Steve Bannon

How The GOP Culture Of Impunity Coddles Crooked Steve Bannon

Among right-wing Republicans, the impending incarceration of Stephen K. Bannon has provoked a torrent of sputtering rage.

"I stand with Steve Bannon!" was the defiant slogan barked by scores of prominent figures on the right, after a federal judge ordered the fascist media personality and adviser to former President Donald Trump to report to federal prison, where he is to begin serving a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress on July 1. Bannon has begged the Supreme Court to review his case — and perhaps the corrupt justices will answer his plea, although he is clearly guilty of refusing to testify before the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection, which he helped to instigate.

But there is a peculiar aspect to the outpouring of support for Bannon on the right. Whether he goes to prison next month or not, he will soon face state charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, in the same New York courtroom where Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts last month.

What makes this prosecution so compelling is that the victims defrauded in the swindle allegedly perpetrated by Bannon and his three confederates were all devoted followers of Trump. These MAGA faithful were deceived into believing their money would go to construction of a wall along our southern border. Instead, donations to "We Build the Wall" disappeared into the accounts of its sponsors, including Bannon, who had sworn publicly not to accept any payment, salary, or remuneration for his great patriotic effort.

To describe this multimillion-dollar fraud scheme as "alleged" is a journalistic formality. It is the same criminal conspiracy that led to convictions years ago for Bannon's coconspirators Andrew Badolato, Timothy Shea, and a disabled veteran named Brian Kolfage, who gorged themselves on the contributions of hundreds of thousands of true-believing conservatives — and misused that money to buy luxury vehicles, cosmetic surgery, a golf cart, hotel accommodations, jewelry and lots of other goodies. (The appalling history of Bannon's bunco scheme is detailed in my new book,The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism.)

Following their indictment by federal prosecutors in August 2020 — under the Trump Justice Department — the defendants at first blustered about a "political hit job" and a "weaponized judicial system," much as Bannon still does every day, along with screaming threats to jail Democrats, reporters and prosecutors. But after their lawyers perused the copious evidence compiled by investigators, Kolfage and Badolato quietly made plea agreements.

"I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime," Kolfage eventually told the court when he pled guilty. "I knew this was wrong, and I'm terribly, terribly sorry for what I did, and I humbly beg the court for mercy," Badolato whined. Shea went to trial, a big mistake that ended in his October 2021 conviction at trial and a sentence of five years.

Bannon alone escaped, at least temporarily, after Trump bestowed a preemptive pardon on "Sloppy Steve" during his final hours in the White House. (Dirty trickster Roger Stone, also a Trump adviser and likewise the beneficiary of presidential clemency, publicly accused Bannon of blackmailing Trump to get the pardon, calling him a "grifter scumbag.")

But New York prosecutors, wise to the former president's misuse of his pardon power to reward those who might have testified against him, proceeded to indict Bannon under state racketeering statutes for perpetrating his "We Build the Wall" fraud in the Empire State.

No doubt Bannon's attorneys can muster some legal arguments against a state indictment that essentially recapitulates federal charges, just as they have argued he wasn't obliged to answer a congressional subpoena. And nobody should be surprised by the hypocrisy of Republicans who want to impeach Biden administration officials for rebuffing congressional summons, while simultaneously excusing Bannon's defiance.

Even if Bannon's acceptance of the Trump pardon were not an admission of guilt — as it surely is — prosecutors have assembled an overwhelming pile of evidence, which sent his three coconspirators to prison. There are bank documents showing illicit money transfers, incriminating text messages showing how the scam worked, and wire records showing how Bannon abused a nonprofit he controlled to funnel money into his personal account.

Still, he not only remains popular among the MAGA mob but is lionized by congressional Republicans, "conservative" celebrities and institutional leaders who flock to his "War Room" studio on Capitol Hill. In the Trump era, there is no accountability on the right, no social sanction against felonious misconduct. The miscreants can pretend to be innocent victims, their followers can pretend to believe them, and the culture of impunity spreads like a toxic plume over our nation.



Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why Trump Republicans Want To Destroy The FBI

Why Trump Republicans Want To Destroy The FBI

Ever since Richard Nixon demanded "law and order" while overseeing what America later discovered to be an enormous criminal conspiracy, that Republican slogan has sounded ironic and faintly ridiculous.

Now, with their party firmly in the grip of former President Donald Trump — a Nixon admirer, a convicted felon and soon to be the 2024 Republican presidential nominee — Republicans are actively undermining law enforcement and counterespionage while aiding drug cartels, human traffickers and hostile foreign powers.

House Speaker Mike Johnson vowed recently to punish the FBI, as did Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the Judiciary Committee chair, because they are furious over Trump's conviction by a New York City jury in a case that did not involve the FBI at all. For many months following the FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, where he had concealed national security documents that he refused to surrender, a growing chorus of Republican legislators has sought punitive action against the bureau, which suffered substantial cuts in the most recent federal budget.

"DEFUND THE FBI," tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a theme that she has repeated countless times. "We must save America. We must destroy the FBI," echoed Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who may well worry that the bureau maintains a bulging file on his Nazi-adjacent activities and open advocacy of violence. Greene and Gosar were simply following the orders of their maximum leader Trump, who urged Congress to "DEFUND THE FBI AND THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT" after he was indicted for stealing classified documents and attempting a coup to overturn the 2020 election.

Listening to the Trump Republicans day after day, it's easy to become jaded about their insane rhetoric. They will literally say anything to excite their base, in hope that their deluded followers will ring up new donations to the cause. But that doesn't mean their destructive schemes will never come to fruition.

So what would happen if the Trump gang actually gained the ability to "defund" or "destroy" the FBI? It is already beginning to happen.

FBI Director Christopher Wray — a Trump appointee and lifelong Republican whom the former president once described as "impeccable" — has explained more than once the damaging impact of these GOP attacks on national security and on the effort to protect ordinary Americans from terrorists and other depraved criminals. When Congress slashed the FBI budget last spring —despite years of price inflation — Wray warned that those cutbacks would "degrade" the agency's ability to thwart drug cartels, human trafficking, and crimes against children — all supposedly matters of grave concern to Republicans.

At a Judiciary Committee hearing, the director bluntly predicted that the reductions will mean "hundreds more predators on the loose and hundreds more kids left at their mercy," as well as "scores of threats from China left unaddressed." (If he didn't mention Russia, which is launching active measures against this country every day, perhaps that was because he knows how much more loyal the House GOP caucus is to the Kremlin than the West.)

And yet inflicting cuts on the FBI was clearly the highest priority of the House Republicans in their budget negotiations with Democratic leaders and the White House. It is an attitude that benefits only Mexican gangsters, Russian spies, Iranian terrorists and Chinese saboteurs, not Americans. So why would Republicans elevate this noxious policy?

The only plausible answer is that the "law and order" party has become a haven for crooks and criminals, far more even than during Nixon's misrule. The fish stinks from the head, as they say, but Trump's felony conviction only echoed the priors racked up by his associates. Tallying the convictions and indictments of the Trump entourage is a challenging task, with new entries appearing regularly.

