Saturday, February 23, 2019

Goodbye, Peter Tork. The Monkees made believers of us all.

By Probyn Gregory
February 22, 2019
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It may be difficult to imagine now, but there was a time in the 1960s when a pop band, in a single year, outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined — and not even a real band at that. Really, the group was four strangers thrown together on a TV show about a band all living in an imaginary group house. Both the band and the show — the Monkees — were instantly and wildly popular among a certain set of American kids.
Those kids are now in late middle age (or older), and that band is finally going home. In 2012, lead singer Davy Jones, at 66 years old, was the first to die ; on Thursday, 77-year-old Peter Tork died from a rare form of cancer. Along with Mike Nesmith, Tork was one of the two real musicians in the quartet. (Stephen Stills had recommended Tork for the role after being passed over for beingtoo snaggle-toothed.) The other two Monkees — Jones and drummer Micky Dolenz — were actors.
The most technically skilled in the group, Tork had trained classically and played guitar, banjo and French horn and was particularly talented on keyboards, though he was best known on the TV show as the band’s bassist. Nesmith has been quoted as saying that Tork, not himself, should have been the band’s main guitarist.
When it was revealed that the Monkees sang their songs but did not play the instruments on their first album, there were understandable catcalls of “Prefab Four,” a reference to the Beatles’ nickname “The Fab Four.” The session players behind the scenes who did the musical lifting were some of the industry’s best; so was the group of songwriters, which included Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond and Harry Nilsson. On the show, Tork played the role of lovable dunce, a foil for Nesmith’s common sense, Dolenz’s antics and Jones’s endless wooing of (and by) young women.
The Monkees managed to gain control of their musical direction after their second album, “More of the Monkees,’’ and began eschewing the session musicians previously foisted upon them. The band finally sang and played on their third album, “Headquarters,” which produced no hits but began to showcase the group’s talents. (“Headquarters,” like all of the band’s first four albums, went double platinum.) Tork’s many skills then came in quite handy in the recording studio: That’s Tork on the iconic piano intro to “Daydream Believer,” he is at the harpsichord on “The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” and his riffing on “You Told Me” would still test many banjoists today.
After he left the group in 1968, Tork engaged in various endeavors — a friend recalls working with him as a singing waiter in Los Angeles. Tork got as far as London, where he played banjo for George Harrison’s “Wonderwall” film, but in the early 1970s, he returned to California, where he taught music and other subjects at a host of local schools. In the 1980s, when MTV began re-airing the Monkees series, a new audience emerged and reunion tours were held. Tork performed in these until as recently as 2016.
My own fascination with the band dates to 1966, when, at age 9, I was hit amidships by the TV show. Like many kids my age (some of whom might not admit it now), “Meet the Monkees” was my first album. To me, the Monkees were the zenith — the vibe, the songs, the zany humor, everything about them made me and everyone I knew the target demographic of the era. I ended up following a musical path and have, for the past 20 years, been a part of Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s band.
How to explain the Monkees’ unlikely staying power, their stalwart presence on oldies radio? I think many baby boomers, obviously, found them accessible and relatable, certainly unthreatening. But more importantly, Tork once said the band had real chemistry — not just any four young men could have done what they did. I think there was a sense of vindication they shared among themselves that critics had turned up their noses at the supposed ineptitude of the Prefab Four and were proved wrong — in which case, all among us who are judged and found to have come up short still have a chance.
Most of all, there are the sounds of those hits, pristine in their peculiar moment, which when matched to those particular voices, still succeed. They form a part of the soundtrack of many baby boomers’ lives, a validation of their memories, making believers of us all.
Probyn Gregory is a veteran freelance musician who lives in Tujunga, Calif., with his wife and son. He will play guitar, banjo and trumpet with “The Monkees Present: The Mike & Micky Show,” when it begins a three-week tour this Thursday.

