Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Codevilla's Deeply Dishonest Anti-Trump Screed

Angelo Codevilla has written a long--too long--and frustrating critique of where We The People stand at this moment in American history:

Clarity in Trump’s Wake

The United States of America is now a classic oligarchy. The clarity that it has brought to our situation by recognizing this fact is its only virtue.

That Codevilla must have been foaming at the mouth as he typed seems clear from the second sentence of the sub-title: Could someone please tell me what the antecedent for the pronouns "it" and "its" is? I can only conclude that the antecedent must be "Trump's Wake", poorly as that fits. The idea seems to be something like this: 

The clarity that [the Trump presidency] has brought to our situation by [revealing that the United States of America is now a classic oligarchy] is [the Trump presidency's] only virtue.

Having plowed through the overlong article, it seems that Codevilla's basic beef--beyond his repeatedly expressed disdain for Trump as a person--is that Trump didn't single handedly reverse the downward trajectory of the American republic into a squalid, kleptocratic and amoral oligarchy. Every disappointment, every failure to achieve a total transformation life, is attributed by Codevilla to Trump and to Trump alone.

Two examples will have to suffice.

Codevilla writes:

He railed against Wall Street but left untouched the tax code’s “carried interest” provision that is the source of much unearned wealth.

I'm as eager as Codevilla to see the carried interest provision eliminated from the Tax Code, but Codevilla only blames Trump--he doesn't even hint at a practical way Trump could have accomplished this laudable goal without the say-so of a bought and paid for (by Wall St.) US Senate and House. Presidents don't get to write laws, and coercing the Legislative Branch into reversing already enacted legislation that the senators and representatives have no desire to repeal is--in any real world scenario--an impossibility. Codevilla knows that, so why blame Trump for that? Because he doesn't like him as a person, but that's not honest.

Here's the other example:

Days after his own inauguration, he suffered the CIA’s removal of clearances from one of his appointees because he was a critic of the Agency. Any president worthy of his office would have fired the entire chain of officials who had made that decision. Instead, he appointed to these agencies people loyal to them and hostile to himself.

Fine. Codevilla is saying plainly enough that in his opinion Trump was "unworthy of his office." Because he didn't fire officials most of whom were protected from firing by Civil Service protections. Codevilla knows that as well as anyone and better than most. He's being dishonest. 

The entire article is full of that sort of dishonest ankle biting, with no acknowledgment whatsoever of any of Trump's very real achievements. There's a reason why Trump left office today with an approval rating of 51%, but Codevilla doesn't want to be bothered explaining that very interesting--even compelling--fact.

The real story is that Trump probably understood that the Dems would oppose him at every turn, but he probably entered office under the mistaken impression that Republicans would generally support him. It's one thing to criticize--as Codevilla does--some of Trump's appointments, especially cabinet level appointments. But the reality--one which Codevilla is fully aware of--is that presidents rarely have a free hand in such appointments, even at the top levels. What is true of most presidents is even more true of an outsider such as Trump. Trump found himself in the position of having to nominate candidates for office who had to pass muster with a Senate that was dominated by RINO opponents of his agenda.

Was there any other president who could have done better--except one who was interested in pushing the same agenda as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? Codevilla seems to believe that Ted Cruz would have been interested in attacking the oligarchic interests and could have done so successfully. I beg to differ--on both counts.

First, all anyone needs to do to be disabused of the notion that Ted Cruz is a political outsider is to read the Wikipedia entries regarding Cruz and his wife, Heidi. They are both career long Establishment insiders, and in particular insiders of the Bush branch of the oligarchy. Ted Cruz--campaign rhetoric aside--would not have been interested in draining any swamp. Or does no one remember Cruz's solicitude for illegal migrants entering the US? As for Goldman Sachs alumna, Heidi, her pedigree reeks of the Establishment.

But even if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that Cruz had undergone a genuine change of heart--would he have been capable of changing DC, of draining some corner of the Swamp? I very much doubt that, simply because the Establishment would have quickly sniffed out his intentions and mounted a determined defense.

Codevilla maintains that the reason the entrenched oligarchy was able to defeat much of what Trump sought to do was because of Trump's persona. However, I'm here to tell anyone who will listen that if Ted Cruz had run on a platform of building a border wall and then, in the very unlikely event of being elected, had tried to implement that project, he would have met with as much vilification and judicial resistance as Trump. That's the fact of the America we live in. Trump persisted in the face of opposition that would have daunted almost anyone else, but gets zero credit for that from Codevilla.