Just this week, his former campaign manager and White House strategist Steve Bannon — who refused a Congressional subpoena to testify about the January 6 coup plot — was ordered to report to prison on July 1. Bannon, an aspiring fascist gauleiter, will face a separate New York trial for fraud in September. He joins the long list of top Trump aides and advisers, including Peter Navarro, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Allen Weisselberg, and Michael Flynn, some of whom have spent time behind bars — and some of whom belong there but escaped punishment because Trump delivered pardons to keep them quiet.

More troubling than the crimes the Trump crew have already committed, however, are the crimes that they intend to carry out should they regain power in November. Like their demented boss, they shriek constantly about retribution and revenge. The rule of law — and the agencies sworn to enforce it — are only an obstacle to their sinister plans.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

No Donald, You're Not A 'Political Prisoner' -- Just A Cowardly Criminal

No Donald, You're Not A 'Political Prisoner' -- Just A Cowardly Criminal

"I am a political prisoner," declared former President Donald Trump the day after his 34-count felony conviction.

If we were to take that remark seriously, it would quickly become obvious that Trump is not, in fact, a political prisoner but merely a remorseless criminal. Unlike actual political prisoners, who never hesitate to take the witness stand in their own defense, Trump made the cowardly decision to avoid testifying, despite his blustering promises to do so.

"Yeah, I would testify, absolutely," he said just before the trial began in New York's Supreme Court. "I'm testifying. I tell the truth, I mean, all I can do is tell the truth."

That claim of candor evaporated post-verdict, when Trump tried to explain why he had chickened out. He vaguely blamed "rulings" by Judge Juan Merchan. He said the prosecution could bring up "anything" from his "great past." He said there was no reason to testify because "they had no case." He said to testify would risk a perjury indictment, an excuse that sounds odd from a man who insists he can only tell the truth.

If Trump were any kind of political prisoner, he would have leapt at the opportunity to speak on his own behalf and to advocate his cause, in the fearless tradition followed by history's legendary political defendants.

When John Brown was on trial for his life after the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, he served not only as a witness but as his own counsel. The militant abolitionist repeatedly spoke in court, at great length, to excoriate slavery, explain the violence he had perpetrated and denounce the "mockery of a trial" that concluded with his death sentence. Nobody can say he didn't make his point.

Nearly a century later, Fidel Castro, also appearing as his own counsel, delivered a four-hour defense summation in court which was sufficiently compelling to be published as a book titled History Will Absolve Me. Although history will condemn the late Castro for turning away from agrarian reform and democracy to Communist oppression, at least he had the guts to address the court that sent him to prison. (He had led a raid on an army fort to seize weapons, rather than paying off an adult film star for a sexual encounter, so his argument possessed a certain dignity that Trump's lacks.)

Then in 1963, when South Africa's apartheid government put Nelson Mandela and several of his comrades on trial for their lives, the great democratic revolutionary delivered an eloquent address in the dock that held his listeners spellbound for four hours. Titled "I Am Prepared to Die," as he declared to the court, it laid out in irrefutable detail Mandela's contention that the South African justice system and the country's entire governmental structure were illegitimate — and his promise to replace it with equal representation for all, a crusade in which he was ready to sacrifice his life.

By contrast, whenever Trump squawks about being a "political prisoner" and decries the authority of a duly constituted court, he sounds like the self-aggrandizing buffoon that he always has been. He had the best counsel that his dumb donors could buy, and those lawyers evidently persuaded him that his long trail of lies, both under oath and in public, would prove ruinous if he dared to take the stand.

Rather than an authoritarian tribunal, Trump faced a jury of his peers, all chosen with the consent of his attorneys, a dozen New Yorkers who faced down his daily abuse as well as the threats of his MAGA goons. The jurors' courage and Trump's bullying call to mind the kind of defendant he truly resembles, a mob boss like Al Capone or John Gotti.

The convicted Trump will have every opportunity to appeal, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court, where he expects the justices he appointed to rule in his favor, and where two disreputable jurists who should recuse will nevertheless hear his case. But whatever they do, the stain is indelible.

Let us hope that come Election Day, Americans will follow Trump's advice in 2016 concerning presidential candidates under indictment. Back then, he believed Hillary Clinton would soon face trial on bogus charges of mishandling classified documents (the same offense for which he should now be on trial, except for the intervention of another unscrupulous judge).

"She shouldn't be allowed to run," Trump said of Hillary. "If she wins, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and, ultimately, a criminal trial. It would grind government to a halt."

How much more true for a would-be president already stamped "guilty" 34 times.

Reprinted with permission from Creators Syndicate

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo.He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center. His forthcoming book, The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published by St. Martin's Press in July.

Don't Ask Alito To Recuse -- Tell Him To Resign

Don't Ask Alito To Recuse -- Tell Him To Resign

The conspiratorial antics of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, as exposed recently in the national media, have raised the gravest doubt about his bias in matters before the Supreme Court — and provoked demands that he recuse himself from any case concerning former President Donald Trump, the 2020 presidential election or the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Published reports have revealed Alito flew an inverted American flag — a symbol of Trumpist "stop the steal" propaganda — outside his suburban Virginia home in Jan. 2021, just days after the attack on the Capitol and while the high court was still considering a 2020 election case. With typical manly resolve, the conservative jurist responded by blaming his wife Martha Ann, who supposedly felt insulted by an anti-Trump yard sign on a neighbor's lawn, for that gross ethical trespass.

As Alito knows perfectly well, there is no excuse for his behavior, even if an obnoxious neighbor annoyed Mrs. Alito. The canons that govern judicial conduct in the lower courts state clearly that what he did was inappropriate, and the Supreme Court's own recently adopted ethical code states it even more plainly: "A Justice should not engage in ... political activity." Moreover, the court expressly forbade all of its employees from involvement in politics.

Of course, Alito did not apologize for the brazenly partisan display at his house nor even acknowledge the fresh harm he has inflicted on the court's already badly bruised reputation. No, he merely issued an arrogant dismissal of anyone who questioned his actions, knowing full well that under the rules the justices have set for themselves, no one is ever going to hold him accountable.

This is not Alito's first or only ethical offense. Last year, the investigative news site Pro Publica revealed he had taken a luxury fishing trip to Alaska with Republican billionaire donor Paul Singer, failed to disclose that gift, then failed to recuse himself from a case in which Singer held a substantial financial interest. Rather than admit this blatant violation, Alito brusquely rejected any criticism of his conduct, which nonpartisan legal experts described as outrageous.

Even if the Senate won't discipline Alito (or the equally tainted Justice Clarence Thomas) via impeachment, he should at least be confronted with a demand that corresponds to his offense. The recusal urged by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the excessively deferential chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is insufficient.

The proper demand is for Alito's resignation.

Telling this unworthy figure to step down would deliver a brisk message about the minimum standards for a federal judge at any level. And it would say that casually undermining democratic values is unacceptable for a jurist in his elevated position.

What Alito did on those January days is unforgivable for a simple reason. At a time when Trump and his henchmen were seeking to overturn a legitimate election by force and deception, Alito gave an unsolicited public endorsement of their scheme.

