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Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don

Photo by Financial Times | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump’s dysfunctional, dangerous, and deeply unpopular presidency is one of the most bizarre chapters in United States history.  Imagine that a seasoned and clever journalist was given access to the inner workings of this wacky White House and permitted to observe its activities like “a fly on the wall,” with “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing.” Imagine further that this journalist was permitted to be “a constant interloper” who “accepted no rules nor…made any promises about what [he] might or might not write” (Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House [New York: Henry Holt and Company, January 5, 2018] p. xii).

As we found out when Michael Wolff’s instant bestseller Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House came out six weeks ago, all that happened last year. Wolff held down that spot for at least the first eight months of Trump’s insane presidency. Along the way, he interviewed hundreds of individuals familiar with Trump within and beyond the White House, including many senior administration staffers.

The result was a book that quickly became an historical event in and of itself – a volume that will certainly make its way into future American history textbooks.

Grounds for Impeachment

Packed with soul-numbing revelations on nearly every page, Fire and Fury is something of a Rorschach Test indicating what presidential (and not-so presidential) facts matter most (and least) to readers of different persuasions. Liberals and others hoping to find cause for impeachment have found much to their liking. Late in the book, for example, Wolff quotes Trump’s initial Chief Political Strategist, the wily white nationalist Steve Bannon, on how it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr, and the presidential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to take their infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.  “The chance that Don, Jr. did not walk these [Russian] jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor,” Bannon says, “is zero” (Fire and Fury, p.255).

Daddy Trump knew about the meeting, contrary to White House denials. “The certainty among the White House staff that Trump himself would not only have been apprised of the meeting, but have met the principals,” Wolff writes, “meant that the president was caught out as a liar to those whose trust he most needed” (p. 256).

Wolff has Trump dead-to-rights on obstruction of justice. Fire and Fury reports that the president was directly responsible for the preposterous White Hose story claiming that the Trump Tower meeting had only been about U.S. adoption policy (pp. 258-259).

By Wolff’s account, Trump’s rash and idiotic May 2017 decision (“made by the president with almost no consultation except of his inner family circle”) to fire Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey was “arguably a plan to obstruct justice.  The president made it perfectly clear,” writes Wolff, “that he hadn’t fired the FBI Director because he had done Hillary wrong; he fired the FBI director because the FBI was too aggressively investigating him and his administration” (p. 220).

Also enticing for those who would like to see Trump impeached (in connection with Russia and/or obstruction and/or the Constitution’s emoluments clause), Wolff depicts the president’s hostility to the Robert-Mueller-headed federal investigation as arising from Trump’s fear that his slimy Russian and German business dealings and those of son-in-law’s family will be exposed. Here, as in much of Fire and Fury, the dodgy but perceptive Steve Bannon bears special witness:

‘You realize where this is going,’ Bannon [told a gathering of friends and associates in July of 2017] … ‘This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [accomplished financial investigator Andrew] Weissmann [to join Mueller’s team] first and he is a money laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through [former Trump campaign director] Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner…It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me’ (p. 278, emphasis added).

Fire and Fury reports that this – concern over “greasy” foreign business deals tied to Trump and Kushner – and NOT the charge of Trump-Kremlin collusion was the real factor behind the administration’s early attacks on the Russia investigation:

… the worry in the White House was not about collusion – which seemed implausible if not farcical – but what, if the unraveling began, would likely lead to the messy Trump (and Kushner) business dealings…This was the peculiar and haunting consensus – not that that Trump was guilty of all that he was accused of, but that he was guilty of so much else. It was all too possible that the hardly plausible would lead to the totally credible (p. 102).

