Your Sunday Morning BFDs
Plus: Our weekly Bulwark mailbag
Four stories that richly deserve your attention this fine Sunday morning:
(1) Chris Wallace bails on Fox News.
This story is both stunning and significant.
And, yes, a story can be shocking, but ultimately not at all that important. Chris Wallace’s abrupt departure is both, because Wallace was one of the last redoubts of journalistic integrity at Fox, and it comes at a moment when the network’s careen toward crackpottery seems utterly uncontrolled.
Josh Rogin @joshroginChris Wallace announces that after 18 years, today was his last time hosting @FoxNewsSunday. "I have decided to leave FOX. I want to try something new."
Variety is reporting that Wallace is headed to CNN+, a new video-streaming outlet service is expected to debut next year. (We don’t know for sure yet.)
As Axios notes, Wallace’s departure is part of a wider changing of the guard:
Wallace marks the latest in a string of cable news host departures and shakeups in the past few weeks and months.
NBC News' Brian Williams signed off from his 11 p.m. program on MSNBC last week after 28 years with the network.
CNN's Chris Cuomo was terminated from the network last Saturday following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal, leaving CNN's 9 p.m. primetime spot open.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is expected to leave her daily program next year as she pursues different types of journalism endeavors with the network, which will leave MSNBC's 9 p.m. primetime spot open.
Keep your eye on the fall-out from this one.
(2) Lordy, they put the coup in writing.
By now, you have undoubtedly heard about the PowerPoint presentation that, among other things, recommended that Trump “declare a national emergency to delay the certification of the election results,” based in part on “a claim that China and Venezuela had obtained control over the voting infrastructure in a majority of states.”
Former White House COS Mark Meadows turned the 36-page document over to the January 6 committee, which is now examining the amazing piece of work. There are conflicting claims about its significance, but we do know three things about it:
This plan to overthrow the election and perhaps declare martial law was widely circulated and discussed at the highest levels of the White House staff. The author, claims that he spoke with Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times”.
The coup plan was shared with members of Congress and the right-wing media on the eve of the Insurrection… none of whom blew the whistle on it. Ex-CBS staffer and newly minted Fox News crackpot Lara Logan basically tweeted the whole thing out on January 5.
“The role played after the election by Waldron is another example of how the president aligned himself with a cast of fringe personalities as he worked to sabotage the U.S. democratic process.” —Wapo
So, yes, it is a BFD. This thread from Robert Costa is also worth your time:
But despite all of these docs and PowerPts, the most revealing thing of this period isn't a document. It's what he says to Pence on Jan. 5. At the end of the day, Trump isn't looking to these docs to make his case. He looks to the gathering mob in the streets. (Ch. 43, "Peril")
"If these people say you had the power, wouldn't you want to?" Trump asked. "I wouldn't want any one person to have that authority," Pence said. "But wouldn't it almost be cool to have that power?" Trump asked. "No," Pence said.
On Thursday, we spoke with the Atlantic’s Barton Gellman about his cover story in the new Atlantic: “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun; January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.”
(3) The weekend tornados are setting a series of records — all of them ghastly and ominous.
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service are surveying damage to determine whether this week’s storm was a single tornado or several. If it was a single tornado traveling on the ground without interruption for 250 miles, it will rank as the longest tornado track in U.S. history and the first to cross through four states.
As the death toll is expected to swell, it will become the deadliest December tornado outbreak on record and potentially among the most deadly in any month. Until Friday night, the deadliest December outbreak occurred on Dec. 5, 1953, which killed 38 people in Vicksburg, Miss.
(4) Turnaround is fair play?
As predicted. Via Reuters:
California Governor Gavin Newsom said he plans to use a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling on strict abortion curbs in Texas to design a law that would allow private citizens to sue some gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers.
The Supreme Court on Friday left in effect the Texas law that enables private citizens to sue anyone who performs or assists a woman in getting an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.
We Get Mail
As usual, we were inundated with feedback from our readers this week. Please keep your rants, raves, darts, and laurels coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. (And, a reminder that Bulwark+ members can comment on any Morning Shots.)
Certainly mockery is a weak response to an authoritarian attack on democracy but it seems a staple even in war. George III was mocked, Hitler was mocked, etc., including by people who took far more pragmatic and serious attempts to defeat them.
I don't think Tom Nichols hit the target but he's aiming at the right target: messaging. [You can listen to our podcast conversation with Tom here.]
We're faced with an unprecedented situation. Look at how long it took cable news to get around to calling Trump a liar on-air.
