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The Character of a Queen
Steve Bannon is Not a Martyr. He's Just a Crook.
The long reign of Queen Elizabeth II was marked by her strong sense of duty and her determination to dedicate her life to her throne and to her people.
She became for many the one constant point in a rapidly changing world as British influence declined, society changed beyond recognition and the role of the monarchy itself came into question.
Her success in maintaining the monarchy through such turbulent times was even more remarkable given that, at the time of her birth, no-one could have foreseen that the throne would be her destiny.
The term “turbulent times” is classic British understatement. The arc of Elizabeth’s remarkable life spanned a century that saw the world broken and remade, over and over again.
Even though she was 96, her death yesterday came as a shock, because she was a rare symbol of stability in a vertiginously unstable world. She wasn’t merely a queen. She was The Queen, and most of us don’t remember a time when she wasn’t.
One of the day’s inevitable clichés is that we will not see her like again. But, of course that’s true, because, she represented a lost world. She was born in the 1920s, her early life was shaped by adults born in the 19th century, but she reigned over a modern world that would have been inconceivable to many of her contemporaries — and indeed, to herself.
Today this tiny, frail woman is being mourned by hundreds of millions of people all around the world who were not born when she ascended the throne.
So, it’s worth pondering the countercultural nature of her success. Her long reign survived being sucked down by the trivia of our trivial culture. She reminded us that Fame and Celebrity are not necessarily the same thing (something that Meghan Markle might want to keep in mind).
And here’s the point:
The Queen’s reign can’t be summed up by a list of policies or accomplishments, but rather by the woman herself: her character, steadfastness, and the values she embodied, including her sense of duty and service. In Britain those things still matter, but her passing reminds us how fragile they are, and how much we have lost.
In her 70 years on the throne, Elizabeth presided over the decline of Empire, economic crises, domestic terrorism, the dissolution of marriages, and the embarrassment of royal scandals, some of them ghastly (Prince Andrew), but all fodder for endless tabloid speculation.
And yet, as Serge Schmemann writes in the NYT:
… it is the measure of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning queen ever, that she will be remembered less for any of that than for playing her part so well, with such dignity and for so long. As her country’s greatest playwright once wrote of the finale of another queen: “It is well done, and fitting for a princess/ Descended of so many royal kings.”
Bannon’s MAGA Grift
“Stephen Bannon acted as the architect of a multimillion dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country.” Manhattan D.A. Alvin L. Bragg.
“Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends.” New York Attorney General Letitia James
This may seem like an old story by now, but what a grubby tale about a grubby man, and the grifty movement that he embodies.
After his perp walk Thursday, Bannon played the part of a defiant, smirking political victim. But as the latest indictment reminds us, he’s merely a badly-dressed crook, who knew he could prey upon his gullible fan base. He is both an architect and artifact of the MAGA movement.
It’s worth remembering that beneath all the Sturm und Drang of its “semi-fascism,” Donald Trump’s MAGA has always been a shabby fraud built upon a cynical contempt for its own true-believers.
The outsize role of grift in American conservatism is a story that goes back at least a half century. But Trump glommed on to those tendencies while also exacerbating them in his own ugly ways, and the Bannon saga is a particularly grotesque example of that.
Bannon and a group of associates allegedly raised $25 million from hundreds of thousands of donors for something called “We Build the Wall.” In 2020, federal prosecutors charged that Bannon had lied when he said he wouldn’t take any compensation, instead raking in $1 million for himself and a co-conspirator through a nonprofit group.
For your edification, I’d suggest reading some of the details of the new indictment:
WeBuildtheWall, Inc. solicited donations through the Crowdfunding Website … as well as in media appearances by UnindictedCo-Conspirator 1, Bannon, and others, as well as in emails to potential donors, updates to WeBuildTheWall, Inc.’s own website, and on social media. Starting on January 11, 2019, a key part of these solicitations was the promise that Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1 would “personally not take a penny of compensation from these donations.”
That was, of course, total bullshit.
The object of the conspiracy was to promote WeBuildTheWall, Inc.’s fraudulent efforts to raise money through donations by obscuring the fact that, contrary to WeBuildTheWall, Inc.’s representations about Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1 not taking a salary, Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1 was in fact receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation from WeBuildTheWall, Inc. In order to obscure Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1’s salary, and with intent to promote the carrying on of the Scheme to Defraud, the defendants WeBuildTheWall, Inc. and Bannon, and others, caused WeBuildTheWall, Inc. to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to various third-party entities, including entities controlled by Bannon and others, which would then transfer a portion of the money received to Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1.
One of Trump’s most successful rhetorical tactics is his claim that any attacks on him are really an attack on his loyal supporters. He is their voice. They are under attack. He alone can protect them.
But the opposite is true. As Tim Miller wrote here a few days ago:
When it comes to Trump’s contempt for his own fans what more evidence do you need than his behavior on January 6th. He doesn’t even care about his most loyal foot soldiers. He’s letting them rot in jail, their lives ruined, because they acted on his bid to combat. Ashli Babbitt and others are dead because they believed a lie he told to protect his own vanity.
Tens of thousands of other Trump voters died because they refused a life-saving vaccine thanks to MAGA leaders who fed them lies about Bill Gates wanting to track them as part of an experiment into the effects of Cracker Barrel on the human body.
Because here’s the truth: Nobody cares less about MAGA Americans than Donald Trump and his coterie of MAGA elites.
They literally let their own voters die in a bid to keep power.
When Trump says that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue without losing the support of the MAGA base, Trump is, of course marveling at his own popularity. But he is also admitting his deeply felt disdain for the rubes and marks who have fallen into his hands. Trump’s contempt for his supporters is shared by others in his orbit, including Bannon, who know that they can monetize their lies and scams by fleecing their most loyal backers.
They are counting on their marks to: (1) continue to buy the con and pony up the cash, (2) not realize that they are being lied to and ripped off.
As David Frum has repeatedly noted, victims of scams are often angrier at those who point out the ruse than at the fraudsters themselves.
But as hopeless as it might seem, somebody needs to tell them.
1. Biden’s Warning, Trump’s Ranting
So the dude stashing classified docs is telling his mob that the Justice Department is made up of vicious monsters; that our elections are a fraud and he should be reinstated; that there are evil people in our midst; and that the Chinese despot is awesome. What word would you use for all that?
Whether you call it semi-fascist, stupid fascist, or none of the above, as long as he is allowed to continue stoking that mob and leading the Republican party the danger for all of us remains hot.
2. DOJ's Motion For A Stay Explained
DOJ’s argument lay bare the weakness in Judge Cannon’s order. For instance, DOJ’s explanation of why it’s likely to win on appeal is a litany of reasons the district judge got it wrong in the first place. Trump shouldn’t have the ability to keep DOJ from working with the classified materials it recovered from him because he has no legal right to classified records and certainly no right to have them returned to him. And, he has no attorney-client privilege in classified documents created by the government, because the privilege only covers legal advice given by the lawyer to the client. DOJ also slices up any notion executive privilege could apply here, pointing out that the privilege is a qualified one that can be overcome if the government has a “demonstrated, specific need” for the evidence in a context like a criminal investigation. And of course, it does here, since the classified records are the “very subject of the government’s ongoing investigation.”