Trump’s Indecent Proposal

One of the most storied, Aaron Sorkin-esque moments in American history—making the rounds today after Donald Trump’s indecent comment on Khizr Khan’s speech at the DNC—is Joseph Welch’s famous confrontation with Joe McCarthy. The date was June 9, 1954; the setting, the Army-McCarthy hearings.

It was then and there that Welch exploded:

Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

People love this moment. It’s when the party of the good and the great finally stared down the forces of the bad and the worst, affirming that this country was in fact good, if not great, rather than bad, if not worse. Within six months, McCarthy would be censured by the Senate. Within three years, he’d be dead.

But there are two little known elements about this famous confrontation.

First, Welch chose his words carefully: Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Joe McCarthy had been running wild for four years, wreaking havoc on the Democrats and then the Republicans. He had been indecent for quite some time. For many people—Welch’s syntax shows, almost unselfconsciously—June 9 marked the moment when McCarthy finally revealed that he had no decency, as opposed to only a very little decency, the moment when he showed America that he had no redeeming qualities at all. Prior to that, it seems, his watchers thought his record murky.

In the four years prior to this confrontation, McCarthy had been riding high. Not merely among the rubes and the yahoos of the Commie-fearing hinterland, but at the highest levels of the Republican Party. McCarthy, as Robert Griffith showed many years ago, was the party’s useful idiot, even darling. No one made the case better that the Democrats were the liberal party of 20 years of treason. It was for that reason that he was favored by the party pooh-bahs and the party faithful.

As I wrote three years ago of the collusion between McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft, nicknamed “Mr. Republican”:

Taft did not merely “allow” the man and the -ism to dominate; Taft actively coddled, encouraged and supported him and it at every turn.

As early as March 23, 1950 — four weeks after McCarthy’s famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia — Taft gave McCarthy his firm support, telling McCarthy, “If one case [accusing a State Department official of being a Red] doesn’t work out, bring up another.” And added, for good measure, “Keep it up, Joe.”

When Truman attacked McCarthy’s speech — no amateur when it came to red-baiting, Truman called McCarthy “the greatest asset the Kremlin has” — Taft responded in kind, accusing Truman of being “bitter and prejudiced” and of “libeling” McCarthy, who was “a fighting Marine.” (Asked whether he had indeed libeled McCarthy, Truman responded, “Do you think that is possible?”)…

In 1951, however, Taft pulled back — after it seemed that McCarthy had gone too far, accusing George Marshall on the Senate floor of aiding the Communist cause….But within weeks, Taft reversed course. In response to a wave of letters from complaining fans of McCarthy, Taft issued a correction in which he downplayed his disagreements with McCarthy (“I often disagree with other Republican senators”) and reaffirmed his support: “Broadly speaking, I approve of Senator McCarthy’s program.”

Just in case there was any doubt about that, Taft personally endorsed McCarthy’s reelection bid during the Wisconsin primary of 1952, claiming that “Senator McCarthy has dramatized the fight to exclude Communists from the State Department. I think he did a great job in undertaking that goal.” He even campaigned for McCarthy — despite the fact that McCarthy never returned the favor by endorsing Taft.

And on at least one occasion (there might have been more), Taft quietly passed information to McCarthy about possible subversion in the State Department, suggesting to McCarthy that one employee deserved “special attention.”

In his confrontation with McCarthy, Welch opens a window onto an even subtler and more corrosive form of establishment collusion with McCarthy.

For many years, Welch had been a partner at Hale and Dorr, a Boston law firm, and had temporarily gone to work as the general counsel to the U.S. Army. That’s how he wound up at the Army-McCarthy hearings. What immediately provoked Welch at those hearings was that McCarthy had launched a broadside against Fred Fisher, a young attorney in Welch’s law firm who had once been a member of the National Lawyers’ Guild, a left-wing outfit that Dwight Eisenhower’s attorney general had called “the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party.”

