The Fifth Column

The Media's Obama-Sycophancy and Disinterest in Robot Wars: The New Fifth Column

Thaddeus Russell delivers the foreign-policy outrage, correctives on progressives' carceral policies, and an anguished review of Hamilton.


Didja watch President Barack Obama's final press conference Wednesday? It was a remarkable exercise in group therapy and un-self-aware filter-bubbling, in which basically each of the eight multi-part questions (and please do read all of them) could be boiled down to, Sir, um…are we gonna be all right??

Obama, who is one of the all-time great ref-workers when it comes to the media, managed to blow the perfect amount of smoke up the Fourth Estate's nether regions:

So it was that the president who set records for Espionage Act prosecutions and reporter- subpoenaing and Freedom of Information Act stonewalling was able to say with a straight face, without anyone in the press room openly snickering, that one of the issues that will bring him off the sidelines and into the fray during his post-presidency is whether there are "Institutional efforts to silence dissent."

We have some spirited discussion about the media's sudden rediscovery of the virtues of hating on the American president in the latest episode of The Fifth Column, the weekly podcast I co-host with Kmele Foster and Michael "Hollywood" Moynihan. The latter was off reporting on the Inauguration festivities last night, so we supplanted him with beloved serial Reason contributor and renegade historian Thaddeus Russell, author most recently of a wonderful February-issue essay on the progressive roots of mass incarceration. Bad Thad talks about that piece, the conspiracy theorizing of civil rights hero John Lewis, Obama's commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence, the problems with sovereignty-busting drone warfare, and, of course, Hamilton, which he had seen for the first time hours before. He also goes full Choom Gang with a discussion about how there is no such thing as "objective reality," and I'm pretty sure by the end Kmele caught the fumes. Listen:

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NEXT: Trump Now Faces the Same Public Distrust That Propelled Him Into Office

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    1. Are they working now?

      1. Guess so

    2. I built 4 wooden barrels by hand today in prep for tomorrow’s inauguration for Trump. Those lefties are going to be gushing at the eyes when Trumps takes the office and probably burns the midnight oil reversing some of the 100 Some-aught years of socialist rules, policy and hack positions in government.

      1. Careful. Consuming all that salt in a short time could drive up your blood pressure (and stiffen your erections). Don’t forget to save some for those tear-lean days ahead.

  1. Tweets are not “Institutional efforts to silence dissent.”.

    1. I’m guessing dissent is patriotic again, because for the last 8 years it was racist.

  2. It sounded like a good idea in her head…..n-to-wall/

    1. Still holding up tbh.


    I just finished listening to the Chait-Welch mental-wrestling match. I’m going to have a podcast overdose.

    1. There is a part I appreciated about Soave messing with Welch during his debate. There is also a part I did not appreciate which gave me a philosophy 201 flashback.

  4. From the immediate future files:

    On that sunless, bright Friday morning, the streets of TRUMP City ? then still known as Washington DC ? were filled with heaping masses of humanity, far as the eye could see. All of them, white as eggshell, hair the color of autumn straw. They were eager to hear from their leader, the man who would deliver them from a poorer, bleaker, existence; they were proud to hand him the keys to the castle. They were energized from a morning of swarming the streets, quashing dissent wherever they found it. The meager, ineffectual protestors, armed only with papier-mache and biodegradable body glitter, soon found their voices silenced by privilege and guns. They were swiftly herded onto one-way buses bound for godless hellholes such as San Francisco and Seattle.

    With the streets bloodlessly purged of the undesirables, it was time for the rise of the Emperor.

    “TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!” the millions cried with one voice, in terrifying precision. The bitter-clingers, the rednecks, the alt-righters, the Klansmen, the hillbillies, the bumpkins, the blue collars, the leathernecks, the jarheads, the Yinzers, the Southies, the bikers, the yokels, in short the Basket of Deplorables were giddy with anticipation.

    1. A newly-gilded Marine One arrived in the local airspace to thunderous applause. So great was the din on the street, the sound of the helicopter was barely audible as it landed atop the roof of the White House. When TRUMP emerged from inside the machine, delirium ensued.

      “Today,” TRUMP began, repeating the word multiple times to indicate that his address was beginning, “today is the dawn of a new era. Today, and for the future, we do things differently in order to Make. America. Great. Again.”

      No roar of approval had ever reached the decibel level which followed. It was yuge, believe me.

      “Though I don’t wish to disappoint you, we won’t be conducting the swearing in as part of the ceremony. Justice Roberts has already done that, and let me tell you, he did a terrific job. Best swearing in I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many of them. May have been the best one. Anyway, as I am now fully committed to serving this country, and as I have many obligations to you, so too do you have obligations to me.

