Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Ever deeper into the heart of darkness

July 24, 2017

Now Trump and his creep team are setting it up to trash special counsel Mueller over “conflicts of interest” (the only arguably legal pretext for removal).

The pattern holds. All mud Trump throws eerily spotlights his own filth — “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “fake news,” Comey a “whack job.” When it’s Trump who’s the most crooked, biggest liar, worst fake news pusher. He fulminates about leakers when the most egregious leak in his administration was his own. And talk about whack jobs!*

What was really in those folders? (Fake news)

So now for Mueller it’s “conflicts of interest,” when Trump’s presidency itself is the biggest snakepit of conflicts of interest ever. That January press conference, pretending to resolve them, was another stinking Trump fraud. This grifter and his family nakedly exploit the presidency for personal financial gain, corrupting their stewardship of the nation’s affairs. Yet bogus “conflict of interest” charges against Mueller and his team will be trumped up (giving that old idiom a new twist).

Mueller is a man of great competence, honesty, and independence. Trump is not fit to lick his shoes.

Meantime we also learn that President Donald pussy-grabber, “University”-fraudster, lawsuit-king, multiple-bankruptcy, Obama-wiretapped-me, McCain-no-hero, so-called-judge, punch-those-protesters, only-I-can-fix-it, New-Jersey-Muslims-celebrated-9/11, I-know-more-than-the-generals, I-really-won-the-popular-vote, my-inauguration-crowd-the-biggest, tax-return-hiding, insult-tweeting, Comey-firing, dictator-hugging, classified-information-leaking, Putin-patsy Trump is thinking of pre-emptively pardoning his flunkies, including family members, for crimes he denies were committed. He may even pardon HIMSELF. Could he actually? Possibly. Not even Nixon dared it. Nor any of the thousands of state governors over the centuries who also may have had that theoretical power.

Well, Trump promised his presidency would be different. The one promise he’s kept.

*Just today: Trump calls Rep. Adam Schiff “sleazy.” I’ve been impressed by Schiff’s intelligence and conscientiousness. Who’s the sleaze?

Yes to a NY constitutional convention

July 22, 2017

New York State’s constitution requires a referendum every 20 years on whether to hold a constitutional convention. It comes up this November. The last time, voters said no. The last time we did have a convention, voters rejected the package of changes it produced.

I will vote yes.

It’s mainly my cussed contrarianism, because all the special interests, the powerful labor unions, the real estate developers, and the incumbent politicians, have lined up a solid wall of opposition. They obviously feel the privileges they enjoy under the existing system are just fine, thank you very much, and any change might imperil them. An excellent reason to vote the other way.

Meantime, it’s argued that holding a convention would be a big fat waste of time and money because the same old pols are likely to be elected as delegates, and the same old special interests and lobbyists will control it. Yet isn’t there a contradiction? If the entrenched pols and special interests will control a convention, why are they so adamantly afraid of holding it?

My take is this. A vote against a convention is a vote saying everything about New York’s constitution and governance is perfect. No need even for tweaks. But are they perfect? Are you f—ing kidding me?

Government and politics in New York stink. New York vies for being the most politically corrupt state in the nation, as well as the least democratic. One legislative leader after another has been convicted of crimes, abusing their public trusts, taking bribes, along with sundry other officials, including a former state comptroller (who’s supposed to be our fiscal watchdog). We’ll soon have corruption trials of former top aides to Governor Cuomo, as well as the nanotech czar who was the state’s second most powerful figure. These cases involve the corrupt awarding of billions in state contracts. Cuomo disclaims all knowledge — even though a flood of money into his campaign coffers was an integral element of what was going on. In spite of all this blatant corruption, Cuomo is poised to win re-election, using all that ill-gotten money to obliterate any opponent. (And then run for president.)

And New York needs no constitutional changes?

The recent reversal, on a technicality, of slimy Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction shows even more powerfully that we need changes to our legal framework. One might also mention term limits, initiative-and-referendum, and an end to gerrymandering (a biggie). I’m sure the League of Women Voters, Blair Horner’s NYPIRG, etc., can come up with a much larger agenda list.

