Far Too Late Now

Should two old men decide the fate of all? There’s that scene that Tolkien gave us:

Gandalf stirred, and looked up. ‘What have you to say that you did not say at our last meeting?’ he asked. ‘Or, perhaps, you have things to unsay?’

Saruman paused. ‘Unsay?’ he mused, as if puzzled. ‘Unsay? I endeavored to advise you for your own good, but you scarcely listened. You are proud and do not love advice, having indeed a store of your own wisdom. But on that occasion you erred, I think, misconstruing my intentions willfully. I fear that in my eagerness to persuade you, I lost patience. And indeed I regret it. For I bore you no ill-will; and even now I bear none, though you return to me in the company of the violent and the ignorant. How should I? Are we not both members of a high and ancient order, most excellent in Middle-earth? Our friendship would profit us both alike. Much we could still accomplish together, to heal the disorders of the world. Let us understand one another, and dismiss from thought these lesser folk! Let them wait on our decisions! For the common good I am willing to redress the past, and to receive you. Will you not consult with me? Will you not come up?’

So great was the power that Saruman exerted in this last effort that none that stood within hearing were unmoved. But now the spell was wholly different. They heard the gentle remonstrance of a kindly king with an erring but much-loved minister. But they were shut out, listening at a door to words not meant for them: ill-mannered children or stupid servants overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders, and wondering how it would affect their lot. Of loftier mold these two were made: reverend and wise. It was inevitable that they should make alliance. Gandalf would ascend into the tower, to discuss deep things beyond their comprehension in the high chambers of Orthanc. The door would be closed, and they would be left outside, dismissed to await allotted work or punishment…

Those two old men would decide everything. The ill-mannered children or stupid servants, pretty much everyone else, overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders, might wonder what this meant, how this might destroy their lives, or not, but they couldn’t do a damned thing about it either way. But then this happened:

Then Gandalf laughed. The fantasy vanished like a puff of smoke.

Gandalf saw the nonsense in this. That’s not how things work. Two wizards, and one of them as nasty as they come, can’t sit down together and decide the fate of everyone. They shouldn’t. That’s absurd, and dangerous. Everyone else would be dismissed to await their allotted work or punishment? No one would stand for that.

But people do stand for that all the time. Others run this nation, and now, maybe two old white guys run this nation and the rest of us just wait out to await allotted work or punishment. The Washington Post’s Adela Suliman reports this:

Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch is publicly rebuking former president Donald Trump – telling him to get over the past and to focus on the future.

Trump – who continues to allege that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him, including recently in News Corp’s Wall Street Journal – should move on, billionaire Murdoch, 90, said Wednesday during News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting.

“The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity,” said Murdoch, whose family controls Fox News’s parent company, Fox Corp. “It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past.”

“The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future,” Murdoch continued.

Will these two ascend into the tower to discuss deep things, beyond the comprehension of any of us, in the high chambers, and work things out? And then will each of us be told our work or our punishment? That seems unlikely:

Murdoch was seemingly not thrilled by the idea of a Trump presidency, tweeting in 2015: “When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?” But the tone changed as Trump’s candidacy surged.

The editorial board of the New York Post, a Murdoch-controlled tabloid, was among the first to endorse Trump in 2016. In 2017 Murdoch introduced the then-president at an event as “my friend Donald J. Trump,” making headlines. But by 2018, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” book asserted that Murdoch had called Trump a “f—ing idiot.”

After Trump’s 2020 election defeat, however, the New York Post aimed a blistering editorial at Trump, demanding that he accept his loss to Joe Biden and stop falsely claiming that mass voter fraud had marred the results.

And then there was Arizona:

During the presidential election, Fox News had also angered Trump and his supporters by calling Arizona, the traditionally red state, for Biden. Fox News stood behind the call, which turned out to be correct. Nonetheless, some Trump fans chanted “Fox sucks” outside vote-counting locations.

And then there’s the money:

Like many other media outlets, Fox News faces a potential “Trump slump” with conservative viewers switching to outlets such as Newsmax and One America News. Trump, once a frequent caller to “Fox & Friends,” turned sour on the network, tweeting in 2020 that it had “forgot the Golden Goose,” in an apparent reference to himself as a boon to their ratings.

Will these two work things out and rule us all?

That’s unlikely. Murdoch cannot influence Trump.

Former President Donald Trump is endorsing Rep. Paul Gosar, one day after the Arizona Republican was censured by the House of Representatives for posting a violent cartoon video that depicted a character with his face killing one with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s.

Trump, in a statement, hailed Gosar as “a loyal supporter of our America First agenda” and “highly respected in Arizona,” and said he “has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” The statement made no mention of the House’s rare rebuke – just the fourth in nearly 40 years – which also stripped Gosar of his two committee assignments, on the Natural Resources and the Oversight and Reform panels.