Trump supporters mock us and Never-Trumpers mock them but that misses the enormous difference, the fundamental asymmetry, between one major political party fighting policy battles within the rules of the game and the other major political party that believes:
That bad guys are rigging the system and stealing our culture, our social reality, so we are the aggrieved victims of an unfair system and therefore voter suppression, election nullification, and the use of force or the threat of force to install a minority authoritarian government to protect our economic, legal, and other forms of culture property is morally justified;
The autocratic leader who will fight for us and help us preserve what is ours is Donald Trump and, eventually, his “rightful” (and no doubt more competent) successor and he must be returned to power through all means necessary;
and those elite legal, scientific, journalistic, religious, legislative, educational, judicial, and other democratic institutions (such as the career civil service) that stand in his - and our - way must be delegitimized and terrorized into subservience or irrelevance. QAnon, the Big Lie, eating cattle feed to ward off COVID, and other natural and supernatural conspiracy theories are a feature not a bug of the insurrection.
This excerpt from David Jolly on Deadline: Whitehouse put it so well I re-ran the audio multiple times to get it word for word.
NICOLE WALLACE: Where does this embrace of violence come from and where does it end, David?
DAVID JOLLY: It comes from the top.
Also who we are - but we also try to teach ourselves away from this.
... when political leadership steps in and taps into that basic human instinct of fear then we’re willing to accept violence and this is the most critical point that Republicans have leaned into Nicole, really, in the last 5 - 10 years.
It used to be the political debate around the major parties and major candidates was around the fairness implications of policies: from taxes to education to immigration.
What’s fair? Who are the winners and losers in society? And they would fight on behalf of certain constituencies.
But what has happened in the last five years as a part of these culture wars, based largely in race and demographics, is Donald Trump and political leaders on the right today are telling their constituency is that something is being taken from you. The Big Lie is that your vote was taken from you, democracy was taken from you. Critical Race Theory is that your place in society, your privilege, is being taken from you. Giving civil rights and justice to the LGBT community suggests that your personal convictions and religious convictions are being taken from you.
And the reason that narrative is so powerful is that now it’s not about the fairness of policy. Now it is about protecting what is yours.
If something is being taken from you then any action to save that is now justifiable, including violence.
And that is what Donald Trump and Republican leaders are flirting with. It is why it is so critical. It is an inflection point right now that if we don’t get ourselves back from it now violence will become the norm and something we have to protect against in every election cycle.
Deadline White House with Nicolle Wallace (November 22, 2021)
And, as always, I am so grateful for the important work you folks are doing.
Dear Mr. Sykes,
First, thanks so much for all you do. Second, I am writing to you today to hopefully share some encouraging news from the “great” state of Tennessee.
I am a lobbyist based in Nashville and earlier today I attended a Tennessee Chamber public affairs conference where former Senator Bob Corker was a guest speaker. During his talk, the moderator asked Senator Corker about his experience serving on the Foreign Affairs committee.
The Senator took this as an opportunity to say, “the main thing I observed in my travels while serving on this committee was how very much America means to people around the world and let me tell you, (at this point he was on the edge of his seat and nearly shouting) when someone in Africa is sitting with their solar powered phone, watching Americans scale the walls of the capitol building, it means something. We cannot let this ever happen again. America needs to fix this problem and do better.” It was not necessarily surprising to hear Senator Corker say this but what was surprising is that he received a standing ovation from a room full of Republicans for saying this.
I know there are so many “good Republicans” going along with the crazy but seeing today that there might also be an appetite for a return to respectable chamber of commerce style Republicanism was a very heartening thing to witness.
Please keep up the amazing work!
All the best,
I am a retired psychiatric social worker. During the last 15 years of my work, my continuing education was focused on personality disorders (PD), intractable conditions unresponsive to conventional treatment, much like mental impairment.
I have been trying to interpret the Trumpian version of the GOP through that lens. There is one disorder that recently came into sharper focus: Sadistic Personality Disorder. One of the pioneers in the the field was the late Theodore Millon, PhD.
Dr. Millon created subtypes of SPD:
1. Spineless sadism
2. Tyrannical sadism;
3.Enforcing sadism; and
4. Explosive sadism.
The first two covers the majority of current GOP bad faith actors and headline grabbers. Feel free to add your own, or add acolytes and media stars!
Top GOP members: Cruz, Gosar, Paul, Kennedy, Hawley, Gohmert, McCarthy, Gaetz, Boebert, Greene, Cawthorn, Jordan. Hon. Mention: Abbott, DeSantis
Relishes menacing and brutalizing others, forcing them to cower and submit; verbally cutting and scathing, accusatory and destructive; intentionally surly, abusive, inhumane, unmerciful.
Top GOP members: Donald J. Trump
I hope your readers find this provocative...
Wayne Isbell, LMSW
A few thoughts on Chris Truax's piece this morning arguing that Lauren Boebert shouldn't be stripped of her committee assignments.
