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NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Laws, Shmaws: Conservatives Contort Selves to Paint Trump as Winner in Manafort-Cohen Cases

It seems like a long, long time ago that conservatives were America’s “law and order” people. Last Tuesday’s revelation that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had flipped and was implicating Trump in hush money payments — along with the multiple guilty verdicts obtained against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — had the brethren talking down The Man and hatching novel legal defenses like so many jailhouse lawyers.

Manafort’s conviction on eight out of eighteen charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, and financial-reporting irregularities in the first jury trial brought by Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller — with a second Manafort trial coming up fast — would seem to be bad enough news for Trump, suggesting as it does that Mueller has plenty in the tank for future prosecutions that could be dangerous for the president. But Cohen’s admission — he stated in court that “a candidate for federal office” (plainly Trump) directed him to pay off adult entertainer Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, and that he had done so “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” — might be interpreted as evidence of a campaign finance violation.

The Manafort and Cohen reports came within minutes of each other, and some conservatives didn’t take the initial shock well. “SO WHEN ARE THEY GONG AFTER ALL THE PEOPLE WHO LIED ABOUT BENGHAZI ONLINE AT THE DIRECTION OF BARRACK OBAMA TO PREVENT HIS LOSING THE 2012 ELECTION?” raved a nostalgic Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit. “But Democrats also have to ask themselves, do they want President Pence? Because that’s what you get if you manage to get rid of Trump,” wrote her colleague Glenn Reynolds, apparently going straight to the bargaining stage.

“If you get your information from the legacy media,” wrote Liz Shield at PJ Media, “you would think that Cohen put the nail in Trump’s coffin with his guilty plea, ‘admitting’ that the president directed him to pay off some (alleged) blackmailing trollops with campaign money. The #resistance is all worked up now because they think this is actually going to happen. When it doesn’t happen, they are going to be angry and, as we have seen, violent.” Clearly these charges were a secret message from Robert Mueller to unleash antifa riots across America. You won’t read that in legacy media!

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But once the initial shock passed, everyone went to their battle stations: The more scholarly types set about splitting legal hairs (“regardless of what Cohen agreed to in a plea bargain, hush-money payments to mistresses are not really campaign expenditures”), while the dimmer lights told us how great this news was for Donald Trump.

“The press thinks yesterday was a bad day for the President. Actually, it was a good day for the President,” wrote Erick Erickson at the Resurgent. In fact, he continued, it “probably helps Trump in 2020,” because even “to the extent this causes voters to put Democrats in charge of the House, it gives the President some group he can more easily vilify.” Now all Trump has to do is lose both houses of Congress by a veto-proof majority, and he’ll have the Democrats right where he wants them.

At the Washington Examiner, Byron York also found Manafort’s conviction good news for Trump: After all, “Manafort was convicted of shady dealing going back a long way. His behavior had been examined by the Obama Justice Department, which took no action against him. It was only because Manafort hooked up with Trump…that Manafort got caught and his foreign money schemes exposed.” So, from a certain perspective, Manafort is Obama’s fault, and the Trump presidency resulted in his conviction. Also, said York, Manafort’s case had given the public “a glimpse into what Washington influence peddlers have gotten away with for decades” — and isn’t Trump all about draining the swamp?

Various volunteer legal advisers used their media venues to tell the president he could beat the rap. Radio shouter Mark Levin, for example, compared Trump’s payoffs to former sexual partners with hypothetical payoffs to “vendors” or “a disgruntled employee,” which in Levin’s view would be “perfectly legal” — though he didn’t stipulate whether, in these hypothetical situations, Trump had also fucked the vendors or disgruntled employee and was trying to keep that a secret for political purposes. (But from what former Trump doorman Dino Sajudin has been telling the press, we may get to test that scenario soon enough.)

