Lawless State: Go Ask Donald, Joe, and Barack

Photograph Source: Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker – CC BY 2.0

When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low

Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s off with her head
Remember what the Dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head

– Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit” (1967)

The Orange Knight is Talking Backwards

Poor Chris Wallace. The FOX News host looked frightened two Sundays ago as he sat across from the Orwellian Frankenstein his network did so much to let loose upon the world.

Marxist Joe Biden and His Red Schoolteachers

The lethal and indecent beast Donald Trump – a man who makes on average 16 false statements per day – told Wallace that a Joe Biden presidency would mark the triumph of “the radical left. The same type ideology that took over Venezuela, one of the richest countries in the world.”

What an interesting observation from the president. Joe Biden is a right-wing corporate Democrat who helped lead the charge for the invasion of Iraq. He says he would veto Medicare for All. He childes Trump for not properly conducting a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected socialist government.

Wallace winced a bit when Tail-gunner Trump insanely accused American schoolteachers of “teaching our children…to hate their own country” and inculcating a “radical left destructive ideology” (where do I apply for one of those teaching jobs?).

Is that why Trump is trying to order teachers back to schools that are completely ill-equipped to make them, their students, and other school personnel safe during an historic pandemic?

“Crying for Mommy”

Wallace gazed in barely concealed horror while the tangerine sadist said that Biden would “be on the ground crying for mommy” if the former Vice President had to sit through a media interview. “He’ll say, ‘Mommy, mommy, please take me home.’”

It was a shocking comment on different levels, including the racist callousness it suggested. As is well known, George Floyd called for his mother from the ground of a Minneapolis street as the racist white police officer Derek Chauvin knee-choked him to death last May.

“A Bit of an Alarmist”

Things got really White (or orange) Rabbit-like when the topic turned to the Trump virus, also known as COVID-19. During his arch-Orwellian Wallace interview, Trump called Dr. Anthony Fauci “a little bit of an alarmist” for warning about the coronavirus pandemic last winter and spring.

Yes, Fauci really should have toned it down back before more than 140,000 Americans died from COVID-19. There was no reason for him to go all Paul Revere about the nasty little virus.

America First: “The Best Mortality Rate in the World”

The most darkly hallucinogenic moment in the Wallace-Trump dialogue came when the latter claimed that the United States had the “best” COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. It was a bravura performance, with Trump holding up a chart handed to him by his Bad Barbie press secretary, Kayliegh McEnanny:

Wallace: Sir, we have the seventh highest mortality rate in the world. Our mortality rate is higher than Brazil, it’s higher than Russia and the European Union has us on a travel ban.

Trump: …when you talk about mortality rates, I think it’s the opposite. I think we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.

Wallace: That’s not true, sir. We, we, we have a — we had 900 deaths on a single day…

Trump: We will take a look…

Wallace: … just this week…

Trump: Ready?

Wallace: You, you can check it out

Trump: Can you please get me the mortality rate? Kayleigh’s right here. I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world.

Do you have the numbers, please? Because I heard we had the best mortality rate.

Trump, after his (McE)nanny handed him a sheet containing a chart showing nothing like what he claimed: Number, number one low mortality rate…I hope you show the scenario because it shows what fake news is all about. Ok, go ahead.

Wallace: — put our stats on —

Trump: You said we had the worst mortality rate in the world —

Wallace: I said you had —

Trump: — and we have the best.

Fatherland News had to explain that “we went with numbers from Johns Hopkins University which charted the mortality rate for 20 countries hit by the virus. The US ranked 7th better than the United Kingdom but worse than Brazil and Russia.”

“Right Probably More Than Anyone Else”

“Because,” Trump said about the pandemic, “I’ve been right probably more than anybody else.” Oh, indeed: don’t be fooled by his clear public record of having denied the seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis, predicting its imminent disappearance, calling it a “hoax,” recommending quack cures, holding rallies without proper public health measures, and claiming that the virus is “harmless” in 99% of cases. That’s all just fake history.

“The Envy of the World”

With the U.S. home to a twentieth of the world’s population but more than a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 cases (“America First”!) thanks to Trump’s obscene failure to mount a reasonable and coordinated public health response, King Covid said this to Wallace about how America has handled the pandemic under his wise direction: “We are the envy of the world.”

Can I get a “You Betchya”?

Trumpie, you’re doing a heckuva job.

I was unthinkable that Wallace might have stated the obvious truth: “We” are the laughingstock of the world right now.