By then, Alito certainly knew that the Republican claims of voter fraud, manipulated data systems, foreign interference with voting machines, and stuffed ballot boxes were bogus, with no supporting evidence. He and his colleagues on the court had rejected those claims and confirmed President Joe Biden's victory in their own decisions.

In only one those cases — which involved Pennsylvania's acceptance of late mail ballots — did Alito, Thomas and Justice Neil Gorsuch dissent from the majority's rulings against the Republican plaintiffs. But even in that instance they admitted the number of ballots at stake could not affect Biden's claim to the Keystone State's electoral votes or the election result.

Indeed, the Supreme Court decision in the Pennsylvania case, on February 22, 2021, finally and resoundingly underlined the 2020 outcome and quashed the election deniers. Yet one month earlier, Alito had cast doubt not only on the integrity of the election but on the court's own unanimous affirmation of it, a betrayal of his colleagues and his oath.

A Supreme Court justice has no greater responsibility than to uphold the law and safeguard democracy. When Alito mocked that duty, he forfeited the right to keep his job.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

On Trial For Campaign Crimes, Trump Brazenly Solicits A Very Big Bribe

On Trial For Campaign Crimes, Trump Brazenly Solicits A Very Big Bribe

Nobody likes Big Oil, a monopolistic and heavily polluting industry with a legendary history of abusing its excessive power that can be traced back over the past hundred years.

But Donald Trump has promised to be the oil industry's best friend — if its bosses give him a billion dollars.

In the latest instance of the former president's mind-blowing corruption, he is reported to have entertained a group of two dozen top U.S. oil company executives at Mar-a-Lago. Over dinner at his Palm Beach sanctum, Trump is quoted as telling the chiefs of Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Occidental Petroleum and their colleagues that if they collectively coughed up $1 billion to ensure his reelection, he would take very good care of their corporate needs.

According to The Washington Post, he promised to toss out all of President Joe Biden's efforts to mitigate climate change, including new rules aimed at reducing automotive exhaust and promoting electric vehicles. For that measly billion bucks, he vowed to increase oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, where we have already seen catastrophic well blowouts, rescind restrictions on drilling in the Alaskan wilderness, pull down the windmills that he hates, and cancel the recent White House decision to pause new natural gas export permits.

"You'll get it on the first day," said Trump, according to someone who was present and blabbed to the Post. Speaking as crudely as any gangster, he informed the oilmen that they and their companies can easily raise that kind of money, and that paying him off would be "a deal" because of the high return on their investment.

No doubt they found it hard to argue with Trump's logic, since oil lobbyists are already writing dozens of executive orders that they want him to rubber-stamp if and when he returns to the Oval Office.

So is anybody surprised?

Only perhaps by the audacity of Trump explicitly soliciting a gigantic bribe, before a large group of witnesses, at a time when he is in fact on trial for campaign finance offenses and facing scores of additional criminal charges. But he has never felt abashed in displaying his venality. He lives in a world of miscreants who behave much the same way, from his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who sought and obtained an even bigger payoff from the Saudi dictator, to his adviser Steve Bannon, who will face criminal charges next fall for swindling the dopey donors to his fake "We Build the Wall" outfit.

As the eminent journalist Laurie Garrett observed on social media, Trump's attempt to extort the oil industry echoes one of the greatest government scandals in American history, under another Republican president owned by corporate power. Beginning in 1921, the Teapot Dome affair implicated officials of President Warren G. Harding's administration in the crooked leasing of public lands for oil exploration. Harding's Interior secretary Albert B. Fall ultimately went to prison for bribery, although none of the oilmen who paid him off did any time.

What we can expect from a second Trump administration is the most naked orgy of swindling and boodling that this country has ever seen. He thoroughly exploited the presidency during his first term, as outlined in my forthcoming book, The Longest Con. But his second term, should such a disaster occur, would be the conman's last big chance to score, and he can be expected to enrich himself to the maximum — at ruinous cost to the rest of us.

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo.He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center. His new book, The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published by St. Martin's Press in July 2024.

On Trial For Campaign Crimes, Trump Is Drenched In Tabloid Sewage

On Trial For Campaign Crimes, Trump Is Drenched In Tabloid Sewage

Back in the antediluvian era of American politics, perpetrating dirty tricks was considered proof of bad character and potentially disqualifying for public office, depending on circumstances.

But as with so many other aspects of public life, the rise of former President Donald Trump heralded a steep decline in political ethics and the way that campaigns are run. And now, after nearly a decade of Trump-style politics, the sleazy conduct exposed in sworn testimony at his New York trial is dismissed with a shrug — especially by Republicans who ask nothing better of their leaders.

Leave aside for a moment the dubious practice of paying off women — an adult movie star and a former Playboy model — to ensure their silence about illicit trysts with Melania Trump's husband. (Having promised a spot on his Celebrity Apprentice TV show to porn actress Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump seems to have been paying at both ends.) Evangelical Christians who used to proclaim their indignation about licentious sexuality have discredited themselves thoroughly, which should not surprise anyone who has observed their antics over the past few decades.

What Trump did to silence Daniels and Karen McDougal was unsavory, and his effort to conceal it was probably illegal, but the truly dirty conspiracy involved the smearing of his political opponents.

According to the testimony of David Pecker, his friend and coconspirator who ran the National Enquirer tabloid, Trump and his henchman attorney Michael Cohen promoted the publication of scurrilous lies about his rivals on its front page.

At the same moment that Trump bestowed the nickname "Lyin' Ted" on Ted Cruz, his final opponent for the 2016 Republican nomination, he and his crew were overseeing the publication of outrageous lies about the Texas senator. In spring 2016, the Enquirer featured an absurd story, complete with a doctored photo, claiming that Cruz's father Rafael, an ordained minister, had been consorting with Lee Harvey Oswald just before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

Insane as that accusation was, Trump used it to distract Republican voters from criticism of him by Cruz. On Fox News, he declared that "Cruz's father, you know, was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's, you know, being shot. ... What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It's horrible." What's horrible, of course, is that Trump knew he was spouting an invented story, because it had been invented to benefit him.

The Enquirer went on to publish more fabricated tales about Cruz, including a claim that he had engaged in at least five extramarital affairs — again, while the tabloid was covering up Trump's actual and lengthy history of adultery.

After Cruz had been dispatched, and then prostrated himself cravenly to endorse Trump, the Enquirer moved on to smearing Hillary Clinton, a hobby pursued by the disgusting Pecker with gusto for years before Trump entered politics.

"The desperate and deteriorating 67-year-old won't make it to the White House — because she'll be dead in six months," the paper blared, insisting that the Democratic nominee suffered from brain cancer, strokes, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and various forms of mental illness, all somehow concealed from the public and press. None of those mythical ailments actually afflicted the former secretary of state, who is still alive and well — and fighting to defeat Trump.

Much of the fake news published by the tabloid about Clinton was pitched by Steve Bannon, the Trump adviser who swindled thousands of donors to his "Build the Wall" charity — and only evaded prison thanks to a corrupt pardon. Naturally, Bannon is back and, like Trump, has endured no opprobrium for his amply proven crimes. Instead, he is a powerful influence on the far right and in Republican circles.

