On the Affirmative Defense

Obviously I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a guy who reads a lot of stuff. So, I’d like to clarify a few small points as I understand them.

Back in the late 90s I was involved in a few cases where I was helping clients prosecute hackers. Generally, I couldn’t discuss any of the details of what was going on, but I paid close attention to legal cases regarding hacking, and – in particular – to a lawyer named Jennifer Granick, who frequently spoke at some of the same conferences I attended (Black Hat, NSA security conference, ShmooCon) she was always chock full of facts and advice. Later, I got involved in building honeypot systems, and teaching about them with Lance Spitzner, and the subject of entrapment came up, a fair bit. Lance and I both had questions for Granick, which were clearly and thoroughly answered. That was where I heard of the concept of an “affirmative defense” and Granick’s opinion was that no attorney worth a dry lentil would ever use an affirmative defense – throwing oneself on the mercy of the court would be better.

I’m going from memory, here, but the idea of an affirmative defense can be summed up as “Well, yeah, I did it – but I’m still innocent because ${reasons}.” When a defendant pulls that line, the prosecutor will pounce on it like a mongoose on a baby snake, “Ah, so we have established that you did do that thing. Now, we’re arguing about mitigating circumstances and your defense now depends on those mitigating circumstances being sufficient.” Granick described it as playing Russian Roulette with 5 live rounds in the cylinder.

Obviously, I’m not going to waste my time sampling the proto-fascist punditsphere’s opinions about the Trump indictment, so I might miss one of them that is offering surprisingly good legal analysis (hey, it may happen!) but from here it looks like there’s a whole lot of jerking knees and not a lot of reading and thinking going on. Most amusingly, it seems that Trump, who is not a thoughtful man, is parroting some of what media figures are saying – including (womp womp!) affirmative defenses. For example, Trump on the stolen documents: “so what, they were mine!” Ah, well, that’s an affirmative defense: you just admitted that you did, in fact, have the stolen documents – and now your argument is “the mitigating circumstances are that they were mine.” Except, now that you’ve admitted they were stolen, all I now have to do is point out where they’re not yours and it’s game over, man. [Private Hudson’s reaction in ALIENS is actually a good reaction for Trump’s lawyers and whenever I hear Alina Habba say pretty much anything, I tend to voiceover it with my rendition of Hudson. “Now we’re in some really pretty shit…” Even though he was in a completely different movie, Hudson had a better grasp on the situation that Trump’s lawyers appear to.]

If you have been following what’s been going on, many of Trump’s writhings have been predicated on affirmative defense. For another example, “so what if he tried to have a surveillance video server deleted, it was his!” Never mind that servers are not “deleted” unless they’re virtual machines (in which case there are backup images) – that’s an affirmative defense. 1) He tried to have the server deleted, but 2) it’s OK because it’s his. Well, thank you for admitting he tried to have the server deleted because that’s what we needed to show in order to have you on tampering with evidence and really it’s irrelevant whose machine it was, so you can argue that point ’till the cows come home, you’ve already convicted your client.

Now we come to the 4 most recent indictments. This is where things become actually painful – the proto-fascist punditsphere and Trump appear to be taking the line that “it’s freedom of speech!” which sure as hell sounds like another affirmative defense, to me: “sure, I said that thing but it’s OK that I said it because 1st Amendment!” Yeah, except that’s not even what he was indicted for. He was indicted for conspiracy not lying. Whups.


It’s relevant that Trump told a bunch of lies, because the lies were part of the conspiracy. But it was not the other way around: the conspiracy was not entirely the lies. Smith’s writers are very clear:

It’s right there in the text: he disseminated his lies to make his claims appear legitimate and erode public faith in the election. So, the lies were part of the conspiracy, but..:

The conspiracies are to defraud the government in violation of section 18 USC, which is the part of the US Code of law that establishes the government’s power to operate non-fraudulent elections. And, to impede an official function, and to violate the constitutional rights of voters to have their votes counted.

