What Were You Thinking?
The Best of Morning Shots
While I’m off, some flashbacks from Morning Shots past. Plus today’s Quick Hits from The Bulwark homepage.
Near the end of the miniseries Band of Brothers, the guys from Easy Company are shown riding in a convoy of trucks past a bedraggled column of German prisoners, some of whom are riding in carts drawn by horses.
Private David Webster is appalled by the scene and shouts at them:
Hey, you! That's right, you stupid Kraut bastards! That's right! Say hello to Ford, and General fuckin' Motors! You stupid fascist pigs! Look at you! You have horses! What were you thinking? Dragging our asses half way around the world, interrupting our lives... For what, you ignorant, servile scum! What the fuck are we doing here?
I woke up this morning thinking about him.
Admittedly, the parallels are hardly exact, but as I’m looking over the clusterfuck of American conservatism on this almost-Christmas Eve, I feel a kinship with Webster.
What were you thinking? You cowardly, ignorant, servile scum?
It’s not like you were not warned. Again and again.
It’s not as if it wasn’t obvious from the very beginning who Donald Trump was. You had to know it would come to something like this.
Now look at you. You have Trump.
You’ve dragged this country into this place: more than 323,000 dead Americans, a president plotting to steal an election, whispers of military coups, pardons for crooks and war criminals, a potential constitutional crisis, and a possible government shutdown. And, after four interminable years, a nation that is dumber, crueler, and more divided.
For what? What the fuck are we doing here?
Let me repeat this: none of this is new. As far back as August 2015, I wrote that Trump was “a cartoon version of every left-wing media stereotype of the reactionary, nativist, misogynist right.”
Back then there was still time to say no. Some of us desperately made the case that he was a disaster. In May 2016, in the last appearance I will ever make on Fox News, I said:
Donald Trump is a serial liar, a con man who mocks the disabled and women. He’s a narcissist and a bully, a man with no fixed principles who has the vocabulary of an emotionally insecure nine-year-old. So no, I don’t want to give him control of the IRS, the FBI, and the nuclear codes. That’s just me.
But you went along with it. You thought you could ride it out. You thought the tradeoffs were worth it. You thought you could Make America Great with this ignorant, petulant man-child.
One conservative commentator after another torched their reputations, if not their consciences, polishing the orange turds.
The anti-anti-Trumpers sat it out, or spent their time assuring us it wasn’t so bad and that the real threat was radical woke socialists like… Joe Biden. When they weren’t actually concocting elaborate defenses for Trump’s mendacity, they rationalized, or played an endless game of whataboutism.
Back in June, my colleague Sarah Longwell asked the same question that’s nagging me today:
Did they really think that putting a man bereft of character, decency, and empathy in charge of the country wouldn’t make a difference?
Did they really think that dismissing each instance of his racism, bullying, fecklessness, megalomania, corruption, lies, and stupidity it wouldn’t have a cumulative effect?
From the day he came down the escalator, Trump promised to burn it all down. And now Conservatism Inc. is surprised the country is on fire?
What did they think was going to happen?
So don’t pretend you are really surprised. You may be appalled by what you are seeing, but nothing that is happening now — the reckless attacks on constitutional norms, the flood of lies and conspiracy theories, the bullying, insults, or chaos — is inconsistent in any way with what you have known for years.
But you truckled, wheedled, and hoped he’d eat you last.
And here we are, you miserable bastards.
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The GOP Becomes The D*ck Pic Party
On Sunday afternoon, Bill Kristol paid homage to a fading political tradition. “Bob Dole's death makes me think of other great figures of the modern Senate, senators like Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, Howard Baker, Pat Moynihan, John McCain, and Dole.” And he quoted from the Book of Genesis:
"There were giants on the earth in those days...Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown."
I, on the other hand, was talking about d*ck pics.
I think I should explain.
The Packers had a bye-week, so on Sunday afternoon I was on a panel asked to discuss this tweet posted by Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie just days after the latest mass school shooting:
This, obviously, had nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas, and really was not about the Second Amendment, either. His flagrant display of firepower was intended to trigger, and flaunt.
It was, in other words, the gun zealot’s equivalent of a d*ck pic.
MSNBC anchor Lindsey Reiser piped up: “Sorry, everybody, I’m not sure we can say that, Charlie!”
