Category Archives: Republicans

Impressions of “The Devil’s Bargain” by Joshua Green and “Hacks” by Donna Brazile

I recently read two books focusing on adjunct figures to the 2016 election: The Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency about Trump’s third campaign manager, and Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that put Donald Trump in the White House by the former Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (Donna Brazile). They are parallel books: Brazile is a media personality and the book is obviously designed to improve her own image. Likewise, Bannon is so transparently the source of Devil’s Bargain the book is essentially written by him, except for some obvious sops designed to expand the book’s reader base.

Both books are more interesting than Shattered, the story about the inside of the Clinton campaign written by two professional journalists. While that book provided additional depth to the decision by the Clinton campaign to embrace identity politics as a campaign strategy, both Bargain and Hacks expand the discussion beyond what was commonly discussed.

I was impressed by the focus of both books on the new opportunities and threats presented by the internet and internet culture. For Bannon, the protagonist of Bargain, it is the communities that exist beneath the sites of the mainstream media. An early business opportunity, trying to professionalize the “gold miner” community in the popular online game World of Warcraft, failed because of an organized customer revolt that spooked the gamer’s manufacturer but never made the news. The shadow of this could be felt years later in the sub-cultural hashtag campaigns #gamergate, #sadpuppies, and even #maga. For Brazile, who was more involved with the operations of the Democratic Party fund-raising machine than the campaign itself, the previously unknown threat was “hacking.” I was impressed by the seriousness Brazile gave to this issue. She’s clearly not an information security professional, but she honestly expresses her fear and bewilderment at this sometimes confusing world. Hacks is the most accurate depiction of the CrowdStrike security I have seen in any book outside of a trade press.

It’s interesting that neither perspective is flattering to Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News anchor whose career at MSNBC is now being covered by Bannon’s news company. “Trump’s toughest opponents in Cleveland were not his fellow candidates but the Fox News moderates, who went right after him” — writes Green — “none with more gusto than Kelly.” Brazile writes of an interview with Kelly, “It was less of an interview than an ambush. She was so eager to get to me that when she saw me approaching, her producers yanked Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway out of the chair almost mid-sentence so I could sit down right away. Megyn was gunning for me.” And Bannon reminisces about wealthy bullies at his old school: “They were the rich snobs. They’d always do the employer-employee joke at us: ‘When you grow up, you’ll work for us,’ And we’d punch them in the nose.”

Both books contain claims that are factually.. questionable. It’s obvious in Bargain the writer is surrounded by secular society and treats religion like an anthropologist would treat a remote tribe: for example, “the Latin-only Tridentine Mass, which was banned by the Second Vatican council.” Likewise, Donna Brazile is often more interesting to read between the lines than at face value, for instance when she was disinterested in building her own base of support: “” But here, Brazile’s book is better constructed. In the places that either leave the literal truth, Brazile’s writing still leaves it clear what message she wants sent (often it is to praise or blame specific allies or enemies). Green’s errors, by contrast, seem lazy. You can read a sentence from Brazile’s book, such as — “When [a Hatian AM radio host asked me when the campaign was going to start a dialogue with his audience, I knew what he meant by that. When were they going to spend a few hundred dollars in advertising there, which would encourage him to urge his followers to get out and vote?” — and it i sclear that so-and-so is asking for a bribe. A sentence like this the Latin mass comment from Bargain, however, just leaves the reader with the impression that the writer is not versed in the relevant subject matter.

This is especially disappointing in light of the fact that both Bannon and Brazile are Catholics. Pope Francis, author of Laudito Si, comes under attack by Bannon: Bargain quotes Bannon as calling Francis “a liberal theology Jesuit” and a “pro-immigration globalist.” Brazile does not discuss theology, but is interested in how Catholic rites can impact the everyday world: she prays for both victory and proper ordering, and uses Holy Water on offices of the Democratic National Committee.

My high-level impression of Bargain is that it is predictable result of a liberal journalist attempting to flatter a conservative source. Hacks, by contrast, is hatchet job by an insider against other insiders, combined with a surprisingly accurate outsider’s discussion of a security incident response operation. You can pass on Bargain. Hacks is great fun.

In an amusing twist, you can read a favorable comment on Hacks from Steve Bannon’s media company. I read both Devil’s Bargain and Hacks in the Kindle editions.

