Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Codevilla: Nobody's Afraid Of Trump

I've highlighted several articles by Angelo Codevilla in the past months, mostly having to do with the Intelligence Community and with FISA in particular. This morning he has an article at American Greatness in which he addresses this question: Why are the Dem elites so afraid of Bernie Sanders and seem less worried about Donald Trump. Here's the link:

During the past three years or so, the establishment has learned that Donald Trump barks but mostly does not bite. Nobody fears Trump. Bernie Sanders and his zealots are another story.

Codevilla's explanation for the state of affairs as he frames it is simple and sensible. Bernie and his followers know that they were screwed out of the 2016 nomination by the Dem establishment. They also know that the Intel Community was deeply complicit in the plot in favor of Hillary:

... in July 2016,  the FBI’s decision to take the DNC’s story at face value, not to press for examining the server, and not to investigate other possibilities for the leak—never mind Rich’s murder—was to shield the Democratic Party’s establishment against a threat more clear and present than the then-unlikely prospect that Trump might defeat Hillary Clinton. Looming over the Democratic Party at that instant was that Bernie Sanders’ people were on the verge of disrupting the convention and jeopardizing her election. 
The FBI’s collusion in the supposed hacking, its support of the narrative of the DNC-as-victim, rather than of the reality of the DNC’s fix of the primaries, helped cut the ground from under possible Sandersista protests. This would not be the last time that the agencies took sides in intra-ruling class quarrels.

The Dem establishment knows that if the Bernie faction gets control of the party, they will exact retribution. Bernie is therefore an existential threat:

Sanders’ takeover of the party, never mind possibly of the federal government, is something they know they can’t survive. That is because Sanders’ movement is composed of a large cadre of serious people, many of whom are admirers of the control systems by which progressive ruling classes have empowered themselves over the peoples of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. 
And let’s face it: Sanders did not choose to spend his honeymoon in the Soviet Union blissfully unaware of how the joint was run, or of the purges by which its masters had secured themselves against the party and the KGB. 
The Democratic Party’s establishment—very much including the intelligence and media combine—would be the first to experience the Sandersista regime’s delights. That, and not fear of Trump, is what explains their panic.

Makes sense to me.

Two additional points. Codevilla, unfortunately, doesn't go too far into justifying his assessment--which may strike many as harsh--of Trump's impact upon Washington DC:

That is why the ruling class’s establishment—intelligence and media included—seem more worried about Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump. During the past three years or so, the establishment has learned that Trump barks but mostly does not bite. Nobody fears Trump. Trump’s presidency notwithstanding, the establishment has done very well for itself. They can count on this state of affairs continuing under another such presidency.

Reading between the lines, it appears that Codevilla's assessment is based on Trump's failure to purge the Intel Community. I would make three points in that regard:

1. Trump has sought to govern within the established constitutional order, making changes that are possible within those limits, but gradually seeking to establish a consensus that may form the basis for further progress.

2. If Trump attempted a true purge the GOPe would unite with the Dem establishment and oust Trump--by hook or by crook. Trump has cleverly avoided that ultimate showdown, even maintaining an uneasy alliance with the GOPe through the Impeachment Theater. He continues to push the envelope at every opportunity, widening the Overton Window

3. While Trump has made progress in building support, he still lacks majority support within the GOPe. Thus, his strategy of speaking over the heads of the ruling elite, going to the people through the medium of Twitter and mass rallies. He continues to push the envelope at every opportunity, widening the Overton Window.

In all this Trump differs from the Sandernistas. The Dem establishment, after decades of undermining American institutions of culture and civic life finds it has created a tiger intent on devouring all in its path. In Codevilla's metaphor, the establishment is finds itself in the position of "mounting a tiger, and whetting the tiger’s appetite." If Sanders should somehow gain possession of the White House, unlike Trump he would have no difficulty in filling all executive positions with loyal and zealous supporters, eager to conduct purges and heedless of the destruction they would wreak upon constitutional and governing institutions--much less on individual persons.

Finally, I'll conclude with this Codevilla observation regarding the recent Intel Community fiasco that attempted to paint both Trump and Sanders as stooges of Putin:

Not only did the briefings give no evidence for the agencies’ conclusion about Russia’s preferences—they, and the media no longer deal in facts. Nor is the agencies’ confusion of their own opinions for facts even news anymore. 
Nobody who knows U.S. intelligence can imagine that any factual basis for such an opinion could exist. Where would such facts come from? U.S. agents in the Kremlin? A cruel joke! We have never had anybody in a position to know what Kremlin leaders are thinking. 
Intercepts? We have not been reading high-grade Russian cypher since the early 1960s. 
Rumor? Sure. It simply depends on what rumors the agencies choose to believe.