1. Mr. Truax essentially says that members of Congress are oppositional and therefore should simply accept that they will draw personal attacks that would be unacceptable in any other workplace, but clearly there is a line. Would he be ok if one representative talked about another negatively because of the colour of their skin? Or because of their gender? Or sexuality?
It's one thing to say "I think 'x' is an idiot because they support 'y' policy" and another to impugn someone based on factors like race and religion. This moves into the territory of bigotry and should not be accepted in any workplace. Also, the wrestling analogy is a terrible one because it says that Ilhan Omar effectively signed up for a job that, by definition, would subject her to racist and/or Islamophobic comments. Surely this is not something that Americans want to accept from their government?
2. I very much appreciate the slippery slope argument, and yet the alternative proposed by Mr Rruax appears to be that the majority party should just let it slide when the minority party is engaged in bigotry and hatred. His argument rests on the fact that this is democracy at work, warts and all.
But even if Boebert is stripped of her committee assignments, she remains a member of Congress does she not? And thus can still represent her constituents and their views within government? Moreover, what about the views of the millions of Americans who find Boebert's comments abhorrent? I have to believe that the majority of Americans do, surely an argument can be made that a democracy should ensure that their will gets implemented over the 700,000 people that Boebert represents?
And finally, Mr. Truax says that the ballot box is the best way to counter people like Boebert, but does not stripping her of committee assignments create a powerful incentive for voters to elect someone else less awful on the basis that they can wield more influence in Washington and thus be able to help their constituents more?
Ok, the answer to that is actually "no" because #culturewars > governing, but it should be "yes" in a more sensible society. And yes, the GOP will definitely strip Dems of committee assignments. I honestly don't know what the best path forward is here but just felt there were a lot of logical holes in this piece that needed highlighting.
Otherwise, keep up the good work at the Bulwark!
P.S. Quoting MLK that "Violence is the language of the unheard". Seriously? Mr. Truax thinks Boebert (and, by extension, her constituents) would become "unheard" were she to lose her committee assignments? If only......
We Get More Mail
I am just a citizen asking a simple question: Why aren’t conservatives breaking from the currently-dangerous Republican party and starting a new national party for conservatives and moderates who accept the rule of law and care about the future of the Republic? It seems to me an overlooked tactic.
Whenever “third party” talk comes up, you hear about how they are not successful. But “success” is a function of what is defined as success. In the current situation, with the Republican party in the hands of authoritarian extremists for the immediate future (this is increasingly incontrovertible, in spite of wishful thinking), anything that can stem that tide is desirable.
A new center-right, pro-democracy party can help break the fever. For those who are real conservatives, holding their noses and voting Democratic may not be very appealing, nor staying home. Having an actual place to stand which is an actual party, closer to one’s political beliefs than what many can find in the Republican party today, can accomplish several goals:
It gives the 30% or whatever that number is, of non-Trumpist Republicans a real option, a banner to stand under, a party structure and primaries outside the reach of those who only believe in fealty to Trump.
It can attract a significant donor class – what better way for a corporation to support both its interests and democracy? Give them a place to express their support of democracy.
Those “former Republicans,” like George Conway, Tim Miller, Charlie Sykes, Bill Kristol, Ewan McMullin, Christine Todd Whitman, Miles Taylor – you get the idea – would love it (or should!). Reagan & Bush Republicans as well – they are out there, really.
A significant number of current Independents would join.
Efforts, like the Lincoln Project, that have infrastructures already (emails, donor sources, personnel) could join forces with other like-minded and come aboard.
Most importantly, it can syphon off votes from Trumpist candidates in 2022 & 2024. This is a powerful tactic to ward off the potentially disastrous wins by the current party. Like the Conservative Party in NY of my youth, it can endorse non-Trumpist Republican candidates, run their own, depending on local situations.
This party can bring conservative views back into the national conversation. This Trumpist-Republican party is not interested in governing. Democrats would welcome the reemergence of a “loyal opposition,” rather than what is happening now.
Final point: Hopefully it will no longer be needed in the future (how long is unclear). Today, however, we need to break the glass and all do everything we can – from the left, center and right -- to get through this. (Democrats can’t do this themselves.)
I wouldn’t presume to list the planks in this party – that is a function of their first convention – other than a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power, belief in the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution. That is not what the current Republican party represents, amazingly enough.
As Jelani Cobb wrote in the New Yorker:
“The Federalists collapsed because they failed to expand their demographic appeal; the Whigs because of internal incoherence over what they stood for in the nation’s most crucial debate. Among the more striking dynamics of the Trump-era Republican Party is the extent to which it is afflicted by both of these failings.”
Thank you for helping spread this idea. I’d love to see it gain traction.