Thursday, November 14, 2019

Why the Dems will lose the impeachment. Plus: The true meaning of the "Deep State"

Trump will be impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate. Everyone knows what will happen. The outcome is no real mystery. When I ask "Will the Dems lose the impeachment?" I refer not to a loss in either house of Congress, but to a loss in the court of public opinion.

That court is not a court of law.

Unfortunately, many commentators cannot understand that basic point. That's why opinion pieces like this one by Renato Mariotti are so frustrating.
I’ve tried many federal criminal cases, and Wednesday’s hearing looked a lot like trials in which the prosecution has the defendant on tape admitting to a crime. When defense attorneys can’t mount a defense on the merits, they raise a lot of peripheral issues in the hope of convincing at least one juror that there is reasonable doubt.

So every time you heard the Republican’s designated counsel ask about Hunter Biden’s language skills or one of the Republican members of the Intelligence Committee ask whether the Obama administration sold Javelin missiles to Ukraine, what you were actually hearing was a defense attorney doing his level best to avoid talking about what his client said on tape. It was chaotic and often unfocused, though not always. In fact, there were moments when members actually executed their playbook with some skill.

But they simply can’t overcome the abundant evidence Democrats possess to prove their central point—that President Donald Trump conditioned military aid to Ukraine on a public announcement that his political rival, Joe Biden, was under investigation.
Yes they can. The Republicans will win this one by making the polls lurch in their favor. (In fact, support for removal has ticked down recently.) They will win because the Dems are fighting a legal battle while the Trumpers are fighting a propaganda battle. This New Yorker piece understands that important distinction, though it severely underestimates the effectiveness of the Republican strategy.

I was very frustrated by the Democratic performance yesterday. They knew damned well what the Trumpers would do; the Disciples of Donnie always telegraph their punches. Yet the Dems entered that room with no plan to punch back.

In particular, the Republicans kept hammering the Big Lie that Joe Biden, in asking for the removal of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor, somehow impeded the investigation of Burisma. In fact, that prosecutor had covered up for Burisma. Joe Biden had done what the owners of Burisma did not want.

The Republicans have been misleading the public on that point for weeks. Their entire case is predicated on this one Big Lie.

The Dems should have known that they'd haul this Big Lie into the impeachment hearings. Anyone who couldn't see that one coming must be so dense as to be unable to predict tomorrow's sunrise. Yet Schiff let the lie be heard and he let it stand.

He should have exposed it in no uncertain terms. He should have used language that was both partisan and harsh. Schiff should have used words along these lines:

"This is another Republican lie from the party of lies -- a party that continually misleads the public because it has no other recourse."

Howls of protest would have erupted, both in the room and in the press. Good. As the old saying goes, when you receive flack, that means you're over the target.

Something similar can be said of the repeated Republican lie that no harm was done because Trump released the aid package to Ukraine. Of course, that release happened only after the whistle was blown and the jig was up. A Dem finally made that point, but far too late. Schiff should have seen that lie coming, and he should have walked into that room prepared to launch a blistering counterattack. He should have been harsh -- even vulgar -- and unabashedly partisan.

The entire Democratic party should keep hammering home one theme: "The party of Trump is the party of lies. The party of Trump is the party of lies." Those very words. Over and over. Say those words with furrowed brows and through snarling teeth. Say them at a decibel level that goes well beyond everyone's comfort level.

The predictable responses will be Tut tuts and That's uncalled-for and even Have you no decency? If they say such things -- good. Show strength. Show a vicious side. Show that you have balls. When the Republicans sputter indignantly while wearing that "exploding cigar" look on their faces, you're winning.

Legally, the Republicans have no case. But they are winning the propaganda battle. They are winning the impeachment.

A word about the "Deep State." Most Americans don't understand that, in the Trumpian lexicon, the term "Deep State" now means the opposite of what it originally meant.

Yes, I know that the phrase originated in Turkish political discourse. But the person who imported that obscure term into America was Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat who became a professor at Berkeley. In the late 1960s and '70s, he was a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War and a well-known writer on the JFK assassination.

