ICYMI, I talked with Francis Fukuyama on yesterday’s podcast. The whole thing is worth listening to, but I wanted to highlight our conversation about re-learning the value of liberal democracy.
Francis Fukuyama: It's now 75 years following the last World War, and particularly since 1991, things have been pretty peaceful and stable for many people around the world. And I think that they just begin to take liberalism for granted — It's kind of the framework.
Sykes: We take it for granted, and we forget why it was so crucial.
Fukuyama: Yeah, and that's why I felt I should write a book, kind of defending it in itself. But then, also, I think that what Putin has done is in a way to demonstrate for a new generation what some of the dangers of the alternatives to liberalism are — that it does lead to intolerance, exclusion, and then foreign aggression, which then produces war, conflict, unnecessary death, and so forth. And people can see that very vividly.
Fukuyama: So, I hope that one of the consequences of this is at least to remind a whole younger generation that didn't experience the Cold War, didn't live in a dictatorship, just remind them that these things still exist. And liberalism is not something that just happens by itself. You have to fight for it, you have to struggle for it, and you have to be vigilant. Maybe that's the lesson that every generation has to learn on its own.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Trump asks Putin for a favor (again)
Donald Trump has exhausted our vocabulary of outrage and I’m trying to cut down on my use of obscenities for Lent. So, it is difficult to describe the sheer revolting awfulness of this:
Amid widespread criticism of his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, former President Donald Trump publicly called on Putin on Tuesday to release any dirt he might have on Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
This was not taken out of context, nor was it a gotcha take. His own spokeswoman enthusiastically tweeted out his plea to Putin:
It is as if he is recapitulating all of his most egregious scandals — from “Russia, if you’re listening” to “I would like you to do us a favor” — multiplied by a factor of genocide.
And daring us to do something about it.
Trump, writes Aaron Blake, continues to play his greatest hits. “And the hits apparently include seeing just how long his party and supporters will tolerate his treating a man they hate as a legitimate political ally. Because, as always, the point is winning.”
In the interview, Trump focused on allegations that Hunter Biden received millions of dollars from the wife of Moscow’s late mayor, Yury Luzhkov.
Trump complains that Ukraine won’t dish the dirt on Biden — “Now, you won’t get the answer from Ukraine,” he says — but thinks that Putin might.
“She gave him $3.5 million, so now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it,” Trump said. “I think we should know that answer.”
Even as Trump spoke, Putin was waging a war of unremitting terror that has killed thousands of Ukrainians. The West has rallied to oppose him, and nearly every American political figure — from both parties — has denounced the Russian thug.
And it is at this moment, amidst a brutal war of aggression, that Trump once again reached out for Putin’s help in attacking the sitting American president and, by extension, this country.
Here’s where we come to the treasonous smoking gun: Trump explicitly frames his request to Putin as an act of retaliation not just against Biden, but against the United States itself.
Some accounts leave out the key phrase that Trump uses when he explains why Putin might help him.
"As long as Putin is not exactly a fan of our country... I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it... you won't get the answer from Ukraine... I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer."
As long as Putin is not exactly a fan of our country... said the former and perhaps future president at a time of international conflict.
Now commenceth my rant.
Republicans, defend this. Go ahead. Try. Don’t dodge or hedge. Defend your leader’s partnership in slime and blood with Vladimir Putin.
Tell me again that he learned his lesson.
Explain again that you think the whole Russia thing was a hoax.
Justify putting this defeated, disgraced, twice-impeached deplorable back in the Oval Office.
And make the case for giving the nuclear codes back to this scabrous traitor.
What Do Voters Want?
Apparently, Twitter is not real life. Fascinating numbers from this new NBC poll, which tested 15 different candidate issues/qualities for the 2022 midterms.
Most popular issues: Funding the police, expanding domestic oil and gas production, infrastructure spending, lowers costs for health care and drugs, support for abortion rights, support for Ukraine.
Least popular: Defunding police, overturning Roe, saying Trump won the 2020 election, and candidates endorsed by various high profile pols.
What Is Trump Hiding?
Trump encouraged the violence and welcomed it in real time. The whole world saw that.
