Manafort Out, Someone Worse Is In

You know, it’s true that Richard Nixon did very well in the South by employing the so-called “Southern Strategy,” but Jimmy Carter took the South back from the Republicans in 1976. I think that a lot of people forget this.

1976 Electoral College map

So, once Ronald Reagan had secured the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, a young Connecticut Yankee named Paul Manafort decided that the best idea he could come up with was to have the candidate go down to Philadelphia, Mississippi and attend a county fair. The county (Neshoba) was chosen carefully. It was the same county where civil rights volunteers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner had been slain by members of the local White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan a mere sixteen years earlier. Reagan went to that county fair, and here is what he said:

In his relatively short speech, Reagan declared, “I believe in state’s rights … And I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I’m looking for, I’m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.”

It worked. Ronald Reagan won every state in the former Confederacy except President Carter’s home state of Georgia.

Thus, Manafort is rightly considered one of the architects of the Republican Party’s post-Nixon Southern Strategy. Another thing he did in 1980 was team up with fellow race-baiters Lee Atwater, Charlie Black and Roger Stone. With Black and Stone, he formed a lobbying group that soon had impressive clients like Ferdinand Marcos, Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. It was quite a climb for a guy who had only graduated from Georgetown Law School in 1974.

Mercenary by nature and evidently conscienceless, Manafort would go in more recent years to work with Vladimir Putin’s puppet clients in Ukraine, going so far to help lay the groundwork for the Russian annexation of Crimea.

As a consultant for foreign politicians, he could rake in millions without any requirement to disclose what he was doing, though there are federal laws against lobbying on the behalf of foreign clients in the United States. That’s a requirement that Manafort apparently ignored, and he could now face prosecution for the “oversight.”

Here’s the Associated Press:

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.

The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Reading over the coverage of Manafort’s abrupt resignation in the Washington Post and The New York Times, I can’t help but feel that the media is soft-pedaling the real reason that Manafort decided to step down (or was forced out, you decide).

The way it’s being presented is that Trump decided to move in another direction and that in hiring new top staffers, Manafort was being demoted. Not enough emphasis is put on the fact that new revelations have unearthed evidence both that Manafort broke the law and that he’s been lying about it for weeks.

Where in the Washington Post’s article is there any mention that a Ukrainian member of parliament named Serhiy Leshchenko held a press conference this morning that “divulged more details of what he said were payments made to Donald Trump’s campaign chief in the U.S. presidential race by the political party of the Kremlin-backed former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yankovich”?

Is the timing not a bit of a tell here?

What’s kind of amazing is that we already knew that Trump was relying on cynical and mercenary race-baiting veterans of Reagan’s Southern Strategy, but Manafort’s replacement is a white supremacist (or indistinguishable from one, anyway). Maybe Stephen Bannon won’t be so far in Vladimir Putin’s pocket that he’ll change the Republican Party platform to appease him. Of course, it’s too late to do that this year, so I guess we’ll never know.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.