This Corey Robin post has made the rounds. His smugness aside (“Though I’m a political theorist, one of the things I benefited from growing up when I did was that I had incredible history teachers…”), he’s right in the abstract, and the tendency to value the social sciences over history serves the interest of corporate media; but it’s got me thinking for the hundredth time about when to distinguish a world-historic thread from a terrible but familiar one. Whether Donald Trump presents a “unique” (a word I hate in any context) threat to American democracy when Richard Nixon served five and a half years as president or is part of a lineage of bellicose ignorami is a question I can’t answer until a putative Trump administration begins next January. but I wonder if Trump is Pat Buchanan in ’92 with a presidential nomination.
I keep thinking about Reagan in ’80, and the prism through which the Beltway class viewed him as a two-term governor, near winner of the ’76 primary, and media personality. The guy’s ignorance and indifference to details – which he boasted and joked about – were legend. The difference is, Ronnie can smile and quip while Trump can only do the former. So hallowed is the ground on which he tread that evidence of his detachment and unacquaintance with many of the policy points of his own administration get adduced as evidence of his kingly acumen; I don’t even need hyperlinks. Social media aggravates nominally informed citizens. If VOX isn’t uploading a lovely chart showing how Trump exists on a continuum and our friends aren’t posting the link on Facebook, I wonder who would explain it.
An hour ago Donald Trump, according to the lead in the New York Times’ story, “essentially encourag[ed] an adversarial foreign power’s cyberspying on a secretary of state’s correspondence.” My liberal friends have asked rhetorically if it’s treason. Never mind John Marshall’s opinion when the Supreme Court heard the Aaron Burr case. Never mind English common law and the Constitution. This morning liberals were hinting that Donald J. Turmp had committed treason in the hopes of shaming their conservative relatives and friends: You’ve been calling Democrats traitors my whole life? Here’s some of your own medicine. A stupid and dangerous ploy. When liberals try to beat the right at their own game they look like fools and wannabes (e.g. recall Walter Mondale attacking Ronald Reagan for suggesting he’d meet with the Soviets) or admit to their own affinities with the right (Clinton and Ricky Ray Rector, Clinton and NAFTA, Clinton and “welfare reform,” I’ll stop). Cheap, meretricious, and shriller than the competition.
And now, according to Marcy Wheeler, Clinton has trotted out Leon Pancetta. What’s next — Sandy Berger, the expert in purloining national security documents in his pants? I expect the neocon establishment that has lined up behind her in recent weeks to fulfill its end of the bargain and defend her. There are reasons why I don’t drink at 1:45 p.m.