Bret Stephens, the resident climate change denier at the New York Times, has a laughably dishonest warning for us: Democrats Are Walking Into a Trumpian Trap. I was curious what he was on about because, let's be honest, Trump isn't smart enough to successfully lay traps and whenever he tries, it's more like Wile E. Coyote than Jigsaw. So what does a "Trumpian trap" look like? I had to know.
Turns out Stephens wasn't describing a trap laid by Trump at all. Instead he was forcing an extended and incredibly mendacious "both sides" argument comparing Donald Trump to...Bill Clinton:
Democrats are making the same mistakes Republicans made when they inhabited their own house of outrage, back in 1998.
You remember. The year of the wagged finger and the stained blue dress. Of a president who abused women, lied about it, and used his power to bomb other countries so he could distract from his personal messes. Of a special prosecutor whose investigation overstepped its original bounds. Of half the country in a moral fever to impeach. Of the other half determined to dismiss sexual improprieties, defend a democratically elected leader and move on with the business of the country.
Yes, you read that correctly. Stephens is comparing Bill Clinton getting a blow job to Donald Trump committing literal treason. Stephens eventually brings up Mueller and the Russia investigation but he first tries to pull a sleight of hand by focusing on Trump's behavior around women. This is "whataboutism" at its absolute worst.
By trying to make it seem like the loathing for Trump is purely based on his personality flaws (instead of his criminal behavior), Stephens attempts to manufacture a reality in which a strong economy will save Trump from his own historical corruption and incompetence:
The first is 3.3 percent, last quarter’s annual growth rate, the highest in three years. Next is 1.7 percent, the core inflation rate, meaning interest rates are unlikely to rise very sharply. Also, 4.1 percent, the unemployment rate, which is down half a percentage point, or nearly 800,000 workers, since the beginning of the year. Finally, 24 percent, which is the rise in the Dow Jones industrial average since Trump became president — one of the market’s best performances ever.
Democrats will find plenty of ways to explain that these numbers aren’t quite as good as they sound — they are not — or that we’re setting ourselves up for a big crash — we might well be — or that the deficit is only getting bigger — it is, but so what? Politically speaking, none of that matters. Trump enters 2018 with a robust economy that will, according to the estimate of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, grow stronger thanks to the tax bill.
First, the Republican billionaire tax cut will lard $1 trillion onto the debt, explode the deficit, and "force" the GOP to cut spending on the social safety net which will slow the economy. They left that last part out of the calculations for some reason. It's easy to assume a .08% boost to the economy when you ignore what Republicans say, out loud, they will do next. But Stephens is a climate change denying right wing ideologue so it's not surprising he's also in favor of a tax cut for the wealthiest .01%.
Second, the difference between this economy and the economy in the 90s is that Bill Clinton actually had something to do with it. The only thing Trump is doing is for our current economy is making it unstable and more likely to implode in the near future. He doesn't know that's what he's doing by deregulating Wall Street but the people telling him what do know and that's the plan. Nothing makes a Republican happier than using an economic crisis to demand austerity for everyone except the billionaires that caused it in the first place.
Third, and most important, Clinton survived because it was obvious that the Republicans were trying to destroy him for purely political reasons. That's why the public punished the GOP in the midterms and Clinton's popularity only went up as the impeachment proceedings dragged on. Yes, a growing economy helped but despite the "liberal" media joining the GOP's witch hunt, the public just didn't buy what they were selling.
Trump, on the other hand, is despised by roughly 65% of the country. Other than a slowly dwindling 33%, no one supports him despite an already strong economy. His corruption and dishonesty are so obvious, his own base acknowledges them (they just don't care). His lawyers and sycophants have literally taken to arguing that anything his does is legal because he's the president, a defense that didn't work for Nixon and definitely won't work for Trump. The Democratic Party (and the public) supported Clinton because, frankly, consensual extramarital sex is none of our business and not an impeachable offense. Republicans know Trump is a dangerously unfit imbecile but they're so afraid of their own voters, they have no choice but to publicly stand by him even as he drags them over a cliff in slow motion.
Stephens need to reframe the opposition to Trump as the same kind of "politics of personal destruction" that Republicans practiced against Clinton requires an astonishing act of dishonesty. It's clear that he's trying to save his party from the blue tidal waves that are coming on 2018 and 2020 but he should of thought of that before being a cheerleader for the GOP's turn to the hard right after 9/11. Trump is not destroying his party, he's just the natural outcome of the extremism Stephens himself enabled. If he really wants to save the GOP, he should own up to his role in breaking it and try to fix what's wrong instead of trying to make it seem like the Democrats are down there in the cesspit with him.
There are 325 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
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