This is how Welch responded to McCarthy’s charge:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. When I decided to work for this Committee, I asked Jim St. Clair, who sits on my right, to be my first assistant. I said to Jim, “Pick somebody in the firm to work under you that you would like.” He chose Fred Fisher, and they came down on an afternoon plane. That night, when we had taken a little stab at trying to see what the case is about, Fred Fisher and Jim St. Clair and I went to dinner together. I then said to these two young men, “Boys, I don’t know anything about you, except I’ve always liked you, but if there’s anything funny in the life of either one of you that would hurt anybody in this case, you speak up quick.”

And Fred Fisher said, “Mr. Welch, when I was in the law school, and for a period of months after, I belonged to the Lawyers’ Guild,” as you have suggested, Senator. He went on to say, “I am Secretary of the Young Republican’s League in Newton with the son of [the] Massachusetts governor, and I have the respect and admiration of my community, and I’m sure I have the respect and admiration of the twenty-five lawyers or so in Hale & Dorr.” And I said, “Fred, I just don’t think I’m going to ask you to work on the case. If I do, one of these days that will come out, and go over national television, and it will just hurt like the dickens.” And so, Senator, I asked him to go back to Boston.

With that mention of his own interrogation of Fisher and decision not to bring him to DC, Welch was inadvertently testifying the corrosive process by which moderates, centrists, liberals, and leftists—across the country, at all levels of government, in the tiniest corners and most obscure crevices of civil society—cooperated with McCarthyism, lest they too become targets not just of McCarthy (who was, after all, just the tip of the red-baiting iceberg) but also of the FBI, freelance blacklisters, employers, and more.

In the face of red-baiting, many of these establishment figures didn’t speak up or protest; they cleaned their own house, making sure that they wouldn’t be targeted next. Welch’s decision to keep Fred Fisher out of the hearings was relatively anodyne; usually, people were simply purged. As Yale’s president famously put it, “There will be no witch hunts at Yale because there are no witches at Yale.”  (To get the tiniest flavor of how creepy this process was, just read the story of Robert Bellah’s encounter with McGeorge Bundy at Harvard.)

These were the men, in other words, who quietly, subtly, carefully colluded with the red baiters’ (including McCarthy) indecency throughout the Cold War. They colluded and colluded until that rare moment when they finally exploded, as Welch did on June 9, 1954, in recognition that McCarthy’s indecency was total, that there was no saving remnant of virtue or value that might mitigate it. But until then, they were silent, or worse.

There’s a point here about political evil, a point that Hannah Arendt understood all too well. One of the reasons evil attracts this extended circle of collaborators and colluders is that it seldom arrives in a big box, wrapped in a bow, labeled “evil.” Instead, it works in small and subtle ways, overtaking a society slowly but surely, in those grey zones where people aren’t quite sure what it is, till, when they finally figure it out, it’s too late.

As I wrote in The Nation last year:

Arendt attends to the smallest moments of the Shoah, not to lend her account novelistic detail but to make the point that the devil literally is in the details. “Cooperation” with evil is “gradual,” she explained to a correspondent. It’s always “difficult indeed to understand when the moment had come to cross a line which never should have been crossed.” That is also the banality of evil: the smallness of its package, those gray lines, those devilish details….

If evil comes in small steps, overcoming it, nearing goodness, also inheres in small steps. As Susan Neiman explains: “Arendt was convinced that evil could be overcome only if we acknowledge that it overwhelms us in ways that are minute. Great temptations are easier to recognize and thus to resist, for resistance comes in heroic terms. Contemporary dangers begin with trivial and insidious steps.”

And that brings me to my second point.

By the time Welch confronted McCarthy, by the time he recognized and proclaimed McCarthy’s evil to the world, it was too late. The damage had been done. The red-baiting had done its work. (Likewise the Supreme Court’s heralded rebuke to McCarthyism.)

What finally did Joe McCarthy in was not Joseph Welch. It was the fact that the GOP was getting decreasing returns out of redbaiting the Democrats—redbaiting and McCarthy had helped them get liberals booted out of the Senate and get the Democrats to purge whatever remaining elements of the left they had not already purged in the late 1940s—and the fact that McCarthy had begun to turn on the GOP (and the security establishment), too. Within four short years, their wonder-boy asset had become an increasingly erratic, almost sclerotic liability.