Sykes, founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and frequent MSNBC contributor, apologized for “being offensive.” But he added, referring to Massie’s equipment: “He’s basically trying to show off. He’s trying to trigger to get the reaction.”
He added: “That is not designed to make a serious argument ... It is designed to show off in this fetish kind of way.”
The website “Raw Story,” reported: “Charlie Sykes stuns MSNBC host with lewd description of Thomas Massie’s gun photo as like pic of his privates.” And, for that, I suppose I should apologize.
Massie is a not a serious man, and his performative assholery did not deserve a serious or respectful response. Posting this photo has the same relationship to responsible gun ownership as sending out a d*ck pic does to genuine romance.
Unfortunately, it also seems to capture so much of what the post-policy, post-governing GOP has become these days.
His Christmas tweet — with its callous and vicious indifference to the latest gun-related tragedy — was not about any coherent idea at all, but it fits a pattern. As the GOP becomes an ever-more unserious party, its pols increasingly compensate for their various inadequacies by flaunting their hardware.
For a certain class of GOP politicians, this gun cosplay is a subset of their obsession with faux toughness. But it also reflects the way that triggering memes have displaced the business of governing, or even the attempt to govern. Who needs statesmanship, when we can text out pictures of our big guns?
It should be noted that, at one point, Massie himself seemed to understand what was happening. Back in 2017, he explained:
"All this time, I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans. But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand [Paul] and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren't voting for libertarian ideas—they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along."
Now, however, Massie seems intent on snatching the “Craziest SOB” title back for himself. But the competition is fierce.
Who, after all, can forget this great moment in American statesmanship? When Ted Cruz fried up some bacon on the barrel of a machine gun, because, well, you know.
And, of course this:
And, um, this:
One final thought here:
Bob Dole was genuine war hero. He didn’t dress up as a soldier. He was one. He was a member of a generation for whom weapons of war were not props, but deadly realities.
He was the real thing. Thomas Massie, on the other hand, is a clown, who feels the need to show off his stuff.
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1. Are Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ a Nothingburger?
Over the weekend, the Twitter/Musk debacle went into overdrive as Musk escalated his trolling with a sneering call for the prosecution of Anthony Fauci and began to drop innuendo that Yoel Roth—who had left Twitter after an initially amicable relationship with the new boss—was either a pedophile or a “groomer” promoting child sexualization. Meanwhile, the Twitter Files chronicled Twitter’s internal flailing about how to handle Donald Trump after the January 6th riot and suggested that he was unjustly banned even though his tweets that day technically did not violate any rules. Together, these threads activated the true fever swamp of the online right: the January 6th apologists and the pedophilia-obsessed QAnon crowd. Even Pizzagaters from six years ago have resurfaced, latching on to the false rumor that former Twitter Trust and Safety Council member Lesley Podesta, an Australian policy consultant and former government official, was the niece of John D. Podesta, the Democratic party operative whose mention of pizza in hacked emails in 2016 somehow came to be seen as a code word for a child sex ring. Is Musk instigating a dive into far-right Trumpian conspiracy theory?
2. Clock’s Ticking on Electoral Count Act Fix
First, there’s the concern that the grounds listed for objecting to Electoral College ballots—that the ballots were not “lawfully certified” or “regularly given”—are not explicitly defined in the Senate version of the bill. The House version of the bill is very explicit and narrow about the grounds for legitimately objecting to electoral slates. Second, Lofgren and Cheney note that some decades-old federal court rulings hold that the federal judiciary must not get involved in cases determining which candidate in an election has won the most votes. The House version of the bill clarifies that federal courts do have jurisdiction in litigation relating to the certification of presidential elections; the Senate bill does not.
3. You’re Only Leaving Trump Now?
Marc Thiessen’s indictment . . . said the reasons for dumping Trump go beyond his sudden declarations of contempt for the judiciary and the Constitution and the rule of law. There’s also the fact that Trump “has descended into a spiral of conspiracy theories and personal grievances. He has surrounded himself with the political dregs.” . . . As for surrounding himself with “the political dregs,” just who exactly was surrounding Trump before? Paragons of virtue like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Rudy Giuliani? It is just not possible to go downhill from there.
4. The GOP Preps for Another Debt Ceiling Crisis
This history is remarkably resonant after this year’s midterm elections, although there is one notable difference between then and now: The GOP’s current position is dramatically weaker than it was in 1995.