Stuart Stevens was a winning GOP operative. Now he feels terrible about what he’s done to the country.
Michael Grunwald is a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine.
photo above: AP/Patrick Semansky
[NOTE: It took an article by Bob Ekblad (Blind and Deaf) in Clarion Journal, noted below, to occasion a revision of an earlier published post. Thanks Bob!]
When I think that in excess of 80% of American White Evangelicals still support Trump–arguably the most immoral, narcissistic, corrupt, lying President in history (Trump ever brags about his superior . . . well everything, so he’ll no doubt own any noun following “the most” 🙂 )–and such claim that his is the way of Jesus, God’s man for this hour, God’s chosen vessel, on and on ad nauseum. The nausea makes one want to throw up–many times . . .
We all have our blind spots, and constantly are called to genuinely “see”. Bob Ekblad’s Blind and Deaf is pointedly wise in this regard. If however I had majority White America alone to go on (and some of similar ilk in Canada), then theologian Walter Wink is searingly right in declaring: “. . . against which the revolt of atheism is pure religion!” God bless this vision of America?! Not on your (eternal) life! Hell, even hell frozen over, is instead the alternative blessèd choice . . .
See as well Mark Sumner’s: Is the entire American conservative movement just one big scam? In it we read:
Steve Bannon is a scam artist. Roger Stone is a scam artist. Paul Manafort is a scam artist. Rudy Giuliani is a scam artist. Jerry Falwell, and Kenneth Copeland, and Joel Osteen, and Paula White, and a long list of other televangelists are scam artists. David Clarke is a scam artist. Alex Jones is a scam artist. David Daleiden is a scam artist. James O’Keefe is a scam artist.
A quick glimpse of the boards of any of the organizations involved, or a reference to all the “institutes” and “think tanks” that provide an endless stream of talk show guests, recycled lobbyists, and Republican politicians bouncing around in the safety net shows that the same names come up over and over again. The same right-wing figures constantly vouch for each other’s importance and knowledge. The same right-wing “experts” are dredged up to give opinions on science, when they know nothing about science, or explain health care, when they have no interest in health care, or simply fill the airwaves with confusion when there’s no better strategy.
This article by Pure Bannonfreude.about Bannon furthers the scam focus:
See too Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth. We read:‘s:
At the center of the story lies Sean Hannity, a college dropout who, following the death of Fox News mastermind Roger Ailes, reigns supreme at the network that pays him $30 million a year. Stelter describes the raging tensions inside Fox between the Trump loyalists and the few remaining journalists. He reveals why former chief news anchor Shep Smith resigned in disgust in 2019; why a former anchor said “if I stay here I’ll get cancer;” and how Trump has exploited the leadership vacuum at the top to effectively seize control of the network.
Including never before reported details, Hoax exposes the media personalities who, though morally bankrupt, profit outrageously by promoting the President’s propaganda and radicalizing the American right. It is a book for anyone who reads the news and wonders: How did this happen?
Read also this: Hoax review: Fox News, Donald Trump and truth v owning the libs. We find in it:
Welcome to the parallel universe, where reality can take a backseat to ratings and resentments. Into the morass dives Brian Stelter with his latest book, Hoax. Under the subtitle Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of the Truth, the CNN media critic chronicles the symbiotic relationship between the 45th president and Rupert Murdoch’s most famous product.
It has been win-win. Fox News has access and influence, Trump a megaphone, both enjoy a devoted following.
To illustrate: in the fall of 2019, Attorney General William Barr reportedly traveled to New York to ask Murdoch to “muzzle” Andrew Napolitano, an in-house critic of Trump. But according to Stelter, Barr was also there to discuss “media consolidation”, at a time when the industry was rife with merger mania.
As narrated by Stelter, Fox News has deliberately and repeatedly downplayed the threat posed by Covid-19 for the sake of making Trump look good, even as the pandemic took hold in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas, ie: Trump’s base. Hoax describes in granular detail internal measures taken in early March, as Covid’s blight was descending, and contrasts them with the wisdom fed to viewers.
Hand sanitizer stations were “added to every door at Fox”, in-person meetings were scaled back, travel was curbed. Yet Sean Hannity and other hosts were talking out of “both sides of their mouth” – this being the same Hannity who in moments of candor reported by Stelter would label Trump “batshit crazy” or ask: “What the fuck is wrong with him?”