Remembering Peter Tork: The Monkees’ Beloved Clown Saint
February 22, 2019

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Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork

Peter Tork had the funniest line at the Monkees’ 50th Anniversary Tour show, three years ago: “If you’ve been following us from the beginning, just remember one thing. Any one thing.” If you were lucky enough to see the Monkees live over the past decade, you know being in the room with Peter Tork was one of the planet’s happiest places to be. He was the funniest Monkee, their Ringo, their truest hippie, always happy to pitch in with a banjo solo or a bit of his dazed flower-child wisdom. This man knew how to rock a black-velvet silver-button tunic. That’s why fans around the world are grieving his death Thursday at 77. As he promised all those years ago in “For Pete’s Sake,” he made the world shine.
Before the Monkees, Tork was a folkie on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit, scrounging and passing the hat for tips. When he auditioned for the TV show in 1965, he played the clown, a summer-babe blonde with a simple mind but a heart of gold, on guitar with his bandmates Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and the late Davy Jones. The Monkees were famously assembled by Hollywood producers for kiddie TV — Tork and Nesmith were the musicians, Dolenz and Jones were the actors. But their music turned out to be far more lasting and influential than the show. The Monkees ran just two seasons, but “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Sunny Girlfriend” and “Star Collector” are forever.
Tork was a crucial reason why. He co-wrote the theme song “For Pete’s Sake,” turning his peace-love-and-understanding plea into a pop classic. He was always their hippie conscience, adding his plucky vocals to “Shades of Grey” and “Your Auntie Grizelda.” “With all due modesty since I had little to do with it, the Monkees’ songbook is one of the better songbooks in pop history,” he told Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene in 2011, correctly. “Certainly in the top five in terms of breadth and depth.”
Tork got hired on the advice of Stephen Stills, who remembered him from back in the old folkie days. “Stephen was the guy who looked like me on Greenwich Village streets,” Tork said in Eric Lefcowitz’s band history Monkee Business. “That’s how I recognized him — I walked up to him and said, ‘You’re the guy that looks like me.’ And he said, ‘Oh, you’re the guy I’m supposed to look like.’” They sounded alike, too, but Tork got the Monkees gig; Stills went on to Buffalo Springfield and CSNY. In the Seventies, they were housemates in Laurel Canyon’s most infamously decadent hippie pad, an experience they both miraculously survived.
At first, the Monkees were dismissed as phonies. Tork, who paid his dues in the Village scene, took the backlash a lot harder than the others. But the band took control of their music on the gem Headquarters, famously the second-biggest album of 1967, behind the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. As Lillian Roxon wrote presciently in 1969, in her pioneering Rock Encyclopedia, “It was the music people who first discovered that the Monkees were good guys. Everyone else followed. By 1968 it was distinctly not done to put down the Monkees.”
He wrote “Can You Dig It?” on the TV set, in his dressing room, for the band’s 1968 movie Head. As he told Greene in 2016, “The basic lyrics came to me and these changes I had stored in the back of my brain spring forth and dictated that kind of vaguely Spanish/North African harmonic sense. I was writing about the great unknown source of all.” The Ben Stiller Show did a great 1992 parody called “The Grungies,” with Ben Stiller as a Chris Cornell figure and Bob Odenkirk as Mike Nesmith; the bandmate called “Tork” looked exactly like Kurt Cobain in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video and blew the band’s advance on $50,000 worth of Chinese food. In later years, as the band toured in various incarnations, the Tork Factor was always key. (Micky: “I dressed up in my hippie regalia.” Peter: “I almost drowned in one of those!”)
The Monkees were always a fractious collection of personalities. As Tork diplomatically put it in Rolling Stone, “If you stop to think about it, there are six pairs in a quartet.” A 2001 tour fell apart; Tork took the blame, admitting, “I had a meltdown and I messed up.” He bowed out of the current Nesmith/Dolenz tour, saying it was to concentrate on his Lead Belly tribute album Relax Your Mind, though there were already worries about his health.
But he lived long enough for the 2016 reunion Good Times!, easily the best Monkees album since the Sixties. Producer Adam Schlesinger was the first actual Monkees fan ever to make a Monkees album. At the 50th-anniversary show in NYC, Papa Nez joined Dolenz and Tork via Skype to sing “Papa Gene’s Blues.” “Me and Magadelena” was a career-capping ballad written by another fan, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, with Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork all rising to the occasion. Some of us Monkees fans spent years waiting for that song. “I’ve never heard Michael be so emotionally available as a singer before,” Tork told Rolling Stone. “It’s astounding to be in the middle of it. I look around and go, ‘What is this?'”
My favorite Monkees song is on the Head soundtrack, “As We Go Along,” a Carole King ballad with guitar glaze from Ry Cooder and Neil Young. In the movie, it comes right after a lonely moment for Tork; he sits sad in the corner, covered in confetti, frowning in his dashiki and love beads. Then, as the song begins, he’s in a dream sequence where he’s walking in the snowy mountains. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful moment — this blonde hippie boy in this wide open space, looking around at it all with wonder. It’s how I will all remember Peter Tork.