Lying? Oh, you lied? So what.

Now, admitting that a bunch of lies were told is not really relevant to any of this except inasmuch as it explains why Trump and his followers were lying. They were lying in order to further the conspiracy, but it’s the conspiracy that’s the problem.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “unindicted co-conspirators”

This is not an affirmative defense, though – it’s actually more of a “red herring” than a defense. What’s particularly funny about all of this is that Smith’s team were careful to say that politicians’ lies are apparently expected and Trump had a right to claim – even falsely – that the election had been rigged. So what? That doesn’t justify your attempting to turn around and mount a coup. And, I suppose it must be said: Hunter Biden. So what?

Again, a semi-dramatic reading of the whole indictment is here. It’s practically poetry. Smith and his writers have carefully scoped the indictment down to just what matters, and for what there is plentiful evidence. Much of that evidence is self-incrimination from the various un-indicted co-conspirators. I expect they’ll have their moment under the bright lights once their boss is signed, sealed, and delivered.

Smith’s work is impressive, though really it’s mostly recapitulating what the Jan 6 Committee already did. There’s more than that, of course, since Trump’s co-conspirators can’t keep their mouths shut, and the very nature of their conspiracy made it impossible for them not to take positive actions. This video, for example, is so pathetic, it’s almost funny: [video] Trump’s fake Michigan electors recorded video of themselves being kept out of the state house by the Michigan State Police and security. Briefly, the dialog was:
Fake Electors: “Let us in, we’re the real electors!”
Security: “No you’re not, the real electors are already in the building. We know who they are. You’re not coming in.”
Fake Electors: “Waaaaaa! Let us innnnnnn!”
Security: “No.”

Now, 16 of the fake electors are facing charges in Michigan. One of them has come up with a clever affirmative defense, namely, “someone forged my signature on that document!” (carefully not mentioning whether she was outside the statehouse or not).

All of this is interesting and relevant, because it shows how Trump’s co-conspirators did not really have a plan. There was no indication that, if they occupied the capitol and delayed the vote count, they had any idea what they’d do next. Trump appears to have thought he’d call in the military under the insurrection act, and give someone a whiff of grapeshot, except … who? How would that help? If Trump’s goons had held the capitol, were they going to re-enact Jean D’Anjou’s last stand at Camerone? (I refuse to glorify the pointless defense of a pointless building in Texas) If the fake electors had managed to get into the state house and cast their fake summaries, they’d have wound up in handcuffs in the back of a couple of cop cars. Remember Bolsonaro’s coup attempt? They took over the house of parliament and then stood around until they got tired and hungry, then surrendered, and were arrested. “Go home and wait for the FBI to come for you” is how it actually worked out, anyway.

I am also really tired of the media acting like Trump’s goons are a big scary threat. Sure, they’re goons and they can hurt someone, but they’re surrounded by a continental landmass crawling with cops and military. What are they going to do? Don’t they understand that their golem god could be tried in absentia?

Meanwhile, I was thinking “wow, Trump will get expunged from history like Catilinus was.” The only reason anyone still remembers Catilinus is because Cicero verbally beat the shit out of him over and over and over. Will Trump go down in history as one of the great punching bags of all time? Because, I’m sure at the time, the Catiline plot was important and there were all kinds of details, in the end, nobody recorded a lot about the details compared to what Cicero had to say. Anyhow, I went back and found some audio recording of an Australian fellow (Who knew Cicero had an Australian accent?) reading Cicero’s first anti-Catilinus rant. And, damn it’s good. It goes into great depth about what a selfish ne’r do well Catilinus was, who spent fortunes on self-aggrandizement and debauch, but accomplished nothing more than going down in history as a blot on Cicero’s caligae. At moments I felt confused: [wik]

Born to an ancient patrician family, he joined Sulla during Sulla’s civil war and profited from Sulla’s purges of his political enemies, becoming a wealthy man. In the early 60s BC, he served as praetor and then as governor of Africa (67 – 66 BC). Upon his return to Rome, he attempted to stand for the consulship but was rebuffed; he then was beset with legal challenges over alleged corruption in Africa and his actions during Sulla’s proscriptions (83 – 82 BC). Acquitted on all charges with the support of influential friends from across Roman politics, he twice stood for the consulship in 64 and 63 BC.