Welch’s question—have you no decency left—could more properly have been posed as: Have you no utility left? When the good and the great finally denounce the bad and the worst, it’s not because the latter has crossed some Rubicon of decency; it’s because they’re useless or threatening to established interests. And it takes no great act of courage to denounce them; usually, that’s just a sign that the object of denunciation is already down.

I was thinking about this episode all day, reading the reactions to Donald Trump’s comments about Khizr Khan’s moving speech about his son, Humayun Khan, who fought and was killed in Iraq. In response to Khan’s powerful criticisms of Trump at the DNC, Trump claimed:

If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.

With its suggestion that Ghazala Khan was silent because Muslim women aren’t allowed to speak in public, Trump’s comment was gross in every way. And, yes, indecent. Profoundly indecent.

Among the many journalistic critics of Trump, James Fallows was the first to invoke the Joseph Welch precedent. Responding to an earlier iteration of Trump’s comment, Fallows wrote:

But it is important to document the starkness of the two conceptions of America that are on clear view, 100 days before this man could become president. The America of the Khan family, and that of Donald Trump.

“Until this moment, I think I never really gauged your cruelty.” Joseph Welch, 1954.

Ezra Klein followed up. Citing Fallows’s quoting of Welch, Klein wrote:

At this point, I honestly don’t know what to say. I don’t have new language for this, I haven’t found another way of saying this isn’t okay, this isn’t kind, this isn’t decent.

This is the woman Trump decided to slander. This is the gauge of his cruelty.

This isn’t partisan. This isn’t left vs. right. Mitt Romney never would have said this. John McCain never would have said this. George W. Bush never would have said this. John Kerry never would have said this. This is what I mean when I write that the 2016 election isn’t simply Democrat vs. Republican, but normal vs. abnormal.

What kind of person is Donald Trump? What kind of person says these things?

As emotionally, and perhaps politically, satisfying as these questions are, they are the wrong questions. Like so much of the commentary on the GOP presidential candidate, Klein’s focuses on the person—and the novelty—of Donald Trump rather than on the party and the movement that produced him.

Countering that amnesia doesn’t require any elaborate education in American history; simply recall three moments of recent memory.

In 2002, Georgia’s Democratic senator  Max Cleland—a Vietnam vet who had his two legs and part of his arm torn to shreds by a grenade, leaving him in a wheelchair for life, his two legs and part of his arm amputated—lost his Senate seat to Saxby Chambliss. Why? Despite Cleland’s lead in the polls, Chambliss (who went onto serve in the Senate for two terms as an esteemed Republican, for Saxby is an honorable man) ran television ads questioning Cleland’s patriotism (complete with likenesses of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden). The man had given his two legs and part of his arm to this country, but the Republican Party saw fit to back a candidate, and subsequently a two-term senator, who questioned Cleland’s patriotic commitments.

In 2004, the Republican shadow apparatus ran an entire campaign against John Kerry’s war record, claiming that despite his winning of a Bronze Star and Silver Star for what he did in Vietnam, despite the fact that he had put himself into considerable danger to help save his unit, Kerry actually betrayed his country. Not just when he returned from Vietnam and helped lead the opposition to the war, but also while he was fighting the war, putting his life at risk. That these ads were made on behalf of a candidate who used his family connections to get out of fighting that war only added to the indecency.

That same year, Cindy Sheehan‘s son Casey was killed while serving in Iraq. She soon began protesting the war and George W. Bush, camping outside his ranch in Crawford for weeks on end to highlight what had happened to her son and the injustice and folly of the war. Bill O’Reilly said:

I think Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility…for the other American families who lost sons and daughters in Iraq who feel this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.

Michelle Malkin even invoked the memory of Sheehan’s dead son against her: “I can’t imagine that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior.” Fred Barnes called her “a crackpot.”

Here we have an instance of a Democratic presidential candidate, a sitting Democratic senator, and a prominent antiwar activist—all with stories of patriotic, almost unthinkable sacrifice—subjected to a pattern and practice of humiliating, disgusting slurs and smears. By figures high and low in—and near and only slightly less near to—the Republican Party.

