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Grooming the next generation of lunatics

Grooming the next generation of lunatics

by digby


I wrote about the latest Steve Bannon gambit for Salon this morning:


Over the week-end, in between tweeting insults to Senator Bob Corker and running "Mission Accomplished" videos that would have made Leni Rieffesntahl proud, Donald Trump re-tweeted this:

He also told the press corps that he believes Chief of Staff John Kelly would be around for "7 years" indicating that he assumes he'll have the White House for two terms. Politico's Gabriel DeBenedetti reports that he's already gearing up for the campaign, looking at upcoming midterms in certain states for insight into the best path forward:

The stepped-up attention to 2020 is partly a recognition that dozens of Democrats are already seriously eyeing presidential runs of their own. But it’s also a reflection of the near-obsession with keeping Trump’s base voters on his side — a mind-set that permeates the White House, said multiple Republican operatives and lawmakers.

What’s unclear to Trump-backing Republicans: the degree to which the president’s base support in the industrial Midwest is waning or holding fast; whether the young minority voters who failed to show up for Hillary Clinton after supporting Barack Obama will return to the next Democratic nominee; and whether the power of Trump’s political celebrity is wearing off.

It's quite clear that Trump dislikes governing and really just wants to hold rallies and have everyone cheer him like rock star then go and play golf. It's not surprising that he would prefer to think about the 2020 campaign since that's where all the fun is for him. I think we can be sure that he'll be hitting the trail on a regular basis very, very soon.

His public feuds with Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain and now Bob Corker show that he has no interest in shoring up his relationship with the party establishment and will attack anyone he feels someone has been unfaithful to him. Most elected GOP officials have assiduously avoided doing anything to displease him, following the lead of Speaker Paul Ryan whose unctuous obsequiousness reached new heights last week when he solemnly affirmed that Trump's "heart is in the right place" on racial issues and declared that "he has tremendous compassion" which can be discerned by the fact that he "drops everything" to go to disaster areas.

Trump appreciates that, no doubt, but it won't buy Ryan any good will from the president. He should remember that even Trump's most submissive sycophants have been tossed aside without a second thought if he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning.

To the extent Trump's following any plan or strategy, it would appear that the aforementioned base stroking is about it. But that will dovetail nicely with his former senior adviser and keeper of the alt-right flame, Steve Bannon's plan to stoke division within the party and oust incumbents so as to replace them with people who are more likely to advance his apocalyptic vision of the future. His endorsement of the odious wingnut Judge Roy Moore is a perfect example of the type of person he'd like to see in the US Congress. The crazier the better as far as he's concerned.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that he's chosen his next candidate, Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater security which came under investigation for killing civilians in Iraq. He's been under investigation by the government for money laundering and attempts to broker military services to foreign governments. According to Jeremy Scahill and Matthew Cole of the Intercept, "working with a small cadre of loyalists — including a former South African commando, a former Australian air force pilot, and a lawyer with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel — Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services."

Is it any surprise that he's welcomed into Trump's inner circle?

More recently, he has been implicated in the Russia investigation after attempting to set up a back channel between Trump and Russian President Vadimir Putin in the Seychelles islands. Oh, and he has been pushing the idea of mercenaries taking over many of the duties of the "inefficient" US Military which is unfortunately hamstrung by laws against war crime. He got Trump interested in his plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan using the colonial British East India Company as his model and installing himself as the Viceroy by telling him that there were many minerals available for the taking. (We know how Trump feels about that --- to the victors belong the spoils). Luckily Defense Secretary Mattis chased Bannon and Prince out the door when they presented him their nifty plan.

But Prince is just the right combination of radical and crazy for Bannon's total GOP destruction strategy. He's got access to lots and lots of the family's Amway money and they are all far right evangelicals who have run in Mike Pence's circles for years. Prince could be a real asset to the Trump-Bannon chaos crusade.

He's planning to take on Wyoming Senator John Barasso, a hard core conservative who's backed Trump every step of the way. Taking on someone like Barasso is seen as Bannon's shot at a random conservative, someone with whom he and Trump have no particular beef, just to prove he can.  Installing an unstable radical in office is his specialty so he might just do it.

Normally, I'd think exchanging Barasso for Prince is fine. They would likely vote the same way at least 90% of the time anyway and it might keep Prince out of trouble to be stuck in the slow moving rich man's club of the US Senate instead of being out causing trouble in the real world.  But Prince is very rich and he's got a certain creepy charisma, which is Bannon's special presidential recipe. If Trump manages to win again in 2020, Senator Erik Prince would be a much more logical successor. And Trump wouldn't think twice about throwing the subservient Mike Pence overboard do a macho ex-Navy Seal could follow in his footsteps.