The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: karl rove

GOP Civil War Breaks Out Again As Trump And Rove Brawl

By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump intensified his war with the Republican establishment on Thursday by attacking Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist who criticized Trump's first speech since leaving office for being long on grievances but short on vision. "He’s a pompous fool with bad advice and always has an agenda," Trump complained in a statement issued by his office in Palm Beach, Florida. Rove, the architect of Republican George W. Bush's presidential victories in 2000 and 2004, wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday ...

Republicans Erupt In Civil War Over Election — Against Each Other

In recent days, Ohio's Gov. Mike DeWine and other prominent GOP figures have come under fire by fellow Republicans for refusing to participate in Donald Trump's attempted coup.

Last week, Fox News aired clips from a CNN interview in which DeWine told host Jake Tapper that Biden had won fair and square.

"We need to consider the former Vice President as the president-elect," DeWine told the outlet. "Joe Biden is the president-elect."

Trump, outraged, took to Twitter.

Read Now Show less

Younger Voters Elected Oldest President, And Other 2020 Observations

Joe Biden won the White House, we are reminded almost daily, on his third try, having run unsuccessfully in both 1988 and 2008.

It's funny; I can't recall, having covered the 1980 presidential race, much ever being made of the fact that that year's winner, Republican Ronald Reagan, also won on his third White House run.

Read Now Show less

Sen. Collins Relying On Trump Advisers Gingrich And Rove

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has been trying to publicly distance herself from President Donald Trump while she runs a difficult reelection campaign. But on her email list, Collins and her campaign have frequently turned to Fox News contributors and Trump advisers Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove for fundraising help.

Collins is running for reelection in Maine, where Trump is badly trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in polling. She has received scrutiny over her support for major Trump policies, including her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Read Now Show less

A Deeper Look At President Trump’s Lies and ‘Twistifications’

Reprinted with permission from the Washington Spectator.

Thomas Jefferson was so dismayed by political deceptions that he coined a word for it. “Twistifications” referred to a brew of willful misinformation, tortured logic, and artful language designed to sway credulous audiences.

This would be a good moment to resurrect Jefferson’s term—to better describe the “post-truth” Donald Trump, especially after Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway’s stunning reprises of Baghdad Bob at the White House over the past weekend. For while all presidents occasionally lie or mislead (Tonkin Gulf, Iran-Contra, WMD), this president so habitually and strategically dissembles—and then indignantly repeats the falsehood—that the word “lie” isn’t remotely adequate. He’s instead embodying the famous comment of one Bush 43 aide (later identified as Karl Rove) who candidly admitted to journalist Ron Suskind: “We create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—we’ll act again, creating other new realities.”

A close study of Trump’s standard twistifications (and those of his mini-me’s) over the past 18 months leads to the Anti-BS Detector for the Trump Era below. For Trump and Rove are essentially mimicking, consciously or not, “Orwellian” propaganda which George Orwell in 1984 described: “The Party” could change reality by repeatedly “insisting that lies are truth.”

Just Say No. When all federal intelligence agencies concluded that Putin hacked the Democrats, Trump at first went into deny, deny, deny mode — in effect, saying “ignore that man behind the [Iron] curtain.” When that became untenable, he instead adamantly denied that the Putin-WikiLeaks combination had any impact on the political outcome . . . which was odd, since he cited WikiLeaks 164 times during the campaign’s final month to denigrate Clinton. It appeared that Trump the candidate disagreed with the president-elect.

Just Say So. Why bother with evidence when “content bias” convinces “low education” supporters (his term) to swallow whole Trump’s self-confident declarations?  The “tells” are easy to spot: “believe me…trust me…right?” The British have a phrase for this: “perhaps wrong but never in doubt.”

So Trump insists that millions voted illegally in November, thousands of Muslims cheered the collapse of the Twin Towers and there was a record turnout for his Inauguration (aerial photos notwithstanding). One week, he thinks the CIA is like “Nazi Germany” — the next week, he goes to Langley to say he “loves” them despite what the lying media reported. What contradiction?

This category includes those conclusory adjectives that he’s the “best, smartest, most successful” person around with “terrific, great” plans, not to mention really big hands and glands. O.K.?

Black Sheep. Imagine if a person implied that all sheep were black because he saw one. Universalizing the particular can work. Consider that quickly retracted report over last weekend that President Trump had moved the Martin Luther King bust out of the Oval Office, allowing his team to imply that one example proves a media conspiracy against them. Or any time a Republican says something blatantly or implicitly racial, for example, a Trumper will invariably ask “what about Bob Byrd?” (the West Virginia Democratic Senator who was briefly in the KKK in the ’30s before recanting).

