“As one person put it to me, ‘Ron DeSantis is Trump without the gold toilet.’” —Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chair
From The Riverfront Times, by Daniel Hill:
Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed.
Despite the fact that none of the big names who had been billed to speak at the June 27 event showed up, and despite the fact that ticket sales were so dismal attendance was opened to the public for free at the last minute, St. Louis’ most gun-surrendering lawyer plowed right ahead with the First Annual Pink Shirt Guy BBQ and RINO Roast in the St. Louis Mills parking lot.
Grievance and untethered delusion topped the menu at the event, with McCloskey and a roster of speakers largely unknown outside the fever swamps of the far right taking turns condemning everything from critical race theory (their newest and most nonsensical bogeyman) to “cultural Marxism” (George Soros’ fault of course, but how dare you level accusations of antisemitism) to the “radical left” agenda of (hahahahaha) Joe Biden. The whole gun-and-pony show was in service of McCloskey’s deeply stupid run for U.S. Senate, because if there’s one thing that qualifies a man for public office in the Republican party in 2021 it’s a willingness to point a firearm at those with whom you disagree politically.
Initially, fellow criminal and proponent of armed coups Michael Flynn was scheduled to speak, but he was subbed out for North Carolina Congressman and notably dumb guy Madison Cawthorn, who also did not show up. But the show must go on, as they say, and so we were instead primarily treated to the emcee abilities of former radio host Jamie Allman, who lost his longtime job back in 2018 after taking to Twitter to pontificate about ramming a hot poker up a teenager’s ass.
The event kicked off around 2 p.m. with a pig roast and photo op with the McCloskeys, Mark clad in his pink-shirt finery and Patricia sporting the Hamburglar costume for which she is best-known. At least one man brought his rifle for the pair to sign, which of course they did, after which the man could be heard excitedly discussing how much money it was now worth.
After a sound check with local Deep Purple cover band Perfect Strangers, whose singer Terry Luttrell was the original vocalist for REO Speedwagon before parting ways with the band over its earlier, more politically motivated lyrics, the show kicked off with the singing of the national anthem, followed by a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a moment of prayer. With all the hits out of the way, Allman brought up a parade of speakers of varying infamy, one of whom (who can remember who) walked us all through the Declaration of Independence as an encore for good measure.
There was federally charged St. Louis chiropractor Eric Nepute, best-known for recommending Schweppes tonic water as a COVID-19 cure early on in the pandemic; JeffCo gun store owner Ian McFarland, who recently sold McCloskey a new gun when the latter handed his over to the state after pleading guilty to the crimes he’d committed; and State Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), one of the legislators leading an effort that failed in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood in the state. Pillow magnate and unhinged lunatic Mike Lindell piped in a prerecorded message of support, as did war criminal Oliver North, probably as a consolation prize since Flynn was presumably too busy plotting out his own future crimes to make an appearance. There were others as well, but this event suffered from the rookie mistake of having too many openers, which led to some noticeable fatigue in the small crowd who had gathered to gawk at the spectacle.
All of the above took turns rattling off the exhausting culture war talking points that dominate right-wing media nowadays, with fevered rants against critical race theory, cancel culture, cultural Marxism and good old-fashioned communism as practiced by noted leftist Joe Biden (hahahahahahaha) being the order of the day. Allman also tossed out bracelets in support of rioter Ashli Babbitt, who was killed in the U.S. Capital on January 6 after refusing to comply with the commands of officers, and who Allman claimed was “assassinated by her government.” That would seem to fly in the face of the usual “if he/she just complied he/she would still be alive” script of the allegedly pro-police crowd, but Babbitt was on their team, so naturally the very concept of ideological consistency is thrown right out the window.
