February 16, 2017

“What Trump and Bannon want is regime change. That's why the clock is ticking.”

The Fog of Trump

Should Donald Trump have spelled it out that what he really had in mind for Washington was regime-change?  The darkest truth about the squalling Trump administration is that nobody knows what’s happening.  

Old-time news guy Dan Rather says it’s worse than Watergate.  Mr. Putin has almost certainly has lost his dream of a grand bargain, but he’s won perhaps a larger goal in making the US government look like a joke.

The best reporters say the real theme in the capital is chaos—authoritarian intent veering toward anarchy, inside the White House and out.  The historically minded say the uncertainty and the stakes are without precedent in this Republic.

Timothy Snyder—eminent historian of the bloody conflicts in Europe—sees authoritarianism rising through the American fog. “The moment you say it couldn’t happen here,” Snyder warns, “is the moment you are ignoring history. And you’re taking a huge risk.” Sally Quinn gives us the inside scoop on Washington’s  chattering class, fearing something they’ve never seen before. Michael Glennon, the man who previously warned us about the perils of double government, tells us what happens when the Deep State strikes back. Heather Cox Richardson gives us the historian’s take of Steve Bannon’s worldview.

Guest List
Timothy Snyder
professor of history at Yale and author of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning
Sally Quinn
Washington Post columnist and moderator of On Faith
Michael Glennon
professor of international law at Tufts and author of National Security and Double Government
Heather Cox Richardson
professor of history at Boston College and author of To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party

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  • Pete Crangle

    Fake President, Fake Congress, Fake Two Party Duopoly, Fake Money Driven Politics, Fake Corporate Media, Fake Corporate Person-hood, Fake Neoliberalism, Fake Austerity, Fake 1%, Fake 99%, Fake Economic Dislocation, Fake Rustbelt, Fake Ethnic Nationalism, Fake Endless Wars, Fake Imperialism, Fake Covert Ops, Fake Hyper Surveillance, Fake Deep State, Fake Climate Change, Fake Ecocidal Damage, Fake Resource Exhaustion, Fake Mass Extinction, Fake …

    Real Consequences.

    Thank you Chris, team ROS, and guests.

  • Potter

    David Brooks column this morning-all very good:

    Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while…………..

    …….The human imagination is vast, but it is not nearly vast enough to encompass the infinitely multitudinous ways Donald Trump can find to get himself disgraced.

    What a failed Trump administration looks like.

  • Cal McCrevan

    The ‘ Fog of Trump’ or ‘Trump’s Fog’ , both of these are destructive premises for American democracy. I thank ROS for allowing your guests to take the conversation in any direction which they choose. Intellectual conversations with depth analysis and strong reporting by institutions like the Washington Post, NYT , WSJ and others are all that thinking Americans have left against this New Wave Authoritarianism.

    When President Trump had his presser with Netanyahu I perceived a global realignment. I see the US/RUSSIA /ISRAELI as new triumvirate of misinformation and militarism. The question is not the survival of America but instead the survival of the the American idea. It is obvious that the western right sees authoritarianism as the only way to maintain a white/European hegemonic order in the world. The narrative that Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, White women having abortions and Black people protesting are the Matrix which Trump, Bannon and Kushner have weaved for them .They are lost. The question for the rest of us is did you sound the alarm? It appears to me that the ROS team is blowing it’s trumpet .I will use this latest Fog of Trump show as information and inspiration to sound my own alarms. Keep up the good work!

    • Frank Horton

      We’ll do our best! Thanks, Cal!

  • Billy McBride

    As an American, I feel like I have no power now, but I think I still can love. If I had to choose between the two, I would choose love over power, a love for others no matter who they are, and a love for myself. Now is the time when anger, hate and revenge should be thrown out the window, a good test for those who call themselves American, I believe. I know it is easy to talk of love, when one has stability, when one has good food to eat and time to read great books. And, while the little luxuries of life can still give one pleasure, one knows how anger, hate and revenge can destroy their fragile fabric, so the feelings of affection become all the more important to rebuild and grow. If and when I ever get that power back, I hope to combine it with my love to do what can be done to bring more happiness to others while eliminating as much cruelty as I can from the world. If only love was as celebrated and pursued as power in politics, religion, and civilization! Sigmund Freud said once that loving everybody devalues love, but I think he was speaking more of one’s private life. Public matters are different, knowledge matters, and though I do not seek love, I think it is still more useful to share than power, and equally as useful as money. Richard Rorty’s essay on America Looking Backward from the year 3000, or so helped me to learn about our possibilities as Americans and its future.

