The Sad Predicament of Mark Levin
The concerted three-years-and-running Trump-McConnell demolition attack on the American conservative movement continues apace, clouding the minds of good people daily. And radio host and constitutional lawyer Mark Levin, a rare high-profile character in “conservative radio” who is actually a conservative, is among the victims, having caught himself in the compromising trap of defending the indefensible, time and again. Now, at last, he has jumped the shark as they say, attempting to dismiss the very meaty sandwich of Donald Trump Jr.’s attempt to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government as a nothing-burger.
Early in the Republican primary process, Levin supported Ted Cruz, but always with the proviso that Donald Trump would be his second choice, since these two together, he alleged, were laying waste to the influence of the GOP establishment. He maintained this absurd apology for Trump in spite of the endless evidence — from his political donation history to his friendship with the Clintons, his anti-Tea Party past, his ardent support of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner above all other Republicans, his advocacy of socialized medicine — that Trump was a complete anti-conservative fraud and establishment toady, as well as being, in the end, the GOP establishment’s personal weapon of choice in their effort to destroy the constitutionalist Republican movement once and for all.
Whether Levin was thinking of his ratings during the early stages of the primary, or was truly duped by the same Trump he had clearly and correctly identified as a fraud during the 2012 primaries, we can never know. There may have been a little of both. In any case, he helped to enable the Trump juggernaut early by justifying the Orange McConnell with “second-best choice” apologies.
Later in the primaries, however, things really got complicated. Early in 2016, as part of his support for Cruz, he would slam Trump’s statements and lack of principle regularly — but then, if any of his listeners dared to join in his Trump criticism, he would suddenly turn on them, accusing them of not being real conservatives. Then there was the weird two-week period early in the spring when he accused so-called “NeverTrumpers” of being fake conservatives and establishment hacks (echoing the Trump cult’s own language), and then turned around, seemingly on the basis of nothing but being personally offended by the Trump campaign, and declared himself NeverTrump — only to reverse course yet again within a week, and revert to accusing anyone who opposed Trump’s candidacy on conservative principles of being well-nigh un-American.
During the general election campaign, he joined the hardcore Trump cult and its puppet-masters in the GOP establishment in the same old “binary choice” baloney (i.e., “refusing to support Trump equals supporting Hillary Clinton”) that Levin himself had often criticized in the past when it was used to force conservatives to get behind Romney, Bush, McCain, and so on — in spite of the fact that in this case, far more than any of the previous instances, it was clear that the “choice” was not even binary, seeing as how the “R” side of it was merely a lifelong “liberal” Democrat in Republican clothing.
But throughout that whole primary and general election period, Levin seemed genuinely torn as to how he ought to position himself as a public voice. He wasn’t knowingly compromising his principles or his basic integrity as a conservative commentator, but was merely, it seemed, confused about how or whether to support a man he could certainly recognize had no conservative instincts, but whose election might, in theory, result in something less horrible than would result from a Hillary presidency.
Part of what many of his long-time listeners, this one included, found most disappointing about Levin’s intellectual contortions at that stage, was that he was unwilling to acknowledge that the painful choices he was feeling forced to make were not cut-and-dried easy answers, but sincere attempts to figure out how to handle an impossibly demeaning set of options. This humbler position would have allowed him to take his stand without simultaneously joining the cult in smearing everyone who made a different choice as an establishment hack, which in turn might have engendered a spirit of “trying to muddle through this absurd moment together,” thus preserving a sense of unity among the old Tea Party crowd. Instead, by treating his honest best-guess decision — that supporting a lying, non-conservative moron temporarily is better than allowing a lying progressive criminal syndicate leader back into the White House — as though it were an unassailable certainty, he helped to cause the schism within the constitutionalist movement that has effectively neutered it as a force in American politics for the foreseeable future, exactly as Trump’s progressive establishment backers intended all along.
But that was the past. Where is Levin now? As of this writing, he has transcended his previous schizophrenic stance of assigning himself as the only man permitted to criticize Trump, while attacking everyone else who would do the same. He is now fully joining in with the cult in actively relying on half-truths and straw man arguments to dismiss serious concerns about the competence and honor of the Trump team.
On his July 11th broadcast, as reported at Right Scoop, Levin addressed the New York Times story about Donald Trump Jr. meeting with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting politically useful dirt on Hillary Clinton. His entire monologue is a distortion of the core of the story so obvious that it is impossible to believe his extremely incisive legal mind could have fallen into such error entirely by accident. After noting that the mainstream media has blithely ignored many instances of Democrats giving aid and comfort to enemy nations by meeting with their representatives in order to undermine the policies of Republican presidents — true but somewhat beside the point unless you are dumping principles for partisan politics — he then turns to the Donald Trump Jr. case:
But what’s going on? Exactly what’s going on that requires the attention of the American people to be drawn away from threats to this country, from the agenda of the president? Exactly what is it that should compel our attention every second of the last 48 hours, where we’re told this is a big deal? We’re told that this is evidence of dishonesty, evidence of a pattern. A pattern of what? Not getting information…?
You know oddly enough what this is demonstrating? It demonstrates there was no collusion. Donald Trump Jr. goes to a meeting that has nothing to do with the Russian government, that doesn’t provide any information, let alone information provided by the Russian government. There’s no DNA, there’s no fingerprints, there’s no photo, there’s nothing! Nothing!