Scott, in those days, spoke to and for a community of left-wing conspiracy researchers -- a community now largely misunderstood; to a large degree, it has been erased from our collective memory. Suffice it to say that the left-wing paranoids were a very different breed of cat from the Alex Jonesians, if only because the lefties usually tried to prove what they said: They used evidence, interviews, footnotes, rational argumentation, all of that academic stuff. These researchers came to believe that JFK was killed by a tiny cabal of power-hungry ideologues operating behind scenes. Left-wing researchers eventually looked into other claimed conspiracies, such as the October Surprise and some of the non-standard interpretations of Watergate.

We can debate the virtues or failings of "old school" conspiracy research on another occasion. For present purposes, the important point is this: Those who read and respected Peter Dale Scott's writings came to use "Deep State" as a shorthand way of referring to Americans who used covert networks to conduct operations contrary to stated American policy.

Alas, I am no longer among Scott's admirers. He changed. He began to speak with cautious approval of secession, and he even appeared on Alex Jones' program. In a way, he made a classic far-left-to-far-right segue, though he transitioned rather later in life than is usually the case. (He's still with us, by the way.) In this infuriating essay, Scott defines himself as a "radical conservative" as he attacks Abraham Lincoln, partially defends Trump, and even -- to some degree -- questions Enlightenment values.

I believe that Jones lifted the phrase "Deep State" from Scott, and that Trump picked it up from Jones. Those words thus came to serve their present function -- as a reflexive, thought-stopping way for Trump's sheep-like followers to disregard any facts or testimony they don't like.

In Trumpian usage, the meaning of the term has shifted 180 degrees.

Originally, the phrase "Deep State" referred to operatives scuttling about in the shadows, conducting operations contrary to stated American policies. In the 1960s, Jim Angleton and his various comrades were the Deep State.

In the current context -- the Ukrainian scandal -- guys like Bill Taylor and George Kent are not the Deep State, at least not if we confine ourselves to the original meaning of the phrase. Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas are the ones who deserve the Deep State label, since they were pursuing a shadow foreign policy despite holding no official government position.

You may now be asking: What about Bill Barr and John Durham? I would say that they, too, are functioning as Deep State operatives. Someone who holds an important position within what we might call "the visible government" may also scurry about furtively in the pursuit of private interests. That's how Angleton worked. That's what Barr is doing right now. 

Is there anything we can do to bring back the original meaning of "Deep State"?

Lindsay Graham once more bends over to show off the "ENTER HERE" sign painted on his butt. After criticizing Trump's betrayal of the Kurds -- one of the few times Limp Lindsay has shown any political courage -- Graham has decided to help Erdogan cover up the greatest sin in the history of Turkey: The genocide of the Armenians.

Lindsay Graham, how can you look in the mirror without throwing up? For God's sake, man -- whatever they have on you, it can't be that bad. For the sake of your soul, just admit your sin, invite them to release the blackmail photo (or whatever the evidence might be), and move on. Wouldn't it be better to retire to a rural cabin -- fishing, reading, looking for Bigfoot -- then to spend your days as Trump's toadie?

Added note: I must apologize. The name is spelled “Lindsey,” not “Lindsay.” This is not the first time I’ve made this error.

Buying a bestseller. I think you'll enjoy this tweet from Seth Abramson...
Trump has managed to pull off a syntactical coup previous wannabe government bathtub drowners could only dream of: He's made Civil Service and Deep State synonymous. Where previously institutional knowledge was heralded as what enabled the ship of state to continue to sail during power transitions, it's now seen as an anti-democratic force to be countered. Institutional ignorance is the goal -- and, boy! do we ever have it, in spades.

If anyone ever doubts the existence -- at least historically -- of a Deep State, all it takes is to read the descriptions of JFK's actions when Patrice Lumumba was overthrown. Here's the President of the United States requesting regular updates on Lumumba's status and whereabouts from CIA officials who were sniggeringly leading him on, despite their knowing Lumumba had been killed hours earlier. Nauseating.
Maz, that’s precisely what I had in mind. A perfect historical example. It was also the Deep State that spread the lie that JFK ordered thr Lumumba assassination, even though it happened before Kennedy took office.
The deep state has not changed but simply extended its tentacles ever more deeply into the constitutional government over the last 56 years. Almost everyone in the US embassy in a hot-spot like Ukraine is a CIA officer or asset,
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