All the president’s men were ratfuckers

On MSNBC, former Bush White House Communications Chief Nicolle Wallace went after the new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and his team: “These are not all the president’s men, these are all of Sean Hannity’s men.”

I gather Wallace thinks “all the president’s men” means men of great virtue and talent, the proverbial Wise Men of the early Cold War or the Knights of the Roundtable or something.

In reality, the phrase refers to Nixon’s team of White House advisors and convicted Watergate felons, all of whom went to jail: Haldeman, Erlichman, Mitchell, Colson, Chapin, and Segretti, who literally invented the phrase “ratfucking” for the dirty tricks he was hired to do for the Nixon campaign.

It’s also a riff on Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men—a fictional account of one of America’s great and most dangerous demagogues—not to mention a famous poem by Lewis Carroll nursery rhyme, where the entire point is that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again. Not the most efficacious bunch, in other words.

The ever present need to believe in some mythical past of American virtue—particularly at liberal media outlets like MSNBC, where Bush White House officials are refurbished as honorable elders of state*—inevitably produces a history where we’re forever defining deviancy downward.

Meanwhile, Wallace has this to say about Trump: “He knows scant presidential, or frankly world history.”

* Thanks to Dave Daley for that point.



  1. zenner41 July 21, 2017 at 11:15 pm | #

    I think her comments were pretty accurate. Trump knows scant (actually no) presidential or world history, and he is only concerned at this point with defending himself from “the witch hunt”–certainly not health care or any other public policy question, even “The “Wall.” The only way he knows to defend himself is the way he has always used his hired gun attorneys and publicists: as howitzers or bombers to blast “the enemy” to bits. I fully expect him to get rid of Muller soon (or try to), and he only wishes he could get rid of the House and Senate investigations, too. He expects to bomb them all into oblivion by dominating public opinion with his “army,” but I doubt that he will succeed in that. To him, “the people” he believes to be is foot soldiers out in the country are his band of rabid followers, who I think are diminishing all the time.

  2. Hangaku Gozen July 21, 2017 at 11:38 pm | #

    I may not be as well read on Hannah Arendt as I should be, but I know my nursery rhymes. “Humpty Dumpty” is much older than Lewis Carroll and his Alice, having appeared sometime in the 18th century and was likely a riddle, with no specific reference to an egg. See the veritable The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes by Peter and Iona Opie (1951, revised 1997). Respectfully submitted.

    • Hangaku Gozen July 21, 2017 at 11:41 pm | #

      I meant “venerable,” which spell check didn’t recognize. Ah, technology.

  3. Gavolt July 21, 2017 at 11:40 pm | #

    The point is not that Wallace is wrong, but that Trump’s MSNBC critics seem to possess a similar level of ignorance. The difference is that whereas Trump’s ignorance has the character of a void, the MSNBC critic’s is like a sunny, polluted haze.

  4. Chris Morlock July 21, 2017 at 11:45 pm | #

    Hilarious that the most “left leaning” major news outlet in the USA now loves Neoconservatives from the Bush era as elder statesmen from a glorious time when Republicans actually stood for something.


    Neo libs and Neo Cons, two sides of the same join separated by an opinion trans bathrooms.

    • zenner41 July 22, 2017 at 11:20 am | #

      I don’t watch Rachel, Lawrence and Co. on MSNBC as much as I used to (partly because our TV has developed a condition in which those higher-number channels are only giving out audio). I get much more information directly from the internets (including this excellent blog) than from having those guys read it to me. (Hey, unlike some people, I went to school and learned to read!)

      But I don’t totally turn thumbs down on the MSNBC people, and regarding Ms. Wallace particularly, she has had experience in a previous Republican administration and seems pretty smart. While her conservative convictions are obviously to be deplored, she does have some insight into how GOP types operate that the rest of us who haven’t had her experience don’t have so much of.

      All that said, and albeit that the Trump Train seems headed for some sort of derailment that the Engineer in Chief is powerless to avoid, I don’t think the prospects for a good, radical, socialist politics in the U.S. are any better than they have been in past decades. A heck of a lot more education of the public, together with real economic pain that would clear people’s minds of the capitalist muck to some extent and prod them to think about what the system really is, would be needed for that, and even then I’m not betting on any revolution of the proletariat, even a “political revolution” of Bernie’s kind.

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant July 24, 2017 at 11:15 am | #

      MSNBC is not a “‘major left leaning’ news outlet”. Rather, it has a few self-described “liberals” on payroll for a few of its flagship shows. If Andy Lack had his way they’d all be gone and be replaced with Fox drop-outs. Plenty of news reports tell the story of Lack’s efforts to dump Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Hayes. Trouble is, along with Maddow, the three of them pull in some decent ratings in prime-time that is what has frustrated those efforts.


      Now, “Pacifica” IS a left leaning news outlet, although I would not call it “major” (I don’t think you would either).

      And unlike MSNBC (and NPR) Pacifica does not run commercials.

      Btw, I do watch “All In With Chris Hayes” loyally, and I am a loyal listener/supporter (meaning, I give money) to Pacifica. Amy Goodman, Doug Henwood, and Brad Friedman are my “shock troops” for progressive news.

      Also — “Thomas Rossetti” might just be a troll.

      • zenner41 July 24, 2017 at 2:49 pm | #

        I don’t know why watching anybody on TV is so important. There is a much wider range of stuff available here on the internets, and you can get whatever you want anytime you want.

  5. Debra Cooper July 22, 2017 at 1:05 am | #

    Humpty Dumpty is a nursery rhyme referring to the overthrow of King Charles I of England by Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan Roundheads. Indeed Charles was beheaded.

