“Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom?” former Vice President Mike Pence told GOP donors this weekend. “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom.”
The next night, at the same event, the GOP’s biggest apologist for Vladimir Putin made it clear that he is fully in control of the GOP and that he has every intention of returning to the White House.
So this raises once again the awkward and difficult political question: Is it time for a Never Again Trump Coalition, which would look quite different from the usual alignment of Never Trump and other veterans of the resistance?
My colleague, Bill Kristol has been floating the idea for more than a year now:
But the potential for such a coalition now appears to be shifting, and the choices will be difficult, especially for those of us who did not need Jan. 6th to get the measure of either Trump or Trumpism.
Let’s be honest here: Any new coalition will require a healthy gag reflex because it could include many of Trump’s more oleaginous enablers, including his once-loyal vice president.
There is of course, no precedent for a twice impeached, defeated former president seeking to regain power. But this is also unprecedented: No president has earned the open contempt and denunciation of so many of his inner circle. And in Trump’s case the list of those who have broken with him include his:
Two (!) Secretaries of Defense
Secretary of State
Two (!) Chiefs of Staff
Two (!) National Security Advisors
Secretary of the Navy
Cabinet Members, including the Secretary of Transportation
(See the full list below.)
This is not, obviously, a list of Never Trumpers, since every one of them said, Yeah, Sometimes Trump, and many of them were serial defenders and enablers.
But they know now.
Some of the most consequential figures of the Trump administration — the ones who saw the man up close and raw — have broken with him. Whatever they might have thought about Trump’s election — whatever rationalizations, wishcasting, delusions, personal ambitions, or Faustian bargains that may have lead them to serve him — they grasp the consequences of a second term.
A caveat: Despite their prominence, it is unlikely that any of these officials have the political juice or media influence to break Trump’s hold on the MAGAverse. And some, like the serial lying twat Bill Barr — whose book you should definitely not buy — have torched their credibility.
But that does not mean that they are irrelevant, because they could create what we euphemistically call a “permission structure” for other Republicans to say out loud what they claim to be saying in private.
The stakes are rising by the hour.