      “First off, we’re going to have Prima Nocte in effect in all US states and territories. It’ll be fantastic. All your wives, your daughters ? I’ll have a crack at them, and trust me, they’re going to love it. I’ll move on ’em like a bitch, and it’ll be so classy. Just unbelievable.”

      The applause in response was unsettlingly enthusiastic.

      1. “Second, you’ve seen what we’ve done with Marine One? How spectacular it looks now? You haven’t seen anything yet. The White House, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and so on? All of them are going to have the same elegant stylings that I built my name on. When future generations come to visit, TRUMP City will be the most hospitable, most luxurious capitol city the world has ever seen, just you wait.”

        The applause again reached an impressive pitch, but died down quickly; not as a show of disapproval, but in anticipation of a new spectacle. TRUMP retreated a few feet as his Vice President, Mike Pence, stepped to the microphone. The twittering of sparrows could be heard through the tepid hand-claps.

        “Now ladies and gentlemen, it is time for our new ceremony. We begin our annual custom with which we renew our covenant with TRUMP ? it is time for…THE GRABBING OF THE PUSSY!”

        Dozens suffered permanent hearing damage with the roar that followed. Two grim Secret Servicemen wheeled out a openly distressed but shockingly gorgeous young Latina, strapped down spread-eagled on her back, naked despite the chill in the air. Beaming, TRUMP sidled up to the right side of the wheeled platform. The applause subsided, allowing Pence to continue.

        1. “We pledge ourselves,” Pence called out in a sing-song style, making it clear that a response was expected.”


          “To our new leader, TRUMP.”


          “We give ourselves.”

          “WE GIVE OURSELVES!”

          “To our new leader, TRUMP.”


          “He will protect us, he will enrich us, he will make us strong.”


          “That is why we give ourselves!”


          “To make America great again!”


          As the millions reveled in the moment, TRUMP spoke to them once more.

          1. “Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for. I’ve got a beautiful woman here and I’m not gonna even wait. And I’m a star. And when you’re a star?”

            “THEY LET YOU DO IT!” was the gleeful callback from the crowd. Hundreds in attendance were already masturbating.

            TRUMP then turned his attention to the gorgeous naked woman, his face palsied in anticipatory delight. His unpleasantly undersized right hand raised up for a moment, ready to pounce; then it struck. The palm bristled from pubic hair, the fingers plunged into dampened flesh. The young woman writhed ineffectually, involuntarily making the experience less horrible. The left hand of TRUMP settled upon the young woman’s breast. The chant of “TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!” filled the air.

            When it was over, TRUMP turned to Mike Pence. “I’m all boned up over here, gotta go plow a bitch now.”

            “Yes sir. So you want her brought to the Oval Office?”

            “No, idiot. This one’s brown. You can have her if you want, I’ve got Meghan Trainor waiting for me.”

            Pence was taken aback. “N-no sir, thank you.”

            “Then get this one cleaned up and taken to Ivanka.”

            “To…Ivanka, sir?”

            “She’s managing the concubines, dummy,” TRUMP helpfully clarified before walking away.

            Pence shook his head as the streets below were chock full of rape.

            1. Margaret Atwood?

            2. chock full of rape.

              ugh. thanks for ruining my morning coffee.

            3. Figures that you have fantasies of the rape of Nanking. Great socialists think alike. Rape rape power power force force….

              1. Or maybe I was just writing it for a laugh? Nah. Couldn’t be.

                1. It’s not just that your story was disturbing on many levels…there are no levels on which it *isn’t* disturbing.

            4. I thought it was pretty hilarious….

              1. I am waiting for SugarFree’s take, m’self.

            5. Fifty shades of Sad!

  5. Imagine if we were inaugurating Lindsay Graham tomorrow. Let’s put troops on the Chinese border, too. Tucker C. is hit or miss, but he was pretty good on this one.

    1. Graham is an idiot. I saw him on some show yesterday (might’ve been Tucker). He literally said “The backbone of democracy is political parties.” Everything about that sentence pisses me off. What a fucking jackass.

  6. Al Jazeera speaks truth.

    Specifically, the Department of Justice under Obama went after: Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who allegedly leaked information about North Korea to a reporter; NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake , the first American to be charged for espionage in nearly four decades, who blew the whistle on multibillion-dollar fraud and intelligence failures from 9/11; Shamai Leibowitz, an FBI Hebrew-English translator, who shared documents with another blogger revealing Israel’s intention to strike nuclear facilities in Iran; Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA agent who allegedly leaked sensitive information to the New York Times about a failed American operation against the Iranian nuclear programme; John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, who told a reporter the name of another undercover CIA agent working on the CIA interrogation programme; and James Hitselberger, a Navy linguist contractor, for retaining classified information and sharing it with Stanford University.

    1. They leaked embarrassing info about Obama.

      Manning was only guilty of providing embarrassing leaks about the Bush admin, so it was totes cool to blow the cover off every Afghan that might be somewhat friendly to US interests, just because the US army wasn’t LGBTQWERTY enough for Manning’s satisfaction.

