Paranoia Strikes Deep

There’s the small shopping center down on the corner with a Starbucks and a multiplex and a trendy fitness gym and a Trader Joe’s – where Schwab’s Drug Store once stood, where Lana Turner, in her tight sweater, wasn’t really discovered – and there at the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights, at the foot of Laurel Canyon, there’s a bus stop, a little island of brutal concrete with no shade at all, where there was once a little ramshackle club, Pandora’s Box. Actually it was more of a coffee house, but on November 12, 1966, that’s where the riots on the Sunset Strip began. The local merchants wanted all the long-hair dope-smoking hippie types to just go away – they simply hung around too much, looking strange, driving the paying customers away. So the police obliged, and it didn’t go well. The riots lasted two days.

This was a local matter but Buffalo Springfield got a new song out of it. That was For What It’s Worth – recorded a few weeks later, on December 5, 1966. Stephen Stills and Neil Young lived just up the hill in Laurel Canyon at the time. They had been there, and soon enough all the radio stations in the country were playing that song – “There’s battle lines being drawn / Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” and “A thousand people in the street / Singing songs and carrying signs / Mostly say, hooray for our side…”

Everyone thought this was an antiwar song. It wasn’t. It was more specific. It was also more general. It was a culture critique, the same critique Richard Hofstadter offered in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) and in the essays collected in The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964) but in song:

Paranoia strikes deep…
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid.
You step out of line, the man come and take you away…

Stephen Stills, from Texas, and Neil Young, from Canada, knew America. They had written a song about paranoia. They anticipated Donald Trump. They would not have been surprised by Donald Trump’s inauguration address:

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

He told America that everyone is out to get us. He told America to sneer at the rest of the world – to get angry and get tough. The world was laughing at America. He also said that the rest of America – the blacks and the gays and the urban hipsters and the fancy-pants experts and the goofy scientists and all “politicians” in general – was laughing at real Americans. Mexicans and Muslims were laughing at us too.

He could fix that. When someone hits you, hit them back ten times harder. We’ll build that wall and Mexico will pay for it. Muslims would be banned from entering the country – once he got a few more judges who saw things his way. Hit back ten times harder. That way no one messes with you ever again. That’s the way America should deal with the world. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

He had that mandate. Just enough voters in just the right places ate that up. Paranoia strikes deep, even if George W. Bush didn’t think so:

Following Trump’s short and dire speech, Bush departed the scene and never offered public comment on the ceremony. But, according to three people who were present, Bush gave a brief assessment of Trump’s inaugural after leaving the dais: “That was some weird shit.” All three heard him say it.

No, that wasn’t weird. That was as American as apple pie, that apple pile that might be poisoned. Trust no one.

That has some advantages in foreign and domestic policy. Trust no one and the nation will never be fooled ever again. That has disadvantages. The nation will have no allies, only foes. International cooperation, useful in major crises, becomes impossible. There are no secrets. Foes aren’t secret friends. Domestic cooperation becomes impossible too. Everyone is shouting hooray for our side, on the sidewalk in front of Pandora’s Box. No one trusts anyone else because no one is supposed to trust anyone else, because that’s stupid and weak. The nation will tear itself apart. Trust no one and you’ve opened Pandora’s Box.

There’s a third element too. Forget foreign and domestic policy. Paranoia strikes deeper than that. What happens when a president trusts no one, when he is convinced that everyone is out to get hum, personally? What happens when they finally are out to get him, personally, because he’s torn the nation and the world apart?

CNN’s Eli Watkins reports that this happens:

President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets on Sunday lashing out at the special counsel investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

In the tweets, Trump largely resurfaced previous issues he has with the investigation, claiming Mueller personally has conflicts of interest – including a “contentious business relationship” – that should preclude him from running the investigation, accusing Mueller of bringing on too many Democratic investigators, and making a false claim about the origin of the Russia investigation.

This was not America First but it was Trump First:

“There is No Collusion! The Robert Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt, headed now by 17 (increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer) Angry Democrats, was started by a fraudulent Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC. Therefore, the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

The President then turned to Mueller directly, tweeting, “Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

“Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama? And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?” Trump continued.

Watkins tries to sort this out:

It’s true that Mueller was FBI director during the Obama administration, but he was first appointed to the position by President George W. Bush in 2001. When Mueller’s 10-year term was about to expire in 2011, President Barack Obama asked him to stay on the job for an additional two years, and the Senate unanimously approved that extension. Mueller is a registered Republican.

After Mueller’s appointment by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee, the Department of Justice determined there was not an ethics conflict for Mueller in the investigation.

The New York Times, in January article detailing an attempt by Trump to fire Mueller last year that the President ultimately backed off from, said Trump claimed one of Mueller’s conflicts stemmed from a dispute over fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.

A spokesman for Mueller told The Washington Post that there was no dispute when Mueller left the club.

