I am told regularly by people I admire and respect to hold my cynical tongue about all the career conservatives and television flotsam from the late and unlamented Avignon Presidency who now are all over the airwaves deploring the terrible things being done to the Republic by the president* and his dwindling band of loyalists down at Camp Runamuck. Be nice, I am told. These are valuable allies.
Try not to say so loudly that, as soon as the Republican Party casts off the First Millstone, these people all will be right back to promoting the ideas and the policies that made him possible in the first place—voodoo economics, wars of choice based on deceit, ticking-bomb excuses for torture, and night sweats over the impending rise of the liberal power elite. Keep that stuff to yourself, they say.
I am nothing if not coachable, so I’ve laid off as best I can. But, on Thursday night, kindly Doc Maddow hosted Nicolle Wallace to talk about the Comey book and other symptoms of our current attack of virulent political botulism. Wallace has proved to be a great—not, good, but great—TV host qua TV host. She’s smart and she’s personable and she comes across wonderfully on camera.
That said, on Friday night, if I had a firearm, I’d have Elvis-ed my electric teevee screen over something Wallace said to KDM concerning the Trump camp’s attacks on good ol’ James Comey, Man of Immutable Integritude. To wit:
WALLACE: Look, I just think it's another illustration of the complete decimation of the Republican Party's standing for anything that it was supposed to stand for. And I know you've never been a fan, but I'm a former practicing member of the party, and it never stood for character assassination of a man like Jim Comey, who served Republican presidents. And you may disagree with every single policy that George W. Bush advanced, but Jim Comey was a faithful and loyal servant in the George W. Bush Justice Department. So to have today's RNC crafting a plan and staff a war room to smear him is a disgrace.
Bold face mine, indicating the exact point in the show when I had a stroke.
Instead of venting my anger, and in my usual attempt to calm the roiling political sea, I offer the following test questions to all the Republican Penitents currently d/b/a Never Trumpers. These questions are based on Wallace’s remarkable assertion above as to what Republicanism is and is not, and what it has been and has not been, over the course of my life of political observation.
So, Nicolle, and Steve Schmidt, and Michael Steele, and Rick Wilson, and Joe Scarborough, and Butcher’s Bill Kristol, and Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum, and the rest of you. Please take out your No. 2 pencils, open your test booklets and begin. We start with an easy one.
1) Many of you have expressed your dismay at how Sinclair Broadcasting forced its local anchors to read a canned statement about the curse of “fake news,” divining, correctly, that this was the company’s way of delegitimizing serious coverage of the many and varied corruptions of the current administration*. In 2004, when Sinclair forced its local stations to run a meretricious fake documentary slandering John Kerry’s service in Vietnam, were you as offended as you are today? Were you public with your disapproval? Did you take your concerns to upper echelons in the Bush campaign and the Bush White House? To whom did you take them?
2) Please provide an example of how you pushed back against the entire Swift Boating of Kerry? Did any of you upbraid the people who were peddling Purple Heart Band-Aids at the 2004 Republican Convention?
3) Please explain in detail how you, because of your deep concern for political civility and an open marketplace of ideas, pushed back against the vicious attacks by Bush administration officials, and conservative journalists, who were critical of Americans who doubted the phony case for the invasion of Iraq. Please explain Andrew Sullivan’s famous “Fifth Column” essay in light of how Donald Trump talks about his political opponents. Bonus Question: Please discuss the Bush Administration’s assaults on the UN weapons inspectors in the context of the Trump Administration’s assaults on the credibility of the FBI?
4) In one sentence or less, please describe the political style and impact on the nation of the following: Newt Gingrich, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mercer family, the Koch Family, the Bradley Family. Please include details of the positive contributions of each of these to the political life of the nation.
5) True or False: Ronald Reagan was correct in referring to Michael Dukakis as a “mental patient” from a White House podium.
6) Please explain, in detail, all efforts you made within the Republican Party during election seasons, to counter the influence of radical conservative splinter Protestantism on the party’s policies toward the following: reproductive rights, public schools, the rights of LGBTQ citizens. Bonus Question: Please write in detail the complaints you made when gay marriage bans were specifically targeted.
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7) In 1983, Ronald Reagan told Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that he personally had been part of a film crew at the liberation of the concentration camps in Europe. In 2018, Donald Trump said he wished he’d have been in Parkland, Florida so he could have rushed school shooter Nikolas Cruz. Compare and contrast.
8) Ronald Reagan once said that, “Trees cause more pollution than humans do.” Donald Trump once tweeted that, during a cold snap, the “East Coast could use a little of that global warming.” Compare and Contrast.
9) Given your concern about ratfcking in political campaigns, please explain all the steps you took to fight the Republican party’s voter-suppression campaign in Florida in 2000.
10) Please explain how close you came to resigning from the party when George W. Bush’s campaign slandered John McCain’s child during the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina.
11) Please explain in detail how you pushed back against the lies and half-truths lobbed at Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign. Please define the salience to the 2000 campaign of the following phrases: Love Canal, Internet, Fairfax Hotel, Love Story.
12) True Or False: Bill Clinton ran drugs out of a small airport in rural Arkansas.
13) True or False: Bill Clinton had two teenagers murdered along a set of railroad tracks in rural Arkansas.
14) True or False: White House counsel Vince Foster’s death was “mysterious.”
And, finally, write a 500-word essay on one of the following topics:
1) Donald Trump’s attempted politicization of the Justice Department is different than Karl Rove’s attempted politicization of the Justice Department.
2) Donald Trump’s corrupt Cabinet is different than Ronald Reagan’s corrupt Cabinet.
3) Michael Cohen is a thug while Karl Rove is a visionary political philosophe.
You have two hours.