Discover more from The Bulwark
The Fire Rises
We now live in a country where a coup is possible.
I’ve started getting emails from people asking if they can give Bulwark+ gift subscriptions and the answer is: Yes.
ALSO: On Thursday night we’re having a livestream for Bulwark+ members. The great David Frum will sit down with us to talk about Trump, Republicans, and the 2020 Election Truthers.
It’s going to be awesome. If you’re not already a member, this is the time.
1. Crazy, Redux
After my Michael Flynn item on Monday, I got the following note from a friend who is intimately familiar with Flynn’s career:
The tragedy of General Flynn cannot be understated.
Not only was he the former NSA, but he was, more importantly, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He didn't get that position by being a Trump fluffer. Once upon a time, he was considered one of the sharpest minds inside the intelligence community.
He was also the J2 (Head of Intel) in Afghanistan about 10 years ago. He was brilliant. He really understood the problems inside the IC and how the GWOT had acted as a corrosive agent.
How General Flynn went from writing this report (which was spot-on and still is) to a full-blown QAnon is depressing, apropos, and dumbfounding, all at the same time.
It’s a good question and it goes to something that’s a recurring theme around here: Do people “go” crazy? Or were they always crazy, and just passing as normal?
Another exhibit is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney. Here’s the guy’s résumé:
He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1959 and later earned a master’s degree in international relations from The George Washington University in 1972.
Though a West Point graduate, he joined the Air Force and flew more than 400 combat missions during the Vietnam War, earning among other honors the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster and Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and oak leaf cluster.
He assumed his role as the Air Force assistant vice chief of staff in July 1992.
Sounds like a guy with high levels of responsibility. Hope this McInerney guy wasn’t a total loon.
Freeze-frame record scratch: McInerney says that U.S. special operations forces were killed while attacking a server farm in Germany that was run by the CIA and being used to flip votes from Trump to Biden.
The new claim is that Army Special Forces soldiers were killed in Frankfurt, Germany, in a firefight with the CIA guarding a secret CIA server farm that allegedly held evidence of Dominion’s so-called election theft. This updated version of a weeks-old theory originally amplified by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, came from an interview with McInerney, who offered no evidence to support his claim.
McInerney made these claims in an interview with Brannon Howse of Worldview Radio . . .
McInerney said that Trump and attorney Sidney Powell have “got the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion working with them, because in all of this, we have not seen any footprints of the DOJ or the FBI, nor the CIA on the friendly side.”
Howse then raised the issue of U.S. Special Forces troops seizing the server farm in Germany.
“In addition, the U.S. special forces command seized a server farm in Frankfurt, Germany, because they were sending this data from those six states through the internet to Spain and then into Frankfurt, Germany,” McInerney told Howse. “Special operation forces seized those, that facility, so they have those servers and they know all this data they are providing.”
Howse then asked if the “seizure went down without incident.”
“Well, I’ve heard it didn’t go down without incident, and I haven’t been able to verify it,” said McInerney. “I want to be careful in that. It’s just coming out, but I understand — my initial report is — that there were U.S. soldiers killed in that operation. Now, that was a CIA operation, and so that’s the very worrisome thing.”
Howse pressed the issue.
“But you are saying that was a CIA facility, and that was where the server was taken from by these Special Forces, was a CIA facility in Germany?” Howse asked the retired general, who now operates a cloud computing company.
“That’s correct,” McInerney responded. “Frankfurt, Germany. We have all this information.”
Spoiler: He does not have all of this information.
Contacted for comment by Military Times, this was McInerney’s response:
“President Trump won in a landslide and the Dems left so many footprints that this TREASON must be stopped!!! This will be the last free election we have and I predicted it on 2 Nov on the Steve Bannon Show!”
So I ask you, again: What’s happening in cases like this?
When you look at Flynn and McInerney, or Joe diGenova and Rudy Giuliani, or any number of people who once upon a time were considered normal people with reasonable judgment, did they change? Did something happen to them to make them crazy and unstable?
Or were they always like that, and they just hid it well?
2. Bullet Dodged
Most people are playing this for laughs, but we have reached the stage where Michael Flynn—the sitting president’s former National Security Advisor—is calling for the imposition of martial law in order to overturn the election.
People are goofing on this stuff and the sophisticated view is “Don’t get too upset. This is a clown show. No big deal.”
And that’s true enough.
But let me ask you a question:
Suppose that President Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in the popular vote by 3 million votes, but lost the Electoral College, 304 to 227, by a combined 70,000 votes in a handful of swing states.
What are the odds that Joe Biden would eventually have been sworn in as president?
Maybe you’re not as pessimistic as I am. But I doubt there are many of you so optimistic as to say “100 percent!”
Which is to say that we have arrived at a point in American history where the unthinkable has become thinkable.
A few weeks ago Indi Samarajiva wrote a piece about the aftermath of the election from the viewpoint of someone who had lived through an attempted coup in Sri Lanka.
His essay was slightly—but only slightly—overheated. And his main point was, I think, essentially correct. I want to share it with you at some length.
Two years ago, I lived through a coup in Sri Lanka. It was stupid. The minority party threw chili powder at everyone in Parliament and took over by farce. Math, however, requires a majority and the courts kicked them out. They gave in. We’d been protesting for weeks and yay, we won.
I didn’t know it at the time, but we had already lost. No one knew — but oh my God, what we lost. The legitimate government came back but it was divided and weak. We were divided and weak. We were vulnerable. . . .
