In France and online, extremists put centrism to the torch and Trump nightmare


Nous avons choisi pour éclairer de façon dépassionnée le maelström qui secoue la France un article remarquable d’un analyste étranger. Max Boot écrit régulièrement dans la prestigieuse revue de politique étrangère américaine Foreign Policy et il est éditorialiste au Washington Post.
Max Boot est un consultant de l’armée américaine et un historien militaire. Il a travaillé pour la revue Christian Science Monitor puis pour le Wall Street Journal. Il est chargé d’études avec John Kirkpatrick au Council Foreign Policy.
Bref tout le portrait d’un républicain pur jus. Son analyse est savoureusement percutante.
Son diagnostic sur les « Gilets jaunes » interpelle ; son acte d’accusation-à la rigueur juriridique impeccable -contre le Président Trump montre son attachement aux valeurs démocratiques et républicaines. Les deux forment une parfaite anastomose !
Foreign Policy est loin d’être une revue de gauche tant s’en faut, son analyse en est d’autant plus intéressante. Pour autant cette revue qui a abrité nombre d’intellectuels néoconservateurs et de républicains n’a jamais non plus hésité à recevoir dans ses colonnes des intellectuels de gauche ou du parti démocrate.
Nous avons choisi de publier deux articles qui – à notre sens- se complètent admirablement et surtout montrent l’indépendance d’esprit des grands analystes américains.

In France and online, extremists put centrism to the torch
Max Boot from the Washington Post
December 10, 2018

Weekend after weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron is dealing with sometimes violent protests from a populist movement known as the gilets jaunes (yellow vests). The protesters were galvanized by a plan to raise gasoline taxes, but they are still out in the streets even though the gas tax increase has been suspended. Now they’re demanding, among other things, default on the public debt, exit from the European Union and NATO, and less immigration. I’m dealing with a piece of the online fallout — and in the process learning a dispiriting lesson about how hard it is for a political leader to pursue a moderate path in an age of extremes.

On Dec. 3, amid pictures of burning cars and tear gas in Paris, I woke up to find incessant Twitter criticism of an article I’d written. This was hardly shocking; I’m attacked online all the time. What surprised me was that I was being attacked for a Commentary article published 18 months earlier, shortly after Macron’s election. I posted it on Twitter on June 15, 2017, with the headline: “To defeat populism, America needs its own Macron — a charismatic leader who can make centrism cool.”

This tweet has now earned me a torrent of online abuse. Sean Davis, the co-founder of a pro-Trump website, tweeted: “This 2017 column is a riot.” The right-wing actor James Woods retweeted the article with the gloating tag line: “Twitter is beautiful.” Left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald apparently thought my article was so ridiculous he retweeted it without any comment at all. Breitbart’s former London editor wrote: “This aged well, didn’t it, @maxboot?”

I was struck by how many versions of the same criticism were repeated by anonymous trolls, and it made me wonder if Russian bots were involved. When I suggested as much in a tweet, I earned a rebuke from the right-wing British conspiracy-monger Katie Hopkins, who has lost her Mail Online column but retains 882,000 Twitter followers: “The world thinks you are a cockwomble, sir. If you are looking for someone to blame — find a mirror darling.” I have no idea what a “cockwomble” is, but it doesn’t sound like a compliment. The irony is that some of the Twitter accounts scoffing at my questions about bots had so few followers that they might be bots themselves.

I asked the information warfare expert Molly McKew what was going on. She replied: “Major Russian info campaign on the Yellow Jackets/Vests protests, so you just kicked the wrong hornets. Over the weekend all the ‘Syria’ accounts were tweeting about how French had snipers on the rooftops to shoot the demonstrators.”

The Hamilton 68 website, which tracks Russian disinformation online, confirmed that two of the top Russian hashtags were “giletsjaune” and “France.” Among the Russians cheerleading the protests online is the notorious fascist and pro-Putin ideologue Alexander Dugin. Meanwhile, Russian state media outlets such as RT were hyping chaos in Paris as if it were a “color” revolution.

BuzzFeed reports that the “yellow vests” emerged out of “Anger Groups” that popped up on Facebook to channel the grievances of “fed up” rural, working-class French people — the Gallic version of President Trump’s deplorables or the tea party. Just as in the United States, their online propaganda included a great deal of misinformation.
Activists circulated a picture of cars stranded on a highway, claiming it showed German motorists who had abandoned their cars to protest fuel taxes. In fact, the picture was likely of a traffic jam in China.
Another popular meme claimed that a 2016 government decree had invalidated the French constitution and that everything that has happened since, including the gas tax, is illegitimate.

There is no evidence that I have seen that Russia social media ignited the protests, but they certainly added fuel to the fire. So have far-left and far-right trolls in and out of France — the Illiberal International. Macron has angered the left by cutting taxes on the wealthy, slashing regulations and curbing the power of unions. You would think this would have made him the darling of the right, which applauds Trump for similar moves.