Back when Trump and his cronies oversaw the publication and broadcasting of all those falsehoods, he said repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the Enquirer and its raging defamations. He seemed to sense there was some shame in that kind of sick deception. But he and his attorneys no longer need to deny any of it, because on the American right, the worst kinds of deceit are accepted and even acclaimed, while their perpetrator is idolized.

And still, they will lecture the rest of us about "morality."

Reprinted with permission from Creators Syndicate

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo.He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center. His forthcoming book, The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published by St. Martin's Press in July.On


When Moral Hygiene Becomes A Lethal Political Mistake

When Moral Hygiene Becomes A Lethal Political Mistake

Historical analogies rarely carry much weight, especially in a time when so much about politics has changed so rapidly. To compare what is happening in 2024 to events that occurred over half a century earlier hardly seems useful.

It mostly isn't. And yet the election of 1968, whose outcome proved disastrous for America and the world, looms over the coming months like a foreboding specter.

Despite all the obvious differences in personalities, issues, technologies and ideologies, there is a haunting parallel between then and now in the increasingly fraught debate among Democrats and progressives over a divisive war — and the alienation of younger and minority voters from the party they would otherwise support.

By the spring of 1968, the movement against the Vietnam War had sparked a sense of furious frustration among young Americans who saw it causing tens of thousands of pointless deaths with no justification or end in sight. Massive antiwar protests swept across the nation's universities and colleges, sometimes resulting in conflict with authorities. Dissent within his own party had inspired not one but two insurgent candidacies against President Lyndon B. Johnson, who declared in late March that he wouldn't seek a second term.

The assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy snuffed hopes for a fresh Democratic ticket. The nomination fell to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Johnson's personally anointed successor, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While the antiwar movement was generally peaceful and orderly, the student left had spawned a revolutionary wing whose leaders aimed for confrontation in the streets. The Windy City's conservative mayor, Richard J. Daley, was only too eager to answer them with billy clubs and tear gas.

Chaos and violence outside the convention, instigated by a rampaging police force, deepened the party's split and left millions of young voters vowing to support a third-party candidate or simply abstain.

Flash forward to the lawns and quadrangles of American academia today, where laudable protest over Israel's long, bloody incursion into Gaza is giving rise to a movement against the very existence of the Jewish state, marred by an undertone of antisemitism as well as anti-American ferocity. Leaders of this movement are poised to bring a rerun of 1968 to the streets of Chicago, which will again host the DNC this summer. They're vowing to shun President Joe Biden as retribution for his support of Israel in its war against the Hamas terrorists, who brutally murdered more than a thousand innocents last October 7.

Although I was too young to vote in 1968, I still recall my own passionate revulsion against the Vietnam War and how bitterly I argued with my father — an Army veteran who also opposed the war — over his determination to vote for Humphrey. The consequence of any alternative, he warned, would be the election of Richard M. Nixon, a perfidious character who could never be trusted with the presidency.

He was right and I was wrong, as history revealed all too starkly. Nixon lied about a phony "peace plan," won the election and rapidly escalated and expanded the war to a degree that could rightly be deemed genocidal. To win a second term, he embarked on a crime spree the nation had never seen in the White House — at least until the advent of former President Donald Trump. Nobody thinks Humphrey would have perpetrated those atrocities and felonies.

Whether or not one agrees with Biden on Israel versus Palestine — and I don't — he has done nothing that remotely approaches the criminal destruction of the U.S. war against Vietnam. Indeed, he has sought to mitigate the reckless and murderous approach of the Israeli government while recognizing its right to defend itself. Refusing to vote for him as "a message" is an act of purist vanity that could lead to consequences as dire as the Nixon victory. Rather than the "lesser of two evils," Biden is a good president coping with a world of difficult and sometimes terrible choices.

The alternative is Trump, a dictator in waiting who has already mounted a coup and openly aspires to locking up his adversaries. He is an exponent of extremism on every front, including the Middle East, where he can be expected to endorse the most vicious repression of Palestinians and may well lead us into war against Iran — a catastrophic error that Biden has successfully resisted. He is reasonably suspected of betraying the nation to hostile authoritarian powers. On every other issue, from abortion rights to climate change, his retrograde views are repugnant to young voters.

A democratic election is not an opportunity to display moral hygiene or an audition to join a cool club. This year, as always, voting will be an exercise of choices that are never perfect — but may just allow us to escape doom.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Bully Bobby Is No Friend Of Free Speech

Bully Bobby Is No Friend Of Free Speech

With every day that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. runs his peculiar presidential campaign, he offers a display of delusional narcissism and feckless duplicity. Aside from drawing attention to himself, Kennedy seems to be trying to ensure the reelection of Donald Trump, provoking the suspicion that he shares Trump's toxic politics despite his own liberal heritage.

Whatever murky and destructive ideology Kennedy may espouse, however, everyone should understand by now that this aging nepo baby is definitely not what he has lately pretended to be: an implacable defender of free speech.

On April 1, he told CNN anchor Erin Burnett that Joe Biden is arguably "a much worse threat to democracy" than Trump, supposedly because the president has "used federal agencies to censor political speech." This muddled accusation stems from Kennedy's nefarious role during the pandemic, when social media platforms tried to mute his relentless promotion of anti-vaccination propaganda.

While Kennedy blames the Biden administration for "censoring" him, the private efforts of companies like Google and Facebook to block the deadly anti-vax disinformation — which earned heavy profits for Kennedy — didn't violate his First Amendment rights. At this point it's darkly comical to hear a candidate who appears nightly on television, while raking in huge subsidies from Trump's billionaire backers, whine about suppression of his message.

But there was a real attack on free speech that grew out of the pandemic. It was initiated by Kennedy himself and revealed deep flaws in his judgment and character.

In August 2020, a Daily Kos blogger writing under the name "Downeast Dem" posted an item about Kennedy's appearance at a rally in Berlin against the German government's COVID-19 restrictions. Both the article and the highly unflattering headline — "Anti-vaxxer RFK Jr. joins neo-Nazis in massive Berlin 'Anti-Corona' Protest" — accurately described the event, which was sponsored by an antisemitic and Nazi-adjacent organization called Querdenken.

The Berlin protest, its dubious sponsors and supporters, and Kennedy's role as a speaker were all reported in large media outlets, including CBS News, The New York Times, and the big German daily Der Tagesspiegel, whose story was linked by Downeast Dem.

While Kennedy didn't go after any of those media outlets, he angrily threatened Daily Kos and the anonymous blogger, seeking to force them to pull down the post. He demanded a million-dollar payoff to go away. He filed a defamation lawsuit against the blogger and another action aiming to force Daily Kos to disclose the blogger's identity.

Major civil liberties and news organizations pushed back, aiming to protect a fundamental First Amendment principle that defends anonymous commentary — unless and until that anonymity is found to cloak a violation of law or an actual defamation."

Kennedy "went after someone he thought couldn't defend himself," says Markos Moulitsas, the Daily Kos founder and proprietor. In response, Moulitsas tried to bait Kennedy into suing him, posting a headline mocking the anti-vax attorney for "cavorting with Nazis," and daring him to pick on someone his own size. But Kennedy didn't bite, and his lawsuit, filed in the wrong jurisdiction and bereft of merit, ultimately failed. His latest move is an attempt to escape paying the court costs borne by victims of his harassing litigation.

