“We know they’re lying, they know they’re lying, they know that we know they’re lying, we know that they know that we know they’re lying, but they still lie.” —Quote attributed to Alexander Solzhenitsyn (but that’s probably a lie).
Republicans are anxious — very anxious indeed — to tell us that Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn doesn’t speak for his fellow Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham rushed to the microphone to assure us that Cawthorn is an outlier “in the largest sense possible on our side.”
In case you dropped out of social media yesterday, Cawthorn was caught on video sharing his deep thoughts on Ukraine:
“Remember that Zelensky is a thug,” said the 26-year-old conservative rock star at a town hall last Saturday.
“Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and it is incredibly evil and it has been pushing woke ideologies.”
The reaction was predictably swift and harsh. “In the confederacy of Trumpist lowlifes,” my colleague Bill Kristol tweeted, “he’s the lowest.” Others (quite accurately) accused the North Carolina representative of channeling Russian propaganda.
Liz Cheney called him “another member of the Putin wing of the GOP.” (It’s worth mentioning here that Cawthorn has the full backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but Cheney does not.)
The Republican Accountability Project @AccountableGOP.@CawthornforNC: “Zelenskyy is a thug. Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.” h/t @WRAL https://t.co/cf3sew7MOp
Of course, it’s easy to dunk on the serially absurd tree-punching Cawthorn, who has made his performative ignorance the signature of his otherwise vacuous term in office.
But Madison Cawthorn is not a complete outlier here.
Liz Cheney calls him a member of the Putin wing of the GOP, but it is important to remember that the leader of that wing is Donald J. Trump, the once and perhaps future president.
This is also important to remember:
Until about five minutes ago, Cawthorn’s remarks were more or less basic talking points among the MAGA right; and not just talking points but holy script. His attitude is deeply embedded in the right’s DNA.
So, it’s easy to imagine Cawthorn today, looking around at his GOP critics and asking Dude, what do you mean “outlier”? I’m just saying what we’ve all been saying for years now!
He’d have a point.
For years, the right-wing media — led by Donald Trump himself — has been obsessed with the alleged vileness of Ukraine, first in the wake of the 2016 election, and then with the whole Hunter-Biden-Burisma-I-would-like-you-to-do-us-a-favor thing.
Lest we forget, during Russiagate, Rudy Giuliani and Sean Hannity peddled insane conspiracy theories that tried to blame Ukraine for the election interference committed by Russia.
Back in 2019, our own Tim Miller climbed into that rabbit hole to explain how their theory worked [Warning, it’s crazy-making]:
Ukraine, having recently been invaded by Russia, was [they claimed without evidence] primed to participate in an effort to frame the Russians for the elaborate crime being committed by the American intelligence community (and the American president).
Conveniently, the cabal had a DNC consultant named Alexandra Chalupa who was willing and able to be the go-between between the American intelligence community and the Ukrainians. And that was just the beginning of their list of assets.
They had knowledge of Paul Manafort’s actions in the country, through the anti-Russian elements of the Ukrainian government.
They had a secret funder in George Soros.
And, as an added bonus, the Obama administration also had leverage over Ukraine, thanks to yet another conspiracy—this one headed up by the Vice President Joe Biden.
Wheels within wheels.
And, of course, Ukraine was at the center of Trump’s obsession with “BIDEN CORRUPTION.”
According to Trump World, Biden had recruited the entire global pro-democracy movement—the European Union, the IMF, the American diplomatic corps, and key NGOs—to a plot to fire a noble Ukrainian prosecutor, all so that Biden’s son could make $50,000 a month working for a Ukrainian oligarch.
You probably know the rest of the story…
But let’s get back to Madison Cawthorn, who rose to political infamy in the midst of the MAGA counternarratives about Ukraine. He understood that the Ukraine narratives are central to Trump’s revisionist history. During the first impeachment trial, the alleged corruption and evil of Ukraine became Trumpian gospel.
And now Cawthorn and the rest of the MAGAverse just can’t quit it. The sunk costs are too great.
For Trump to be exonerated, Ukraine and Zelensky must be smeared.
Exit take: Don’t be surprised if Trump starts pushing the anti-Ukraine narrative…and the right’s ecosystem picks it up… once again setting off the doom loop of right-wing disinformation.
Speaking of the Putin wing of the GOP
Not even his favorite fluffer, Sean Hannity, could get Trump to call Vladimir Putin “evil” — despite giving him chance after chance to do so.