April 13, 2017: Trump the Victim | Page’s Plight | Middlebury Redux

Heather Mac Donald Red for the Blue

1. The Latest Flip Flops: It Is Still Jared’s Fault.

The stunning past week of foreign policy U-turns has left the Alt-Right spinning. After bombing Syria, President Trump suddenly flipped on a slew of other positions, including the obsolescence of NATO (He now thinks it might serve a purpose); getting tough with China on trade (He said he no longer thought the Chinese were “currency manipulators.”); and, of course, playing nice with Russia. All this came with warning signs that the White House’s chief “America First” adviser, Steve Bannon, is on his way out.

We noted in our Monday newsletter that the Alt-Right was loathe to blame The Donald himself for becoming such a proponent of U.S. international engagement and that it was largely targeting his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. We wondered if that would change over the week.

Indeed, there was some minor pushback at the edge of the alt-right universe. Alex Jones’s Infowars posted an editorial entitled “Donald Trump is an International Law Breaker” by an anonymous writer who was described only as “high level.”

It read:

“Donald Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians.”

Ann Coulter offered this opinion in an editorial in The Daily Caller: “Trump’s Syrian misadventure is immoral, violates every promise he ran on and could sink his presidency. 

But Coulter didn’t blame Trump for this betrayal, but rather “Washington Group-Think.”

We noticed that many on the Alt-Right treated their strong man president as if he were a hapless victim of his “globalist” advisers. The Free Beacon, which seems to be channeling Bannon, offered this conspiratorial view of why Trump wasn’t responsible for his own foreign policy:

"‘Kushner is meddling in a lot of things,’" according to one NSC official who spoke to the Free Beacon only on background. ‘Such direct control of foreign policy from the West Wing has never happened before. It just creates a lot of drama. People just don't know how to deal with it. We're respectful of his position, but it's confusing the policymaking process.’

“Officials working at the NSC, State Department, and Department of Defense ‘are not happy that Jared is so powerful in foreign policy,’ said one White House official. ‘They are expected to implement the president's agenda, but have no input or ability to get ideas in front of Jared. It's a one-man show and that's creating a lot of frustration.’

“The installation of Dina Powell, a confidant of Kushner's wife Ivanka, to the NSC is said to have been orchestrated by Kushner in order to solidify his power over the foreign policy organization, sources said.

It also said:

"Jared has been pegged as the ‘shadow secretary of state,'" said the White House official. ‘But in a way he's kind of also the shadow national security adviser and secretary of defense.’

The situation has weakened the NSC and caused internal confusion as to what exactly the administration's policy is when it comes to a range of key issues.

While the president didn’t appear to be losing support among the base, he seemed to be gaining new respect from the Never Trumpers.

Said one commenter, @catdecal, on the sub-Reddit /r/ConservativesOnly, in response to a thread titled “Never-Trumpers, do you still hate Trump”:

Former Never-Trump guy here.

Mainly disliked him because of his CONSTANT breaking of the 11th commandment. The way he assailed his republican political opponents really upset me.

That said, looking back on things I think that he is the only one of the candidates who could have beaten Hillary. His populist message resonated with voters in states that we desperately needed and that my preferred candidate, Cruz, would never have.

I voted early and was shocked that I mustered the fortitude to pull the lever for him. It was a very surreal experience for me.

As official election day grew nearer, I started liking him more and more.

I've been VERY happy with him so far. His appointments have been top notch, the most important of which has been obviously Justice Gorsuch.

Next go round I'll likely be an enthusiastic supporter.

I've met many people in my shoes who were either reluctant supporters or who refused to vote for him that have now warmed to him significantly. I'm still waiting to meet one of these mythical "Trumpgret" people. I think they are largely a figment of a hopeful media's imagination.

What We’re Watching:

Meanwhile, there seems to be a consensus that Gary Cohn, the Goldman Sachs chief executive-turned-chief economic adviser, is replacing Bannon as Trump’s new favorite aide. Cohn, a registered Democrat with a very international outlook, is being vilified by the Alt-Right.

“‘Globalist Gary’ Rising as Bannon Takes Heat,” screamed yesterday’s headline of LifeZette, the publication of Laura Ingraham. It went on to say: “A liberal Democrat who wants to impose a carbon tax on the United States is newly ascendant in the struggle for White House influence after President Trump publicly diminished his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.”

2. Carter Page: A Welcome Relief

After Trump’s week of perplexing flips, his base welcomed the Carter Page story, which returned the president's backers to familiar terrain: Russia and wiretapping. The reported surveillance warrant issued last summer on the former Trump campaign adviser, who worked in the Russian energy sector and is a vocal supporter of the Kremlin, was seen as more evidence of “deep state” corruption. Like Page, who said in an interview that the news “confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance… I have nothing to hide,” Trump was viewed as a victim of a larger conspiracy conducted by the Obama administration.

