Well, Newt, You Gave It Your Best Shot!



Pictured: the face of a man who isn’t going to get to be the leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces. (Screengrab from TPM)


This is a man who isn’t getting the VP nod.

“A great deal of the coverage of what I said on Fox last night has been distorted,” Gingrich said. “The news media went into a hysteria overnight trying to over-exaggerate what I was saying. This is not about targeting a religion.”

“This is about looking for certain characteristics that painfully, we have learned time after time, involve killing people,” he elaborated.

But he seemed to take a different tack while discussing how to deal with a pattern of terrorist activity from American citizens, saying that it would be “impossible” to deport them.

“With an American citizen, deportation is impossible,” he said. “It’s not appropriate under the Constitution and there, historically we’ve always said, if you fought against the United States, that the correct answer were basically jail as opposed to deportation. I think we have to talk through what should be the right way of handling people who are here, but are not citizens.

And this was the man who still thought he had a chance.

“Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Or, in the words of Hollywood Mark Perrone, “Once again the liberal media’s unabridged replay of the video of everything I said on a national broadcast just last night is dividing this nation.”

It’s a testament to Newt’s incredible mendacity and absolute lack of principle’s that he’s willing to disagree with his 12-hours-ago-self once he realized that being hatefully anti-American and totally fascistic wasn’t enough to get him a job he wanted. But he sure gave it the ol’ college try, if the college is the University of East Berlin. The man needs a team of Sherpas just to reach the moral basement.

Guys, I Don’t Think Trump Knows What He’s Doing


Pictured: Trump HQ


Here’s what you do when you’re running a con: delay, delay, delay. When the weight of your own failure (to build an actual campaign, to attract any potential partners worth a good goddamn, to actually think about the magnitude of what you are trying to do, to engage in even a second of reflection and realize that your life is a cruel karmic joke played upon the American people as revenge for our greed and inability to pay attention) catches up with you, you have to flailingly hope something better comes along. And hope that the people you pay to make you look good spin it as deliberate wisdom.

“I think that Mr. Trump has reached a decision, but he hasn’t — he isn’t prepared to announce it yet,” Paul Manafort told “Fox & Friends.” “Until he announces it, there’s no formal nominee.”

I don’t think he’s made a decision. I think he assumes that if he delays and says he’s going to have the greatest VP pick ever, something good will happen. I’m sure at some point between now and Monday they’ll make an announcement and say it’s what they were thinking all along, but I doubt there is any semblance of an actual campaign, an actual strategy. It’s all nonsense and misdirection. They can’t even get Tim Tebow to commit. He was their star!

The thing is, the terrorist attack in Nice is a reason not to announce, but does anyone believe that a delay wouldn’t have happened anyway? This isn’t a serious operation. It’s a family business in a business where the family has literally no experience. The kids probably settled on Pence because Ivanka read “most of an article” in National Review that said he was a smart choice.

This isn’t the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. This is the gang with fingers in their jackets telling you they have a tank, ok?

Although even throughout this, Manafort’s a pro.

“And you’re not worried about compromising Mike Pence’s opportunity to run for governor?” asked “New Day” host Chris Cuomo.

“Donald Trump, whoever he selects, and whoever he says is the selection, will honor his word,” Manafort responded. “That’s who he is.”

The fun of screwing over Pence aside, can you even imagine being able to say that with a straight face? Remarkable!

Update: It’s Pence. But come on: do you really think this was part of the plan, or any plan at all? Let’s have our top surrogate come out on Friday and say he has no idea what I’m doing and then an hour later tweet out a major announcement. Because that’s the smart way smart and successful businesspeople and serious politicians do stuff!

I still hold out some hope that next Wednesday Pence is going to stand up there and then a giant hook will yank him away and Sarah Palin will walk out. That “it’s a long flight” thing seems suspicious, doesn’t it?  I’d give eight dollars to see that.

How Not To Keep A Free Society: Newt Gingrich Edition


“I’m a really deep thinker, frankly.”

In the last post, we talked about how the kind of mutating terrorist attacks like we saw in Nice will happen in a free society. Newt Gingrich, whose VP dreams have yet to be crushed, eschews all talk of free society.

“Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

“Sharia is incompatible with western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door,” he added.

There’s no real need to point out everything that is wrong with this, right? Forget how hideously unconstitutional and un-American it is to have everyone of a single faith line up for loyalty testing. That’s standard Newt: he knows it is what Trump wants to hear, so he’ll say it. (Bonus Newtism: he always says “frankly” when he’s about to say something really dumb, because he feels it gives it intellectual heft. Once you notice that, you’ll see it is always true.)   Let’s also forget for the moment that believing in Sharia is not, in and of itself, against the law. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in the Constit

Let’s also forget for the moment that believing in Sharia is not, in and of itself, against the law. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in the Constitutional order, and as long as they aren’t acting on it, that’s ok. Let’s also ignore the insanity of someone saying that a belief is “incompatible with western civilization” when he’s literally proposing mass expulsion based on a religious-based ideological litmus test, which seems pretty goddam incompatible with Western civilization, to me.