In fact, however, Trump actually made some progress in challenging the entrenched oligarchy in America in the only way possible--short of violent revolution. First, he appointed many excellent judges. Whether that legacy will endure remains to be seen, but that effort on Trump's part--as always, in the face of ferocious resistance--had beneficial results even in Trump's unfortunately short term. Secondly, Trump had an outsized effect on the composition of the Legislative Branch. It's true that the House was lost under his presidency, but Trump was able to force out some of the worst Swamp dwellers from both the House and the Senate, and to support their replacement--ironically, especially in the Senate--with more worthy conservatives. He made a difference in ways that no other president has done.

All that said--and I won't attempt to catalog all of Trump's remarkable achievements--I urge everyone to read Codevilla's article--for the beginning and the end.

The beginning is Codevilla's account of how America lost its republic and became an oligarchy. It's an insightful account in many ways. For example:

By the 21st century’s first decade, little but formality was left of the American republic. In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy described the logic by which government and big business tend to coalesce into socialism in theory, oligarchy in practice. But by then, that logic had already imposed itself on the Western world. Italy’s 1926 Law of Corporations—fascism’s charter—inaugurated not so much the regulation of business by government as the coalescence of the twain. Over the ensuing decade, it was more or less copied throughout the West. 

In America, the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act’s authors had erected barriers against private oligopolies and monopolies. By maintaining competition between big business, they hoped to preserve private freedoms and limit government’s role. But the Great Depression’s pressures and temptations led to the New Deal’s rules that differed little from Italy’s. No matter that, as the Supreme Court pointed out in Schechter Poultry v. U.S., public-private amalgamation does not fit in the Constitution. It grew nevertheless alongside the notion that good government proceeds from the experts’ judgment rather than from the voters’ choices. The miracles of production that America brought forth in World War II seemed to validate the point.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had come to understand large organizations that feed on government power and dispense vast private benefits, was not shy in warning about the danger they pose to the republic. His warning about the “military-industrial complex” that he knew so well is often misunderstood as a mere caution against militarism. But Ike was making a broader point: Amalgams of public and private power tend to prioritize their corporate interests over the country’s. 

Contra Codevilla, anyone who thinks anyone in the Republican establishment was remotely interested in reversing that history--rather than elbowing their way to the trough--is deeply delusional. But Trump ...

There was another passage near the beginning that caught my attention. In this passage Codevilla describes where we are today, and insightfully describes where we are today and, in particular, the "disarticulation" of society by the Covid regime. It's true that this is a culmination of a long history of increasing societal disarticulation and marginalization of non-governmental institutions, but it's a compelling picture of our plight:

In 2021, the laws, customs, and habits of the heart that had defined the American republic since the 18th century are things of the past. Americans’ movements and interactions are under strictures for which no one ever voted. Government disarticulated society by penalizing ordinary social intercourse and precluding the rise of spontaneous opinion therefrom. Together with corporate America, it smothers minds through the mass and social media with relentless, pervasive, identical, and ever-evolving directives. In that way, these oligarchs have proclaimed themselves the arbiters of truth, entitled and obliged to censor whoever disagrees with them as systemically racist, adepts of conspiracy theories. 

When I read that, I asked myself: But will they be able to rule? If today 51% of Americans approve of Trump's presidency, will the oligarchs succeed in imposing their rule on so vast a country as America, or will the greedy misrule they will inflict lead to an increasing breakdown in order? If that is the result, is there hope that local governments will be led to exert themselves? I dare to hope.

Anyway, that's the topic of the final portion of Codevilla's article. Read it and see what you think. Codevilla is no Pollyanna, and he emphasizes how difficult it will be to break, especially, the stranglehold the oligarchy has established over education. Nevertheless, here is Codevilla's presentation of the country that the oligarchs think they can rule. It's a country that voted for Trump, overwhelmingly rejecting GOPe aspirants. As the Stop The Steal protest demonstrated, it's a country that is angry and resentful and fully aware--thanks to Trump--of how much the oligarchs hate them. Rule over such a country will likely become increasingly difficult:

Since the ruling class embraced Republicans and Democrats, elections seemed irrelevant. [Until Trump, who drove a massive increase in Republican turnout.] The presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 underlined that whoever won, the same people would be in charge and that the parceling out of wealth and power among stakeholders would continue.

Americans on the Right were especially aggrieved because the oligarchy had become culturally united in disdain for Western civilization in general and for themselves in particular. The cultural warfare it waged on the rest of America inflamed opposition. But it also diluted its own focus on solidifying profitable arrangements.

By 2016, America was already well into the classic cycles of revolution. The atrophy of institutions, the waning of republican habits, and the increasing, reciprocal disrespect between classes that have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another, than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners precluded returning to traditional republican life.