ADDENDUM: What I'm basically saying is this. Within the GOPe there is no majority support for "conservatism" as that term is understood by the mass of Trump supporters. In fact, the closest thing to a consensus in that regard would be the view that Trump's agenda must be thwarted. Should Trump seek to force the issue in a decisive manner, the GOPe would unite against him in a "bipartisan" effort to tame Trump--they would work with Dems against their president because many don't view Trump as their president. Within the Dem establishment, on the other hand, there is no real disagreement with the ideology behind Sanders. The disagreement is more one of tactics. The Dem establishment would never, under any circumstances work with the GOPe against a Dem president.


  1. I'm with you all the way on this. Codevilla is not out of line with his view. There is evidence to support it, and a case could be made. AC, to some extent, leans conspiracy. In other ways, though, Trump has been a wrecking ball to the Deep State.

    The crux of it all will be what Durham and Barr do. If they don't indict higher ups, and Barr instead goes for some kind of integrity whitewash, then Trump will have failed. But the fault will not have been his. He has worked within the law, as you state.

    Underneath all this, to me at any rate, is the degree of corruption we have allowed to exist in Washington. Almost all of our institutions have become boundlessly corrupt (think of the witless Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibit). In my dark days, I look to history.

    The only way the situation we now face has ever been resolved has been with the bloody axe.

  2. Excellent setup for the coming D.C. purge beginning day after the Nov election? Or will Barr/Durham start the ball rolling before Nov?

  3. Either way, GOPe is dead. Better off agreeing with Trump and surviving.

    Rob S

  4. Great post!

    With the opposition Trump has had, Paul Ryan, McCain, Chamber of Commerce Republicans, DOJ, and Intel Agencies, and Media - while under investigation and later impeachment - its amazing a Trump has gotten anything done, and how far he has moved the Overton Window.

  5. This is hair-splitting, I know, but...

    -->If Sanders should somehow gain possession of the White House, unlike Trump he would have no difficulty in filling all executive positions with loyal and zealous supporters, eager to conduct purges and heedless of the destruction they would wreak upon constitutional and governing institutions--much less on individual persons.<--

    Purges and heedless of any destruction is normal procedure for Dems, and media would herald "reform" as progressive, as the ends justify the means. It's always about intentions with Dems--don't ever measure or mention outcomes and results.

    Reps never perform that way, as the GOPe operates under Queensberry Rules. Try as Trump does, GOPe is about the status quo, not reform. Tweaks, yes; wholesale revision/repeal, no. One McCain vote shy of repealing Obamacare--legislation only a few years old that wreaked havoc on the public couldn't get repealed.

    I'm (honestly) not so sure the Dems fear Bernie, as he's seen by many as the best route to take out Trump--Dems being the party that has weaponized the ends justify the means.

    I say this in light of the fact that there is virtual agreement among all the Dem candidates for their main proposals: 1) Open borders; 2) End fracking and fossil fuels; 3) Green new deal; 4) Medicare for all; 5) Student loan forgiveness; 6) Free college; 7) Gun confiscation; 8) Abortion until birth; 9) Felons voting; 10) Ending bail. Did I miss any?

    Rhetorical question: Why is Bernie any scarier than the others who all agree with him...

    1. Because Bernie would purge Dem establishment. I don't think that's ever been done. Obama didn't purge the Clintonites. The Sandernistas would purge both of the above.

    2. Forbes, I think that some Dems fear Bernie because they believe that he can't win. And, yes, a lot of them probably do secretly agree with him. But they are smart enough to know that the voters don't. So the other Dems push incrementalism towards Bernie's policies.

  6. If you want to see an approximation what America would be like under a Bernie presidency, just watch "Doctor Zhivago."

    "Your counter-revolutionary attitude has been noticed, komrade!"

  7. It’s amazing how much my opinion has changed in just 4 years.

    I used to have a lot of respect for:
    - Romney
    - McCain
    - George Will
    - National Review
    - Jennifer Rubin
    - Paul Ryan

    Now, all of the above has been discredited with me. It’s amazing how much my viewpoint changed, and this is not even being up the huge scandal of the targeting of Trump and his supporters. What was done to Flynn and Stone shocks me, i did not think that was possible in the US.

    I don’t see myself as a Conspiracy Nut, but just a pretty well informed person.

    1. Ray, I suggest it's not your opinion that has changed, as you are unlikely to profit from, or find it in your best interest to alter your opinion of those named.

      On the other hand, those named have found an interest or advantage to change their outlook or policy preferences.

      As an example, years ago I read Jennifer Rubin online at Commentary magazine. Then she got an offer to write on the WaPo's website. Her change of convictions/reversal was almost overnight.