  • Michele McCarthy

    So grateful for this “speaking truth to so called power”.
    Fantastic reporting

  • Michele McCarthy

    It is a time for “choosing sides for basketball”, and the choice is a love (expansion) choice or a fear (contraction) choice. I am hopeful we will eventually and collectively take the higher road of love and expansion.

  • Potter

    Very good discussion, first rate guests. The longer this state of affairs remains, the more normal, the more appeasing the more adjusting all around to chaos and real harm Trump/Bannon et al will do to the country. If Trump will not be able to “settle down” (think Melissa McCarthy) it will maybe be a good thing or better than if he does. More outrageousness equals more response and citizen involvement. American exceptionalism or greatness will be verified if our institutions work, our checks and balances kick in, and we finally spit this irritant out. We needed the shake-up but it’s been a rough ride even in this short period of time.

  • Pete Crangle

    Notes from the Cheap Seats: The Regime Change Archive

    Stephen Miller channels Eric Cartman channeling Joseph Goebbels channeling the Committee on Public Information channeling the Napoleonic Dream channeling Charlemagne channeling Constantine channeling Nicene Christianity channeling Saint Paul channeling the Messianic Vision …

    “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny. If democracy cannot direct affairs, then a philosophy which expects it to direct them will encourage the people to attempt the impossible; they will fail, but that will interfere outrageously with the productive liberties of the individual. The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.” — Walter Lippmann, “The Phantom Public”

    “This bombing went on for five years. The Supreme Court never passed any judgment on it and the military speaks with pride today that five years of the bombing of Cambodia killed 16,000 of the so-called enemy. That’s 25% killed, and there’s a military ruling that says you cannot kill more than 10% of the enemy without causing irreversible, psychological damage. So, five years of bombing, a diet of bark, bugs, lizards and leaves up in the Cambodian jungles, uh, an education in Paris environs in a strict Maoist doctrine with a touch of Rousseau, and other things that we will probably never know about in our lifetime — including, perhaps, an invisible cloud of evil that circles the Earth and lands at random in places like Iran, Beirut, Germany, Cambodia, America — set the Khmer Rouge out to carry out the worst auto-homeo genocide in modern history.” — Spalding Gray, “Swimming to Cambodia”

    Putting aside Mr. Gray’s curious demographic calculations, I find it germane to our current context. Unreality is a breeding ground for monsters.

    Will Regime Change be on the test?

    The mediocrity of the many is almost always robustly superior, and more elastic, than the mediocrity of the few, and yet, it can be just as potentially dangerous, myopic, and violently self-destructive. There are times when Mobs & Monarchs crave despotic expression and chaos — over and over again, history whispers this to us. It is one, of many, contradictory aspects of human equilibrium. It is driven by the fever of anxiety, not fear, and tends to express itself well beyond the boundaries of de facto standards of self-destruction. The self-destruction of World War II was well beyond that of World War I, and so was World War I beyond previous episodes of mass violent madness.

    Chaos and its uglier twin, Instability, unleash unintended consequences, and once untethered from morality and ethics, roam freely within the fever of anxiety, and are bounded not by the laws and ethics of human institutions, but instead, such a fever is bounded only by the potential physical capacity that reality presents.

    A wildness has been blowing across the American heart, and the global soul. For decades. Regime Change will be on the test. Once again. It is baked into democracy. It is baked into all human institutions. And, it can be baked into their demise. Yes, this will be on the test. Eyes up. Pencils down. This is a time of urgency, not panic. Those who can provide protection, must help protect those who need protection. A clarion call is being heard that is long overdue to be acted upon. History will judge our response.

  • Potter

    “Let’s not mumble or whisper about the central issue facing our country: What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?”

