The pull of the tribe, &c.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Capitol Hill, March 25, 2019 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
On hypocrisy, North Korea, Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren, Jon Huntsman, and more

One of Lindsey Graham’s more charming qualities, I think, is awareness of hypocrisy — his own and his party’s. When President Trump announced, at the end of 2018, that we were pulling out of Syria, Graham said, “If Obama had done this, we’d be all over him as Republicans.”

Oh, yes. The secretary of defense, James Mattis, resigned. Trump, in the end, did not withdraw — but he would stand aside for the Turks about ten months later.

Recall what Trump had said, in a tweet: “Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA.”

Also at the end of 2018, Senator Graham said this, commenting on the reaction of Trump officials to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist: “If they were in a Democratic administration, I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia.”

Oh, yes. And can you imagine Lindsey Graham, and other Republicans, on the Ukraine matter, if the president and his administration were Democratic? Think about it.

Congress appropriated military aid to Ukraine. Ukraine is a struggling democracy, trying to fend off Putin’s Russia, which is making war against it. Trump sat on the aid. He did so in order to extract political favors from the Ukrainian government. His personal attorney was running the policy. Trump fired our ambassador, then smeared her. There is lots of lying going on. Finally, Ukraine got the aid — two days after a whistleblower filed a complaint, and a scandal brewed.


Can you imagine Lindsey Graham, if this administration were Democratic? He’d be all over them “like ugly on ape,” as the first Bush used to say.

Rudy Giuliani’s two cronies were trying to skip town. They were at Dulles Airport, about to flee the country. One of them owns a company called “Fraud Guarantee.” The other owns a nightclub called “Mafia Rave.”

Can you imagine what Republicans would be saying, if the president and his crew were Democrats? We conservatives used to say of the Left, “If it weren’t for double standards, they would have no standards at all.” Maybe we need a taste of our own rhetoric.

• Apparently, it is very important to President Trump, and many other Republicans, that Putin’s Kremlin be off the hook for meddling in our 2016 election. And that Ukraine be on the hook. They have a theory, which holds the following:

Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the election. It did so in order to benefit Hillary Clinton. Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee — and then tried to make Russia look like the culprit. CrowdStrike, the California-based company that investigated the hacking, is owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. “The server” — some special server — is hidden in Ukraine right now.

And so on and so forth. This theory has been “completely debunked,” said Tom Bossert in September. Bossert was the president’s first homeland-security adviser. Referring to Trump, Bossert also said, “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”

Here is an interesting fact about CrowdStrike, which is the villain of the conspiracy theory (along with Ukraine): It is used by the NRCC — the National Republican Congressional Committee. It seems that CrowdStrike is the cybersecurity company of choice.

Remember Mike Pompeo, when he was CIA director. He said, “I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election” — the 2016 election — “as is the entire intelligence community.” He went on to say, “This threat is real. The U.S. government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, has to figure out a way to fight back against it and defeat it. And we’re intent upon doing that.”

Anyway . . .

• There was a depressing story from Reuters yesterday — depressing to some of us, at least: “North Korea said on Thursday it had turned down a U.S. offer for fresh talks, saying it was not interested in more talks merely aimed at ‘appeasing us’ . . .” (Full article here.)

That is backward, isn’t it? We are doing the asking, and they are doing the declining? Really?

President Trump likes to say that his predecessor, Obama, “begged” for meetings with Kim Jong-un, only to be rebuffed. “They couldn’t have meetings,” said Trump last June. “Nobody was going to meet. President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting. They were begging for meetings constantly. And Chairman Kim would not meet with him. And for some reason, we have a certain chemistry or whatever.”

The Obama people say that Trump’s account is flatly untrue. What do you think?

Trump also said, “Frankly, if I didn’t become president, we’d be right now in a war with North Korea. You’d be having a war, right now, with North Korea. And by the way, that’s a certainty. That’s not, like, maybe.”

What do you think? True?