      Paul Ryan should've never become Speaker. He immediately became a victim of the Peter Principle, when someone is promoted to their level of incompetence. He should've stayed chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. Policy was his forte, not political stage management.

      National Review is Queensberry Rules Republicanism, who've never conserved anything.

      It's not your viewpoint that has changed.

  8. Forbes,

    Thanks for your kind reply.

    I agree with you on Rubin, it’s amazing how she has changed.

    What bothered me is the hypocrisy of saying one thing to get elected, and do something else once elected. The advertising by McCain of just build the dang wall, then fighting it, made me realize how petty he was. Romney’s vote on impeachment shocked me, and I was heart broken when he lost to Obama.

    TNR I find little of value in it now days, besides Victor Hansen and Andrew Mccarthy. I’ve been amazed at eGOP institutions that said lots of rah rah conservative stuff, and hate Trump. I’ve been surprised at how out of touch the eGOP was from the base. Paul Ryan not using the lame duck session to get the wall funded surprised me. and the lack of recess appointments surprises me. I feel McConnell only started working with a Trump after Trump knocked off 3 Democratic Senate incumbents in the mid terms. Gang of 8 seems to be very corrupt, and up to their eye balls in the coup. Graham seems to be all talk on investigating stuff. The raid on Roger Stone, just like the raid on a Walker supporter in Wi, shocked me. The amount of sabotage against Trump shocks me.

    I know I used the word shock a lot, but I have had my world view changed, my viewpoints or window of what I thought possible in the us shattered. I’m not sure if Overton window applies at an individual level, but I feel like my head is spinning with what I have learned / witnessed in the past 4 years.

    My guess is we are seeing a huge discrediting of the credentialed, but not educated elites in the US. An elite that is full of corruption. An elite that is fighting Trump tooth and nail. I believe Trump has gotten a lot done, most not noticed, and setting the us in a new direction away from policies that have failed, but continue for no good reason. His 2nd term I expect even more positive changes. His deregulation stuff is ground breaking.

    1. Ray, nice post and I've gone under a similar transformation. And it goes just beyond the corruption.

      I'm actually starting to question if maybe I should favor higher rates of taxation for the super-wealthy. (Millionaires, not the $300,000 working couple.) But then my internal counterargument is that this just gives the establishment more money to waste. My point is that I'm sick of crony capitalism, not capitalism. CEOs who actually didn't build a company coming in and being paid millions; interlocking board members; the ratio of CEO pay to the lowest workmen at a company; golden parachutes; bank mergers that have devastated community banks; corrupt union officials; corrupt judges, etc.

      As Mr. Wauck says, a lot of this goes to the average American getting away from traditional Christian values.

    2. To your list of travesties, e.g. golden parachutes, you can add Woke Capitalism (as well described by guys like Deneen).
      On traditional Christian etc. values, I fear that they'll continue to be on the defensive, as long as the vivid *images* of Hollywood (& radio) and TV dominate pop culture.
      Not for nothing, did Hitler stress the Magic of the Spoken Word. (Everyone who purports to know modern politics should see Triumph des Willens.)

  9. The resistance continues. Not everyone is lockstep in the GOP with Trump, nevermind he is the most conservative Republican since Reagan and, I assert, more conservative than Reagan.

    For example ...

    "Previously Chairman Lindsey Graham promised to hold public hearings on reforms needed to the FISA process prior to any reauthorization vote. However, with two weeks remaining until current FISA authorization expires the Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to hold a single hearing, and the senate calendar is empty.


    Representatives requesting FISA reform prior to renewal include: Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Doug Collins, Jody Rice, Devin Nunes and Steve Scalise. Additionally, Senator Mike Lee and Senator Rand Paul are trying to force reform or let the current version expire. However, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, along with AG Bill Barr, want a clean FISA renewal without public hearings.."

    I will quibble with the AG Barr characterization, though. While there was a public tiff started by Barr, yeah, he started it, Barr's focus is a bit different than say Graham.

    The GOP is slowly, but progressively moving to Trumpism, but there are many others on power positions in the GOP that want to use Trump while trying to stay distant. There are others in the GOP that have power, like Graham, that talks, but refuses to walk. Obviously, we have the few Romney resistor dorks.

    This dynamic, which was evident clearly upon Trump's coming down the escalator, has, long ago, brought me to the conclusion that after Trump, the GOP will attempt massively to go back to where they are in collusion with the Democrats to socialize America all for getting them and their families rich and powerful, Constitution/law be damned.

    1. I agree. Most of the GOP senators are not on board with Trump re immigration and trade related issues. Barr, OTOH, is doing his best to advance Trump's agenda in that regard, so he may be a bit of a convert. Also re religious freedom, I think he's on board--and that has at least some ramifications for other freedoms.

