Discover more from The Bulwark
The GOP’s Huckster-Hoaxer Axis
Plus: Why Russia's army is losing.
Before we dive into today’s Morning Shots, make sure you check out General Mark Hertling’s piece in this morning’s Bulwark: “I Commanded U.S. Army Europe. Here’s What I Saw in the Russian and Ukrainian Armies.” (More below).
In case you missed it over the weekend, Donald J. Trump endorsed Dr. Oz for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Rolling Stone’s headliner writer nailed the story: “Fraud Endorses Quack.”
Ironically (given all that they have swallowed so far), this has caused a good deal of agita among Trumpist apologists. Via the Daily Beast: “Trumpworld Goes Into Meltdown After Trump Endorses Dr. Oz.”
“This endorsement could divide MAGA in the only way that matters: he could lose America First conservatives over it,” Breitbart News’ Joel Pollak wrote…
Lesser-known pro-Trump media personalities also stepped into the fold, including Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter, who wrote: “It’s pretty hard for me to fully express how disappointed in Trump I am for endorsing Oz.”
Sad, I know, because who could have possibly known that boarding the Trump Train would lead to… this.
Trump’s endorsement of Oz is actually his second crack at picking a senator for Pennsylvania. His first anointed candidate, Sean Parnell, dropped out after allegations of spousal abuse. But the Oz endorsement was too much even for the scrofulous Parnell, who tweeted:
Because turds don’t polish themselves, some in the MAGAverse were quick to blame Trump’s decision on his “staff.”
“This is happening because Trump’s surrounded himself by staff who are on McConnell’s payroll & hostile to the MAGA agenda. Everybody telling Trump who to endorse in primaries works for The Swamp. They played him. Again,” tweeted Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who was recently tossed under the Trumpist bus, when TFG rescinded his previous endorsement.
Erick Erickson also blamed “staff.”
… singling out a scapegoat named Susie Wiles as the presumably wily Rasputin behind the Trump-Oz bromance.
Bold efforts, gentlemen, but the reality is that Trump’s embrace of Oz is very much on brand. One former television huckster reaching out to another — an alliance of ambitious charlatans.
Let’s just check the tape. Last December, Scientific American ran an opinion piece headlined: Dr. Oz Shouldn’t Be a Senator—or a Doctor.
While holding a medical license, Mehmet Oz, widely known as Dr. Oz, has long pushed misleading, science-free and unproven alternative therapies such as homeopathy, as well as fad diets, detoxes and cleanses. Some of these things have been potentially harmful, including hydroxychloroquine, which he once touted would be beneficial in the treatment or prevention of COVID. This assertion has been thoroughly debunked.
The scams were not mere lapses in judgement. Business Insider listed all the times that Oz has made false or baseless medical claims.
Oz repeatedly claimed that raspberry ketones are 'the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat.'
Oz has said astrological signs "may reveal a great deal about our health."
He's also said umckaloabo root extract "has been incredibly effective at relieving cold symptoms" even though it isn't.
Oz recommended using lavender soap to cure leg cramps.
And on and on.
Trump’s endorsed candidate is so embarrassing that a group of doctors wrote an open letter urging Columbia University to fire the celebrity quack.
“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine… Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”
Like Trump, Oz has been unapologetic about his scams, which drew the attention of the body that he now seeks to join:
In June a Senate subcommittee heard testimony from Oz on false advertising of weight loss claims and Sen. Claire McCaskill queried the doctor about the statements he made on the show.
“I do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show,” he said at the hearing. “We have to simplify complicated information. We have to make the material seem interesting and focus on the ‘wow’ factor.”
Here’s the key: Trump loves all this.
Trump could have gone with David McCormick, the former Bridgewater CEO, who had remade himself into a born-again Trumpist. A former Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, McCormick, who graduated from West Point, earned the Bronze star, and has a PhD from Princeton. He is married to a former high ranking Trump official (Dina Powell), and has surrounded himself with Trumpist loyalists like Hope Hicks.
But Trump chose Oz, because he’s Trump, the founder of Trump Steaks, Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, Trump: The Game, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump Ice, Tour de Trump , Trump Network, and Trumped!
In Oz, he sees a kindred spirit. The former president is not endorsing Oz despite the fact that the doctor peddles disinformation; to the contrary, this is what attracts him and binds him to his fellow television huckster.
Explaining his endorsement, TFG gushed about Oz’s long television career, saying that being on TV was “like a poll. You know, when you’re in television for 18 years, that’s like a poll, that means people like you.”
Blame the staff all you want, but this is pure, undistilled Trump.
Speaking of Pennsylvania, Democrats have a chance to nominate a solid centrist. ICYMI, here’s my conversation with Rep. Conor Lamb on the Bulwark podcast:
The “good news’ from France comes with a warning. In this weekend’s first round of voting, President Emmanuel Macron did better than polls predicted, but far-right heart-throb Marine Le Pen still has a chance to be elected.
“A Le Pen victory in the second round would mark the first far-right presidency in French history. It would also upend politics in Europe — replacing the most fervent advocate of European Union cooperation with someone known for anti-E.U. rhetoric, and giving an official platform to the far-right at a time when nationalists in many other European countries have been struggling.”
Le Pen has repeatedly told us who she is. Here:
Not a laughing matter
Editor’s note: On Friday’s podcast, we opened with a palate cleanser — this guy explaining how he was the smartest guy in the world.
On the podcast, Tim and I took the opportunity to laugh at the guy, but I got this note from Brahm Resnik, who is one of Arizona’s top political journalists:
Love your podcast, but I need to point out that the sound bite you laughed at to open the podcast Friday came from this guy, Ethan Schmidt:Anti-mask activist Ethan Schmidt-Crockett was trying to harass another LGBTQ-friendly church today in Arizona. Thankfully a pair of security guards stopped him in the parking lot before he got close to the front door. He's now telling his followers the guards were FBI agents. 🤦🏻Today Ethan Schmidt shared videos of himself attempting to enter another LGBTQ-friendly church in Phoenix but was stopped by church security. In one clip, Schmidt says he will keep attempting to enter similar churches and is shifting his focus on harassing LGBTQ-friendly places. https://t.co/fOzQojkHIGAZ Right Wing Watch @az_rww
This tweet is just a glimpse of what he’s done in the Phoenix area. Google ‘Ethan Schmidt and Mesa wig store.’
I stopped calling this class of Trumper/performative right winger ‘crazy’ a long time ago.
Ethan is known to police.
In fact, I have security stationed in my driveway this weekend because of Ethan. (I cover politics for the NBC affiliate in Phoenix. Charlie & I are both alums of the Milwaukee Journal.)
I know you can’t possibly know any of this. But these guys stopped being funny a long time ago. They’re dangerous.
Exit take: Not funny. At all.
Why the Russian Army Is Losing
My experiences with the Russian and Ukrainian armies over the two decades reminded me of a passage from Jean Larteguy’s The Centurions. In a moment of frustration, a French officer summarizes the two purposes an army can serve:
I’d like [France] to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.
For all their bellicose rhetoric and Victory Day parades on Red Square, I sometimes wonder if Putin and Shoygu know the difference between the two types of armies. The Ukrainians sure do.