If, by some miracle, the establishment loses this referendum vote, I would not actually be optimistic that the resultant convention will produce anything good; or that, if it did, the changes would survive the gauntlet of opposition from those whose oxen are gored. Yet nevertheless, a vote against holding a convention at all would be a vote conceding that we’re beaten at the starting line. It would be giving up on democracy.

Health Care: Let them eat cake

July 18, 2017

Democrats long caricatured Republicans as the party of tax cuts for the rich and callousness toward everyone else. Now Republicans have been working mightily to prove it true.

To quote GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, “Let them eat cake.” Or rather, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

I’m frankly dumbfounded that here in 2017 — after all the attention to rising U.S. inequality, middle and working class struggles, declining economic opportunity, while the rich get richer — in the teeth of all this — Republicans would try to pass a bill so blatantly coddling the richest at the expense of the rest. Could they actually get away with it?

Note that I didn’t call it a “health care” bill. It was a take-away-health-care-to-fund tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill.

Maybe having become a Democrat, I’m beginning to sound like one. But I’m not one of those with a “Tax The Rich” bumper sticker. As if the rich aren’t already taxed, and quite heavily. About 70% of all income tax revenue is paid by the top 10% of earners; about 38% by the top 1%. So are they paying their “fair share?” You might argue otherwise, but it’s far from obvious. Nor do I believe the rich are the problem. It’s a fallacy to think they get their wealth at the expense of the rest. The answer to inequality is not to take down the rich but more economic opportunity for more people.

Furthermore, I happen to be one of those who would have benefitted from the bill (especially the original version repealing the “net investment income” tax). And my wife and I, being very healthy, would have welcomed repeal of the mandate and associated tax penalty.*

But despite all that, I was glad the bill failed, not only for the egg on Trump’s face, but because it was bad public policy. It would have worsened the division in American society. It would have done nothing to fix all that’s wrong with our healthcare-cum-insurance system. I don’t favor tax cuts for anyone given our ticking fiscal time-bomb. And people do die for lack of health care.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this extraordinary legislative project was the complete lack of any public advocacy for it. No effort was made to sell it to voters, who overwhelmingly opposed it.

Of course, Republicans were not promoting the bill on its merits because it had none. For eight years they raved against Obamacare, but never came up with an alternative, leaving it somewhat unclear just what was so awful about it — in truth it was mainly that Obama was a black Democrat. But now they had to come up with something. I’m reminded of how in fourth grade I tried to bluff my way through an oral report on colonial New York without any research.

The bill actually failed because too many GOP lawmakers considered it not cruel enough. Now they propose to just repeal Obamacare and worry about a replacement later. This is even more craven. They’d slate a two-year window to come up with a plan. What are the chances? Most Republicans went along with the now-dead bill only because they knew they’d look like fools if they fluffed their long-headlined pledge to repeal Obamacare. But once it’s repealed, that pressure would be off.

But at the end of the day, Trump’s voters don’t seem to care much about health care, not even their own. What most of them mostly care about is Mexicans, Muslims, and N——.

* I’ve seen mention that the IRS is not actually enforcing it, but an IRS rep I spoke to said otherwise. Does anyone know the facts on this?

Trump and Russia

July 15, 2017

This is a big deal. A very, very big deal.

Thing 1 and Thing 2

When Creepo Junior was offered campaign help from a representative of a hostile foreign government, the correct response was to call the FBI. Not, “I love it.”

Whether the law was violated is murky (depends on whether an offer of assertedly useful information amounts to a campaign donation). But the violation of fundamental precepts is crystal clear. You do not collude with a hostile foreign government for its help in a U.S. election campaign. An absolute no-no. Even the most brain-dead Trump asskisser should be able to grasp this.

That is why, for months, Creepo Senior repeatedly denied any such collusion. Of course he was lying. Surprise? If Donald Trump says the sun is shining, better grab your umbrella.

