Putin's successor is worse than Putin
Plus, the real Supreme Court story is not about abortion, and Ohio embraces the suck.
Russian disinformation shill the New York Post published a story that Tsar Vladimir Putin is about to undergo cancer surgery. Now we have to take these reports with a giant grain of salt, considering the source also published the highly suspect Hunter Biden laptop report that has been widely debunked. Okay, I am being sarcastic. The Post was right about Hunter Biden, and the left's disinformation police lied their shiny heinies off. But I wasn't kidding about the part about the cancer report, though we don’t know how reliable it is.
Putin will transfer control of Russia’s government to Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian federal police’s Security Council, while he is incapacitated during and after the procedure, according to a video from the mysterious Telegram channel “General SVR” on Saturday.
The channel — which is purportedly run by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general known by the pseudonym “Viktor Mikhailovich” — reported that Putin has been told by doctors that he must undergo an operation.
What do we know about Nikolai Patrushev? He served with Putin at the KGB. He succeeded Putin as director of the FSB in 1999, put there by Boris Yeltsin months before Putin took his place at Russia’s helm. Patrushev’s Wikipedia page is stunningly bare, but it does note that he is one of Putin’s most trusted advisors, part of the “silovik” inner circle. It appears Patrushev is a co-believer with Putin in the greatness of the Soviet Union, in whatever form, with or without communism.
Russian Quora poster Misha Firer, who is one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever seen on the platform, compared Patrushev with the evil antagonist in Stephen King’s “It” who we know as Pennywise.
Petrushev [sic] is much, much worse that Putin, Mr. King. It’s fair to says that he’s the worst possible successor to the throne of all the options available.
It’s like IT coming back to terrorise the town of Derry’s children and your readers for an extra 5,000 pages in tiny font.
Where Putin was a KGB colonel, Mr. Patrushev is a KGB general. A much tougher, merciless man and Putin’s superior, he was taught to fight the West till the last Soviet citizen.
Where Putin just used nuclear sabre rattling to scare you, Mr. Patrushev has already ordered to build bunkers throughout the south, and secretly across the country because he won’t cry wolf, and will quietly do what you all fear the most.
Surprised, Mr. King? You didn’t think that evil exists only in your books, did you? Russian leaders will keep on waving around nukes until they are taken away from them.
It is no surprise to people who watch the Kremlin that if Putin were very ill and about to undergo surgery, his stand-in would be Patrushev. As much as we’d like to see Putin gone, when the Tsar is gone, there will just be another Tsar. The question is whether the new Tsar will embrace the West’s international order, or double down hard on brutality. At least one Russian believes Patrushev would do the latter.
He’s not the only one. Moscow Times correspondent Mark Galeotti called Patrushev “the most dangerous man in Russia” in 2020 in his podcast “In Moscow’s Shadows.” In a recent Moscow Times piece, Galeotti used the term “the hawk’s hawk.”
Patrushev’s claims that this has become a proxy war against NATO is the hard-liners’ attempt to construct a narrative that presents this reframing of the conflict not as the product of defeat, but as a response to the West’s own escalation.
Likewise, when the war started, many siloviki advocated in effect nationalizing and militarizing the economy. The technocrats dominant in cabinet pushed back successfully, and at present are still largely calling the shots on the economy.
Patrushev, though, is reopening this front, arguing that Russia should stop putting its faith in “market mechanisms alone, without taking into account the specifics of our country.” He is arguing instead that Russia can somehow create its own economics, driven by the needs of the state and enforced by “tighten[ing] the discipline of implementation.” This all sounds very reminiscent of the Soviet economy, it has to be said.
Indeed, just as the Soviet system was always really a wartime economy, even during times of ostensible peace, this is the essence of the silovik manifesto: a Russia committed to a cultural, political and sometimes military Forever War with the West, demanding absolute discipline and the mobilization of society and economy alike.
One way or another, Putin could face the end of his rule, or even his life. Far from opening a window for the West to engage, the ascendance of Patrushev seems likely to close the window and plunge Russia further into a deep, dark cave of hermits, purges and secret police.
If there’s a “worse than Putin” option, I think Russia might be better off with the Tsar it has.
Abortion is not the real story on SCOTUS
For the past 49 years, progressive America has focused its entire federal judicial strategy on one litmus test: preserving Roe v. Wade. Any whiff of “the dogma lives loudly within you” is automatically disqualifying to modern Democrats. Years ago, with the exit of the last Blue Dog Democrats, it is unthinkable to be pro-life and true blue. The political and moral positions have become completely incompatible.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it, that this ought not to be. In fact, it isn’t, but those who privately harbor pro-life sentiments (such as, likely President Joe Biden) must remain as closeted as a gay man working at the Pentagon in 1950. They might whisper about it in private moments, or share with a priest in confession, or use coded signals to tryst in secret where banned words such as “faith” and “sin” can be uttered. But in public, all Democrats must support abortion in any form, for any reason, at any point in gestation. There is no compromise on this.
