Is Romney's Non-Endorsement Really Puzzling?
A media inured to spinelessness is... baffled.
If you’re catching up this morning, some things you might have missed.
The former president issues a not-veiled threat against American Jews. And the GOP reacts with
loud denunciationscomplete silence.
“Drone strikes rock central Kyiv; Zelensky says Russia ‘terrorizes’ civilians.”
Kyiv residents heard the distinctive noise of Iranian-made Shahed drones, now being deployed by Russia’s military, buzzing above them as they prepared to attack. U.S. and allied security officials have warned that Iran is preparing to send more of the weapons to boost Russia’s depleted stockpiles.
Kanye West, the superstar rapper who has made several inflammatory and antisemitic comments in recent weeks, has agreed in principle to buy conservative social media platform Parler, the app’s parent company said in a statement Monday.
Via the Wapo: “Co-founder of Trump’s media company details Truth Social’s bitter infighting.” Lots of dazzling details, but also some actual (quite revealing) numbers:
The revelations to the SEC from Wilkerson, the most prominent company official to speak publicly about its operations, come at a turbulent time for Trump Media’s business. Investors, discouraged by the halted merger, have sent the SPAC’s share price plunging from a high of $175 to less than $18 on Friday. Roughly 4 million users follow Trump on the company’s sole product, Truth Social — far below his Twitter peak of 88 million. The company has pledged to investors it would surpass 50 million total users by 2024.
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Puzzled by Mitt
We’ve reached the point where the media is mystified by suggestions of actual conscience. Over the weekend, our friend, Jay Nordlinger, noticed an interesting media kink:
It’s likely that he had something like this report in mind.
Even some of Mitt Romney’s most ardent champions are wondering why he won’t endorse his Utah Senate colleague Mike Lee for re-election, especially after Lee literally begged for it on Tucker Carlson’s show this week, saying “Please get on board. Help me win re-election.” Romney has suggested that he wants to be neutral rather than endorse one of his two “friends,” a reference to Lee and his opponent, Evan McMullin, who is running as an independent.
ICYMI, here’s Lee’s awkward whiff-of-desperation plea:
Despite the wonderment of so many of his (unnamed) “ardent champions,” Romney’s reluctance to embrace his critic-turned-Trump-sycophant colleague should not come as a surprise. “For months,” reports the Wapo, “Romney had made it clear — both in private and publicly — that he would stay neutral in Lee’s run for a third term against McMullin.
Romney wasn’t swayed by state GOP chairman Carson Jorgensen, who said he pressed Lee’s case with Romney early this year and again last week with Romney’s staff. “A Republican candidate should be supporting their Republican colleagues, and that’s all there is to it,” Jorgenson said in an interview.”
And, indeed, reflexive party loyalty has become the almost universal response, even among the so-called Good Republicans. As Sarah Longwell writes in the Bulwark today, “every single one of them is campaigning either for or with an election-denying lunatic.
[Arizona Governor Doug] Ducey, along with the Republican Governors Association, has thrown in with Kari Lake. [New Hampshire Governor Chris] Sununu has embraced election conspiracist Don Bolduc in New Hampshire. [Georgia Governor Brian] Kemp is campaigning with the pro-coup GOP nominee for lieutenant governor and supporting the supremely unqualified and scandal-ridden Herschel Walker…
And Glenn Youngkin? Holy crap. He’s the term-limited governor of Virginia. There’s zero reason for him to be in Arizona stumping for the BDE candidate who wants to jail her political opponents.
For most of the media and political class, this is now business as usual, and many of them have evidently become inured to surrender and hackery.
So Romney’s refusal to “rise to the occasion” and embrace partisan loyalty is bewildering. What’s wrong with this guy? Some of the reaction is predictable….
But some of the reaction is not. Here’s the report in Puck News, which reports on the reaction of unnamed “many” who have “fears.”
Romney is a generally principled guy—at least outside of his Trump solicitation after the 2016 election—but many fear this move is short-sighted. Romney wants to run for reelection in 2024 and likely doesn’t need any more enemies in his own state. Some think could use a little more political expediency at home, where he may face a tough primary. “He’s principled and that’s why he’s loved, but he’s getting too many enemies in state,” said a former Romney staffer. “He should endorse all incumbent Republicans.”
And then there is this weird bit of speculation, writing the whole thing off to pettiness and “old beefs”. This, again, attributed to unnamed “others.”
Others, however, wonder if this goes beyond politics. Lee, after all, was a former lawyer for rival LDS bigwig Jon Huntsman, the Utah Capulets to the Romney’s Montague stature. There’s also old beef from 2012, when Huntsman’s endorsement of Romney came a wee bit later than expected. And maybe Lee is the collateral damage of said beef. (“Mike Lee is on the ballot and owns his record and his campaign,” said a person close to Romney. “The notion that Mitt Romney could win or lose the race for him is absurd.”)
Or maybe, just maybe… Romney’s non-endorsement is about this:
We now know that after the 2020 election, Lee wrote a series of text messages boosting Trump’s various lies. Even though he eventually soured on the attempts to block certification, immediately after the election Lee offered his “unequivocal support for you to exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans’ faith in our elections.”
“This fight is about the fundamental fairness and integrity of our election system,’ he wrote in a text to Trump’s COS, Mark Meadows. “The nation is depending upon your continued resolve. Stay strong and keep fighting Mr. President.”
A source close to the J6 Committee told CNN that Lee’s texts “reflect he was a cheerleader before he was against it. He uses legal language to push blatant conspiracy theorists into the Trump orbit.”