And even in their pretence of phony transparency, supposedly coming clean about that meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian operative, the Trumps still did not in fact come clean — failing to mention the attendance of someone else — a former Russian spy!!

Rinat Akhmetshin, ex Russian spy

Let me repeat that. The Trump campaign’s highest honchos met not only with a Kremlin fixer, but also a former Russian spy, and covered it up.

This isn’t “fake news” or a “witch hunt,” or a mere “distraction.” It proves — as if it still needed proving — that Putin’s regime did try to mess with our election. To subvert our democracy. To elect its preferred candidate, Trump. And if the Trumps, in colluding with them, did not technically commit treason, it sure smells pretty close.

Even after being caught with his pants down so flagrantly on this, Trump still could not restrain his deranged compulsion to spin what is, to any non-brain-dead observer, blatant bullshit, arguing publicly that the Russians actually must have preferred Hillary. This insult to intelligence shows his contempt for the poor creeps who still worship him.

And what does all this do to America’s standing in the world? When it’s obvious, to every foreign leader, that our president is a total piece of garbage whose every word is worthless?

“Make America great again.” Look upon this greatness, and despair.

My psychology re Trump: Crime and Punishment

July 13, 2017

This blog might seem to show a Trump obsession — “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” But I have explained that this is not normal politics, it’s a discontinuity, with huge long-term ramifications. Attention must be paid.

I acknowledge an emotionality to my blogging.* My love for America, and the values I thought it stood for, are deeply felt. Their being trashed elicits correspondingly strong emotion. I feel as if betrayed by a lifelong beloved — and also as if she’s been raped, defiled, degraded.

Throughout my half century of political engagement, I’ve had strong opinions about issues, candidates, and personages. But nothing like this. There’s an added element operating here.

Evolution endowed human beings with strong justice feelings. This enhanced survival for early people living in close-knit cooperative groups. Rewarding behavior good for the group, and punishing antisocial conduct, made groups work better. That gave us pre-installed bad behavior detectors, and desire for punishment of transgressors.

Knowing myself, my own justice settings are on “high.” (At eleven, as Nigel said of the amplifiers in Spinal Tap.) And Trump triggers them in a way no other American political figure ever has.** My politically opposing them never extended to seeing them as moral violators meriting punishment. In fact I always used to criticize that kind of attitude, and the demonization of political opponents, arguing that we’re all sincere in wanting what’s best for our country.

That was then. This is different. In demonizing Trump it would be hard to overstate the case. And for him I do want not just political defeat but punishment. I want to see him suffer for what he’s done. Cellphone shoved down his throat (or elsewhere). (That’s the self-censored version of what I originally wrote.)

He’s the poster boy for the ancient conundrum — why does evil prosper? A man who’s done nothing but evil, cheating and lying his way through life, screwing people, leaving a scorched earth of injured victims (yes, that’s his business history), and reaping nothing but rewards. Indeed, what this narcissist craves most is attention, and has anyone ever gotten more?

I was brought up to believe lies and cheating should be punished. But never mind all his business victims. Of course Trump’s damage to our country is the really grievous crime. His getting away with it all, being rewarded, flouts my sense of justice. Remember too why we have one — to keep society working properly. People seen to get away with crime undermines the very basis on which we all live together. This is a cancer on our body politic. Unlike with normal political to-and-fro, I feel things are now cosmically out-of-whack, as though what I understood to be the laws of nature are scrambled. Trump’s comeuppance would restore the order of the Universe.

The religious might say that evildoers get their punishment in Hell. It was exactly to assuage justice cravings like mine that Hell was invented. But of course that’s as big a lie as any Trump tells.

And most religious Americans actually think he’s doing God’s work. And that God imparts morality!

* But emotion is never actually disconnected from reason. I have written about this.

** Though many in other countries deserve the Ceausescu-Qadafy treatment.

“The Fix” — What is real leadership?

July 9, 2017

Jonathan Tepperman’s book The Fix is prefaced with a quote: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.” It’s from Marx. (Not Karl but Groucho.)