Today's Tune: The Monkees - She

Francis The Fake Reformer

February 22, 2019

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Pope Francis greets Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta. (El Tribuno)

While the new Frederic Martel book, and this weekend’s big Vatican conference on sex abuse, tries to paint Pope Francis as a reformer trying to make the Church less of a gay whorehouse, this new report from an Argentine newspaper tells a different story.
The report is in Spanish, but OnePeterFive has an English-language version of the tale. It’s about how Francis and senior hierarchs protected a bishop credibly accused of molesting seminarians, and other disgusting things. Not only did Francis appoint this bishop in the first place, he also protected him, and took his corrupt self out of Argentina and put him in charge of a Vatican office concerned with financial accountability. Background here. Excerpt:
An Argentine newspaper, El Tribuno, the first one to have reported on the Zanchetta case, published documents on Thursday [February 21] that demonstrate how bishops, the cardinal primate of Argentina, the nuncio, the Vatican, and the pope himself personally knew since 2015 about the case of a bishop who now faces a serious criminal charge of sexual abuse. In the last few days, the case has arrived in civil court, with a criminal accusation made by the victims of the former bishop of Oran. Based on photographs from a 2016 report, signed by five priests, three of whom are former diocesan vicars, it appears clear that Gustavo Zanchetta was accused not only of having obscene pictures of homosexual sex on his cell phone, but also of molesting seminarians, of not having registered the sale of an important piece of property in the diocese, and of immoral behavior related to both the finances and the people of the Diocese of Oran.
The report, which El Tribuno acquired and published photos of (read here), shows how the diocese by chance discovered photos of Zanchetta and other nude men in explicit poses. The chancellor of the diocese saw these photos while he was downloading some institutional images to his P.C. from Zanchetta’s cell phone, at Zanchetta’s personal request. The chancellor informed the authorities, beginning with the vicar general. Immediately afterward, they informed Bishop Emeritus Marcelo Colombo; Archbishop Mario Cargnello of Salta; the cardinal primate, Mario Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires; the papal nuncio, Paul Emile Tscherrig; and the pope.
In October 2015, Gustavo Zanchetta was called urgently to Rome, and everyone in the Diocese of Oran thought it had to do with something linked to the Synod on the Family in view of the close rapport which has linked him to Jorge Mario Bergoglio ever since he was cardinal and president of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference. Zanchetta returned to Oran without anything happening, and nobody knows what he spoke about with the pope, but there are those who affirm that Bishop Zanchetta maintained that the photos were rigged.
Read the whole 1P5 account, or even better, go to the Spanish original.
According to El Tribuno, the Pope moved the disgraced and abusive Zanchetta to a Vatican slot because he wanted to show him mercy. Remember, as a Vatican diplomat, Monsignor Battista Ricca was caught in an elevator with a rent boy, was beaten up in a gay bar, and had a string of gay affairs while serving in Latin America. Francis rehabilitated him, and put him in charge of dealing with the Vatican Bank. When Francis was asked about his having given Ricca a key Vatican position despite his disgraceful behavior, the Pope said, “Who am I to judge?”
If you think Pope Francis can be trusted as a reformer, ask the priests and seminarians who reported this McCarricky cretin to their superiors, who then reported it to the Pope — who showered this abuser with “mercy.” What a fraudulent pageant going on in Rome right now, in the name of reform!
Catholic friends, I really feel for you now, and will pray for you, I promise. Steady on!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Today's Tune: Radney Foster - California (The Texas Music Scene)