“Twenty-Fifth Amendment Bad”

Impeachment aside, there’s actually more material in Fire and Fury to please those who dream of seeing Trump removed via the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, on grounds of incompetence and unfitness. The book is laden with evidence that Trump is too stupid, ignorant, boorish, narcissistic, and absurdly prideful for the position he incredibly holds.  Here are some of the more remarkable passages on that score (feel free to skim – there’s a lot here):

From October of 2017:

In early October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s fate was sealed – if his obvious ambivalence toward the president had not already sealed it – by the revelation that he had called the president ‘a fucking moron’…Everyone, in his or her own way, struggled to express the baldly obvious fact that the president did not know enough, did not know what he didn’t know, did not particularly care, and, to boot, was confident if not serene in his unquestioned certitudes. There was now a fair amount of back-of-the classroom giggling about whom had called Trump what. For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an ‘idiot.’ For Gary Cohn, he was ‘dumb as shit.’ For H. R. McMaster he was a ‘dope.’ The list went on (p.304, emphasis added).

From the campaign period:

To say that he knew nothing – nothing at all – about the basic intellectual foundations of the job was a comic understatement.  Early in the campaign… [Trump operative] Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate: ‘I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head’ (p. 16, emphasis added).

‘No one in the country, or on earth, has given less thought to health insurance than Donald,’ said [former Fox News chief] Roger Ailes (p.164).

From right after the 2016 election:

What was, to many people who knew Trump well, much more confounding was that he had managed to win this election, and arrive at the ultimate accomplishment, wholly lacking what in some obvious sense must be the main requirement of the job, what neuroscientists call executive function.  He had somehow won the race, but his brain seemed incapable of performing what would be essential tasks in his new job.  He had no ability to plan and organize and pay attention and switch focus; he had never been able to tailor his behavior to what the goals at hand reasonably required.  On the most basic level, he simply could not link cause and effect (p. 24, emphasis added)

‘You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff…a son of a bitch who knows Washington,’ [Roger] Ailes told Trump not long after the election…Ailes had a suggestion: ‘Speaker Boehner’ (John Boehner had been Speaker of the House until he was forced out in a Tea Patty putsch in 2011).

‘Who’s that?’ asked Trump (p. 26).

[Rupert] Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas might be hard to square with his immigration promises.  But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, ‘We’ll figure it out’ ‘What a fucking idiot,’ said Murdoch, shrugging as he got off the phone”(p. 36, emphasis added).

…as Bannon emphasized, [Trump] was never going to get the facts right, nor was he ever going to acknowledge that he got them wrong… (p. 47).

From after the Inauguration:

…within twenty-four hours of the inauguration, the president had invented a million or so [inauguration rally attendees] that did not exist.  He sent his new press secretary – whose personal mantra would shortly become ‘You can’t make this shit up’ – to argue his case in a media moment that turned Spicer…into a political joke….It was the first presidential instance of what the campaign regulars had learned over many months: on the most basic level, Trump just did not, as Spicer later put it, give a fuck.  You could tell him whatever you wanted, but he knew what he knew, and if what you said contradicted what he knew, he simply didn’t believe you (pp. 47-48, emphasis added).

Trump himself you could see as …an energetic child, and whomever could placate or distract him became his favorite… His inspiration existed in the moment…From phone call to phone call – and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls – you could lose him…While he was often most influenced by the last person he spoke to, he did not actually listen to anyone.  So it was not so much the force of an individual argument or petition that moved him, but rather more just someone’s presence… (pp. 70-71, emphasis added).

…the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy…. It was, said [Deputy Chief of Staff Karen] Walsh, ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants…’…And making suggestions to him was deeply complicated. Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate…He was post-literate – total television…But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen…he trusted his own expertise ­— no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.”  He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do  (pp. 113-114, emphasis added)

…he seemed to lack the ability to take in third-party information…’He’s a guy who really hated school,’ said Bannon. ‘And he’s not going to start liking it now’ (p. 115)

From May of 2017, after Trump fired Comey, predictably sparking widespread disgust and outrage (as Bannon predicted) and leading to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel to investigate Trump:

Trump believed that firing Comey would make him a hero.  Over the next 48 hours he spun his side to various friends. It was simple: he had stood up to the FBI (p. 219).

‘He’s not only crazy,’ declared [longstanding close Trump associate and fellow real estate tycoon] Tim Barrack to a friend, ‘he’s stupid’ (p.233, emphasis added).