My daughter gave me this book for Christmas. The Fix is great.

Its subtitle is How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline. Tepperman begins, like my own Rational Optimism book, with “The Litany” — the familiar catalog of everything wrong with the world. Admittedly that list has grown since I wrote in 2008. Yet I still don’t see, in the big picture, “a world in decline.”

Neither does Tepperman, really. He deploys exactly what I meant by rational optimism — not Pollyanna’s rose-colored glasses, but a belief that problems can be solved through reasoned effort. He discusses ten in particular (“the terrible ten”) and, for each, how one nation at least did solve it. Mostly how leaders solved them, because leadership is key.

Lula

The first issue is inequality; the country Brazil; the leader Lula. Of course Brazil hasn’t completely eradicated inequality, but it was previously one of the most unequal nations, and has made great strides. Lula came to the presidency in 2003 (on his fourth try) seen as a Marxist radical. But he defied expectations by acting instead as the most orthodox steward of the economy. That gave him the credibility to implement his Bolsa Familia program.

Government programs for the poor typically entail “doing things for them” — which is complicated, inefficient (much bureaucracy), costly, and prone to corruption. Bolsa Familia instead just hands out cash. But to get it, your kids must go to school and get immunizations and medical check-ups. This helps them escape the poverty trap, with better future prospects. Also smart is giving the money to the mothers, sidestepping feckless dads and empowering women. And its simplicity makes the program actually quite cheap, costing less than half a percent of GDP; moreover, by turning the poor into consumers, it boosted the economy, arguably more than paying for itself. All this helped sell the program to skeptics.

Next is immigration, and Canada — one of the world’s most welcoming nations. In fact, Canada seeks out people to come — most of them nonwhite. It uses a point system encompassing factors like education and skills (in contrast to America’s relationship-based system — “extremely irrational” says Tepperman).

Canada’s system developed to kill two birds with one stone. The vast nation was underpopulated. And it was experiencing ethnic tension between English and French speakers. The solution, spearheaded by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was to subsume those differences into a broader ethos of multiculturalism.

The point system makes most Canadians see immigration as a plus, without the kind of xenophobic feelings so prevalent elsewhere. In fact, most actually consider multiculturalism important to their national identity.

On December 10, 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Pierre’s son) stood in an airport arrivals hall handing out winter coats to the first of the 25,000 Syrian refugees Canada was welcoming. “You’re safe at home now,” he told them. While Trumpmerica currently bars all Syrian refugees.

But America is not the book’s villain. Indeed, one of its chapters is a good news story about the USA (imagine that). It concerns our recent energy revolution. (What, you didn’t notice?) It’s the fracking explosion (poor choice of words) to extract natural gas from shale, turning America into one of the world’s biggest energy producers.

No other country has tapped into shale gas to such an extent. Tepperman explains why. American property owners (unlike elsewhere) own everything under their land. That creates a huge incentive to exploit those resources; which has led to a proliferation of small energy companies; and competition among them has triggered a wave of technological innovation.

Remember how we pined for “energy independence?” Seemed hopeless — until the frackers got busy and started producing. Likewise all the Cassandra warnings about “peak oil.” Don’t hear that phrase much anymore either.

But I know what you’re thinking. At one time our local paper was filled with almost daily commentaries and reader letters expressing fear of fracking — a widespread movement which led some jurisdictions, including New York State and much of Europe, to ban it. But Tepperman dismisses all that fearmongering in barely a paragraph. The fact is that while fracking does (like every technology) entail risks, it has advanced sufficiently to deal with them quite well. So fracking has gone on for years now, producing bazillions of granfaloons of energy, and all the horror stories have proved to be basically chimaeras.

Peña Nieto

Another tale concerns Mexico, but has great relevance for the U.S. Mexico’s President Peña Nieto came to office upon a background of bitter partisan gridlock, among three main parties, no less. But he initiated a dialog among key leaders, that wound up committing all three parties to a big package of important reforms.

