torture and that torture works, but that's just empty words. Ignore the Muslim ban-which Ross cleans up to be no big deal. Time will tell. Don't do anything hasty, like have a spontaneous demonstration at a dozen airports, converge dozens of lawyers, and have the ACLU sue Trump to stop him. That would be silly and useless.
But if the fog lifts in some cases, it’s likely to chronically shroud the policy-making process on issues (health care, taxes, infrastructure, more) where Trump needs his congressional allies to have certainty about their shared objectives. And it threatens to descend more dramatically — with Stephen King-style monsters screaming in the mist — with every unexpected event, every unlooked-for crisis, in which what the White House says in real time will matter much more than it does right now.We must work together to achieve Trump's objectives. We must not shriek hysterically at fictional monsters, like racist travel bans or Nazi-era laws. We must let the good, misunderstood people working for Trump and Bannon achieve their goals unimpeded.
I ended last week’s column with a warning for the press corps, about their potential contribution to a climate of political hysteria. But this column’s warning is for the president and his advisers, some of whom clearly like the fog and seem to imagine that it will help them govern just as it probably helped them win.
They shouldn’t be so confident. For legislators, too much fog is paralyzing. For voters, it’s a recipe for nervous exhaustion. For allies, it’s confusing; for enemies, it looks like an opportunity.
Trump is not a popular president, he has not actually built an electoral majority, his team is not particularly experienced. If he can’t provide clarity and reassurance and a little light around his agenda, it will be very easy for a fog-bound presidency to simply run aground.He is perfect clear. We know what he wants. And we know what Douthat wants: a Republican party that can run rampant, committing as much destruction to human life as it desires, as long as Ross Douthat can imagine himself rising up in the party with it. He's a Good German.
If nominated I would serve.https://t.co/Oq6cYzoMQa— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) January 26, 2017