At the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway viewed the events of the week from a moral rather than legal perspective, making them easier to spin. On Manafort’s and Cohen’s tax frauds, Hemingway gently chided, “Nobody likes paying onerous taxes, but the way to fight high taxes is through political means, not by lying to the federal government” — as if Manafort and Cohen were conscientious objectors to IRS regulations rather than tax cheats.

Hemingway then redirected her readers’ attention to what she apparently thinks is the real problem: a lack of faith in the justice system, caused by the prosecution of Republicans. “A big problem for federal prosecutors,” she claimed, “is that public trust in their application of the rule of law is low because of how they handle political cases.” Hemingway cited no metric for measuring the “public trust” of prosecutors, which is probably wise, considering how high Robert Mueller’s poll numbers are right now.

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As for Trump paying off co-adulterers, Hemingway allowed that “adultery is wrong” and “spouses are called to live a sexually pure and decent life in what they say and do.” She no doubt hopes Trump has learned a valuable lesson, or at least will say that he has at the next fundamentalist group hug.

At Reason, Clark Nelly predicted that “Trump will emerge from the Michael Cohen kerfuffle more powerful, more energized, and more electable than he was going in,” because “given how complex and abstruse campaign finance laws are, can any candidates be 100 percent confident they committed zero violations?” Surely Joe Sixpack will be able to relate to this legal dilemma.

At American Greatness, Roger Kimball did a J’Accuse over the grave injustice done Manafort and Cohen. “Like a cat toying with an injured mouse, the modern major prosecutor keeps batting his prey about till he stops moving altogether,” he wrote. “For wretched power-drunk commissars like Robert Mueller, the process, because of the punishment, is all the fun. They enjoy tormenting people.” Watch for the day Kimball says anything so sympathetic about a victim of overzealous prosecution who is not a rich, white fixer for Republicans; when it comes, commission a skating rink in Hell.

It got to the point where NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch was telling people with a straight face that prosecutors were “trying to Al Capone the president,” referring to the gangster’s famous conviction for tax evasion rather than for greater crimes the feds couldn’t make stick. She got a lot of ribbing for that (“Some other resonances between Trump and Al Capone”), but, from the point of view of Trump supporters, it makes sense: It was always obvious that, one way or the other, the criminally connected Trump would wind up in legal trouble as president; the only question is whether he can get off. As more Trump associates flip, his fans seem to think raising the noise-to-signal ratio will help — perhaps by raising the specter of a popular “revolt,” as Rudy Giuliani tried to do. But if they want to convince normal people that their leader should be above the law, they’re going to have to come up with more compelling material.

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THE FRONT ARCHIVES The Harpy

Paul Manafort Is Going to Jail. But in Ukraine, He Has Left Ghosts in His Wake.

On the morning of February 24, 2014, hundreds of Ukrainians streamed through the doors of the famed presidential palace of Mezhyhirya. The billion-dollar residence, finished in wood, as if to mimic a rustic cottage, was propped up by incongruous white columns; the crowd that flowed between them was witnessing, for the first time, the uses state coffers had been put to under the corrupt guidance of their ousted president. Viktor Yanukovych had fled overnight, vanishing into the depths of Russia, and his guards had deserted their posts. They had watched over the estate, its garages filled with luxury cars, a scale-model Spanish galleon bobbing in the manmade pond, on which Yanukovych had hosted guests for luxurious dinners, with sturgeon caviar served in golden dishes and libations from cellars stocked with priceless brandies; Now the place was left open for a crowd of ordinary citizens, whose average wage was less than $200 a month.

The crowd was awed, but relatively tame. There was no looting, just selfies in the five guesthouses, with the peacocks and pet ostriches and Burmese fowl, on the vast grounds a Washington Post reporter said reminded him “of Marie Antoinette’s idealized peasant village at Versailles.”