Those paragraphs come near the beginning of the article. Unfortunately, Codevilla fails to grasp how Trump--including the Trump persona--was a key in rousing voters who had hitherto thought that elections were "irrelevant". Trump was the personification of non-PC. It was precisely that that roused Americans who felt they were on the losing side in the ongoing "cultural warfare." Codevilla totally doesn't get that. In fact, an easy way to see just how little he understands those dynamics, despite his words, is to search for the word "family" in his article. You won't find it, despite the fact that the attack on the family by the Left is absolutely at the center of our politics. Here are the two references to "families", neither of which have anything to do with "cultural warfare:

Persons deprived of work with less money with which to pay higher prices struggled to feed their families.

The Biden family’s self-enrichment by renting access to influence is this oligarchy’s standard.

Now it gets really sad. What does Codevilla think will turn the tables on the oligarchy? Mr. Smith will. Really--as in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. I'm not kidding. Codevilla even appeals to a long time Dem pollster for his "solution":

Pollster Patrick Caddell’s in-depth study of the American electorate, which he titled “We Need Smith,” showed how the themes that made it possible for the hero of the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to prevail against the establishment then are even more gripping now and appeal to a bigger majority. Trump was a bad copy of Mr. Smith.

Can you say 'clueless'? Trump's great fault, according to Codevilla, lay in being "a bad copy of Mr. Smith." As if 1939 America can serve as a template for resolving the cultural warfare that is roiling 21st century America.

Follow the link and here's what you get:

What Does Smith Believe?

  • The usual politics, the usual politicians, and the usual interest groups won’t give us real change.  We need new leaders in the House and the Senate who reflect the real America. We need new leaders from mainstream America who will take on the political elites and special interests and put the American people in charge again.
  • Require Congress to pass an actual budget every year, or they don’t get paid; and require members of Congress to live under the same laws that they pass for the rest of the country. Vote to enact tough new limits on politicians and their staffers taking lobbying positions in Washington, DC.  For every year you spend in government, you can’t lobby for two.
  • Require every bill in Congress to have a list, in clear English, spelling out every “special deal.”  No more midnight deals, which no one has the time to read, to save some big corporation millions of dollars.

Yeah, like that would work for more than a term or two before those "new leaders" would be captives of the special interests as surely as the "old leaders" they replaced. This is simply more of the vague, feel good, good government happy horsesh*t we've heard from so many politicians. It tells you just about zero about what Smith actually believes--about human nature, about God, about man's place in society and the world, about the basis for just relations with our fellow man.

What we need is a cultural recovery or renaissance--a recovery of the spiritual heritage of the West. That's a long and difficult process.


  1. There will be so many similar articles in the following days, in an attempt I believe, to sow discord between Trump and his followers.

  2. I'll bet you meant "especially in the Senate--with more *worthY* conservatives."

    As for a recovery of the spiritual heritage of the West,
    it was one thing, for a Constantine to be in a mood, to reverse the course set by Diocletian, and to have the skill to be able to stay on that course (in light of the fate suffered by so many of Diocletian's predecessors).
    It'd be a quite different thing, to hope that a DS oligarchy would fail to smash any would-be Constantine (before it became too late).

  3. What Angelo Codevilla misses is how much progress Trump made in moving the Overton Window in multiple areas.

    Public Opinion changed on due to Trump:

    4 years ago most gop thought Paul Ryan was a fiscal conservative, not a back stabbing swamp creature.

    Trust in the press being non biased

    Fox News being trusted


    George Will


    FBI could he trusted

    eGOP was for building the wall

    eGOP was against amnesty.

    Israel had to go through the Palestinians for peace

    The us could not be energy independent

    We were stuck in endless wars

    China was not a competitor

    Lindsay Graham

    Corruption in dc. Hunter Biden’s laptop.

    Just how far left the Democratic party is.

    How powerful big tech is

    Election fraud

    That the working class is stuck with stagnant wages

    Free trade is automatically fair trade

    Corporate America is non political

    And so many more. This is a huge cultural shift.

    1. Excellent comment. So many more indeed.

  4. When your only outlet for frustration is your keyboard, we get essays like Codevilla's. Sad!

    Michael Yon spoke with Guiliani last week in D.C. According to Yon, Guiliani said he thought he might be arrested and was prepared for that to happen. Let that sink in. That is the D.C. swamp that Trump was expected to drain by himself.

    1. "Guiliani said he thought he might be arrested", to be followed by millions of others.
      How long will it take, for the DS to set up the system, such that we keyboard "warriors" are swept up?

      I urge that you advise your loved ones, to assume that *anyone* advocating *any* violence is a infiltrator for the Deep State.
      And, assume that this character is a Made Man/ Woman, who you should avoid at virtually all costs.
      But duck such characters *politely*, lest they, out of rage at your "disrespect", be moved to make up BS against you.

    2. "I urge that you advise your loved ones"

      How about me? Should I be careful about commenters saying goofy things? Things that could incite to violence?