The ISIS Brides Should Not Live among Us

By Douglas Murray
February 22, 2019
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Hoda Muthana and Shamima Begum
It is almost five years since ISIS declared a caliphate in parts of northern Iraq and Syria. From countries across the West, hundreds of Muslim citizens found the promise of the caliphate so enticing that they heeded the call to join. Now we are in precisely the situation that anyone could have predicted, and many did: former members of Islamic State, who turned their backs on the West, are now trying to get back to the West. In each country there is now a completely predictable political row over whether they should be allowed to return or not.
Despite recently urging European countries to take responsibility for their own jihadis and have them back, President Trump says that he has instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ensure that Hoda Muthana, of Alabama, is not allowed back into the U.S. The secretary of state has declared that Muthana “is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States.” In the U.K., the home secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that Shamima Begum — who, like Muthana, joined ISIS but is now pleading to return to her home country from a refugee camp — will be stripped of her British citizenship so that she cannot return to the country. It is claimed that Begum has Bangladeshi citizenship too, although the authorities in that country deny this claim and insist that there is no way Begum is heading to their country.
There are good arguments on each side of the larger debate that has ensued. Begum was 15 when she went to join ISIS, and though she is obviously now an adult, her case is an especially difficult one on which to base any policy because of the additional question of the age of terrorist responsibility. Added to that, all countries are expected to abide by the international obligation not to make any person stateless, and so unless the individual has joint citizenship and the second country rather surprisingly decides that it could do with an extra ISIS fanatic in the mix, withdrawing citizenship opens the relevant authorities up to legal challenge.
In Europe in particular — which is already struggling with the integration of its Muslim populations — there is a serious additional question over what message a policy of stripping citizenship gives out. If I were to decide to leave the country, destroy my passport, and swear allegiance to a foreign jihadist group and would-be state, would the U.K. government strip me of my citizenship? Would they only do so if, like Begum, I were the child of immigrants? Many people, including people who should be taken seriously in this area — such as Shiraz Maher of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London — are insisting that the British home secretary’s treatment of Begum is actually “racist.” There are cases we could compare it with (such as that of “Jihad Jack,” a white convert who grew up in Oxford before joining ISIS), but the impression given out could well be that there is one rule for children of immigrants and another for others. If that impression is true, it would ride against the whole modern European multicultural insistence that once immigrants become citizens they are exactly, and in every way, equal.
What is remarkable is that we have had years to avert precisely this situation: not just half a decade with the case of ISIS, but almost two decades in which this general problem could have been averted. At least since 9/11, there has been some recognition in the counterterror community that our laws are not wholly fit for purpose — in particular, that our toolkit is missing something in the area of what used to be treason laws. In America as in Europe, you do not have to wait very long in the legal and counterterror communities for it to be assured that such laws are antiquated, defunct, moribund, or otherwise unusable. But in each case it also tends to be recognized that without something like a treason law (“subversion” or “aiding the Queen’s enemies” in the old adumbration) we cannot answer the specific challenge that people such as Begum and Muthana pose. That we are little nearer answering this predictable challenge is yet another example of the opportunity cost of a political and media class obsessed with what it cannot change and disinterested in what it could.
Those who insist that that such people should simply return and face criminal charges in domestic courts ignore the standards of evidence needed in a court, the difficulty of compiling such evidence, and the endless questions around fair trials, the presumption of innocence, and more. Shabina Begum claims to have merely been an ISIS housewife and seen some heads in bins and so on. The tedious domestic life of the Islamic State. If she played no role in any beheadings, or if there aren’t enough people around to give eyewitness testimony, what should she be prosecuted on? Should she simply be brought back to the U.K. and put through a “deradicalisation” program? To claim she should is to put a vast amount of trust in a program, and a policy, which is far from a science and far from even frequently successful. All this is in a country whose security services are already overstretched with the number of Islamists they would like to keep their eyes on versus the number they actually can afford to keep an eye on.
For what it’s worth, I am not especially torn over whether people like those who went to join ISIS should be allowed back into their countries of origin or not. The age issue with Begum is troubling. The prospect of an expansion of the use of such powers is an undeniable worry. But overriding this is another consideration which I have not seen stressed enough in the debate to date. In the whole debate around Islamist extremism one of the things we have most lacked is strong signals. There is a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville of which I’m fond: “One does not depend on laws to reanimate beliefs that are extinguished. But one does depend on laws to interest men in the destiny of their country.”
Over recent years the message given out from the Western democracies has been, “You can do absolutely anything here. You can mutilate your daughters and we won’t catch you. You can kill girls in your family who have brought you ‘dishonor’ and we won’t much bother to pursue you. You can preach the destruction of our society and we will tolerate you. You can fight for our enemies, and we will tie ourselves in legal knots over how — if at all — we might be able to discipline you afterwards.” I have always thought that the lack of strong signals is one of the strongest possible incentives for Islamist extremism. You can fight for your country, or you can fight for your country’s enemies. If you choose the latter and it all goes fine, you’re in clover. And if it doesn’t, then you can at any point return to the situation you were in when you started off, as though you never made that treasonous choice. In short, the number of negatives is not commensurate with the number of positives.
There are costs to everything in this life. A cost for making bad decisions, and a cost for making the worst ones. Joining ISIS is not an “oops,” but is among the worst decisions anyone of this generation could have made. Our entire value system is not on the line here. Only a couple of generations ago we would have hanged Begum for what she did. Perhaps she should be allowed to live. But not among us.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

How Wild Was Wild Bill Hickok? A Biographer Separates Life From Legend

By Christopher Knowlton
February 14, 2019

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The True Story of the American Frontier’s First Gunfighter

By Tom ClavinIllustrated. 320 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $29.99.

