Chauncey Devega of Salon is asking is it life imitating art imitating life, or is it something more complicated? It is not for certain that at this point in America’s malignant normalcy and unreality. America in the Trump Era lost the plot a long time ago.
Consider the following story: A crazed and out-of-control president, viewed by political rivals and military leaders as so unstable that he might start a war — even a nuclear war — to appease his ego and maintain political power. He launched a coup attempt, which is still ongoing. However, a few brave and patriotic souls are willing to put a stop to this president in order to save the country and the world from disaster and potential annihilation.
Devega claims that it sounds suspiciously similar to the plot of the 1965 thriller novel “Night of Camp David.” Unfortunately, these are not made-up events. Fearing the risks of a new world war, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military and civilian leaders felt it was necessary to prevent Donald Trump from acting out his most destructive impulses after losing the 2020 election.
These details are from CNN’s report on “Peril,” Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post’s new book about the presidential transition period:
Two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons. …
Woodward and Costa write that Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, “was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.”
Milley worried that Trump could “go rogue,” the authors write.
“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.
In response, Milley took extraordinary action, and called a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.
According to Woodward and Costa, during a conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Milley agreed with her assessment that Trump was “crazy” and had been for “a long time.” Milley “felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions,” the authors write, calling it the “absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility.”
According to Woodward and Costa, Trump’s national security advisers agreed. Gina Haspel, then-director of the CIA, told Milley, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum.” Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had refused to publicly acknowledge Biden’s victory, told Milley that Trump was “in a very dark place right now.”
Trump’s Republican Party supporters are predictably fixated on a single point: Milley had “two back-channel phone calls with China’s top general, who was on high alert over the chaos in the US,” according to CNN, in an effort to avoid a military incident between the two nuclear-armed nations.
Of course, the right-wing disinformation machine is uninterested in any form of accountability for Donald Trump. Instead, top Republicans and conservative pundits are calling for Milley’s resignation and punishment for alleged “treason.” Milley has been publicly labeled a traitor by Trump.
That response provides additional evidence — if any were required — of how today’s Republican Party has devolved into a fascist cult and a political crime syndicate, where loyalty to the leader trumps all else, including the survival of the nation or the entire world.
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According to public opinion polls, the majority of Republican voters feel the same way.
This is part of a larger right-wing impulse toward death and destruction, as evidenced by Republicans’ collective response to the pandemic, the global climate crisis, mass shootings, police violence, economic inequality and other forms of injustice, as well as societal harm and human suffering in general.
Overall, the “revelations” in Woodward and Costa’s book demonstrate that today’s Republican Party is a major threat to the world.
What transpired? The Republican Party struck a devil’s bargain with Donald Trump in 2015. He would provide the destructive energy and personality cult that Republicans and the white right would need to undermine, if not destroy, the country’s democratic norms and institutions.
The immediate political goal was clear: find a way to keep the Republican Party in power indefinitely, even as demographic changes threatened to make it obsolete.
As seen in Texas and many other states, the Republican Party’s new anti-democracy campaign is scoring significant victories and gaining traction. It makes no difference whether Trump believes in the cause or not: He is a fascist and demagogue by instinct, with no discernible ideology.
The presidency was a means to an end for him, an endless source of narcissistic fuel and a way to enrich himself (and his inner circle) and accumulate more power and attention.
Trump’s instinct, as he has stated on numerous occasions, was to look for ways to extend his presidency indefinitely.
According to the book “Peril,” Vice President Mike Pence told Trump that he didn’t have the authority to overturn the presidential election results. “But wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?” Trump asked.
Finally, Trump understood Republican voters and their darkest and most malevolent desires better than nearly all Republican pollsters, pundits, opinion leaders, and political strategists.
Donald Trump intuitively understood that his supporters were unconcerned about being “respected.” They desired the freedom to express their darkest fantasies and desires without regard for “political correctness” or other societal expectations that they respect the humanity of others.
Trumpism and other forms of fascism are based on a similar concept of “freedom.” Trump’s supporters see him as a reflection of their ideal selves. This is why they are willing to kill and sacrifice themselves for him and the movement.
The mainstream news media has returned to its hamster wheel of shock, surprise, and outrage in response to these new “revelations” about the Trump regime’s final days.
This is mostly political theater, not the type of rigorous pro-democracy journalism that America’s fight against neofascism necessitates. The hope peddlers and professional “smart people” will move on to the next controversy in a few days.
To claim that the Republican Party is hypocritical or lacking in principles, as some commentators do, is a pitiful example of missing the point.
MAGA’s brain has been reprogrammed.
Republicans who assumed that the party would return to sanity after Trump left office never understood how deforming the effects of his presidency would be. For many, Trump’s behaviors were initially a bug; eventually, they became a feature. Republicans ignored his corruptions and reveled in his cruelty. They entered Trump’s hall of mirrors, and they rather enjoyed it.
To better understand what’s happening in the GOP, think of a person with addiction who over time develops a tolerance; as a result, they need more potent and more frequent doses of the drug to get their desired high. And sometimes even that isn’t enough. They might turn to a more potent drug, which offers a more intense experience and a longer-lasting high, but at the price of considerably more danger.
In the end, today’s Republican Party and right-wing neofascist movement have no principles other than winning at any cost. Denying that fact is denying reality.
Unfortunately, too many Americans, both ordinary citizens and members of the political class, have convinced themselves that the Trump era and beyond will be like a Hollywood film, with a requisite happy ending in which good triumphs over evil.
In the real world, as most Black and brown Americans are already aware, such an outcome is not guaranteed. Such fantasies are not unique to white people, but they are unmistakably associated with white privilege.