    “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall”
    Fall from the throne

    “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”
    That is a reference to the English Civil War and the beheading of Charles.

    So you chose a famous rhyme with a real trenchant an relevant political history

  6. Thomas Rossetti July 22, 2017 at 2:15 am | #

    I recently saw “All The Way” with Brian Cranston on HBO. Had to be one of the great performances of all time! He really got Johnson. Warts everywhere! and yet a stunning nobility that spoke deeply of America and Jefferson and Jackson and FDR. At this moment in American history the noble traditions of America’s liberal heritage are coming forth to take down an ignorant usurper and restore civil decency to its rightful mantle. I personally wish to hold the door open to Nicole Wallace and all of the small ‘d’ democrats who albeit conservatives, share my conviction in America’s calling.

    • Chris Morlock July 22, 2017 at 11:30 am | #

      That’s the message MSNBC and Wapo are trying to program into the public. The noble Liberal lords will return. They just leave out the part where they come back and continue to deregulate everything and dismantle the social state further. All while claiming they are the virtuous ones because of an opinion on gay marriage and “diversity”.

      Doomed with the moron or doomed with the corporate liberals………..

      The noble tradition of neo-liberals for 50 years has been to dismantle MORE of the social state than Republicans could, to war monger, and to turn the working class against classic liberalism. They have done nothing and I cheer for their destruction.

  7. Thomas Rossetti July 22, 2017 at 12:12 pm | #

    The Social State! I am sorry but what does that mean? Sounds like some alt right Bannon bullshit. Glad to see Morlock’s butthurt reactionary ideas begin to emerge clearly from the smoke of his Bannon troll anti pluralism. Morlock is an authoritarian creep hiding his fist in the glove of anti corporatism.

    • Chris Morlock July 22, 2017 at 12:21 pm | #

      Really offensive and uncalled for. I’m a progressive and Sanders supporter for your information. If my opinions rub you the wrong way I’d suggest gathering your anger and put it into some cogent ideas rather than ad hominem attacks out of nowhere.

      When the Wapo types get called out they tend to show who they really are. Sorry if it offends you.

    • James Levy July 25, 2017 at 8:51 am | #

      The term, as I remember it, social state, comes from the revolutions of 1848, specifically those in France, where the call was for a revolution that was democratic and social, i.e. socialist, as the term was understood in those days. of course, those people were crushed and Louis Bonaparte was soon-after made emperor to keep them in their place.

  8. Pacific Loon July 22, 2017 at 12:41 pm | #

    Corey, respectfully I think you miss Nicole Wallace’s point. Most presidential campaigns have enough competent people to fill key White House positions; Donald Trump is relying on Fox News for his staffing. (Of course, he relied on them for his campaign, as well).

    • Tony Greco July 22, 2017 at 11:38 pm | #

      I think you are right. It is quite a leap to infer from Wallace’s comment a need to believe in some mythical past of American virtue.

  9. Thomas Rossetti July 22, 2017 at 3:58 pm | #

    To Chris Morelock, the non pacific, loon who accuses me of ad hominem attacks out of nowhere. I quote him: “MSNBC and WAPO program into the public”, “Liberal lords”…”claiming they are the virtuous because of an opinion on gay marriage and ‘diversity’…”I cheer for their destruction.” And he finds my take on his screed offensive! He maunders about the “social state” which sounds like a term out of Father Coughlin and calls himself a Sanders progressive. I am not a Wapo type, but have been called a wop on a few occasions in childhood, but just so you know where I am coming from, I am a John Stewart Mill liberal democrat. A student of David Spitz, himself a student of Morris Rafael Cohen and Robert MacIver.

    • Chris Morlock July 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm | #

      Read “Listen, Liberal” and get back to us. You are the problem.

      You know, the guy that continues to support the program after being wiped out on all levels of Government, claims to be on the left, supports most pro corporate policies, cries for Trump’s downfall while ignoring the lack of ideas mainstream corporate dems have, and the guy that cries “white supremacy, racism, fascism!” anytime his ideas are challenged in a non-personal and intellectual level. The one that thinks everything would be fine if Hillary won.

      Stop me if I have built a straw man.

  10. Thomas Rossetti July 22, 2017 at 11:19 pm | #

    Let me remind you of your intellectual riposte: “neo libs and neo cons , two sides of the same join (sp?) separated by a trans bathroom.” This is high intellect? And you still haven’t clarified what you mean by the “social state.” I understand that you don’t like liberals, but you have nothing but weird sexual innuendo to offer. What is sad is that you have Trump’s enemies as your enemies. That should worry you!

    • Chris Morlock July 23, 2017 at 2:05 am | #

      Social state needs explanation? New deal, education, medicare, social security, government programs. You know, the ones your ilk have been dismantling for the past 40 years.

      I know you are probably of the 60’s generation that sees things through the lens of left vs right, but to me you look almost exactly the same as a Republican. Try to wake up to the fact that most of the country is doing so as well these days. Jon Stewart, for god’s sakes. “Listen, Liberal” was written for you, literally.

      Howling about overthrowing Trump and insisting on McCarthy era Russian Hysteria while cheering on the nobility of Wapo and MSNBC is just digging Liberalism into a deeper hole. Your generation and your philosophy is a complete failure.

      The faster we can get you people to join the Republican party, where you belong, the better. I make comments about “trans bathrooms” because those are the only issues you disagree with. 90% of the basic concepts you agree on. The faster we move back to FDR era Liberalism and a restoration of the New Deal the better. The 60’s was the worst thing to happen to Liberal ideology, and I would love to just forget every inane concept Neo-Liberalism has created for the last 50 years.

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