How was this remarkable breakthrough achieved? Tepperman: “quiet negotiations, painful compromise, political leaders willing to take risks and keep their word, and above all a recognition that zero-sum politics accomplishes nothing.” He also stresses the virtues of pragmatism as opposed to wearing ideological blinders. I was surprised Tepperman didn’t quote Deng Xiaoping: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” Deng was defending policies that shredded Communist orthodoxy. Of course, ideologies are not arbitrary irrelevancies: we have reasons for what we believe, and those beliefs guide what one thinks is the right answer to a problem. But the trouble is that other people may think differently. Tepperman argues for satisficing — making the kinds of compromises among competing viewpoints and interests such that everyone gets something, though nobody achieves their maximum goals. As ever: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Returning to Mexico’s reform pact, Tepperman sees no reason, in principle, why it couldn’t be repeated in America. I’m skeptical. While Mexico’s deal did encounter cries of “Treason!” such compromises here would meet a firestorm from enflamed partisans. And as Tepperman highlights, Mexico’s political parties were losing popularity because of the prior stalemate. America’s geographic political segregation and gerrymandering create a different set of incentives; despite abysmal approval ratings for Congress, its members almost all get re-elected.

Still, one of the book’s key points holds true: leadership matters. America has suffered from a notable lack of the kind of leadership Tepperman depicts. Obama certainly did not have it. He created the Simpson-Bowles commission to produce a big compromise plan like Mexico’s, then walked away from it. Unlike Peña Nieto, Obama was content to let the partisan dynamics just play themselves out, with predictable results. And as for our current president: oy.

The Daily Show: comedy news versus fake news

June 24, 2017

I’ve written that while Trump complains about the media, and mainstream media is critical of him, it fails to convey just how insane this is. Instead it maintains a patina of sober reporting, as though it’s all just normal news.

But not The Daily Show. Of course, that’s a comedy show, not (technically) a news program. And it does play for laughs. Yet it’s the one media venue that, unconstrained by an ethos of bland neutrality, is really telling it like it is.

When Trump announced his candidacy — that crassly tacky elevator descent, launching what surely seemed his own comedy show — Daily’s longtime host Jon Stewart blew air kisses at what he envisioned would supply plenty of laugh fodder.

Trevor Noah

Stewart’s been succeeded by Trevor Noah, a young comic fresh from South Africa. After a somewhat shaky start, Noah has found his footing. And while he does mine the rich comedic vein that is Trump, he meantime conveys the seriousness of what’s going on. In the applicable vernacular, The Daily Show has its hair on fire about Trump. As should we all.

His shouting “fake news” is an archetypal Trump inversion of reality, he himself being the biggest purveyor of fake news ever. A recent Daily Show highlighted this. Trump made quite a production of a supposed reform of air traffic control, flourishing his oversized signature applied to . . . something. As Noah said, he loves to perform as president (like on his TV show); actually doing the job is something else. The air traffic control reform is fake news. There is no reform. What Trump signed with such fanfare was not legislation, nor even an executive order, but merely a suggestion sent to Congress. (Good luck with that.)

This indeed is the Trump M.O. — all hat, no cattle. It’s true of most of his “accomplishments.” Fake news galore. His tax reform plan is not a plan at all. He talks about his fantastic, tremendous infrastructure plan. Guess what? There is no infrastructure plan either. The Muslim travel ban is blocked by the courts. The wall is not being built. And of course, as of now, there is no health care law, the House bill he celebrated so vaingloriously in the Rose Garden he himself now calls “mean,” and the Senate bill mashed up in secret, to govern a sixth of our economy, without careful fact-gathering and analysis, is bound to be a train wreck if it somehow passes.

But The Daily Show, alas, preaches mainly to the choir. Surely few Trump supporters watch it. However, the show often puts them on camera, illuminating the problem we face. One, on a recent episode, when asked for the first word coming to his mind to describe Trump, replied “honest.”

He probably believes in God and Heaven too. And the Easter Bunny.