To succeed as a gunfighter in the American West, it helped to have a competitive advantage. Being fast on the draw was essential — and removing a revolver from a stiff leather holster was never as easy as Hollywood made it seem. But possessing good aim in an age of faulty, smoky ammo and inaccurate weaponry helped even more. The best shot in the early days of the era was the taciturn James Butler Hickok, who for no good reason earned the sobriquet Wild Bill. He boasted another advantage: He was ambidextrous, which meant he could fire off a hail of 12 rounds to the six by an ordinary mortal.

His supremacy as a shootist is evident early in “Wild Bill,” Tom Clavin’s new biography of the gunslinger. Hickok not only survives all of his walk-and-draw contests, he becomes a bona fide celebrity in the process. His good looks surely help: Over six feet tall, blue-eyed, long-nosed and mustachioed, he is as lithe as a tiger, and blessed with wavy auburn hair that he wears shoulder-length, like a rock star. His in-town get-up consists of calfskin boots, checked trousers, embroidered waistcoat, Prince Albert frock coat and black sombrero. No wonder The St. Louis Republican refers to him as “a dandy at all times in attire — a regular frontier dude.”
Clavin’s chief objective in retelling this story is to entertain us. An equally meritorious goal is to peel away the myth and folklore to reveal the historical truth beneath, a real challenge given that most of the record consists of sensationalized press reports and fictitious dime novel versions of the events. It’s like trying to pry a presidential biography out of the pages of a comic book. And the drawback to the fact-versus-fiction strategy here, as in Clavin’s recent book “Dodge City,” is that, freed from their mythification, these jackalope-like gunslingers emerge for the most part — Bat Masterson being the exception — as shiftless, talentless young men with poor educations and lousy career prospects, whose scruffy, Hobbesian lives play out exactly as you might expect.

Undaunted, Clavin, who is a wily veteran of the writing trade, tacks up the truth like wanted posters in every chapter, while simultaneously savoring a few of the more fanciful falsehoods along the way, a neat trick in which he displays some ambidexterity of his own. Perhaps aware that a focus on shootouts might fall flat in this age of mass killings and gun-control debates, he detours into the skirmishes of the Civil War and into such historical arcana as the origins of the Pony Express; the adventures of the 10th Cavalry, whose enlisted men were all black; the early days of the circus; and the backgrounds of the bad guys. In one such pencil-sketched interlude, we watch Hickok umpire an early baseball game between the Kansas City Antelopes and the Atchison Pomeroys. Hickok’s steadying presence is needed because the previous contest had ended in fisticuffs and a Kansas City headline that read “The Town Is Disgraced!” Hickok crouches behind home plate; his single-action Colt six-shooters, famously worn cavalry-style with their butts jutting forward, dangle from their holsters. The Antelopes win by the astonishing score of 48-28.

Next come the jobs as a scout, deputy United States marshal and sheriff, and the famous Kansas gun battles at Hays City and Abilene, in a career that is largely over before it begins. At 35 and going blind, possibly from secondary syphilis, Hickok tries his hand at show business, first by cofounding and codirecting a touring production called “The Daring Buffalo Chase of the Plains” (which goes wrong when the bison panic and stampede), and then by joining the cast of his friend Buffalo Bill Cody’s “Scouts of the Prairie,” which The New York Herald describes as “so wonderfully bad it was almost good.” Hickok, playing himself, understandably finds his role ludicrous and his dialogue lame: “Fear not, fair maid! By heavens, you are safe at last with Wild Bill, who is ever ready to risk his life and die, if need be, in defense of weak and defenseless womanhood!”
So, it’s back to Cheyenne and an unlikely marriage to an aging circus impresario 11 years his senior, before galloping into the Black Hills in hopes of a long-shot score as a prospector or gambler. Clavin has fun debunking an alleged romance between Hickok and Calamity Jane, who appears in a late cameo as an insufferable drunkard and braggart. Not all of the scenery here is interesting, not all of the events are credible and we may even suffer a few mental saddle sores from blunt transitions and dull Wikipedia-like prose, but for the most part this is a pleasant enough trail ride of a book. Just don’t expect this quarter horse to prance like a Tennessee Walker.
The story ends predictably (even Wild Bill predicts it) at a card table in the mining town of Deadwood. Hickok is almost cleaned out at the time and remarks, “The old duffer broke me on the last hand” — moments before Jack McCall puts him down like an old dog. In his open coffin, Hickok makes a handsome corpse, his hair still hanging in auburn ringlets. The Deadwood locals line up, eager for one last look.
Christopher Knowlton is the author of “Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Autopsy of a Dead Coup

