Chaos is a pit, the all-knowing eunuch Lord Varys warns in Game of Thrones, “a gaping pit waiting to swallow us all.”
The conniving Peter Baelish, known as Littlefinger, disagrees: “Chaos isn’t a pit,” he replies. Too few realize, he says, that, “Chaos is a ladder… Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
What does this tell us, other than the fact that earlier this year I binge-watched Game of Thrones? Well, reflect on Littlefinger’s cynical opportunism and see how the GOP has degenerated into a party of Littlefingers, lying and scheming for no other reason than to keep climbing the ladder for the power, stature and money they believe it signifies. Rung after rung, the Rudy Giulianis, the Lindsay Grahams and Jim Jordans and Devin Nunes try to rise, blindly willing and in obeisant lockstep behind a maniac, not realizing that at the top there is nothing but a long fall down to their own moral destruction.
Look upon his works and despair. On Friday morning, there was Donald Trump on Fox & Friends, after days of evidence before the House intelligence committee confirming his use of office for personal political gain. This second week of damning testimony, especially from Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, diplomat David Holmes and former National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill, moved him steadily along the road to impeachment.
So of course, he went on Fox to howl at the white and lifeless moon (also known as Steve Doocy and pals) about the lies, conspiracies and calumnies aimed at bringing a great president down. And to think, all over a “perfect” phone call to the president of Ukraine.
As ever, Trump has his own set of conspiracies and insults to monger and, according to Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam at CNN, peddled “at least 18 false claims.” For nearly an hour’s ramble, he maligned the usual suspects: Biden, Warren, Pelosi (“crazy as a bedbug”) and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (“He’s a sick puppy. He’s so sick.”).
He again impugned the character of former US Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, who so memorably testified against him last week. And he once more told lies about Ukraine and its imaginary involvement with CrowdStrike, the computer security company hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate hacking of its computers (CrowdStrike has worked with both Democrats and Republicans).
That CrowdStrike part of the fable has not been getting quite as much attention as Trump’s attempt to bribe Ukraine into announcing an investigation of the Bidens, so perhaps a moment to fill in those who haven’t been following this sordid mess with a single-minded obsession bordering on the clinical.
This nutty—and disproven—story, which Trump mentioned in his now infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, falls in line with the death of Vince Foster, Obama’s birth in Kenya, the pizzeria child sex ring, Benghazi, Hillary Clinton’s emails and assorted other madcap theories. It claims that CrowdStrike is a Ukrainian company (it’s not) and conspired with the DNC in a frameup to pin the hacking on Russia and blame Russia for 2016 election interference.
Trump says he believes CrowdStrike turned over a DNC server with incriminating data to Ukraine, which somehow used it to mess with Russia and our electoral process. “I still want to see that server,” Trump bellowed on Fox. “You know, the FBI’s never gotten that server, that’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?” (Again, it’s not Ukrainian.)
And by the way, to anyone with any knowledge of cybersecurity, the idea of physically turning over a server is just plain ludicrous and betrays a computer illiteracy on the part of Trump and his pals similar to the late US Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska describing the Internet as “a series of tubes.”
The CrowdStrike tale is, as Lt. Col. Vindman testified this week, “a Russian narrative that President [Vladimir] Putin has promoted.” This was seconded by ex-NSC expert Fiona Hill, who described the claim as “fictional” and “perpetrated by Russian security services”—the very people the American intelligence community unequivocally say were the actual guilty ones.
In fact, as we learned from Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg at the New York Times on Friday, “American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.
“The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries—and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points.”
Further, “American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies.”
Add to this new reporting from The Daily Beast and others that Lev Parnas, the Giuliani crony freshly indicted for campaign finance fraud, facilitated a meeting in Vienna late last year between House intelligence committee ranking member Nunes and fired Ukrainian prosecutor general Victor Shokin, a figure often mentioned in the impeachment hearings. The purpose: yet another attempt to dig up imaginary dirt intended to corroborate fictions about Ukraine, the Bidens and 2016.
When it comes to the defense of Dear Leader, Republicans in Congress seem to have decided that any wacky conspiracy in a storm will do, no matter from whence it came. The angry performance of their insane clown posse serving on the House intelligence committee over the last couple of weeks says it all. Knowingly or not, they have played into this campaign of disinformation and disruption and are dragging democracy down with them. Meanwhile, the Trump-led campaign to dismantle government while trying to siphon off every penny of government revenue for personal enrichment goes on.
Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger had it wrong, as does his descendant in the White House. Chaos may be a ladder to power and making a quick buck but in the end, chaos is just chaos, and it’s being fomented not only from the very top but throughout the universe of Trump minions. Sadly for us all, there are far too many of what the Russian hierarchy—led by a former KGB agent — so often and cogently call “useful idiots.”
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Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer forMoyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.