Matt Taibbi -- previously one of my favorite writers -- went into the campaign season doing everything he could to weaken Hillary Clinton, thereby paving the way for the triumph of Trump. This, to say the least, pissed me off -- though I somehow never got around to writing the anti-Taibbi piece that I researched about a year ago. Today's a good day to hammer that particular nail.
Why today? Because Taibbi has published a new piece in Rolling Stone: "There Is No Way to Survive the Trump White House: The tenures of Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci represent two opposite, but equally ineffective, strategies for surviving the Trump White House."
It's a fine article, filled with the kind of insight and snark you'd expect from the author of Griftopia
The twin killings of Scaramucci and Priebus tell the whole story. The two men represented opposite strategies for surviving Castle Trumpsylvania, and both turned out to be equally ineffective.
The Scaramucci/Bannon rule seems to suggest that the best strategy for survival in the Trump White House is to lay low, keep your face off cable, and genuflect to His Highness as shamelessly and excessively as possible. No dice!
Priebus, a born bootlicker and capitulator whose spine was surgically removed years ago during his first term as RNC chairman, tried exactly this strategy, and ended up just as dead as Scaramucci.
There are countless stories attesting to Priebus' extreme unwillingness to confront the president. Granted the White House Chief of Staff job with sweeping assurances from Trump that he would have full autonomy and control in the White House, Priebus ultimately was reduced – this is according to the latest leaks – to listening at the door of the Oval Office in an attempt to guess who was meeting with the president.
I've wondered why Priebus never responded in kind to Scaramucci's bizarre attacks. Taibbi has a few words about that:
To this Priebus did what he'd always done – nothing, eating the humiliation like a meat loaf. He told fellow self-flagellating yes man Wolf Blitzer he "wasn't going to get in the mud in those kind of things."
This was the high road, seemingly, but not to Trump, who hilariously was furious with Priebus for refusing to "fight back."
Suetonian observations of this sort are what I dig most about Taibbi's work.
What I dig not
is the hypocritical attack on Hillary Clinton
which Taibbi offered up in early 2016. That hit piece helped to transform the most admired woman in America into one of the most hated. The most oft-quoted words are these:
Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration's fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha's Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.
Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn't want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.
Why do I use the word "hypocritical"? Simple. If the call was really so effing easy, then one may fairly ask an important question: WHERE WAS MATT?
Taibbi's piece may give you the impression that he spent 2002 marching in anti-war protests and leading crowds in rousing renditions of Give Peace a Chance
. No? Okay, then -- Taibbi must
have been writing articles denouncing the rush to war. Right? Right?
In a very real sense, Taibbi had a vote too: He voted with his keyboard. A widely-read writer can influence the public, and Congress-critters will hesitate to vote yea
if the public demands a nay
In 2002 and 2003, did Matt Taibbi ever favor us with a piece that took a bold stand against the authorization? Did Taibbi ever urge readers to contact their senators and representatives?
I checked. I did the research about a year ago, and although I don't want to spend the day retracing the research trail I took back then, here's the bottom line: In the year before the invasion, Matt Taibbi did not write one article against the authorization of military force.
I could find no public statement from Taibbi arguing that a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein would be a really bad idea. If he did
write such a piece, I could not discover it via Google. (Feel free to double-check.)
It's not as though Taibbi lacked an audience. From his Wikipedia bio:
In 2002, he returned to the U.S. to start the satirical bi-weekly The Beast in Buffalo, New York. He left that publication, saying that "Running a business and writing is too much." Taibbi continued as a freelancer for The Nation, Playboy, New York Press (where he wrote a regular political column for more than two years), Rolling Stone, and New York Sports Express (as Editor at Large).
He did not exactly "go to the Matt" for peace. And yet he now says that it was an easy call.
John Kerry had committed the same unforgivable sin that damned Hillary, but my search of the Taibbi ouvre did not disgorge a 2004 Kerry-hate diatribe to match his 2016 Hillary-hate diatribe. Again: Maybe I missed something. I'll be grateful to anyone who double-checks and proves me wrong.
Taibbi is also misleading younger folk about the history of that period.
Here's a key fact that lefties always leave out: The authorization of military force was very popular at the time.
Look up the polling. Most of the citizenry demanded a "yes" vote. They were ready to crucify any politician who opposed the authorization. Many people believed Ann Coulter when she accused anti-war protestors of being traitors in the secret pay of Saddam Hussein.
Of course, the same average Americans who supported the authorization in October of 2002 refused to "own it" after the war went bad.
As always, Americans could not blame themselves. Most people would rather scrape their nipples off with a rusty vegetable peeler than admit to even the slightest error.
So they blamed Bush and Cheney -- and correctly so. But let's face it: On a visceral level, blaming any male
politician is emotionally unsatisfying. We need a girl
to kick. The American psyche demands it.
It's all Hillary's fault. She made Bush do it.
That's why we continually blast Hillary for the 2002 Iraq vote while forgiving everyone else in politics at that time, Democrat or Republican.
There are other facts which people like Taibbi always leave out. The authorization was supposed to be invoked only in case Saddam Hussein blocked weapons inspectors. At the time of the vote, only the most cynical could foresee a situation in which Saddam allowed the inspectors complete freedom and Bush went to war anyways. (Sure, I
possessed sufficient cynicism -- but I'm a notorious weirdo.)
There were many in Congress -- both Republican and Democrat -- who sincerely believed the tales of WMDs told by Colin Powell and others. Powell commanded enormous bipartisan respect at the time; he was the one untouchable hero.
We should also note that, after the war began, Hillary's record on the war was (slightly) to the left of Barack Obama's.
So much for the Iraq vote. As for Taibbi's non-Iraq complaints against Hillary -- well, I was going to write a point-by-point counterargument, but Kevin Drum has already done the job
This is not the place for a full recapitulation of my arguments against Bernie Sanders, the man Taibbi hoped to help -- even though Sanders was never going to win the nomination. (Easy call.) Suffice it to say that I began as a Sanders admirer and ended up despising both the man and his zombie army of hipster dimwits and Republican/Russian trolls; see here
for my main anti-Bernie piece.
I remain convinced that Bernie Sanders, had he gained the nomination, would have lost all 50 states, including Vermont
. After I published that list, we received confirmation that the Republicans do indeed possess video of Sanders in the midst of Sandinistas chanting "The Yankee will die!" That video, considered separately from all other factors, would have insured a Sanders loss of the popular vote as well as the electoral college.
I will stop walloping Bernie when he reconciles himself to his destined status as an historical footnote. Unfortunately, Bernie's Alt Left movement is already doing its best to insure that the Republicans retain control of the House in 2018. You might say that Bernie Sanders is the Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. If Taibbi remains hypnotized by Bernie-ism, then we might as well consider him the Co-Chairman, despite his current critiques of Donald Trump.