February 17, 2019
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James Comey, Robert Mueller and Andrew McCabe
The illegal effort to destroy the 2016 Trump campaign by Hillary Clinton campaign’s use of funds to create, disseminate among court media, and then salt among high Obama administration officials, a fabricated, opposition smear dossier failed.
So has the second special prosecutor phase of the coup to abort the Trump presidency failed. There are many elements to what in time likely will become recognized as the greatest scandal in American political history, marking the first occasion in which U.S. government bureaucrats sought to overturn an election and to remove a sitting U.S. president.
Preparing the Battlefield
No palace coup can take place without the perception of popular anger at a president.
The deep state is by nature cowardly. It does not move unless it feels it can disguise its subterranean efforts or that, if revealed, those efforts will be seen as popular and necessary—as expressed in tell-all book titles such as fired FBI Directors James Comey’s Higher Loyalty or in disgraced Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s psychodramatic The Threat.
In candidate and President Trump’s case that prepping of the battlefield translated into a coordinated effort among the media, political progressives and celebrities to so demonize Trump that his imminent removal likely would appear a relief to the people. Anything was justified that led to that end.
All through the 2016 campaign and during the first two years of the Trump presidency the media’s treatment, according to liberal adjudicators of press coverage, ran about 90 percent negative toward Trump—a landmark bias that continues today.
Journalists themselves consulted with the Clinton campaign to coordinate attacks. From the Wikileaks trove, journalistic grandees such as John Harwood, Mark Leibovich, Dana Milbank, and Glenn Thrush often communicated (and even post factum were unapologetic about doing so) with John Podesta’s staff to construct various anti-Trump themes and have the Clinton campaign review or even audit them in advance.
Some contract “journalists” apparently were paid directly by Fusion GPS—created by former reporters Glen Simpson of the Wall Street Journal and Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post—to spread lurid stories from the dossier. Others more refined like Christiane Amanpour and James Rutenberg had argued for a new journalistic ethos that partisan coverage was certainly justified in the age of Trump, given his assumed existential threat to The Truth. Or as Rutenberg put it in 2016: “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable. But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?”
I suppose Rutenberg never considered that half the country might have considered the Hillary Clinton presidency “potentially dangerous,” and yet did not expect the evening news, in 90 percent of its coverage, to reflect such suspicions.
The Democratic National Committee’s appendages often helped to massage CNN news coverage—such as Donna Brazile’s primary debate tip-off to the Clinton campaign or CNN’s consultation with the DNC about forming talking points for a scheduled Trump interview.
So-called “bombshell,” “watershed,” “turning-point,” and “walls closing in” fake news aired in 24-hour news bulletin cycles. The media went from fabrications about Trump’s supposed removal of the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office, to the mythologies in the Steele dossier, to lies about the Trump Tower meeting, to assurances that Michael Cohen would testify to Trump’s suborning perjury, and on and on.
CNN soon proved that it is no longer a news organization at all—as reporters like Gloria Borger, Chris Cuomo, Eric Lichtblau, Manu Raju, Brian Rokus, Jake Tapper, Jeff Zeleny, and teams such as Jim Sciutto, Carl Bernstein, and Marshall Cohen as well as Thomas Frank, and Lex Harris all trafficked in false rumors and unproven gossip detrimental to Trump, while hosts and guest hosts such as Reza Aslan, the late Anthony Bourdain, and Anderson Cooper stooped to obscenity and grossness to attack Trump.
Both politicos and celebrities tried to drive Trump’s numbers down to facilitate some sort of popular ratification for his removal. Hollywood and the coastal corridor punditry exhausted public expressions of assassinating or injuring the president, as the likes of Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp, Robert de Niro, Peter Fonda, Kathy Griffin, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and a host of others vied rhetorically to slice apart, shoot, beat up, cage, behead, and blow up the president.
Left wing social media and mainstream journalism spread sensational lies about supposed maniacal Trump supporters in MAGA hats. They constructed fantasies that veritable white racists were now liberated to run amuck insulting and beating up people of color as they taunted the poor and victimized minorities with vicious Trump sloganeering—even as the Covington farce and now the even more embarrassing Jussie Smollett charade evaporated without apologies from the media and progressive merchants of such hate.