Gosar has said the video, which was produced by his taxpayer-funded office, had been mischaracterized and was not intended to be a threat. In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, the video also depicted Gosar’s character attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

Murdoch may find this whole thing an embarrassment, but Trump likes this guy.

Gosar is no stranger to controversy. He’s made appearances at fringe right-wing events, including a gathering in Florida last February hosted by a man who has promoted white supremacist beliefs, and earlier this year looked to form an America First Caucus with other hardline Republican House members that aimed to promote “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Was it possible to defend this guy? Aaron Blake covers that:

The debate over Rep. Paul A. Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) ultimately successful censure and removal from committees quickly devolved in to the kind of partisan food-fighting, whataboutism and name-calling that we’ve come to expect from our politics in this era. But better than almost anything we’ve seen on the floor of Congress it drove that new reality home.

And it wasn’t pretty:

The GOP defense of Gosar was especially strained – and right from the start sought to avoid anything resembling a factual representation of what he had done.

Gosar had published a video depicting him killing an animated character featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) likeness. His GOP allies pretended he had apologized for it, even though he had explicitly rejected that premise.

Republicans on Tuesday previewed their strategy of suggesting this was a momentary and regretted lapse, and it continued into Wednesday’s floor debate. The problem was that Gosar made clear Tuesday that he hadn’t apologized for the video and that he saw the backlash as akin to censoring his free and legitimate speech.

They said he was sorry. He said he wasn’t sorry at all. Democrats looked on, befuddled:

In case there was any doubt about how disingenuous the defenses of him were, after the vote Gosar retweeted a tweet featuring the same video he had been sanctioned for, before later also deleting that tweet. It was perhaps an inadvertent retweet, if we’re being charitable, but it did the opposite of suggesting a truly chastened member.

The situation also led to the latest entry in the GOP leadership’s growing efforts to combat such things by threatening retribution – even to exploit the supposed new standards by stretching them further. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spoke at length on the House floor likening the situation to controversial comments by certain House Democrats and suggested that Republicans, once in the majority, could also strip them of their powerful posts.

For what? Kevin McCarthy wasn’t saying:

None of those Democrats had promoted violence against their GOP colleagues. Republicans suggested this was a slippery slope to more frequent and similar sanctions, but one would think you could make an argument that even toying with violence against one’s own colleague is a special case, and perhaps you could simply establish that specific standard.

Instead it was suggested that censuring Gosar could lead to Republicans stripping committee assignments from high-profile Democrats who made controversial comments not involving their colleagues (and actually apologized for them) or expressed opinions about ongoing legal matters over which they have no actual control, like Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) passing judgment on the Kyle Rittenhouse case. Gosar himself has accused a Capitol police officer of “murder” in the case of Ashli Babbitt, despite no charges being filed.

But wait, there’s more:

The debate arguably reached its low point when one of Gosar’s fellow House GOP provocateurs took her turn in defending him. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) decided to use her very brief time on the floor to label Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) a member of the “jihad squad.” She also referred to unproven rumors that Omar had married her brother, calling him her “brother-husband.”

That was unwise:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the first Hijabi ever elected to Congress, didn’t hold back last night after far-right extremist Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called her a “jihad squad member” in an unhinged rant during the House’s vote on censuring Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).

Boebert is an “insurrectionist” who “defecates and defiles” the House and “sleeps with a pervert,” Omar tweeted.

The Democrat was referring to Boebert’s husband being sentenced to jail for exposing himself to two women at a bowling alley in 2004.

But back to Blake:

Gosar himself took his turn in the theater of the absurd at one point. In an appearance that notably didn’t include the type of contrition and regret Republicans suggested he had felt, the later-censured congressman compared himself to none other than Alexander Hamilton.

“If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censored by this House, so be it,” Gosar concluded.

That too was unwise:

Hamilton was indeed the first person to be targeted for censure, but the vote failed, and it was over Hamilton supposedly mishandling government loans as treasury secretary.

The idea that there is any true comparison between the two situations is ridiculous. Gosar, despite being one of the most extreme House members and often pursuing provocations in line with the likes of Boebert and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), hasn’t attracted anywhere near their followings. Indeed, that’s probably why he hasn’t been targeted for such things before, including when he appeared at an event with white nationalists earlier this year.

Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) responded to Gosar’s comment by intoning, “Mr. Gosar, you are no Alexander Hamilton.”

Cicilline, like many others during the debate, was admonished to abide by House rules dictating that remarks be addressed to the speaker and not to other members.

But he wasn’t sorry either. He had no reason to be sorry:

While Democrats often sought to portray Gosar’s actions as deliberate incitement and even a threat, there is no question that careless rhetoric and allusions to even figurative violence can influence the decisions of people who would resort to actual violence. We have seen where that can potentially lead, regardless of whether specific and repeated suggestive comments about violence by a politician like Donald Trump lead to people taking up arms.