I’m sorry, there’s nothing! I know, I’m going against the winds here. I can’t help it!… I call them as I see ’em.
This is the standard Trump defender’s “nothing-burger” argument, which I critiqued with regard to this very issue just yesterday. But in maintaining this position, Levin is deftly skirting around the central and most pertinent fact of the story, which is neither that the Russian lawyer was a government agent (she apparently wasn’t), nor that Donald Jr. received any useful dirt on Hillary (he says he didn’t), but rather this: that Donald Trump Jr. believed he was meeting a Russian government agent to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton directly from the Russian government, and further believed that this information was part of the Kremlin’s effort to help Trump defeat Hillary.
We know this from the e-mail chain that Levin has not only seen, but actually summarized on air, while carefully avoiding comment on the relevant passages. Donald Trump’s son received an e-mail informing him — falsely as it turns out — that a Russian lawyer tied to the Kremlin had incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, that this information was part of the Kremlin’s pro-Trump efforts, and that he would receive this information if he met with that lawyer.
In fact, it doesn’t matter whether this offer turned out to be a lie. It doesn’t matter whether any such lawyer even existed at all. It wouldn’t matter if the woman he finally met turned out to be a Québécoise cleaning lady from Chibougamau. What matters is what Donald Jr. believed when he replied that he “loved it,” and added that such information would be most useful if it came out “later in the summer.”
He believed he was going to a meeting with a Russian government-connected lawyer to get Russian government dirt on Clinton. He not only approved of this offer, but even stipulated when he would prefer such information to be made public, indicating a will to collude, though not the actual deed, since as it turns out he was merely being played for a Trump (i.e., fool).
Furthermore, he not only set up a meeting with the Russian lawyer, but brought two of the highest-ranking members of Trump’s campaign team with him — Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. This further demonstrates how seriously he took the meeting, and specifically the offer of Russian government help in defeating Hillary Clinton.
What part of this is too complicated for the legal and political mind of Mark Levin? Sadly — I wish I could conclude otherwise — I believe no part of it. He can connect these dots as well as anyone, and would certainly do so were this a story about a member of the Clinton team enthusiastically meeting an alleged Russian informant with dirt on Donald Trump. So why won’t he connect those dots in this case? Why, on the contrary, has he chosen to brush over the sand to cover up the dots in this case?
Your guess is as good as mine. But what concerns me here is that Levin’s take on this constitutes a particularly heartbreaking piece of evidence for the very effect of Trump’s nomination and election that those evil NeverTrumpers were worried about all along. Good people are twisting in the moral wind here, confused into contradicting their own principles and potentially damaging their own integrity, and in the process weakening America’s last gasp constitutionalist movement — a movement in which Levin himself was formerly a leading figure. To defend Trump — a GOP establishment Trojan horse — Levin is blinding himself to the ever-mounting evidence of gross incompetence and unethical intentions (or worse) among Trump’s inner circle. In the process he is alienating many of his once-devoted listeners, not to mention turning many of them against one another. (If you doubt this, take a look at the comment thread below any Mark Levin-related post at Right Scoop.)
This, again, is exactly the outcome desired by Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell for years. Divide and conquer. Weaken the spirit of unity among constitutional conservatives so that they expend their best energies attacking each other rather than fighting their true common enemy, the Trump-McConnell establishment itself. And now, having actually turned many true conservatives into Trump defenders, the establishment has achieved the ugliest aim of all: using conservatives to destroy American conservatism. In other words, events seem to have borne out the case for not supporting Trump, namely that even if he should win the presidency, the long term damage to America by means of the destruction of constitutionalism could outweigh any contingent goods that might be achieved in the short run.
The reason all this is so sad is that it was so unnecessary. Principles should have held here. The moment, on the eve of the Iowa Caucus, when the GOP’s old guard came out hard for Trump and vehemently against Ted Cruz should have been the last straw for any real conservative who harbored any doubts about the true significance of the Trump campaign. (This is not to say Cruz was the only better candidate; there were many who would have been far better, and less corrosive, than Trump.)
And it is doubly sad in the case of Mark Levin in particular. As I mentioned, I used to be a regular listener myself. Furthermore, the respect was somewhat mutual, as he has linked several of my articles on his website and social media pages over the years. In fact, two of the articles to which he generously drew his listeners’ attention were pieces from early 2016, in which I made the case that Trump was a McConnell-Rove establishment crony and a fake grassroots candidate. And yet, while apparently supporting my reading of events at that time, it subsequently turned out that this was, for Levin, just primary campaign rhetoric, and that once his man Cruz lost, he had every intention of forgetting all about Trump’s history and connections whenever those things became inconvenient for purposes of partisan politics as usual.
Isn’t it time — hasn’t Levin himself often argued that it is time — for an end to supporting the GOP as though it were eternally the default representative of all conservatives, while in fact the party continues to aid and abet the Democrats in the gradual dismantling of America as a constitutional republic? And yet now, when Trump is giving the Republican Party its best opportunity in ages to seal the deal on establishing progressivism as the open and permanent condition of American political life on a bipartisan basis, a genuine conservative like Levin finds himself bending over backwards to avoid facing the obvious about the man for whom he once briefly declared he could never vote. (That, after all, is what “NeverTrump” means.)
McConnell himself, along with the president I call Orange McConnell, are smiling all the way to the voting booth as American patriotism tears itself to shreds. This is the sorriest spectacle of all, in an era of seemingly endless sorry spectacles on the political stage.