Trump further said, of Kim Jong-un, “You have a man that was so happy to see me.” (Trump was speaking after their latest meeting.) “You have a man that doesn’t smile a lot, but when he saw me, he smiled, he was happy.”

I think I believe that.

• Deval Patrick, a former governor of Massachusetts, is making a late entry into the Democratic presidential race. After two terms as governor, he went to work for Bain Capital, the private-investment firm based in Boston. One of its founders was Mitt Romney.

You remember how Democrats, or many of them, depicted Bain during the 2012 presidential campaign? What will Democrats do with Bain now?

I think the Warren-Sanders Left, so to speak, will continue to demonize it. Fellow demonizers might include the Trump-Bannon Right. Politics makes strange bedfellows — or maybe not so strange?

• Let’s stick to the theme. Lloyd Blankfein, of Goldman Sachs, jotted a tweet yesterday. He said, “Surprised to be featured in Sen Warren’s campaign ad, given the many severe critics she has out there. Not my candidate, but we align on many issues. Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country. Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA.”

(That last line is a shot at the senator’s Cherokee roots, or alleged roots.)

Yes, Blankfein is one of the villains in a new Warren ad. He was also a villain of a Trump ad in 2016. In fact, the ad was Trump’s final one, his “closing argument.” The ad showed a picture of Blankfein while Trump said, “It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of large corporations and political entities.”

I think Mr. Blankfein can bask in the distinction: a two-party, or equal-opportunity, villain.

In a column on Wednesday, I quoted Robert Costa, the political reporter of the Washington Post (formerly of National Review), with whom I did a podcast last week. Bob said,

“To me, Senator Warren is not a candidate, she’s a message, and her message is powerful. It’s economic populism, and she is essentially trying to steal back the message of economic populism from the Republicans and President Trump. Instead of making immigrants a target for people’s grievances, she is making the wealthy and their assets and corporations the target, and that resonates with many people who feel like they’re not getting what they deserve from this economy while others succeed.”


• You might have seen that Jon Huntsman is running again — running for governor of Utah. He held that position from 2005 to 2009. Then he was U.S. ambassador to China. Then he ran for the Republican presidential nomination. Later, Trump made him ambassador to Russia. And now he’s running again, for governor.

They never lose the itch, do they? Hell, I can’t blame them. I have an itch myself — an electoral itch — just no way to scratch it. (The Republic is safe from me.)

Think Huntsman will run for president in 2024? I don’t think he would modestly abstain . . .

• You may have seen Nikki Haley, defending and praising President Trump — calling him “truthful” and all that. Vice President Pence must be hearing footsteps. Must be saying whatever is the clean, Hoosier equivalent of, “What the [rhymes with “luck”]?”

• Like Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr. is making the rounds with a new book. He is a hot commodity on the GOP circuit. What will happen after President Trump leaves office, either in January 2021 or January 2025? The Republican party and the conservative movement will have a big decision to make. It will involve anguished soul-searching. Don Jr. or Ivanka?

• On Twitter, Don Van Natta Jr., of ESPN, said, “A newspaper correction has never made me so happy.” What was he referring to? This one, from the Financial Times:

“An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Salt Lake Tribune has a full-time jazz reporter. It in fact has two reporters who cover [the] Utah Jazz, the local basketball team. This has now been corrected.”

Ha, beautiful.

• Care for a little language? As I’ve mentioned before, young people make a particular grammatical error. It seems to be ingrained in their speech. It goes like this: “If I would have known it was going to be cold, I would have worn a sweater.” (If I had known, is what’s wanted there.) “If he would have been there on time, he would have met her.” And on and on.

Well, lo, the same thing has appeared in the Washington Post — in this article: “The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference . . .”

The game is over, folks. The People have spoken — as they do.

• This weekend is a big one for the state of Michigan — on Saturday, we have the Michigan–Michigan State game. Or should I say the Michigan State–Michigan game? In any case, best of luck to my Spartan friends. (And Go Blue.) 

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