I can't improve on Steyn—nobody can—so I'll just quote him from that piece.
I always feel Derb thinks I'm a bit of a pantywaist on the hardcore issues, but in today's America even a reasonably sentient pantywaist should be able to get to the nub of the issue. Here's the bit Derb quoted:
So two years later the American Right still talks about the justice system and the election campaign as if either term means what it does in functioning societies. As I said above, I don't intend to comment on this week's Trump indictment either, nor do I wish to talk about who would make the best president, who has the best platform, who has the skill-set to implement the platform ... That would be all well and good if we were in, say, France, but, when the dirty stinking rotten corrupt U.S. justice system is criminalizing political opposition, there's no point pretending this is a normal situation, right?
"There's no point pretending this is a normal situation, right?" And yet at least three-quarters of the candidates in that Republican debate insisted on doing just that: This is just a normal quadrennial election in the greatest country in the history of countries where we're renowned around the planet for our uniquely peaceful "peaceful transfer of power", etc, etc.
Sorry, I don't buy that - and evidently nor does the GOP base. Which is why Trump has a forty-point lead over his nearest rival, and Nikki Haley's alleged triumph on stage in that debate has seen her numbers soar to - stand well back! - 6.1 per cent. The avowedly normal vice-president, senator and three governors nipping at her heels can barely muster ten per cent between them. There don't seem to be a lot of takers for "pretending this is normal".
John Derbyshire quoted me in the context of the latest sentences on the January 6th "insurrectionists". Dominic Pezzola broke a window at the Capitol and was given ten years; the government had asked for twenty. Joseph Biggs moved a crowd-control barrier and was sentenced to seventeen years; the government had wanted him banged up for thirty-three.
So the prosecutors and the judges seem to have reached a cozy understanding that, whatever sentence the former demand, the Court will be totally reasonable and cut in half. You want another? The feds demanded thirty years for Zachary Rehl; the judge gave him fifteen. And this is after two-and-a-half years in gaol awaiting their "constitutional right" (don't wave that constitution at me!) to a speedy trial.
Oops, wait, I spoke too soon. The US Attorney wanted thirty-three years for Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, but this time the judge decided to up it to two-thirds of the feds' demand: twenty-two years. For a guy who wasn't in Washington on January 6th.
All this of course in an ugly and violent land where actual career criminals who like to beat up disabled women with their own canes have the run of the playground. And with the connivance and support of the Democrat Party, even when very occasionally it all goes wrong for one of their own.
Oh, well. Mr Tarrio is a Proud Boy. I'm not really a Proud Boys type, if only because their founder, Gavin McInnes, has been a bit of an arse about me re Cockwombling Cary Katz and the CRTV cases. Still, I'm all about first principles - and a decade for breaking a window is not, even by lousy American standards, the verdict of a "justice" system.
Ah, but these Proud Boys are easy to demonize, aren't they? So what about Florida gran'ma Connie Meggs? She spent twenty minutes wandering around inside "the People's House" on J6, and, after two-and-a-half years under house arrest in the Sunshine State, has now been sentenced to fifteen months in gaol.
If you're thinking about running for president and are foolish enough to put on retainer one of those top-dollar GOP consultants from the Dole/McCain/Romney campaigns, they'll advise you not to harp on (as Trump does) about all this 2020 stuff because elections are about the future.
Unfortunately, those sentences are your future - in a land where political opposition is criminalized, and every organ of the state from the justice department to the revenue agency is weaponized against its perceived enemies. They're happening now for a reason.
Fifteen years ago, I sat in a Chicago courtroom watching a parade of Conrad Black's former board members and business partners testify against him. It seemed an obvious racket even to a Canadian not then as acquainted as I have since become with the ways of the dirty stinking rotten corrupt US justice system. The glamorous names on my old boss's board - former governors and ambassadors, etc - had all been sent so-called "Wells letters" warning that the SEC was thinking about opening an investigation into them. That can seriously unravel your world: for one thing, you won't be able to sit on any more boards, which is what ex-ambassadors and ex-governors do.
So, amazingly, the A-list bigshots all decided to become prosecution witnesses against Lord Black - and whaddayaknow, the SEC just quietly went away. Conrad's longtime Number Two, David Radler, did his own deal with the US Attorney allowing him to serve a significantly reduced sentence in Canada, at a "gaol" that offers amateur theatre and horse-riding lessons. When defence counsel questioned Radler on the attractions outlined in the glossy brochure, the judge interjected, "Wait a minute - the prison has a brochure?"
It's a sick, evil racket that's now being applied to the government's political opposition. Leaning on the Number Two to sing like a canary? You could ask Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows about that. Headline from Vanity Fair:
Sad! Donald Trump's Coconspirators Have Started Throwing Him Under the Bus
Oh my, you do surprise me! Why do you think they indict eighteen "co-conspirators"? Because, in the craphole of American "justice", that's how you build your witness list. Sure, my old telly chum Jenna Ellis (whose indictment is especially outrageous) is young enough to have a sporting chance of getting out of the big house while still just about middle-aged, but, if Rudy Giuliani gets what that Proud Boy gets, he won't be out till he's 101. That tends to concentrate the mind.
