Unconditional Support, Unfounded Claims, and Uncommon Artistry
A look at selective blindness, the need for COVID villains, and an impressive journalistic track record.
For Better, For Worse
Bernie Goldberg’s column this week illustrates a point about persistent Trump loyalists that I’ve thought about many times, but haven’t dedicated much writing to. That’s because I feel that the individuals he’s addressing, who haven’t already considered the point on their own (and come to recognize a glaring flaw in their reasoning) probably never will.
In other words, it’s a perspective that strikes me as pretty hopeless, and there’s literally nothing I or anyone else could say to get such people to reevaluate their position. But… since Bernie tackled the topic, I figured I’d go ahead and throw my two-cents worth in anyway.
In his piece, Bernie essentially argues that the “lesser of two evils” rationale for supporting Donald Trump with one’s vote was perfectly defensible in 2016 and 2020. It wasn’t a voting methodology Bernie personally subscribed to, but he understood and respected the decision of those who did. But now, he suggests that same argument is no longer coherent… not unless you’re in genuine denial of some critical facts, or your sense of proportionality has been direly compromised (my phrasing, not his).
People can effectively argue that Trump’s policies, as president, were — by and large — better than Biden’s policies (as well as the proposed policies of whoever the Democrats end up nominating in 2024). Likewise, they can argue that Trump’s cultural stances on various issues were better than those of Democratic leaders. They can tout superiority on other one-to-one comparisons as well. There’s certainly plenty of room for disagreement in all those areas, but such pro-Trump arguments do, at minimum, make sense.
But their “sell by” date, Bernie contends, was roughly election night of 2020.
Trump spent the next two months lying that the election had been stolen (a lie he still tells), trying to overturn the democratic results of that election to stay in power, and causing a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol that denied our country, for the first time ever, of its peaceful transfer of power.
How can someone do all that, Bernie wonders, and still be considered the “lesser evil” when compared to a political rival who’s done none of those things, nor anything remotely comparable?
If one considers themself a patriot, the only way to maintain the notion that Trump is the “lesser evil” is to deny the reality of what he did during his last two months in office, or to completely abandon all sense of proportionality. Our system of democracy, after all, is the bedrock of our nation. It’s not just some policy stance or leadership characteristic. It’s the rule of law, the public foundation from which our country is governed.
As Bernie makes clear (and so will I) pointing these things out is not a defense of Joe Biden, who we both agree is a terrible president. It’s a defense of our democracy, and a condemnation of an individual who went to extraordinary, previously unthinkable lengths to try and circumvent our democracy… for the purpose of remaining in power.
So, when I see that roughly 75% of Republicans want Trump as the GOP’s 2024 nominee, or when I hear people casually state that they’d vote for him again because of his policies, or because he’s better than any Democrat, it sounds about as crazy to me as if they’d just suggested that the NFL, NBC Sports, or the Hertz Corporation hire back O.J. Simpson — you know, because he was a great football player, a fun commentator, and a highly effective commercial spokesman.
Even if you subscribe to that complimentary portrayal being true (as I would), wouldn’t you be ignoring a rather significant part of his biography that would clearly illustrate just how terrible of an idea it would be to rehire the guy?
And no, I’m not saying that Donald Trump is O.J.Simpson. My point is that once you remove tribal politics from an equation, the agony of tortured, highly-selective logic suddenly becomes much more recognizable.
The Bombshell COVID Admission That Wasn’t
The other day, I noticed a number of right-wing outlets and commentators drawing a lot of attention to the alleged “admission” by a Pfizer executive that the company’s COVID-19 vaccine had never been tested to prevent “transmission” of the virus. Those making hay of the report claimed it was proof that the public appeal (which in some cases included mandates) for individuals to get vaccinated “for the safety of those around them” was a lie — a lie by pharmaceutical companies and health experts that had cost a number of people, who refused to get vaccinated, their jobs.
This didn’t sound right to me on a couple levels.I remembered that the original focus of the vaccines, per guidance from the FDA, wasn’t to prevent transmission from already infected individuals, but rather to reduce people’s chances of becoming infected in the first place. I didn’t recall the vaccines being billed in any other way, and certainly didn’t remember anyone from Pfizer or elsewhere claim to have invented a product that stopped transmission of the virus.