    Face His Unfitness Now Not Later

    • Vandermeer

      As Tom Friedman said this president has no moral authority.

  • Peter

    American voters will and should get what they brought on themselves and deserve. Let Trump and the republicans do their worst. Voters will have their say in 2018 and 2020.

  • Pete Crangle

    Notes from the Cheap Seats, prequel edition: Demagogues are always with us.

    “If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier… as long as I’m the dictator.” — George W. Bush, Y2K

    Narrative House Cleaning & Post Mortem

    Demagogues feed on the Neglectorate like vampires, and vice versa. The current and growing crisis in our civic institutions is not due solely to the petulance, duplicity, and incompetence of Donald Trump. Nor is it attributable solely to the calculating malevolence of Alt Right platform architect Stephen Bannon, the Iago/Goebbels love child. Nor can this crisis be reduced to a Junta configured Robber Baron government that is a made to order version of crony state capitalism with an iron fist — a repulsive assembly of wingnuts, vandals, nincompoops, neocons, sadists, sociopaths, and swamp critters.

    This crisis has not been caused by the Byzantine methods of American politics, such as, the electoral college or gerrymandering or a two party stranglehold. Fake news didn’t usher us here. Social media is not the culprit. Neither Wikileaks, a group that has incrementally put distance between itself and credibility, nor Director James Comey, a national law enforcement leader of dubious integrity, twiddled the knobs that sent us into mass psychosis. Vladimir Putin didn’t engineer this version of America through reality hacking. Whatever opportunistic machinations Putin’s government employed for its plutocratic advantage will probably remain forever opaque, if not crazy making for those who are constrained by partisanship or excuses.

    The hubris and incompetence of the Democratic Party didn’t play a Trojan horse role — it just looked like a zombie incarnation of a Bob Shrum project. The flimsy cover of voting the lesser of all evils didn’t manifest this context — voting or not voting one’s conscience tends to make nary a difference for such outcomes, given the perpetual context of how American elections work; I speak from long experience. Lee Harvey Oswald and Rafael Cruz didn’t conspire to kill American democracy with a magic bullet. Though I suppose we can expect a fresh report at some future non-sequitur from former Representative Dan Burton in an update to The Pumpkin Files that ties Oswald to Vince Foster, and giving us the Q.E.D. smoking gun to the Clinton crime family (how has Dan Burton’s DIY forensic gumshoe work not been put into into a Coen brothers film … or an Errol Morris film? He is cornucopia of homespun fringe paranoia and high speed projectile creativity).

    A cursory peek into US history will inform one that none of this is particularly new, notwithstanding some technological differences with the past. That said, there does exist the possibility of intrusions into our electoral politics by US federal law enforcement officials and/or foreign powers and/or homegrown ratf*cking mischief. But let’s cut the crap with ourselves. Does anyone seriously think this is virgin territory? And that somehow it had finally been breached by Vlad the Hypernormalised evil genius or The Ghost of J. Edgar Hoover, or Julian Assange? The 1980 Hostage Crisis and the Iran-Contra scandal, Nixon-Kissinger and the 1968 Paris Peace Talks, and the use of US covert operations to break into the Watergate Hotel still remain in some collective memories as examples of election misconduct and lawlessness. Whatever malevolent forces are at work here, it is nothing new to US politics.

    And though none of the absurdity and carnival theatre that can overtake politics is particularly new, it would seem that ‘common sense’ among a citizenry that used to pass itself off as the moral majority, the silent majority, the real America, a demographic that has wed itself to some idea of The Greatest Generation and American Exceptionalism, has perhaps shelved common sense for the foreseeable future, and decided to fly its freak flag and rally around the banality of an ethno-nationalism run by pirates. It would seem that common sense, be it Thomas Paine’s or one’s Nana, has been rebuked among the formerly sober and responsible, only to be replaced by mass delusion that is fed a strict diet of fact free, political media. I find it noteworthy that mass political media, as well as, the national intel apparatus, owns the distinction of being the sinking ship, the iceberg it placed in its path, and the rats complaining about the rising water it is just now discovering … worry not, we’re only a few Friedman Units away from the ‘normalcy’ of a Mike Pence presidency!