Defeated in the consular comitia, he concocted a violent plot to take the consulship by force, bringing together poor rural plebs, Sullan veterans, and other senators whose political careers had stalled. Crassus revealed the coup attempt – which involved armed uprisings in Etruria – to Cicero, one of the consuls, in October 63 BC, but it took until November before evidence of Catiline’s participation emerged. Discovered, he left the city to join his rebellion. In early January 62 BC, at the head of a rebel army near Pistoria (modern day Pistoia in Tuscany), Catiline fought a battle against republican forces. He was killed and his army annihilated.

Catiline’s name became a byword for doomed and treasonous rebellion in the years after his death. Sallust, in his monograph on the conspiracy, Bellum Catilinae, painted Catiline as a symbol of the republic’s moral decline.

At least Catiline didn’t play golf.

I did love Cicero’s description of how he got started exposing Catilinus, and all the people sitting near him gradually got up and wandered off, leaving him sitting alone except for Rudy Giulianus.



  1. JM says

    Part of what is happening is that the right wing pundits are raising a defense of something Trump isn’t charged with. If Trump was charged with inciting a riot with his speech on Jan 6th then Freedom of Speech would be an issue. That isn’t something Trump is charged with, though he certainly could have been. I think that was skipped exactly because it would be too messy of an issue. There is an inherently fine line to parse over when Trump’s political speech turns into provoking a riot.
    The right wing pundits are not concerned with any of that. They just want to complain that Trump has been charged with anything at all and raising issues of basic liberty is a good way to do that. That it has nothing to do with the actual case against Trump doesn’t matter, the MAGA followers are not reading the indictment. Trump then hears these things from the pundits and some of it makes it’s way into his posts.
    As for Trump’s lawyers, I think he has too many. They all have their own issues and don’t seem to have a single coordinated plan. So they are saying things that conflict with each other in public.

  2. johnson catman says

    I really, really look forward to the time when, from a jail cell, The Orange Criminal curses the day that he decided to run for President of the US.

  3. david says

    The reason the T**** team is throwing up low-quality arguments is that they’re going for quantity not quality. They’re simply making up as many crummy claims as they can invent. Each claim they make will require a court hearing, each court hearing will be subject to delays, and eventually the case may be pushed back to after the election, at which time the defendant fires the prosecution, and it’ll all be over. Since there are no good arguments in his defense, the “throw spaghetti at the wall, and make the cleanup take a long time” method is all he has.

  4. crivitz says

    Catilinus? Who’s that? Never heard of ‘im. I guess that’s what a thorough job they did of erasing him from history. With any luck, Trump will be erased from history other than as an example of bad behavior.

    My recollection of the plan after storming the capitol and preventing the certification of EC votes was that the next step (per the constitution) was that the determination of of who gets the EC votes would be done in the House of Reps with each state getting 1 vote each. Which candidate that a state would vote for being determined by the party with the most House Reps in their state and since the majority of the states have more R reps than D reps (thanks to gerrymandering), the vote would go to Trump.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    Maybe cartomancer can chime in about Catiline, but my impression is that the story is a bit (a lot?) more complicated than the simple picture painted above (as is usually the case).

  6. cartomancer says

    Technically it’s Catilina, not Catilinus. We tend to anglicise the name to Catiline today, but his actual name was Lucius Sergius Catilina (so we know him by his cognomen, or family name). Although masculine names in Latin tend to end with the second declension -us ending, it is not a universal rule.