Beautiful” Economy

“I think the economy is expanding and growing beautifully,” Trump told Wallace. More glorious truth-inversion: unemployment has reached Great Depression levels in major U.S. cities. The national jobless rate stands higher than at any time in six decades, near the end of the Great Depression. An increase in job-loss is likely thanks to the take-off of the Trump Virus this summer. Tens of millions are now slated to lose unemployment benefits, a nice fit for lost employment-based health insurance and the threat of eviction as federal protections expire. “Beautiful.”

“I’ll Keep You in Suspense”

As if all this wasn’t a sufficiently rough ride down Orwell’s dark corridors, Trump refused to answer in the affirmative when Wallace asked him if the president would honor the outcome of the 2020 election were Biden to win. “I will tell you at the time,” Trump said.” I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”

Translation: the Trumpenstein will not accept the outcome of an election that does not go his way. He’ll count on William Barr, the bikers, cops, soldiers and other “tough guys” to join him in trying to veto a count that doesn’t go his way. Or else, well, you know, “civil war.”

Prior to this, Trump told Wallace that “mail-in voting is going to rig the election.” There is no basis whatsoever for the claim.

Poor Chris Wallace. The Trump acid tab he and his Merry Band of Fatherland News pranksters took has yielded one Hell of a long, strange, and really, really bad trip.

Beyond Performative Fascism

Shooting Portlanders in the Head for “Law and Order”

All this turning upside down of truth by the Orange Rabbit is a critical part of the fascist Trump project – a project that has taken on more than just a “performative” tone in Portland, Oregon. That’s where Trump has sent more than a hundred paramilitary agents from the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on anti-racist social justice protesters who have undertaken nightly Black Lives Matter demonstrations since the lynching of George Floyd. Code-named “Operation Diligent Valor,” the federal deployment resembles U.S. military operations abroad. The federal gendarmes, many suspected to be mercenaries on contract from Erik Prince (a close Trump fascist ally and the head of the former notorious global mercenary firm Blackwater), have swept up protesters into unmarked cars and vans, teargassed crowds, and beaten reporters. One DHS agent nearly killed a young protester by shooting him in the head with a lethal “impact munition” while the victim had his hands raised.

Also shot in the head and sent to an emergency room by Trump’s DHS Black-shirts was Maureen Healy, chair of the history department at Lewis & Clark University and a specialist in the rise of German fascism. While recovering from her injuries, Dr. Healy wrote the following:

“I wanted to, and will continue to, exercise my First Amendment right to speak. Federal troops have been sent to my city to extinguish these peaceful protests…In addition to being a Portland resident, I am also a historian. My field is Modern European History, with specialization in the history of Germany and Eastern Europe. I teach my students about the rise of fascism in Europe. By professional training and long years of teaching, I am knowledgeable about the historical slide by which seemingly vibrant democracies succumbed to authoritarian rule. Militarized federal troops are shooting indiscriminately into crowds of ordinary people in our country. We are on that slide.”

“It dawned on me when I was in the ER and had a chance to catch my breath (post tear gas): my government did this to me. My own government. I was not shot by a random person in the street. A federal law enforcement officer pulled a trigger that sent an impact munition into my head.”

Making the “Homeland” a “Lawless Zone”

The federal gendarmes in Portland, their presence and conduct opposed by elected Portland and Oregon officials, have fueled rather than dampened civil unrest. They have worn military camouflage uniforms that say “police” but don’t clearly indicate what agency they come from. Legal observers and activists report difficulty discerning the difference between the federal troops and private right-wing militia units. This is no small concern. As Yale historian Timothy Snyder said on MSDNC two nights ago:

“In a rule-of-law state, which is what we should be, you can tell the police from the civilians. When the police don’t identify themselves, when the police don’t wear insignia, when the police act as if they’re above the law, then you’ve moved clearly into an authoritarian direction. It’s the dark fantasy both in life and in literature of authoritarianism and totalitarianism that someone who you can’t identify arrests you and takes you away in the middle of the night…This is something we would should be attending to.”

Indications are that the federal Black-shirts sent to Portland are with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and were sent up from southern U.S. border. That makes sense. As Snyder explained to the liberal imperialist Rachel Maddow:

“[Empires’ authoritarian] violence [against their own citizens] starts at the borderland. People [gendarmes] can become accustomed to violence at the border. And then what an authoritarian regime does is it brings those people [gendarmes] back into the cities and uses them against protesters in the cities. People who are trained to think of Others as ‘not like us,’ as aliens, as foreigners are then told ‘oh, well there happen to be people inland who are also not like us.