So any stray stupid quote from any Democrat ever allows Trump allies try to explain away some blunder by maintaining that “both sides do it.” Like Reagan, Trump understands that anecdotage is more convincing than analysis.

Reverse LogicContrary to the scientific method of facts leading to conclusions, conclusions lead to facts in Trumpland. Since Iran is presumptively bad, he argues that a deal stopping it from developing a nuclear weapon for at least 180 months is worse than a nuclear-weapons break-out in three months. And since a major cornerstone of the GOP is the fossil fuel industry, that requires Trump to treat climate change as either a hoax or only a teeny weeny man-made inconvenience. For him, the ideological precedes the empirical.

BULLY Pulpit. There’s an old saw in the courtroom that if the facts are on your side, pound away at the facts; if logic is on your side, pound away at logic; if neither is on your side, pound the table. Hence all those tweets attacking anyone as an overrated loser, like that failed actress Meryl something and a local labor leader in Indiana who contradicted him. Powered originally by 17 million followers on Twitter and now the White House press apparatus, Trump can make potential critics think twice before speaking out.

False Comparatives. Trumpians can pretend that some craziness is exonerated by a different craziness. So he tried to tweet away Russia’s subversion of democracy because CNN’s Donna Brazile allegedly shared two questions with Hillary’s camp before a primary debate. Really? Brazile like Putin? Kellyanne Conway’s push back on possible Kremlin influence on the 2016 election was to claim that media bias also tilted the playing field, which blithely equates our First Amendment’s freedom of the press with espionage.

Word Play. President Lincoln cautioned audiences that “there’s a difference between a horse chestnut and a chestnut horse.” President George W. Bush understood that if he merely located “9/11” and “Saddam Hussein” in the same sentence, many listeners would — and did — correlate the two.

Notice, for example, how candidate Trump preemptively attacked others for things he himself engages in—psychologists call it “projection” —in order to neuter their use against him. Hence, he called Hillary Clinton “nasty…corrupt…liar…bigot…[a Putin] puppet.”

Shoot the Media Messengers. Skepticism about a particular story, journalist, or outlet is standard fare . . . but attacking “the Media” as “disgusting, dishonest, the worst” is quite simply an authoritarian tactic to sabotage a cornerstone of democracy. No president has gone so far. Nor was it reassuring when Trump joked at one campaign rally, “well, we won’t kill them [pause] . . . hmmm.”

There’s a method to his badness here—as his only press conference as president-elect showed, he now can merely shout, “fake news!” about any critical coverage and his core supporters will nod in unison.

Figures don’t lie, but liars figure. If you thought that no one would lie about specific, agreed-on numbers, you’d be mis-underestimating the 45th president. Hence, his claims that 85 percent of attacks on white victims are committed by blacks (it’s actually 15 percent) and that he won in a “landslide” (of minus 2.9 million votes), and his Inaugural had the biggest TV audience (except for those two others).

When Trump/Conway/Priebus/Spicer/Pence etc. rotate these twistificiations, they can erogenously excite a largely white, working-class base who reflect the axiom, “to the jaundiced eye, all looks yellow.” And they can easily fill 140 characters or a couple of sentences in a TV or radio interview.

Since Trump has been a successful dissembler for decades­—and inherits a GOP Congress reminiscent of Kipling’s “shut-eyed sentry”—one doubts he’ll now abandon the habits that have gotten him to the Oval Office. But the White House is not the 25th floor of Trump Tower. Can he get away with his multiple misdirections for 1,460 days of intense scrutiny?

Eventually, this tug-of-war between Trump’s Ministry of Disinformation and the “reality-based” media will have a winner. The “Party” couldn’t hold the USSR together, Mandela was freed, Miami is often under water, and already Trump is by far the most unpopular new president since polling began—and we’ve seen millions marching on January 21, with massive new energies directed toward resistance.

So if the #NeverTrumpers keep exposing daily his and their twistifications, I’m betting on the winning observation of Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Mark Green was NYC’s first Public Advocate. Among his 23 books is the recent Bright, Infinite Future: A Generational Memoir on the Progressive Rise.

IMAGE: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Flickr/Gage Skidmore

How Trump Won — and How Candidates Will Win From Now On

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Caveat: Trump’s win was no landslide. There are many plausible explanations for it, including that it was a fluke. Here is one among many speculations I think is worth considering about why he won and what it means for future elections.