    We have to be very careful taking Cicero’s word for anything in his political and legal speeches, of course. He has very much set the standard for how later generations saw Catiline and his coup attempt, though his own heavy-handedness in having the conspirators who remained in the city executed without trial was seen as excessive in the years following 63BC, leading to his temporary exile and the destruction of his house as punishment. Cicero’s usurpation of supreme executive power required Catiline to be the worst and least sympathetic of monsters. The truth is altogether harder to get at. Sallust, whose history book fills in some of the details, was not kind to him either. Chances are he was taking advantage of Etruscan and allied discontent, and the continuing disruptive legacy of the Sullan period, to further his own aristocratic ambitions. But the corruption, exploitation and misery in Italian society was very real at the time, and would soon explode into thirty years of bitter civil war.

  7. cartomancer says

    Sallust preserves what he claims is a letter written by Catiline to a supporter, vehemently denying that he was either doing this because of unpaid debts or in order to feather his own nest. He claimed to simply be exercising the ancient duties of the high-born patrician class to address the grievances of those lower down the social scale, which were being exacerbated by imperial exploitation of the Italian allies and dispossessed Roman veterans whose lands had been quietly annexed by greedy aristocrats. It was the same grievance as the Gracchi had flagged up, that the Social War had been fought over, and which Caesar would eventually have to address.

    This is, of course, what someone in Catiline’s position would say.

  8. says

    Trump appears to have thought he’d call in the military under the insurrection act, and give someone a whiff of grapeshot, except … who?

    I gather that they expected public protests in response and that they could paint the protestors as violent and dangerous, in turn painting themselves as the heroic patriots. Of course, for that to work, they’d have to be way more successful than they were.
    Also, fighting the Capitol police wasn’t a good look. I think they expected more police support from the get-go and when they didn’t get it, they threw a tantrum and started fighting without having a clear strategy for how to win.
    If you’re down to fighting the security forces of the state, you’ve already lost the coup. You’re supposed to have them on your side to being with, or to present them with a fait accompli, i.e. “I’ve already won. Do you want to be on my side?”

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    @7: Technically it’s Catilina, not Catilinus.

    So he’s not totally erased, he has an island named after him.

  10. snarkhuntr says

    The thing about these arguments is that they are not, in fact, legal defenses. At the moment they are just things people are saying in the media. Trump is playing from the Ray Cohn playbook here, his current legal strategy seems entirely focused around delay, and I suspect that with regard to the federal charges, winning the election and mooting out the cases with pardons is his main legal plan. I will be completely shocked if any of his cases go to trial before the next election for this exact reason, I suspect that Trump will do anything he can to avoid being tried in the next year and a half.

    The purpose and function of all the various trump-defenders arguing his often self-contradictory cases are multiple: they ‘flood the zone’, they provide a sort of gish-gallop armor to Trump supporters who might end up in an argument with anyone outside of the hive-mind.

    Simultaneously, the right-wing intellectual sphere is screaming and moaning about ‘the weaponization of the justice system’. This will be the cover they use to explain why Trump will weaponize it “the democrats did it first, we’re just restoring the balance”. Make no mistake, if Trump wins the next election – he will absolutely purge the Justice department of anyone not willing to follow his mandate to crush his enemies with legal process. I would also not be surprised if, given control of the house and senate, the Republicans start spurious impeachments of federal judges who fail to toe the intellectual line.

    Whether Trump ends up as an analog of Catalina or Ceasar will depend on the results of the next election, I think. Should he fail again to obtain power, I don’t believe that many of his followers will still cling so tightly to him and there will be space open for another strongman to try to take over from him – the role that DeSantis seems to be auditioning for. If Trump fails again, I suspec that there will be people in 10 years with hastily covered or removed Trump tattoos who will claim with a straight face that “While he had some good ideas, he was too corrupt and not good enough to get them done. I was never a huge fan.”

