If there’s any doubt about the impact of right-wing propaganda, consider the difference between Democratic and Republican presidents and their respective records on jihadist terrorism.
Democratic presidents have twice now ordered the successful assassinations of top leaders of Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for murdering nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11.
First, it was Barack Obama. He ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Then it was Joe Biden. Over the weekend, the president ordered the assassination by drone strike of Ayman al-Zawahri. He’d taken over Al-Qaeda after Bin Laden’s death.
Compare that to the Republicans.
George W. Bush never achieved justice. Instead, he and his administration chose to make up evidence to justify invading, occupying and blowing up a country that never did us harm.
Though Bush and his neoconservative advisors were wrong – calamitously wrong – about democracy in the Middle East growing out of the barrel of a gun, at least they believed in what they did.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, could have ordered Al-Zawahri’s assassination but chose not to, because the former president didn’t recognize his name. He could not brag to his people about killing the bad guy knowing his people would not know who the bad guy was.
Instead, according to NBC News, he insisted on targeting Bin Laden’s son, Hamza, who was a minor figure compared to Al-Qaeda’s No. 2. Al-Zawahri had helped plan the bombing attacks on the USS Cole in 2000 and the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, both precursors to flying airliners into New York’s Twin Towers.
Name recognition, however, didn’t stop Trump from ordering the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. It didn’t matter because bragging to MAGAland wasn’t the point. The point, according to a source cited by the Wall Street Journal, was drawing attention away from the former president’s trial in the Senate. The House had charged him, in so many words, with blackmailing a foreign leader.
Bush was wrong, but believed in what he did.
As for Trump, do criminals believe in what they do?
Yet for more than two decades, the Republicans have consistently been seen as the party of foreign policy and military affairs. That’s because the facts of the matter do not have the impact on the American consciousness the way that rightwing propaganda does.
The facts do not have the same impact, because the American consciousness typically provides an endless supply of the benefit of the doubt to rich white Christian men who speak openly about their desire to transform an open, dynamic and democratic society into a closed, hierarchical military-style state in the name of “security,” the “Judeo-Christian tradition” and the preservation of “our way of life.”
The Democrats walk the walk, get no credit.
The Republicans talk the talk, get credit.
And use it to undercut America.
It’s in this context that we should view the latest news about Roger Stone, Trump’s friend and adviser. In this context, we can see that the Trump insurrection didn’t begin on January 6, 2021. It began on November 8, 2016. Thanks to the power of right-wing propaganda, no one saw it as it happened. Indeed, treason looked like patriotism.
In 2019, according to the Post, Stone was under pressure from federal prosecutors to incriminate Trump in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Matt Gaetz, congressman of Florida, told Stone not to worry, according to an audio recording of the conversation reported by the Post over the weekend. Gaetz told Stone that, “the boss still has a very favorable view of you.” He said Trump “said it directly.” Gaetz also said, “I don’t think the big guy can let you go down for this.”
As you’ll recall, Russian spies, at the express direction of Vladimir Putin, hacked the computers of the Democratic National Committee. They provided Wikileaks with this material. Wikileaks, in turn, made this material available, in effect doxxing Hillary Clinton. Stone was the link between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. Trump campaigned in coordination with Wikileaks and the Kremlin.
“Stone,” reported the Post, “was charged by Mueller with lying to Congress about his communications with Trump’s campaign regarding WikiLeaks’ 2016 release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.
“US authorities determined that the emails were hacked by Russian operatives seeking to boost Trump’s candidacy. Trump and Stone denied to Mueller that they had discussed WikiLeaks, but testimony from other Trump aides contradicted their accounts.”
By refusing to cooperate with the Mueller investigation, Stone was protecting Trump. (He openly thanked Stone for not “flipping.”) In October 2019, Gaetz said Trump wouldn’t let Stone go to jail. Stone was convicted of seven counts in November of that year and sentenced to 40 months. Trump pardoned him the next year.
In other words, Trump committed, through an intermediary, the crime of conspiring with a foreign government to sabotage his opponent in order to defraud the American people. The intermediary eventually got caught but didn’t flip. As a reward for his loyalty, Trump pardoned the intermediary, thus covering up his own crime.
This was the Trump insurrection’s true beginning.
Thanks to a criminal conspiracy with Russia (and to the Republicans’ willingness to overlook his treasonable crime), Trump was in a position to blackmail a leader of another foreign government into another criminal conspiracy to defraud the American people. Both were precursors to the failed insurgent takeover of the US Capitol.
Though he failed to sabotage Joe Biden, and though he failed to overthrow the government (and though he was impeached for both), the right-wing insurrection prevailed nevertheless. As president, he installed three reactionaries to the US Supreme Court, thus creating a right-wing supermajority that would go on to strike down Roe.
With that ruling, in concert with others, the larger objective for rich white Christian men of turning America into a closed, hierarchical military-style state, in which women stop challenging them and know their proper place, came one step closer to becoming real.
These facts of the matter, however, don’t matter as much as the rightwing propaganda poisoning the American consciousness so that treasonable crimes committed by rich white Christian men are never treasonable crimes but instead honorable acts by honorable men who want nothing more than the best for the American people.
If it were otherwise, the Democrats, on account of achieving justice and ensuring homeland security, would be seen as the party of foreign policy and military affairs. But that can’t be true. They are the party of an open, dynamic and democratic society. The Democrats are not, in other words, the party of rich white Christian men.