The Trump Before Trump: Krauthammer's Warning
Plus: Herschel's abortion "bombshell"
We’re at the point of the election cycle where it’s easy to be distracted by bright shiny objects (mostly polls and pundit wish-casting), but it’s important to keep your eye on a few things:
Iran has turned its universities into “war zones” as protests mount.
The Supreme Court begins a new session with approval ratings at historic lows.
The Oath Keepers trial on charges of “seditious conspiracy” began yesterday.
Let’s start there:
Nota Bene the conspirators’ rather bizarre “defense.”
In his own opening statement, Phillip Linder, Mr. Rhodes’s lawyer, said Mr. Rhodes and his subordinates had never planned an attack against the government on Jan. 6. Instead, Mr. Linder said, the Oath Keepers were waiting for Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act — a move, they claim, that would have given the group standing as a militia to employ force of arms in support of Mr. Trump.
Nothing Matters, Chapter 897?
The Daily Beast is reporting that “‘Pro-Life’ Herschel Walker Paid for Girlfriend’s Abortion.”
A woman who asked not to be identified out of privacy concerns told The Daily Beast that after she and Walker conceived a child while they were dating in 2009 he urged her to get an abortion. The woman said she had the procedure and that Walker reimbursed her for it.
She supported these claims with a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a “get well” card from Walker, and a bank deposit receipt that included an image of a signed $700 personal check from Walker.
The GOP senate candidate denied the charge “in the strongest possible terms” and promising to file a defamation suit against the Daily Beast this morning. But not before things got really ugly.
Herschel Walker’s son Christian Walker blasted his dad’s bid for a Georgia Senate seat by calling him a bad father, a liar and a hypocrite just hours after a news report Monday said the GOP nominee got a woman pregnant and paid for her abortion more than a decade ago.
“I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’ You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you,” Christian Walker wrote in a series of tweets.
“Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one. He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it,” he added.
As usual, the reaction to all of this is revealing. National Republicans made it clear they would continue to aggressively back Walker.
But there are apparently doubts, perhaps even some buyer’s remorse. Here’s right-wing commentator Erick Erickson, who had earlier tweeted that he thought the Herschel-paid-for abortions story was actually old news.
We’ll see, because it feels like we’ve been here before.
And…. the hits keep coming. This morning:
Exit take: “Herschel Walker Allegations: Will He Drop Out of the Race?” Spoiler alert: No.
“Pat Buchanan's Fascist Underpinnings”
I really miss Charles Krauthammer.
And I was reminded again how much I missed him, when a Bulwark reader sent along this remarkable piece that Krauthammer wrote about the GOP’s earlier flirtation with fascism. It’s a stark reminder that none of this is new.
In March 1992 — more than 30 years ago — Krauthammer warned against the dark political underbelly of then-candidate Pat Buchanan. The political establishment of the time had been rattled by Buchanan’s better-than-expected showing in the New Hampshire primary, which had fired up the debate over whether or not the tv pundit/speech/writer/populist demagogue was an anti-Semite.
Of course he was, Krauthammer wrote, but it was actually worse than that.
“The real problem with Buchanan,” Krauthammer wrote, “is not that his instincts are anti-Semitic… but that they are, in various and distinct ways, fascistic.”
It’s worth your time to read the whole thing:
First, there is Buchanan's nativism. "What happened to make America so vulgar and coarse, so uncivil and angry?" he asks. After serving up the usual suspects ("a morally cancerous welfare state" etc.), he finds "another reason": "Since 1965, a flood tide of immigration has rolled in from the Third World, legal and illegal, as our institutions of assimilation ... disintegrated." The next paragraph advises us that since 1950 America has gone from 90 percent to less than 77 percent European. "If present trends hold," he warns, "white Americans will be a minority by 2050."
"Who speaks for the Euro-Americans?" (read: white Americans) asks Buchanan. Guess. "Is it not time to take America back?" Guess for whom and from whom. This naked appeal to racial and ethnic exclusivity puts Buchanan firmly in the tradition of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Europe's other neo-fascists whose platform is anti-immigrant resentment, fear and loathing of the unassimilated Other.
Then there is Buchanan's open admiration for authoritarian politics. Press profiles of Buchanan recall colorfully his father's worship of Franco and (Joe) McCarthy. But this is more than mere family lore. Buchanan fils has quite cheerfully expressed his own esteem for Franco and Pinochet (both "soldier-patriots") and for the "Boer Republic," Buchanan's quaint and sympathetic euphemism for white racist South Africa.
As for the man who gave fascism a bad name, Buchanan offers this: "Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe ... " etc. Another soldier-patriot?