    I have a bet with someone that the US ceases to be a democracy in anything but name by 2030 – a Trump win in 2024 would make my position very strong, I think. Progressives have known this for decades, but if the Liberals in the Democratic establishment don’t realize they’re in a knife-fight to the death sooner or later, they probably won’t figure it out until their throat is cut once and for all. They actually have a huge advantage over the republicans – progressive policies are broadly more popular, all the Dems would need to do is actually *do* some progressive things and protect the election/voting system. Republican hysteria over mail-in ballots and universal voting is an acknowledgement of this fact, often cloaked in racist tropes about illegal immigrants voting or some such. They know they cannot win in fair elections anymore, and are fighting like cornered rats to prevent fair elections in every contested jurisdiction for this exact reason.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    I suspect that Trump will do anything he can to avoid being tried in the next year and a half.

    I thought the same. That’s why the current indictment is so interesting – it’s a masterpiece of economy. Not for them the usual method of piling on as many spurious charges as possible, knowing that only a few will make it to trial after many, many arguments about validity – oh no, in this case they’ve trimmed off ALL the fat to the point that there’s really almost nothing to argue ABOUT. It’s genius. I just hope it works.

    Also: what the media and anyone else says about it is – or should be – more or less irrelevant. Nothing Fox News or Ron DeSantis can say will change the facts listed in the indictment, and the judge isn’t going to be distracted.

    there will be space open for another strongman to try to take over from him – the role that DeSantis seems to be auditioning for

    Nah. DeSantis is soiled goods. He’s weak. He picked a fight with Mickey Mouse and lost. His best hope was if Trump had died on January 7th – THEN he could credibly have stepped up. But with the man himself still walking and talking, he’s an also-ran.

    Also – DeSantis is a politician. Are memories so short? A HUGE part of Trump’s success since 2015 came specifically because he’s NOT a politician – he set himself up in opposition to ALL of them, Republican as well as Democrat. If someone’s going to rise up to replace him, they’re not going to arise from the usual suspects in politics. If Joe Rogan considers running, though, be afraid.

  12. Tethys says

    Hmmm, I suspect that ordering your Vice President to commit crimes on your behalf isn’t going to fly as protected free speech.

    Of course any competent lawyer would seek to delay this prosecution, as there really isn’t any defense for seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

    I hope the judge is already tired of their lies, and threatens to put tfg in jail pending trial if he insists on trying to turn the proceedings into an ongoing episode of dictator theater.

    In other news, Fani Willis should be filing her indictment any minute now. Sad!! /s

  13. snarkhuntr says


    ” Nothing Fox News or Ron DeSantis can say will change the facts listed in the indictment, and the judge isn’t going to be distracted.”

    The judge isn’t relevant if Trump wins and self-pardons or has a flunky terminate or sabotage the prosecution. I suspect that if the matter is still pending when he takes over, he’ll have dozens of potential AG candidates lined up and ready to give a “principled” explanation for why they had to take control and terminate the “baseless”, “political”, “witchhunt” of a prosecution before it could conclude.

    The admirable brevity and economy of the charges and indictiment will help, but Trump is long a master of legal delay. Although I doubt that even the wingnut majority on the supreme court would intervene directly to help trump, they could certainly introduce substantial delays into the process just by claiming to be seriously considering important issues.

    I agree about DeSantis not having a chance at the moment. I wouldn’t write him off completely though – if Trump dies/fails to win re-election/goes to jail – who else would you see as a potential fascist party candidate in 2028?

    DeSantis has a proven record of being very mean to the kinds of people that the right-wing base hates. He’s actually done the kinds of things that they all fantasize about Trump doing. Once he ends this, doomed, presidential run he can resume oppressing the people of Florida and working on that culture-warrior cred. Remember – 2016 wasn’t Trump’s first kick at the presidential can. He was a joke of a candidate in 2000. 16 years later and plenty of name recognition from his reality TV work and he managed to squeak through.