Much like Trump, whom he pretends to oppose, Bobby is a bully. He demands absolute free speech for himself, even when he is defaming his betters and endangering public health. But he tried mightily to curtail the free speech of a private citizen who dared to criticize him — and might be small enough to push around.

The irony of Kennedy's costly intimidation campaign was that many more people learned about his obnoxious alliance with the German far right. The Daily Kos community rallied to support its embattled member and the principle he embodied. Nobody, including Moulitsas, believes the law should protect lawbreakers or defamers. (His staff takes down defamatory and illegal posts all the time.) Yet he still sees anonymous speech as a fundamental liberty and spent a lot of money defending it.

As for Kennedy, he is certainly no friend of freedom. He has become an ally of far-right authoritarians here and abroad, from Mar-a-Lago to the Kremlin, who will be thrilled if his spoiler campaign helps return Trump to the White House.

Reprinted with permission from Creators Syndicate

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo.He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center. His forthcoming book, The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published by St. Martin's Press in July.

How RFK Junior's Farcical Campaign Betrays The Kennedy Legacy

How RFK Junior's Farcical Campaign Betrays The Kennedy Legacy

When a neophyte named Edward Moore Kennedy first ran for the Senate in 1962 at barely 30 years old, his primary opponent delivered a debate quip that still echoes.

"If your name were Edward Moore," cracked Ed McCormack, then Massachusetts attorney general, "your candidacy would be a joke." Ted Kennedy won that primary, ascended to the Senate, and then spent a lifetime winning over skeptics with hard work and liberal commitment.

But that harsh zinger could score a bullseye on a different target now: Uncle Teddy's errant nephew Robert Francis Kennedy Jr., the grifting anti-vax lawyer and conspiracy monger whose campaign for president of the United States should be a joke — and certainly would be if his name were merely Robert Francis.

The difference is that RFK Jr., seeking public office for the first time, isn't 30. He is 70, a senior citizen, with a long and checkered record whose bright spots are overshadowed by menacing darkness. Far from upholding the values his family represents or the legacy of his martyred father and uncle, Bobby Jr. is an opportunist whose ambition, greed, dishonesty and arrogance have led him far astray.

There was a time many years ago when, as an environmental lawyer, Kennedy did useful work — usually under the tutelage of wiser heads — after he emerged from the drug addiction that followed his father's murder. At one point, I even wrote an admiring magazine profile of him.

But not too many years later, Bobby began the deceptive anti-vaccine campaign that has marked his moral and intellectual decline ever since. Having authored articles claiming childhood vaccines cause autism, he clung to their refuted arguments and falsified data long after the magazines were forced to withdraw them. He insists those lies are true to this day — and the anti-vax propaganda from which he profits is leaving American kids vulnerable to disease.

How would his late uncle John F. Kennedy, whose memory he so often invokes in his current campaign, react to what Bobby has done? In 1961, President Kennedy worried that resistance to the polio vaccine, which was still rather new, meant millions of schoolchildren might contract that deadly and crippling virus.

At a press conference that April, the president said: "I hope that the renewed drive this spring and summer to provide vaccination for all Americans, and particularly those who are young, will have the wholehearted support of every parent in America."

The following year, JFK pushed through the Vaccination Assistance Act, which financed immunization drives in every state for polio, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. That massive campaign established the federal government as the central authority in establishing and coordinating immunization policy for the nation — a role Robert Kennedy Jr. has persistently sought to undermine or even abolish, at potentially enormous cost.

Bobby's betrayal of his family goes further with every step he takes in this campaign, and in every direction. JFK and RFK were both known for surrounding themselves with advisers whose intelligence and experience drew admiration; Bobby is drawn to intellectually null sycophants and boobs, including a large contingent of crooks like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, as well as the anti-vax scammers, some of whom are outright fascists. These are people his father and uncle would have privately mocked and publicly shunned.

Even worse, Bobby has become a shill for Russian propaganda and an opponent of American military aid to Ukraine's besieged democracy. We don't have to wonder what his uncle would have said, because history tells us.

In his inaugural address, JFK uttered this indelible sentence: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Liberty doesn't mean surrendering to Putin and abandoning our allies.

Lately, Bobby has been sucking up to the Libertarian Party, whose platform would tear down all the achievements of his father and both of his uncles in civil rights, education, health care, environmental protection, food security and a score of essential programs. He wants their ballot line, and he is willing to promote their destructive ideology for his own benefit.

In this campaign, he has reversed the old epigram about history and its personages. In the first act, he presents a farce — and in the second act, should he help to elect Donald Trump, he will bring forth a tragedy.

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo. He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center.


Biden Delivers Forceful, Fiery And Optimistic State of the Union Address

Biden Delivers Forceful, Fiery And Optimistic State of the Union Address

President Joe Biden delivered a forceful, upbeat, and resolute State of the Union address on Thursday evening, not hesitating to remind voters of his administration’s remarkable achievements – or the perils that America and the world will face if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Biden opened with his trademark warning about the danger confronting democracy both here and abroad, upbraiding the Republicans for their failure to support Ukraine in its existential battle with Russia and for their craven abandonment of American commitments to the Western alliance and world order. In the first of several references to Trump, whose name he did not utter, the president scornfully noted how his opponent kissed the ring of Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putin.

“My predecessor, a former Republican President, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ A former American President actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader. It’s outrageous. It’s dangerous. It’s unacceptable.”

Biden then turned the focus onto Republican assaults against democracy at home, reminding them of their own perfidious whitewashing of the insurrection that Trump inspired.

“My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth of January 6. I will not do that…. Remember your oath of office to defend against all threats foreign and domestic.”

In a line that roused the evening’s strongest applause --lambasting the coup plot and efforts to overturn his 2020 victory that culminated in the attack on the Capitol -- he admonished the election deniers in the chamber: “You can’t love your country only when you win.”

The president dismissed the handful of hecklers from the Republican side with skill and cutting humor. When he recalled Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that his “predecessor” had failed “the duty to care, Rep. Derrick van Orden (R-WI) shrieked “Lies!” Biden waved him off with a smile. “Look at the facts,” he told van Orden. “I know you know how to read.”

When he raised the border legislation that House Republican leadership killed on orders from Trump, after their Senate counterparts spent months negotiating it, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) began yelling too. She had handed him a pin on his way into the House chamber bearing the name of Laken Riley, a young woman murdered by an undocumented migrant from Venezuela. Greene, who also sported a red MAGA hat in violation of House rules, began shouting “Say her name!”

“Laken Riley,” Biden replied, “an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal,” using an offensive term that made for a discordant moment. But the heckling died as the president said he empathized with Riley’s parents as a father who had lost two children – and then went on. “I would respectfully suggest ... my Republican friends owe it to the American people: Get this bill done,” he said. “We need to act now…If my predecessor is watching, instead of playing politics and pressuring members of Congress to block the bill, join me in telling the Congress to pass it,” he added.

As he spoke, Sen. James Lankford, the conservative Oklahoma Republican who shaped the border legislation, could be seen nodding and saying, “It’s true.”