But the world does not know everything about January 6—not yet, anyway—and Trump’s phone behavior may suggest the answer to the most important remaining questions:
Did Trump in any way authorize the attack in advance?
Did Trump in any way communicate or coordinate with the attackers as the attack unfolded?
Trump’s phone choices sought to conceal the answers to those questions. Why? One of the pivotal moments during the Watergate scandal of 1972 was the revelation that President Richard Nixon’s secretary had erased 18 and a half crucial minutes of a tape recorded three days after the break-in. The erasure suggested consciousness of guilt by the president, and helped end his presidency.
Trump’s 7.5-hour gap likewise suggests consciousness of something. And it sure smells like guilt.
Hot for DeSantis
Definitely check out Jonathan Chait’s deep-dive into the right’s boomlet for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis:
It is crucial to understand that the critique of Trump that prevails among Republican officials is far narrower than the one proffered by Democrats or Never Trumpers. They don’t object to Trump’s racism, corruption, lying, or contempt for democratic norms, except to the extent that these qualities hurt the party’s brand. What irritates, instead, is Trump’s constant disregard for basic political self-preservation. DeSantis offers them the prospect of a party leader who can harness all the right-wing populist energy generated by Trump without the latter’s childlike inability to focus on what his advisers tell him. One DeSantis ally, confiding to the New York Times, summed up his appeal as “competent Trumpism.”
1. Is It Racist to Help Ukraine?
Read Mona Charen in this morning’s Bulwark:
Europeans and Americans have responded to Ukraine’s plight with empathy and anger and admiration and love. And so have Kenyans and Japanese and Mexicans and Egyptians and billions more. We all have our tribal tendencies and must strive to recognize that all God’s children are of equal moral worth. But looking at our recent history, we’ve done pretty well on that score. So let’s not tar this moment of moral clarity with the racism brush.
2. Freedom and Democracy in Russia, Then and Now
Cathy Young talks with Pavel Litvinov—a Soviet dissident who was exiled to Siberia for his role in the 1968 Red Square demonstration—about Putin’s Ukraine invasion.
Litvinov—who spoke to me in Russian last week by video chat from his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey—is struck by the similarities between the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine in 2022 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In both cases, he says, “the real goal was to neutralize a threat from the country next door. But the fear is not of a military threat. The fear is: How can it be that these people on whom we look down a little, who can’t even speak proper Russian, will become a European country? That means death to the entire Soviet and imperial Russian tradition. Brezhnev knew that. He might not have been able to speak two coherent words, but he knew it in his gut and never doubted it. And today, Putin knows it too. There are many reasons why Ukraine and why now, but the main cause is that a free country cannot coexist with an unfree one next to it”—especially when the two countries’ relationship is as close as that of Russia and Ukraine. Litvinov points out that about half of Ukrainians have relatives in Russia and numerous Ukrainians work in Russia in seasonal jobs. “The thought that these people, these Ukrainian laborers, will suddenly become free, will be associated with the word Europe—that was intolerable,” he says.
3. Will Hurd’s Wishcasting
Tim Miller thinks that Hurd’s shiny dreams depend on a GOP that doesn’t exist.
Let’s start here: 2024 will not be, as the Atlantic’s headline puts it, “the revenge of the normal Republicans.” At least not in the sense that Hurd and Alberta mean it.
There is not a reservoir of support out there for “Republican” candidates like Hurd who don’t care about trans athletes or CRT, feel anguished over George Floyd’s death, think Donald Trump should have been impeached, and believe “the letter next to my name should matter less than my message.”
Tucker’s Russia “expert”.
You hate to see it.
Very bold of Trump to assume the Russians have dirt on Hunter Biden they passed on releasing for the 2020 election and were just randomly saving for April 2022. You can smell the desperation.
Simple. The Republicans think of the Republican Party as their nation. Thus it is not treason to work with Putin. Trump takes it a step further. Like the Sun King and Henry Vlll, rulers by divine right, he is the nation. That's why a wife of Henry Vlll who cheated on him had committed treason. Only when a Venn diagram shows a complete overlap of America and the Republican Party will they think of America as their nattion. They really do believe they have the divine right to rule. See Mark Meadows.