  14. sonofrojblake says

    The judge isn’t relevant if Trump wins

    My point was only that all the sound and fury in the media is one thing, but in order to delay this, Trump’s team will need actual legal arguments, and the indictment seems precision engineered to exclude them. That said, you’re right, he’s good at delay… but he’ll need to keep himself out of court for the best part of one and a half YEARS. It’s asking a lot.

    who else would you see as a potential fascist party candidate in 2028?

    Someone I’ve currently never heard of, probably. There seems to be a trajectory for these things, and history suggests that if you peak (and be honest – DeSantis has peaked) too early, there’s no way back up, not least because there are others biting at your heels. Trump didn’t peak in 2000 – he barely even tried, IIRC. You’ll note that almost nobody who opposed Trump in 2015 has had a go this time, and the one(s?) who did aren’t getting any traction.

    And the other answer is: Joe Rogan, or Ben Shapiro, or someone like them – essentially, a media personality with delusions of competence. Trump has set the precedent, so if someone who actually has a fully functioning brain chooses to try out, I would discount their chances simply because they’re not governor of Florida or whatever.

  15. says

    I am so glad it’s Smith in charge, not that spineless and gormless do-nothing, Garland. Garland’s view on “don’t interfere in politics” was to do nothing until after the next election … which would be followed by another election which he’d wait to be over.

    Smith’s view on “don’t interfere in politics” is to pretend elections don’t exist and just do his job. It’s breathtakingly refreshing.

  16. jenorafeuer says


    And the other answer is: Joe Rogan, or Ben Shapiro, or someone like them – essentially, a media personality with delusions of competence. Trump has set the precedent,

    One could make an argument that Reagan set the precedent, though admittedly he didn’t jump straight from actor to President, having gone through intermediate political stages first. (And even when he was still an actor, his rep as HUAC’s hatchetman in Hollywood was far from unearned. I vaguely recall that he met his wife when she was a victim of an attempt at uprooting ‘communists’ because her name was very similar to someone actually on the list, and Reagan swooped in to save her.)

  17. snarkhuntr says


    ” My point was only that all the sound and fury in the media is one thing, but in order to delay this, Trump’s team will need actual legal arguments”

    He needs legal arguments, but they don’t need to be meritorious or logically valid. Where a lesser defendant might be refused outright, I think the courts are going to give great deference to FPOTUS’s various motions, appeals of denied motions, appeals of denied appeals of motions and so forth. They are in a bind – they can’t be seen to be denying his claims without consideration, but consideration requires time, argument, motions, hearings and the like.

    You can see this strategy built right into the Trump team’s response on the issue of the protective order. Rather than simply covering the entirety of the disclosed evidence, they want the courts to impose an order that will essentially require the adjudication of every single piece of evidence as ‘sensitive’ or not. This is fertile ground for delay – adjudications that don’t go Trump’s way will be appealed.

    “There seems to be a trajectory for these things, and history suggests that if you peak (and be honest – DeSantis has peaked) too early, there’s no way back up, not least because there are others biting at your heels.”

    I think it’s too early to decide if DeSantis has peaked. Surely he’s reached a local maximum, and I don’t think he’s going to do better than embarassing also-ran in this election. But he’s got four years until the next one to build his rep with the fascists. Unlike a media star – a Rogan, Peterson, Shapiro or Tate, DeSantis is going to be able to actually vindicate the worst instincts of the fascist base. While the other candidates are talking up Immigrant-Hate, DeSantis is going to be sending out his National Guard or kidnapping and relocating migrants. While other candidates promise to oppress the LGBT, DeSantis will be able to actually *do* it.

