Alex Pareene says suckers elected the Sucker-in-Chief. (More)

“A large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them”

In a must-read article at Fusion, Alex Pareene puts our political malady where squirrels like things – in a nutshell:

If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.

He then lays out the origins of the Republican Grift Machine: Fox News, talk radio, wingnut blogs, and other media outlets whose basic business model is keeping retired white men angry enough to give their money to snake-oil salesmen: “companies selling newly patented drugs designed to treat the various conditions of old age, authors of dubious investing newsletters, sellers of survival seeds, hawkers of poorly written conservative books, and a whole array of similar con artists and ethically compromised corporations and financial institutions.”

Pareene explains that, through the 1990s and 2000s, there were two GOPs: “grownups” who got news from mainstream conservative outlets like the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, and the Weekly Standard, and a voting base increasingly sealed in the wingnut bullshit bubble. The “grownups” might shovel bullshit into that bubble when interviewed, but Pareene says they didn’t believe it. Not back then.

The grown-up Republicans in Washington, meanwhile, still existed in their own genteel bubble of misinformation – they convinced themselves that the occupation of Iraq would be over and done with in a few easy months – but the major figures in the Bush administration, and its allies in Congress, were not men who got the majority of their news from Free Republic and Alex Jones. They put their faith in a fairly traditional conservative orthodoxy: That you can use the levers of power to quietly enrich your friends and their firms, while pleasing the masses with some combination of tax cuts, loud proclamations of religiosity, and a modest, popular war or two.

But the complete and inarguable disaster of the Bush administration – a failure of the conservative movement itself, one undeniable even to many consumers of the parallel conservative media – and his abrupt replacement by a black man, caused a national nervous breakdown among the people who’d been told, for many years, that conservatism could not fail, and that all Real Americans agreed with them.

Republicans then realized their voters were far more radical than the “grownups” had imagined … so much so that the Tea Party wave of 2010 swept in a crew who lived in the wingnut bubble themselves:

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet – who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

Pareene details how the God-King began by peddling bullshit and then immersed himself in it, to the point that he’s become the Sucker-in-Chief:

Now, and for the foreseeable future, the grifter-in-chief sits alone in the White House residence every night, watching cable news tell him comforting lies – that he’s a hugely popular president, that responsibility for his myriad setbacks and failures lies with the many powerful enemies aligned against him a grand conspiracy – in between the ads for reverse mortgages and “all-natural male enhancement.” There’s an image of America in the age of the complete triumph of bullshit. You spend a few years selling lousy steaks to suckers, then one morning you wake up and you’re the sucker – and the steak.

It’s a long article – a big nutshell – but worth reading in full …

“The equivalent of trying to criminalize intelligence judgment”

… because it helps explain why the God-King went to the New York Times and declared, without a shred of evidence, that former National Security Advisor Susan Rice committed a crime:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: “I don’t want to comment on anything about – other than to say I think it’s a – I think it’s truly one of the big stories of our time.”

GLENN THRUSH: “Do you think she [Susan Rice] might have committed a crime?”

TRUMP: “Do I think?”

THRUSH: “Yeah.”

TRUMP: “Yes, I think.”

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked that bullshit:

On the face of it, Trump’s assertion is absurd. Numerous former national security officials told The Fact Checker that Rice, as national security adviser, had every right to request the identities of U.S. citizens who were incidentally recorded or referenced in surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency. Generally, intelligence reports would come to the national security adviser with the names of U.S. citizens redacted, replaced by a phrase such as “U.S. person 1.”

“To be on her desk in the first place, the report must already have intelligence in the first place or NSA would not have published it, especially if it involved any U.S. person information,” said former NSA director Michael V. Hayden. “So the original intelligence value judgment is made by a career intelligence professional at NSA.”

Hayden said that the NSA “is notoriously conservative about including U.S. person information. Once out, it’s out. Better to not include and let people ask.” Then, “when the request to unmask is made, it is adjudicated again at NSA by analysts and lawyers. Sometimes they say yes. Sometimes they say no. The basic question is does this person need this information to understand the intelligence value of this report to do their job?”

So, in theory, if Trump believes Rice committed a crime by requesting this information, he is also suggesting the analysts who approved the requests may have aided and abetted a crime. Hayden said that “is the equivalent of trying to criminalize intelligence judgment.”

Yes, as Kessler notes, a handful of former security types say it’s possible that Rice may have ‘unmasked’ too many people. But there’s no evidence of that, and any claim that she selectively unmasked the God-King’s cronies misses the point: she couldn’t know who ‘U.S. Person 1’ was until she made the request and the NSA officials reviewed and approved it.

Nor is there any evidence that Rice leaked those names to anyone in the media. In short, she did her job … but that’s a crime in the bullshit bubble that is the God-King’s world.

“Yes you, stop writing I can see over your shoulder”

And for a truly hilarious visit to that bullshit bubble, don’t miss Alexandra Petri’s wonderful satire:

In the shadow of the old flag factory, Craig Slabornik sits whittling away on a rusty nail, his only hobby since the plant shut down. He is an American like millions of Americans, and he has no regrets about pulling the lever for Donald Trump in November – twice, in fact, which Craig says is just more evidence of the voter fraud plaguing the country. Craig is a contradiction, but he does not know it.

Each morning he arrives at the Blue Plate Diner and tries to make sense of it all. The regulars are already there. Lydia Borkle lives in an old shoe in the tiny town of Tempe Work Only, Ariz., where the factory has just rusted away into a pile of gears and dust. The jobs were replaced by robots, not shipped overseas, but try telling Lydia that. (I did, very slowly and patiently, I thought, but she still became quite brusque.) Her one lifeline was an Obama-era jobs training program, but she says that she does not regret her vote for Trump and likes what he says about business. She makes a point of telling me that she is not racist, but I think she probably is, a little.

Next to her sits Linda Blarnik. Like the rusty hubcaps hanging on the wall behind her, she was made in America 50 years ago, back when this town made things, a time she still remembers fondly. She says she has had just enough of the “coastal elitist media who keep showing up to write mean things about my town and my life, like that thing just now where you said I was like a hubcap, yes you, stop writing I can see over your shoulder.” Mournfully a whistle blows behind her, the whistle of a train that does not stop in this America any longer.

Petri manages to lampoon both the God-King’s faithful fans and also the journalists who shovel the same pathetic prattle in story after story, and concludes:

Claudia Barknappen, the owner of the diner, wipes her hands on her faded God Bless America Apron. She is taken aback to see that Trump’s budget would replace her home with a sinkhole, but she says that she is reserving judgment and likes how much he hates immigrants. “We’ve got to give him a chance,” she observes. She says that one time Trump showed up at her home and hit her dog with a broom, but in her mind this amounts to no more than one strike. She knows that she can change Trump with love, not that he needs to change at all. Behind her, an eagle falls out of a tree and dies.

It’s giggly-great stuff.

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Photo Credit: John Rensten (Getty Images)

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Good day and good nuts