That we can sit here and act as if Donald Trump’s indecency is a singular pathology rather than a systemic mode of politics, that we can treat his arrival on the scene as a novelty and innovation rather than the logical outgrowth of years of right-wing revanchism, that we would invoke against Trump the memory of an earlier, more decent Republican Party, present as recently as one election ago: that is itself a kind of collusion, an erasure of the past, a collusion with indecency.

In the same way that it took no great act of courage for Joseph Welch to denounce a man who was already on his knees, it requires no bravery—and betrays a great forgetting—to denounce Trump while exonerating the party and the movement that produced him.

It is also a dangerous forgetting: after all, before you can cross a Rubicon, you’ve got to march a considerable way.


  1. Joeff July 31, 2016 at 9:32 pm | #

    You are of course absolutely right–Trump is the logical end point of the modern GOP. But politically it is critical to spike Trump first, than go after the forces that produced him. To some extent you can do both by forcing Repub candidates and leaders to repudiate him, but beating him in November is absolutely job 1.

    • Glenn July 31, 2016 at 11:50 pm | #

      The forces that produced and enabled Trump is the Democratic Party in its fake posture as an opposition party.

    • Glenn August 1, 2016 at 10:46 am | #

      I would take Khizr Khan’s speech at the DNC more seriously if he had also taken the courageous stance of calling out Hillary Clinton in the manner of Cindy Sheehan. Hillary’s decision for the Iraqi invasion is more in the direct cause-and-effect line of his son’s death than any by Trump.

      To chastise one party more than the other when both are to blame is merely a political rhetorical act lacking nobility.

      I recognize that such speech would have left Khan without any political ally at all, and would have required more bravery; but with that recognition of Hillary’s contribution to his son’s death the ugliness of the Democratic Party Convention’s reaction would have been revealed as no less repugnant than Trump’s.

      • Glenn August 1, 2016 at 10:58 am | #

        To quote from The Big Short, which the Clintons played no small part in bringing about:”Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.”

      • Cheryl August 2, 2016 at 10:33 pm | #

        Hillary’s vote for giving Bush the ability to take the US into war isn’t the point. The Khan’s weren’t saying that were against the war. They were saying that Trump was demeaning their son and all muslims and citing that their son was a patriot who died for his country.

        • fosforos17 August 3, 2016 at 12:25 am | #

          “a patriot who died for his country” Like any other poor sod during the last 5,000 years who was pressed or seduced into taking some king’s Shilling.

        • Glenn August 3, 2016 at 12:35 pm | #


          The relevant point to a grieving parent would be, I think, the careless lack of concern for going into an illegal war that caused the son’s death, more so than some objection voiced in response to a biased overtly political statement.

          It is so very sad that these “heroes” are honored for sacrifices they made; when in reality they have been sacrificed by the war parties for the profits of imperialism. Martin Luther King Jr. made this point very clearly a year before his assassination.

          Patriotism is like a cuckoo’s egg. The parent cares for the cuckoo’s egg and then the newly hatched cuckoo pushes the parent’s own offspring out of the nest and to their death.

          Beware the ideologies planted in the minds of the young.

          • ex-PFC Chuck August 7, 2016 at 8:50 am | #

            To channel Tallyrand: It was worse than an illegal war (i.e. a crime). It was a mistake. And, I might add, a world historic strategic blunder of still unfolding proportions.

            Trump, in his bone-headed, reflexive, insulting response to the Khans, missed a golden opportunity to change the conversation. Instead he should have first commiserated with the Khans in their grief, then suggest that their anger might more appropriately be directed at those who enabled launched the misguided invasion of Iraq, including the members of both houses of Congress. Then he could have segued into focusing his scorn on those Congress critters who voted to support the war not taking advantage of opportunities to inform themselves about the issues. Such as Senator Hilary Clinton of New York blowing off the reaching out Scott Ritter.

  2. jonnybutter July 31, 2016 at 9:39 pm | #

    Right on

  3. SP July 31, 2016 at 9:50 pm | #

    Also, see this epic takedown of the Republican party’s other candidates

  4. Jim Banks July 31, 2016 at 9:57 pm | #

    Corey, this is so very good. Thank you.