Truth, decency, responsibility, sanity — I am now a Democrat

June 20, 2017

On May 14 I renounced here my 53-year Republican affiliation. I said I couldn’t yet join the Democrats.

But now the other shoe has dropped. As I’m fond of saying, the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good.

This is, again, a matter of culture trumping ideology. It’s not about policy. More importantly today, Democrats represent truth, decency, responsibility, and sanity.

How sad that that’s what it comes down to.

In New York, party enrollment is required to vote in primaries. The GOP is too far gone to the dark side for my primary vote there to be useful; while I am very concerned about the direction Democrats take in shaping the alternative. I want to have a vote on that.

Truth, decency, responsibility, sanity — that should be their theme. But many on the left have classically illiberal instincts. Despite their “diversity” talk, they’re intolerant of deviations from their party line. There’s a danger Democrats will indulge in ideological purity trials. The Economist sees signs of it already.

I hope Democrats can, just possibly, win the House of Representatives in 2018. That’s the only way Trump and his gang might be held to account. It seems Democrats are recruiting a lot of military vets to run, probably smart. And I do hope they will come up with a presidential candidate I can actually support. Someone like Kirsten Gillibrand (who says she won’t run), or Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. But getting to the right candidate will be like threading a needle — between hard left ideologues like Sanders or Elizabeth Warren and the corrupt blowhard bully Andrew Cuomo.

Republicans have vacated a vast territory in the political center, which Democrats should seize. America cries out not for a left-wing ideological alternative, but a centrist one — a party of truth, decency, responsibility, and sanity.

Macron

At least that’s what I think people should crave. But we don’t actually see it. I used to mock French politics, yet the new President Macron created a party of the radical center, which in parliamentary elections Sunday crushed the old right and left parties, gaining a big legislative majority of fresh newcomers to politics. Macron, indeed, seems to understand how the conventional right-left divide has been superseded by today’s true divide between open and closed mentalities.

But “It Can’t Happen Here.” America’s political system is far more impervious to such a revolution, its voters more entrenched in their ideological ghettoes. We may be condemned to lurch from one political extreme to the other based on the thinnest of electoral margins.

Let’s recap

June 10, 2017

The big story, according to Trump and his flacks, is his total vindication by Comey’s testimony that Trump was not under FBI investigation.

This is fake news. A lie. Because that was never even an issue. Instead, the issues were Trump’s improper attempts to stop the investigation of Russian meddling and of Michael Flynn; and his firing Comey.

Comey testified that he made careful notes of his conversations with Trump because he feared Trump would lie about them. And that Trump did lie, “plain and simple,” in saying he was fired because of disarray at the FBI and lack of support within the agency. Trump later said he actually fired Comey to get the Russia investigation off his back. Thus confirming that his other stories about it were, indeed, lies.

Yet White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.” Seriously? How many of his hundreds of documented lies need one mention? (Like his giant whopper that Obama wiretapped him.)

Then first his lawyer Kasowitz, and then the Liar-in-chief himself, denied that he’d demanded a pledge of loyalty from Comey.* Trump also denied asking Comey to lay off on Flynn. He added that it wouldn’t have been wrong anyway. (Bzzt. It most surely was wrong.) But if it’s Comey’s credibility versus Trump’s — are you kidding me?

Trump also called Comey a “showboater.” As if that doesn’t in fact describe Trump.

And called him a “nutjob.” As if that doesn’t in fact describe Trump. 

The Lie House has also gotten much mileage labeling Comey a “leaker.” This from the guy who actually blabbed highly sensitive classified information to the Russians, in the Oval Office! The very day after a Congressional hearing into Russian meddling! But never mind that. To call Comey a “leaker” is yet another lie. Comey gave the press his personal notes about conversations he’d had that were not privileged or classified. That’s not “leaking.”

Then Paul Ryan covered himself with shame by cheerily waving off the whole ghastly story as merely the missteps of an inexperienced beginner. Begging the issue of having a president so clueless. But it’s naive to think Trump was acting from naivite. Even my cat would know his interactions with Comey were improper.