Sparring aside, Biden’s speech centered on a boldly optimistic message about what he has achieved so far and what he intends to pursue in a second term. He cited the bipartisan infrastructure bill – noting with a smile that some Republicans had claimed credit for local projects despite voting no – and his manufacturing and climate legislation, all of which have created jobs, keeping unemployment low and growth strong. He raked Trump for boasting about the overthrow of Roe v. Wade and vowed to enshrine abortion rights in legislation if he returns to office with Democratic Congressional majorities.

He promised a fairer tax system that required billionaires to pay their fair share while providing new tax breaks for first-time homeowners. He highlighted proposals for universal pre-school, reducing prescription drug costs, and prohibiting “junk fees” on credit-card bills. These plans, along with a broad panoply of proposals, won approval from focus groups observing the speech.

Biden closed by directly engaging voter concerns about his age:

“I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while.

And when you get to my age certain things become clearer than ever before.

I know the American story.

Again and again I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation.

Between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America into the future.

My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy.

A future based on the core values that have defined America.

Honesty. Decency. Dignity. Equality.

To respect everyone. To give everyone a fair shot. To give hate no safe harbor.

Now some other people my age see a different story.

An American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution.

That’s not me.

I was born amid World War II when America stood for freedom in the world.

I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware among working people who built this country.

I watched in horror as two of my heroes, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, were assassinated and their legacies inspired me to pursue a career in service.

A public defender, county councilman, elected United States Senator at 29, then Vice President, to our first Black President, now President, with our first woman Vice President.

In my career I’ve been told I’m too young and I’m too old.

Whether young or old, I’ve always known what endures.

Our North Star.

The very idea of America, that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.

We’ve never fully lived up to that idea, but we’ve never walked away from it either.

And I won’t walk away from it now.”

Historian Who Predicts Presidents Says Biden Can 'Absolutely' Win In 2024

Historian Who Predicts Presidents Says Biden Can 'Absolutely' Win In 2024

On the eve of Joe Biden's State of the Union address, amid a chorus of Democratic bedwetters, the historian who has accurately predicted every presidential race over the past 40 years says that the president "absolutely" can win in November.

Indeed, Allan Lichtman, the distinguished professor of history at American University whose methods of election analysis have proved successful for decades, went even further in a British Times Radio interview on Super Tuesday. While acknowledging that "it's way too early to make a final prediction," he said, "a lot would have to go wrong for Joe Biden to lose this election. I absolutely think Joe Biden can win a second term."

Biden can ‘absolutely’ win the US election | Professor Allan Lichtmanyoutu.be

Lichtman dismissed recent polls, several of which have shown Trump leading Biden. "Take the early polls and do with them what the great British philosopher David Hughes said you should do with works of superstition – consign them to the flames," said the erudite professor. "They have absolutely no predictive value. There is so much yet to come."

In 2016, he was among a tiny minority of analysts who predicted that the Republican would win, and received a signed photo from Trump after the election. He told The Sun newspaper that he doesn't expect any such appreciative gesture from Trump in November 2024. (The prospective GOP nominee may also recall that Lichtman wrote a book calling for his impeachment in 2017.)

As outlined in a Newsmax article on Lichtman, his keys to victory include"

  • Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections. (Not so in 2024, but Democrats beat the "red wave" in 2022 and are near parity.)
  • Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
  • Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
  • Third party: There is no significant third-party or independent campaign.
  • Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
  • Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
  • Policy change: The incumbent administration affects major changes in national policy.
  • Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
  • Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
  • Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
  • Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
  • Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
  • Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

"Based upon the keys, a lot of keys would have to turn, over the next few months, against Joe Biden to predict his defeat," as Lichtman explained to Times Radio.

"By running, Joe Biden wins the incumbency key, one of my keys, he wins the party contest key because there's no battle. That's two off the top. Six more would have to go against him to predict his defeat.

"[If] Joe Biden doesn't run, they lose incumbency, they lose the party contest because there's no heir apparent and only four keys would have to fall to predict a Democrat defeat."

Lichtman is a serious scholar and acclaimed author who has written books on many topics, including an important 2008 history of the right, White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement.

Evidence Of GOP Complicity In Kremlin Assault On America Is Now Overwhelming

Evidence Of GOP Complicity In Kremlin Assault On America Is Now Overwhelming

On February 23, a federal judge in California ordered marshals to seize Alexander Smirnov at his lawyers' office only days after he had been released on bail by a different judge, with the clear implication that he might be preparing to flee the country. Smirnov is the much touted prime witness in the House Republican impeachment campaign against Joe Biden, accusing the president of having taken $5 million in bribes from Ukrainian oligarchs. It's all a lie manufactured by Russian intelligence.

Smirnov's initial arrest was ordered by special counsel David Weiss, the Trump-appointed Republican investigating Hunter Biden, who has indicted the star witness for fabricating his entire story and lying to the FBI. In subsequent court filings, the prosecutor charged that the lies transmitted by Smirnov originated with Russian spies.In other words, the number one Republican witness in the public and repeated smearing of President Biden -- on the floor of Congress and in right-wing media -- was a knowing conduit for Kremlin disinformation. The intent is nothing less than to help elect Trump again.

What makes this scandal so much worse -- and so embarrassing to Johnson, if he were capable of shame -- is that Smirnov's deception emanated from the much broader Russian penetration of American politics that began ... when?

Perhaps with that Trump Tower meeting in 2015, when Donald Trump Jr. enthusiastically welcomed the idea of a Russian dossier on Hillary Clinton from a Russian intelligence operative. And then it continued with the Kremlin's cyber assault against Clinton in 2016, and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's secret cooperation with a Russian spy named Konstantin Kilimnik. After Trump became president, he withheld weapons from Ukraine while demanding a phony probe of Biden. Trump's blackmail attempt triggered his first impeachment.

Along the way, a gang of Trump associates led by Rudy Giuliani worked with various Putin stooges in Ukraine and elsewhere to invent mendacious nonsense about the Bidens. Giuliani worked closely with Putin crony Andriy Derkach and other dubious characters, who were later indicted for attempting to interfere in the 2020 election.

For years, it has been blindingly obvious that the "investigation" of Joe Biden and Ukraine emanated not from any legitimate source but directly from this country's enemies. And yet while those accusers were repeatedly exposed and discredited, congressional Republicans insisted on pursuing the bogus case invented in Moscow.

But Johnson's undermining of American security has gone well beyond the assistance he and Republicans have provided to the Kremlin in subverting American democracy. Now refusing to fund U.S. military assistance to Ukraine in its courageous struggle against Russian invaders, they have helped Putin gain a critical victory in the battle of Avdiivka and jeopardized the Western alliance that is fundamental to European and American security. Johnson has admitted he's taking his orders from Trump, who worships Putin. The cowardice of Johnson and the Republicans has become crucial to Putin and his savage war.

Johnson has his own little Russian secrets. The speaker must still explain the laundered campaign funds from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian oligarch and confederate of confessed convicted Kremlin spy agent Maria Butina. She served a prison sentence here after the exposure of her successful scheme to penetrate the National Rifle Association and other right-wing groups, including some of the "Christian nationalist" outfits that Johnson promotes.

