The President continues his policy promoting a maximal climate of violence and instability in the hopes that fear, uncertainty and demoralization will give him another term in power. He continues his tacit embrace of Kyle Rittenhouse, the self-styled 17 year old ‘militia’ member who gunned down two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week. This morning NBC reports that Rittenhouse’s lawyer will argue that his client was part of a “well-regulated” militia and that at least the weapons charges against him are unconstitutional. That argument seems unlikely to succeed. But it is another sign of how the brazen murders of two civilians are being embraced as a new cause celebre on the right.
One of the President’s supporters, who was actually filmed cheering him at a Trump rally, brought an AR-15 to a BLM protest and murdered two protestors and seriously injured a third. The President won’t condemn his actions.
Asked whether President condemns supporter and Trump rally attendee Kyle Rittenhouse who murdered two protestors, Press Secretary says Trump's "not going to weigh in on that." pic.twitter.com/ZeoaYP5oHB
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 31, 2020
We are now waiting to see the upshot or impact, if any, of the two successive national party conventions. The general consensus was that the Democrats did very well. Then last week – at least as I was hearing it – many seemed to think that the Republican convention was more effective than Democrats anticipated. Suddenly the tide seemed to shift. I felt some of this myself. I have no idea which of these is true. But I can offer one observation that I’m pretty certain is accurate. It’s born of years of experience watching elections.
Regardless of the objective realities, Democrats will consistently anticipate loss or worry about loss while Republicans will consistently be confident of victory. This is a good rule of thumb regardless of the objective realities of the moment, to the degree they can be known. This is not an absolute of course: overwhelming odds will buoy Democrats and hopeless situations will nudge Republicans to despair. But in general this is almost an iron law of political psychology in the United States.
This may be obscured by the genuine shock and horror Democrats experienced on election night four years ago. Democrats were pretty confident and all their worst fears were realized. But a closer look shows the general pattern was actually in effect through much of the 2016 cycle. Indeed we saw a particular example of it during the 2018 midterm election. The fall of 2018 was chock full of theories and predictions about how two years of ‘resistance’ activism were coming up short. It was the ‘caravan’. It was Trump’s 12 dimensional chess. It was low turnout among young voters. So pervasive were Democrats’ latent fears of coming up short that they actually persisted well into election night and even the first couple days after the election – until late returns, results of close call races and just the actual numbers made clear Democrats had won a decisive victory.
Very excited to welcome Aurin Squire back to our virtual pages. Don’t miss ‘The Incredibly Short Rise and Fall of a Black Republican.’
Today we are publishing in its entirety my recent Inside Briefing with Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat of New York University. Prior to the Trump Era, her main subject area was Benito Mussolini and Italian fascism, particularly the cultural dimensions of the fascist era. Since 2015 she has become a public commentator on the rising authoritarianism we see across the globe and with particular force right here in the United States. In our culture, discussions of right-wing authoritarianism and fascism almost always spur mentions of Adolf Hitler, if only as a canonical point of reference. But as you’ll see in our conversation, with Donald Trump, Benito Mussolini is a much better analogue. The parallels are more pregnant with potential insights into both men and their movements. Ben-Ghiat also explores this question in a new book coming out in November, Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present.
I was really looking forward to this discussion with Ben-Ghiat who I’d come to know mainly through her Twitter presence. I was not disappointed. I hope you enjoy the discussion, which you can watch after the jump …
Now is a good time to remind ourselves that all this week and going through November numerous mainstream media reporters — most of whom aren’t consciously rooting for President Trump — will find themselves parroting Trump attack lines, amplifying Trumpite misinformation and more. In most cases they will do so because of the structural imbalance to the right which is built into political news coverage in the U.S. and in an effort to fairly cover “both sides” of the issue. I was inspired to note this for perhaps the 1000th time here at TPM when I saw this fairly mild example.
This is from a White House reporter for CNN …
As I’ve mentioned a few times, today it seems obvious that an evangelical leader like Jerry Falwell, Jr. would endorse and support President Trump. After all, almost every major conservative evangelical leader strongly supports President Trump. But it wasn’t like that back in late 2015. Trump’s irreligion and libertinism were obvious obstacles to becoming the candidate of conservative evangelicals. Perhaps the iron alliance we’ve now known for four years was always in the cards. But Jerry Falwell’s endorsement – in January 2016 – was a key bridge to getting there.
With that in mind I thought I’d go back and look at press coverage at the time, without the gloss and overlay of subsequent events. Remember that at this moment Trump was locked in a pitched battle for evangelical voters in Iowa with Ted Cruz, then a leading candidate of the evangelical right. Falwell had actually allowed Cruz to launch his campaign at Liberty University back in March 2015. Cruz would win the battle in Iowa – he came in first and Trump second. But of course he would lose the war.
Let me share a few snippets.
I’m now very curious to see the day-two stories about Jerry Falwell, Jr.
As you can see from the headline, after a day of equivocating, Falwell has now officially resigned his post at Liberty University. We now know pretty definitively what has been fairly obvious for a couple years about Jerry and Becki Falwell’s sexual practices. It seems highly likely that there will be other similar stories about other young men in the couple’s lives. But as we discussed yesterday, the really consequential news will be on the Falwell’s critical 2016 endorsement of then-candidate Trump and what role Trump and Michael Cohen’s knowledge of Falwell’s private life played in that decision.
Since I wrote the Falwell update below, Giancarlo’s story has been published and it’s about what most of us have long suspected: Giancarlo had a relationship with the couple in which he and Becki Falwell had sex while Jerry Falwell watched. Other than the hypocrisy and the payoffs (which were likely illegal since they used money from Liberty University) more power to them. But I want to zoom in on the 2016 endorsement that I mentioned in the previous post.
I imagine there are quite a lot of details to emerge. But let’s go just on what has been reported very reliably so far.
Yesterday, Jerry Falwell Jr., fresh off getting bounced from running his dad’s university, finally came forward to admit — or perhaps better to say “claim” — that his wife Becki Falwell had indeed had an affair with pool boy Giancarlo Granda.
But of course it’s not that simple. Falwell brought the story to one of the most reliably Trumpy and wingnutified journalists in the business, Paul Bedard, who now operates out of The Washington Examiner. In other words, a venue where Falwell was guaranteed a gentle touch — which is good since the lengthy statement Falwell released makes pretty clear this is an attempt to get out in front of what appears to be a much bigger and more damaging story.
To refresh everyone’s memory, back in 2012 the Falwells were at a luxury resort in Miami where they met a pool attendant named Giancarlo Granda. They were so impressed with his ambition and winning ways, so their story went, that they promptly started traveling with him, bringing him to Lynchburg, going to secluded vacation resorts with him and finally setting him up in business running a tumbledown youth hostel in Miami. Around the same time Michael Cohen shows up in the mix. Later, Cohen helps the Falwells make some nude photos of Becki disappear. (Apparently someone was blackmailing them with the threat of releasing them.) Then a few months after that Cohen brokered Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Today it now goes without saying that white evangelicals are Donald Trump’s most reliable and intense source of support in American politics. And perhaps this was always inevitable. But it wasn’t clear during the 2016 primary season and Falwell’s endorsement was a critical moment in giving this critical demographic permission, sanction to rally behind Trump.
But I get ahead of myself.