It gets worse.
In the days after the November election, Lee played a key role in pushing conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell into Trump’s inner circle.
“Sydney Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she’s being kept away from him,” Lee wrote to Meadows on November 7. “Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help get her in?”
Lee then sent Meadows Powell’s cell number and her email….
By late November, Lee had shifted away from Powell and started promoting right-wing lawyer John Eastman, who a federal judge in California said last month may have been planning a crime with Trump as they sought to disrupt the January 6 congressional certification of the presidential election, calling it “a coup in search of a legal theory.”
Not enough to solve the impenetrable mystery of Romney’s non-endorsement? How about this:
After the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Romney explained his vote to convict Donald Trump:
President Trump attempted to corrupt the election by pressuring the Secretary of State of Georgia to falsify the election results in his state. President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes. He did this despite the obvious and well known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction.”
And Mike Lee?
During the 2020 campaign, Lee compared Trump to a hero from Latter-Day Saint scripture.
"To my Mormon friends, my Latter-Day Saint friends, think of him as Captain Moroni," the senator exclaimed.
Moroni, in LDS scripture, was "a righteous Nephite military commander who lived about 100 B.C." who was "angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country."
This is what Mike Lee said about the grifting, lying, erratic, and seditionist ex-president, who had tried to overturn a free and fair election:
He seeks not power, but to pull it down. He seeks not the praise of the world or the fake news, but he seeks the wellbeing and the peace of the American people."
Lee’s comparison of Trump with the Mormon icon, “offended many members of the church deeply here in Utah,” McMullin told my colleague Mona Charen last week. It underscored “how far Lee had gone in becoming a sycophant in the pursuit of power.”
Nota bene: Romney has so far stopped short of actually opposing Lee, or endorsing McMullin. For the purists, this is undoubtedly disappointing. But his refusal to play the role of tribal flunky is hardly an enigma.
One final irony via the NYT about Lee and “party loyalty.”
The S.O.S. to his fellow senator also appeared to ignore Mr. Lee’s own actions of intraparty sabotage, dating back a dozen years: Mr. Lee refused to endorse Mr. Romney’s 2018 Senate campaign. He declined in 2012 to endorse the senior senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, even as his own chief of staff openly predicted Mr. Hatch’s defeat. And Mr. Lee first won his own seat in 2010 by orchestrating the defeat of a popular Republican senator, Robert F. Bennett, during the state’s Republican convention.
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1. Furrygate: A Litterbox of Lies
Tim Miller in this morning’s Bulwark:
I wanted to take the investigation back to where it started: Wisconsin. If there were a place where children defecate in a box, it had to be Charlie Sykes’s home state. And, sure enough, one of his former competitors was on the case.
Vicki McKenna hosts a conservative AM talk show in Madison and she reported that she received an email from a grandparent whistleblower who had heard that Waunakee Community School District was encouraging students to “normalize” classmates who wanted to be animals.
Here’s one harrowing excerpt from the email McKenna received: “The Furries can choose not to run in gym class but instead sit at the feet of their teacher and lick their paws. Barking hissing and similar animal noises are common place in the hallways at the schools.”
Paw-licking, you say! Surely, Waunakee would be the place where we would find the evidence. Hallway barking must have been memorialized on Instagram or Snapchat, or Wooftok, right?
Not according to the school. Superintendent Randy Guttenberg debunked the claim, telling the Associated Press that the district “does not have protocols for furries.”
McKenna did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.
2. On Putin’s ‘Outright Satanism’
Matthew J. Milliner in today’s Bulwark:
To Putin’s Christian supporters, the freedom of religion Americans enjoy may seem paltry compared to the religious vision that Putin marshals to fuel his war. One of his most effective tools is the powerful symbol of the Virgin Mary. For example, at the recently constructed Main Cathedral of the Armed Forces, Putin attempts to make Mary his lackey. She is repeatedly depicted in mosaics sponsoring Russian warfare, just as she was occasionally depicted in the Byzantine Empire to sponsor its imperial power. It is no accident that Putin’s recent push for drafting soldiers was coordinated with Russia’s Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Compared to the unifying image of the Virgin, the West’s mere appeal to freedom—and its resulting cacophony of unharmonized symbols—seems to falter.
The whole "this must have been what Germany felt like in 1933" take is usually overdone and overstated, but f**k me this really is what it must have been like. Getting real sick of living in "interesting times"
Here's what I worry about:
Today's GOP is executing a united, cohesive, strategic plan across Republican states and at the federal level, which will take away our rights, freedoms, and democracy. On our side, we have unaffiliated, disparate groups sounding the alarm, and when we ask what we can do, we're told to VOTE (and donate time and money).
While that is good advice and all of us should, it falls short because many of the semi-fascist election deniers on the ballot across the country are in safe district and will win. It's likely that the GOP will retake the majority in the House, and it's still not certain that the Democrats will hold the Senate. It is becoming more clear that many of our institutions (Secret Service, FBI, DOJ, DHS, and Military) are rife with those who support the semi-fascist side.
It feels to me that the pro-democracy side is always 5 steps behind the pro-fascist side. Someone, somewhere, should try bringing our side together with its own cohesive, national strategy before it is too late. It took a world war in the 1940's to defeat the fascists. There will be no war to save us from ourselves. We have to do it from within. How? When? Voting is damned important, but it is NOT ENOUGH. What else should we be doing?
Who is going to show some leadership and start answering that question?