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“The Banality of Crazy”
The case for taking Trump’s insanity seriously. And literally.
“I think the best way to understand what happened today is this shutdown was simply too stupid even for the House.” — Former House aide Brendan Buck
Choose your adventure:
McCarthy surrendered. After weeks of threatening to shut government down unless he got massive spending cuts and tough new border measures, McCarthy executed a stunning pivot, and then approved a bill without either the cuts or the border measures. And he had to rely on Democrats to bail him out.
McCarthy defied the right and dared Matt Gaetz to take his shot. “McCarthy’s move was an act of defiance against the hard-liners who strenuously opposed a short-term bill. Some, like Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., even threatened to force a vote to overthrow him if he passed a bill with Democratic votes.”
McCarthy reminded us that he is self-gelded. The Bulwark’s Joe Perticone: “McCarthy allowing the CR to go to the floor and pass with Democrats doing the heavy lifting is not good for his future prospects. The 90 Republicans who voted against it did so out of opposition to a CR of any kind or because they wanted additional border security reforms. They got neither. A lot of these Republicans are known to hold grudges and act out in grand displays of defiance.”
“Depending on where you sit, McCarthy is either the ‘adult in the room,’ as he put it,” wrote Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman, “or he’s a treasonous turncoat who continues to abandon his party in the pursuit of easy political victories, as his hardline GOP conservatives claim.”
Exit take: In a bitterly divided Congress, there is one apparent consensus: Everybody hates Matt Gaetz. And it is, of course, a distinction richly deserved.
Big Monday question: What will the Democrats do? Will they bail Kevin out? Cut a deal? Or just let the GOP continue to eat one another?
[The] absence of Ukraine aid is significant. The actual dollar amount isn’t—the $300 million that would have gone to Ukraine is just a small fraction of the budget—but it shows how far off the deep end the Republican party has become on this issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to hold firm as the upper chamber was gearing up for its own continuing resolution with Ukraine aid attached. But when he polled his Republican colleagues in the Senate on whether it was worth fighting for, a majority of the conference overruled him, including one his top deputies, Sen. John Thune (R-SD). McConnell is rarely put in such a position by his Senate Republican colleagues.
This change shows how drastically the GOP has changed on what was once a pillar of its foreign policy platform (i.e., funding pro-Western governments fighting back against Russian aggression). Now, the primary opposition to financially backing Ukraine in the United States is coming solely from the GOP—and this movement has enough support to overrule the Republican leadership.
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The Kraken Is Never Coming
On our weekend podcast, David Frum and I broke down last week’s GOP impeachment hearing and Trump’s latest pivot on abortion. We actually end on a somewhat hopeful note . . .
Catching up in other news
“We don’t take an oath to a country. We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, or a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator.”
I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation against a corrupt and racist Attorney General, Letitia James, who campaigned on “getting Trump,” and a Trump Hating Judge who is unfair, unhinged, and vicious in his PURSUIT of me. He values Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, at 18 Million Dollars, when it is worth 50 to 100 times that amount. His valuations are FRAUDULENT in pursuit of Election Interference, and worse. THIS WHOLE CASE IS A SHAM!!! See you in Court – Monday morning.
The Case for Amplifying Trump's Insanity
In his newsletter, Brian Klaas argues that we are succumbing to the “banality of crazy.”
When Joe Biden didn’t trip but nearly tripped last week, it was headline news. How absurd is that? A candidate who didn’t quite fall over is a bigger news story than a candidate calling to execute shoplifters? …
This is what I call the Banality of Crazy—and it’s warping the way that Americans think about politics in the Trump and post-Trump era.
According to the old saying, there’s no headline in the papers for “Dog Bites Man,” but there is for “Man Bites Dog.” The idea is that the press covers the unusual rather than the routine, even if the routine story is more important than the unusual one.
The problem is that there has just been so much crazy — so many outrages, so many lies, so many assaults on decency — that it’s hard keep up. we get numbed to it, so it’s no longer news. Trump calls for more extrajudicial murders? The execution of the nation’s top general? (Yawn.)