    Perhaps, the sobriety of democracy has been overrun by The Hungry Ghost, those various hungry addictions that must be fed by predatory pimps such as a monstrous pharmaceutical sector, and/or an equally banal reality TeeVee business? It is the stuff of addiction and cult. Which means it is the stuff of despair that is wed to fight versus flight emotional responses. Reason and family interventions are not its fix, and mass deprogramming is not a viable option.

    Cultural codependency as expressed through bread and circuses seems to be where we have been, and where we are going. The media infotainment complex helped create this beast, aided and abetted by a deep state psyops corps, and now it squeals and howls, caught in the tar pits of its own hubris and for-profit blind spot. An access driven center of gravity to feed the investor class has always had the seeds of destruction sown into the future of journalism. A deep state that has as its core mission to manipulate and overthrow governments, now publicly rears its ugly head as a counter-insurgency to the insurgency of Trump/Bannon, and whatever else is attached itself to this administration. How many heads and hands will Trump and Bannon have nailed up to Trump Tower? Or, will it turn out to that Trump and Bannon will get mounted on some anonymous bureaucrat’s wall? Should make for compelling alt reality viewing. Which media venue will be embedded for this horror show? The SNL version of The Apprentice Redux will help us keep score.

    Peak Decline?

    The crisis of government that has been growing for some time is symptomatic of deeper and more pernicious problems. Governmental crisis is not new. However, context matters. We live in a time of extremity that revolves around ecocidal damage, neoliberalism and inequality run amok, and permanent crises management. This is funneled through the filter of for-profit media. In this extremity, we are spread across various identity demographics, and yet, live as a highly atomized crisis cult that has been fed a steady diet of banal narratives that revolve around American exceptionalism, class warfare, and race and gender identity.This is done for corporate profit and geopolitical sport.

    For an example of what a post-Fairness Doctrine unreality looks like, there is Alex Jones. I have been following this actor/director for a number of years. He had very minor roles in two excellent Richard Linklater films, “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.” Alex Jones didn’t invent this circus, but he is one of the greatest trained monkey’s I’ve seen work its gears and levers. A sort of one man, perpetual tirade masquerading as a conservative evangelist who could easily double his persona as a sanctified preacher selling end times memorabilia, prayer towels, and bottles of blood soaked sand flown in directly from Mount Calvary aboard C-5M military transports. I bring him up because he has a personal media rapport with Forty Five, and he delivers a regular dose of fringe, reality dislocation to his audience. But, to be clear, Jones isn’t the problem, didn’t create the problem, and yet, he too, is a symptom of our woes. He is also an opportunist, which is of course, the American way: crash the party, break a bunch of other people’s stuff, call it rock & roll, retire to lavish digs…

    The Deep State is culpable in cultivating and exploiting this cultural
    context for ginning up wars, covert operations, and various missions involving lawless, trans-border
    incursions that include everything from our War on Drugs to Drone Strike
    program. Contemporary nativism and fascism does not achieve a normalized critical mass from the extreme right, it achieves it from the center that is driven into a ethno-nationalist world view by economic dislocation and endless crisis management that is expressed with boom-bust economies, endless war, and incremental curtailment of civil liberties. Endless wars are driven by resource extraction control and darker, fundamentalism and chauvinism. The rise of nativism is a symptom of deeper, foundational erosion.

    Orthodox conservative and liberal institutions are failing. The election of Donald Trump is a signal of their possible denouement, and it is has been brought about by the institutional disregard, if not contempt, for common people — have a glass of Flint tap water, ponder the relevancy of Black Lives Matter, go visit the economic ‘recovery’ in rural enclaves, or deindustrialized America. In the last election cycle, the citizenry was offered a crop of candidates engaged in a rhetorical coarsening of dumbed down talking points that were essentially a flurry of policy free, cheap shots. Burlesque campaigns, corrupt and/or incompetent candidates, in concert with the corrosive influence of money, are symptomatic of a culture that is running out of road for which it can kick the cans of intractability. And unlike previous election cycles, it is becoming more and more clear, the cliff edge is fast approaching … or receding due to gravitational force? Hope it’s a soft landing.

