opinion

Fidelio

Trump Turns GOP Into a Conspiracy of Dunces

The cynical men in Washington and Moscow who are feeding the crazy-eyed, conspiratorial imaginings of the Republican Party base under Donald Trump know what they’re doing.

opinion

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

Secret societies, government agents of dubious loyalties, dark cabals who work from shadowy bureaucracies seeking to overthrow the president of the United States, sinister masterminds exercising fell powers to serve a diabolical conspiracy, occult powers that shift the levers of control in mysterious ways—no, it’s not X-Files fan fiction or some modern-day Lovecraft reboot. It’s today’s GOP.

The Republican Party’s head-first dive into breathless conspiratorial fantasies in defense of Donald Trump is a brand-defining moment as the Party of Lincoln morphs into the Party of LaRouche. Listening as members of Congress, the Fox News/talk-radio world and the constellation of batshit-crazy people drawn to Esoteric Trumpism adopt increasingly baroque theories to protect The Donald isn’t just depressing; it’s tragic. A diseased slurry of fake news, post-Truth Trumpism, and Russkie agitprop infects the Republican Party. It’s an ebola of wild-eyed MK-ULTRA paranoiac raving, spreading to every organ of the Republican body politic.

This loon-centric new world of crazy talk has dissolved the old ideological skeleton of the GOP and reduced it from the Conservative Party of Ideas to the Crackpot Party of Infowars. Covering up the connections among Donald Trump, his campaign officials, and family members with Russia, and this president’s efforts to obstruct justice and derail special counsel Robert Mueller will come at a still-untallied cost to our nation, our institutions, and the dignity and reputation of the GOP. It’s going to get worse as Mueller closes in.

Last week, the ridiculous memo crafted by Fredo Nunes (R-Clownshow) and his staffers (is that you, Ezra Cohen-Watnick?) was the subject of hyperventilating conspiracy headlines across right-wing media. While breathless Republicans like Matt Gaetz (R-The Narcissus of Fox News) raced for the cameras screaming that this is a “worse than Watergate” bombshell, this fetid, steaming shitheap of lies, cherry-picked outrage-bait for the Fox booboisie, and crayon-scribble was full of tells that it was all Trump, and little truth. As they voted Monday night to release their version, while denying the Democrats the chance to release their rebuttal, the scam was clear. The first clue is that the memo is being rolled out as part of a PR effort so clumsy, obvious, ham-fisted, and covered in its own drool that it could only appeal to the most deluded Deep State fantasists. Naturally, it has been in more or less constant rotation on Fox News and the fever swamp of pro-Trump fake-news sites.

The second problem with the memo is that Team Fredo broke the central rule of politics: Underpromise and over-deliver. If the Nunes Grimoire of Eldritch Deep State Perfidy was radioactive and contained evidence of an immediate and existential threat to our democracy posed by rogue FBI agents wielding bogus FISA applications, why won’t Nunes share it with his Senate counterparts? Why won’t he allow the Trump Justice Department to examine it? Why did he whip the intelligence committee to prevent the release of a rebuttal? It’s simple: There’s so little there that no serious person would blow out U.S. intelligence sources and methods to win a political point defending Donald Trump. No one, except Nunes, his cronies, and the House leadership who allow his continued depredations on the rule of law.

Make no mistake, Nunes and his co-conspirators don’t believe there’s an actual Deep State conspiracy at the FBI or the intelligence agencies. This boundlessly cynical plot is an attempt to shield Donald Trump not just from Bob Mueller’s Russia investigation, but from any form of accountability or oversight. I have to give them credit their brazen effort. The coordination between Fox News, the Trump Uber Alles caucus in the House, talk radio, and the online Cray Vortex is rather impressive. In the Best Supporting Hackers role, the Russians chimed in right on cue to amplify the GOP’s message. Call me old fashioned, but I remember when working hand-in-hand with a hostile foreign government to undermine American institutions was called “treason.” The story was falling apart even before the Moron Caucus beclowned themselves with the “Secret Society” theme, because the memo obviously hadn’t done enough to reduce the Republicans in stature and seriousness. Seizing on a single, obviously joking text message, Sen. Ron Johnson took to the microphones to describe the FBI’s alleged “Secret Society” as if he had watched Eyes Wide Shut enough times to memorize it. Fidelio, Ron. Fidelio.

When confronted with the risible absurdity of his claim, Johnson said “informants” had told them about the dark, satanic orgies of the FBI. Within hours, he denied all of it in an embarrassingly clumsy walk back. From the Trump-right obsession with “Q-Anon” as a source of Deep State gibberish to the uncritical acceptance of even the most outrageously absurd rumors, the GOP is becoming defined as a party of conspiracy. It’s is a bad look for a governing party, and it’s getting worse by the day.