    More importantly, I think that the RNC is going to learn from Trump. What trump did was really unprecedented in the modern era – he came from outside the political establisment as a genuine ‘outsider’ candidate and he swept the field. This was great for the party in the short term – I suspect that without the base of otherwise ‘nonpolitical’ voters that Tump holds sway over, we’d have seen a second Clinton president. Unfortunately for the RNC – Trump isn’t a politician. He hasn’t had to learn how to deal and compromise to accomplish his goals – he’s used to being a TV character and pretend businessman who can order around everyone he encouters. This means that he accomplished very little with his time in power. Even when his party held all three seats of government, Trump just couldn’t work with people to get legislation passed and policies implemented. He thought he’d been elected God-King and governed accordingly. That’s why his only lasting ‘accomplishment’ is really the fruition of Mitch McConell’s plan to pack the federal judiciary. It was done without any real input or work from Trump. He’s not capable of more than that. While there are endless available criticisms of Biden, he’s spent his entire adult life as a politician which means he’s actually been able to accomplish quite a few of his goals while in office – even with a hostile House to deal with. Trump, or another narcissistic outsider, is not going to be able to do this. Absent a complete capitulation to Führerprinzip, which I don’t think the Republicans are ready for yet – any leader of theirs is going to have to be able to negotiate or compromise. I don’t think that any true narcissist is going to be able to do that. They’re going to want a proper politician next time, and if Trump isn’t dominating the field, I’d expect to see a lot of thumb on the scale of the next primary.

    I think the republican establishment will want to find a candidate who can embody as many of the Trump characteristics as possible while still retaining the ability to actually get things done. I don’t know of any right-wing/fascist politicans other than DeSantis with national name recognition, but that election is still 5.5 years away. Maybe someone else is wisely waiting in the wings for Trump to spend the rest of his energy before they emerge – without the baggage of years of being his opponent.

  18. Dunc says

    @snarkhuntr – Alternatively:

    President of the Imperial Galactic Government:

    The President is very much a figurehead – he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.


    On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had. He spent two of his ten Presidential years in prison for fraud.

    Not saying we’re there yet

  19. sonofrojblake says

    @snarkhuntr, 21:

    I don’t think he’s going to do better than embarassing also-ran in this election. But he’s got four years until the next one

    I think that’s his problem. He’s an also ran in ’24, by ’28 he’s at best “oh, that guy”, and more likely simply “who?”.

    While other candidates promise to oppress the LGBT, DeSantis will be able to actually *do* it.

    Possibly… except the impression I get is that the thing DeSantis is most known for is picking a fight with a Mouse and losing. I could be wrong, I could just be focusing on the thing I find most gratifyingly funny… but his position of power is a two edged sword – a Rogan or Shapiro (or whoever) can promise the moon on a stick. DeSantis HAS to deliver, or he’s failed.

    I think that the RNC is going to learn from Trump

    I don’t know… since he bimbled in an annihilated their entire field of candidates, including the son of a past President and brother of another, have they done anything to change the rules about who can be a candidate? I haven’t heard anything…

    That’s always baffled me – any yahoo off the street can apparently rock up to the Republican party, say “I agree with you guys… you’re all low-energy losers, liars, crooked, shrill, little bitches… but I’m going to be your candidate”, and the lesson of 2015 is there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. I mean yay democracy and so on, but couldn’t they institute some kind of basic qualification, e.g. “has to be/have been a governor/senator/mayor/general or equivalent rank in the forces” or something? Trumps “qualification” seems to have been “got some money”.

    I suspect that without the base of otherwise ‘nonpolitical’ voters that Tump holds sway over, we’d have seen a second Clinton president

    I agree – a 2015 where Trump stayed home would have put Jeb Bush in the frame and Hillary in the White House and a lot more Afghans, Iraqis, Sudanese and who knows who else in graves. I can’t see any scenario where in a vaguely conventional campaign Bush could have dented her entitled arrogant expectaction that she was going to win… I mean, Trump couldn’t dent that, and Bush was way more polite.

    He thought he’d been elected God-King and governed accordingly.

