Retired Four Star General Michael Hayden is the former Director of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). Under his watch the NSA instituted its secret indiscriminate warrantless tracking of personal phone calls that led Edward Snowden to blow the whistle. Under his watch as W’s head of the CIA, water boarding and other illegal acts of torture were used routinely to gain information on terrorists. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) concluded these brutal interrogation techniques did not provide any information that wasn’t already obtained by more traditional and humane methods.
After retiring, Hayden joined former Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff’s lobbying firm and worked as a commentator on Fox News. More recently he campaigned against Obama’s successful negotiation to peacefully halt the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Hayden’s right wing neocon bonafides are indisputable.
So we ought to pay close attention when General Hayden characterizes the leading Republican presidential candidates as scary. When asked about Ted Cruz’s promise to carpet bomb ISIS and Donald Trump’s rhetoric to “bomb the shit out of ISIS,” use torture as a means of revenge, and ban Muslims from the U.S., he said,
“We have taken…very complicated, serious issues and we’ve pushed them down to the level of bumper stickers. That scares me and I’m sure it scares a lot of the rest of the world.”
The election of the first African American president eight years ago was historic in obvious ways. But the racist backlash it unleashed through the Birther and the Tea Party Movements as well as the most recent attempts to delegitimize Obama’s presidency by denying his constitutional obligation to appoint a Supreme Court nominee, have set in motion a neoconservative avalanche that has steadily grown in strength and set the stage for the 2016 Republican presidential debacle.
Like an avalanche that swallows everything in its path, there are no longer any taboos, no holds barred, nothing too racist or extremist to be spewed. And like that unstoppable, destructive force of nature, the conventional Republican power brokers have lost all control.
They unleashed a movement that helped them take control of Congress in 2010 but along the way have picked up blatant xenophobes, white supremacists, and war mongers that are so troubling even the likes of General Hayden, Republican strategist Karl Rove and billionaire power brokers Sheldon Edelstein and the Koch brothers are shitting their pants.
Yesterday’s lead story in the New York Times was, “Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump.” Karl Rove has warned of a pending catastrophe. Dozens of Republican office holders, strategists, and donors are frantically trying to mount a last ditch attempt to block Trump but many concede privately that the “desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn.”
When the avalanche finally comes to rest, the landscape will be unrecognizable. It is likely that when the rubble is removed the Republican Party as we know it will have split at the seams.
If Rove et al, are somehow able to stop Trump, he will likely run as an independent candidate, surgically dividing the Republican Party with a chain saw and wood chipper, virtually ensuring a Democratic victory. If he is the inevitable nominee as is appearing more and more likely, hopefully we will still be breathing a sigh of relief this time next year with another Democratic President in office and a Democratic majority in the Senate. (By the way, Bernie Sanders matches up much better than Hillary against any of the Republicans in nationwide polling but that’s a story for another day.)
Given the stakes, however, we can’t get too complacent. Without significant voter turnout (or if the Republicans are more successful in suppressing people from voting), the unthinkable is entirely possible. If terrorist attacks increase close to the election, many Americans will tune out reason and logical thinking and could be swayed toward the verbose xenophobic bully on the block, looking to him for protection above all else.
Trump’s rhetoric goes well beyond neocon blustering and teeters on the brink of fascism. General Hayden said if Trump ordered the military to carry out the killing of families of suspected terrorists as he’s stated on the campaign trail, they would refuse, triggering a possible coup d’etat. Senate Republicans are neglecting their constitutional responsibilities in refusing to even entertain an Obama nominee for Supreme Court. In our 240 year history as a nation, we’ve rarely flirted with such extreme overt threats to our democracy. In that sense, I agree with the General…these are indeed scary times.