At long last, after a gushing introduction in which Allman described Mark and Patricia as “everyone’s favorite neighbors” (a characterization with which their actual neighbors whole-heartedly disagree), McCloskey took to the stage to bask in the adulation of the not even half-full seating area of his adoring fans. He insisted gravely that the crowd of people who were walking past his house that fateful day a year ago would have murdered him and his wife and their dog and then burned their house down had he not waddled his ass outside barefoot to threaten them with a rifle, which is pretty confusing seeing as how literally none of McCloskey’s neighbors did the same and yet they all somehow came out unscathed. It also doesn’t fit with the findings of special prosecutor Richard Callahan, who noted in a statement upon the McCloskeys’ guilty plea that: “The protesters on the other hand were a racially mixed and peaceful group, including women and children, who simply made a wrong turn on their way to protest in front of the mayor’s house,” noting further that absolutely no evidence was ever found to show that any of the protesters were armed or intent on harming the couple.
But that didn’t matter to McCloskey, nor did it matter to the sparse crowd who had come to watch him hump a gun on a Sunday afternoon. Naturally, McCloskey used his speech to heap praise on the likes of Donald Trump, Josh Hawley, Mark Meadows and others, while directing scorn at the likes of Kim Gardner, Cori Bush and Rasheen Aldridge. That the former group is a bunch of white guys and the latter are Black probably didn’t have anything to do with McCloskey’s opinions of them, and how dare you even think such a thing.
McCloskey ended his speech by bringing his wife up on stage, and the two of them posed with a gun to the cheers of the crowd. One gets the distinct impression that those cheers were more for the gun itself than its owner though, and that more likely than not the crowd would probably prefer to vote for an actual firearm to be senator instead, if only there was some way to get one on the ballot. Honestly Mark is just a mascot, not unlike Ronald McDonald.
As the main event wrapped up, Allman directed everyone to the merch tent, where McCloskey was selling bottles of barbecue sauce for $20 a pop. With the crowd thoroughly cleared out and a storm rolling in, Perfect Strangers took to the stage and started serving up Deep Purple cuts for the enjoyment of about ten people. Lightning cracked in the sky during the classic track “Stormbringer,” adding a fun bit of synchronicity, if also a sense of foreboding.
Equally synchronized and foreboding was one of the lines from the 1974 track, delivered as it was at the McCloskey-led event:
“He’s got nothing you need.”
Here’s hoping Missouri’s voters are smart enough to see it that way too.
Satire from The Washington Post, by Alexandra Petri:
After working very hard for years in the Trump administration, with special portfolios that included everything from Working Women to Peace in the Middle East (a subject on which Jared read 25 whole books!), Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump would like to announce that — that was the old them. They would like the coverage about them to be different, please.
Jared and Ivanka are new people now. New people who are very distant from former president Donald Trump and all things former-president-Donald-Trump-related, and who cannot possibly be held accountable for anything he does or says — or, indeed, anything they themselves did or said in the before-times.
Let them explain this a little more. It would be completely unreasonable — nay, unjust! — to hold the Jared of June 2021 and the Ivanka of June 2021 accountable for the actions of their so-called past selves. What is the self? Remember, we are all ships of Theseus, whose cells, day after day, are destroyed and replaced with new ones, until the Self that stands there is wrought from entirely new materials from the Self of the past. And yet we seek to hold this brand-new self accountable for the actions of the old? Lunacy!
Society has not been constituted as it is so that a promising young man such as Jared Kushner will have to face consequences for anything he has done in the past. Why, he was so much younger then! A babe in arms! Besides, Now-Jared barely remembers reading those 25 books, and as you can see, the peace in the Middle East over which he ostensibly presided has evaporated into nothing, as though he never tried at all, and he ought not to be asked or confronted about it.
Their point is, there is no permanence in one’s being! The you of yesterday is killed to make room for the you of today who drives its cart over the old self’s bones! Each time you go to sleep, who is to say that there is any continuity between the you who shuts their eyes and the you who reawakens?
How can you ask Jared and Ivanka to do anything but be welcomed and embraced, as they deserve, merely because two impostors masquerading as themselves may or may not have done things in the past? Why, they are barely visiting Mar-a-Lago at all now, and when they do, it is with their faces in rigid masks of disapproval!
The person it is most sad for is Donald Trump, who does not understand the complex nature of the self and wants to keep approaching them as though they are who they always were: people who still have yet to state clearly that they believe President Biden fairly won the election. How sad that they are trapped in these bodies that so closely resemble two people who were active, complicit participants in the Trump administration.
