It is a truth universally acknowledged that the American Left believes its own propaganda. That’s a major reason the #SchumerShutdown was routed—it tuned out, despite Main Stream Media mewling and pervasive pollaganda, that Americans really didn’t want their government paralyzed in order to Amnesty a bunch of undocumented Democrats. But the most dramatic recent example: the extraordinary success of Michael Wolff’s book Fire And Fury, purportedly an expose of the Trump White House after it trustingly (and inexplicably) granted him access. With blatant calculation, Wolff tells the Left, and America’s entire Ruling Class, exactly what it wants to hear about Trump—that he’s a moron, buffoon, ignoramus, etc. An accident! Go back to sleep!
(Similarly, my old friend David Frum has ensured that he and his social-climbing wife will continue to be invited to Georgetown dinner parties, despite being nominal Republicans, by dismissing, in his just-released Trumpocracy, Trump’s 2016 triumph as an “Electoral College fluke.”)
Still, although Wolff’s slick novelistic style deliberately makes it hard to say where fact ends and fiction begins, I do think his account of Trump’s reaction to the scandalous Democrat repression of the Charlottesville Unite The Right rally “rings true” (as the saying goes). And it’s one reason I continue to be (guardedly) hopeful that Trump’s latest DACA dalliance could end well.
But first, a couple of caveats.
My reaction: I’m sure this is persuasive to readers who (unlike Wolff) have not worked closely with men at the apex of their professions. But it’s actually very common. It’s how they tend to respond to stress, impossible multitasking demands, intense time pressure, clashing aggressive subordinates, incessant deadlines etc. etc.
In fact, Wolff’s description of Trump in action reminds me very much of my time with a specimen from a very different American—Mormon—subculture: Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Precisely because Orrin could not be relied upon/ did not have time to read memos, aides had to spend a great of time trying to lobby him on the hoof while he galloped down the echoing Senate Office Building corridors—and then onto the train, Senators have an underground train to the Capitol! —on his way to a vote. (It’s a weird system).
One exceptionally able Hatch aide spent a great deal of time lobbying to get an assistant simply because she knew Senators’ offices have two doors, one permitting the Senator to leave though the anteroom and another directly into the corridor—and both had to be covered if you wanted to grab him.
Once, probably to persuade him to become President by opposing Affirmative Action, I went out to his McMansion in McLean VA and drove him into to Capitol Hill. It obviously didn’t work, but I remember him saying, as we passed though DuPont Circle, “This is where all the HOMOsexuals live.” When I admitted I lived there, there was a short silence, after which he said: “We have to get you married.”
As I say, America has subcultures.
I did subsequently marry, and was a little sorry (foolishly, see above) that he did not think to wow my Canadian in-laws by sending congratulations. But he did later tell me (sincerely): “Your wife is a beautiful woman.”
Of course, this requires us to accept that
were all, in David Frum’s words, a “fluke.”
VDARE.com had nothing whatever to do with the August 12 Unite The Right rally in defense of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville—we were not invited and we did not (for no particular reason) publicize it—but nevertheless we still lost our PayPal facility and were cancelled out of a conference. Quite obviously, this was a coordinated Leftist pogrom, very similar to the Trayvon Martin hysteria in 2012, although this time directed against the Dissident Right in general rather than that year's Republican office-seekersin particular.
Wolff’s account of this is characteristically dishonest:
[a]lmost no one paid attention to the announcement by the Trump supporter and American neo-Nazi Richard Spencer that he was organizing a protest at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. “Unite the Right,” the theme of the rally called for Saturday, August 12, was explicitly designed to link Trump’s politics with white nationalism.
In fact, Spencer, who has certainly never acknowledged that he is a neo-Nazi, had by then long broken with Trump over his tolerance of the Deep State’s war in Syria, and was clearly continuing his campaign to build an independent movement.
Wolff does admit that
Opposing the demonstrators was a hardened, militant left called to the barricades. You could hardly have better set an end-times scene, no matter the limited numbers of protesters. Much of the morning involved a series of charges and countercharges—a rocks-and-bottles combat, with a seemingly hands-off police force standing by.
This is not, in fact, the worst description of Charlottesville I’ve seen— David Frum emotes [Chapter 5 of Trumpocracy] that it was “Nazis and white supremacists on the rampage”—but it does evade the fact that a demonstration that a federal judge had ruled legal was suppressed by elected, uniformed, civilian and paramilitary Democrats. Subsequently, of course, the independent Heaphy Report has confirmed what VDARE.com reported at the time: that Charlottesville police were complicit in Leftist violence.
The Orwellian Two-Minute Hate that followed Charlottesville was extraordinary even to veterans of American Moral Panics. It represented the most extraordinary inversion of reality by Fake News since the MSM/ Ruling Class convinced of Americans that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11— a deception, come to think of it, in which David Frum was deeply involved. A Joint Resolution of Congress condemned—unanimously—“White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups” for “violence and domestic terrorist attack,” an action that might well have serious legal import, even before the Heaphy Report had confirmed Leftist violence or, for that matter, the actual trial of alleged car murderer James Alex Fields, who might well turn out to be the next George Zimmerman.
Significantly, however, President Trump defied this Resolution in a small way. He signed it, but attached a “signing statement,” a tool that Presidents have increasingly used to place an interpretation on legislation that might influence its implementation. Trump’s statement said that Americans “oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all its forms,” but did not condemn a specific group, obstinately sticking with his much-denounced contention that there was blame on both sides [Faced with an up-or-down choice on Charlottesville resolution, Trump chooses third option, by Gregory Korte, USA Today, September 15, 2017]
Why did Trump take this extraordinarily contrarian step—in the teeth of overwhelming Establishment opinion, outside and inside the White House?(Right, John Kelly's visible cringing at the press conference became a meme.)
