Our Man from Opus Dei, Ross Douthat, on the Trump/Putin Political Romance: he does lousy Borscht Belt Stand-Up! While New Cold Warrior, David Remnick, does the same Act with better historical interior decoration, a comment by Political Cynic

Opus Dei’s Ross Douthat is way out of his usual territory: the hectoring chatter about sexual morality, directed to the liberated women of America, who feel they don’t need the tutelage of one more stupid straight white male, offering censure about their wombs, and whether or not they have proper licensure to give birth to children. Or more importantly to terminate a pregnancy, because they lack the theological sophistication of those sporting a penis! And usually are celibate!

The target of Mr. Douthat’s contempt/scorn today is the Trump/Putin Romance as referred to in the American/European Press, once called ‘The West’. It is the usual potted history, eliding the most salient facts in his self-servingly cartoonish re-description.The first paragraph is indicative of that argumentative approach:

RUSSIA’S place in American politics used to be (relatively) simple. The further right you stood, the more you feared Ivan and his Slavic wiles. The further left, the more you likely thought the Red Menace was mostly just a scare story.

Read the whole of the essay here:

Then compare Douthat’s small essay, Oh! small in every way, to David Remnick’s  historically adroit, not to speak of sprawling essay, in comparison to Douthat’s, on Putin the Terrible, and his mythical romance with Trump. This the creation of one of the defenders of a teetering political status quo. That status quo represented  in the person of the perpetually bellicose Hillary Clinton. And her coterie of Neo-Conservative fellow travelers: Kristol, Kagan, Goldberg, Nuland and other luminaries of the Strauss/Schmitt Universe. Now, your patience is required for both essays

The New Yorker and it’s editor/reporter, Mr. Remnick is compelled to think of himself in rather grandiose, self-congratulatory terms. ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ his calling card as ‘expert’ on Russia!  Yet he conforms to the current political orthodoxy, in regards to Putin as The New Stalin, and the mutual admiration between he and Trump.  All of this framed by a photograph of part of a  biting satirical mural. Call Mr. Remnick’s essay an attempt at a duel portrait in miniature of his two protagonists. All of this awash in the current expression of a paranoia, not seen since the heyday of the Nixon/McCarren/McCarthy/Mundt Witch Hunt, at it’s height in 1952. This Nostalgia rivals the enthusiasm of The  Schlesinger / Niebuhr alliance that birthed the ADA! Not to speak of nasty Tabloid titillation worthy of Rupert Murdoch. But Mr. Remnick quickly segues into a quote from R2P zealot Timothy Snyder, who writes respectable bourgeois political propaganda defending the Ukrainian Coup, for the once ultra-respectable ‘Left-Wing’ New York Review of Books.

Quoting Mr. Remnick’s two paragraphs below puts the lie to the long held notion that the Soviet Union was incapable of ‘reforming itself’ :

Twenty-five summers ago, Communist ideology and the Soviet Union itself teetered on the brink of nonexistence. On the morning of July 23, 1991, two newspaper articles appeared that, each in its own way, signalled the end.

A liberal paper called Nezavisimaya Gazeta (The Independent Newspaper) published a leak of a new draft platform for the Communist Party. The draft rejected Marxist-Leninist ideology in favor of European-style social democracy, and it “unconditionally” condemned the “crimes” of the Stalin regime, which “broke and maimed the lives of millions of people, whole nations.” The draft had the endorsement of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was still the Party’s General Secretary, but of no more than a third of the Central Committee.

Mr. Remnick trades in the same New Cold War rhetoric that Mr. Douthat extemporizes upon, but the New Yorker reader is more sophisticated than the New York Times reader.In that that reader is used to reading Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer and other skilled muckrakers in a valuable American Journalistic Tradition. So Mr. Remnick must provide proper historical garnish, to his version of the defense of the stauts quo of Mrs. Clinton, as the only viable option against Trump, as the dupe of Putin. Yet the central belief, the core of their propaganda in it’s iterations is a one dimensional monster, the corollary of the caricature of Stalin of the Old Cold War. But as expert, as neo-technocrat, Mr. Remnick provides a very convincing evidence of Putin as political monster in waiting, during the transition from the Soviet era to the ‘Free Market’ paradise of Russia, achieved by the strong medicine of  ‘Market Discipline’ and it’s degradation of the life of the citizens in an evolving democratic polity, under the watchful direction of corrupt Neo-Liberal thugs.

For some essential background history of Glasnost see Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuval ‘s ‘Voices of Glasnost’, a set of interviews of the political actors who made that ‘internal reform’ happen.



Mr. Remnick’s construction of the Putin Story is compelling reading, as self-constructed evidence of the Future Putin, as an instance of  History Made to Measure, equaling propaganda. Never fear Mr. Remnick condemns Putin for his  cynical manipulation on many fronts i.e. supporting unsavory political actors in many countries. One can only remark that Mr. Remnick ignores the unsavory history of his own country, one of the most blatant recent examples being The Ukrainian Coup of 2014. Of course that Coup is an example of the action of freedom loving people overthrowing a Russian Puppet: call it myth making or just lies! Though nothing quite prepares the reader for Mr. Remnick’s final paragraph steeped in New Cold War paranoia, as a retrograde defense of the bellicose Hillary Clinton, and her coterie of Neo-Conservative ghouls, ending in cheapest kind of vulgarity.

Vladimir Putin is a cunning and cynical reader of his adversaries. He notices that Trump does not know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds, or what the “nuclear triad” is; that his analysis of Brexit was based in part on what might be good for his golf courses in Britain; that his knowledge of world affairs is roughly that of someone who subscribes to a daily newspaper but doesn’t always have time to get to it. Overwhelmed with his own problems at home, Putin sees the ready benefit in having the United States led by an unlettered narcissist who believes that geostrategic questions are as easy to resolve as a real-estate closing. Putin knows a chump when he sees one.


Political Cynic

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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