Trump raised the greens fees. Mueller decided to golf elsewhere. That was it. This was a miniature and personal version of Trump’s issues with TPP and NAFTA and the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal and those deadbeats that are all of NATO – we’d been screwed. They were all out to get us. Here he’d been screwed. Mueller decided to golf elsewhere, thus Mueller was out to get him. Nothing secretly nefarious was happening in any of this, large or small, but trust no one.

And there was this:

Trump, in his tweets on Sunday, re-aired his incorrect assertion that the dossier of anti-Trump research compiled by former MI6 official Christopher Steele sparked the Russia investigation. However, the Russia investigation began in July 2016 when the FBI reacted to a tip from Australian officials who said George Papadopoulos told them about alleged Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to the Times. Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, has since pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI and is cooperating with the Mueller probe.

A memo from House Republicans released earlier this year also said the investigation was sparked by the Papadopoulos information.

George Bush might have been right about the “weird shit” going down with this man:

Trump has tweeted repeatedly about “conflicts of interest” in the special counsel’s investigation and has suggested the possibility of legal action in a May tweet. The Times reported on Thursday that Mueller was combing through Trump’s tweets as part of the probe into obstruction of justice.

Also on Sunday, Trump tweeted a threat to shut down the government if Congress did not provide money for his proposed border wall with Mexico and railed against the news media.

Congressional Republicans went into damage-control. They don’t want a government shutdown just before the midterm elections. They’d lose the House for sure and maybe the Senate too. They said he wasn’t serious. He’d cool down. He knew better. They were sure of that – but he said he was deadly serious. Unless all the Democrats, every damned one of them, changed their minds and voted to give him all the money for his wall – twenty-six billion dollars up front, right now – the government would shut down. They would bend to his will. He’d humiliate them for not putting America first. He’d humiliate them for humiliating him. This was personal.

No, it’s not. This is paranoia. This is also what had to happen. The president started off talking about how useful distrust of everyone and everything is – as a guiding principle. He’s simply offering himself as a personal example of that, living it out for all to see.

It’s not pretty:

President Donald Trump last week bragged about popularizing the term “fake news” and mentioned how other countries had begun to ban content judged to be fake, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times was reporting on its own publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who, along with Times editorial page editor James Bennet, met with Trump on July 20.

While the conversation was initially agreed to be off the record, the Times said Trump had put broken that agreement by tweeting about the meeting on Sunday. Subsequently, Sulzberger released a statement in which he recalled warning Trump that using terms like “enemy of the people” to describe journalists would inspire violence against them.

This was an odd back-and-forth. Trump had said it was a great meeting. Trump seemed to imply that he got the Times to admit they put out “fake news” all the time and they promised to stop, because he is a wonderful president and they’d now cover how wonderful he is. Trump said Sulzberger said that. Sulzberger felt betrayed. It was an off-the-record meeting and he had said no such thing, so he corrected the record. Sulzberger said he told Trump that all those things Trump kept saying at rallies – that the press was the enemy of the people and scum and despicable and whatnot – might get someone killed – by a “patriot” of course. His “useful paranoia” was dangerous.

That’s not what Trump remembered, and there was this:

At another point, Mr. Trump expressed pride in popularizing the phrase “fake news,” and said other countries had begun banning it. Mr. Sulzberger responded that those countries were dictatorships and that they were not banning “fake news” but rather independent scrutiny of their actions.

There is that:

In April, Malaysia made it a criminal act to share information deemed to be fake news – “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas” – becoming the first country to do so, according to the Times.

Since then, other countries have pursued laws to restrict news considered to be fake.

That angered Trump, so he fired off this:

When the media – driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome – reveals internal deliberations of our government, it truly puts the lives of many, not just journalists, at risk! Very unpatriotic! Freedom of the press also comes with a responsibility to report the news accurately. 90% of media coverage of my Administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving. It’s no surprise that confidence in the media is at an all-time low! I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters in the dying newspaper industry. No matter how much they try to distract and cover it up, our country is making great progress under my leadership and I will never stop fighting for the American people! As an example, the failing New York Times and the Amazon Washington Post do nothing but write bad stories even on very positive achievements – and they will never change!

Okay, the internal deliberations of our government are off-limits to the press. Report no disagreements. That could get people killed. And any report that something is not working as well as planned is off-limits too. Trump knows what’s happening – Trump Derangement Syndrome – they’re all out to get him. He will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters. This is war and it’s personal,

This is paranoia, as Brett Samuels notes here:

Trump, who has had a testy relationship with the media since declaring his candidacy, often seeks to discredit coverage he dislikes as “fake news.”

He has at times suggested pulling credentials from reporters, encouraged rally crowds to jeer media and escalated his attacks by labeling journalists the “enemy of the people.”

