Schwab: A tale of two audiences; one of them ’Foxified’

We watched the same hearings, yet some observers appear blind to the signs of nascent dictatorship.

By Sid Scwhab / Herald columnist

“Foxification.” Noun. [fahks-ih-fuh-KAY-shun] The influence of right-wing media, especially Fox “news,” in creating indifference to facts; becoming blind to the obvious.

“Foxified.” Adjective. [FAHKS-ih-fiyd] Made unable and unwilling to see what’s happening before one’s eyes.

After former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony during the impeachment hearings, a tweet went viral: “I hired Trump to fire people like Yovanovitch.” And there it is. Foxification. Be afraid.

The tweeters were being truthful, though: getting rid of incorruptible, impartial, gifted public servants is, indeed, why they “hired” Trump. Like Trumpists emailing me after the publication of every column, they’d insist Trump is “draining the swamp.” Asked to define the swamp or point to drainage, emailers provide none.

To the extent that Trump has gotten rid of swamp-dwellers, it’s by hiring them, then seeing them forced out or sent to prison for crimes undertaken on his behalf. Well-known for dirty tricks and dishonesty, Roger Stone, the latest, was hired to keep at it. (In case you missed it, testimony in his trial suggests Trump lied to Robert Mueller. It’s of a piece.)

Such is the power of Foxification that its sufferers watched Ambassador Yovanovitch and couldn’t see the exemplary avatar of America; were incapable of recognizing her dedication to implementing official policy in the interest of the U.S. Not hers. Not one person’s or one party’s. The same is true of those whose testimony preceded and followed hers. Most have served presidents of both parties, with honor. Not only are they protecting US interests (as opposed to those of a corrupt “president” and swampizens who anticipate bounty from enabling him), they are, given the ubiquity of death threats and unsubtle “presidential” incitement thereof, brave. In Trump’s America, truth-telling is a courageous act.

Ambassador Yovanovitch’s sin was tackling Ukraine’s corruption; in particular, that of Prosecutors General Shokin and Lutsenko, sequential paragons of venality. Threatened, Lutsenko, Rudy Giuliani, and Rudy’s button-men launched smears against her, likely because she stood in the way of their kleptocratic plans for Ukraine’s natural gas. Trump, laughably called a corruption-fighter by worried Republicans, sold the smears like a bankrupt casino. Praising those racketeers, he ousted Yovanovitch to clear a path to extorting Ukraine for political gain. That’s corruption. Congressional Republicans pretend it’s normal.

Now America has its own corrupt prosecutor general. In concert with Trump, William Barr is dragging us toward the kind of governance against which Yovanovitch, Taylor, Kent, Vindman, and others have worked so diligently. Barr was a promoter of unchecked presidential power and lawbreaking (torture) long before Trump up-swamped him. In a hyper-partisan speech grossly inappropriate for an attorney general, he just described impeachment as undoing the will of the people. We know, of course, the people chose Hillary Clinton. Trump was willed by the Electoral College, created explicitly to make the will of the people thrice-removed from choosing a president.

Impeachment, Barr continued, undermines the rule of law; yet it’s specifically to maintain the rule of law that it was enshrined in the Constitution. Such deceptive dissembling from Trump’s attorney general is chilling, harkening to not-so-distant history; as is his bemoaning Congress “drown[ing] the executive branch with oversight demands.” Right. Oversight. How quaintly constitutional.

Descended from the zero-sum politics of Gingrich, Rove and Atwater, Barr, protecting a self-admitted amoral “president,” added, without apparent irony, “conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.” Which is like insisting Trump only grabs women by the hand.

Foxification purposefully blinds victims to obvious signs of nascent dictatorship: a power-hungry, hate-mongering, scapegoating “president;” a derelict attorney general; Congressional Republicans standing mute; attacking journalists; stacking the judiciary with partisan lackeys; and the latest: against the wishes of “his” generals, pardoning soldiers convicted, in courts-martial, of war crimes. The message is clear: When the time comes, break the law for me, and I’ll pardon you, too. This isn’t “supporting our troops.” It’s insulting them to their core. It’s Trump’s final solution.

If unrestrained by constitutional requirements, Trump would become a dictator like those to whom he genuflects. With riches to be plundered and jobs to keep, elected Republicans look away. But what of regular-citizen Trumpists? By now they know what’s happening. So, what is it? Do they like what they see, ready to raise stiffened right arms, convinced they and their children will be protected? If so, their Foxification is so powerful it’s wiped human history from their minds.

Email Sid Schwab at

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