Days earlier, on February 20, 48 protesters had died in fierce clashes with Yanukovych’s paramilitary forces, the culmination of a months-long series of rolling street battles centered in Kyiv’s iconic Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square — site of the Ukrainian parliament. In 2014, facing pressure from his benefactor, Vladimir Putin, to crack down on civil unrest, Yanukovych had directed riot police to use live ammunition and snipers to fire into the crowd of thousands that had gathered to demand his resignation. The square, with its soaring pillar topped with a golden angel, was scarred with ash and littered with corpses.

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It was the climax of Yanukovych’s reign — and its end; he fled three days later, leaving his residence and all its trappings behind, as the protests continued to swell. In many ways, that bloody winter owed its tragic toll to the work of another man, one for whom Yanukovych had been one of many protégés: Paul Manafort.

Manafort began advising Yanukovych in 2004, the year Yanukovych became Ukraine’s prime minister. Manafort’s career had begun decades earlier as a shrewd and unscrupulous young Republican in the 1970s, and his star rose with the establishment of the firm Black, Manafort and Stone, a lobbying outfit Time magazine once dubbed “a supermarket of influence-peddling.” Notorious operative Lee Atwater, a Nixon-style dirty trickster for the ages, joined Manafort and Roger Stone in the business; together, they cleared millions nudging the levers of government on behalf of massive corporations. By the 1990s, Manafort’s appetite for luxury and excitement had outgrown domestic politics, and he turned his gaze abroad. He worked to soften the image of brutal Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos; Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, whose armies committed atrocities and conscripted women into sexual slavery; and Zaire’s infamous Mobutu Sese Seko, among others. The back-channel operations were wildly lucrative; moral lines meant as little as borders to the jet-setting power broker.

Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine in 2010, under Manafort’s oily guidance; a country that had been the first to break from the Soviet Union, ushering in its collapse, found itself drifting closer and closer to Moscow. The reforms brought about by a popular revolt against Yanukovych in 2004 dissipated under his renewed rule. Activists bridled against the appalling graft of the Yanukovych regime. In a country where women sell dill-flowers by the metro for kopeks, in which more than a quarter of the population was living in poverty, the capital was studded with exemplars of Yanukovych’s open corruption. From the long promenade at Mariinsky Park, Kyiv’s loveliest municipal garden, a breathtaking view of the banks of the Dnieper River was marred by the blocky gray bulk of a presidential helipad.

After Yanukovych’s ouster, evidence of Manafort’s activities — and the rich payments he received for them — were pieced together from drowned or half-burned documents in Mezhyhirya and the abandoned offices of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Manafort’s name cropped up again and again as the recipient of illicit payments. Manafort’s associate Rick Gates had boasted to friends, “in every ministry, he has a guy” in Ukraine, in what amounted to a “shadow government.” But the ledgers showed that even shadows sometimes leave receipts.

In 2016, investigative journalist and now-parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko received one such document anonymously: the infamous “black ledger,” which detailed, in chicken-scratch Cyrillic, some $12.7 million in payments to Manafort from 2007 to 2012. By the time Leshchenko made the document public, Manafort had stepped in to smooth the ascendance of another troubled and amoral politico: Donald Trump.

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Manafort is en route to a long prison term now, after a jury found him guilty on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. For decades, Manafort gave guidance to murderers around the world. It was only in America, the country that had shaped his tactics, that he found a partial comeuppance. But in Ukraine — and Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Philippines — there are bodies in the ground that will never rise again.

The 2014 revolution, known colloquially as “Maidan” or “Euromaidan,” after Independence Square, was led by students and activists; it swelled to become a grassroots movement that encompassed hundreds of thousands of protestors. These days, a war with Russia still rages in the east of the country, as Putin seeks to reclaim by force the influence over Ukraine he once achieved with grease. Some ten-thousand Ukrainians, soldiers, and civilians alike, have died, while 4.4 million have been impacted by displacement, famine, and continual shelling. In Kyiv, the ash has been washed from the cobblestones of Independence Square, and the angel spreads her wings on the top of a pillar that is once again white, presiding over the city’s living and the revolution’s dead.