(By the way, for the benefit of His Majesty's Governments in London and Canberra, this is why neither Julian Assange nor anyone else should be extradited to the United States. After eleven years in the dank toilet of the District of Columbia Superior Court over a 270-word National Review post, that is one thing I know.)
It would be different if there were still any such thing as equality before the law. When a mob stormed the Capitol, you'll recall, Nancy Pelosi hailed it as an "impressive show of democracy in action". But that was the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, and the mob was on her side. It's different when it's her window getting broken.
Like I said: There's no point pretending this is normal, right?
And yet a vast swathe of Conservative, Inc insists on doing just that. One can see the attractions of a "return to normalcy" (to borrow Warren Harding's campaign slogan), but the conditions do not exist. The GOP bigshots assure us that, if the knuckle-dragging rubes insist on nominating Trump, he will be wiped out in the general. There isn't actually a lot of evidence for that - right now, the RealClearPolitics poll of polls has Biden up a whopping ...0.4 per cent.
For purposes of comparison, at this point in the last cycle, ABC/Washington Post had the basement boy with a 15-point lead - 55-40. Four years later, The Wall Street Journal has Trump and Biden tied, CNN has Trump up one, Emerson Trump up two, Leger/New York Post Trump up three... These are not the polls of a surefire loser.
Don't get me wrong. If those numbers hold up on Election Day, then Biden wins ...because of the usual "malfunctions" in Maricopa County, Fulton County and the otherwise obscure half-dozen jurisdictions one hears about only every other November late on Tuesday night. But you'd have to have an awful lot of faith to believe that, if only you eschewed Trump and nominated Tim Scott or Nikki Haley, Maricopa's voting machines would decide to play nice...
[UPDATE! It turns out that Fulton County grand jury recommended charges against former GOP senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue - oh, and Lindsey Graham! Senator Graham was so busy demanding "boots on the ground" in Hoogivsastan he failed to hear the boots approaching his own front door.]
Since I've brought up Conrad Black's case, here is something from Lord Black's latest column:
The theory that any so-called fresh Democratic face would make short work of Mr. Trump in an election is just another anti-Trump fable, like the widely agreed-upon lie most recently respectabilized by the distinguished political organizer and commentator Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal on August 31, that President Trump's concerns about the 2020 election have been fairly adjudicated.
Mr. Rove knows as well as anyone that the judiciary at all levels declined in 2020 to judge on the merits all 19 of the constitutional challenges to the changes in voting and vote-counting rules supposedly to accommodate Covid voting and that created millions of unsolicited mail-in ballots, about which concerns were raised that they were not verifiably cast by the people who ostensibly filled them out.
Long ago, I chanced to call on Conrad Black just as he was taking a call from Karl Rove. I doubt Mr Rove would take a call from Lord Black today. But Conrad is quite right on the above.
So what's the point of pretending this is normal? The house arrests, solitary confinements, lack of any meaningful "speedy trials", and eventual decade-long sentences for window-breaking suggest the one-party state is not yet done with you. Unless you're a billionaire, sticking with Trump will wipe out your savings and take your home - as the newly convicted Peter Navarro and many others can testify.
And yet the base is sticking with him.
Which Trump are these guys backing? The Escalator Man of 2015 pledging to build the wall and stick it to China and end the endless unwon wars? Or the Trump of 2020, high on his own celebrity and waging such an inept re-election campaign that, at the height of the BLM riots, he was boasting about all the black men he's freeing from prison? Or is it the post-presidential Trump, bragging at rallies and oblivious to the silence and then the boos that he's the guy who came up with those fabulous Covid vaccines?
How about none of the above? Maybe half the country - or, to be more precise, forty-six per cent of registered voters - thinks the real problem is that the system no longer provides for any meaningful course correction. You can vote for an end to open borders, but you won't get it. You can vote to bring home the jobs that got shipped to China, but China owns all the politicians, all the "big guys" with the "ten per cent". You can vote against two-decade wars that end with the world's hyperpower losing to goatherds with fertiliser, but back at the Pentagon they just take a twenty-minute tea-break, throw a dart in the map, and start it all up somewhere else.
The Trump presidency was undone by Joe Biden's signing pen about ten minutes after inauguration. But that wasn't enough for the Uniparty. Like Oliver Cromwell, he has to be dug up and beheaded, over and over and over, and all his allies too, from Giuliani to that Florida grandmother - until you guys get the message.
Why pretend that's "normal" and meekly fall in line and move on to Nikki Haley? Even if you're going to lose, you might as well take a stand with Trump against the "normalization" of a system determined to criminalize you.
You can't have "normal" politics in a country where one side gets endlessly indicted and the other never is (notwithstanding the latest fake-o headlines about the not-so-Special Counsel promising to throw the book at Hunter on gun charges). America is dying before your eyes. Why pretend that's normal?