It wasn’t the much-maligned Steve Bannon. Trump was at his Bedminster golf club when Charlottesville blew and Bannon, apparently a symptom of his weakening status, had not been invited. Wolff writes:
The main event in Bedminster that day was the ceremonial signing of an act extending the funding of a program that let veterans obtain medical care outside VA hospitals. The signing was held in a big ballroom at the Clubhouse two hours after Alex Field’s attack.
During the signing, Trump took a moment to condemn the “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides” in Charlottesville. Almost immediately, the president came under attack for the distinction he had appeared to refuse to draw between avowed racists and the other side. As Richard Spencer had correctly understood, the president’s sympathies were muddled. However easy and obvious it was to condemn white racists—even self-styled neo-Nazis—he instinctively resisted. [Emphases added].
(I must say that I don’t think Spencer cared one way or the other about Trump, who had already denounced him and the Alt Right after Hailgate. But of course Spencer knew that his value to the Main Stream Media was that they could use him to smear Trump).
Trump then did call Bannon:
…Trump sought help making his case: “Where does this all end? Are they going to take down the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, Mount Vernon?” Bannon—still not receiving his summons to Bedminster—urged this to be the line: the president should condemn violence and misfits and also defend history (even with Trump’s weak grasp of it). Stressing the literal issue of monuments would bedevil the left and comfort the right.
Note that Trump already knew his stand: Bannon was simply advising him to move the debate into areas where he knew Trump had overwhelming public support.
In contrast, Jared and Ivanka wanted Trump to issue a forceful censure of hate groups and racial politics Bannon sensibly said that that this would backfire: It will be clear his heart’s not in it.
(This is exactly what I said in the Wall Street Journal when I was interviewed by Scott Calvert. [August 14, 2017] )
As [Trump] got back on Marine One to head to Andrews Air Force Base and on to JFK and then into Manhattan and Trump Tower, his mood was dark and I-told-you-so. Privately, he kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK—that is, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed, and the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe, and, anyway, who really knows what the KKK believes now? In fact, he said, his own father was accused of being involved with the KKK—not true. (In fact, yes, true.)
Putting aside the smear (as far as I know unproven, and anyway this would have been the basically non-violent Second Klan), what this shows is a Trump far more judicious and intellectually curious than the fundamentally hysterical MSM/ Ruling Class. And of course, he was right: for example, Unite The Right contained peaceful Southern heritage groups like the League of the South.
The next day, Tuesday, August 15, the White House had a news conference scheduled at Trump Tower. Bannon urged Kelly to cancel it. It was a nothing conference anyway. Its premise was about infrastructure—about undoing an environmental regulation that could help get projects started faster—but it was really just another effort to show that Trump was working and not just on a holiday. So why bother? What’s more, Bannon told Kelly, he could see the signs: the arrow on the Trump pressure cooker was climbing, and before long he’d blow.
The news conference went ahead anyway. Standing at the lectern in the lobby of Trump Tower, the president stayed on script for mere minutes. Defensive and self-justifying, he staked out a contrition-is-bunk, the-fault-lies-everywhere-else position and then dug in deep. He went on without an evident ability to adjust his emotions to political circumstance or, really, even to make an effort to save himself. It was yet one more example, among his many now, of the comic-absurd, movielike politician who just says whatever is on his mind. Unmediated. Crazylike.
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, altright? Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands? As far as I’m concerned that was a horrible, horrible day…. I think there’s blame on both sides. I have no doubt about it, you don’t have any doubt about it. If you reported it accurately, you would see.”
Steve Bannon, still waiting in his temporary office in the EOB, thought, Oh my god, there he goes. I told you so. (Emphasis added).
Wolff regards this as proof that Trump is “without an evident ability to adjust his emotions to political circumstance” because he is a conventional Leftist bigot who will not look at the facts. Trump, in contrast, had actually seen the “Alt Left…charging with clubs in their hands” when his campaign rallies in California and Chicago were disrupted and cancelled. (The photo at right was taken at Charlottesville.) He knew first-hand the “political circumstance” that there is a Totalitarian Left in the U.S. And in fact opinion polls found his stand was popular, although it caused an elite opinion meltdown.
Of course, Trump’s reaction was not perfect. What he should have done is denounce Virginia Democratic officials for abrogating Unite The Rights’s First Amendment rights and cause the Justice Department to bring charges of Civil Rights violations. This would, at a stroke, have revolutionized the debate.
Nevertheless, Trump’s raw instincts were remarkable. Clearly, he had absolutely no support in the White House, let alone in the political class, and certainly not on cable television upon which he is allegedly dependent. Somehow, he found the insight and strength to defy them.
Which brings me Trump’s latest DACA dalliance. For some reason, he has long apparently felt the need to appear to propitiate elite opinion that the DACAns should be allowed to keep the fruits of their parent’s crimes—unlike the children of burglars. And of course his current offer to the Democrats is appalling.
But Trump has wobbled before on immigration. He’s always come back. (See here, here, here).
The instincts that erupted in Sh*tholegate must still be seething below the surface.
Peter Brimelow [Email him] is the editor of VDARE.com. His best-selling book, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster, is now available in Kindle format. Follow Peter Brimelow on Twitter.