  5. xenon2 July 31, 2016 at 10:07 pm | #

    What you said I agree with.

    We will vote for the candidate who has started many wars
    or we will vote for candidate who will talk to any leader.

    It’s your choice.

  6. Rachael L Sotos July 31, 2016 at 10:11 pm | #

    and insofar as we refuse to pay attention to climate change claiming it’s not our area of “expertise,” we’re all little Eichmanns

  7. JAMES_SCAMINACI_III_PHD July 31, 2016 at 11:04 pm | #

    It may also relate to the fact that most Americans look at failures in the singular–as a personal failure. Americans rarely attempt to look at systemic or historical patterns. Moreover, by pointing out how long and how frequently the Republicans have done this, you also point out how long and how frequently the Democrats have enabled the Republicans. It wasn’t until it became personal that Welch stood up. And it was not until McCarthy targeted the Army–the institution Eisenhower had risen to the top of and understood intimately–that Eisenhower moved to shut McCarthy down. Am I right?

    The historical amnesia is also ironic. The National Review, founded in the 1950s, openly sided with white supremacists. Fast forward to 2016 and the National Review complaining about white supremacists openly supporting Trump.

  8. robert (@rkbrown49) July 31, 2016 at 11:07 pm | #

    this just hurts so much. At the time of Kerry’s run I remember thinking of those lies and smears and that is was so wrong for Republican not to stand up for him. It was vile and duplicitous. It’s worse with Trump. Republicans still remain silent. I don’t get it. This isn’t the banality of evil. this is an informed, educated mass of republicanism staying silent hoping their silence will keep them in power.

  9. Allison Hantschel July 31, 2016 at 11:09 pm | #

    THANK YOU for bringing up Max Cleland and John Kerry and Cindy Sheehan. Because they used nicer words from the podium doesn’t clear them one bit for their treatment of those heroes.


  10. kathywompus July 31, 2016 at 11:39 pm | #

    It has taken them decades to bring this Frankenstein monster to life. I only hope it destroys just them and not all of us.

  11. fosforos17 August 1, 2016 at 12:59 am | #

    Doesn’t anyone see–which was so very very obvious–that this speaker and this speech were carefully, calculatingly, designed to whitewash the Clinton’s responsibility for the Vietnam atrocity? That there can be no greater lie than that his son died in Iraq “for America?” why shouldn’t Trump feel deeply offended by having the Constitution waved in his face by this chosen actor? Or wonder whether the mother might indeed find something indecent in such a use of her son’s death? (and as for “heroes” and “heroism–that young man gave his life to save his comrades, just as heroes have done on every side of every war ever fought for any cause or for none).

    • tomemos August 1, 2016 at 1:55 am | #

      “whether the mother might indeed find something indecent in such a use of her son’s death”? She was standing right there. She’s since given interviews and written a Washington Post article explaining her views. Even if Khizr Khan was an entirely cynical “chosen actor,” which I don’t grant, your denying the mother’s agency in her appearance on stage is just the same patronizing assumption Trump made, dressed up in more elaborate language.

    • Chai T. Ch'uan August 1, 2016 at 10:59 pm | #

      Which “Vietnam atrocity” are the Clintons responsible for exactly? Do you mean the Swift Boating of Kerry? (You are aware that BENGHAZI! is in Libya?)

    • fosforos17 August 2, 2016 at 12:34 am | #

      Whoops! I wrote “Vietnam” automatically while thinking “Iraq,” the place where Clinton Sanctions and Bombings killed the 500,000 children whose deaths their Secy. of State said were “worth it.”

  12. Brendan August 1, 2016 at 7:24 am | #

    Great post. Thank you.

  13. Roqeuntin August 1, 2016 at 8:29 am | #

    I concur.