But now, many pretend to have forgotten Trump’s past transgressions as old news—while others are oblivious to the drumbeat of dangerous rhetoric that is energizing the MAGA movement daily in increasingly violent ways.
Klaas is challenging the media — and the rest of us — to pay attention, and rise to the occasion.
The press has an obligation to convey magnitude, not just novelty. Newspapers and TV channels have limited time and space to discuss political events. In a political world in which an authoritarian contender for the presidency is floating the idea of shoplifting executions and killing generals, maybe, just maybe it’s not worth the space or time to discuss a brief stumble or a dog bite?
I concluded my latest Atlantic piece with this paragraph, and it sums up my feelings on the 2024 election—on what should be the lodestone for all American political news in the Trump/post-Trump era.
I hope others in the press listen:
Bombarded by a constant stream of deranged authoritarian extremism from a man who might soon return to the presidency, we’ve lost all sense of scale and perspective. But neither the American press nor the public can afford to be lulled. The man who, as president, incited a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to overturn an election is again openly fomenting political violence while explicitly endorsing authoritarian strategies should he return to power. That is the story of the 2024 election. Everything else is just window dressing.
Klaas’s warning seems timely.
Fresh off calling for the execution of General Mark Milley, Trump doubled down on his rhetoric of brutality.
He mocked the brutal hammer attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband (the crowd loved it); called Joe Biden a “motherfucker” — “Crooked Joe Biden, let’s indict the motherfucker! Let’s indict him” — (the crowd was delighted); and called for the summary execution of shoplifters (the crowd went wild).
In the past, Trump has called for the execution of drug dealers and human traffickers, but on Friday night he promised to order federal law enforcement to shoot shoplifters as they leave stores. Via Mediaite: “One of the most stunning moments came as Trump ranted about crime, and promised his federal law enforcement officers would be empowered to shoot shoplifters — which prompted wild cheers and chanting from the crowd that took a long time to subside:”
And we will immediately stop all of the pillaging and theft. Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store!
(CROWD CHEERS WILDLY).
(CROWD WHISTLES AND CHEERS WILDLY).
CROWD: TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!
DONALD TRUMP: And everything will immediately stop. You won’t have any more of that.
We’ve been warned
Amid the insults, Trump has laid out a menu of actions he plans to take if he becomes president again. Anyone who isn’t a true believer in Trump’s authoritarian vision should be terrified.
In speeches, interviews and campaign videos, Trump has promised to:
Use the military to participate in the largest deportation of undocumented immigrants in American history;
Order the National Guard into cities with high crime rates, whether local officials want it or not;
Prosecute Californians who protect minors coming to the state for gender-affirming care;
Impose a 10% tariff on almost all foreign goods, increasing prices for consumers;
Appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” his political opponents, beginning with Biden;
Purge the federal civil service of anyone who questions his views.
Exit take: Trump not only tells us who he is, he also regularly — and quite clearly — tells us what he intends to do.
1. Ukraine Needs Better Public Diplomacy
Americans’ instinct for supporting the underdog lagged even as Ukraine successfully defended its capital and drove the Russian military off some of its territory. Ukraine could stand up to RT and Sputnik, especially as sanctions caused them to radically curtail their activities in the United States and Europe, but Ukraine seems outmatched by the combined pressure of far-right American politicians and news outlets. At this point, the most dangerous figures Ukraine faces might not be Vladimir Putin (who some Ukrainians call their “secret weapon” because of his strategic blunders) and his top general Valery Gerasimov but right-wing figures in American politics and the media.
2. A California House Fire Reveals the Complicated Politics of Homelessness
MORE THAN 100 FIREFIGHTERS were dispatched to battle the Venice Canals fire, according to a short statement from the Los Angeles Fire Department, extinguishing the raging conflagration in an hour and twenty minutes. On the first anniversary of the blaze, there is still no official word on what caused it: The LAFD told me an arson report is not yet finished. But Marty, Irma, and their neighbors have little doubt about what happened that night in “the picturesque, upscale but homeless-plagued Venice Canals,” as Marty described their neighborhood. The couple summed it up bluntly in the title of an eleven-minute video they made about the catastrophe: “Homeless People Burned Our House Down”…