Is Trump Done?
Too soon to say, gang….
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Until the inauguration, a lot of elite establishment focus will be on Donald Trump, casting him as a spent and discredited former force, destined to (perhaps/unlikely) be removed from office or, at least, be ignored by the Pentagon and other parts of his own government until a new president is sworn in.
Then around 1/20, this same group will turn its focus to the question of if Joe Biden will govern with a center-left coalition or a left-left one, with the answer to that being determined, as seen through this Owl Eyes filter, as determined by the joint and separate political calculations of Biden and Mitch McConnell.
In Gang of 500ese, the combination of Georgia and the invasion of the Capitol has reduced Trump’s hold over his party from near-total to near totally gone.
How true is that premise?
Hard to say.
But I think it is almost certainly less true than the impression one would get looking through the filter of the nation’s major news organizations as informed by their establishment sources.
Before I show you what the Gang of 500 clearly thinks, let’s consider the alternative case – that what the establishment clearly sees as a long-overdue break point is perhaps not happening in the Redlands.
First, watch a bit of the focus group I conducted Thursday night, with four Trump supporters and four Biden backers.
Listen to the voices of the Trump folks, who suggest the president did the best he could under the circumstances on Wednesday and who put most of the blame on the backs of the media and the left, including alleged false-flag Antifa infiltrators.
Then, this, from Politico:
Nearly half of Republican voters — 45 percent — approved of the storming of the Capitol, according to a YouGov poll.
The gulf between Republican leaders and their grass-roots activists has never been wider since the start of the Trump era. And, as when the divisions first emerged after Mr. Trump denigrated Mexicans, Muslims and women, the party is not feuding over any sort of grand policy agenda. It’s simply a personal loyalty test.
[S]ome senior Republican officials applauded Trump when he briefly called into a members-only gathering at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting Thursday morning.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel put Trump on speakerphone, according to people in the room.
“We love you!” some in the room shouted.
And, also from the New York Times:
Despite the talk of healing, however, Mr. Trump quietly made plans to take a trip next week to the southwestern border to highlight his hard-line immigration policies, which have inflamed Washington over the years, according to a person briefed on the planning. He also told advisers he wanted to give a media exit interview, which they presumed might undercut any conciliatory notes. But the first family has discussed leaving the White House for good on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration.
So, in conclusion, this view – let’s call it that of the Gang of 70 Million – is that Georgia was the fault of the establishment (not Trump) and that Wednesday was the fault of The Others (not Trump), and there is still one leader of the movement that stands between themselves and tyranny.
In the alternative (or alternative universe):
Who are the new, post-Wednesday heroes of the Gang of 500?
Mike Pence, Mark Short, Bill Barr, Chris Christie, Tom Cotton, Elaine Chao, Betsy DeVos, every Trump administration official who resigns in protest.
Who are the returning/remaining heroes of this group?
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Simon & Schuster, Jack Danforth.
The Gang view is that with Trump done and dusted, Biden can get a whole lot more done.
Obviously, if the Gang is wrong about the first premise, it is wrong about the second one.
Right now, though, the Gang groupthink is rising higher and higher.
Of what does it consist?
Efforts to 25A or impeach/convict Trump are not going to happen for reasons of timing and the reluctance of Vice President Pence, but they should be continued to be bandied because (1) it would be the right thing to get Trump gone; (2) you never know; and (3) talk of these efforts serves as a necessary deterrent, if not to the president himself, then to those around him (especially at the Pentagon), who will ignore any dangerous Trump demands in the Final Days.
The rest of the Gang’s All Here worldview:
* National Spokesperson David Brooks:
I’m among those who think this is an inflection point, a step back from madness. We’re a divided nation, but we don’t need to be a nation engulfed in lies, lawlessness and demagogic incitement.
“Trump is a political David Koresh,” said Billy Piper, a former chief of staff to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, referring to the cult leader who died with his followers during an F.B.I. siege in Waco, Texas. “He sees the end coming and wants to burn it all down and take as many with him as possible.” (New York Times)
* Nikki Haley on Trump via Politico:
“He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
* The triple play from the Wall Street Journal editorial page:
Paul Gigot (dog bites man) editorial saying Trump should resign.
Peggy Noonan (dog and man bite each other) column saying Trump must go.
Kim Strassel (man bites dog) column saying:
A politician has to work hard to destroy a legacy and a future in a single day. President Donald J. Trump managed it….
Millions of Americans who for years were willing to tolerate, often even celebrate, Mr. Trump’s brash behavior in the pursuit of reform or good policy, are less amused by the wreckage he has visited on party and policy. And they’ll be unwilling to go there again in 2024.