    Two things everyone seems to be forgetting:

    1) Since Trump spends very little campaigning and depends on the media covering him of its own volition to get his name out there, this scandal is probably a net gain for him. I’m shocked that liberal commentators, who are otherwise reasonable most of the time appear not to get this. The people voting for Trump won’t be bothered by this, even if they disagree, because for them making the liberal punditry squirm = good. That’s what it’s always been about, spitefully making the liberals angry. To be fair, the liberal media does plenty of sneering right back, so glad that the people they despise are being lead by an actual clown. Incidents like this are not a change in tone or direction of the campaign, they are the bedrock of how it functions.

    2) Does anyone else notice that the whole story frames the Iraq War as something heroic rather than the worst foreign policy disaster in most of our lifetimes? It’s being branded to liberals of course, and lovely little tale about Muslims becoming real Americans, but the method by which it is done is by participating in one of the most deplorable actions taken in modern history. Let’s not forget the number of Muslims sent to their graves by our military actions in the Middle East, something most people are loathe to talk about. Back when it was published I read the blog The Last Psychiatrist religiously and he had this maxim: “Put all your effort into debating the conclusion while ignoring the premises.” For him, that’s how most propaganda worked, not with the debate, but the assumptions it already got you to import in order to have it in the first place.

  14. jonnybutter August 1, 2016 at 9:10 am | #

    I hope this piece will be re-published widely – it deserves to be and needs to be.

    I was watching the beginning of the clip, and was astonished to remember there is a common figure between McCarthy and Trump: Roy Cohn! The same Roy Cohn who, after a lifetime of legal, personal, and political rat-fuckery, was finally disbarred – a week before he died!

  15. John Emerson August 1, 2016 at 9:50 am | #

    Talbot’s “The Devil’s Chessboard” is regarded as unreliable, so I hesitate to bring this up. But in 1953 McCarthy went on the attack against Allen Dulles’s CIA, starting with Cord Meyer and William Bundy (the brother of the Harvard dean who pressured Bellah). According to Talbot, this was the beginning of the end for McCarthy; Allen Dulles went to Eisenhower and said that he would resign if Eisenhower didn’t come out publicly against McCarthy.

    It seems to have been the weasels-fighting-in-a-hole game characteristic of Ottoman or Byzantine court intrigue, with people helping McCarthy destroy their enemies but fighting him when it came close to themselves. And this is a reminder that McCarthy wasn’t the only witchhunter, just the most unscrupulous and erratic of the bunch.

    • John Emerson August 1, 2016 at 9:52 am | #

      “My source, David Talbots’ “Devil’s Chessboard”

  16. Eric Apar August 1, 2016 at 10:48 am | #

    It certainly strains credulity to say that Trump is a wholesale rupture with Republican politics, but can we really say that it isn’t novel for the party’s standard-bearer to give his explicit imprimatur to the Republican modus operandi? I don’t mean that rhetorically. I really do wonder whether it matters that, pre-Trump, all of this transpired in the shadows. Should we be aghast at the fact that it’s out in the open, and that its being out in the open threatens to lend it credibility and normalcy? Or should we celebrate the fact that, well, it’s out in the open?

  17. Harald Korneliussen August 1, 2016 at 12:06 pm | #

    Yup, when I saw this, I wasn’t especially surprised or shocked. In a way, it’s even good that Trump is so inept at fighting back. A regular presidental candidate would have the research prepared, and found exactly those tidbits of the Khans’ past that were focus-group tested to turn opinion best against them.

    Those tidbits exist, I’m sure. They exist for all of us. No one looks good once the media (with the help of a political operation) decides to paint someone as bad. This is one of the reasons we have Trump vs. Hillary in the first place. In this climate, the only ones who can win are those who have been playing the narrative control game for decades, and have a steel grip on their image in one way or another.

  18. Roquentin August 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm | #

    I can’t stress this enough and since it seems not enough people who consider themselves leftist/liberals don’t realize it: Trump is not trying to appeal to you. Every time John Oliver posts some epic takedown, he is preaching to the converted. Nobody who votes Trump gives a shit about what he says. They don’t watch MSNBC and aren’t supposed to. They treat you with as much disdain as you treat them, and they like the fact your cultural representatives in the media at the mouth.