Upon looking back on what was written about the vaccines at the time, including what the FDA was saying, it seems I was right. It was real-world data out of Israel, weeks after mass-vaccinations had begun, that demonstrated not only the vaccines’ protective abilities, but also their effectiveness in reducing transmission from those infected — a welcome, added benefit. (Keep in mind that this was all in regard to that original strain of the coronavirus; the later variations changed a few things, including the vaccination’s effectiveness in reducing transmission).
There’s plenty of legitimate criticism to go around about how various officials and institutions handled the pandemic, but this particular criticism of Pfizer seems completely unfounded.
Take a Bow, Jonathan Swan
There have been a number of big revelations throughout the January 6 hearings. They’ve included just how many people in Trump’s inner circle were telling him he lost the election, the former president’s knowledge beforehand that people in the crowd he riled up were armed, his conscious refusal to do nothing to help stop the riot once it started, and most recently his acknowledgment behind closed doors that Joe Biden had in fact defeated him.
But some of the information, that appalled many of those watching, had previously been reported — granted to relatively little fanfare at the time — by Axios reporter, Jonathan Swan.
One of the bigger items was Trump’s plan to prematurely declare victory on election night. Believe it or not, Swan reported this two days before it actually happened, on November 1, 2020, writing:
President Trump has told confidants he'll declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he's "ahead," according to three sources familiar with his private comments. That's even if the Electoral College outcome still hinges on large numbers of uncounted votes in key states like Pennsylvania… Trump has privately talked through this scenario in some detail in the last few weeks, describing plans to walk up to a podium on election night and declare he has won… Trump's team is preparing to falsely claim that mail-in ballots counted after Nov. 3 — a legitimate count expected to favor Democrats — are evidence of election fraud.
Pretty amazing, huh?
Last week, another Swan report — this one from last year — was confirmed by the committee: the discovery that Trump had signed a memo, just days after he lost the election, ordering U.S. troops to completely withdraw from Somalia and Afghanistan by the time his term was up. The committee presented this information as additional evidence that Trump had, in private, recognized he’d been defeated, and wanted to go out with a bang.
On a side note, it’s hard to imagine our abandonment of Afghanistan going any worse than it actually did, but it would seem that cutting out several months of prep time would be one way of assuring it. I’m glad someone in the Trump administration shut it down. If only Biden had enough sense to do the same.
Anyway, Swan should take a bow. He did some of the best reporting of anyone on the inner-workings of the Trump administration. I just wish the significance of some of his findings would have gained more mainstream attention at the time.
Remind Me What the “C” Stands For Again?
I’ve lamented this on Twitter a number of times over the years, but since I kind of went the potpourri route for today’s piece, I figured I’d take the opportunity to do it here.
Just in case anyone needs a reminder that the modern right (as I sometimes call it) has very little use for conservatism these days, consider this recent tweet by MAGA enthusiast and promoter, Matt Schlapp, who runs the American Conservative Union (ACU), which hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) events:
Thumbs up! to that trade, says Matt.
But as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out, the ACU — again, Schlapp’s conservative organization that throws conservative events — gives Cheney a lifetime conservative score of 77, and Kinzinger a 57.
The score they give Gabbard, who just recently dropped her Democratic affiliation: a whopping 8.
What’s important, of course, is that Gabbard rips on Democrats, and says complimentary things about Donald Trump and even Vladimir Putin, which gets her TV spots and even guest-hosting duties on Tucker Carlson’s show.
Of course the modern right can choose whichever heroes they like, but can we at least pull conservatism out of the crossfire, being that it’s an innocent victim in all this?
Lastly… You Never Know Who’s Reading Your Stuff
Now and then (and rather surprisingly), I’m quoted on national television. Last Friday, something I wrote in my piece on the Georgia GOP turned up on Jake Tapper’s CNN show…
I can report that my wife was quite impressed. My right-wing in-laws, not so much. 😄
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