From June of 2017:

“His was a zero-sum ecosystem.  In the world of Trump, anything that he deemed of value either accrued to him or had been robbed of him…His wounded feelings and incomprehension at the failure of people whose embrace he sought to, in return, embrace was ‘deep, crazy deep,’ said his former aide Sam Nunberg, who had run afoul of his need for 100 percent approbation and his bitter suspicion of being profited from” (p. 248, emphasis added).

From July of 2017:

“That evening the president traveled to West Virginia to deliver a speech before the Boy Scouts of America.  Once more, his speech was tonally at odds with time, place, and good sense.  It prompted an immediate apology from the Boy Scouts to it members, their parents, and the country at large.  The quick trip did not improve Trump’s mood: the next morning, seething, the president again publicly attacked his attorney general and – for good measure and no evident reason tweeted his [idiotic] ban of transgender people in the military” (p.284, emphasis added).

From August of 2017:

“[Trump Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s success…depended on his rising to the central challenge…. how to manage Trump [, who] … was like a recalcitrant two-year-old.  If you tried to control him, it would only have the opposite effect” (pp. 289-290, emphasis added).

“Sam Nunberg, the former Trump loyalist turned Bannon loyalist, believed that Bannon would stay in the White House for two years and then leave to run Trump’s reelection campaign. ‘If you can get this idiot elected twice,’ Nunberg marveled, ‘you would achieve something like immortality in politics’” (p. 291, emphasis added).

“virtually the entire senior staff and cabinet of the Trump presidency had …to confront the very real likelihood that the president they worked for…didn’t have the wherewithal to adequately function in his job…The debate, as Bannon put it, was not about whether the president’s situation was bad. But whether it was Twenty-Fifth Amendment bad” (297).

On pages 49 through 51 of Fire and Fury, Wolff pastes in the mind-bogglingly moronic, delusional, and disjointed “speech” Trump gave at the CIA’s headquarters on the first day of his presidency – the one where one where the new president blustered that “we should have kept [Iraq’s] oil” and that “maybe you’ll have another chance” (to get “the oil”).  Reading this weird rant in its entirety is a disturbing experience.  It’s enough to make you cringe (as did most of the CIA agents and managers who heard it) again at the “holy shit!” realization that a man stupid enough to say such things sits in the world’s most powerful position. “In the seconds after [Trump’s CIA monologue] finished,” Wolff notes, “you could hear a pin drop” (p.51).

Incapable of Conspiracy

It isn’t just Trump himself that Fire and Fury portrays as hopelessly vile and incompetent.  The whole Trump White House is exposed as miserably dysfunctional, internally vicious, and absurdly leak-prone. Jared Kushner and the presidential daughter Ivanka are shown pushing Trump to foolishly fire Comey and to just-as-stupidly hire the malicious whack-job Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director – an appointment that lasted 10 days when “the Mooch” predictably imploded in late July.

Along the way, “Jarvanka” (Bannon’s term for the Jared and Ivanka team) run their own media and public relations network to influence the president and counter the media machinations of their arch-enemy Bannon. Trump got regular flattering media updates from his obsequiously deferential staffer Hope Hicks, his de facto daughter (Ivanka being de facto First Lady in the curious absence of Melania Trump). The laughably loyal lapdog Hicks succeeded “the Mooch” in the communications job at the age of 28.  (Hicks’s absurdity was recently exposed with news of her efforts to run cover for her boyfriend, wife-beater Rob Porter, who was forced to resign as Trump’s Staff Secretary when reports of his nasty penchant for domestic violence emerged last week).

By the late summer of 2017, Wolff notes, Bannon had “moved into a heightened state that allowed him to see just how ridiculous the White House had become” (p. 291) under the reign of “Jarvanka” (Jared and Ivanka), Hicks, and Trump himself.  Earlier in the year, Wolff reports, Bannon had “dismissed the Russia story” by observing that “the Trump wasn’t capable of conspiring about anything” (p. 97, emphasis added).