    The current US political system offers the type of leadership and tenor of behavior that one would expect from a culture that is in decline, tilting towards collapse. As the problems become more serious and more threatening, the politics and rhetoric become more unhinged, farcical, and potentially lethal on a mass scale. Trump’s recent press conference and campaign rally are evidence of a combination of con-artistry, propaganda, and a lack of acquaintance with day-to-day reality. It is a continuation of his campaign that is attempting to take the government hostage. So now, we have an executive that is not governing, ruling, or even sputtering … it’s a campaign rally executive. I have to admit, it’s an impressive sight to see in my lifetime. It is nothing short of a revolutionary storming of governmental institutions by a pack of crackpots that have a savant means for malevolence and self-enrichment, and does so in plain sight. It is as impressive as it is troubling.

    In spite of the growing crisis, we can be certain that the current GOP government will thrive and opportunistically capitalize on the chaos and instability that it will create and shape. This is a government that will offload blame and reject accountability with bellicose aplomb. If there is one thing that has heretofore served Donald Trump, and solidified his position of media dominance, it is chaos and instability. It feeds him and Bannon, and a growing movement built on resentment and fact-free reality that is a form of collective unreality. How this plays out is anybody’s guess. The over-under is a moving target that percolates.

    Chaos and instability have been known to carry murderous, bandit governments into protracted nightmares that are exercises in enrichment schemes wrapped in copious amounts of leisure time and end times decadence. The leisure industry and vicious governments have a long history of being tied at the hip. The opulent elite are usually vicious, and tend not to swing a golf club worth a damn. That said, tyrants love their leisure toys, and the havoc they wreak. Donald Trump is a near perfect version of a leisure class tyrant.

    The chaos and instability that fans this resentment and unreality will help feed others, too. It is opportunity knocking. It will be a boom time for any number of speculators, shareholders, corporate executives, and board rooms. It will feed the security, weapons, and surveillance sectors. It will feed the energy and financial services sectors. It will feed the for-profit prison and detention sector. It will feed corporate Republicans and Democrats, and perhaps, play a key role in helping them turn over the last remnants of The New Deal to corporate interests, for profit and misery making austerity. It will feed lobbyists and consultants. Black markets will continue to flourish and grow, especially for various pharmacological pain relief. It will feed media venues, including smaller independent media outlets, that speak in the language of spectacle, and not in the lexicon of citizenry or accountability (not ROS!).

    All will be fed to the capacity of Mr Creosote. And then, when these various bad actors have been filled beyond point of peak satiety, they will extract even more in an exercise that is baked into late capitalism — to devour government and the public commons for enrichment and civil subjugation. Vampire Squid, a term used by Matt Taibbi to describe ruthless corporate behavior, seems an apt metaphorical description for these opportunists. Whatever Regime Change means, a term for which the darker implications are beyond my capacity to examine within the American context, it will be We The People who will be served up as the wafer thin, after dinner mint. The trough feeder will continue to expand in this ongoing crisis, and it will be myriad in its hogs and scoundrels, and brutally aloof in its etiquette. Mar-a-lago is the latest location for a Versailles government.

    It is impossible to assess any current cultural situation with perfect understanding. Too many moving pieces, too many invisible forces. Hindsight will reveal if peak decline has set in. That said, the blitzkrieg speed and direction of this executive is instructive. Things are moving fast. Declines that turn into collapse can move with a decisive quickness that is breath-taking and life-threatening. If you have ever been part of a large enterprise or institution that has tanked quickly, by causes that were felt, but not addressed, this lesson has probably been internalized. If you have ever been in a catastrophic natural disaster, you have probably internalized the lesson. If you haven’t had the pleasure, pay attention. The ‘voyages’ of Titanic and Pequod are instructive. Is Trump the iceberg, or is he Ahab, or is he Moby Dick? Is the Deep State a fifth column antagonist? Or, is it we the citizenry who may become reality’s mindless mob? From the cheap seats, it all looks rather murky in all its clarity and splendor.