Consider the possibility that the election was not decided on issues, values, character, scandal or national direction, but on confidence. Trump postured as the infinitely confident candidate. Though most of us thought he would lose, he campaigned throughout as though he were infallible.

He never once broke character. Not once during the campaign did he change his mind. Of course, he changed his positions like a chameleon. Still, he was able to sustain an uninterrupted impression that he thought he had the “best mind” already, nothing to change, learn or correct about it. He gave the impression of someone who never needed to make the case for anything. We never saw him wondering or defending or really apologizing. He acted as though he believed in his own supreme power to interpret reality correctly and to do whatever it takes to bring reality to heel under his command.

Trump employed a formula for giving the impression of absolute invincibility. It’s not a complicated formula. It simply requires an unfailing ability to treat truth and reality as trivial, an ability to play presiding judge over every decision, and a handful of rhetorical tricks for turning the table on everything and everyone in his way, retaliating against all challenges with counter challenges tenfold.

Voters were split in response. To those of us who value reasons, respectful engagement and debate grounded in evidence, his formula made him seem ridiculous, dumb, psychopathic, immoral and criminal. We focused on reasoning with voters to get them to see that supporting him was all of those things.

Consciously or unconsciously, half of the voters fell for his formula. They faced a choice. Either heed our warnings and doubt about his character and theirs for being drawn to him, or just go with the candidate who acted convincingly invincible. The solution for many was to act like they doubted his character (distorting poll results) and still vote for him.

By the end, no quantity of facts, scandals or counter-arguments would sway these voters. That’s crucial to understand. The points and positions that people claim swayed them toward Trump are not strongly held. They’re expedient rationalizations for their inability to resist the appeal of his posture of invincibility. The appeal of his undauntable authority was his trump card. And it’s not hard to see why.

People have always gravitated toward the charismatic appearance of invincibility. Life is an anxious, uncertain affair. We dream of a superhuman power to escape self-doubt, indecision, and confusion. You hear it in the spiritual quest to discover the infallible path to eternal success on earth or in the afterlife.

We’re none of us viscerally enthusiastic about being challenged and doubted. Though people claim that they welcome critical feedback because they can learn from it, it’s inherently discouraging. Confidence is smooth sailing; doubt is choppy waters. Confidence is what all advertisers sell; doubt is an unwelcome punch to the gut.

Our reasonable challenges to Trump supporters backfired. We tried to stir doubt in them. Doubt is the last thing they wanted especially when demonstrated invincibility, however unrealistic, was on offer.

We all learn from successes but also from mistakes, and not just that we should avoid them. When devil’s bargains work in the short run, we employ them more, not less.

It’s likely that the U.S. has just made a devil’s bargain. Our founding fathers would certainly argue that we have. Time will tell, but in the meantime, people can’t resist learning from Trump’s win that feigned invincibility pays. People never forget strategies that work expediently.

Feigned invincibility is not a new strategy. Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist, discovered ways to win through unbridled self-confidence that have been exploited ever since. Reagan was known as the Teflon president.

Reporter Ron Suskind recounts a conversation with Bush’s campaign manager, Karl Rove:

[Rove] said guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Trump’s formula simply takes the art of feigned invincibility to its logical conclusion and just in time to thrive in a new era in media, an era in which everything candidates have ever said or done is on record and repeatedly exposed. Feigned purity can’t thrive, let alone survive in this era of hyper-exposure. Feigned invincibility can. Trump rode undaunted above his many scandals. That’s how one wins in this new era.

Principle and policy were not the source of Trump’s success. Christian fundamentalists supported him despite his behavior. Women supported him (2% less than Romney) and Hispanics supported him (2% more than Romney). That’s good news for the nation. To the extent that voters even think and care about policy, we may not be that divided.

The big divide today is between those who find feigned invincibility irresistible regardless of how realistic it is, and those who can’t help but doubt their own impulse toward unrealistic confidence.

That point is easily lost in the days after the election because those of us who can’t live in unrealistic confidence appear unrealistically confident in three ways. We appear wrong about the direction of the country, since the GOP won every seat of power. We were wrong about what the people wanted and we were wrong to think we would win.

In us, this mistake-trifecta breeds doubt. In those who find feigned invincibility irresistible, the equivalent comeuppance would make them double down on their posture of invincibility. As Trump did throughout and as the GOP has now done for decades.

Still, Rove is wrong in the long run. Reality ultimately prevails over whatever “reality” you create even if you run an empire. Denying climate change won’t convince the climate not to change.

