The New York Times published a piece about ex-White House national security aide and lover of posting Michael Anton on Tuesday night. Apparently, Anton, who loves to cook, helped make Donald Trump’s state dinner for French president Emmanuel Macron. Cute!
What the Times piece does not mention is that Anton, in an administration full of racists, stood out as one of the most racist, once calling diversity “a source of weakness, tension and disunion.”
Anton resigned from his position on April 8. The next day, he asked chief of staff John Kelly if he could cook dinner for Macron and his wife. Kelly agreed:
So on Tuesday morning — clad in starched chef’s whites and wielding a knife — Mr. Anton, 48, stood at a table in the middle of a compact, busy kitchen, rows of silver pots hanging behind him. He expertly sliced rows of tiny crescent-shaped puff pastries that would be used to make shrimp canapés.
Around him, the kitchen was a tarantella of activity: four cooks grilled rack of lamb, another rinsed lettuce and yet another arranged grilled vegetables on a platter. A television on the wall was tuned to CNN, with images of Mr. Trump welcoming Mr. Macron to the Oval Office — a constant reminder of the approaching dinner bell.
“I’m a rare thing in Washington conservative circles: a right-wing Francophile,” Anton told the Times. “It makes it a special honor that I didn’t merely cook at the state dinner, but of all people, I cooked for the president of France. We’ve come a long way since freedom fries.”
This is how the Times describes Anton:
Even in a White House of motley personalities, Mr. Anton stood out. Tall and trim, with bespoke suits, suspenders and crisply folded pocket squares (he once wrote a how-to book on men’s fashion under the nom de plume Nicholas Antongiavanni), he was a dandy in a sea of ill-fitting, rumpled suits (think Stephen K. Bannon or Sean Spicer).
A dandy! This testimonial that he’s a good guy at heart, from Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
Despite his sometimes irascible style, Mr. Anton’s colleagues viewed him affectionately. “Every day I got to work with Michael was a good day,” said the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
And this, about Anton’s writing:
Mr. Anton is also a prolific essayist who flavors his writing with references to Gibbon and Montesquieu. He is most famous for a polemical article he published in September 2016 in the Claremont Review of Books, “The Flight 93 Election,” which became an unlikely, highbrow manifesto for Mr. Trump’s election.
“Charge the cockpit or you die,” he wrote, this time under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus. “A Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinders and take your chances.”
Here’s what some of Anton’s writing looked like, per a HuffPost story from February 2017:
Anton devoted 1,000 words of the March essay to defending Trump’s “America first” slogan, which is eerily reminiscent of the America First Committee, a group that urged the U.S. to stay out of World War II, sometimes by invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes. When American Jews urged the U.S. to intervene on behalf of Jews facing genocide in Nazi Germany, AFC spokesman (and famed aviator) Charles Lindbergh accused them of “agitating for war.” Jewish Americans’ “great danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” Lindbergh said in 1941.
Lindbergh’s comments were shocking, even at a time when outright anti-Semitism was more publicly acceptable. “The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an editorial.
But the America First Committee, according to Anton, was “unfairly maligned” and the whole episode represents only “an alleged stain on America’s past.”
Here’s more (this piece and others were written under a psuedonym, but Anton was quickly identified as their author; emphasis mine):
[One] source of Trump’s appeal is his willingness — eagerness — gleefulness! — to mock the ridiculous lies we’ve been incessantly force-fed for the past 15 years (at least) and tell the truth. “Diversity” is not “our strength”; it’s a source of weakness, tension and disunion. America is not a “nation of immigrants”; we are originally a nation of settlers, who later chose to admit immigrants, and later still not to, and who may justly open or close our doors solely at our own discretion, without deference to forced pieties. Immigration today is not “good for the economy”; it undercuts American wages, costs Americans jobs, and reduces Americans’ standard of living. Islam is not a “religion of peace”; it’s a militant faith that exalts conversion by the sword and inspires thousands to acts of terror — and millions more to support and sympathize with terror.
Note that the Times’ bad Anton story—another installment of the fun, quirky story about politicians and flacks having hobbies that’s straight out of the Cillizza School of Journalism—was not published on its terrible opinion pages, but by White House correspondent Mark Landler.
The media fell face-first into this trap with Richard Spencer right after the election, when Spencer was hailed as a new sort of white supremacist; stylish, born into a wealthy Dallas family, and holding degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia. Anton just left a very prominent position in the federal government, while Spencer has apparently lost his love of the game. What they have in common, however, is that they bring a veneer of sophistication to their far-right views, something which stumps a media that has grown accustomed to covering racism, xenophobia, and white nationalism as mainly an affliction of the poor, the rural, and the Southern.
In truth, it has never been only that, and believing so lets a lot of people off the hook. The ideological backbone of the Confederacy was the wealthy and the educated. George Lincoln Rockwell attended a boarding school and graduated from Brown. Among the more contemporary racists, Charles Murray is a “scholar” who graduated from Harvard and has a PhD from M.I.T. The Mercers bankrolled Breitbart, for fuck’s sake.
Of course, the Times didn’t try to grapple with any of these problems in any meaningful way, which is arguably even more insidious than dismissing them. Instead, Landler just ignored them. After all, who wants to read about a downer who writes about how Islam is a “militant faith” and why fascist sympathizers during World War II were Actually Good when there’s lines like this to write:
General McMaster’s relationship with Mr. Trump, however, was a soufflé that never rose.
This isn’t to say that poor white people in rural areas can’t be racist; of course they can. But if white supremacy was a view exclusively held by the poor and the “uncultured,” the idea would be patently unpalatable to the people who make decisions in America. Instead, it’s embedded in the fabric of the country, a legacy that the presidential administration from which Anton just departed proudly flaunts.