No, there can be no consequences and no accountability; today-Jared and today-Ivanka are entirely new people who are appalled by their associations to Donald Trump and have nothing to say to him, and they would very much like today-you to invite them to the today-Hamptons.
A poll worker responds to an angry heckler.
From The Bulwark, by Margaret McMullan:
To the man who shouted at me about stolen elections,
Just thought I’d follow up about our recent encounter at the polling place where I’m a poll worker.
First, I’m glad you took the time to come to the fire station and cast your vote for mayor of Pass Christian, our beautiful little gem on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Good on you for making the effort.
Second, how dare you say, When do you start stuffing the ballot box?
Let me explain how this works. During our election on June 8, I worked the polls for our ward. My fellow poll workers (all women—go figure) and I had been in that hot fire station garage since 6 a.m., when we started setting up to open the polls at 7. All of us (even ones like me with years of experience) had gone through half a day of training, re-read and highlighted our voting manuals, and brought our own food and water knowing we’d be on our own for the next fourteen hours.
We were a happy group that morning. After a year of quarantine living, it was good to see unmasked neighbors, checking their names and IDs against the list of registered voters, chatting while we facilitated some local democracy.
And then you came along. I recognized you from the primary elections in early April. You came angry then, too, shouting about the stolen 2020 election, your young son trailing behind. Another poll worker (a man) humored you, nodding agreement: Hahaha . . . crazy times, huh? Stolen or not, you cast your vote and left.
Hard to let it go this time, watching you jam your ballot into the machine, which at first didn’t take it. I suggested you straighten it out and try again.
3:15 a.m., you said. That’s when the cheating starts.
The giant fans moving the hot air inside the garage made it unlikely anyone else heard you.
“No,” I said, “the election was certainly not stolen.”
Red-faced and all nervous energy, you seemed stunned. When your hands curled into fists, I backed away, wondering, were you armed? The heat suddenly felt oppressive. Would you be following up with threats, as others who share your beliefs have done this year?
You raged about what “they” did to steal the election from Donald Trump, a loop of Fox News verbigeration, as you kept looking around for someone willing to listen to your rant.
You don’t believe the last election was stolen? you asked.
Maybe you’re just a blowhard, but I didn’t feel safe. I also felt insulted.
You wouldn’t know this, but when the polls closed at 7 p.m. and you were home eating dinner with Tucker Carlson, we were still closing up. We printed out the paper tape, a detailed audit log that’s timestamped with all actions and events that occurred throughout the day on the ballot-counting machine, including any access attempts or errors. After each of us reviewed the tape, we signed it. We counted leftover ballots, double-checked the vote count, sealed the transparent carrier bag with the USB stick, zip-tied the blue ballot box, locked and secured the machine, took down the ward maps, sample ballots, and COVID precaution instructions, then loaded everything up to take to city hall.
Pass Christian uses the DS200 paper-based scanner and vote tabulator. If we ever discover that one of our machines have been hacked or a ballot has somehow been “stuffed,” I’ll eat my hat. I’ll even eat yours and Tucker’s too.
It was rigged, you repeated, shouting over the fans. All the elections are rigged.
“I’m sorry you believe that,” I said. And I was honestly sorry for you. You have been fed a steady diet of lies and distortions about the integrity of our voting system, and you felt you had to demean yourself, and me, and my fellow poll workers with your baseless accusations about rigged elections.
Your vote was accepted, and on the machine’s screen an animated American flag unfurled, a signal of success. “Thank you for voting.”
I handed you an “I voted” sticker and off you went, muttering back to your car.
Throughout the day, between brief surges of voters, my fellow poll workers and I stood to stretch and discuss ways to lose our own “covid 19s”—the extra pounds put on over the last year. We talked about our children and grandchildren, husbands, line dancing, and the sofa we wanted to donate to the firemen because theirs is so ratty. We didn’t discuss politics. We were there to do a job.
By the end of the day, only 214 of the 829 registered voters in Ward 2 voted.