When Sean Hannity’s Twitter account briefly went dark Friday night during what appears to be a routine Twitter bot-purge, the Trumpnet lost its collective mind. “Form Submission 1649” led to numerological kookspiracy speculation that would have made Louis Farrakhan proud. I kid you not, whackjobs were saying Hannity’s “1649” tweet was about the year when Charles the 1st was beheaded for treason by Cromwell. Uh huh. Sean Hannity knows about as much about Cromwell and Charles the 1st as he does about string theory.

That’s our world now—one where the real Julian Assange is slipping into the DMs of a parody Hannity account on Twitter, to offer up fresh dirt on Trump’s enemies. If you think Pizzagate was the nadir, take a drive through the online Bedlam of Infowars, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, or /r/The_Donald, and you won’t have to dig far to discover that Jeffrey Epstein’s time-travel jet took Bill back to 1962 to fake Obama’s birth certificate. You’ll learn that Hillary’s plan to have America invaded by Muslim-lizard mutant antifa supersoldiers is underway as we speak. Will anyone have the guts to finally reveal that Nancy Pelosi is enslaving teenage girls in an Illuminati mind-control temple under the Chrysler Building where George Soros presides over nightly human sacrifices and Hello Kitty cosplay?

Nunes, Meadows, Gaetz, et al. aren’t agents of Russia, though you can’t definitively say that of Dana Rohrabacher. They’re simply protecting Russia’s most precious asset, and are perfectly content to let Russia continue its slow-motion efforts to disrupt our government, our democracy, and our values. They’ll take all the help they can get from the Russians if it helps destroy any system of checks and balances that could trouble Trump. It’s an effort to make the firing of Mueller palatable to the nation, to give Trump a get-out-of-jail-free card on obstruction of justice, and to nudge us one step closer to having a strongman, not a president. If our national capacity for outrage wasn’t already spread painfully thin, there would be a run on pitchforks and torches.

This moment, for all its superficially ludicrous nature, is an effort to destroy the power of Congress in the execution of its duties as a co-equal branch of government. It’s Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre, played in a slower tempo and with a more compliant Congress. Nunes and the Trump White House know their effort relies on an audience of people so thick, slow, and gullible that they’ll buy even the most fanciful conspiracy nonsense. Sadly, it’s working.

Two men could solve this problem. The first is Paul Ryan. The conspiracy cancer eating his caucus from the inside may originate with Devin Nunes and his merry band of Freedom Caucus allies, but Ryan can and should take action. Obviously, Ryan is trying to keep the White House happy by letting the Whackjob Caucus spread these absurd theories. However, as speaker of the House and as a man who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, Paul Ryan has a moral responsibility stop them. It takes one phone call and one moment of moral and political courage: “Devin. Cut this shit out. Now.”

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The other person who could act is Rupert Murdoch. Nothing in the current political climate is more vital to Donald Trump’s immunity from political consequence than Fox News. The endless torrent of raw political sewage coming from Fox & Friends, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson comprises the headwaters of a right-wing media ecosystem that feeds the beast. The straight-news folks at Fox are under constant siege, while the Mighty Wurlitzer of the rest of the network churns out story after story on that time Hillary personally ordered Seth Rich’s murder while the Awan Brothers gave her a pedicure. With one phone call, Murdoch could put the brakes on the elements in his organization that have configured themselves not to report, educate, enlighten, or inform but to proselytize for Donald Trump, no matter the cost to the nation.

The Fox News problem is rich with irony. It turns out Republicans don’t mind partisan, agenda-driven journalism. They just want it to be their partisan, agenda-driven journalism. The cynical men in Washington and Moscow who are feeding the crazy-eyed, conspiratorial imaginings of the Republican Party base under Donald Trump know what they’re doing. The cynical media outlets profiting from this campaign of disinformation and dishonesty also know what they’re doing. The men in the Kremlin backing up these efforts with an army of electronic warriors and legions of bots know exactly what they’re doing.

And the Republican base, fed on a diet of weapons-grade conspiracy theories, day-drinking rage, 8chan trolling, and blind defense of Trump? They know the truth, man. They’re woke. They know that all opposition to Trump comes from George Soros, the shape-shifting reptilians, the Deep State, the Illuminati, zombie Bin Laden, the Gnomes of Zurich, and the Freemasons. They know that Bob Mueller is an alien sent from the Sharia-compliant future to impose the New World Order by asking Donald Trump tough questions. Oh, and implanting them all with a brain chip to control their thoughts. #QAnon say so.

Duh.