The White House last week banned CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from covering an event open to the press after she repeatedly asked questions about Trump’s relationship with his former attorney, Michael Cohen, during a meeting with the leader of the European Commission. Media organizations widely condemned the move.

Despite all that, the White House has on multiple occasions asserted it is committed to a “free press.”

The White House needs to define its terms, but Donald Trump is right. Everyone is out to get him:

Leaders of the political network financed by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch called on their top donors to back them in a new initiative: Supporting Democratic lawmakers on issues the organization believe reflect its priorities.

During a seminar on Sunday titled “Transforming the network’s effectiveness” at the Koch network’s summit in Colorado Springs, Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity, made it clear that working with Democrats will be on the table going forward – especially when it comes to reducing government spending and cutting back on financial regulations.

But they’re not changing their tune:

“I know this is uncomfortable,” Seidel told a group of donors and at least two GOP lawmakers who were sitting in the crowd. Koch network officials estimate there are approximately 500 donors attending this year’s conference.

“If you are a Democrat and stand up to [Senator] Elizabeth Warren to corral enough votes for financial reform that breaks barriers for community banks and families, you’re darn right we will work with you.”

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who’s been floated as a potential 2020 presidential contender, has been a strong proponent of increasing regulation on the banking industry. She cheered on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when it was first created under President Barrack Obama.

But they are changing their tune:

Seidel then gave a stern warning to Republicans who voted for a $1.3 trillion spending bill that was passed in March.

“If you are a Republican who sits on the committee that wrote the worst spending bill in our country’s history and you voted for it, you’re darn right we will hold you accountable,” Seidel said.

And the problem is Trump:

The public turn by the billionaire and his network against a few of the latest Republican initiatives on Sunday, including President Donald Trump’s decision to implement import tariffs, is the latest in a sharp reversal by Koch away from backing candidates, and toward a policy based agenda.

In July, Americans for Prosperity unleashed a digital advertising campaign in support of North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, thanking her for co-sponsoring the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protect Act, a bill that rolls back Dodd-Frank regulations mainly on community banks, or those with less than $100 billion in assets. It recently passed in Congress with bipartisan support.

In May, the group unveiled a six figure advertisement onslaught targeting Democratic and Republican lawmakers who backed the trillion dollar spending package – but the majority of the ads were against GOP congressmen.

The problem really is Trump:

“The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage,” said network co-chair Brian Hooks, who also chided elected officials who are “following” his lead.

The Koch network’s influence, even among Republicans, has come into question in the conventional-wisdom-shredding era of Trump. The network has during the past year and a half fruitlessly pushed for comprehensive health care and immigration reform; and like other leading conservative groups, the network has been powerless to persuade the President to rethink his strategy on trade generally and tariffs specifically.

And then they twisted the knife:

Briefing reporters on Saturday, network leaders also touted their past work on criminal justice reform with former President Barack Obama’s administration. “I think we’ve shown we can work with both parties,” said Hooks, adding that the network “needs to earn some trust” among Democrats.

Trump will, no doubt, take this personally. They’re out to get him. Maybe they are, but they have their reasons. Sometimes enough is enough:

The federal judge overseeing the court-ordered reunification of 2,551 migrant children separated from their parents ordered the Trump administration to provide detailed information in order to locate hundreds of what he called “missing parents” the government had deemed ineligible for reunification.

Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California on Friday mandated that the Trump administration turn over a list by Wednesday of all parents deemed “ineligible” for reunification by the government, including those who have been deported, those who have been released into the United States and those who were not reunited because of criminal history.

The government on Friday said 650 children remained separated because their parents had been deemed ineligible.

Trump lost this one:

The ruling was a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union, which had argued that the government has not given complete information about those parents. In the case of those deported or released, the ACLU has offered to provide pro-bono attorneys to help track down parents whose whereabouts are unknown and provide them legal counsel.

“The judge’s order requiring the government to provide us with information about missing or deported parents leaves no doubt that the court expects the remaining reunifications to get done promptly,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

But Trump has a tweet for that:

Please understand, there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally, whether they have children or not – and many are just using children for their own sinister purposes.

Paranoia strikes deep:

Only a tiny fraction of the 650 children who are still separated have “red flags” on their case, which could include a parent’s criminal record or a question about whether the parent is really the parent.

The overwhelming majority of parents, however, are who they say they are – and have had their families simply “deleted” because the Trump administration did not keep proper records about the families it was separating.

More than 400 parents are considered “ineligible” because they have already been deported without their kids.

But as one Trump official admitted, as many as three-quarters of those parents may not have actually consented to leave their kids behind.

Donald Trump began his presidency talking about how useful distrust of everyone and everything is – as a guiding principle. Trust no one. The carnage stops right here and stops right now. It’s only just begun. There’s an old song from the sixties about that, for what it’s worth.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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