Hoax is amply documented, with 18 pages of notes, and in a sense it picks up where Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 book, The Loudest Voice, left off. But there is a major difference. Sherman made a single reference to Trump, and focused on Roger Ailes, Fox News’ founder. Hoax is all about the Trump-Fox News alliance.
Stevens now believes the Republican Party is, not to put too fine a point on it, a malign force jeopardizing the survival of American democracy. He’s written a searing apologia of a book called It Was All a Lie that compares his lifelong party to the Mafia, to Bernie Madoff’s fraud scheme, to the segregationist movement, even to the Nazis. He’s pretty disillusioned.While Stevens is one of the most prominent “Never Trump” Republicans, and It Was All a Lie is predictably scathing about the failures of President Donald Trump, the book does not blame Trump for the failures of the party he leads. It essentially takes for granted that Trump is as bad a president and a human being as his worst Democratic critics say—and that he constantly violates supposedly bedrock Republican commitments to free trade, family values, limited government and the Constitution. His point is that Trump is a fitting representative of the modern GOP.
GRUNWALD: You’re brutal when you talk about the Republican Party right now. You compare it to Bernie Madoff, to the Mafia, you even have a bunch of Nazi Germany comparisons. What’s been the reaction of the people you used to work with?
It Was All a Lie is really about the party that spawned Trump and now marches in near-lockstep behind him—the party to which 67-year-old Stevens has devoted his career. The GOP’s abject surrender to its unorthodox and unconservative leader was a surprise to Stevens, but he has concluded that he shouldn’t have been surprised.
…The book makes it abundantly clear that Stevens feels shame about his role in perpetuating Republican lies, but it’s not entirely clear whether he thinks he was lying, lied to, or just lying to himself. There are times when It Was All a Lie sounds less like an apology than an “if-only” book about how some good Republicans could have saved the country from Trumpism. Stevens writes glowingly about his clients who have never embraced Trump—like President George W. Bush, who he believes could have steered the party towards “compassionate conservatism” if the September 11 attacks hadn’t changed history, or Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who has emerged as a lonely voice of Republican resistance, or popular moderate governors like Larry Hogan of Maryland, Phil Scott of Vermont and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts. His book is notably silent about his clients who have bent their knees to Trump—like Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, Charles Grassley of Iowa, or Dan Coats of Indiana, who became Trump’s top intelligence official.
Republicans always say that you can’t negotiate with terrorists; well, Donald Trump is a terrorist, and the Republican Party decided to negotiate with him.—Stuart Stevens
Politico Magazine senior writer Michael Grunwald first met Stevens 25 years ago when he was working for William Weld, a moderate Republican governor who was running a futile campaign to unseat Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, and who would later run a futile primary campaign to unseat Trump. Grunwald talked with Stevens last week about the evolution of the Republican Party, its “conspiracy of cowardice” under Trump, its prioritization of politics over policy, his secret effort to undermine Trump in the 2016 election, his disdain for Republican thought leaders like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, and his fears for the 2020 election, which he expects Trump to try to steal.
You know, it really struck me when I read the memoir by [the late German Chancellor] Franz von Papen, it’s exactly the same message you hear today. In 1953, he was still trying to justify Hitler: “You have to understand, the Bolsheviks were a threat, we had to counter them.” Of all the books I read to write my book, the Franz von Papen thing haunts me the most. It’s not to say that what happened in Germany is going to happen here. But the idea that you can’t talk about that—well, I think you have to talk about that. The parallel is so striking.–Stuart StevensThey also talked about some of the tensions within It Was All a Lie, and Stevens opened up about his disappointment with former clients he genuinely admired. This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Mitch McConnell thinks Trump will be remembered as his fool, and I think the odds are pretty good it’s going to be the other way around.—Stuart Stevens
STEVENS: Listen, dude. So much time. I really don’t understand it, but I’ll never wonder again how 1938 happened in Germany. The cowardice is contagious. I think there’s a sort of conspiracy of cowardice—when everyone’s a coward, you don’t feel like a coward. That’s why these Republicans resent Mitt Romney. He reminds them that they don’t have to be cowards, and it makes them feel bad.
STEVENS: I don’t think so. History says that when a major political party endorses hate, and that’s what Trumpism is, that’s very hard to undo. It takes a lot of time and sometimes a lot of blood to undo; I hope it doesn’t take a lot of blood.
