The right wing‚Äôs iron triangle ‚ÄĒ President Trump‚Äôs White House, Fox News and the Trump cultists ‚ÄĒ had a bad day Tuesday. Consider all that occurred.
Trump threw out the notion that he‚Äôd pursue birthright citizenship repeal via an executive order, whereupon the mainstream media called out the stunt and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), belatedly discovering his political spine, said, ‚ÄúYou cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.‚ÄĚ
Trump insisted on going to Pittsburgh for a photo op, which House and Senate majority and minority leaders, Pittsburgh‚Äôs mayor and the Pennsylvania governor refused to attend given that the city is in the midst of holding massive funerals for the 11 murdered Jews. The day was about them, not Trump. Desperate to have company, he got Israel‚Äôs ambassador, Ron Dermer, to go with him. Meanwhile, a sizable group of protesters sang, prayed and objected to his visit. (Not even the family of murdered¬†Daniel Stein, 71, wanted to meet with Trump.)
The Associated Press reported, ‚ÄúRobert Mueller‚Äôs office has referred to the FBI allegations that women were ‚Äėoffered money to make false claims‚Äô about the special counsel, according to Mueller‚Äôs spokesman .‚ÄČ.‚ÄČ. The statement didn‚Äôt specify what the claims were, but the referral to the FBI ‚ÄĒ and a rare public statement about it from the special counsel‚Äôs office ‚ÄĒ suggests that Mueller‚Äôs office believed there was a potential crime for federal law enforcement to investigate.‚ÄĚ An outfit called Surefire Intelligence allegedly was hired by GOP conspiratorialist Jack Burkman, who supposedly offered $20,000 to a woman who said she barely met Mueller at a law firm where Mueller worked to claim he sexually harassed her. (The law firm doesn‚Äôt¬† have records of her employment.) The kicker, Natasha Bertrand reported, sounds like the operation was on a par with buffoons‚Äô scheme to break skater Nancy Kerrigan‚Äôs leg:
Surefire‚Äôs domain records list an email for another pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, Jacob Wohl, who began hyping a ‚Äúscandalous‚ÄĚ Mueller story on Tuesday morning. Wohl told¬†The Daily Beast¬†that Burkman had hired Surefire to assist with his investigation into Mueller‚Äôs past, but denied knowing anything about the firm‚Äôs involvement in an alleged plot to fabricate allegations against Mueller when asked why his email address appeared in the domain records. He did not respond when asked by¬†NBC¬†why a number listed on Surefire‚Äôs website referred callers to another number that is listed in public records as belonging to Wohl‚Äôs mother.
It‚Äôs not clear if Wohl lived in his mother‚Äôs home (or maybe the basement thereof). Fiction writers rarely make up characters this stupid.
Finally, on an already poor day for xenophobic right wingers, ‚ÄúThe chairman of the House Republican campaign arm on Tuesday condemned recent remarks made by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on white nationalism, becoming the highest-profile GOP leader to rebuke the lawmaker to date,‚ÄĚ The Post reported. (Why he wasn‚Äôt thrown out of the caucus years ago is something he should explain.) The Post also reports, ‚ÄúLand O‚ÄôLakes has withdrawn its support of a conservative lawmaker after the dairy company‚Äôs political donation churned up online cries for a boycott of its products.‚ÄĚ It surely seems that some of King‚Äôs support is melting away; a new poll has him in a statistical tie with his Democratic opponent.
Is this all Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera or is it a sign that dangerous authoritarian nationalists are running wild?¬†There are two competing takes.
One perspective is that these people aren‚Äôt evil geniuses; they‚Äôre clowns. They can be exposed, mocked and beaten. The other take is that right-wing extremists often seem clownish from the outside but their loony rhetoric and hoopla (biggest crowd ever!) should not be taken as a sign they are incapable of doing terrible damage to a democracy.
You don‚Äôt need to go back to 1930s Europe to see this latter phenomenon ‚ÄĒ just take a look at Brazil, Poland, Hungary, Italy and Turkey. It‚Äôs tempting to laugh off the antics of right-wing nationalists, but we do so at our peril.
Certainly, they don‚Äôt really have the capacity to govern or engage in rational debate, but that‚Äôs sort of the point. Their goal is to disrupt, discredit government, confuse or eradicate truth and induce the people simply to put faith in a cultish leader. There‚Äôs nothing the least bit amusing about that.