That’s what worries Murdoch, and Blake adds this:

The House on Wednesday sought to take a corrective measure when it comes to the building tinderbox beneath our politics. It wound up demonstrating how difficult it will be to do anything about the factors and incentives that contribute the kindling.

In short, this can’t be fixed. Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent explain why:

Gosar is one of the Trumpiest members of the House. He’s so toxic that his own siblings have begged voters not to return him to Washington. But when push came to shove, almost all his colleagues stood by him.

The same is not true of the 13 House Republicans who recently joined with Democrats to pass an infrastructure bill that will deliver benefits to every congressional district in the country, in roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, broadband, and much more.

The contrast between the two cases demonstrates how far policy has been driven from the minds and hearts of the Republican Party in Washington. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that they have no substantive concerns and no real policy agenda. There is only their side and their enemies; nothing else matters.

Trump has taught them well:

Infrastructure used to be the prototypical issue on which Democrats and Republicans could come together no matter how deep their disagreements. Liberals and conservatives all like to drink clean water and get to work on time, and representatives of both parties want to bring home the bacon to their constituents.

But no more. At the very least, you might have thought the Republican response to a few of their colleagues voting for infrastructure would have been grudging recognition of why they want to deliver for their districts, combined with disappointment that Biden garnered a win.

Instead, after the vote those 13 members were inundated with hatred and even death threats. Conservatives in the House argued that the 13 should be stripped of their committee assignments as retribution. Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows agreed.

Of course he did. He’s the voice of Trump here:

This is striking because you’re supposed to at least pretend that there are issues on which bipartisanship could be possible – like infrastructure. Yet Republicans have stopped pretending. As the New York Times reported, GOP leaders who lobbied members to vote against the infrastructure bill “have made few substantive policy arguments against the plan.”

Why would they bother? They know that nobody in their party cares about substantive policy anymore.

Now those 13 are in the crosshairs. The former president’s PAC put out a video demanding they be voted out. Donald Trump put out a statement attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the bill that sounded like a 3 a.m. rant from your drunk uncle: “McConnell is a fool and he damn well better stop their ‘Dream of Communism Bill.’”

That must mean that Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System was communism too. Murdoch may have been right in the first place. This guy is a fucking idiot. But he still wants to talk with Trump, to talk some sense into him. “Much we could still accomplish together, to heal the disorders of the world. Let us understand one another, and dismiss these lesser folk! Let them wait on our decisions!”

No, Murdoch just doesn’t matter. Something else is in the works:

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows blasted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s leadership style on Thursday, suggesting that if Republicans win control of the House next year, the party should install former President Donald Trump as its next speaker.

“They’re not skating to where the puck is. And so I would give them a grade of a ‘D,’“ Meadows said of the House Republican leadership during an appearance on Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz’s podcast. “I believe that on this tactic and strategy – listen, you need to make Democrats take tough votes. You need to make sure that when you’ve got them on the ropes that you don’t throw in the white towel.”

Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina who was serving in the House before Trump picked him to be his top aide in 2020, said in a separate appearance on a podcast hosted by Trump ally Steve Bannon that he “would love to see the gavel go from (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump.”

“You talk about melting down, people would go crazy,” he said.

They would go crazy. The speaker of the House does not need to be a member of the House, just elected by the body. The speaker of the House is also third in the presidential line of succession. So, if Biden drops dead, or some Trump Patriot makes that happen, and if Kamala Harass gets hit by a bus, which could be arranged, Donald Trump becomes president, immediately. Mark Meadows has thought this through, and he wants to get rid of a guy that Trump has come to despise:

McCarthy is facing heat from both his party and Democrats over recent episodes in Washington, including criticism by some Republicans who want their leader to punish more than a dozen House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will repair roads and bridges and widen access to broadband.

McCarthy hasn’t stripped them of their committee assignments, and he hasn’t expelled them from the Republican Party, and he hasn’t endorsed the death threats either, insisting that having Trump Patriots assassinate them is a bit too harsh. But no one likes Kevin:

Democrats have blasted McCarthy over his decision not to condemn Rep. Paul Gosar after the Arizona Republican posted a photoshopped anime video on Twitter depicting him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging a sword at Biden.

Former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who also served for a time in the House and ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” later Thursday that Meadows’ comments were “just so crazy.”

“It looks like he’s still running so much of the Republican party,” Kasich said of Trump. “As to whether that remains in terms of the pinnacle of his power – yet to be seen. I hope we wake up.”

That’s what Rupert Murdoch was saying too. But it’s too late for that. We all await our allotted work or punishment.

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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