Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Road to Dictatorship


That thing about "Speaker" Mike Johnson proposing to release more video from the January 6 insurrection, but only with some of the faces of the rioters blurred out "because we don't want them to be retaliated against and we don't want them to be charged by the DOJ," is that that completely obviates the purpose Republicans claimed to have for releasing them, which was supposed to be for "transparency".

Actually, let's just come out and say it, the official reason for demanding the public release of the videos was the purported evidence they would probably have of who the "real" villains of January 6 were—not the 688 simple folks who have been convicted of crimes committed in the affair, 587 of them pleading guilty, but the masterminds of "antifa" and/or the FBI who secretly organized the thing. Which, of course, never happened, so there wouldn't be any evidence on the videos that it did. The object of Gaetz and Biggs and Gohmert and Greene and all those Republicans demanding the release of the videos was not, in fact, to get them released (against the advice of Capitol security, which feared making them generally available would reveal too much about the arrangements in the building, such as the locations of security cameras), but to nourish the paranoid belief that the 688 criminal convicts (or however many there are now) had been entrapped by the Deep State/Communist/Fascist conspiracy, by making it look as if the Capitol authorities were holding stuff back.

But Mike didn't get the memo, somehow, and thought he was really supposed to release them. It may be he really believed that the videos would implicate the FBI, he seems pretty insane. Of course the people that would actually be implicated are pretty much the same as the ones who have already been charged, and perhaps a congressperson or two. So now he's the one in the position of holding stuff back.

“Under no circumstances — you are promising America tonight — you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” Hannity asked Trump during the latter exchange.

“Except for Day One,” Trump quickly replied, prompting someone in the audience to yell out: “Yeah!”

“He’s going crazy!” Trump said as Hannity looked perplexed.

“Except for Day One. Meaning?” Hannity asked.

“I want to close the border, and I want to drill, drill, drill,” Trump said as the crowd cheered.

“That’s not retribution,” Hannity responded.

“We love this guy,” Trump said of Hannity. “He says: ‘You’re not gonna be a dictator, are ya?’ I say: ‘No, no, no — other than Day One.’”

An interesting thing about this exchange singled out by Mariana Alfaro at the Washington Post is the way Trump didn't answer the question, or insisted on answering a different question, to Hannity's puzzlement. 

Part of that's easy enough to explain. He's prepared this answer to the dictator question, and he really likes it, so that's what he's going to use, regardless of how the question is phrased. At the end, where he misquotes Hannity, he's really correcting him to what he was supposed to say.

Why does he like it? He acknowledges that he intends to be a dictator, but only on "Day One", when he will completely wall off the Mexican border and encourage more fossil fuel production in the US. That's very important: he's giving precise limits for his dictatorial activities, using the actions voters want (or rather the actions Republicans believe voters want). He'll be a dictator, he's saying, just to the extent folks want a dictator. He'll be your dictator, xenophobes and lovers of big cars.

Of course that's not at all compatible with the stuff his campaign has leaked about Day One. The first day of the presidency isn't when you're going to put an end to immigration or take the limitations off oil drilling. Those will take a while. Day One is the day he fires tens of thousands of career civil servants

With a nearly 1,000-page “Project 2025” handbook and an “army” of Americans, the idea is to have the civic infrastructure in place on Day One to commandeer, reshape and do away with what Republicans deride as the “deep state” bureaucracy, in part by firing as many as 50,000 federal workers.

and commandeers the Justice Department throws out the Posse Comitatus Act, using the military to put down any Inauguration Day protests

Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.

Of course he hopes to "abuse power" in quest of "retribution" against his enemies. He always does! This is how he worked his attorneys general, from Sessions through Rosen and Big Dick Whitaker through Barr and out to where in the last weeks he was still trying to worm a loyalist (now indicted Jeffrey Clark) into the position. The difference now isn't with Trump, it's with the minions, who have apparently developed a mechanism for suborning the attorney general that just might work (if only in the half-assed way Stephen Miller was able to develop ways to look like Trump was banning Muslims or look like closing the border to asylum applicants).

I like very much the way Amanda Marcotte put it in Salon today:

In most ways, Trump is as dumb as rocks, but he and his team are alarmingly smart about how to manipulate the media. In this case, he's figured out the best way to keep the muddled middle of American voters from knowing what he's up to is to publicize it in the New York Times. It's like hiding Christmas gifts in the basket of cleaning supplies, knowing the kids will never voluntarily look there. The plot against America is hidden in plain sight.

They're not hiding it from us, or even trying. I expect they're kind of pleased at how owned we are. Nevertheless, dictatorship really is the plan.

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