Four months later, on Easter Sunday, some assholes attacked multiple churches and hotels, killing 269 of us. My wife and kids were at church, I had to frantically call them back. Our nation was shattered. Mobs began attacking innocent Muslims. It was out of control. The coup broke our government, and four months later, that broke us. . . .
What is a coup? It’s literally a blow, a strike. Someone hitting your normal processes of government, trying to knock them over. The blow doesn’t have to succeed. It still wounds. In our case it was occupying Parliament without a majority. In yours it’s denying the President-Elect after an election. Whether it fails or not, deep structural damage is done. At the time, however, it just feels dumb.
Frankly, I expected more epaulets and tanks, but this is all you get. A bunch of dumbasses throwing chili powder. Someone at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to a dildo shop. . . .
Your Republicans have set forces into play they cannot possibly understand and certainly cannot control. And they don’t even want to. To them, chaos is a ladder.
This is the point. You have taken an orderly system balancing a whole lot of chaos and fucked with it. I don’t know how it’s going to explode, but I can promise you this. It’s going to explode. . . .
What I can tell you — what anyone who’s experienced this can tell you — is that it’s going to be bad. I didn’t know that churches and hotels would blow up on Easter Sunday, but I know now. I’m trying to tell you in advance. You’ve opened up a Pandora’s box of instability. All kinds of demons come out.
I have lived through a coup. It felt like what you’re feeling now. Like watching something stupid and just waiting for it to go away. But it doesn’t go away. You can forget about it, but it doesn’t go away.
There’s a ticking bomb at the heart of your democracy now. Your government, the very idea of governance is fatally wounded. Chaos has been planted at its heart. I don’t know what this chaos will grow into, but I can promise you this. It won’t be good.
I think that’s probably right.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and the next few elections won’t be especially close and we won’t have to worry about a sitting Republican president overturning the results. And then we’ll have some great awakening where the citizenry becomes serious again and the 30 percent of the country which is currently in favor of becoming Hungary changes its mind.
Or maybe not.
But the point is, we can no longer count on liberal democracy perpetuating itself by default. It now requires special sets of circumstances.
What was once unthinkable is now merely impractical.
And next time, maybe it won’t be.
3. The Legend of Jim Leyland
Yet another amazing piece from the Athletic:
It was April 2006, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez singled late in the game with a runner on second. Gene Lamont was coaching third base and didn’t wave the runner home.
From across the diamond, Rodriguez — who was making more than $10 million that year — started waving his arms, maybe yelling, showing up Leyland’s assistant.
It was getaway day, and the team was heading to Oakland. The Tigers lost that afternoon and after the game, before heading to the airport, Leyland called his players in for a meeting. It was one of his first big moments in front of the team that season, and he singled out his All-Star catcher.
The way closer Todd Jones recalls it, Leyland’s message went something like this:
“You got the money, but I got the lineup card, and your ass will never play again if you do that. They can fire me, but I’m not gonna be around that. I’m new around here, but I can tell you one thing: You’re never going to treat my coaches that way, I don’t care who you are. It’s gonna be you or me, because I’m not gonna put up with that.”
Asked about the incident last week, Leyland wanted to make clear Rodriguez handled it like a pro.
The message, though, resonated with the whole team: Leyland would treat Rodriguez just like anyone else.
“He got the whole room’s attention,” Jones said. “And he only had to do it once.”
. . .
With big leaguers on strike in 1995, owners held spring training with makeshift teams of replacement players — truck drivers, store managers, high school teachers and anyone else who’d cross the picket line. Leyland, like a lot of other managers, wasn’t eager to work with a roster of no-names.
Over dinner one night, Meyer mentioned that one of the Pirates’ fill-in players, a catcher named Doug Duke, was in camp hoping to make enough money to cover his tuition for medical school. Leyland’s eyes widened.
“That really hit home for Jim,” Meyer said. “The next day, I noticed a change. Leyland and the coaches started talking to those guys like ballplayers instead of treating them like scabs.”
Duke had been out of pro ball for two years after being cut by the Montreal Expos. “I’d swung a bat maybe 10 times in those two years,” Duke said. The Pirates offered Duke $10,000 to show up and $25,000 if he broke camp with the team.
One morning, Leyland pulled Duke aside and asked if he really was studying to become a doctor. Duke nodded and pointed to another player who worked as an intensive-care nurse.
“Jim just looked at me and it was like a light in his head went on,” Duke said. “It put things into perspective that this was a real, live deal. We were trying there to earn a living. This wasn’t some fantasy camp thing.”
Leyland gave Duke a nickname: Doc. And “Doc” Duke hustled in every workout, but after a few weeks it was clear that the two-year layoff had sapped his skills.
When Donnelly tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to Leyland’s office, Duke knew what it meant.
“I’d been released before and it was like, ‘Here you go, see you later,’” Duke said. “But this time, all the coaches were in there, along with general manager Cam Bonifay, and everyone’s patting me on the back. I thought Jim was gonna cry on me. He was so upset.”
Duke now is a surgeon in Dothan, Ala., and his black-and-gold jersey from that spring training hangs in a frame on his office wall.
“He kept saying he was so impressed,” Duke said. “I was like, ‘Dude, I wish I could have played for you earlier, so you could have seen me when I was good.’ I wish I could have played my whole career for Jim Leyland.”
I am begging you, with tears in my eyes, to read the whole thing.
From time to time, we make the Triad available to everyone on our list, so they can see what members of Bulwark+ are getting in their inbox.
We hope you'll consider joining us, so you can be part of our popular Zoom livestreams to discuss the state of the nation, and you can enjoy our additional newsletter and podcast offerings.
And if you're already a member, thank you! You make what we do possible, and we appreciate it.