Here it is worth nothing that the Trump White House’s epic incompetence and disorganization is no small part why Wolff got to hide in plain sight in the West Wing in the first place.

Wealth and Power Elite Games

Power elite theorists and chroniclers (I am one) attuned to the dominance of business and military chieftains in the making of U.S. policy can also find grist for their mills in Fire and Fury. Somewhat inadvertently, the book portrays a first-year White House torn between establishment globalist Wall Street centrists on one hand and revanchist, hard-right renegade capitalists like the hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on the other hand.  The Wall Street masters are represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, top economic advisor Gary Cohn, and National Security Council appointee Dina Powell, Goldman Sachs veterans all, along with Kushner (an acolyte of the blood-soaked globalist Henry Kissinger, curiously enough) and Ivanka.  The renegade capitalists provided backing for the China-hating Bannon and his team of proto-fascistic staffers including Stephen Miller, a 32-year old PR hack who became Trump’s “political strategist” after Bannon engineered his own removal (by leaking to the crusty liberal commentator and former Obama-worshipper Bob Kuttner) in August.

Trump is himself a billionaire. By Wolff’s account, he spends hours each day seeking advice from, and complaining to, a small “club” of other right-wing moguls. The president holds the opinions of the super-rich in special high regard, consistent with his belief that the possession of a fortune marks a man as “really smart.”

“And Yet OMG!!!”

Ultimately, though, the main thing portrayed in Fire and Fury is an off-the-rails Crazy Train administration driven by the image-, media,- and attention-addicted narcissism and relentless prideful stupidity of a man-child president whose sole allegiance is to himself and to the defeat of those who fail to understand how great he is. Wolff sounds concerned about the constant media spectacle that is the Insane Trump Clown Show:

…contravening all cultural and media logic, Donald Trump produced on a daily basis and astonishing, can’t-stop-following it narrative. And this was not because he was changing or upsetting the fundamentals of American life.  In six months as president, failing to master almost any aspect of the bureaucratic process, he had, beyond placing his nominee on the Supreme Court, accomplished, practically speaking, nothing. And yet OMG!!!. There almost was no other story in America- and in much of the world.  That was the radical and transformational nature of the Trump presidency: it held everybody’s attention (251).

Ironically enough, however, Fire and Fury itself quickly became a major chapter in the seemingly interminable Trump freak-show.

“A Colorful Diversion”: Behind the Clown Show

Looking back on the period covered in Fire and Fury (mainly November 2016-October 2017) now seven weeks after Trump and the Republican Congress pleased his billionaire friends by passing an arch-regressive Christmas-season tax cut for the wealthy corporate and financial Few in a country where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent already possessed as much net worth as the bottom 90 percent, it strikes me that Wolff missed the key point about the Trump circus. As the left commentator  Chris Hedges recently argued on Truthdig::

The problem with Donald Trump is not that he is imbecilic and inept – it is that he has surrendered total power to the oligarchic and military elites. They get what they want. They do what they want…Trump, who has no inclination or ability to govern, has handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals. They are eradicating the few regulations and laws that inhibited a naked kleptocracy. They are dynamiting the institutions, including the State Department, that served interests other than corporate profit and are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues. Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying… He is useful to those who hold real power in the corporate state, however much they would like to domesticate him.

Trump’s bizarre ramblings and behavior…serve a useful purpose. They are a colorful diversion from the razing of democratic institutions. As cable news networks feed us stories of his trysts with a porn actress and outlandish tweets, the real work of the elites is being carried out largely away from public view. The courts are stacked with Federalist Society judges, the fossil fuel industry is plundering public lands and the coastlines and ripping up regulations that protected us from its poisons, and the Pentagon, given carte blanche, is engaged in an orgy of militarism with a trillion-dollar-a-year budget and about 800 military bases in scores of countries around the world.

