Discover more from The Bulwark
A Spectacular Failure to Launch
Plus: Answering Nate Silver.
“Alright, I’d like to welcome, umm, Gov. DeSantis, uh, for this historic —we’re just trying, just trying to get it going because it’s —there’s just so many people. It’s unfortunate. I’ve never seen this before.” — Elon Musk last night, right before the audio cut out again.
Other than that, Mrs. DeSantis, how was the show?
Surely there have been worse clusterf*cked campaign launches than the one we saw last night, but so far, no one can remember any of them.
What could go wrong? we asked in yesterday’s Morning Shots.
As it turns out, almost everything: from concept, to execution, to content. Florida Beta Man abased himself to Erratic Oligarch, only to discover that said oligarch had apparently fired all of the people who were supposed to keep his fail-site from glitching, crashing, and goat-roping.
“As presidential announcements go,” quipped veteran campaign guru Stuart Stevens, “this is the three stoned guys who couldn’t get a date in their dorm room on Saturday night version.”
In other words: What we heard last night was a botch, wrapped in humiliation, stuffed into the backseat of a clown car. Other than that, the DeSantis presidential launch went great.
(We discussed the online omnishambles on a special Bulwark livestream last night. You can watch it here.)
But don’t take our RINO word for it. Here’s Fox News:
Fox followed that up with this troll:
Elsewhere, the reviews ranged from derisive to scathing:
Daily Beast: “Very Online and Very Glitchy: DeSantis Announces for President.”
The Twitter broadcast of the hour-long interview, which had been intended as the formal launch for the DeSantis campaign, lost sound for extended stretches and thousands of users were either unable to join or were dropped.
[For] a politician credibly accused through the years of being incorrigibly online — a former DeSantis aide said he regularly read his Twitter mentions — the event amounted to hard confirmation, a zeitgeisty exercise devolving instead into a conference call from hell.
Inside Twitter, employees had been alarmed by Mr. Musk’s turn into politics and whether the social media site could handle the influx of traffic, three employees said. There was no planning for what are known as “site reliability issues” for the event with Mr. DeSantis, two of the people said, and workers were prepared to do whatever they could to keep the social network running.
“This was a fuck-up, plain and simple… Once the system was working — though it still sounded like a low-rent version of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast — it was then made worse by the avoidable bloviating of its junior varsity moderator David Sacks and cack-handed political kingpin Elon Musk, neither of whom can escape their me-me-and-also-me proclivities, which is a fatal flaw if you want to make actual media. (pro tip: STFU and listen since DeSantis, however charmless, was allegedly the center of the action).
Politico Playbook: “Why DeSantis’ disastrous launch matters.”
Let’s be clear: This was a bad night for DeSantis.
It was supposed to be a tabula-rasa moment — a chance to reset the narrative around his campaign, which has seen its poll numbers drop and Trump’s lead widen. It was a moment to project strength and competence and give his donors and supporters a reason to get excited again.
Instead, a different narrative is taking hold …
The Orange God King’s response? “Trump Posts IMPOSSIBLY Insane Fake Audio of Hitler, Soros, and Himself Crashing DeSantis Campaign Announcement.”
In the video, Soros, Musk, DeSantis, Schwab, Hitler, and the Devil can be heard squabbling with each other over who gets to speak.
Totally normal, and not at all dangerously insane.
Of course, the usual folks tried mightily to polish this turd. But you could tell that their hearts weren’t really into it.
But, with all due respect to the crank, it was, in fact, a bad idea for a campaign to do this.
As David Frum explained on Wednesday’s Bulwark podcast, the GOP primary is essentially a contest for dominance — and going on Musk’s Twitter Spaces was an act of subservience.
FRUM: DeSantis’s message is ‘I won’t back down. I am so tough.’ But every time we encounter him in the presidential campaign context, we see him flinching and cowering a little bit. Turning to Elon Musk for protection, refusing to engage with Donald Trump. . . .
At every turn, Donald Trump is displaying dominance. And Ron DeSantis is displaying dominance aversion. And so are the others.
There’s been this pundit argument: Is it better to sort of deflect Trump and ignore him or to fight him? And there are a lot of smart people who make the point.
“Well, why don’t you let him burn himself out and let him throw his punches?” But once you understand you’re in a dominance contest. Good luck. You can’t do that.
There is just one question: Who is mean enough and tough enough to deal with Trump? And that doesn’t mean responding to every provocation because there isn’t world enough and time to do that. But at some point, you have to stand up and say no more, and hit back, and hit back so hard that you establish your credit with Republicans as someone who can’t be pushed around.
I have this theory that every campaign has a secret slogan that defines what it’s really about. And DeSantis’s secret slogan was Weak on dictators, tough on Mickey Mouse.
Here we get to Frum’s Leroy Brown suggestion:
One of the things that is strange is as obnoxious and provocative as the DeSantis campaign has been, it’s actually been kind of a risk-averse campaign because they’ve never said, “We either beat Trump or we lose to Trump.” . . .
And if you’re going to beat him, you have to go to his area of strength, which is — he’s Leroy Brown.
He’s the meanest guy in town. And you have to do to Leroy Brown, what was done to Leroy Brown in the Jim Croce’s song, which is leaving him looking like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. And if you can’t do that, then Leroy Brown is going to do it to you, and you will look like the jigsaw puzzle with a lot of pieces gone.
Morning Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Answering Nate Silver
The number-cruncher is puzzled.
This led to the usual banter suggesting that NeverTrumpers (like those of us at The Bulwark) were actually rooting for Trump’s nomination. Normally, I’m loath to speak for my colleagues at The Bulwark — a motley crew of independent and idiosyncratic thinkers — but in this case, I feel confident in saying that NO ONE… as in NO ONE… wants Trump to win. And if this means voting for Anybody But Trump, we’re there for it.
But this doesn’t mean that we’re going to make goo-goo eyes at inept or morally challenged alternatives. So, let’s go back to what Nate Silver found to be “pretty amazing.”
My colleague Sarah Longwell responded to his amazement: “Pretty wild that a bunch of people who disdain Trump don't love the people who imitate, support, and create permission structures for him. And who are now running incompetent Trump-lite/Trump-affirming campaigns that do more to help Trump than defeat him. Amazing.”
Hoarse Whisperer: “I, too, find it beguiling when people who don’t like a thing also don’t like other things just like it.”
Damon Linker: “The dumbest thing I hear on here every day is the line, ‘The Never Trumpers desperately need Trump for their grift.’ Maybe they just don't like what the GOP has become since Trump took it over and so won't throw in [with] a mini-Trump who would also be bad?”
Tim Miller: “It’s amazing that the Never Trump crew would treat candidates who have spent 8 years as Trump apologists with disdain? Pretty low bar for amazement! It’s right there in the name!”
David Frum: “This whole question, ‘why won't the Never Trumpers stand up for DeSantis?’ is absurd. DeSantis is losing the nomination to Trump because DeSantis won't stand up for DeSantis.”
Centrism Fan Acct: “Hmm why could the people who oppose Trump also not care for the people who constantly suck up to him, push all of his lies and try to mimic his extremism? It is a total mystery.”