The ill-gotten mementos of Paul Manafort’s life have been used as exhibits in trial: his stiff legions of suits; his numerous residences; an infamous $15,000 ostritch-leather jacket. Just outside Kyiv, where once-awed protestors touched with hesitant palms the gaudy fripperies of a life sustained on loot, Mezhyhirya remains, unscathed. It’s available for commercial tours, for the curious, but its colloquial name now illustrates precisely what it is: the Museum of Corruption. Perhaps one day, if the era Manafort and his ilk ushered in ever ends, Mar-a-Lago will serve a similar purpose.

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NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Conservatives Can’t Identify Journalism, Confuse It With Doxxing

People usually frame Trump’s war on the press as if it’s just him making Soviet-style “enemy of the people” declarations against the media. But Trump gets plenty of help in belittling the mainstream press from conservative media — and not just by them parroting his punch lines, either.

One great example of this occurred last week when reporters asked for information about the jurors assigned to the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Conservatives accused the journalists of trying to sway the jurors into ruling for a conviction against Manafort, who is charged with eighteen counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts.

Jurors started deliberating Wednesday. Surprisingly, considering how mobbed up Manafort (and indeed the whole Trump apparatus) is, they have not been sequestered, meaning it’s probably likely that jurors have heard President Trump lobby on behalf of his old friend. (“It’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort,” Trump told the press, an endorsement that Manafort’s defense lawyer said he appreciated.)

We may never find out what jurors thought or heard during deliberations once the trial ends. Judge T.S. Ellis III has blocked the release of any information that might get them identified by the press. Requesting access to juror info is a common reporter gambit — used, for example, after the Bill Cosby trial — to get the sort of juror quotes you read in high-level, post-trial reports. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Politico, and BuzzFeed all petitioned the court together to obtain the jurors’ names and addresses and other currently unavailable Manafort trial information, citing precedent that jury information should be revealed “absent extraordinary circumstances such as ‘realistic threats of violence or jury corruption.’ ”

But, Judge Ellis said there had been threats — to him. Ellis revealed he was under the protection of U.S. marshals, and said he feared for the jurors’ “peace and safety,” which led him to refuse the request.

Seems pretty straightforward. But conservatives — who did not know, or did not care to know — that this was standard journalistic practice told readers that reporters wanted to know the jurors’ names, not to write stories, but so they could “dox” them to coerce a conviction of Manafort on behalf of the Democrats.

At the Federalist, Bre Payton attacked what she described as CNN’s “long history of doxxing threats and harassment” and said “publicly outing the names and home addresses of jurors is considered ethically questionable” — as if it had been established that CNN, or anyone else, planned to do that to the Manafort jury.

Payton cited two pieces of evidence for her claim: CNN’s 2017 attempt to expose the person who posted a viral clip of Trump beating up a guy who had a CNN logo covering his head, and the network’s February 2018 contentious interview with Florine Gruen Goldfarb, a Florida Trump supporter whose Team Trump Broward Facebook page, according to CNN, listed events “promoted and encouraged by Russian trolls.” (Goldfarb’s responses in an interview with CNN regarding the possibility that Russians hacked into her group’s Facebook account were maladroit; she said accusations of Russian involvement were just a “cover-up” for “the shooting that was done at the high school.” At the time, conservative media portrayed her as an innocent victim of a “reporter ambush” who was “receiving threats on social media,” thus proving she had been “doxxed” rather than her merely having agreed to be interviewed.)

Payton’s accusations gave the brethren some talking points. “CNN Accused of Intimidating Paul Manafort Jury,” claimed John Nolte at Breitbart. Nolte called the request by CNN and the “six other far-left media outlets…disturbing and almost unprecedented.”

Nolte seemed to take Payton’s word that CNN planned to publish the jurors’ names and addresses without their consent. As evidence Nolte cited how CNN, during its 2013 coverage of the trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin briefly showed a police document onscreen that showed Zimmerman’s Social Security number. Apparently this had been done in error, and yet Nolte nonetheless portrayed it as proof of CNN’s “desperation for a conviction in that case.” (He didn’t say how Zimmerman’s Social Security number would have helped the prosecution.)