What attracts extremists like the House speaker -- and his puppet master Trump -- to the Russian dictator who looms above them is an authoritarian political orientation that smells of fascism. Putin is a threat from without, and they are a threat from within.

Joe Biden

Why Democrats Shouldn't Fear A Comparison Of Biden And Trump

Plainly visible behind the melodramatic release of a special counsel report on President Joe Biden's retention of classified documents — and its unprofessional partisan personal attack on him — are several basic facts that ought to be understood by every American.

First is the character of Robert Hur, the special counsel, a Trump Republican who abused Attorney General Merrick Garland's good-faith appointment of him. Hur larded his report exonerating the president with irrelevant remarks that were obviously designed to inflict political damage. By doing so, Hur clearly violated Justice Department protocols and has earned investigations of his own misconduct by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility and inspector general.

It is worth noting that Hur's ridiculously verbose, overwrought document is marred by its slovenly composition. To cite one glaring instance among many, he claims to have found "evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified documents," and then admits more than 200 pages later that "there is in fact a shortage of evidence on these points." (Did the special counsel, only 51 years old, suffer his own embarrassing memory lapse?)

Second is the failure of mainstream media to duly emphasize the memory blips and routinely incoherent blabber of Biden's principal opponent Donald Trump. When the former president wrongly identified Hungarian President Viktor Orban in a recent speech as the president of Turkey, his error received only brief mention on the major cable networks. His repeated mistaking of his primary opponent Nikki Haley for Nancy Pelosi in another speech got more coverage, but only because Haley kept mentioning it to mock Trump.

Not so long ago, in the trial that found Trump guilty of sexual assault, he gazed at a photograph of plaintiff E. Jean Carroll and told the court that it was a picture of Marla Maples, one of his former wives. Anyone who has looked at Trump's testimony in any number of cases, notably the lawsuits over his phony Trump University, will find dozens of instances when he claimed, under oath, not to remember events, documents and people he knew.

Third and most important is that any comparison of the performance of Biden versus Trump reflects very poorly on the latter — and quite positively on the current president. From a prolonged economic slump that was largely owed to Trump's mismanagement of the COVID pandemic, Biden has restored the U.S. economy. Although the country has suffered a spike of inflation that is now abating, it was far lower than in other developed nations and emanated from global supply problems, not his policies.

Economic growth and full employment have persisted strongly, crushing the dire and almost universal predictions of recession — and the financial markets, which Trump predicted would crash, instead have reached record levels. (Now the Republican politicians, who usually measure their life achievement by stock prices, tell us that doesn't matter.) Across the country, Biden's achievements in office are improving American lives and communities, with higher wages, lower drug costs, and the enormous infrastructure program that Trump promised and failed to deliver.

Biden's extensive record looks even better when contrasted with the latest embarrassing antics of Trump and his congressional Republican lackeys. Anyone worried by the arrival of thousands of undocumented immigrants ought to have welcomed the tough — indeed draconian — border control legislation agreed by Senate Republicans and Democrats in a deal that would have included defense funding for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, and humanitarian relief for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. That bill, fashioned at the insistence of Republicans, required four months of negotiation, overseen by one of the Senate's most conservative members, James Lankford of Oklahoma.

At a time when Republicans constantly bemoan the threat supposedly embodied by an influx of migrants, Trump suddenly ordered them all to abandon that legislative effort — and vote down the same powers to close the border and mobilize more resources that he had demanded as president. It was an astonishingly irresponsible act that humiliated every Republican on Capitol Hill, from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Mike Johnson down to the most obscure backbencher. Thanks to Trump, all of them, except the indignant Lankford, look like craven underlings who put politics above their own definition of national security.

Of course that is how Trump behaves in every circumstance. Constantly shouting and posting incomprehensible, loony outbursts makes him appear insane. And whatever "gaffes" Joe Biden may utter, whatever names he may forget, he still knows far more than Trump ever will — and he remains steady, reliable and devoted to the national interest.

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo. He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting organization formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and the author of several books, including two New York Times bestsellers. His forthcoming book isThe Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers, and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism.

They Yap About Taylor Swift, But They're Telling Us About Themselves

They Yap About Taylor Swift, But They're Telling Us About Themselves

You don’t have to be a follower of Taylor Swift or a fan of professional football to notice the very strange crusade that so-called “conservatives” have been waging against them. Those icons of music and sport, as American as they could possibly be, are suddenly tarred on right-wing media outlets as secret instruments of a plot by powerful hidden forces – in the Pentagon, the White House, or somewhere in “the deep state,” whatever that means.

It is now possible to watch otherwise normal-seeming people on television, including several with their own nightly shows, spreading insane rumors about Swift and her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. In a calmer time, anyone who persistently shouted such lurid nonsense would have been a candidate for long-term residence in what was euphemistically called “a nice home,” without access to sharp objects. With deinstitutionalization, they are now paid astronomical salaries to declaim their fantasies on Fox News and its cable competitors. (This is considered progress.)

For weeks, the airwaves and the digital space have been aflame with attacks on Swift and Kelce, promoting the notion that these two attractive, talented, and amazingly successful people are not what they seem to be. Consider the recent rant by Jesse Watters, a primetime host on Fox News, who insinuated that Swift isn’t a legitimate musical sensation, but merely a tool propped up by Pentagon military intelligence for mass manipulation. Watters called her a “psyop,” jargon for a government propaganda tool or event designed to influence public opinion and political behavior.

“Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?” he asked, questioning her popularity as a musician. "Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting. What kind of asset? A psyop for combatting online misinformation." Of course, like so many other events reported breathlessly by Fox fake news, that never happened. It was just a figment of Watters’ monkey mind, which he tried to pass off with a deceptively edited video clip.

It isn’t hard to see what inspired the vile slagging of Swift and Kelce (who also committed the offense of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, just as all the Fox hypocrites did when the company required it). She appears to be a Democrat and a supporter of reproductive rights, an opponent of racism, and perhaps worst of all, a symbol of female power and independence. She has backed a few Democratic candidates, including Joe Biden in 2020 – and Republicans dread the prospect that she’ll do it again this year. Ominously, from their perspective, she has already prodded tens of thousands of her fans to register as voters.

Indeed, the right-wing loonies are warning that the Super Bowl has long been “rigged” for the Chiefs to win, leading up to a romantic Biden endorsement by Kelce and Swift. Pretty sick and, dare I say, un-American.

The craziness is so stupid that it’s almost funny. Even some conservatives are begging for it to stop, because they fear the political consequences of angering the Swifties, as well they should. But it isn’t funny at all.

What thugs like Watters are telling Swift is that she will be punished for disputing their authoritarian and misogynist ideology. Her adversaries have not only viciously insulted her, but circulated AI-faked explicit nudes. Naturally, Watters seized on the faked photos as another opportunity to mock and shame a female body. (Don’t you hope he gets a chance to meet Travis Kelce in person someday?)

Whether Swift endorses Biden or not, she has performed a great service, simply by impelling the worst people in America to show who they really are – and how their uncontrollable hatred poisons everyday life in this nation. Let’s not forget.

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo. He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center.