Sensing correctly that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operatives are also set for deployment against homeland protesters, Snyder made a comparable point about how migrant concentration camps (properly identified as such by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) provide “lawless” breeding grounds for authoritarian repression within authoritarian states:

A similar aspect here is the detention centers. We have this huge network of detention centers, which are basically lawless zones. Another historical pattern [in the development of authoritarian states] is that people who are trained in lawless zones such as detention centers or concentration camps are then released into cities later on and they behave the same way. They behave the way they’ve been trained.”

Mission Creep

The domestic paramilitaries and mercenaries in Portland have strayed beyond their ostensible legal mission of protecting federal facilities. According to a July 25th New York Times report:

“After flooding the streets around the federal courthouse in Portland with tear gas during Friday’s early morning hours, dozens of federal officers in camouflage and tactical gear stood in formation around the front of the building. Then, as one protester blared a soundtrack of ‘The Imperial March,’ the officers started advancing. Through the acrid haze, they continued to fire flash grenades and welt-inducing marble-size balls filled with caustic chemicals. They moved down Main Street and continued up the hill, where one of the agents announced over a loudspeaker: ‘This is an unlawful assembly.’”

“By the time the security forces halted their advance, the federal courthouse they had been sent to protect was out of sight — two blocks behind them…. as agents with batons and riot gear range deep into the streets of a city whose leadership has made it clear they are not welcome.”

Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden called Trump’s federal thugs an “occupying army.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls them “storm troopers,” accurately enough.

Maybe Pelosi should stop leading House of Representatives votes to give the fascist maniac Trump all the military, surveillance, and repressive funds and powers he wants.

Undeterred by the criticism, Trump has justified his provocative, constitutionally dubious deployment of federal troops by claiming absurdly that Portland’s “radical Left” mayor was “going to lose Portland.”

“A Surge of Federal Law Enforcement” to Humiliate “Radical” Cities and (Not) Quell Violence

But Portland is just a dress rehearsal for a federal fascist crackdown on what Trump calls “failed cities run by liberal Democrats.” Last Wednesday, Trump announced the expansion of “Operation Legend,” which he described (in words he could never write and could barely read) as “a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime.” Trump claimed he would “immediately surge federal law enforcement to Chicago. The FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, and Homeland Security will together be sending hundreds of skilled law enforcement officers to Chicago to help drive down violent crime.” By the next day, Trump was threatening to send as many as 75,000 federal agents into American cities to quell crime.”

The two-thirds nonwhite city of Chicago has long served as Trump’s top “law and order” whipping boy. He has been threatening Chicago with federal occupation throughout and indeed since before his presidency.

The ostensible purpose of this “surge” is to stop the epidemic of shootings plaguing inner city neighborhoods across the U.S. In reality, the inner-city bloodshed reflects a deadly combination: the misery of the nation’s urban Black communities, deeply exacerbated by the Trump virus (COVID-19), and the widespread availability of guns, enabled by Trump’s allies in the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. A serious effort to end violence in the ghettos of Chicago and other American cities would involve curbing weapons and flooding disadvantaged neighborhoods with social and public health relief, not armed repression.

Trump is now also targeting Milwaukee, a savagely race-segregated city that is hosting the 2020 “Democratic National Convention” (such as it is the COVID-19 era). This is a transparent Nixon-inspired bit to create havoc analogous to the “riots” (caused by the police) that shook the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Images of chaos from the streets of Chicago helped fuel Richard Nixon’s ugly, racist, and successful “law and order” campaign that year.

“Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid”

What Trump really hopes to accomplish with his real and threatened homeland paramilitary deployments is to score points with his white Amerikaner “heartland” base and far-right bankrollers. The fascist, white-nationalist playbook he is operating from designates him as the Chosen One – the “strong leader” ready to humiliate and discipline the “radical left” and “liberal” elites atop largely Black and brown cities where supposedly unworthy non-white Others have supposedly been granted too much freedom.