      That’s Obama’s legacy summed up right there. Some people bitch about Trump’s talk about re-negotiating NATO? FFS, Obama has proved that you can’t trust the U.S government for jack shit, he will sell you out in a heartbeat. Why would anyone bother trying to make deals with a democracy, when the dictators are much more reliable?

  7. Is Robot Wars the cheap SyFy (ugh) version of Star Wars?

    Speaking of war: Miguel Ferrer has died. 🙁

    1. Goddamn 2016. I loved Ferrer in Where’s Marlowe?

        1. What’s that from?

    2. He MADE Robocop, AND he was the son of Jose Ferrer, Oscar-winner from Cyrano De Bergerac, one of my favorite black and white movies. Ferrer was also good in Deep Star Six, which is underrated schlock….

      1. Turkish Bey: I have been stationed in Dara for three and a half years. If I were posted to the dark side of the moon I could not be more isolated. You don’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about, do you?
        T.E. Lawrence: No, effendi.
        Turkish Bey: Do you? No. That would be too… lucky.

  8. Hey, someone who actually saw Hamilton comments on it! Russell’s spot on: the music is good, but it’s very much “Fuck yeah America!!” and “This Great Man was AWESOME.” His only flaw is that he’s unfaithful to his wife. Not his anti-democratic sentiments, his corporatism, his bankerism. While it’s a very embellished take on the history and characters (or just fantasy, if you must), it’s not some New Left revisionist history.

    And no Moynihan? In the week that Obama commutes a left-wing terrorist!? Please get him liquored up and ranting about this next week. (I know, tall order)

    1. “It’s not some new left revisionist history”

      I’ve listened to the recording maybe 10 times. ( at my kids’ suggestion), and it is quite good once you get into it. My objections are more about the insertion of women’s rights and anti-slavery comments that are anachronistic, and the lionizing of a statist who wanted Prez and Senators elected for life.

      I haven’t seen the musical on stage, which could color ones view.

  9. Since we’re piling on President Potsie, ‘member the time when he took all the credit for bin Laden?

    Turns out it pissed off the Pakis who did all the dirty work and basically destroyed intelligence cooperation between the two countries. All for his ego.…..-bin-laden

    I look forward to tomorrow’s Inauguration if anything to watch how ‘The Unhinged’ are going to behave. I hope he delivers a half-decent speech and pulls a couple of ‘shakes’.

    1. If Seymour Hersh told me the sky was blue, I would look up and check before believing him.

      1. Parts of the article did make me a teenie-weenie antsy.

        But honestly, it’s right in line of what he would expect of Obama given his hubris.

  10. “US bombers strike 2 Islamic State camps in Libya”
    “U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers attacked a pair of Islamic State military camps in Libya, killing more than 80 fighters in an unusual mission that may have marked the final demonstration of military force of President Barack Obama’s global counterterrorism campaign.
    The militants targeted in the airstrikes included Islamic State members “actively planning operations against our allies in Europe,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday. He would not say more about the nature of the threat.
    “These were critically important strikes for our campaign and a clear example of our enduring commitment to destroy ISIL’s cancer not only in Iraq and Syria but everywhere it emerges,” Carter said on his last full day as secretary of defense.”…..868161.php

    “Critically important” to whom? The guy who tosses the half-filled file folder on the desk of the guy walking in and says: “Here, you get to deal with it”?
    Fucking amateurs, from day one! The man wasn’t competent to run a lemonade stand!

    1. It makes very little sense to me that we only station B-2s in the center of the country, as far away from any useful place as possible.

      1. I guess it *could* come in handy if we decide to just nuke Chicago and start over…

      2. Regardless of where they are, why are we paying to bomb sites we claim to be planning ops against other parties?
        We have a claim of “plans” (absent any evidence I see, and no, Obo, your word is not worth shit), and so we send bombers there at my expense.
        Fuck you, Euros. Pay for your own defense especially as the danger results from your decisions.

      3. It makes sense if you are using them as nuclear bombers as a deterrent against nuclear attack.

        But I’m not sure what the point of using the B2 against anyone in Libya…

  11. Trump eyes 10% spending cuts, 20% slash of federal workers

    Tell me again how Trump is indistinguishable from Hillary, and just danger to liberty in another form.

    1. Trump is indistinguishable from Hillary, and just danger to liberty in another form.

      1. No, no! He said how.


        damn you for getting that in first, BTW.

    2. I’ve eyed even bigger cuts. Let me know when he gets it done.

  12. What do you mean, the American Revolution wasn’t about gay rights? Have you seen how those people dressed?

    1. (Talking back to Prof. Russell)

  13. I thought the new voice actor playing the Matt Welch character in this episode made some interesting choices.

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