Yes, the “OMG Trump!” media (including Wolff’s publisher) has been consumed with its fixation on the orange-tinted beast in the White House.  But Wolff fails to note the ideological selectivity in its obsession.  The “liberal” corporate media – itself a key part of the nation’s business and military establishment – has focused especially on the president’s weird behavior and transgressions, and on the oversold and deeply conservative, diversionary, and imperialist Russiagate narrative. Lost in all this are the far more important problems that Hedges mentions: the accelerated plundering and spoliation of the common good, including above all livable ecology, the ramped-up plutocratic ruination of what’s left of democracy and popular sovereignty by the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and money.

(Speaking of environmental ruin, Wolff omits Trump’s supremely flawed, dysfunctional, and insultingly racist response to the climate change-driven hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island and Florida in August of 2017.  How those epic storms and Trump’s predictably botched reaction to them escaped attention in Fire and Fury is a bit of a mystery.)

“To Rationalize Why Someone Would be a Member of the KKK”

Let us not forget the revolting undercurrents of virulent sexism and racism that Trump embodies and channels. Wolff says far too little about the gender question, but here, on race, is a chilling passage from Wolff’s depressing account of how Trump was finally compelled to reluctantly denounce the vicious white-supremacist Nazi and Ku Klux Klan thugs who wreaked murderous havoc in Charlottesville, Virginia in early August of 2017:

It was a reluctant mini-grovel…he looked like a kid called on the carpet. Resentful and petulant, he was clearly reading forced lines…As he got back on Marine One to head to Andrews Air Force base…his mood was dark and I-told-you-so.  Privately, he kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK – that is, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed, and the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe, and, anyway, who really knows what the KKK believes now?  In fact, he said, his own father was accused of being involved with the KKK – not true (In fact, yes, true) (p. 295, emphasis added)

That is a remarkable paragraph.  I had to read it three times to believe it.

Mainstream media liberals and others seized with passion on every and any Wolff passage and finding that could be poured into the obsessive Russiagate frame but on the two hundred and ninety-fifth page of Fire and Fury you can read that a sitting President of the United States “kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK.”

I don’t recall anyone in the dominant corporate media jumping on that horrifying revelation when the book was pre-released.

The Danger of Despair

Besides the endless Trumpian distraction and diversion that Wolff seems almost to bemoan even as he advances it (Fire and Fury is the ultimate monument to the nauseating culture of “OMG Trump really did/said/Tweeted that?!), there is something else that Wolff doesn’t mention: the related danger of despair. Beyond the nonstop infantile titillation of the Brave New Trump World, the dreadfulness of the orange-tinted Awful One may also help foster and deepen public cynicism and apathy and a related forlorn sense that government and the nation’s political life are simply beyond redemption.  This promises to dangerously reduce citizen engagement by telling Americans that politics are hopelessly stupid and pointless.  Authoritarians love it when We the People turn away from public and political life.

Next Time We May Not Be So Lucky

Another danger with Fire and Fury is that the book’s shocking depiction of just how truly terrible Trump is tends to fuel the same lazy, Lesser-Evilist “Anyone but Trump” approach that helped Boss Tweet defeat the noxious neoliberal Hillary Clinton – and that encourages the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats to run yet another depressing Wall Street- and Pentagon-captive presidential candidate whose underlying loyalty to the nation’s economic and military rulers yields yet another terrible Republican presidency in, say, 2021 or 2025.

Reading Wolff’s book, I was left with the strange sense that America and the world may have dodged a bullet of sorts with the oafish and venal Trump. An oafish plutocrat desperate to be liked, Trump lacks the moral and intellectual rigor, self-control, and fierce ideological conviction required to be the charismatic and iron-willed fascist that the sinister Steve Bannon would like to have installed at the head of a New American Reich. Trump is too venal, cloddish, and childishly egoistic to play that role.

However terrible and right-wing the Trump presidency may have been so far, we can at least be thankful for that.  We may not be so lucky the next time the deplorable corporate and imperial Democrats – the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition Party – hands the White House over yet again to the ever more apocalyptic, eco-cidal, and openly racist white-nationalist Republican Party.