Nolte suggested something similar was happening with Manafort: “What many see here, and not without precedent,” he wrote, “is yet another attempt by the media, most especially CNN, to bully and intimidate private, everyday citizens into convicting Manafort.… Jurors are almost certain to learn that these powerful anti-Trump outlets are hunting them down.”

“CNN and Other Leftist Outlets Accused of Planning to Smear Manafort Jury,” said Cillian Zeal at the Conservative Tribune. “CNN’s request to the court looks less like an act of journalists seeking information than it does the groundwork of a plan to attack the Manafort jury if it comes back with a verdict the media doesn’t like.… It’s doxxing, plain and simple.”

Perhaps aware that all but the most credulous wingnut readers would find this argument unconvincing, some conservative commentators clung to plausible, just-asking, others-accuse deniability, but some couldn’t restrain themselves.

“Was The Media Trying To Dox And Intimidate Jurors At Paul Manafort’s Trial?” riddle-me-this’d RedState. But after a few paragraphs it lost its cool: “This seems like a raw attempt at jury tampering. Like these news organizations were telling the jurors ‘we know where you live and if you f*** this up we’ve got you.’ ”

“Judge Ellis in Manafort Case Denies Dox-Factory CNN’s Demand for Juror Information,” brayed Ace of Spades, “Says He Himself Has Been Threatened, and The Jurors Would Be As Well.” Then Spades added, “Of course. That was the point. Also the point? Letting the jurors know that the media is very interested in digging up their identities, and will keep on trying.”

“Perhaps [the jurors] have seen the videos of Trump administration officials harassed in restaurants, businesses protested and boycotted for expressing pro-Trump sentiment, and street attacks by Antifa,” mused William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. “While a Not Guilty verdict for Manafort would not in fact be a ‘pro-Trump’ gesture, there is little doubt it would be perceived that way by the anti-Trump resistance.”

“Why do you suppose seven news organizations — all liberal, presumably — wanted to know who the jurors are and where they live?” asked John Hinderaker at Power Line. To contact them for interviews? Wrong! “They are worried that the jury, having heard the evidence, may not render the ‘right’ verdict, i.e., the one that helps the Democratic Party,” declared Hinderaker. “So they want to know who the jurors are so they can apply pressure on them through mob action, newspaper denunciations, online harassment and so on. This is how today’s Democratic Party operates.”

“Wow. So now they’ve gotten into the jury-tampering business,” marveled Monica Showalter at American Thinker. “They’re more interested in who the jury is than the trial itself.” Showalter compared the press to “Jean-Paul Marat, one of the French Revolution’s bloodthirstiest leftists (this is where we get the term ‘leftist’),” and added, “Oh, and note that this request takes place in the city of Alexandria, Virginia, home of shotgun political violence against Republican House leader Steve Scalise, who was nearly killed by aimed gunfire in a leftist assassination attempt while on a baseball field. You can bet the jury knows about that one.” It all adds up!

“Suing to doxx jurors was more threatening than simply doing it,” tweeted actor-turned-troll James Woods. “It’s like the mafia leaving a dead fish on your windshield.”

“And you can bet that the minute this information becomes publicly available, CNN will rush to broadcast it [sic] every single American — including the deranged ones — it can reach,” said Vivek Saxena at BizPac Review.

Yeah, that’s how journalists operate. They claim they’re “reporting news,” but they’re really passing on orders to kill. It’s easy to understand why conservatives think this way. They themselves admit that right-wing media outlets don’t do a lot of reporting, and most are simply content to chest-pound on behalf of Donald Trump. So would they even recognize what journalism is? Under such circumstances it would make sense if they came to consider journalism in the same way they consider creative endeavors: as vaguely disreputable dark arts practiced only by their enemies, to be beaten back with slander and propaganda.