At the same time, liberal attorneys, foundations, Democratic politicians, and progressive activists variously sued to overturn the election on false charges of rigged voting machines. They sought to subvert the Electoral College. They introduced articles of impeachment. They sued to remove Trump under the Emoluments Clause. They attempted to invoke the 25th Amendment. And they even resurrected the ossified Logan Act—before focusing on the appointment of a special counsel to discredit the Trump presidency. Waiting for the 2020 election was seen as too quaint.
Weaponizing the Deep State
During the 2016 election, the Obama Department of Justice warped the Clinton email scandal investigation, from Bill Clinton’s secret meeting on an airport tarmac with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to unethical immunity given to the unveracious Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, to James Comey’s convoluted predetermined treatment of “likely winner” Clinton, and to DOJ’s Bruce Ohr’s flagrant conflict of interests in relation to Fusion GPS.
About a dozen FBI and DOJ grandees have now resigned, retired, been fired, or reassigned for unethical and likely illegal behavior—and yet have not faced criminal indictments. The reputation of the FBI as venerable agency is all but wrecked. Its administrators variously have libeled the Trump voters, expressed hatred for Trump, talked of “insurance policies” in ending the Trump candidacy, and inserted informants into the Trump campaign.
The former Obama directors of the CIA and National Intelligence, with security clearances intact, hit the television airways as paid “consultants” and almost daily accused the sitting president of Russian collusion and treason—without cross-examination or notice that both previously had lied under oath to Congress (and did so without subsequent legal exposure), and both were likely knee-deep in the dissemination of the Steele dossier among Obama administration officials.
John Brennan’s CIA likely helped to spread the Fusion GPS dossier among elected and administrative state officials. Some in the NSC in massive and unprecedented fashion requested the unmasking of surveilled names of Trump subordinates, and then illegally leaked them to the press.
The FISA courts, fairly or not, are now mostly discredited, given they either were willingly or naively hoodwinked by FBI and DOJ officials who submitted as chief evidence for surveillance on American citizens, an unverified dossier—without disclosure that the bought campaign hit-piece was paid for by Hillary Clinton, authored by a discredited has-been British agent, relied on murky purchased Russian sources, and used in circular fashion to seed news accounts of supposed Trump misbehavior.
The Mueller Investigation
The Crown Jewel in the coup was the appointment of special counsel Robert Muller to discover supposed 2016 Trump-Russian election collusion. Never has any special investigation been so ill-starred from its conception.
Mueller’s appointment was a result of his own friend James Comey’s bitter stunt of releasing secret, confidential and even classified memos of presidential conversations. Acting DOJ Attorney Rod Rosenstein appointed a former colleague Mueller—although as a veteran himself of the Clinton email scandal investigations and the FISA fraudulent writ requests, Rosenstein was far more conflicted than was the recused Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mueller then packed his investigative team with lots of Clinton donors and partisans, some of whom had legally represented Clinton subordinates and even the Clinton Foundation or voiced support for anti-Trump movements.
Mueller himself and Andrew Weissmann have had a long record of investigatory and prosecutorial overreach that had on occasion resulted in government liability and court mandated federal restitution. In such polarized times, neither should have involved in such an investigation. Two subordinate FBI investigators were caught earlier on conducting an affair over their FBI-issued cell phones, and during the election cycle they slurred the object of their subsequent investigation, ridiculed Trump voters, and bragged that Trump would never be elected. Mueller later staggered, and then hid for weeks the reasons for, their respective firings.
The team soon discovered there was no Trump-Russian 2016 election collusion—and yet went ahead to leverage Trump campaign subordinates on process crimes in hopes of finding some culpability in Trump’s past 50-year business, legal, and tax records. The point was not to find who colluded with whom (if it had been, then Hillary Clinton would be now indicted for illegally hiring with campaign funds a foreign national to buy foreign fabrications to discredit her opponent), but to find the proper mechanism to destroy the presumed guilty Donald Trump.
The Mueller probe has now failed in that gambit of proving “collusion” (as even progressive investigative reporters and some FBI investigators had predicted), but succeeded brilliantly in two ways.
The “counterintelligence” investigation subverted two years of the Trump presidency by constant leaks that Trump soon would be indicted, jailed, disgraced, or impeached. As a result, Trump’s stellar economic and foreign policy record would never earn fifty percent of public support.
