Wednesday, October 2, 2019

You Can't Douthat

Cypress-Tupelo Swamp, via Tulane University.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street (who seems to have quietly replaced David Brooks in the Tuesday slot—last time Brooks produced a Tuesday column was 2 September) writes a piece on "The Corruption Before Trump" with the sole purpose, as far as I can tell, of equating the fortune Dick Cheney earned running the war machine at Halliburton between his two stints as defense secretary (estimated between $19 million and $86 million) to "the extraordinary post-presidential buckraking of the Clinton family and their foundation’s global funding stream", meaning making a comparable amount of cash on the paid-speech circuit, writing best-selling books, and establishing a really pretty successful charitable organization with their earnings, in paragraph 5; and mentioning in paragraph 9 that "Hunter Biden’s sinecure at a Ukrainian energy conglomerate represents the crassest form of this mentality".

Adding in paragraph 11 that
the strongest defense of Trump’s possibly impeachable conduct vis-à-vis Hunter Biden and his father isn’t some sort of careful “no quid pro quo!” parsing of the president’s words. It’s the more straightforward argument that, as Dan McCarthy wrote for The National Interest over the weekend, this was what Trump was elected to do — to “use all legal means at his disposal to strike at business-as-usual among the political elite,” even if that requires trampling over norms that would normally prevent a U.S. president from encouraging a foreign investigation into his rival and his rival’s family.
Although young Biden is in fact the only business-as-usual practitioner Trump has actually attempted to strike at, and isn't even especially rich by today's Hypergilded Age standards, so I don't think that amounts to a lot of evidence that this is Trump's plan (shaking off the dew pooled in a water lily leaf on the surface of the swamp is not draining the latter).

And although of course he's not making that defense himself, heavens no, he's #JustSaying, not in the least denying that the conduct of the Trump family and their allies has consisted of "breezily monetizing their advantages and blurring the private interest/public service line from Day 1 of this administration", just bothsiderizing it, to point us, without saying it himself, to the melancholy conclusion of the real conservatism, that they all do it and the only hope of a decent government is to turn to the families with really old money, and stolid, reassuring names like Bourbon, Hohenzollern, and Windsor.

Much more interesting than that whole thing (in spite of lavish allusions to Roman and Renaissance Italian history) was a single tweet that got me mad:
Inspiring me first to a bit of parody (too frail to finish)
I've got something to say that might cause you pain
If I catch you conflating Trump and Barr again
I'm going to write an angry column
And write it stat
Because I've told you before
You can't Douthat
And then to a rant:
(Because this really is what "scrutinizing the origins of the Russia investigation" in Australia means: The old conspiracy theory, that Strzok and Ohr and co. had used a fabricated dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to launch their evil plot with an investigation of Carter Page, collapsed when some bright spark noticed that the investigation had begun some time before that, with the investigation of George Papadopoulos, whom Steele hadn't ever heard of; so now they're going with a romance Papadopoulos concocted himself, in which everybody he met in the course of what seemed to be Russian intelligence trying to use him as a go-between with Trump and the offer of all those emails was really staged by the FBI, for which everybody from Professor Mifsud to High Commissioner Downer was secretly working, and no Russians were involved at all. This is the garbage Barr and Pompeo are under Trump orders to collect and Douthat is now encouraging, though he won't lower himself to mention it directly.)

br /> So in the column Ross gives some indirect credence to the Biden smear, and in the Tweet he gives it to the most massively wrong of the paranoid right. If anybody's "conflating" the two, it's him.

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