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High on Rupert’s supply

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The late Antonin Scalia, in the same year he rambled at oral argument about how the Supreme Court had to get rid of “racial entitlements” like the Voting Rights Act because Congress wasn’t willing to do it and we didn’t fight a Civil War so that Black people could be equal citizens dammit, proudly told Jennifer Senior that he had stopped getting his news from news sources:

Oh, you and your wife …
I usually skim them. We just get The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. We used to get the Washington Post, but it just … went too far for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore.

What tipped you over the edge?
It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly, shrilly liberal.

So no New York Times, either?
No New York Times, no Post.

And do you look at anything online?
I get most of my news, probably, driving back and forth to work, on the radio.

The reason it was always so delusional to think that Republican elites would act to meaningfully constrain Donald Trump is that the line between grifter and griftee has long since been erased from American conservatism. I give you Senator Ron Johnson:

Johnson is one of Trump’s more energetic defenders in the Senate, and has used his committee to promote the president’s unfounded claims that Joe Biden was up to no good in Ukraine. He has also spent months assailing public-health officials for refusing to support the use of hydroxychloroquine.

If you have already forgotten the whole hydroxychloroquine thing, Trump used to tout it as a miracle cure, and members of the Trump cult fervently insisted he was correct, seizing on any scrap of positive evidence to support his case. But evidence piled up against its efficacy. By June, the FDA revoked emergency-use authorization for the drug, concluding it was ineffective. Trump hasn’t mentioned hydroxychloroquine in weeks and weeks.

Johnson, though, hasn’t forgotten. Yesterday’s hearing featured a stacked witness list, with three of the few remaining oddball supporters of the drug arguing against well-regarded Harvard public-health expert Ashish Jha. Johnson railed against “the disinformation, the scaremongering, and the prescription log jam that has been created by bureaucrats.”

One might wonder why Johnson, whose committee covers homeland security, would probe questions of medical efficacy that lie far beyond his realm of pseudo-expertise. One might also wonder why he would revive this claim long after Trump himself has walked away from it. (When the president contracted COVID-19, he did not bother to take, or even claim to take, hydroxychloroquine.)

One answer is that many Republican elites do not support Trump out of fear, or even merely out of a shared political interest, neither of which would be reasons for Johnson to hold a hearing after an election Trump has lost. In many cases, they consume the same right-wing news sources and believe in the same conspiracy theories.

The senior senator from Wisconsin is literally holding hearings to demonstrate belief in an entirely deranged conspiracy theory months after Trump himself has abandoned it, because it’s never been about Trump per se.

And while it’s tempting to pin Trump largely on Hillary Clinton’s failures as a candidate, we should remember that Russ Feingold actually ran behind her while being opposed by a charisma-free upper-class-twit who presumably has a valet on staff with the sole responsibility of ensuring that he doesn’t inadvertently strangle himself to death with his own shoelaces.

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