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NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Caging Kids, Coddling Kim, Court Catastrophes? All Wins for Trump, Conservatives Conclude

It was a mad week, with Trump proclaiming peace with North Korea without extracting commitments from the rogue state on much of anything, least of all human rights — an attitude that was mirrored by his minions tearing immigrant families apart on the Mexican border. Also, Republicans nominated at least one more white supremacist (I mean the obvious kind) and the Trump team took a beating in the legal system.

The unifying thread of these events, apart from the criminality and incompetence of the star players, was the typically delirious conservative spin regarding all of them.

We started in Singapore on Monday evening, New York time, with Trump shaking hands with Kim Jong Un, a notorious dictator, and declaring that America and the hermit kingdom were now practically allies so his own subjects had nothing to fear from Kim’s starving people and nuclear armaments, notwithstanding the Norks have broken promises to the U.S. many times before.

In the course of this running-dog-and-starving-pony show, Trump shrugged off Kim’s legendary torture and repression of his subjectssaluted an enemy officer, and appeared to offer the dictator a beach condo deal. His new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, backed Trump’s bullshit 100 percent, his loyalty likely marginally prolonging his own tenure.

Also showing his loyalty: Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, who wrote that “the fact that the statement the two leaders signed referred only to ‘complete denuclearization,’ not ‘complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,’ does not mean that Trump gave up verification or irreversibility in the deal, because there is no ‘deal’ yet, only a ‘communique’ that summarized what the two leaders discussed. We are at the start of the negotiating process, not the end.” Denuclearization is not a “destination,” it seems, but a “journey.”

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Thiessen also said “Trump’s critics need to back off” because “every other approach by his predecessors to stopping Pyongyang’s nuclear drive has failed. So, the president and his team are trying something new; they deserve some latitude to see if this new approach can succeed.” This it’s-so-crazy-it-might-work judgment was echoed by others; the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, for example, wrote that though “Kim and his predecessors never kept their promises before…maybe Trump’s plan will work. Maybe it will work a little and not work a little. Or maybe it will fail altogether. But it’s the result of a president re-thinking a problem that desperately needed a new approach.” The important thing is he tried!

In response, some of Trump’s most loyal subjects caught a little Juche fever themselves.

“President Trump is the most energetic 72 year old in the world, fighting simultaneously on all fronts #HappyBirthdayMrPresident,” ballwashed Dinesh D’Souza, whose campaign finance fraud Trump pardoned last month. “Even Trump’s critics have to note the staggering stamina,” cheered CNN’s Dave Briggs: “+12-hour time change, 4 hours of intensive meetings w/North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, a pair of sit down interviews followed by a press conference that just surpassed one hour for a man who turns 72 Thursday.” Bet your grandpa can’t take a long plane ride and then pretend to pay attention to what’s going on around him!

“The carrot of wealth — like that of glittering Singapore, where Kim took the opportunity for sightseeing, including a lavish casino run by the Sheldon Adelson’s Sands corporation — certainly worked on the dictator,” babbled Thomas Lifson of American Thinker. “Kim Jong-un clearly loves the boys’ toys of modernity.” Guess Trump’s talk of condos on the beaches turned Kim around! Well, bribery always works great with dictators — look at how the great deal Hitler got from Chamberlain prevented World War II for a couple of months.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continued its attack on anyone of foreign origin and dark skin, regardless of citizenship status, adding the innovation — unique among liberal democracies — of wrenching children, including breastfeeding infants, out of the arms of their parents and housing them in closed-down Walmarts. This, as observers have pointed out, is what wingnuts used to worry Obama would do to white Americans in their “Jade Helm 15” conspiracy theory, which would be ironic if irony had not long ago died of overwork.

The administration and its factota said it was only obeying the law, which Trump spokesliar Sarah Huckabee Sanders proclaimed “very biblical,” though there is in fact no law requiring that the families be separated. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also cited The Good Book, quoting Romans 13, a passage commonly used by antebellum Southerners to justify holding slaves. And people say what this White House is doing is “unprecedented”!