      OTOH, I frankly don't believe he's a 2A convert and his position on FISA reflects to me that he's still living in the Bush era. For me, "reform" of FISA has to begin with repeal of FISA and starting from scratch. I hesitate because of the state of technology, but I think the whole "pre-approval" process through the FISC is at the heart of the problem.

    2. I'm worried that modifying FISA would be used as a post-facto justification/excuse by the Obama gang for having abused it and violating various laws. I would rather focus on enforcing the laws that have been broken. The root of the problem is the people who used their positions of power exactly like the Stasi.

  10. Meanwhile, while no one is afraid of Trump, it is clear, Trump is afraid of no one, that is, Trump is afraid of no one ... again ...

    "President Donald Trump told Sen. Rand Paul that he does not support a clean extension of expiring surveillance authorities, throwing the future of the program into doubt ahead of a fast-approaching March 15 deadline to reup key features of the Patriot Act."

    1. Yeah, that was interesting to see. But, again, I don't think tinkering with "reforms" will do much good if the basic structure of the FISA regime is questionable.

    2. I fully agree. It's a start, a bite of the apple.

      Prior to this, there was never even a chance to bite.

    3. Hubris. If they hadn't been so arrogant as to leak that Trump was being investigated and spied on, FISA never would have faced a serious challenge, and the Dems could have used the intel they'd gathered for political purposes. But they thought they could oust Trump and tar him as foreign operative.

    4. Yep. Now, it gets to be torn down.

      Sure, it would be nice all at once since, but far too many people, powerful people, like it, since 1978.

      I remember talk amongst many a "conservative" pundits and opinion makers that we life in a post-Constitutional society. I agree, we do.

      Thing is, we have a chance at righting it albeit piecemeal.

      I am extremely cynical on this. I fully believe it will not suceed. However, I am more than happy to take what I can get at this moment.

      I truly think Trump is unique. I truly think after Trump, our republic is doomed.

      Yet, there is tantalizing hope.


  11. Apologies if this piece has already been posted here:

    I, for one, need no convincing, as I have long believed the Russia Hack was but another part of the Russia Hoax, but the article pulls the case against the Clinton Campaign rather nicely.

    I'll say it again: Barr needs to make the ironclad case against the conspirators and bring them to justice. I suspect everyone hear knows who I'm talking about.

    1. I read it when it first came out and agree that it's quite good. I decided not to comment on it simply because I thought it was, in a sense, old news. The problem is, currently, that we're not getting much in the way of new news.

  12. This reply is a mishmash of similar, related topics.

    I fully agree FISA and all it's accoutrements are wrong and not Constitutional, just prosecuting those that break the law in this and other intel/security matters would have gone a long way to curtail abuse and, in my opinion, deterred many a Trump coup actor.
    Our legal system was already handling ex parte warrants. There was no need to introduce a system that bypassed everything.

    However, it has been here for over 30 years. We have to deal with it as is and take it down part by part unless someone gins up a landmark Supreme Court case like abortion. For now, that is nonexistent.

    CTH has a brief post about Tom Fitton on this. I am with Mark that Sundance is fed information and, in turn, makes posts/statements that are aligned with those who feed him.

    Those "handlers" do not want FISA to go away. Thing is, their actions not invite exactly that and there is no guarantee that the government handlers can control things to the point of keeping FISA.

    I say, like a laborer pounding away at a stone block, let's keep on pounding away at FISA until it is gone.

    The Tenure of Office Act was used to impeach and attempted removal of Democrat President Andrew Johnson by the Republican controlled Congress. A few years later, under President Grant, it was chipped away at. 20 years of passing, it was nullified by Congress and the president of the time. It took well into another century for the Judiciary to claim any sense of the act unconstitutional.

    And that was with a law that was only fervently favored for a short period of time.

    FISA is favored all around. Heck, for all I know, Trump make like aspects of it.

    So, we must chip away.

    1. I feel obliged to make the constitutional point re FISA--otherwise no one will ever hear about it. Even "conservative" critics don't get it--which is why I published that 6 part article re Unconstitutional FISA. Nevertheless, I agree with you that, as a matter of practical politics, FISA isn't going anywhere, and I agree on the reason: all sides like it. It's part of the drift of our country into becoming a National Security state. Neither courts, congress, executive, nor electorate or up to dealing with this.


    Trump announces via twitter he's renominating Cong. Ratcliffe for DNI.

  14. I agree with others; this was a great post by you. I didn't agree with AC that Trump is all bark and no bite.

    As far as the GOPe turning on him, they don't have the courage to go against his massive base. They don't have the support that he does and they know it.

    Let's keep fighting the good fight every day.