No, what’s really stupid– what makes Newt so world-historic dumb at times — is that he proposes this as the realistic and tough-guy way of dealing with a threat. Tthe attacks at Nice were the “fault of Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary,” he told Hannity, and between the two, the perfumed machismo must have been through the roof.  This is, frankly, incredible. How exactly does he imagine this is going to go down? Does he actually think that people dedicated to the destruction of America and the death of all its citizens are also incapable of lying? That after waiting in line for hours, after the Muslim Registration Act, which won’t do much to change their attitude toward the US, they won’t be able to plot a complicated web of deceit, i.e., saying “no” when asked if they are a terrorist?

The most charitable interpretation of this is that Newt actually believes this will work, and that it will allow good Muslims to stay in the US and have everyone be happy. It’s barking madness, of course, and deeply antithetical to the kind of free society that is at the end the final bulwark against radicalism. But if he believed this would work, or was a good idea, at least you could argue from there.

But he probably doesn’t, at least not in any way that doesn’t require the cognitive dissonance that is the heart of the modern right wing. He decided this sounded good, and would appeal to Trump, who appeals to millions and millions of voters. They want the tough guy who will trample our values, because it feels good. In less than a week the GOP is going to nominate someone who brags about his willingness to employ torture. They are appealing because their idea of America is one of soil and blood and steel, and not the actual values that make this country great. They have the same boot-stomping atavistic lure of LePen and Orban and the Brexiters.

ISIS and al-Qaeda want a civilizational clash. They are experts at provoking one. It’s their great good fortune that they have enemies who want to give it to them. What Newt said wasn’t in a vacuum. It’s the direction in which the whole world is lurching.

Nice, The New Terrorism, And The Limits of Freedom


Image from NYTimes

As of this writing, no jihadist organization has taken credit for the horrific attacks in France last night, when a petty criminal with no known ties to any group plowed a truck through a mile of death during a celebration of freedom. It doesn’t mark a new chapter in terrorism, but it does make everyone aware that we are firmly in that chapter, that the pages have turned around us, and we’re stuck in a new plot.

My initial instinct is that this will be the plot of a small, independent cell, possibly with some training behind them, but more than likely not. If it wasn’t coordinated with any central ISIS/Qaeda group (as seems to be the case), it also wasn’t entirely unsophisticated, despite the bluntness of the attack. The right street was picked for maximum efficacy, and the presence of weapons in the truck showed the ability to acquire the tools of war.

All that said, it wasn’t very sophisticated, and indeed was taken right out of the pages of Inspire, as well as a few smaller-scale attacks. This is the new kind of terrorism: as what ISIS actually is changes over the next few months, there will be more of these attacks, both coordinated by the remnants of the caliphate or their affiliates, or from independent groups/actors who might pledge allegiance to ISIS but in an essentially meaningless way, tactically.

That it is meaningless doesn’t really matter, though, especially to the dead. These small cells usually wind up shooting themselves in the ass, but they can sometimes be successful, especially if they keep things very simple. One of the main dangers, as I see it, is that as ISIS starts to create a vacuum, there will be more room for a) affiliated terrorist organizations to try to take the leadership mantle with coordinated, large-scale attacks; and b) unaffiliated-but-inspired groups to try to step up with attacks like these, which can be large-scale by dint of simplicity and luck.

The former can potentially be slowed down (if not stopped) by intelligence, and also luck. The latter might not be as spectacularly successful, but they can be extremely dangerous, and potentially do more to unravel the fabric of free society than larger groups. It makes everyone with a grudge, some sociopathic tendencies, and the “right” sort of inspiration (jihad, rather than The Matrix or whatever), a potential terrorist.

The problem is that a free society won’t really be able to stop these attacks until the fervor of jihad runs its course, which it will, at some point, though possibly not in the lifetime of anyone reading this. As the Middle East convulses, and as Europe tries to handle the expansion of superstates, the reaction of nationalists, and the influx of the stateless, emotions and politics on personal and international levels will be subject to huge changes and dangerous trends. We’re at the beginning of it now. The end is nowhere in sight.

The key is not to give up on the idea of a free society. Bastille Day was the right day to pick for this, for maximum symbolism. It is a celebration of freedom. Of course, the French Revolution became a horrible Goya flipbook of bloodlust and revenge, and ended in Empire, but through fits and starts, it became France. It has its problems with assimilation, but has strong democratic values.

As a free society, that’s the sort of timeline we have to look at when dealing with the mutating scourge of jihad. One day, it will be history. The question is if we’ll be reading that history in a free society, or if we’ll be looking at it through the gray-barred schoolhouse of a modern police state.