    3. I don't know about "goofy things", but I specified "anyone *advocating* any violence".

      "Incitement" is a vaguer standard than "advocating", so I have no quick formula for you on that.
      They stretched it, by claiming that DJT "incited" violence, but they stopped short, of claiming that DJT "advocated" violence.
      I'll quite bet, that what I've written here will apply for my whole lifetime, if not also for my daughter's.

    4. Washington Post now admits that Trump didn't incite violence that the trouble was planned ahead of time.

      Rob S

    5. So anyone saying goofy things about having only one life to give for the country, not yet having begun to fight, watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants and/or give me liberty or give me death is a Deep State infiltrator?
      I'm not a Deep State infiltrator nor will I quote any Founders. Instead I will resort to one of my favorites; Leon Trotsky; "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
      The Left won't stop until we must either submit or fight. If we're so scared of them that we can't even discuss the state of the world then I'm afraid submission will be in our future rather than Revolution 2.0.

  5. Trump did many great things despite the head winds he faced, nevertheless, his many achievements required that he ignore those head winds and now they are back stronger than ever.

    The West Point Military Academy's honor code just bottomed out this year; most branches of the military have fallen from the path of righteousness with their goal of inclusiveness instead of effectiveness.

    We no longer have an honorable civilization, so our form of government will no longer work. Can we restore an honorable civilization without expelling/banning those who are not honorable?


  6. Emerald Robinson 

    Any history of the Trump Administration will start with: why did Donald Trump campaign like Pat Buchanan only to staff his administration like Jeb Bush?

    Who picked all those Bushies? All those RNC and Heritage people who openly hated Trump?

    Answer: Mike Pence.
    3:54 PM · Jan 20, 2021·

    1. Trump probably agreed to proposals by other people because in his INexperience, he just didn't know the kinds of people qualified to staff the administration IN ALIGNMENT with his own views/instincts. The outsider's perpetual problem

  7. One thing I did agree with, was the clarity that’s been gained.

    1. For my part, I've certainly gained clarity about the cast of characters.

  8. Salmon's swim upstream for a reason. Codevilla recognizes this. Spawned new salmon will appear soon and continue the good fight.

  9. Why is the left so angry and vindictive?

    What did Trump do that triggered them this much?

  10. Without term limits, there is little hope of destroying the beast.

  11. Pat Caddell, whose commentary I enjoyed, died in February 2019. He was from a different time. No way would the establishment allow any of his suggestions to be permanently implemented now. That's the point. We are post-Constitutional and post-self-government.

  12. Wow, Mark, I realize where you are coming from, but I think you are seriously misunderstanding Angelo Codevilla. This particular essay is evaluating our national condition at this particular point in time, following President Trump's term. His focus is broader than the Trump movement and presidency.

    If you have not read Codevila's books, essays, interviews, and panel contributions over several decades you can easily be forgiven for misinterpreting his points. He has been observing the devolution of the Republic into the current oligarchy and inferring future conflicts as necessary results of these changes. The MAGA movement and the rise of Trump or somebody like him was a logical outcome of the forces at play. He is not an optimist, but very much a classical realist, of the belief that MAGA and Trump were expected possible outcomes, but insufficient to the scope of the historical challenge. That he regrets this insufficiency is not a slam at Trump and his movement for any kind of score settling, but rather a factual observation within his view of the historical challenge.

    When your conception of the issues encompasses centuries and millennia rather than Presidential terms, as Codevilla's perspective has it, the observations are rather more disinterested in the personal impact of what Trump attempted, succeeded and failed at various levels.

    1. My criticism of his evaluation of Trump is precisely that his observations are counter-factual. And that he knows better. His observations are anything but disinterested or dispassionate. Rather they are vituperative.

      I haven't "read Codevila's books, essays, interviews, and panel contributions over several decades", but I did read his article. Closely. As also several prior articles of his that I've comment on. OTOH, you seem not to have read my blog post.

    2. Codevilla's criticisms are valid. They are even more valid now as Trump every day sells the deadly vaccine, all because he is such an egomaniac he loves that he helped create the deadly vaccine, like the Captain in Bridge Over River Kwai who loved the bridge he forced his fellow POWs to build so the Japanese could inflict more damage on them and America. Trump, who came into office to defeat the Deep State and who appointed mostly Deep State veterans who then proceeded to do everything in their power to undermine Trump. Trump may be the most ineffective President ever with the largest voter base.

  13. Is it true that W. Wilson really started the swamp/monsters with some weird "Darwinian" (ick!) idea, a need for some kind of an unelected government elitist structure (oligarchy supporting mob)?? What/where is the historic evidence?

  14. Having just found this post today, I am impressed by Mark's clarity in addressing the myopia so prevalent in Codevilla's "Clarity".

    Few on our side seem to understand the true Machiavellian machinations that have made the Intel Comm8unity the 4th Branch of Government AND the most powerful by a wide margin.