Adoration of the Lord

This post has three parts. In the first, “The Lord,” I discuss the human impulse to worship. In the second, “The State,” I discuss the role of government. In the third, “The Election,” I discuss these things in the context of the 2012 Presidential Election, and some recent remarks by Governor Mitt Romney.

The Lord

The word for “lord” derives from the phrase “loaf-ward” (in Old English: hlaf-weard). When the power to Give Law and the power to Feed are united in one man, the natural human response is worship.

This impulse is so strong you can make a religion of it.

The people of Israel called the bread manna (what sounds like, “What is it?) It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”
Exodus 16:31-32

“Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Exodus 24:6-8

Twice

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Matthew 26:26-29

The State

This is the concern that Romney was channeling, and much of the professional left is outraged by, when he said:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that Mitt Romney was not the outcome of a specific election. Romney’s been in politics too long for anyone to seriously believe that he is ignorant of how politics works.

Rather, Romney was identifying the problem of uniting the Wealth-Giving and Law-Giving powers in one entity, the federal government. The natural human reaction is adoration of such a unity of power. Those who live under the Law and thru the Wealth bestowed upon them by the Wealth & Law Giver will adore it “no matter what.”

Of course the Hebrews in the Desert built their Golden Calf. Judas at the Last Supper sold Christ to the Priests. But these are the exception that prove the rule: not scraping before The Law and The Wealth is seen as weird, deviant, temporarily, and ghastly.

The Election

Now, this is not the darkest moment of the Republican. Obama is not some Mussolini-style monster: he won’t create a durable cult of personality or a network of concentration camps. We already had a monster like that in Franklin Roosevelt. And like Russia, and like China, and like Japan, and like Italy, and like the rest, we learned our lessons. We have Presidential term limits for a reason.

No matter who wins, in the next four years we’ll be killing a lot of Muslims who are already irate at us and have it coming, turning the ship on our catastrophically awful public educational system, making sure people who are friends with high-level execs at Goldman Sachs don’t lose money, and making sure that we have the Mexican and Asian workers we need while making people who don’t want to compete feel good about themselves.

But there is a question: do have bias the discussion in favor of expanding the worshipers of the State — those who see the federal government as the Wealth & Law Giver – or do we bias it against that view?

Do we want a government we worship, or one we fear? Because if an individual give Law but not Wealth, the reaction is fear. You limit such a creature, distrust it, and chain it with cumbersome rules.

If the federal government is already your Lord, if it already combined the source of Law and Wealth for you, it’s probably bizarre to think of fearing it. Doing so would be just inhuman.

But if you’re not already dependent on it, if you want to keep your freedom, it probably seems ghastly to think of worshiping it.

That is part of what this election is about.

Chuck Grassley v. Civil Society

Senator Charles Grassley’s attack on civil society is sickening. Conservatives should be skeptical of government power, and instead prefer to use voluntary associations whenever possible. Instead, Senator Grassley somehow believes that people pooling their resources to help their preferred charities is at the government’s expense.

This comment is tricky to write because of Grassley’s bizarre and Orwellian rhetoric — when he talks about money that is in the hands of voluntary associations, but he wishes were taxed, he complains that it is at the “taxpayer’s expense.” Of course, what he means is that if the government taxed these charitable institutions, the government would have more tax revenue.

If there’s a good part of the Republicans failing to win the 2010 Senate, it was that it kept Grassley from having more power than he does already.

Obama’s Brinkmanship

Standard & Poors downgraded U.S. debt today because of President Obama’s brinkmanship during the debt ceiling negotiations.

President Obama publicly threatened not to pay U.S. debtholders unless his demands more met, and week-kneed Republican lawmakers went along with that he wanted.

It is now clear that Speaker Boehner and other Republicans should have emphasized the 14th Amendment’s role in the debate. Republicans should have made it clear that A President who does not pay America’s debts, or incurrs new debts without the consent of Congress, no longer holds the office of the President.

Instead, weak kneed Congressional Republicans went along with another spending binge, and world markets learned that the President can get what he wants by simply threatening not to pay back our bills.

Too bad.