We worried over the low turnout and thought that voting should be easier for people who work during the day. Why not vote on Saturdays? Why not make election day a day off? How can we better regulate mail-in voting and early voting to alleviate unfounded suspicions? We were thinking out loud, knowing there’s a voting problem, and that problem is made worse by angry, misled people like you.
According to a recent report from the Center for Election Innovation & Research, Mississippi is among the worst states in the nation for voting access.
And last year’s election was deemed the most secure in American history.
I consider working at the polls an important democratic civic service. I want to work with these fine poll workers again at the next election, but that’s unlikely. People like you make us quit. There’s even talk of outrageous fines and penalties for poll workers. Add threats and intimidation to this low-paying, fourteen-hour day, and, well, you get the picture. Maybe you’ll replace me.
Our last voter arrived at exactly 7 p.m. Once the machine accepted her ballot, she slapped the “I Voted” sticker on her blouse, and ran to the parking lot shouting “Freedom!” Every single one of us smiled.
So, yes, I feel sorry. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel the same burst of freedom after you voted, that same sense of pride in our American democracy. I’m sorry that a certain someone stole that from you.
From Politico, by Jack Shafer:
Just because Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar voted against establishing a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol doesn’t mean he’s not ready to use the power of his office to stage an inquiry into the topic by other means. This week, Gosar, a Donald Trump ally, all but donned a Sherlockian deerstalker hat and wrapped himself in a houndstooth cape in his pursuit of Jan. 6 truth as he cross-examined FBI Director Christopher Wray during a House Oversight Committee hearing.
Gosar claimed that protester Ashli Babbitt had been “executed” by a policeman who had been “lying in wait” for her and demanded to know why her killer had not been named. Did Wray know Babbitt was unarmed? Would Wray approve the release of all surveillance recordings from the Capitol? The release of all surveillance recordings of the suspected pipe bomber, not just clips?Wray backpedaled—the Babbitt killing wasn’t his case, nor did he control the Capitol tapes, and as for the pipe bomber, he offered that release only a clip was consistent with protecting the integrity of the investigation. But Gosar wasn’t really looking for answers as much as he was attempting to portray a governmental cover-up of Jan. 6.
Along with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Gosar is one of the leading proponents of a brand of Jan. 6 revisionism that seeks to unsettle the consensus view that frames the Capitol disturbances as a dangerous uprising. Some theorists of this ilk go so far as to insist the riot was as peaceful as a pasture of lambkins and that it was actually Antifa or “fake Trump protesters” that hammered and bear-sprayed the United States Capitol Police. Gosar says the riots were conducted by “peaceful patriots“ and that “outright propaganda and lies” about the day have been deployed against “law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters” to paint them as political criminals. Dancing a similar move, Johnson has advanced the theory that “agents provocateurs” were behind the violence. “Those are people that love this country,” Johnson said in March of the rioters, “that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.” This week, Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson joined them in Jan. 6 trutherdom with a tangled commentary that proposed that the FBI itself helped perpetrate the riots.https://9eefc40ccefc58acb882edbc163db837.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Oh, gawd, you must be muttering to yourself. Not another baseless conspiracy to disarm! Didn’t we just spend seven months proving in the courts and the forums of public opinion that no meaningful amount of voter fraud took place in the presidential election? Now we’ve got to prove that Jan. 6 wasn’t a contemporary COINTELPRO operation or the product of deep anarchists? How long must we suffer?
The short answer is “forever.” The human appetite for alternative, and usually hair-brained, explanations for why events blossomed the way they did can never be sated. Oh, you can battle a poison fruitcake ideology like QAnon to the point that it can be contained in a 55-gallon drum and sealed. You can repel one nutter idea after another—Obama birtherism, Benghazi, Sandy Hook, the Katrina levee breach, Bush’s foreknowledge of 9/11—a new one will pop up to replace it like a target in an arcade. As long as anxieties about an uncertain future persist, people will devise irrational and inconsistent theories and share them. Some of these people will even be members of Congress. We’ll just have to deal with them.
