To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Sorrows of 'Jewish Genius': Bret Stephens Has Nostalgia For A GOP That Actually Thought Neocons Were Smart, Loyal & Superior

Bret Stephens' much-derided NYT column on "The Secrets of Jewish Genius," was a celebration of ethnic chauvinism and narcissism---personal and communal---that would have never seen light if it were written to support the superiority of whites, blacks, latinos asians or any other group in our wonderful multicultural America. Which is interesting because while he is declaring the intellectual and moral supremacy of Jews, he is doing so in the idiom long associated with antisemites, and most recently antisemites in the alt right. In fact he actual cites a pseudo-scientific study by the late Henry Harpending, a controversial anthropologist that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labelled a white nationalist. Or at least cited before Stephens was shredded in the media and the Times revised the column to take out any references to the high intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews and topped it with an editor's note that admitted how unwise to was to reference Harpending's 2005 academic paper. That paper actually ran in the Journal of Biosocial Science, a publication which was once called the Eugenics Review. 

Stephens once again demonstrates his decided lack of genius ---and why he was the last columnist the Times should have hired if they were serious about understanding the Trump phenomenon, as per the intention that NYT Opinion editor James Bennet's described to the Washington Post shortly after the "Epic Fail" of November 2016. In fact, Bill Weld, who Stephens touts as a possible GOP savior, is exactly the sort of Republican that many Trump voters, especially the working class Reagan Democrats among them who went for Trump, were glad they had an option not to vote for in 2016. It is a tribute to Stephens' neocon blindspot and to his un-genius to think for a second that anyone would entertain the idea of Weld as a viable candidate, whatever Trump's imperfections and flaws. But then again, isn't that what genius is all about, seeing what others don't? 

Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and current long-shot — make that, loooooooong-shot — candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, is a keen student of New Hampshire politics. In an interview with me this week, he noted the following fact: Every time an incumbent president of either party faced a significant primary challenge in the Granite State, he failed in his bid for re-election.

It happened to George H.W. Bush in 1992 after Patrick Buchanan took 38 percent of the New Hampshire vote.

It happened to Jimmy Carter in 1980 after Teddy Kennedy took 39 percent.

It happened to Gerald Ford in 1976 after Ronald Reagan took 48 percent.

It happened to Lyndon Johnson in 1968 after Eugene McCarthy took 42 percent.

It happened to Harry Truman in 1952 when Estes Kefauver beat him outright, 55 percent to 44.

So, Weld reasons, why not try to make it happen to Donald J. Trump, too?
That’s the hopeful thought in what otherwise seems to be Weld’s hopeless bid to derail a president whose support among Republicans was 89 percent last month, according to Gallup. Weld is too much a politician to admit publicly that he sees no shot for himself of winning — a Messiah complex lies at the root of many monumental ambitions.
But he’s also wise enough to know that losing well can achieve great things, like bringing down a president who, he said, “regards the law as something to be evaded.” Can that be done between now and Feb. 11, the date of the New Hampshire primary? Weld rests his hopes on two things: New England Republicanism, which remains alive and well despite reports of its demise; and Trump’s trial in the Senate, whose result may not yet be a foregone conclusion.

On the former, note that Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire all have G.O.P. governors, who, like Weld, are relative moderates compared to the rest of the party. New England Republicans can also be fickle in their loyalties, and late to make up their minds: Buchanan was also seen as a nonstarter against Bush Sr. just weeks before the 1992 primary. 

On the latter, Weld knows a lot about the impeachment process, having worked on the House Judiciary Committee’s staff as a young lawyer in 1974 as it considered articles against Richard Nixon. Nixon, Weld recalled, “was essentially forced to withdraw from the presidency because he had been caught lying on television to the American people on one topic” — a foothill of a deception compared to Trump’s Karakoram range.

Weld also knows how quickly things can turn in the course of a trial. “Cases don’t look the same at the end as they do at the beginning,” he noted, recalling his prosecutions of public corruption in the 1980s as United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, where he won 109 convictions in 111 corruption cases. He believes that if four Republican senators join Democrats in voting to call witnesses — Ohio’s Rob Portman could provide the decisive vote — then anything is possible.

“The one sport where the unthinkable can become the inevitable in a matter of weeks or even days,” Weld said, “is national politics, not the National Football League.”
Maybe that’s right, assuming devastating testimony from John Bolton, the former national security adviser; former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas; and who knows who (or what) else. Not that any kind of testimony is likely to sway the 67 senators needed for a conviction. But it’s not quite out of the question that it might, in the coming weeks, sway a large fraction of New Hampshire Republicans to vote against the president, thereby setting into motion forces that could bring him down.

That’s the hope, at any rate. The odds against? I’d say 20 to 1 — which is to say, still worth a shot. If it fails, Weld said he would not run as an independent. Unlike in 2016, when he ran with Gary Johnson on the Libertarian ticket (and won 4.5 million votes) he has no interest in playing the spoiler to anyone in the race except Trump.

The larger question if it fails is what becomes of the G.O.P. Weld compared the party to the late-stage Whigs of the early 1850s, which were riven between the nativist Know Nothing faction and the antislavery wing that would become the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately, the good side won that time.

And this time? The best conservative case for rooting for a Democrat to win this fall — any Democrat, including Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren — is that it might be the only way to save the Republican Party from itself. That could happen if a critical mass of conservatives repudiates Trumpism or forms a new party on the Lincoln model. Weld calls it the Liberty Party.
Alternatively a Sanders or Warren victory could send the G.O.P. to even further extremes. In politics, as in nature, forces always come in pairs. Democrats who want to see Republicans recover their center need to protect their own. In the meantime, wish Bill Weld well in his Granite State carom shot.


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