BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER
To date, Stephen Miller is the only major figure to have survived in the White House where officials last an average of nine months. How did he manage?
Beyond the lack of empathy, such characters excel in manipulating. Obviously with Trump it is not very difficult, since even a North Korean Kim managed to make him a good friend (until this second summit where Trump’s advisors told him to drop a subject way too controversial). Moreover, Trump, himself a famous narcissist, needs Miller’s intelligence and writing skills. The pair is in perfect symbiosis. Trump is ever the showman, the con man, the extrovert, ready to charm and flirt in his heavy-handed, false way, and Miller, the social misfit, is his ventriloquist. Trump is the orange-cheeked puppet that mouths the words Miller feed him, in an “endless show,” as famed anti-capitalist activist Naomi Klein describes it.
Trump’s inauguration speech was dark and angry, just like its author, Miller, who chose a quote from his favorite movie, The Dark Knight Rises, a dark superhero movie: “Today’s ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people.”
Trump continued: “But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” “We must stop the American carnage… America First!”
Another aspect of this apocalyptic film, which struck Miller and which he also used for another speech is Bane, a mysterious masked figure to whom Miller perhaps identifies, and who finds “the source of his revolutionary hardness [in] unconditional love.” During Trump’s campaign rallies, Miller tirelessly chanted: “We’re going to build that wall, and we’re going to build it out of love!”
Said Trump during his State of the Union address on Feb. 5: “Tonight, I’m asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and our country.”
This movie was inspired by Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities (Paris and London), A History of the French Revolution, with the character of Madame Defarge who knits and kills, each knot corresponding to the name of a man condemned to be strangled, the symbolism of the reign of Terror during which the anti-royalist Jacobins guillotined aristocrats and people guilty of political crimes. The avenging Madame Defarge, the antagonist, inspires the character of Bane – the good terrorist who avenges the poor by attacking the rich at a time when society is in disarray – which in turn may have inspired a young deranged messiah.
UNCONDITIONAL LOYALTY TO THE BOSS
In his most recent book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, Andrew McCabe, the FBI Deputy Director dismissed by Trump in January 2018, accuses the president of “heedless bullying,” and, through refusal to tolerate any view other than his own, of “nurturing a strain of insanity in public dialogue.” More to the point, Trump uses “the tactics and rhetoric of totalitarian dictators in persuading loyal ‘shock troops’ that anyone who disagrees with them is a traitor.”
Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe says Trump operates “like a criminal mob boss.”
Richard Painter, the ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, went further by saying that Trump’s national emergency declaration was “clearly illegal” and the product of the president’s state of mind. “The president is not well at all mentally. I think he’s an extreme narcissist. He has been denied what he wants, his wall, and he is having a hissy fit. He is out of control, and he will not take no for an answer from Congress. And he’s going do this. He is going to insist on doing it, he is going to tear the country apart. It’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal. He is going to do enormous damage to the Republican Party which is going to split right down the middle over this, and we really need to keep in mind that this is because the president is not well.” Painter has just filed a lawsuit against Trump.
McCabe adds that Trump operates “like a criminal mob boss.” And what is the first commandment of a mafia “godfather”? Unconditional loyalty. This is the main reason that Trump fired his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, last November, despite the fact that the man was doing a great job at sabotaging immigration and was one of Trump’s early supporters. Sessions had made the capital mistake of recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. In other words, he would not support and defend his chief by stopping the investigation, now led by Robert Mueller.
A third official, Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer, told his lawyer that Trump “treats people badly. He has no moral character in defrauding people in his businesses, and going bankrupt, and taking cash out, and putting people out of work. He lacks the moral compass that we expect in our presidents.”
Finally, former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Bill Weld will run as a candidate against Trump in 2020 who, he says: “Has to humiliate to show he is the boss.”
Yoni Appelbaum, senior editor at The Atlantic, has written a lengthy analysis calling for the dismissal of Trump who, among other things, “demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public.”
“I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” is Trump’s motto. “My honor is loyalty”, was the motto of the Nazi SS already mentioned.
It is here that Miller comes into play, whose loyalty is the main attribute and whose public role is to defend his boss against these numerous large-scale attacks. During the famous television interview with Jack Tapper on CNN on Jan. 7, 2018, we could see how he was speaking to Trump, defending him relentlessly against the accusations of Michael Wolff, an award-winning journalist, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
After praising Trump at length for being a “self-made billionaire” and a “political genius” who “tapped into something magical that’s happening in the heart of this country,” Miller repeated himself so much and avoided the questions until the host cut him off saying, “There is one viewer that you care about right now and you’re being obsequious, you’re being a factotum in order to please him.” Trump was indeed watching the show as he tweeted: “Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!” meaning Jack Tapper.
A FACT-FREE AND CHERRY-PICKED-DATA UNIVERSE
The other major characteristic of a personality like Miller is lying. There is an eloquent example when he was at Santa Monica High School, where he liked to repeat the history of the flag, especially during his 69 appearances as a guest on the Republican Larry Elder radio show. According to Miller, the teacher had “thrown” the flag on the ground so that students would step on it in an anti-American demonstration at this liberal school.
Adrian Karimi, a lawyer, and Jenness Hartley, a teacher and friend of Miller’s boyfriend, Chris Moritz, recall this incident with their history teacher. “After 9/11, when everyone was putting up flags, Mr. Megaffin lead a discussion about patriotism and symbolism. He put the flag on the floor and asked us, “What does the flag mean now?” It was a lesson to help us understand our feelings about patriotism. Stephen spoke about it on Larry Elder, saying that the teacher threw the flag across the floor and disrespected the flag. The teacher was in fact respectful and did not invite students to step on the flag.”