As for democracy, Buchanan disdains the principle of "one man, one vote" as "democratist ideology," a locution as contemptuous as it is peculiar. In particular, he scorns the idea of spreading democracy abroad, the cornerstone of Reagan's foreign policy, as "democracy worship" and "liberal idolatry."
Long before Trump descended the golden escalator, Buchanan had connected the dots: “Nativism, authoritarianism, ethnic and class resentment.”
That was, Krauthammer wrote, “a good start.”
But, he wrote, Buchanan was still “missing an essential feature of the fascist world view: its economics.”
He had contempt for "democracy worship," but he was still a parishioner at the church of capitalism, free trade and limited government.
No longer. Buchanan has converted to protectionism, i.e., government shutting markets in the name of the nation. And now the pretender to the throne of Ronald Reagan has gone beyond mere autarky to public denunciations of "vulture capitalism."
In other words, he was MAGA before MAGA and Trump before Trump, except with a bigger vocabulary.
Earlier this month, historian Nicolle Hemmer also highlighted the Trump-Buchanan echoes, including his open disdain for “democracy.”
At the very moment democratic triumphalism was in full force and commentators were musing about the end of history, he began questioning whether democracy really was the best form of government. “The American press is infatuated to the point of intoxication with ‘democracy,’” he wrote in 1991. To make his point, he compared the Marine Corps and corporations like IBM to the federal government. “Only the last is run on democratic, not autocratic, principles. Yet who would choose the last as the superior institution?”
Despite Buchanan’s defeats in 1992 and again in 1996 and 2000, she wrote, “his ideas took root immediately.” Republicans were quick to embrace some of his nativist, anti-immigrant stances.
“And while Republican politicians like George W. Bush and John McCain attempted to tamp down that nativist streak in the party,” she wrote, “it was the nativists who ultimately won.”
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1. Poor, Poor Pitiful Tim Michels
My fellow Cheesehead, Bill Lueders, writes in today’s Bulwark about The Wisconsin GOP’s candidate for governor:
Poor Tim Michels. The Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor wants, more than anything, to be a man of principle. He wants to stand for the things that he believes in.
But Michels, a construction industry executive who won the state GOP’s August primary with backing from former President Donald Trump, has a problem in this regard. Some of the things he believes in are wildly unpopular. And so he is forced to not actually stand for them while claiming he does. It’s complicated.
Take abortion. The resolutely pro-life candidate, who is challenging one-term Democratic incumbent Tony Evers in the November 8 election (the two are running neck-and-neck), has been saying for decades that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. This extreme position is now the legal status quo in Wisconsin, following the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
2. What Lizzo Can Teach Conservatives about American History
It’s tough being a social conservative these days, what with all the trolls about.
Some right-wingers were in a lather last week after Lizzo “disrespected” James Madison’s flute. Or, that’s what they would have you think.
Jenna Ellis, one of Trump’s former lawyers, said Lizzo’s performance was a “desecration, literally of America’s history.” Matt Walsh tweeted that “Lizzo playing James Madison’s flute was a form of racial retribution, according to the woke Left. And I actually have no doubt that this is part of the reason why the Library of Congress facilitated this spectacle.” Hitting the same notes, Ben Shapiro decried the “vulgarization of American history.”
Well. Let’s consider what actually took place…
3. Should Merrick Garland Go Big or Go Safe in a Prosecution of Donald Trump?
So even though it is not Garland’s job to save America, perhaps he has to assume that burden anyway. If Garland is going to risk civil discord and take the unprecedented step of prosecuting a former president, and if, as we’ve noted, a prosecution seems increasingly likely and essential given the mountain of evidence, then the gravity of that step may demand that he seek not just a ready criminal resolution, but far more importantly, a historical accounting. The Department of Justice needs to make its justification for this action abundantly clear, and that justification must not merely be the argument that Trump has committed a crime. The justification is the far more important cause of supporting the rule of law—what Abraham Lincoln called “the political religion of the nation.”
How may we indict thee, Donald Trump? There are so many ways. And the path forward remains fraught. But as the evidence mounts it increasingly looks as though the very fabric of democracy requires mending. It is much to ask of the judicial system; perhaps it is too much. But that is all we can do in troubled times—hope for institutional fortitude.
As he faces the Al Capone dilemma, Attorney General Garland increasingly has only one choice: He must go big. He must make good on the promise he made in July to “pursue justice without fear or favor” and “hold everyone … who was criminally responsible for events surrounding Jan. 6 ... accountable”—even if that means prosecuting former President Trump.