At the same time, the images of urban confrontation and chaos he is cultivating are campaign commercial gold as far as Trump is concerned, with his good Nixonian friend Roger Stone whispering in his ear. He is already using urban disorder (significantly of his own making) in his ads – this while telling “suburban housewives” that the Democrats want to send angry Black and brown mobs out to destroy peaceful white suburbs. (“They want to abolish the suburbs,” Trump insanely claims.) A Trump campaign commercial shows an older white suburban woman looking at terrifying television images of urban violence and listening to Sean Hannity falsely claim that Joe Biden wants to “defund the police” while a mysterious dark invader breaks into her house and presumably murders her. As National Public Radio notes:

“President Trump has a message for suburban voters. And it’s not a subtle one. ‘They want to destroy our suburbs,’ Trump recently warned in a call with supporters. ‘People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell,’ he said from the South Lawn of the White House….Trump has been issuing increasingly dire and outlandish warnings about what Democrats will do to the suburbs. He warns suburbanites will face rising crime and falling home values if they elect Joe Biden. The message: Be afraid, be very afraid.”

As Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley has argued, the demonization and fear of great multicultural cities full of darker-skinned others is a consistent and recurrent theme in fascist politics.

“Time to Say the F-Word” – Hello?

When it comes to the coronavirus, Trump is like “well it’s up to the states.” When it comes to repressing Black people and others in the nation’s cities, Trump is like “ask me to flood your streets with federal agents of fascist repression.”

“It’s time,” Mehdi Hasan said the other night on MSNBC, to say “the F-word, fascism” in regard to Trump.

Really? That time came years ago, as Hasan is certainly too smart not to know.

Hell, even the authoritarian imperialist Barack Obama, a leading immigrant deporter and detainer who acted to crush the popular Occupy Wall Street rebellion when he wasn’t busy bailing out parasitic financial institutions and blowing up North Africa, knew that Trump was a fascist.

“Tim, remember,” Obama told Tim Kaine in October of 2016, this is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.”

That was just a private comment, however. Publicly, Obama had a rather different Rose Garden message for the American people the day after “the fascist” (Obama’s own accurate description!) Trump won:

“Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that….The point, though, is, is that we all go forward, with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens—because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy…And that’s why I’m confident that this incredible journey that we’re on as Americans will go on. And I am looking forward to doing everything that I can to make sure that the next President is successful in that.”

Obama knew better, privately.

“America’s First Racist President”

Speaking of Democrats, presidential elections, and authoritarian elites who say patently false shit, let us turn briefly to Joe Biden, the doddering, dollar-drenched and, by the way, racist Democratic Party presidential nominee. Last week, Biden called Trump America’s “first racist president.” That actually happened. Biden’s absurd comment left American historians (including the present author) shaking their heads in speechless dismay. Among the previous racists to hold the presidency (the two best candidates for exception are James Garfield and the objective white-supremacist Obama), Biden neglected Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was close to the leading professional racist Thomas Dixon, author of The Clansman: A Historical Romance of Ku Klux Klan (1905) and The Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Dixon’s Clansman was the basis for the virulently white-nationalist movie Birth of a Nation (1915), which Wilson proudly showed at the White House. Wilson promoted Jim Crow segregation within and beyond the federal government.

Do we really need to mention the numerous vicious slaveowners who “served” as U.S. president from the birth of the republic through the 1850s – and Andrew Johnson, who was impeached because of his stubborn racist determination to let Confederate leaders off the hook for launching a Civil War in an effort to ensure the survival of Black chattel slavery? Seriously?

Hey Joe, how about Teddy Roosevelt? No 20th or 21st century fascist has anything on the “Bull Moose’s” massive book The Winning of the West when it comes to heralding white supremacist violence. “The settler and pioneer,” the nation’s 26th president wrote, “have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages….The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages, though it is apt to be also the most terrible and inhuman.”

Roosevelt considered the destruction of the continent’s original civilizations to be part of Teutonic Saxons’ long and noble crusade to master inferior races. “Let the sentimentalist say what they will,” Roosevelt wrote, “the man who puts the soil to use must of right dispossess the man who does not,” with “put the soil to use” understood to mean enclosing the earthly commons, fencing it off as private property and exploiting natural resources and human labor power. “American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori, – in each case the victor,” The Winning of the West instructed, “horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people.”

“It is of incalculable importance,” Roosevelt opined, “that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races…The world would have halted had it not been for the Teutonic conquests in alien lands; but the victories of Moslem over Christian have always proved a curse in the end. Nothing but sheer evil has come from the victories of Turk and Tartar.”

No racism there.