There’s a possibility that as reality comes home to roost with Republicans in complete control of all branches of government, more people will sober up and demand realism. It didn’t come home to roost during the Bush era, but rather just as Obama was assuming power. Feigning invincibility, the GOP pinned the blame on Obama. This time the timing could be different.

Going forward, the question is what could ever trump feigned invincibility? I’ll argue that the only thing that can is hyper-confident exposure of the formula for feigned invincibility. In other words, with relentless unshakable confidence, drawing attention to the opposition’s realism-be-damned confidence formula. To name it is to tame it. Expose how simple the formula is. Play the judge of the self-appointed judge.

Ignore the issues, since with those who feign invincibility, the issues are never the point. Do not engage in debate, since those who feign invincibility will turn your willingness to debate into evidence that you aren’t as invincible as they are. Ignore calls for engagement, harmony, collaboration and civility, since those who feign invincibility will use both your willingness and unwillingness to engage to raise doubts about you.

Stay on message, hammering away unflinchingly to expose the formula. The formula for beating it is pretty simple too, since with every denial that one feigns invincibility can be exposed as further evidence of feigned invincibility.

Power through with brazenly, though realistically confident, absolutist rejection of feigned invincibility. None of us are invincible. Reality wins in the end. Make unflinchingly confident heroes of those of us who earn their confidence with realism. Pick candidates who with silver tongue can expose the peril of feigned invincibility as the pivotal campaign issue that it has become.

This election was a referendum on feigned invincibility and it won. There will be more referendums on it in years to come.

IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Sacramento. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

Trump Drives Spike Into Culture War Politics

Days before the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz paraded his two young daughters in matching pink dresses and spoke darkly of “putting little girls alone in a bathroom with grown men.”

This was a visual that, frankly, we could have done without. Thankfully, Donald Trump locked it in Ripley’s museum of the politically bizarre by trouncing Cruz in that conservative state’s primary.

It was Trump who had said that transgender people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate.” It was he who noted that there have been “very few problems” with transgender people using ladies’ rooms. Trump didn’t say — but could have — that men presenting themselves as women have been using women’s facilities for a long time, with the other occupants none the wiser or unconcerned.

So has Trump deep-sixed the culture war gambit in Republican politics? The formula is to draw votes by pounding on some controversy of little consequence to most people, preferably with a sex angle attached. The 2004 presidential election in Ohio was a textbook case. Placing a measure to ban gay marriage on the ballot probably gave George W. Bush — whose main game was tax cuts — a narrow victory.

Our friends the Koch brothers routinely give money to socially conservative groups to win over middle- or working-class followers otherwise not served by the family’s economic agenda. The brothers themselves have shrugged at gay marriage, saying they have no problem with it.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the working-class whites targeted by culture warriors don’t really care all that much about these issues — or care a lot less about them than they do about their falling incomes. Perhaps they’ve been voting all these years for an attitude, hitting back at the “liberal elites” who they feel rap them on the knuckles when they speak their mind. Trump’s magic potion involves adding attitude while subtracting threats to Social Security, Medicare and other government programs average folks depend on.

Trump has stomped on so many of the right wing’s most cherished wedge issues — while winning majorities among the Republican base — it gets you wondering how big that tide of moral umbrage really was. How much of it was a mirage pulled off with talk radio’s smoke and mirrors?

Abortion is a truly difficult issue. Your writer believes an abortion should be easy (and free) to obtain early in a pregnancy and limited later on. Others oppose abortion altogether, and it is this group’s genuine concerns that the right seeks to stoke.

As a result, it’s the rare Republican who will put in a good word for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides a variety of women’s health services in addition to abortions. But Trump praised the organization for doing the former without apology. And he won races in the heart of value-voter America — including the entire Deep South.

For liberals and moderates alike, Trump deserves gratitude for putting away Cruz. (Too bad about John Kasich, though.) It spared us from having to hear his running mate, Carly Fiorina, go on about Planned Parenthood’s harvesting “body parts” from a kicking fetus, a complete fiction.

Making things up happens to be a Trump specialty, so there’s some poetic justice in his volleying back some outright fabrications. His suggestion that Cruz’s father helped John Kennedy’s assassin is a classic of the genre.

Putting an end to culture warmongering as a political strategy — or at least dialing it back — could go down as Trump’s second-best contribution to the quality of America’s civic life. His best contribution would be to lose badly in November. Luckily, on getting himself not elected in the general, Trump has made a strong start.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at


Photo: A demonstrator dressed as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump protests outside the Trump Tower building in midtown Manhattan in New York March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

How George W. Bush Made It Possible for Donald Trump To Wreck the GOP

If the 2016 GOP primary is a long meltdown, Saturday night was when the core breached and the damage became catastrophic.