Never Forget How Deplorable the Democrats Are

Which reminds me of another juicy Fire and Fury passage that escaped mainstream “liberal” journalists’ and commentators’ attention after the historic volume was released and the meticulously examined by reporters and pundits looking for impeachable offenses:

All things considered, [Trump] probably preferred the notion of more people having health insurance than fewer people having it…he probably favored government-funded health care more than any other Republican, ‘’Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?’ he had impatiently wondered aloud during one discussion with aides, all of whom were careful not to react to this heresy’” (p. 165, emphasis added).

‘Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?” A good question! Apparently, even the “fucking moron” Donald Trump could at least momentarily grasp the elementary obviousness of Single Payer as the basic health insurance solution.

The Clintons and Obama, with their Ivy League law degrees, knew better. “David, tell me something interesting.” That was then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s weary and exasperated response – as head of the White House’s health reform initiative – to Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein in 1993. Himmelstein was head of Physicians for a National Health Program. He had just told her about the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single-payer “Canadian style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public. Beyond backing by a citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”

There was no dishonesty in Hillary’s dismissive remark. Consistent with her elitist and arch-corporatist neoliberal world view, she really was bored and irritated by Himmelstein’s pitch. Along with the big insurance companies they deceptively railed against, the Clintons decided from the start to exclude the popular, social-democratic health insurance alternative (Single Payer) from the national health care “discussion.” Obama would do the same exact same thing in 2009, passing a complicated program that only the big insurance and drug companies could embrace.

What the First Lady advanced instead of the Canadian system that bored her was a hopelessly complex, secretly developed and corporatist system called “managed competition.” It was just another day at the class rule office with the Inauthentic Opposition Party, which always prefers to lose to the right than to lose to the left – even to the milquetoast left in its own party.  And it was no small indication of why she would lose to the “crazy” and “stupid” Trump – much to the gob-smacked amazement of Trump and most of this campaign staff (see Fire and Fury, pp. 11-18) – in 2016.

How and why Trump won, or perhaps more to the point, how Hillary and Democrats lost, is an absent topic in Fire and Fury – this, even though Wolff was on the Trump beat during the 2016 campaign.  Wolff’s book could (for reasons suggested above) ironically be part of how Trump or some other terrible and potentially worse Republican will win again – and the Democrats lose once more – in 2020 or 2024.

Never underestimate the right-wing evil and idiocy of the dismal and deplorable, dollar-drenched Democrats. Since Trump’s triumph, the Intercept  reports,  the party’s big money establishment has been systematically undercutting progressive Single-Payer Sanders-style office-seekers who would be likely to prevail by running (imagine) in accord with majority-progressive public opinion in 2018 and 2020. Along the way, Congressional Democrats can’t seem to stop voting to give more military and spying dollars and power to a president they criticize as corrupt, crazy, and incompetent, some citing Fire and Fury in their denunciations.

Postscript: Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?

As I finished this essay, the U.S. experienced yet another tragic mass shooting committed by a deranged psychotic in possession of military-style assault weaponry – this one at a Florida high school. Please see my October 4, 2017 Counterpunch essay, “The NRA’s Latest Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil.” It is a (still relevant, I think) reflection on how the National Rifle Association (the powerful gun lobby that is responsible for the United States’ saturation with high-kill assault weapons) is a terrorist organization – and on the neoliberal agenda that lurks behind the NRA’s project of arming everyone to the teeth. I guess we all know the standard drill by now: (1) some moderately sane liberal media and politics figures meekly bring up gun control; (2) vicious NRA-captive Republican authorities dodge the gun question and talk about mental health; (3) nothing happens to curb the gun madness and the clock is already ticking until the next mass shooting.  It’s just a matter of time. It’s formulaic at this stage; you can write the script in advance. It’s just another day at the mass-homicidal office in the “Armed Madhouse” (Greg Palast) that US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) once described – in a speech joining her with then Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in authorizing George W. Bush to criminally invade Iraq under false pretenses if he wanted to (he did) – as “the beacon the world of how life should be.”  A useful slogan, perhaps: “Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”

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Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

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