So journalists like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, CNN’s Marshall Cohen, and HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias and Ryan J. Reilly, have done the right and necessary thing by providing a rapid-response this week to knock down Carlson’s FBI allegation that an “unindicted co-conspirator” described in Jan. 6 criminal charges was an FBI informant who helped plan the assault. It just ain’t so, Cohen wrote. The news article on which Carlson drew his conclusions were based on a flawed misunderstanding of how an unindicted co-conspirator is defined. “Federal agents acting within the scope of their duties are never considered unindicted co-conspirators because by definition they aren’t conspiring with the alleged bad guys,” Tulane University law professor Ross Garber told him.
One unfortunate thing about these rebuttals is that they will “amplify,” as some of the lefty press critics might say, the original Carlson rubbish. But how catastrophic is that compared to letting the Carlson chicanery go uncontested?
If anything, we should be grateful that the Jan. 6 truthers commenced their theorizing as soon as they did before memories hazed and people began the inevitable process of forgetting exactly what happened. That the truthers are active now, while the Capitol still displays its scars, and we have ready access to the information needed to disprove their theories, gives us a winning chance to beat back Gosarian demagoguery and set the record straight. To cite a recent Thomas Frank column, there’s a liberal tendency to throw a temper tantrum every time unauthorized voices outside the consensus say things that can’t be suppressed by a moderator. Instead of smacking our heads on our desks helplessly, better that we seize the opportunity presented by Gosar and his like to shape a better, more accurate portrait of the events of Jan. 6.
Take Gosar’s protest that we don’t know the name of the policeman who shot Babbitt. Surely he knows that the U.S. Capitol Police work for Congress and that it’s in their power to change the rules that would release the name of Babbitt’s shooter. Rather than hector the FBI director about the shooter’s identity, he should persuade his colleagues to make the Capitol Police more transparent. Furthermore, if Team Gosar is really serious about wanting to know more about law enforcement’s Jan. 6 conduct, instead of asking questions to which he obviously knows the true answers, he should stump for a congressional investigative commission that would probe all the riot’s secrets, not just the ones that favor his interpretation.
As much as we might like to deny it, not every revisionist question is a misguided missile aimed at the sacred heart of truth. Even bad-faith actors can raise relevant questions. For instance, the first accounts of U.S. Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick’s cause of death—that he was killed following blunt force trauma—were doubted in many corners and were later attributed to natural causes by the D.C. medical examiner. If Democrats are serious about a congressional investigation of the riot, they must be prepared to follow where the evidence leads, even if doesn’t flatter their present views. Why did authorities miss the warning signs of the violent attack? Why were forces not mobilized to beat back the attack? What role did Trump play in the passive response? Were the militias working together? Was there inside coordination? How can we prevent a similar riot in the future? And more. As Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann write in The Washington Post, the FBI did know enough about the riot-in-the-making before the fact, but failed to take action. There are greater truths still to be discovered about Jan. 6, and we should take any opportunity we can to pursue them.
If Republicans are serious about their revisionism, these topics should rise to the top of their list of grievances, not vaporous fantasies about how the Jan. 6 riot was really a harmless joy ride by winter tourists through the Capitol. Unless Republicans change their stripes—fat chance of that—we can never expect the current Congress to answer our questions definitively.That leaves it to the press to sort the Jan. 6 sense from the nonsense wherever and whenever it appears. It can be as grimy and odious as emptying a septic tank an ounce at a time, but this is the life we journalists have chosen. Ladies and gentlemen, deploy your teaspoons!
“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell said Thursday.
From The Bulwark, by Charlie Sykes:
The RNC put out a press release denouncing Biden for meeting with Putin, and other GOPers followed suit.
The Trump confidant Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, told Hannity that Biden was practicing “appeasement” of Putin. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former Secretary of State, said on the same show that refusing to hold a joint press conference with Putin—as Trump had—was an admission of “enormous weakness” on Biden’s part. During the summit, three Republican senators—Ted Cruz, John Barrasso, and Ron Johnson—put out a joint statement that said Biden was “sending a message of weakness and appeasement to our adversaries, encouraging and emboldening them.”
As Winston Churchill might say, AYFKM? The past does not exist, and memory, like happiness (to paraphrase Putin) is an illusion. Helsinki is erased, and the entire Trump presidency ret-conned before our eyes.