    I swear to God, if Trump wins, you’ll be left scratching your head, just like the British political establishment did post-Brexit. “But we told them how bad it is?” you’ll say. Well, how’s this? They hate you, and the best way to express that anger is to defy you. Most of them probably don’t even think Trump will do much for them, but they know it hurts you and frankly, that’s enough. Then again, it’s not as if Clinton’s neoliberalism with a multicultural face will either, particularly white voters. It may be utterly juvenile, but that’s the primary logic at work.

    I don’t say this to defend Trump, if anything fundamentally misunderstanding the situation helps him. You have to understand the basic psychological pull a leader has if you’re serious about undermining or opposing him.

    • Glenn August 2, 2016 at 11:10 am | #

      Excellent comparison with Brexit.

      The subordinates of the power elite like to live each in their own silos.

  19. Thomas Leo Dumm August 1, 2016 at 2:02 pm | #

    Perhaps the most important point of Corey’s post is that evil doesn’t come wrapped in a box that says “evil.” The entire political establishment, Republican and Democratic, bears responsibility for this profound alienation of the demos. Look at Ryan’s and Mitchell’s non-response to Trump’s comments.

    Trump is a fascist, and it is interesting that more and more often figures in the media are starting to unabashedly use the term. But the way they are using the term is for the most part is normalizing it — if anyone listened to Morning Edition on NPR today they could hear the host arguing, with a right-wing foreign policy expert, that since Trump was taking advice from Henry Kissinger, his views concerning Putin may have been more well informed than it seems at first blush. It is interesting to note that Hillary Clinton takes advice from Kissinger as well.

    • Glenn August 1, 2016 at 6:54 pm | #

      Advice from Kissinger, among other things, makes both the Republicans and the Democrats fascist.

      Khizr Khan’s soundbite makes for good political advertising, following the lead of Trump himself, but I don’t believe he has read the Constitution, or if he has read it he didn’t understand it.

      That should not trouble him overly much; Obama taught constitutional law and a generation of his students will not understand that only Congress can declare war.

      I once applied to Berkeley to take John Yoo’s teaching position. I summed up my resume with “I can do anything better than Yoo can.” But then who couldn’t, so that doesn’t provide me with any noteworthy distinction.

      • Will G-R August 2, 2016 at 11:21 am | #

        As is generally the case when the Constitution is invoked in US public discourse, it has nothing to do with any particular point contained within the Constitution as a document or any particular line of legal exegesis, it’s the idea of the Constitution as some sort of perfect timeless scripture dictating the composition of a Sensible and Rational political establishment filled with Very Serious Persons. The nadir of this sort of thing is a regrettably stupid subplot from Isaac Asimov’s scifi novel The Stars, Like Dust, where the US Constitution is a long-lost relic sought after in an ancient archive to guide the future government of a galaxy-spanning empire–an empire that turns out to be the Trantorian Empire of Asimov’s Foundation series, the modeling of which after ancient Rome makes the Constitution thing nonsensical from the get-go. Asimov later complained that this subplot was shoehorned in by an editor and that he resented the editor for ever persuading him to go along with it.

        Anyway, if you need evidence that the actual act of textual analysis of the Constitution is entirely beside the point in the Trump/Khan flap, take this barely-giggle-suppressed article from The Intercept, revealing that the “pocket Constitution” whose Amazon sales have benefited most in the past week is an edition containing annotations from Glenn Beck’s proto-fascist muse W. Cleon Skousen. They might as well be buying the decorative edition.

  20. Chai T. Ch'uan August 1, 2016 at 10:37 pm | #

    Similarly, how many years did we endure, from (McCain’s!) GOP, first denials, then euphemisms like “taking the gloves off,” then clinical abstractions like “enhanced interrogation”, then (when the videos put the lie to the lying eyes) smirking not-sayin-but-I’m-sayin from Bush, to winking no-comments from Cheney, before we got to Trump, bragging that of course we need to torture, and he’d do it yoooger and harder and stronger and better than any of those wussies out there, to make America “great” “again”?