While normal people were horrified by the obvious brutality, and at what the vicious immigration overreach suggests for the future of our Republic, conservatives asked what the big deal was — though they may be refugees fleeing certain death, these immigrants and their kids are lawbreakers and deserve whatever their nonwhite asses get.

That’s how National Review’s Rich Lowry explained it: What you squishes see as a dystopian nightmare, Lowry said, conservatives consider “a signal that we are serious about our laws and to create a deterrent against re-entry.” And it’s not like the family can’t later be reunited: “If the adult then wants to go home…in this scenario, there’s only a very brief separation.” See? They have a choice.

But if they persist — if, say, “the adult files an asylum claim” claiming refugee status, said Lowry — well, the children may be released before the parents. And then, “even if we want to hold a family unit together, we are forbidden from doing so,” so there’s no choice but to hand the kids off to foster care (where they sometimes disappear). But that’s per an old law, so you certainly can’t blame Trump for leveraging, er, following it. He’s very scrupulous about obeying the law!

As for Trump, Lowry sighed, “despite some mixed messages, if the administration had its druthers, family units would be kept together and their cases settled quickly.” (Try to imagine Trump actually thinking this, or using the word druthers.)

Glib legalism, though, was for those whose careers required they make their arguments look nice. For most conservatives, it was good enough that liberals were upset about the shattered families.

At American Thinker, Monica Showalter chortled, “Suddenly these leftists who’ve never liked family values in the past, are all in for family values.” Then she pulled her ace: “If the left cares as much as it says about family values, and it doesn’t, maybe they can apply that ‘families belong together’ slogan to the case of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban refugee boy who was rescued on the high seas after his mother drowned fleeing here…” Elian Gonzalez is now 24 years old. These Clinton-era grudges die hard!

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Also, there were some elections last Tuesday and, while the Democrats flipped their 43rd state legislature seat since 2016 — this one in a district Trump won by eighteen points — the Republicans were nominating their now-customary crackpots for the general. Perhaps the cream of this crop was new GOP Virginia senate nominee Corey Stewart, supporter of Charlottesville Nazis, famous racists, and the Confederacy.

The big-brain response was to try to dismiss the Republican candidate for a major office as irrelevant, as did White Working Class Whisperer Salena Zito: “Prediction despite several very good GOP challengers running for U.S. Senate in this cycle Corey Stewart will become the media’s standard bearer of who the GOP is,” she tweeted, “and every time he screws up, and he will, they will point to him and say, ‘see!’ ” That’s obviously why liberals made Republicans nominate him, too.

The galaxy-brain response was to deny racism even exists, at least in the whites-oppressing-blacks sense, as David Marcus showed at the Federalist. Sure, wrote Marcus, Stewart said racist things, “but do these things qualify him as a racist today? At a time when even slight, unconscious actions earn that label, indeed when many on the Left argue that racism is the natural and unavoidable state of all white people, who is a racist? And who, if anyone, isn’t?” Maybe racism is just a concept by which we measure our pain.

Oh, meanwhile former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort went to jail on credible suspicion of witness tampering, and Trump and his family’s foundation are being sued by the New York attorney general for, basically, a white-collar crime spree. Things look bad for our own Dear Leader — yet many pundits, not only right-wing trolls but New York Times liberals, told us the real issue is that Samantha Bee and Robert DeNiro say mean swears and (come on kids, it’s America’s version of a Christmas panto, everyone say it with me!) This Is Why Trump Won.

The idea seems to be that deportment beats deportation, and instead of expressing righteous indignation Democrats should impress voters with their manners. My own take is, if Americans really don’t mind that international diplomacy is being treated as just another grift, and either don’t care about children locked in cages or get a racist thrill out of the spectacle, politeness is not going to make a positive difference.