“The Self-Determination of All Peoples”

Don’t expect Biden’s good friend Obama to correct Joe on Wilson. Obama is one of the militant racist Wilson’s biggest fans. Released just as he prepared to announce his presidential candidacy in late 2006, the deeply conservative Obama’s widely read 2006 book The Audacity of Hope praised the Wilson for seeing that “it was in America’s interest to encourage the self-determination of all peoples [emphasis added] and provide the world  a legal framework that could help avoid future conflicts.” Too bad the Wilson administration’s extreme racism found expression in the brutal U.S. invasions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As Noam Chomsky noted, “Wilson’s troops murdered, destroyed, reinstituted virtual slavery and demolished the constitutional system in Haiti.”  These actions followed in accord with Wilson Secretary of State Robert Lansing’s belief that “the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organization” and possessed “an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature.” (Obama’s presidency followed nicely in accord with the Orwellian whitewashing of American History that was richly evident in in campaign speeches and publications.)

Obama has yet to issue any apologies to Black America for his promotion of the supposed greatness of Woodrow Wilson.

“A Conversation”: Joe “No Empathy” Biden and Obama Don’t Like “This Guy”

The right wing corporate Democratic Joe Biden campaign recently released a campaign video featuring a 15-minute, socially distanced conversation between Biden and his onetime boss Obama at the former president’s headquarters in Washington D.C. Neither Biden nor Obama mentioned Trump’s name once as they expressed carefully worded disdain for “this guy’s” (Trump’s) open refusal to take responsibility for the COVID-19 crisis. Biden and Obama are properly revolted by “this guy’s” (umm, Trump’s?) attempt to throw millions of Americans off health insurance in the middle of a pandemic.

The conversation includes deceptive boasts about the Obama administration’s supposed desire to have included a health insurance “public option” in Obamacare (a truly disingenuous claim). Obama, whose Department of Homeland Security acted to crush the overdue Occupy Wall Street rebellion, further insults viewers by claiming that his tepid blue-ribbon “21st Century Policing Task Force” represented some kind of progressive, anti-racist response to racist police brutality in the U.S. It did not.

Obama tries to tap the suburban electorate’s concerns about the anti-expertise sociopath Trump by identifying Biden with the values of “empathy” and “pay[ing] attention to science.” “It all starts with being able to relate,” Obama says: “If you can sit down with a family and see your own family in them…then you’re going to work hard for them. And that’s what’s always what’s motivated you to get into public service.” Obama also praised Biden for a “willingness to listen and learn.”

Gee, I wonder if the supposed “democracy” supporter Biden will learn enough about democracy to repudiate and apologize for his promise earlier this year to veto Medicare for All if it comes to his desk as president. Medicare for All is backed by seven in ten Americans. Democracy means among other things the rule of the majority based on the principle of one-person, one vote.

“Empathy”? Does anyone remember when “lunch-bucket” (corporate) Biden said he said he had “no empathy” for Millennials’ struggle to get by in the savagely unequal and insecure precariat economy that he helped create over his many years of abject service to the Lords of Capital in the U.S. Senate. “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are—give me a break,” said Biden, while speaking to Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times in 2018. “No, no, I have no empathy for it, give me a break.”

So what if Millennials face an epic, even catastrophic diminution of opportunity, wealth, income, and security compared to the Baby Boomers with whom Biden identifies? Who cares if “lunch bucket Joe” helped shrink the American Dream for young people with the neoliberal policies and politics he helped advance?

What a bastard. F-Joe. “It all starts with being able to relate.” What a joke. Thanks, Obama – thanks for Joe

“Much of the [Obama-Biden] video,” the liberal Huffington Post reported, “contras[ed] President Donald Trump’s failure to contain the COVID-19 crisis with what Biden would do instead, as well as other areas where Trump has failed to demonstrate any leadership or empathy.” The report was accurate but left out the remarkable extent to which Obama and the Biden team went to avoid any direct reference either to Trump by name or to the virulent white-nationalist neo-fascism he represented.

It was surreal to watch the painfully tepid and passive-aggressive faux-resistance Obama-Biden video on July 24th as Trump threatened to send out 75,000 federal agents to repress urban Americans – this as federal unemployment benefits run out and a federal ban on evictions expired amidst the onset of a second Great Depression.

The GOP has no monopoly on the permanent political class’s longstanding practice of blowing mind-melting smoke up the corporate-managed citizenry-qua-electorate’s ass.

It isn’t just Republican white (and orange) knights who get up on the chessboard and talks backwards.

But you knew that.

While Biden and Obama dance around the nation’s descent into fascism and refuse to mention Trump by name in a posh Washington bunker, citizens are rising up against authoritarian white-nationalist terrorism in Portland.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).