Trump Never Stops Insulting His Cult Followers

Trump Never Stops Insulting His Cult Followers

Supporters of Donald Trump often complain about the "liberal elites" who have disrespected them. It is a feeling of cultural grievance that their idol constantly exploits, both to enrich himself with their donations and to defend himself against his critics.

Whenever Trump finds himself under pressure — in a courtroom, an impeachment or an election — he tells those credulous followers that it is not he but they who are the true targets of the Democrats, the "deep state," the media, the Republicans in Name Only, the Biden White House or whomever. That was how he responded to the first impeachment brought against him in 2019 and that is how he answered the huge $83 million jury verdict delivered against him this week in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case.

Trump makes this demagogic argument in full confidence that the MAGA cult will believe him — and with certainty that they will never realize how deeply he is insulting them.

"In reality they're not after me, they're after you. I'm just in the way," he tweeted when Congress first voted to impeach him. But did that make any sense? It wasn't the MAGA voters who attempted to extort the president of Ukraine, attempting to trade American weaponry for his own political gain (and to frame a political opponent with a phony prosecution).

Surely most of Trump's fans would never consider such a brazen blackmail scheme. Unlike him, they don't have to worry about being impeached or prosecuted; they have neither the motive nor the opportunity to perpetrate the offenses that Trump repeatedly commits.

In the wake of the Carroll jury award, the former president's most devoted associates have adopted the same argument, adding their own frantic spin. Steve Bannon, the convicted fraudster pardoned by Trump in order to keep his mouth shut, and Matt Schlapp, the right-wing activist repeatedly accused of homosexual assault, declared that the verdict foreshadows "the end of America."

On the "War Room" online broadcast hosed by Bannon, Schlapp echoed Trump's baseless insistence that the Carroll lawsuit is a "very coordinated thing" and the product of a "weaponized government" — when in fact it is simply a civil lawsuit brought by an aggrieved citizen. But Schlapp went still further, warning the MAGA audience that the judgment against Trump in favor of the woman he assaulted would portend their own ruin.

What the verdict proves, according to Schlapp and Bannon, is that the government "doesn't just intend to destroy your career and cancel you on social media, they mean to impoverish you and destroy any opportunity you have in the future. ... If these things continue to stand, all of this unconstitutional illegal activity, we've got nothing left, Steve. I mean it's run to the mountains, run to the catacombs time. ... This $83 million — this is just the beginning. All of us will be paraded down this gangplank. We won't have our resources, we won't have our homes, we won't have our livelihood."

Schlapp's panic is perhaps understandable, as he faces pressure to resign the chairmanship of the Conservative Political Action Committee -- a juicy grift -- because of sexual assault accusations that resemble Trump's offenses. And Bannon no doubt feels a twinge of sympathy as he faces continued prosecution by New York state authorities for the "border wall" scam that led to his federal pardon. (Three others involved in that racket went to prison, including a disabled veteran.)

But why would a normal person put any credence in such hysterical rants? There was nothing "illegal" or "unconstitutional" in Carroll's courageous effort to hold Trump accountable for assault, which resulted in a flood of personal abuse against her that included hundreds of death threats. More to the point, only an infinitesimal fraction of Americans has any reason to worry about being held responsible for an aggravated sexual assault - because unlike Trump, few have ever been accused of rape or assault, let alone by dozens of women.

It is remarkable indeed how many of our fellow citizens are willing to be implicated in the sociopathic conduct of the former president, who tells them every day that they are just like him.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

If Black Voters Abandon Biden, What Will They Get Instead?

If Black Voters Abandon Biden, What Will They Get Instead?

Should Donald Trump win the presidency in November, he will probably owe his victory to Black and Hispanic voters. If that prediction startles you, then perhaps you haven't been reading the most recent polls. Trump is maintaining a small but persistent lead over President Joe Biden in national averages — and the apparent reason is that those minority voters, who voted overwhelmingly Democratic in 2020, show much less enthusiasm for Biden in this election.

Waning support for the incumbent among his own partisan base appears to cross racial, generational and geographic lines, with many asking whether he should have stepped aside by now. Others blame him for inflation, although prices spiked across the developed world after the pandemic. But the dramatic decline in Black support for Biden is deeply puzzling — especially when the only alternative is returning Trump to power.

Exactly how Biden has disappointed those voters remains mysterious, given his own political history and behavior. He was the loyal vice president of America's first Black president and chose a Black woman as his running mate. He has named many Black appointees to top positions in government, including Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Other than Barack Obama, he is the most outspoken opponent of white supremacy ever to occupy the Oval Office.None of that appears to have made any impression on a substantial segment of Black voters, however, especially among the youngest — whose alienation is now growing because of Biden's support for Israel in Gaza. (One wonders what they, or anyone planning to abandon the Democrats over that conflict, believe Trump would have done or will do in such circumstances.)

But let's ask the question a different way and forget about Biden for a moment. What would happen to Black America — and other minorities in this country — if Trump regains power in 2025?

Begin by glancing back to the time when Trump entered presidential politics, even before he came down the escalator in his gilded tower to slander Mexicans as rapists and murderers. He first signaled those ambitions with his conspiratorial campaign claiming that Obama was not a native-born citizen, and therefore ineligible to be president, but a secret immigrant from Kenya. It was a big lie, the precursor of many more to come, culminating in the very Big Lie that the 2020 election had been "rigged" against him. And it was a racist falsehood, calculated to evoke the ugliest kind of hostility among the Tea Party Republicans who later swarmed into Trump's MAGA cult.

Since then, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly how he uses racial tension to promote himself and his politics. It is a habit that recalls his aggressive campaign to execute the since-exonerated Central Park Five, young Black men falsely accused of a gang rape, and continues today when he ridiculously proclaims that he could have "negotiated" the Civil War, a conflict over human bondage that was not subject to compromise.

The future that a Trump presidency would portend is bleak indeed for a diverse and multicultural democracy whose citizens hope to move forward together, not backward in division. Turning Point USA, the MAGA "youth wing," will mark Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday this month with an expensive campaign to demonize him and to persuade Americans that the landmark civil rights legislation he helped to win was "a huge mistake," according to its leader Charlie Kirk.

Kirk has used his organization and his close connection with Trump to enrich himself and his cronies, but that is hardly the worst of his offenses. His forthcoming crusade to roll back civil rights will be overseen by someone named Blake Neff, a Turning Point staffer who once worked on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show — until the exposure of his voluminous racist and misogynist online messaging. Try to imagine how bad those had to be for a Fox executive who described them as "abhorrent" when the network announced Neff's dismissal.That the Trump movement would aspire to repeal the Civil Rights Act, after everything their leader has done to undermine the rights of minorities and women, shouldn't surprise anyone who has been paying attention. "Make America Great Again" always carried a dubious undertone, loudly hinting this county was better when we lived under the stale hierarchies of a bygone century.

Come November there will be only one effective way to reject that mentality and its implications for us and our children. No American of good will, regardless of race, creed or color, should harbor any illusions otherwise.

Joe Conason is editor-in-chief of The National Memo and editor-at-large of Type Investigations. He is a bestselling author whose next book,The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers, and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published in 2024.