Sure, the damage that Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled, women, and anyone who doesn’t call him a genius was probably already irreversible. But in that two-hour debate, the billion-dollar baby found the cracks in the Republican coalition and began fracking away.

“I will tell you. They lied,” said Trump when asked about George W. Bush’s prosecution of the Iraq War, as Jeb Bush stood a few feet away. “And they said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

This was like Code Pink in full anti-war fury, calling out a Bush brother to his face. Trump also praised Planned Parenthood, noting that abortions are only a tiny fraction of what it does, and rebuking Ted Cruz: “You are the single biggest liar, you’re probably worse than Jeb Bush.”

Then he mentioned the one indisputable fact you’re never, ever supposed to point out as a Republican: George W. Bush was president on 9/11.

The only way he could go any further would be to actually throw a shoe at a Bush.

The crowd booed him several times but the online poll at the Drudge Report — the sewer into which all that is conservative online drains and flows — showed this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 9.58.06 AMDr


“If [his debate performance] doesn’t backfire, then it will be official; nothing can stop him,” GOP strategist Curt Anderson said.

Um. Yeah.

The tribalism of the GOP — along with massive support from vested donors who depend on Republicans to make the richest ever richer — has kept the party together despite its undeniable failures. Trump is proving he can stomp on half the tribe and still win, violating the rule that you’re never supposed to mention Bush failures where you eat.

Republicans are finally figuring out that their party isn’t their party. Decades of identity politics built on resentment and loss have created a moveable beast ready to follow anyone fearless enough to savage their opponents and promise a restoration of lost status.

George W. Bush is a victim of this mob mentality because Jeb is calling on his brother for backup. But more than any living Republican, W. — or the machine around W. — figured out how to channel identity politics into political power.

One fortunate son paved the way for another.

Trumpism is all about braggadocio and the use of power for its own sake. W. Bushism proceeded with the same mentality, while adhering to the pre-Trump etiquette of only hinting his true intentions with heavily coded language.

With a veneer of respectability and a pseudo-aristocratic pedigree, Bush definitely differed from Trump in style. He wasn’t willing to swing wildly in public and he had an innate sense of legacy that drove him to woo the fastest growing group of new voters, Latinos, rather than using them as scapegoats for America’s ills.

Instead, Bush’s policies did the wild swinging for him — and the damage he did to America and the Republican Party is finally becoming clear with the emergence of Donald Trump.

Trump seems ahistorical with his disconnection from reality and his willingness to invent facts that serve his narrative, of an America in decline that only he can save. But his closest antecedent is the Bush/Cheney administration

From his campaign built on lying about who would benefit most from his tax cuts to claiming a mandate from an election he lost to passing those surplus-draining tax cuts, Bush’s willingness to ignore precedent and reality was evident long before the Iraq War.

While Bush deserves credit for visiting a mosque and calling for tolerance in the days after 9/11, his administration’s relentless drive for war in Iraq was only possible by exploiting America’s worst fears, creating a culture of endless war that has seen us bomb more than a half dozen Muslim countries since 2001.

With Republicans finally debating whether the Iraq War was an act of outright deception or just complete incompetence, the idea that the facts can be trimmed to fit a presidential agenda wasn’t just politics as usual for the Bush Administration. It was the result a philosophy that embraced the art of intentional deception — a right-wing response to a world without a countervailing superpower.

‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” a Bush aide later identified as Karl Rove told author Ron Suskind. “And while you’re studying that reality— judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

For decades, the right has been building what historian Rick Perlstein calls “The Long Con.” But only during the Bush era did that confidence game become apocalyptic — just as the national unity that followed 9/11 was charred by the insanity of the Iraq War.

While most of America sees the Bush Administration as a failure, the party’s biggest donors experienced its massive transfer of the wealth and its regulatory elimination (which sped climate change and ushered in the Great Recession) as tremendous spoils of victory.

After decades of right-wing conspiring to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the high bench delivered Citizens United and the decimation of nearly all campaign finance laws. That decision encouraged Republican billionaires to step in and create their own shadow party. The party establishment was left powerless in the face of an actual billionaire donor stepping into the fray, ready to burn everything down — whenever it might suit his fancy.

From the increasing abandonment of reality during the Bush era, a straight line can be drawn to the complete denial of climate science, the absolute abandonment of normal political order to obstruct Barack Obama, and now, the rise of Trump.

The party has actively shrugged off the constraints of reality in the name of power. And today they confront a skillful, reckless interloper who is even better at that than they are.