Therefore, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is tantamount in Democratic circles to the repeal of the Second Amendment to gun-toting Republicans. It’s in the category of “must not be” and therefore, no organization, no bonds of trust, no institution, no matter how vital to our nation, is off limits for betrayal. There is a traitor at the Supreme Court, and that person believes in the sanctity of their cause over the sanctity of the trust and cohesion of the nation’s only Constitutionally mandated court. This is the real story, not the one about abortion.
The traitor could be a pro-life activist who believes betraying the Justices would pressure those who might waver in their straying from Stare Decisis and cement the draft opinion written by Justice Alito as the final ruling. The traitor could be a progressive abortion activist who believes that the national backlash from this betrayal would sway our jurists into falling in line by blackmail.
Someone at the high court gave the draft to Politico. I don’t fault Matthew Kaminski, their editor-in-chief, for publishing the story. Funnily, the New York Times interviewed the executive editor of the Washington Post to ask if Politico was justified publishing the draft. “‘This seems pretty simple,’ Mr. [Marty] Baron said. ‘They were provided a document. The document was authenticated to their satisfaction, and they published.’”
The NYT is also covering the angle of the leak and its effect on the high court.
“Until now, a leak of this kind would have been unthinkable,” said Peter G. Verniero, a former justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. “The protocol of our highest court has been seriously ruptured. The leaking itself reflects another sad step toward casting the court as a political body, which, whatever your preferred jurisprudence, is most unhealthy for the rule of law.”
The debate over abortion will continue. As our own David Thornton noted, abortions will continue to be performed in most states. States that have limited abortion may well do away with it completely, but many of those states have already limited the practice to the point where only one clinic, if any, does the procedures. And that’s with Roe in place. Without Roe, the states will do as voters please, and abortions will be available in states that support the practice.
A much bigger, and possibly irreparable problem, is the triumph of political activism over the bonds of trust and sanctity of the camaraderie of the Supreme Court. This is by far the more serious story. The fact that Alito penned a 98-page opinion overturning Roe and was joined by four—even five—other conservative Justices is not surprising to anyone. That someone would betray the Court itself is a terrible surprise.
“It is unlikely that any observers or commentators familiar with the case are actually surprised by the possibility that Justice Alito has drafted a majority opinion stating that those decisions were ‘egregiously wrong,’” Professor Garnett said.
“In any event, however, for an employee or member of the court to intentionally leak a draft opinion would be a gross betrayal of trust, particularly if the leak were an effort to advance partisan aims or to undermine the court’s work and legitimacy,” Professor Garnett added. “Whatever our views on particular legal questions, we should all hope that the justices will not be swayed or influenced by such efforts.”
But how can the Justices not be swayed? There are consequences for actions and decisions, and the way these decisions are framed. To publicly display the behind-the-curtain thinking of the Court, as it deliberates, drafts, revises, and crafts a decision, is basically cheating. It’s like a coach reading the other team’s play calling (yes, Bill Belichick) and then reacting to it. Our government organizations are not designed to function when we cheat them.
The executive branch has already betrayed the nation’s trust in just about every way I can imagine, culminating in the attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power that has been the hallmark of American government for 230 years. The legislative branch has ignored problems to focus on politics and communications for three decades. It is now the exception instead of the rule to put our institutions that protect us from tyranny behind the urge for re-election. This is why Liz Cheney, Krysten Sinema, Joe Manchin, and Lisa Murkowski are despised by most of their own party stalwarts.
Now, the judicial branch has suffered twin betrayals. One by the political wackiness of Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, which he should have dealt with on the side of caution and recusal; and one by whoever the traitor is who leaked Alito’s draft to Politico. The first betrayal could be dealt with by existing methods, even discussion of impeachment, though I think it rises nowhere near that bar. The second betrayal tears at the fabric of the institution in a way that resists mending.
Who will be the next traitor? How should the Court vet its own workers, who for a couple of centuries put the privilege of being part of the highest court in the land over the policies and issues that court regularly decides? How can the breach be reversed?
I am not sure it can, and that’s the big story, not abortion.
One more thing…
In Ohio, Trump is still kingmaker. J.D. Vance would not have won without Trump’s endorsement, and he did win. Get ready for Herschel Walker and a bevy of Trump candidates to double down on their Trumpiness. And we continue to descend into the maw of madness.
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