What Did 'Pod Save America' Expect?

Don't put professional Republican smear men on your liberal podcast.
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Until Wednesday night, at least, Tim Miller was known — if he was known at all outside Beltway circles — as the token Republican pet of Crooked Media, the distributor of the wildly popular “Pod Save America.” Crooked is a podcast group founded by Obama administration alums Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor, and the role of Miller, a former Jeb Bush spokesman, is occasionally to play the heel but mostly to assure liberal listeners that Good Republicans do exist. He has a segment, called “The Cuck Zone,” in which he often criticizes the Trumpier segments of the GOP.

Accepting Miller as a friendly face in liberal circles required a certain transient amnesia about what the Republican Party is and how Miller has served it. The effort of not knowing became a lot harder on Wednesday, when The New York Times published a blockbuster report that, among other unseemly details, revealed that Facebook had hired an opposition research firm to push back against anti-Facebook groups. The campaign exploited the anti-Semitism on the right, encouraging reporters “to explore the financial connections between [George] Soros’s family or philanthropies and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook.”

The Republican operative behind the campaign was none other than Miller.

This created an awkward situation for the boys of Crooked Media. When the story first dropped, Favreau disgustedly tweeted out the paragraph about the smears, seemingly without realizing it was his buddy who had propagated them. Several hours of silence later, the official Crooked Media account announced that Miller would not be contributing to Crooked while Favreau, Lovett and Vietor got “to the bottom of Tim’s involvement in this work.”

But what about his involvement in their work? Miller’s presence on the Crooked team was a modern media spin on a familiar phenomenon: prominent liberals inviting the right-wing weasels into the living room, allegedly in the interest of getting a different perspective, the totally predictable result of which is an orgy of special pleading and whitewashing. These days, there are few better publicists for the forces of illiberalism than the establishment liberals who wish to appear broad-minded.

To be fair, the bros of Crooked Media aren’t wholly part of this same establishment liberal rot. They are far more humane and grounded than your average left-of-center D.C. politico. (I should mention here that I have appeared on Lovett’s podcast). They don’t really whine about civility. They don’t make meaningless calls for bipartisanship (in government, at least). And for the most part, they rarely punch left. But they do have a weakness common to liberal creatures of the D.C. professional political class: their token Never Trumper.

Much like David Frum and Bill Kristol, Tim Miller has capitalized on his status as one of the country’s dozen Never Trump Republicans for which establishment media remains insatiably horny. Miller puts a charming millennial twist on the type, perfect for the more youthful “Pod Save America” crowd. He’s become a regular contributor on Crooked Media’s podcasts and has even written for its website.

Here’s what Miller had to say for himself, regarding his little Facebook anti-Semitism oopsie:

All he did was share a document about an anti-Facebook group’s funding — and a factual document, no less. It’s not his fault the Jews really were behind it!

The thing is, every group needs funding. It’s unclear why George Soros funding this group, in particular, would have been noteworthy. Unless, of course, you want to make use of the long history of anti-Semitic smears and conspiracies swirling around Soros for political gain. Nothing in Miller’s explanation indicates that he did anything less.

And he knew exactly what it was he was doing.

Where the alt-righters handed out their Protocols of the Elders of Zion pamphlets in public, Miller tried to achieve similar ends with a raised eyebrow behind closed doors. Maybe Miller doesn’t like Trump and his kind because they’re giving the game away.

But why would a bunch of Obama administration alums even bother with a professional Republican operative in the first place? According to their statement, its because Miller “has interesting things to say about the Republican Party in the Trump era.”

Let’s see what those interesting things are:

Very interesting! Unfortunately, it’s also incorrect, or at least it’s defining “base voters” so narrowly as to render them politically meaningless. The vast majority of Americans — including a majority of Republicans — want stricter gun control. But it’s understandable why someone who benefits from politicians raking in piles of toxic cash might want people to believe otherwise.

Let’s see what else he’s got.

“Pro-abortion pom poms.”

The only conceivable reason to ally yourself with someone like Miller is to show the world how tolerant and reasonable you are. In return, the Never Trumpers get even more cash and a crucial credibility boost among liberals and centrists.

And it’s not as if Favreau, Lovett and Vietor didn’t know who it was they were boosting. From 2007 to 2009, Miller was a communications strategist at the D.C. public affairs firm Berman and Company, where he also worked as a spokesperson for the Employment Policies Institute, which put out this highly misleading ACORN attack ad. ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, advocated for the poor, helped families navigate federal aid programs and registered people to vote — until it was brought down by Republican strategists like Miller, working alongside less respectable ratfuckers like James O’Keefe of Project Veritas. According to ProPublica, the Employment Policies Institute also “produced numerous reports arguing that boosting the minimum wage hurts teen workers and frustrates job creation.” The folks who write the white papers are just ratfuckers who carry briefcases.

In 2013, Miller helped co-found the GOP opposition group America Rising, a group that put out ads like this:

Miller actively worked to paint Hillary Clinton as a lying thief and to terrify Americans into believing that the only thing standing between them and ISIS was a Republican president. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that a professional smear man would, as the Times reported yesterday, casually talk about a willingness to “muddy the waters” regarding Facebook’s egregious privacy issues. Plus, he still very much sees George W. Bush as a man of honor.

To a certain Beltway mindset, it is the height of seriousness not to take political ideas so seriously that you attach life-or-death significance to them. For the “Pod Save America” hosts and for most of the other liberals eagerly embracing Never Trumpers, showing off your Republican pal — the good, polite kind of Republican! — feels harmless because most of them will never actually have to deal with the consequences of actual Republican policies.

It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that the person you’ve been joking around with the past few years is exactly the guy your harshest critics said he was. But if Crooked Media is serious about being a fresh voice for progressives, it’s time to stop pretending that Miller is anything other than what it’s supposed to be fighting against.

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