The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Two-Party, Equal-Opportunity Villain

Lloyd Blankfein, the Goldman Sachs chief, speaks in Boston on March 22, 2018. (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

My Impromptus today begins with the Ukraine affair and hypocrisy; moves to North Korea, the 2020 presidential campaign, and other matters; and ends with a big football game.

In my previous column, I spoke of Elizabeth Warren and her “economic populism.” Mainly, I quoted Robert Costa, the political reporter of the Washington Post (formerly of National Review). In a podcast with me, he said the following:

“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.”

Yesterday, Lloyd Blankfein, of Goldman Sachs, jotted a tweet. It went,

“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, as you know, is a shot at Warren’s Cherokee roots, or alleged roots.

Blankfein is indeed a villain of the senator’s new ad. At the end of the 2016 campaign, he was a villain of a Trump ad — Trump’s final ad, his “closing argument.” The ad showed a picture of Blankfein as 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.”

So, as I say in Impromptus today, Blankfein is a two-party, equal-opportunity villain. And Bob Costa’s point is neatly made. A Trump–Warren race would be an interesting exhibition of dueling populisms.

I have written a lot about Turkey, most recently here. That piece is called “Turkey, NATO, and a Shifting World.” At the beginning of this year, I wrote a piece called “Whisked Away.” It is mainly about Turkey’s program of kidnapping and assassination abroad. Erdogan’s government has established an agency with the blunt name of “Office for Human Abductions and Executions.”

Erdogan has developed a cruel, authoritarian state. His Turkey is the No. 1 jailer of journalists in the world — outpacing Iran and even China. Earlier this month, the writer Ahmet Altan was released after three years in prison. They quickly rearrested and re-imprisoned him. Turkey has become another “republic of fear,” to borrow the phrase of Kanan Makiya, who used it about his native Iraq.

Two days ago, Erdogan had his most recent visit with President Trump in the White House. Trump said, “I’m a big fan of the president,” meaning Erdogan. He told Erdogan, “You’re doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey.” He also said, referring to Erdogan, “The president has a great relationship with the Kurds.”

For the past several years, the Trump Right has been celebrating the death of Reagan conservatism. That death can be seen — smelled — in the comments of President Trump about Erdogan and other dictators.

I’m going to end this post with something pleasant — or perhaps bittersweet. At the end of my previous Impromptus, I had a note about Peter Collier, the late writer and editor. I said,

He was a joy to talk with. On the phone, he might begin a conversation with, “What the f***?” He said it so genially — like a cool Californian. He meant, “What’s goin’ on? How’re you doin’? Great to talk to you.” He was so warm, and so cool, at the same time.

Yesterday, the Rev. Ben Johnson of the Acton Institute tweeted, “‪@jaynordlinger accurately remembers Peter Collier’s characteristic phone phrase in his latest @NRO column. The fact that Collier was addressing clergy left him entirely undeterred.”

Today’s column, once more, is here.


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