Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Colbert warily gets in bed with former CIA head and Trump critic John Brennan

Stephen Colbert, John Brennan
Stephen Colbert, John Brennan
Screenshot: The Late Show

The Trump administration’s reign of terror and murderously incompetent error has made for some strange bedfellows. The creatively vituperative anti-Trump videos of the conservative but Trump-bashing Lincoln Project rack up views by the millions from people who have to later unfollow once they discover what that group’s post-Trump agenda actually is. Meanwhile, any otherwise conservative figure (or occasional commercial brand or portentous insect) who actually makes even the most tentative public stand against one of Donald Trump’s myriad norm-shattering, democracy-undermining, or just plain stupid and evil words or actions is greeted with half-serious Twitter greetings of “Welcome to The Resistance!” So while it was no surprise that former CIA director John Brennan Zoomed in to trash Trump on Thursday’s Late Show (he does have a book coming out), the real show was watching Stephen Colbert navigate his own ambivalence.

That’s since Brennan—Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Obama from 2013-2017—was, you know, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It’s a position that comes tied to a long, long, long list of morally and politically shady doings up to and including straight-up atrocities and anti-democratic subterfuge around the globe. Something, to his credit, Colbert did attempt to address while asking Brennan about Donald Trump and the GOP’s current, increasingly unsubtle schemes to undermine democracy right here at home. “If you’ll pardon me, former Director of the CIA,” Colbert eased into one line of questioning about proven and ongoing Russian attempts to infiltrate and destabilize an American election, “the United States has been accused, quite credibly, of destabilizing governments around the world for last 50 years.” Colbert eventually concluded his query by boiling it down with the question, “Do you see the Russians playing games against us that we played in other regimes around the world.”

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Interviewer’s point Colbert. And though Brennan breezed past that inconvenient truth, the former top spy didn’t spare any words in attacking everything Trump and his Republican enablers have done to give any foreign bad actors a run for their local currencies. Giving a shout-out to his former intelligence allies/rivals at the FBI, Brennan told Colbert, in plain language, that the recent rise in emboldened white supremacist terrorist groups (like the self-described “militia” of gun-toting but thankfully too-stupid-to-succeed Michigan thugs whose plot to kidnap the sitting governor of Michigan and take over a state government was just foiled by that FBI) can be traced right back to Donald Trump’s now COVID-swimming doorstep. (In case you were wondering, Trump finally spoke out about the plot by the very white supremacists he praised for storming the Michigan State House back in Mayto blame Governor Gretchen Whitmer herself for her nearly being kidnapped and murdered.)

“Absolutely,” Brennan replied without hesitation when Colbert asked if Donald Trump himself represented a threat to our national security, adding, “Donald Trump’s failure to denounce these groups in no uncertain terms has just fueled their rise.” He also went there, making direct, student-of-history parallels between the proliferation of “hyper-nativist” gangs of MAGA-capped, AR-15-toting white-grievance gangs and the pre-WWII rise of such knuckle-dragging racist movements in Nazi Germany. So that’s fun. Even more(?) alarming was Brennan sounding the alarm on the COVID diagnosis and subsequent Dr. Spaceman-style experimental and untested drug treatments on a guy with the nuclear codes who, said Brennan, “even on the best of days is reckless, and impulsive, and unstable.”

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Not to mention the looming disasters posed by climate change (which Trump and a large portion of the subservient GOP claim not to believe in as California literally burns to the ground), which Brennan states ominously, is still gathering world-threatening momentum as America understandably worries about whether or not democracy can survive until a Joe Biden presidency. Anyway, John Brennan’s book comes out this week if you need some light reading in your quarantine bunker while you doomscroll Twitter just in case the GOP allows Trump to scuttle what’s left of this tottering American experiment. And welcome to The Resistance, deeply problematic person who once defended the CIA’s use of torture, because that’s where we’re at at this point.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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