Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). I tweet about the law, books, politics, and history. All my threads are here as blog entries: t.co/vdLoEAoLvv Feb. 28, 2019 4 min read

(Thread) the GOP, Putin, and Cynicism

Absorbing Michael Cohen’s hearing yesterday and reading MAGA commentary, I’m struck by the deep and destructive levels of cynicism in the GOP and America's far right wing.

GOP cynicism, it seems to me, explains much of what we are seeing.

1/ As Michael Cohen outlined numerous crimes and instances of fraud committed by Trump, while in and out of office—backed up with documentary proof—Rep. Bob Gibbs @RepBobGibbs interrupted and said the entire hearing was “political theater.”
 https://www.c-span.org/video/?458125-1/michael-cohen-president-trump-he-racist-con-man-cheat&start=11556 

2/ There is, of course, irony and hypocrisy in the wake of decades years of investigations into the Clintons (White Water, Benghazi, “her emails”) where the only actual crime uncovered was that Clinton lied under oath about an extra marital affair.

3/ The talking point right now in Trump’s defense was given by Trump Jr. on Fox when he said the “feds” were using “Stalinist” tactics to bring down his family.  https://www.wjhl.com/top-news/trump-jr-feds-using-stalinist-tactics-against-family/1808949415 
Dershowitz is saying this:

4/ Here is a screen shot from a MAGA bot, taking up the party line👇

Stalin's secret police was saying that the laws were so vaguely worded that they could be applied to any action. The laws were vaguely worded on purpose to achieve this end.

5/ In other words, an innocent person could be convicted under deliberately vague laws, which allowed the Secret Police to selectively prosecute and keep the entire population in terror.

Aside: Masha Gessen, in her stunning book👇 describes how Putin is doing the same thing now.

6/ Putin is passing deliberately vague criminal statutes so he can prosecute whoever he wants, and so the people can be kept in fear with random prosecutions.

In the US, we forbid vaguely worded criminal statutes for that reason:
 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/vagueness_doctrine 

7/ The GOP ignores how statutes are worded in order to declare things crimes that are not crimes.

An example from yesterday's hearing: A form Michael Cohen was asked to fill out required that he disclose work for foreign governments. Cohen testified that . . .

8/ . . . that he and his lawyers read the form, and concluded that he had not worked for governments.

“GOTCHA!” Rep. Meadows basically said: you worked for a bank that is mostly owned by a foreign government.

9/ Cohen explained that that wasn’t how he and his lawyers read the question, but he’s happy to amend the form.
 https://www.c-span.org/video/?458125-1/michael-cohen-president-trump-he-racist-con-man-cheat&start=16051 
Even after hearing Cohen’s explanation and offer, Meadows filed a criminal referral on Cohen:  https://1010wcsi.com/fox-politics/gop-rep-meadows-files-criminal-referral-for-michael-cohen-over-foreign-contracts/ 

10/ Our criminal laws generally require 2 elements be present before a person can be convicted of a crime:
A bad act (actus reas), and
A criminal state of mind (mens rea).
That way we don’t criminalize people for mistakes.
 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/mens_rea 
(there are limited exceptions)

11/ One explanation for the GOP attitude toward laws, and for the “political theater” and “Stalinist” defenses now being offered by the GOP is that GOP knew the Clintons were innocent, but, show me the woman and I’ll show you the crime.

12/ This explanation is backed up by GOP concession that Benghazi was intended to hurt Clinton.  https://www.cnn.com/2015/10/14/politics/hillary-clinton-benghazi-committee/index.html 

Another more cynical (and I think more accurate) way to sum up the GOP position is that everyone is guilty:

13/ Trump commits crimes, but so does everyone else, so picking on Trump is selective prosecution.

The GOP proceeds to “prove” their "everyone is guilty" worldview by showing that Cohen and his lawyers committed a crime when filling out Cohen’s form.

14/ Masha Gessen @mashagessen in an interview, said something that struck me.

She was talking about the 2016 election and how shocked Putin was when his interference techniques worked (Putin takes credit for Trump’s win).
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J98qByki7o 

15/ Putin was shocked because he doesn’t believe any elections are actually open and fair. He believed HRC’s win was preordained because he believes all elections are somehow fixed.

If you think all elections are fixed, then you see no problem with fixing them in your favor.

16/If everyone is a cheater, the question becomes: who is the best cheater?

To control the people through this method, you tell people that all politicians are liars. If they believe this, they dissolve into tribes, preferring their own liar to the enemy liar. See @jasonintrator

17/ Like this: Trump is a liar, but he’s OUR liar. HRC (or whoever) is the enemy liar.

Or you persuade people that “the entire system is corrupt,” which means “everyone fixes elections,” which means “Trump fixed the election, but he’s our cheater. . .

18/. . . and we’d rather have our cheater win than the enemy cheater.”

This comes from a cynical worldview that says all people act from greed and self-interest👇

The Stalinistic approach is (it seems to me) the opposite. The Stalinistic defense says everyone is innocent.

19/ The Stalinistic defense as used by Trump Jr. and the GOP contains a familiar cry of "we are the victims."

I’ve written about how this feeling of being victimized underlies the Trump-GOP worldview.

Here’s an analysis in relation to Kavanaugh:

20/ I’m struggling with my conclusion here, but it seems to me that what defines the GOP is a deeply cynical worldview.

The truth doesn’t matter, and law has no meaning, because everyone is motivated by greed and self-interest.

21/ Cynicism combined with “we are victimized” his how the GOP justifies
💠torpedoing truth
💠 undermining rule of law, and
💠 bringing more corruption to politics while campaigning on an “anti-corruption” platform.

We fight cynicism by holding on to our ideals.


You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.



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