  21. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm | #

    A dark irony looms. While President Bill Clinton is zealously McCarthy-ized by the Republicans (basically for having the temerity to defeat George H.W. Bush in 1992) he goes rightist on the world and on the Democratic base: the near snuffing out of progressive economic policies (ending welfare as we know it, for starters), the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, NAFTA, the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 1999 and 2000, The Telecommunications Act (which facilitates the consolidation of the corporate media), Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, The Defense of Marriage Act, (Christ, who names these laws??), an imperialist war in central Europe, no-fly-zones (bombing of civilians in Iraq, conveniently scheduled), and genocidal child-killing sanctions, and so on.

    So what do we get: mass incarceration for Blacks, mass deportations, the off-shoring of American manufacturing jobs and the setting in place the conditions for the coming meltdown in the financial markets and its spreading out to the “real” economy.

    Now Hillary Clinton takes/has taken her turn at being McCarthy-ized by the Republicans: “BEN-GAH-ZEE!!” “The E-MAILS!!” “She CRUSHES the women who dare to tell tales about Bill!!”

    And now the Democratic Party is safe for billionaire ex-mayors, billionaire Wall-Streeters, a billionaire b-ball team owner, A-list Hollywood stars, secret speeches to Goldman-Sachs, as well as overall massive corporate support. The paleo-right has done its dirty work with both Clintons and it can now be grilled mercilessly for its crude and embarrassing displays, by our nation’s sniffily respectable opinionators. In reply, it will only dig in further, blind to the decades-long success it has had in moving the party it angrily hates to the right, a party that has borrowed much of its policies and rhetoric. Heck, McCarthy-ized as a Muslim and foreigner, Obama’s DNC speech was oh-so-“Reagan-esque”, spake the envious conservative punditocracy! Having McCarthy-ed the Dems as a fifth column, the rabid right has transformed them into a less livid, more smiley-face version of itself.

    History already records the policies of the first McCarthy-ized President Clinton. How different will that be from that of the second McCarthy-ized President Clinton? If it were not for the fact that the McCarthy-izers themselves were not that smart in the first place, one could be forgiven for suspecting that the McCarthy-izing of Hillary was less an effort to blunt her electoral chances (as publicly claimed) as it was to insure that her own Administration be none too different from that of the first McCarthy-ized President Clinton.

    • Glenn August 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm | #

      When Democrat leadership is under attack coming from Republicans, Democratic Party voters will accept any garbage their own leadership throws at them so as not to be seen among themselves as siding with the Republicans.

      As long as Trump can be made to look scarier than Hillary in an emotion grabbing manner the passage of the TPP, and myriad other assaults against people trying to live and work under the Power Elite’s domination, will be ignored by them.

      Folks, we the people are being double teamed by the two right wing parties, and most can’t begin to see it. On close analysis both parties will be seen to have moved far to the right of the voting populace.

  22. Jonathan Keller August 6, 2016 at 10:06 am | #

    Loved the piece!

    I’m not sure if a previous commenter already asked about this (and forgive me for focusing on the marginalia): but I’m really wondering how much of Taft’s “go then stop” message to McCarthy had to do w/ his presidential aspirations in 1952? I mean, yes, McCarthy was too toxic by the time Taft shifted. But his change of heart also came after losing the contentious 52 nomination to Ike. Just wondering.

  23. right to left (@rlmcr57) August 8, 2016 at 2:04 pm | #

    Great! Now tell me that America’s real fascist threat doesn’t come from Hillary Clinton. The steady drip drip of Hillary endorsements lately are coming from top CIA and related Neocon warmongers, as well as just about every prominent, politically-involved billionaire…like Meg Whitman and Warren Buffet of late, but I’m still getting sandbagged with propaganda coming from Hillarybots trying to tell me that Trump is a threat to America because he’s either friends with Putin or will “be soft on Russia!” Now doesn’t that crap alone tell you that the real danger of fascist imperialism is their first choice: The Clintons?

    • fosforos17 August 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm | #

      Donald Trumpe-l’oeil has claimed, truthfully for a change, that the election has from the very outset been rigged for the Clinton. His knowledge cannot be questioned. Isn’t he the very mizzenmast around whom the rigging is strung?

Leave a Reply