* Trump accidentally said something true at his press conference when a reporter misspoke by asking whether Comey had asked him for a pledge of loyalty. “No he did not,” Trump robotically answered.

Michael Gerson on Trumpian moral obscenity

June 6, 2017

Michael Gerson was George W. Bush’s chief speech writer and now writes for the Washington Post. A conservative Republican, he has unrelentingly called out Trump’s awfulness. Trump is a black hole of moral obscenity that sucks in and perverts everything and everyone around him. The Republican party has fallen into that black hole. A recent Gerson column (see below) shows this.

Trump says the press is against him. Yes, there’s a liberal media bias. But more fundamentally it’s biased in favor of truth, decency, and sanity. Trump assaults all three. So is the press against him? Not strongly enough, in my view. Mainstream media still employs a basically temperate tone, almost as though he’s just another president, as though “President Trump repeated his lie . . . ” is a more or less normal news story. It is not. It is the crash-and-burn of American civic culture.

Trump telephoned Philippine President Duterte to congratulate him for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” What is unbelievable about it is literally thousands of murders, outside the law; and that Trump would praise such moral obscenity.

We’re not supposed to blame his supporters. But I’ve had enough about how their feelings must be understood. They are ignorant fools conned by a con man. That was obvious long before November to anyone with open eyes. But Trumpites blind theirs with partisan paranoia. Voting for that vile creep was stupid irresponsibility that greatly damaged America. It is not being made “great again” but sunk in a sewer.

Here is Gerson’s column (my shortened version):

To many on the left, the embrace of Seth Rich conspiracy theories by conservative media figures was merely a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul.

Seth Rich and Hannity

But for those of us who remember that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were once relatively mainstream Reaganites, their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing.

The cruel exploitation of the memory of Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead last summer, was horrifying and clarifying. The Hannity right, without evidence, accused Rich rather than the Russians of leaking damaging DNC emails. In doing so, it has proved its willingness to credit anything — no matter how obviously deceptive or toxic — to defend President Trump and harm his opponents — becoming a megaphone for Russian influence.

How could conservative media figures not have felt — in their hearts and bones — the God-awful ickiness of it? How did simple humanity get turned off? Is this insensibility the risk of prolonged exposure to our radioactive political culture?

But this failure of decency is also politically symbolic. Who legitimized conspiracy thinking at the highest level? Who raised the possibility that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Who hinted that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the death of Vince Foster, or that unnamed liberals might have killed Justice Antonin Scalia? Who not only questioned President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but raised the prospect of the murder of a Hawaiian state official in a coverup? [Gerson failed to mention the wiretapping lie.]

We have a president charged with maintaining public health who asserts that vaccination is a dangerous scam of greedy doctors. We have a president who falsely accused thousands of Muslims of celebrating in the streets following the 9/11 attacks.

In this mental environment, alleging a Rich-related conspiracy was predictable. This is the mainstreaming of destructive craziness.

Those conservatives who believe that the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch is sufficient justification for the Trump presidency are ignoring Trump’s psychic and moral destruction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Trump is doing harm beyond anything Clinton could have done, changing the party’s most basic moral and political orientations. He is shaping conservatism in his image and ensuring an eventual defeat more complete, and an eventual exile more prolonged, than Democrats could have dreamed.

The conservative mind has become diseased. The movement has been seized by a kind of discrediting madness, in which conspiracy delusions figure prominently. With the blessings of a president, they have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion. They have allowed political polarization to reach their hearts, and harden them. They have allowed polarization to dominate their minds, and empty them.

Conspiracy theories often involve a kind of dehumanization. The narrative of conspiracy takes precedence over the meaning of a life and the suffering of a family. A human being is made into an ideological prop on someone else’s stage — fully consistent with other forms of dehumanization — of migrants, refugees and “the other” more generally. This also involves callousness, cruelty and conspiracy thinking.

In Trump’s political world, this project of dehumanization is far along. The future of conservatism now depends on its capacity for revulsion. And it is not at all clear whether this capacity still exists.