    I think he thinks he still is…

    Maybe someone else is wisely waiting in the wings

    That’s the scary scenario – someone with the appeal of Trump, but combined with the political nous and control over their ego to stay completely off-grid until he’s been dealt with. I don’t know that such a person exists, but if they do, they could be very dangerous indeed. I’m counting on the GOP continuing to produce politicians of the calibre of DeSantis, in which case we can be relatively relaxed. (sarcasm from a white cishet man who doesn’t even live in the US)

    @Dunc: I think I first made that comparison in 2015, along the lines that Trump was the Beeblebrox candidate. I darkly and not entirely sarcastically hinted that maybe that’s what “they” were up to. Consider: in the HHGG, the President is deliberately put into that position by the six men who are really in charge – the six men who consult The Man In The Shack for policy decisions. It all speaks of an incredibly well-run conspiracy. Not for the first time, I really, truly wish we lived in a world where such a conspiracy could take place, because it would require the Republicans to be an incredibly far-seeing bunch of hyper-competent 5d chess players, rather than the bunch of horrified clowns they come across as in this timeline. No matter how Zaphoid (is that a word? It is now) Trump gets, we’re disappointingly never getting to the HHGG scenario.

  20. sonofrojblake says

    (Further to the first point in my previous post, I’m reminded of Bruce Campbell’s well known Four Stages of a Hollywood Career:
    1. Who is Bruce Campbell?
    2. Get me Bruce Campbell!
    3. Get me a young Bruce Campbell!
    4. Who is Bruce Campbell?

    DeSantis seems to have stalled between (1) and (2), and by the time of the ’28 election he’ll be, at best, at (3).

  21. snarkhuntr says


    This is controversial, but I think that from a world perspective Trump is far from the worst recent US president. If you care about the lives of brown people in countries the US is vaguely interested in, he might be one of the best. His prosecution of the GWOT was dilatory at best, I’m sure there were drone-squadron commanders crying into their porridge at the thought of all those weddings, school busses and random civilian cars driving around un-drone-struck. Not that he did none of that, but it did seem that the CIA guys with the long kill lists had to pass through a difficult gauntlet of grifters, loons and psychos before they could get their murder plans checked off by the big guy.

    That doesn’t mean that I like the guy or want him back in office. But he’s more of a symptom of a serious problem than a problem himself. He just wants to sit in the big chair and preen in front of an audience, while shoveling as much government money as he can into his own bank accounts. There’s a lot worse damage that a president could do – for one thing, they could have actual beliefs – which Trump clearly only has about topics directly related to himself. A committed ideologue with political skills would do way more damage to the world than that crapulent fool could.

    But I’m still not writing off DeSantis. In the bizarro choose-your-own-reality world that Right Wing politics has become, he’s a serious player. You mentioned losing to The Mouse, but his followers don’t think that he did, and no facts you could present would convince them otherwise. To them, he’s a bold hero standing up to whatever nebulous cloud of ideas represent fear and dissatisfaction with their lives. Watch some of those interviews that people like “the good liars” do with MAGAts and other right-wingers. This is a religion, you’re no more going to change these peoples minds with facts and logic than you’re going to argue a faith-healer’s flock out of the shearing by pointing out that the ‘healed’ people are either plants or have conditions you can’t verify by sight. No matter how badly DeSantis’ performative hatred fucks up his state, his people are going to love him for it. After all, he’s hurting people they dislike – that’s all they need to believe. He seems to have some kind of ungodly hold over his position as governor, to the point that he was able to get state laws changed so that he could ignore and fuck over the state in his quest for higher office. Unless he’s unseated locally, I don’t think he’s going to be a “4. Who is Ron Desantis” in 2028.

  22. says

    For anyone who lives in the GQP’s Reality Distortion Field, the Angry Cheat is clearly innocent as the driven snow and the victim of a wholly partisan witch-hunt and yada yada yada. For anyone who *doesn’t* live in said RDF, the Angry Cheeto is a serial scam artist and a loser.

    Fortunately, the number of people who do live in the GQP’s RDF is not yet great enough to decide the election. What we who live outside the RDF need to do, is work on ensuring that as few new bodies as possible fall victim to the RDF, and on deprogramming current RDF victims.

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