* The Washington Post with a different take on the RNC meeting:
The anxiousness extended to cocktail parties held Wednesday night at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee in Florida.
“People are freaking fed up. Repeatedly, what I kept hearing over and over again was that the president is responsible for the loss in Georgia and the president is responsible for what happened yesterday,” said one Republican operative at the event, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. “It may well mean that he will not have the same kingmaking power.”
Referencing Trump’s less hardcore supporters as “everyday Republicans,” [Brit] Hume said, “I think those people now almost certainly have deserted him” in the wake of the violence.
“Trump’s post-election conduct, I think, has split him off from about half, maybe more than that, of his voting base,” Hume added. “If the election was held tonight he’d lose by far more than he lost the last time. And I don’t think they’ll be around for any effort by Trump to be elected again four years from now.” (Washington Post)
McConnell, who has been estranged from the president in recent weeks, has told fellow senators and other confidants that he does not plan to speak with Trump again.
Republicans who spent years putting off a reckoning with Mr. Trump over his dangerous behavior are now confronting a disturbing prospect: that Wednesday’s episode of violence, incited by Mr. Trump’s remarks, could linger for decades as a stain on the party — much as the Watergate break-in and the Great Depression shadowed earlier generations of Republicans.
So, which is it?
Is Trump over or just beginning?
As often happens, Washington Post columnist Gary Abernathy, who gets the Gang’s point of view as well as America’s, sagely splits the middle with these two paragraphs on Trump and his movement:
He will, by his own choice, be remembered as the president who refused to accept defeat, urged endless and fruitless challenges to a free and honest election, and recklessly incited an attack on our U.S. Capitol and even his own vice president, as a constitutionally mandated ceremony was in progress. He has earned the enmity of all patriotic Americans and disqualified himself from ever seeking office again.
But anyone who thinks the nation will be mended by Trump’s departure misses the point of the forces and grievances that led to his manifestation, and which will endure beyond his exit. This moment will be an easy opportunity for lecturing and moralizing by Trump’s longtime adversaries. Healing, which is more important, will begin when we pause at the mirror and recognize where the change needs to begin.
I will split the difference into at least two more quarters:
It is too soon to say Betsy DeVos’ departure is a bigger tea leaf than Kevin McCarthy’s public remaining.
My “to be sure” paragraph:
Trump has turned himself into a smaller king on a smaller hill, and/but he is, for now, despite the projections of the Gang, still the king of the most important hill for tens of millions, and no one else in his party can say that.
INSIDE-THE-BUNKER-AT-1600 ESSENTIAL READING GRAPHS:
Members of his inner circle, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Stephen Miller, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Mr. Cipollone, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, urged him to put out another statement Thursday, aides said, telling him Americans needed to hear directly from the president.
They advised the president that it was important to dissuade supporters from participating in violent riots in Mr. Trump’s name, particularly as Inauguration Day nears, the aides said….
Mr. Trump initially resisted taping the video, agreeing to do it only after aides pressed him and he appeared to suddenly realize he could face legal risk for prodding the mob, coming shortly after the chief federal prosecutor for Washington left open the possibility of investigating the president for illegally inciting the attack by telling supporters to march on the Capitol and show strength.
In past moments of crisis, the president has often spent hours on the phone, calling dozens of friends and advisers to get their take. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday and Thursday, aides said, as several of the president’s closest advisers publicly condemned his response to the riots. He also has rebuffed calls from advisers including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has said he spent 25 minutes on Wednesday trying to reach the president to urge him to call for the violence to stop.
PENCE-RELATED ESSEENTIAL READING GRAPHS:
But Mr. Pence, several cabinet secretaries and other administration officials concluded that the 25th Amendment was an unwieldy mechanism to remove a president, according to people informed about the discussions…..
Even when the vice president had to be evacuated during the siege on Wednesday, the president never checked with him personally to make sure he was OK. The Secret Service agents wanted the vice president to leave the building, but he refused and sheltered in the basement, according to two officials. Congressional leaders were whisked to Fort McNair for their safety, but the vice president later urged them to finish the count at the Capitol.
On Thursday, Mr. Pence did not go to the White House complex, instead working out of the vice-presidential residence, according to administration officials.
On Wednesday, shortly before the president left the White House to deliver remarks to supporters, Mr. Pence told him that he lacked the constitutional authority to block certain electors from being counted, which the president had been pushing him to do, according to people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Pence said it would set a bad precedent if he veered off course, according to one of the people.
The president was furious, the people said. “I don’t want to be your friend,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Pence, according to one of the people. “I want you to be the vice president.”
* Washington Post on Biden still struggling to get cabinet nominees confirmed promptly.