I’ve been taking a break from politics and news for the last couple of weeks, spending some time relaxing and recharging as well as some traveling. So, just like most Americans, the news has just been some background noise in which I pick up a few bits and pieces. But what I did manage to pick up led me to two important realizations.
First, the normalization process that Masha Gessen warned us about is much farther along than most of us realize. It feels that all of us, especially those who follow politics and the news closely, have become inured to just how extreme the daily onslaught on the truth and norms that come from Trump and his administration has become. Second, even as we become more and more immune, the lies become more frequent and more egregious and the attacks on our democracy become more and more brazen.
As Daniel Dale has documented, Trump is lying more and more frequently recently, with six of the last ten weeks being the most dishonest of his presidency. The most blatant of these was his claim that he meant to say “wouldn’t” when he stated in his joint press conference with Putin that he didn’t see any reason why it would be Russia who hacked the DNC emails. That original statement seemingly persuaded establishment figures who were most inclined to give Trump the benefit of the doubt about Russia that Putin did indeed have something on Trump. It initially seemed like a watershed moment, the first time that Trump had to do an abrupt volte-face on a significant issue. But, no. Trump was back talking about the hoax of the Russian interference in the election the very next day.
Today we learned Trump’s biggest lie of all. Michael Cohen is apparently willing to testify that Trump himself was informed of the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians offering dirt on Hillary beforehand and signed off on Don Jr., Manafort, and Kushner going ahead with it. I guess when Trump says “no collusion” now, he really means he tried to collude but we didn’t get the dirt he really wanted.
Of course, we still don’t know what Trump and Putin discussed in their private meeting and it seems probable that his top advisers don’t know either. But that intentional lack of transparency is par for the course for the Trump administration. The White House announced that it would no longer notify the press of the President’s call with foreign leaders or provide readouts of those calls. Of course, the administration’s readouts have often been devoid of detail, forcing the US press to rely on the readouts from other governments. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has not given an on-camera briefing with the press since April and the DoD spokesman has not had one since May. Reporters say the DoD is refusing to answer basic questions about the US military, such as the details of how US servicemen are dying overseas. And Trump himself hasn’t had a real press conference in over a year.
More disturbingly, new White House communications director Bill Shine, fresh off his job as chief enabler for sexual predators like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News, has decided his initial important action in his new job is to deny a female CNN reporter access to a Rose Garden event, apparently in retaliation for questions about Putin and Cohen. This assault on the free press follows Trump’s continual threats against the media in general and CNN and the Washington Post/Amazon in particular.
Meanwhile, the enabler of another sexual predator at Ohio State, Jim Jordan, is leading the effort to impeach Rod Rosenstein in order to derail the Russia investigation. Jordan has been a leader of a core group of House Republicans, along with Devin Nunes, whose goal has been to impede and obstruct the Russian investigation since its inception. The release of the full FISA application regarding the surveillance of Carter Page contradicts virtually everything in the “Nunes memo” that claimed the whole process was flawed because the FBI based the application entirely on the Steele dossier and failed to note that the Clinton campaign was paying for the research.
The impeachment charges against Rosenstein basically revolve around his unwillingness to provide detailed information about what Mueller has already uncovered so that information could then be passed on to Trump to aid his defense. In a characteristically totalitarian move, Jordan and the Republicans are charging Rosenstein with so-called “crimes” actually committed by his predecessor as the Deputy AG.
While Jordan and his cohorts are trying to kill the Russia investigation, Trump is still goading the DOJ to go after his political opponents, namely Hillary. And a few days ago, the Attorney General laughingly confirmed his crowd’s chants to “lock her up!” during a speech. Those calls, so far, have just been bluster. That was not the case for Stormy Daniels. Leaked emails show that Columbus police officers pre-planned the arrest of Daniels, targeting her in an apparently politically motivated operation. The charges against Daniels were subsequently dropped, presumably for lack of evidence. Finally, Trump threatened to revoke the security clearances of those who have been especially critical of him and the administration’s policies, a purely political retaliation. The fact that a number of those targets no longer have such clearances may make it somewhat laughable but no less egregious.
None of this is “normal”. Yet each and every day we get hit by another wave of outrage that seemingly rolls over us and passes on. It has become the norm. Kevin Drum noted that Trump’s tweet threatening to annihilate Iran for merely criticizing the US was basically universally ignored. Drum viewed this as indicative of the US no longer being taken seriously. I rather think that it is indicative of how we are becoming normalized to the creeping authoritarianism of Trump and the Republican party. And that is a dangerous place for all of us.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on July 27, 2018.