Monday, July 10, 2017

Trump Jr., Russian collusion and the Sideshow Bob defense

I was all set to write the next post in the "Classical conservatism" series, and then...

Donald Trump Jr. is now admitting to attempted Russian collusion and is claiming the Sideshow Bob defense.  He met with a Russian lawyer directly connected to the Russian government under the promise of getting dirt on Clinton.  When he didn't get anything, he was disappointed.  And the little fuckwit admits this is what happened.

Normally, I include a video clip here, but I can't get a sufficiently focused one, so here's the full, direct quote from Sideshow Bob:  "I am presently incarcerated for a crime I did not even commit.  Attempted murder.  Now, honestly, did they ever give anyone a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"

Donald Trump Jr. attempted to collude with the Russians.  It just didn't work because they didn't give him any good dirt.  You can read the full write-up over at the New York Times, but Trump himself can't even call it "fake news" because this is Jr.'s own telling.  He'll still call it "fake news" because he  uses the term however he sees fit, and I'll refer those who would complain to my earlier post on the fluidity of language.

What will happen?  Nothing.  Not one thing.  There will be zero consequences.  Donald Trump, and those around him will never suffer any consequences for anything they ever do.  They have permanent get-out-of-jail free cards.  The reason is not that the Sideshow Bob defense will work.  Even if the Trump campaign had received some Clinton dirt from the Russian lawyer, and used it, and Jr. had admitted it, nothing would happen.

Why not?  The same reason I keep telling you that the chances of impeachment are essentially zero.  The entire Republican Party has a bomb strapped to it, and the bomb is wired to a dead-man switch monitoring Trump's political vitals.  If he goes down, he takes down the entire party.  Nothing else matters to anybody in the GOP.  In 1974, Nixon went down, and the party lost a lot of seats in Congress.  Then, we wound up with Carter.  The party spent years trying to live that down, and now every political scandal has the suffix, "-gate" attached to it.  Republicans never stopped seething about it, and the lesson they learned?  Always defend your nominee/president, no matter what he does.

Republicans know that they can at least minimize the damage by continuing to rally around Trump at all costs.  As long as the party sends a uniform signal that every scandal is a partisan attack and every story is a biased, fake news conspiracy, there will remain at least some doubt among the independent voters who aren't paying close attention, and the partisan Republicans will stay loyal.  That will minimize the damage.

The President's son tried to collude with foreigners in the course of the campaign, and has admitted it.  And we are now supposed to shrug because he is using the Sideshow Bob defense.  If the party weren't circling the wagons the way they are, well... frankly Trump should have been thrown out of office as soon as he admitted to obstruction of justice to Lester Holt, but if they weren't circling the wagons the way they are right now, this would be presidency-ending.

How many times do we say that, though?  And that's kind of my point.  That dead-man trigger is doing its job.


  1. You know how you defuse that bomb?

    Cut the red wire. That's the one that connects the "support from partisans in the electorate" detonator to the explosive.

    HOW do you cut it? In 1974, the smoking gun tape. In 2017? That wire is made of MUCH sturdier stuff, but we have to remember that the wire held out over MONTHS of shit in 1974. We've been able to hit fast-forward on the development of the scandal, but human beings haven't changed.

    Remember, one of the ways to reduce cognitive dissonance is to compartmentalize and another is to think through the conflict and figure out what's right. A few might do the latter, but even coming to the comparmentalization of "Trump is bad but the GOP is still good" takes time. Takes a lot of dissonance to get there. We've had major dissonant events, but 1974 featured that in the news on most days for over a year.

    It's only been 6 months (shit), and the wire is now made of tougher stuff. It probably will never happen, but if anything, we shouldn't really expect it to happen for at least another 6 months.

    1. I think you are sort of ducking the point. Yes, the GOP survived Watergate because, eventually, people separated the party from the scandal, but nobody at the elite level today is willing to let the party absorb the 1974 damage. Yes, the GOP could, in principle, cut Trump loose and absorb some short-term damage, but not totally obliterate itself, but I don't see any willingness to do that give that, if we are referencing 1974, the smoking gun tape has been released. Trump made the statement on air, to Lester Holt. We're already there. It isn't a matter of time. It is a matter of standard of evidence.

    2. I still think that the drip-drip can take its toll.

    3. On public opinion? Sure. On the GOP's willingness to defend him? I doubt it. They're pot-committed. It would have been interesting to watch if the party had actually tried to coordinate against him at the nomination stage, but they didn't, and once he got the nomination, that's it. "The party decided" that they would back him no matter what. I truly think he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue, and the party would still back him. A golden-shower hooker tape, along with a recording of Trump promising Putin anything in exchange for secrecy could surface, and the party would still back him. A recording of Trump molesting kids at one of those beauty pageants could surface, and the party would still support him. I'm not being facetious. I can't imagine a scenario in which the party would stop supporting him. Trump would call it a fake media conspiracy, the party apparatus is set up to back him, and I don't see his support dripping away. I can't see how the party backs away from him at this point. They're pot-committed.

    4. They backed Nixon....until they didn't. And they didn't when it became an indefensible position. That occurs once the base softens. Trump gets down to 25% approval (so, like 50-60% among Rs), then you'll get movement.

      To me, the only question is whether that CAN happen any more. My read is that it can, because 2008 is really not that far away, and it DID happen then. But, given the amazingly stupid defenses that people are willing to put up for Trump, I wonder if partisanship has gotten strong enough in the last 8 years to preclude that possibility. (Having a black president will really put things into perspective for some people)

    5. I think you are missing my argument here, which is that the whole thing is... endogenous. (I know, I owe Nelson Polsby a quarter-- I'll donate it to the fund against econo-jargon in his memory). In 2008, Bush's approval dropped with the economy, but there was never support for impeachment, and Republicans never would have allowed there to be, regardless of whether it was economic or not. Now, by circling the wagons, they prevent approval from dropping that low. It isn't that PID has hardened, it is that party elites won't let it soften.

    6. Bush's approval dropped because of reasons.
      Economy but also Iraq.
      Trump's could theoretically drop because of, well, any number of Trumps, including Kushners.

      To me, the only question is whether that is true. When you say "party elites allowed it" the question then is why did they? It's actually quite recursive, self-fulfilling prophecy-esque. The GOP would turn on Trump if they thought they had to. They'll think they have to when their voters turn. Their voters will turn when they get elite signals to. The circle of life goes on. The interruptions come from events, and those events have to shock enough elites or masses from their defaults. I'm not sure if that's possible any more. But, it WAS possible in 2008. So, that's the safest way to bet.

    7. I'm just going to lump war and the economy together under "national conditions" (see: Hibbs, Doug). Those kinds of external factors are separate from the subjective nature of a scandal. Is an affair a scandal? It used to be. Now, only if it has something salacious to it. The point is that scandals are different because voters need someone to tell them what's real. The economy and war? Not so much.