Miller himself admitted his glaring lie to Hartley, who says he asked him, “Why didn’t you say that the flag incident was a teaching lesson? He answered, ‘The truth doesn’t matter; it’s about what people want to hear.’ I remember that very clearly.”
Kesha Ram, a classmate and former Vermont lawmaker, elected at age 22, reports that Miller “lived in a fact-free and cherry-picked-data universe.” Another classmate, Nick Silverman, a Los Angeles writer: in their government class, Miller “bullied the opposition with unverifiable statistics and figures, baseless claims launched with his articulate bravado. He would just bludgeon you with evidence he pulled from thin air, gun-death numbers or immigration statistics that were usually false or gross exaggerations.” Now that he is in government, “His arguments are not based on anything like proof and reason,” says Michael Paarlberg of The Guardian.
Coupled with manipulation facilitated by the chaos in the White House and his proximity to Trump, and with the help of allies in key positions such as our well-known Gene Hamilton, Lee Cissna, Thomas Homan (ICE), and John Walk, a White House legal advisor and son-in-law of the then attorney general Jeff Sessions, Miller bypassed the State Department, the Defense Department, the chiefs of staff, the vice president’s office, and the office of management and budget, and managed to lower the cap of refugees to admit from 110,000 that had been set by Obama for 2017, to 45,000 for 2018. the decade’s lowest. In 2019, it was set at 30,000. And Miller promises to go down to zero. As we saw, he had done the same solo feat with the travel ban. Compared to this, torpedoing the TPS was of an amazing ease. “The process has never been this corrupt,” a State Department official told New Yorker journalist Jonathan Blitzer, who has done a lot of research in the White House.
Journalist Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair interviewed a dozen officials on refugees, including a senior Senate official: “Miller has found ways to hijack the machinery of the government to undermine these agencies’ core mission. ‘Now, it’s sort of like the termite approach, which is you place people inside and you have them basically eat away in a more quiet way, subtly inside’. It’s not as transparent to the outside world, and they just sort of destroy programs they don’t care about.”
“He claims to be speaking for the president all while manipulating the information the president receives, so the president never hears alternative views or arguments.” And so, Trump regurgitates facts that have nothing to do with reality, including during the State of the Union speech on Feb. 5, where he reserved his hyperbole for immigration.
Here are some pretexts Trump put forward to build his wall on “our very
dangerous southern border,” as he has called it a few times, following the classic technique of Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”
“Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens,” Trump said in his State of the Union address. Ted Hesson, an immigration reporter, sets the record straight: “Studies show immigrants — both legal and undocumented — are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. A June 2018 report by the libertarian Cato Institute found undocumented immigrants were half as likely to be incarcerated as the native-born.”
As for the refugees attacked by Miller and described as a “threat to the security of the United States”: “of the more than 3 million refugees admitted to the U.S. from 1975 to 2015, only three committed terrorist acts, killing three people total, all by Cubans in the 1970s, prior to the establishment of our current refugee screening process. None of the major shootings or terrorist acts in the United States in recent years – San Bernardino, Boston, Orlando, Las Vegas or September 11 – have been perpetrated by refugees.” Quite the contrary, refugees are admitted after a strict monitoring process that lasts nearly two years and includes 20 steps by several government agencies.
Trump asked his Department of Health and Human Services how much the refugees cost the government and he received the following answer: refugees generate $63 billion more in tax revenue than they cost U.S. taxpayers. Miller was quick to squash this official report.
Refugees threaten a country of 326 million people, with an army of 1.3 million, a reserve of 800,000, and 6,500 nuclear weapons
In addition, the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that on average, refugees in the United States pay $ 20,000 more per person in taxes than they receive in benefits. And after settling in the country, they are more likely than citizens born in the United States with the same level of education to be employed and less likely to receive public assistance.
In the same State of the Union speech, Trump claimed that “Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.” However, according to the government’s own Drug Enforcement Administration, almost all heroin passes through official points of entry, while high-purity fentanyl (100 times more potent than morphine) comes directly from China.
Trump likes to repeat that traffickers smuggle thousands of young women into the U.S. through the border’s unprotected areas to sell them to prostitution and modern slavery. And that they are often tied up with duct tape placed over their mouth. The experts, Hesson reports, say that these claims are closer to a Hollywood movie than to reality. Groups representing 80 anti-trafficking organizations described these statements as “dangerous and destructive” in a letter to Congress members prior to the State of the Union address. Victims of human trafficking mainly arrive in the United States on a visa.
Finally, Trump said that under his presidency, “our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults. 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings or murders.” According to ICE’s own reports, its officers arrested 3,914 immigrants accused or convicted of homicide. However, the most common reasons for arrest were traffic offenses, immigration violations, and drug crimes.
We will finish with a note on the refugees. The figures noted above are the ceiling determined each year by the U.S. President. As we saw, Miller had reduced it to 45,000 for 2018. But at the year’s end, only 22,491 had been admitted, a drop of 90% of refugees from Muslim countries, and 40% from Latin America … The “land of freedom” generously admits one per thousand of the 20 million refugees in the world.
“This is very much the dismantling of the program’s infrastructure in the U.S.,” comments Jennifer Quigley, an advocacy strategist with Human Rights First in Washington, DC, who says she would not be surprised if the refugee program was outright dissolved before the end of the Trump/Miller presidency.
We saw that the Trump administration uses the same methods to paint the TPS recipients as criminals or beneficiaries of public assistance, based on the nativist ideology and not on the facts.
(To be continued)