It’s not just the man at the top. Self-preservation by any means is now the organizing principle of the entire Republican Party. It’s not limited government. It’s not personal responsibility. It’s certainly not the projection of strength abroad. It’s not even conservative values. No, today’s Republican Party is solely devoted to saying and doing anything to sustain itself and those within its narrow band of protection. If nothing else, the past few months of dizzying contortions by congressional Republicans and conservative media have shown us that. Because the arguments the GOP uses to attack Democrats and defend Donald Trump are now routinely made with the thinnest veneer of truth and in explicit bad faith.
A comedy skit performed during a recent podcast episode of Slate’s Trumpcast pinpointed one of the most disorienting features of the Trump era for those who oppose it. Comedians Steve Waltien, Kate James, and Asher Perlman held a mock meeting of liberals to reevaluate their political and social opinions given the topsy-turvy happenings of our national moment (among their new verdicts: Rex Tillerson good, Kombucha bad). Beyond the laugh-lines, it’s a deeply resonant concept for those moved by the endless contortions and contradictions of our president. It calls to mind the Mother Jones report from last month that liberal feminist women were congregating at Stormy Daniels strip shows. Life can be confusing when your mantra is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Perhaps no one embodies this push and pull like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He’s a Trump political appointee. But he’s a career Justice Department lawyer with a reputation for integrity. Yet, he authored a deeply disingenuous memo that served as the pretext for James Comey’s firing. But he appointed a Special Counsel to investigate Russia’s election interference and coordination with the Trump campaign. Yet, he has acquiesced in Trump’s efforts to discredit the Russia investigation by releasing misleading FBI agents’ text messages. But he spoke out defiantly against congressional Republicans attempting to derail that investigation. Yet, he gave in to GOP demands to disclose highly confidential investigation materials. Hey liberals, where do we stand on Rosenstein again?
Now, there’s a greater conundrum at the center of the Rosenstein riddle coming to a head in the coming months. The deputy attorney general appears to be the only Trump-appointee insulating the Special Counsel investigation from the president’s meddlesome hands. Yet, that very supervision is becoming one of the Mueller investigation’s greatest threats. Continue reading
On July 11, 2012, Mitt Romney, then the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States, addressed the NAACP at its annual convention, defending the rich while promising to repeal Obamacare. He was loudly booed. Later that day, before a crowd of supporters in Montana, Romney indicated that perhaps earning the derision of the civil rights organization was entirely planned. After mentioning his earlier speech to the NAACP, Romney proudly stated that, “When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok…but I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.” Continue reading
It was only a matter of time before Donald Trump trained his fire on his final target. He ridiculed Rand Paul’s hearing. He brutally savaged an unsuspecting and unprepared Jeb Bush to the point of oblivion. He disparaged Chris Christie’s record and Carly Fiorina’s face. He “raised questions” about Ben Carson’s religious faith and mental health. He vanquished Little Marco and Lyin’ Ted with devastatingly childish sobriquets. He lambasted potential “White Knight” Mitt Romney as a choke artist and a phony. With Winner-Take-All-Tuesday around the corner, he buried John Kasich in an avalanche of tweets pillorying his economic record as governor of Ohio. Now Trump has his sights set on the only Republican Party figure not cowering beneath his bed in fear—Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
For his part, Ryan has sought a feeble middle ground on all things Trump. He has refused to denounce the Republican frontrunner as a con man, as his former running mate Romney recently did. Ryan has also repeatedly promised to support and work with Trump should he win the nomination. On the other hand, Ryan has offered tepid rebukes of the Trump campaign’s most outrageous proclamations, including from Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, to his coy courting of white supremacists, to the pervasive violence fulminating against protestors at Trump rallies, to the candidate’s suggestion that riots would erupt should he be denied the nomination in Cleveland. Trump has mostly kept his powder dry for the Speaker, waiting for the moment when he can provoke Ryan into attacking first before letting loose. As he always must, however, Trump made it clear that his relationship with Ryan will proceed on Trump’s terms. Speaking after his decisive Super Tuesday victories on March 1st, Trump proclaimed: “Paul Ryan, I don’t know him well but I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him. And if I don’t, he’s going to have to pay a big price, OK? OK.” In essence, the message was: do what you will, Mr. Speaker, but you are next. Continue reading