Second, Mueller’s preemptive attacks offered an effective offensive defense for the likely felonious behavior of John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and a host of others. While the Mueller lawyers threatened to destroy the lives of bit players like Jerome Corsi, George Papadopoulos, and Roger Stone, they de facto provided exemption to a host of the Washington hierarchy who had lied under oath, obstructed justice, illegally leaked to the press, unmasked and leaked names of surveilled Americans, and misled federal courts under the guise of a “higher loyalty” to the cause of destroying Donald J. Trump.
The Palace Coup
All of the above came to a head with the firing of the chronic leaker FBI Director James Comey (who would lie to the president about his not being a target of an FBI investigation, lie to House investigatory committees by pleading amnesia and ignorance on 245 occasions, and repeatedly lie to his own FBI bureaucrats).
In May 2017, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe took over from the fired Comey. His candidate wife recently had been a recipient of huge Clinton-related campaign PAC donations shortly before he began investigating the Clinton email scandal. McCabe would soon be cited by the Inspector General for lying to federal investigators on numerous occasions—cynically stooping even to lie to his own New York FBI subordinates to invest scarce resources to hunt for their own nonexistent leaks as a mechanism for disguising his own quite real and illegal leaking.
The newly promoted McCabe apparently felt that it was his moment to become famous for taking out a now President Trump. Thus, he assembled a FBI and DOJ cadre to open a counterintelligence investigation of the sitting president on no other grounds but the fumes of an evaporating Clinton opposition dossier and perceived anger among the FBI that their director had just been fired. In addition, apparently now posing as Andrew McCabe, MD, he informally head counted how many of Trump’s own cabinet members could be convinced by McCabe’s own apparent medical expertise to help remove the president on grounds of physical and mental incapacity under the 25th Amendment. This was an attempted, albeit pathetic, coup against an elected president and the first really in the history of the United States.
At one point, McCabe claims that the acting Attorney General of the United States Rod Rosenstein volunteered to wear a wire to entrap his boss President Trump—in the manner of Trump’s own attorney Michael Cohen’s entrapment of Trump, in the manner of James Comey taking entrapment notes on confidential Trump one-on-one meetings and leaking them to the press, and in the manner of the Department of Justice surveilling Trump subordinates through FISA and other court authorizations.
McCabe was iconic of an utterly corrupt FBI Washington hierarchy, which we now know from the behavior of its disgraced and departed leadership. They posed as patriotic scouts, but in reality proved themselves arrogant, smug, and incompetent. They harbored such a sense of superiority that they were convinced they could act outside the law in reifying an “insurance policy” that would end the Trump presidency.
The thinking of the conspirators initially had been predicated on three assumptions thematic during this three-year long government effort to destroy Trump:
One, during 2016, Hillary Clinton would certainly win the election and FBI and DOJ unethical and illegal behavior would be forgotten if not rewarded, given the Clintons’ own signature transgressions and proven indifference to the law;
Two, Trump was so controversial and the fabricated dossier was so vile and salacious, that seeded rumors of Trump’s faked perversity gave them de facto exemptions to do whatever they damned pleased;
Three, Trump’s low polls, his controversial reset of American policy, and the general contempt in which he was held by the bipartisan coastal elite, celebrities, and the deep state, meant that even illegal means to continue the campaign-era effort to destroy Trump and now abort his presidency were felt to be moral and heroic acts without legal consequences, and the media would see the conspirators as heroes.
In sum, the Left and the administrative state, in concert with the media, after failing to stop the Trump campaign, regrouped. They ginned up a media-induced public hysteria, with the residue of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s illegal opposition research, and manipulated it to put in place a special counsel, stocked with partisans.
Then, not thugs in sunglasses and epaulettes, not oligarchs in private jets, not shaggy would-be Marxists, but sanctimonious arrogant bureaucrats in suits and ties used their government agencies to seek to overturn the 2016 election, abort a presidency, and subvert the U.S. Constitution. And they did all that and more on the premise that they were our moral superiors and had uniquely divine rights to destroy a presidency that they loathed.
Shame on all these failed conspirators and their abettors, and may these immoral people finally earn a long deserved legal and moral reckoning.