It’s odd, because the successful and wildly popular Republicans right now are the governors—Baker, Hogan, Scott. If Republicans could win their states in a presidential race, it’s over. Shouldn’t the party say: What can we learn from them? They’re selling our product in the hardest markets, and they’re selling the hell out of it. But they’re treated with benign neglect. That just says it all about where the party is. You don’t undo this stuff. Look at Nikki Haley, a once-serious person, trying to negotiate with this, like she’s going to be the good segregationist. You can’t do it. You just can’t do it.
STEVENS: I think you’re absolutely right. Who are the intellectual leaders of the Republican Party? People like Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity. Laura and Tucker are smart people who are saying stupid things because it’s good for their careers, and because they have some sort of strange emotional issues they’re working through publicly. They’re both angry people. Hannity is just a guy who never graduated from college having the time of his life. But they’re the intellectual leaders of the party.
STEVENS: . . . I thought you would have to come to grips with the reality that racism was a flawed conceit. I thought that was inevitable. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that a president in 2020 would be defending Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag, or that his chief of staff John Kelly would be arguing that slavery wasn’t the cause of Civil War. I would’ve thought it was no more likely than that we’d be having a debate about gravity. I was wrong.
STEVENS: My response to that is: I was wrong and you were right [about climate change]. And now, the same tendencies that led to denying climate change [have] resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans from a virus. There’s no other way to look at it.
STEVENS: No. I think Trump and the Republican Party have officially validated hate as an acceptable response to politics. Just as if we elected a bank robber president, bank robbery will become more socially acceptable, the same thing has happened here. That won’t change. What’s going to change is they’re going to lose. We don’t know how long it will take before they lose. Maybe they’ll hang on longer than we expect. But the majority of Americans under 15 are nonwhite. The odds are damn good that when they turn 18 they’ll still be nonwhite. That’s a death sentence for the Republican Party. We know what’s going to happen: Look at California. It was the beating heart of the Republican Party, and now not much happens there that the Republican Party is involved in.
Please click on: It Was All a Lie
- See this “cautionary tale” by : Inside the Mind of the MAGA Bomber, the Trump Superfan Who Tried to Wreak Havoc on the Last National Election. We read in it:
But it also involves a radicalization in the fever swamps of right-wing online conspiracy theories and cable-TV hosts. Most important, it involves a devotion to Donald J. Trump that began well before the 45th President entered politics, when he was just a realty-TV star whose comeback myth made him a patron saint for a certain class of American dreamer.
It ends with:
It will be a long time before Sayoc can hitch his wagon to another political candidate. But the specter of the MAGA bomber looms over the 2020 election. As Sayoc’s former attorney Ron Lowy sees it, the country is filled with potential bombers, damaged souls who need just a little nudge from their favorite Facebook group or talk-show conspiracist, or maybe even their favorite President. “[Trump] should realize there are sick people out there,” Lowy says. “People that are susceptible to this.”
This article by Dartagnan is also worth a read: We’re living through the consequences of a cult of personality, where the personality is sociopathic. We read:
Donald Trump has spun a cult of personality around himself, aided by a wholly complicit Republican Party now under his complete control. Most of what Americans are witnessing happening to the country today in real-time is a direct consequence of that cult of personality, with a death toll from the Sars-CoV-2 virus now exceeding 170,000 Americans, with a collapsed economy hamstrung from recovery by Republican ideology, and now, in a bizarre twist, with the bizarre attack on the U.S. Post Office by Trump and his willing sycophants to tilt the election in his favor.
In Trump, we are dealing with the cult of a personality where the “personality” at issue is that of a dangerously deluded psychotic (or sociopath, if you prefer). The only difference between Trump’s destructive impulses and those of Mao and Stalin is the environment where it is taking place; fortunately, at least thus far, there are some institutional barriers to the consequences of Trump’s cult of personality. But, as we have seen, it is none the less destructive personally to millions of Americans for that fact. The differences essentially amount to differences in scope and execution.
As was reported in the Washington Post Trump’s obsession with the Post Office dates back to a single delusion borne of his personality cult; namely, that “voter fraud” was the cause of his popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton.
This delusional fixation against the Post Office has now manifested itself by the insertion of a loyal sycophant, Louis DeJoy, who was eagerly recruited by another sycophant, Steven Mnuchin, to further Trump’s obsession.
As a result, we are now seeing a pillar of Americans’ existence lives come under assault, not for any rational reason, but in the feverish pursuit of pleasing the leader. This is the cult of personality writ large. It is as insidious, senseless, and corroding as any institutional attack fostered by a Stalin or a Mao.
The difference is only one of degree.