Bill Lambert @starcrossedwolf tweeted:

The FBI obtained a secret warrant for the communications of Trump adviser, Carter Page. Trump was right, Trump Tower was wire tapped. pic.twitter.com/Yh0Pdrz9kC

— Bill Lambert (@starcrosswolf) April 12, 2017

Philip Schuyler @FiveRights wrote:

Obama claimed Trump advisor Carter Page was a Russian spy to justify Obama's own spying on Trump campaign. O is a criminal. pic.twitter.com/ySRxzRC6vd

— Philip Schuyler (@FiveRights) April 12, 2017

Liz Wheeler @LizWheeler, host of Tipping Point on One America’s News Network, tweeted:

Carter Page never met Trump. Was never paid by Trump camp. Only American surveilled via FISA in Russia probe. Still no smoking gun?!!

— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) April 12, 2017

Mark Romano @TheMarkRomano event went so far as to implicate James Comey:

FBI spied on Trump aid.

I told you James Comey is dirty!

This is an Obama Administration conspiracy!

Source: https://t.co/mPs4ViVlIR

— Mark Romano (@TheMarkRomano) April 12, 2017

And Infowars reported that the same FISA order used to place electronic surveillance on Carter Page was also used against Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. It called the news a “bombshell.”

Meanwhile, David French at National Review offered a more sober take on the story, but was still reluctant to put the blame on Trump. He wrote:

Those who think it’s simply preposterous to believe that anyone in Trump’s orbit had improper contact with Russian officials — that the entire affair is concocted out of whole cloth in a worse-than-Watergate scandal that features the “deep state” attempting a “soft coup” – seem to be simply assuming that Page (and men like Paul Manafort) did everything right. How can they be so confident? Do they truly believe that it’s beyond the realm of possibility that Page had improper contacts with Russian intelligence agents? At the same time, those who believe that Trump is a virtual Russian stooge — a Manchurian Candidate who seized the presidency in a worse-than-Watergate scandal that includes collusion with a foreign power – will be sorely disappointed if the collusion story turns out to be about Page and Page only. By most credible accounts, he was never more than a bit player in the Trump campaign and was jettisoned before the election. A Page scandal is not the same thing as a Trump scandal. Indeed, barring extraordinarily surprising revelations, a Page scandal would be nothing more than a footnote to the much larger and much more important story of Russia’s more direct efforts to influence American public opinion.

3. Midterms 2018: Dems Should Be Worried

Yes, many on the left and right are already beginning to make predictions about the 2018 midterms. The real question is whether the president is unpopular enough to help Democrats take back the House. The Mainstream Media closely watched an election in Kansas’s 4th district, held to replace Mike Pompeo, who left to head the C.I.A. The Republicans won by only by 7 percent. They took the same seat by 27 points in November. Much of the Mainstream Media saw this as a bad omen for the G.O.P. But the Red Media focused elsewhere:

The Free Beacon was busy watching the poll numbers of Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator and Democratic star. They noted that her approval rating had slipped by 5 percent since last April.

Meanwhile, on Reddit, a map got a lot of play. It broke down America down by individual precincts and seemed to show Democrats swimming in a sea of red.

4. Middlebury Redux

“Political correctness” in academia appears to have reached a fever pitch on college campuses, according to the Right. Hot Air reported on protesters at Claremont McKenna College in California who partially shut down a talk last by Heather Mac Donald, author of the book “The War on Cops”:

The two hundred or so protesters spent their time chanting various slogans including “Black Lives Matter,” “Shut it down!” and “From Oakland to Greece, f**k the police.” Incidentally, for anyone wondering why the Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner went over like a lead balloon this week, it’s partly because the ad ended with Jenner giving a Pepsi to a police officer. You can imagine how well that minimal sign of mutual respect would go over with the people who, in real life, are chanting “F**k the police!”

Mac Donald writes of her experience in City Journal:

Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberty of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand…

She continues:

Hyperbole is part and parcel of political speech. But I would hope that there are some remaining faculty with enough of a lingering connection to reality who would realize that I and other conservatives are not a literal threat to minority students. To try to prevent me or other dissenting intellectuals from connecting with students is simply an effort to maintain the Left’s monopoly of thought. The fact that this suppression goes under the title of “anti-fascism” is particularly rich.

I am reluctant to wield the epithet “fascist” as promiscuously as my declared opponents do. But it must be observed that if campus conservatives tried to use physical force to block Senator Elizabeth Warren, say, from giving a speech, the New York Times would likely put the obstruction on the front page and the phrase “fascist” would be flying around like a swarm of hornets, followed immediately by the epithet “misogynist.” And when students and their fellow anarchists start breaking glass, destroying businesses, and assaulting perceived opponents, as they did during the Milo riots and at Middlebury College, it is hard not to hear echoes of 1930s fascism.

And Bill Kristol tweeted a piece by James Walker in Quillette.com that argues that the problem in academia may run even deeper:

One definition of fundamentalism is the tyranny of a single interpretation—the insistence upon the exclusive veracity of a single reading of a text, of one lens through which to view the world, or of one way of existing in it. Much of the humanities have entered into a new theocratic age, unable to imagine an intellectual life outside of a narrow set of political concepts. Far from achieving human and artistic emancipation, the fallout of this political turn has resulted in a new captive mind lingering behind the bars of its own ideological commitments, bound by its own lack of curiosity.