Neocons and Theocons

My new friend Michael recently blogged about “The Ideological Evolution of the Republican Party,” in a post that echoced my own (2005) post, “The Neocon / Theocon Axis: Winning and Losing.” Michael updates the theme, discussing the Party Line in the context of the Tea Party:

With the onset of the Tea Party Movement, a new transformation of Republican Party values has begun to take place.  The transformation is still ongoing.  The Tea Party Movement is nominally non-partisan, but let’s be honest – the tenets of the movement are in alignment with traditionally Republican territory:  lower taxes, smaller government, combating the national debt and opposition to nationalized healthcare and the stimulus package.  The movement is calling itself non-partisan because the Neocon-Theocon Hegemony neglected these values.  Although the movement began with the presidential campaign of Ron Paul – indeed, it is downright shameful to understand the Tea Party without mentioning him – it has expanded beyond his base since the last election.  The movement expanded first in response to Bush’s Big Government policies and accelerated under Obama’s.  Obama made the miscalculation of thinking that a close election victory and disapproval of Bush constituted a mandate for him to push a liberal agenda forward, which was not the case at all.  President Obama’s approval among political independents is now in the low 40s and shows no signs of rising in the near future.  Even though the Tea Party is conservative for the most part, the expansion beyond the Ron Paul base means the more moderate crowd are participating.  When the movement first began it was littered with truthers, birthers, kucinichers, radical global warming deniers, anarchists, neo-nazis, conspiracy theorists and other wackos.  Now the base is more sane and the time has come to take out the trash.  The movement, though no less courageous and outspoken, is coming into the hands of the respectable crowd.  Debra Medina, the Tea Party candidate for Governor of Texas, unfortunately may have made the possibly fatal mistake of hesitating to shun the truthers on Glenn Beck’s program.  But the movement is very spread out and not easily undermined by one missing bolt.  The movement is grassroots bottom-up and there are no real leaders of the charge.  But as the Tea Party opts for reform, there are others who are trying to use it to further themselves.

Thanks for the great blog, Michael!

A Good Election Night

Hard to complain about last night. The Governor-Senator-CEO of Goldman Sachs, that State within a State, lost in New Jersey. Obama’s man lost in Virginia. The splittists lost in New York.

All together, a great day for democratic centralism in the Republican Party.

A great day for America.

The Republican Party should use its victory to build intra-party democracy (in particular, replace back-room selection with primary election of candidates where-ever possible), build party unity, and then rally to stop ObamaCare, stop the Wall Stret-Union bailouts, frustrate the bad designs of our President, and prepare to put America back on the right course.

Scozzafava is a Loyal Republican

I applaud and support Diedre Scozzafava’s decision to withdraw as a candidate in the special election in New York’s 23rd district.

Scozzafava was the Republican Party candidate. However, an insurgent campaign by Doug Hoffman (Conservative Party), and her own grave mistakes, lead to a collapse in her support and gave home to the Democratic challenger.

Especially in these times, when Obama is socializing our economy and destroying the free market system, it is important for Repulicans to hang together. Republicans must uphold the party line and the principles of democratic centralism. Republicans should stand firm against obama’s political maneuvers. Our country needs and deserve it.

However, Scozzafava’s serious mistakes made it impossible for her to survive as a credible Republican candidate. Her character would not allow this to happen. Instead, Scozzafava put her principles above herself.

Scozzafava stood up for the Party. She stood up against Obama. She did the right thing.

Thank you, Diedre Scozzafava, for helping us maintain a United Front against the socialist who is our President.

Thank you for withdrawing from the mistakes.

Your mistakes are correctible. Life is about learning from mistakes. However, your character will be with you for the rest of our career — and your character is strong.

Thank you.

Gore, like Palin

I was chatting with a friend on google, who hung up on me when I noted that Al Gore was like Sarah Palin. Both of them express natural sentiments — that global warming is bad, that most of American social life happens outside the social worlds of New York, DC, and Los Angeles. Both were close to the Presidency — though Gore was much closer than Palin. Both have an emotional fan base.

And both, if they ever became President, would be constraint by party and governmental politics. They would not be as good as their fans hope, or as bad as their enemies fear.

The Right’s Betrayal of Conservatism

Three controversies in recent years describe how the Right in America has betrayed conservatism.

In the first, the Terri Schiavo controversy, Rightists attacked marriage and family in their attempt to have the government to regulate medical care.

Int the second, the Kelo eminent domain controversy, Rightists attacked the power of the government to allocate resources in order to further economic growth.

In the third, the Henry Louis Gates controversy, Rightists attacked the Constitution in an effort to spread class warfare.

I don’t know when this strain of anti-conservative, anti-family, anti-growth, anti-liberty Rightism infected the conservative movement. Certainly it has perverted it. The sooner that anti-conservative, anti-family, anti-growth, anti-liberty Rightists are marginalized in American politics, the better.