But Macron’s desire to curb global warming (the goal of the higher gas tax), his support for the European Union and NATO, his unabashed elitism (he once worked for the Rothschild investment bank, a bogeyman for anti-Semites), and his clashes with Trump have made him a target of the far right, too. Trump himself applauded the protests, falsely claiming they are chanting, “We want Trump.” The right would like to see Marine Le Pen take over; the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The Kremlin would prefer either one to a centrist who will stymie its designs to divide Europe.

Macron has hurt his own cause with his arrogant, aloof style — as his 23 percent approval rating attests. But any president, no matter how deft, would be hard-put to reform a sclerotic French economy that has produced high unemployment and low growth. Macron’s challenge is all the harder because extremists of both the left and right have proved so deft at using social media to organize. The trolls who flamed me are transparently rooting for Macron’s failure. Their slogan might as well be: Burn, baby, burn.

I remain an admirer of Macron and would still love to see an “American Macron” — a centrist who can win power in Washington. But his struggles are a reminder of how hard it is to be in the middle of the road in the polarized social-media world of today.

Max Boot
Washington Post
« Yellow vest » protesters with riot police members in Marseille, France, on Saturday. (Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images)

Our long national nightmare is just beginning

By Max Boot
December 10

In August, after President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking federal campaign finance laws at the behest of his client, I wrote that Trump had become an illegitimate president. Now, it seems, the president’s own Justice Department agrees. Read the sentencing memorandum filed in Cohen’s case Friday by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York:
Cohen’s commission of two campaign finance crimes on the eve of the 2016 election for President of the United States struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency. While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows.
He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.

Keep in mind that these are the words of career prosecutors whose integrity remains unimpeachable for the simple reason that “Individual 1” hasn’t bothered to impeach them. He has been so busy smearing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his gang of “Angry Democrats” that he hasn’t had any vitriol left over for the prosecutors who have now all but charged the president with two felonies.

If Trump weren’t president, he probably would have been indicted by now. The only thing standing in the way are memoranda produced by the Nixon and Clinton Justice Departments arguing that a president can’t be prosecuted while in office — but then what else would you expect Nixon and Clinton appointees to say? It’s a safe bet that Trump’s own Justice Department would take the same view, but that only delays Trump’s day of reckoning. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggests that Trump could face indictment the minute he leaves office — and former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, normally a Trump defender, agrees.

And, of course, the illegal payment of hush money to the president’s playmates is only one tiny molecule of the titanic iceberg now bearing down on the SS Trump. In spite of the president’s desperate caterwauling that there is “NO COLLUSION” and “No Smocking Gun,” the evidence that the Trump campaign engaged in a conspiracy with Russian agents to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election continues to grow. On Friday, Mueller revealed yet another Trump-Russia contact, bringing to at least 14 the number of Trump associates known to have interacted with Russians during the campaign. Trump and his gang never once notified the FBI about any of these conversations. Instead, they lied repeatedly and shamelessly to cover up their acts, leaving the president vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

Some of these lies are so significant that, if revealed, they easily could have swung the election. Imagine if voters had known that Trump was pursuing a development deal in Moscow even as he was locking up the Republican nomination — and modifying the Republican platform in a pro-Russian direction. Imagine if voters had known that the Trump campaign’s high command had met with Russian emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton just before the Russians started leaking stolen Clinton campaign documents. Imagine if voters had known that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was in business with an individual linked to Russian intelligence. Imagine if voters had known that Trump consigliere Roger Stone knew in advance about the impending Russian release, via WikiLeaks, of documents stolen from Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Granted, as Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook noted in a Post op-ed, the general pattern of Russian interference was known in 2016. But events were shrouded in the fog of politics. The media were citing cybersecurity firms to report on Russian hacking, but Trump and his minions were denying and lying. On July 27, 2016, for example, Trump said, “I have nothing to do with Russia, » and called any suggestion otherwise “ridiculous » and a “conspiracy theory. » Thus Trump created just enough uncertainty to eke out a narrow electoral college win. There were voters credulous enough to believe the hacking could have been the work of a 400-pound coach potato. Such beliefs are no longer tenable — and are no longer held outside of a small coterie of brainwashed cultists.

What we are left with is a president who defrauded the American people to win office — and who is now protected by the immunity that his office confers. He is protected, too, by his dwindling band of followers in Congress who argue that Manafort should be pardoned for his financial crimes (Rep. Matt Gaetz) and that Trump should not be prosecuted for merely breaking campaign finance laws (Sen. Rand Paul). Rather than calling out the president for obstruction of justice, some lawmakers (I’m looking at you, Rep. Devin Nunes) assist him in that obstruction.

All it takes is 34 votes in the Senate and Trump can serve out his term even as his administration is consumed by the biggest political scandal in American history. Our long national nightmare is just beginning.

Max Boot
Washington Post

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