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It’s Not the Gaffes. It’s the Plans.
Pay attention to what Trump is going to do.
Because it’s Monday, let’s start with the bottom story of the day: Tim Scott Suspends Campaign, as His Sunny Message Failed to Resonate - The New York Times
Who knew that sunny optimism was not what GOP voters were looking for in the era of Trump? But at least he got a girlfriend out of it.
The impact on the race?
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A fetish for brutality
Over the weekend, Donald J. Trump joked about the hammer attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband; praised the Chinese use of the death penalty; referred to political opponents as “vermin”; lavished praise on Hungarian proto-fascist strong man, Viktor Orban; and seemed confused about who was actually president. Trump quoted Orban as saying that “Obama” should resign and restore Trump to the presidency.
Understandably, it’s tempting to focus on Trump’s gaffes, which are, indeed, a target-rich environment. The stumbles, the bumbles, the confusion.
But the problem with Trump isn’t the gaffes — underneath the verbal clownishness Trump is telling us who he is and exactly what he intends to do.
He genuinely admires the brutality of the Chinese; he finds violence exciting; and he’s a sincere fanboy of the world’s fascists. And he keeps tell us what his presidency will mean if and when he regains power. There’s no subtlety here.
It’s also no secret what he thinks about his fellow Americans.
Consider his “celebration” of Veteran’s Day. Here’s Biden on Veterans’ Day 2023.
Trump amplified his message in his Veteran Day speech: Trump Promises to ‘Root Out’ the Left - The New York Times
Former President Donald J. Trump, on a day set aside to celebrate those who have defended the United States in uniform, promised to honor veterans in part by assailing what he portrayed as America’s greatest foe: the political left.
Using incendiary and dehumanizing language to refer to his opponents, Mr. Trump vowed to “root out” what he called “the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.”
“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within,” Mr. Trump said Saturday in a nearly two-hour Veterans Day address in Claremont, N.H.
He has said this before, of course. But the rhetoric is escalating: The enemy is us. The “vermin” are fellow Americans And he is coming for them.
So, once again, it is essential to pay attention. Trump may be clownish, but the clown car is carrying a neutron bomb. Possibly several.
This weekend, we got a deeper glimpse at Trump 2.0 from the NYT: “Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plans.”
Former President Donald Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up people living in the United States without legal permission on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled.
He plans to scour the country for immigrants living here without legal permission and deport people by the millions per year.
“Following the Eisenhower model, we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.” The reference was to a 1954 campaign to round up and expel Mexican immigrants that was named for an ethnic slur — “Operation Wetback.”
To help speed mass deportations, Trump is preparing an enormous expansion of a form of removal that does not require due-process hearings.
Trump wants to build huge camps to detain people while their cases are processed and they await deportation flights.
Trump would redirect money in the military budget, as he did in his first term to spend more on a border wall than Congress had authorized.
Nota bene: He fully intends to do all of this by eliminating any possible impediments and guardrails.
While Trump’s first term was notoriously chaotic and dysfunctional, Trump’s Team is determined to seize full control of the government in the next term. Via Axios: “Trump allies pre-screen loyalists for unprecedented power grab.”
Hundreds of people are spending tens of millions of dollars to install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.
*The screening for ready-to-serve loyalists has already begun, driven in part by artificial intelligence from tech giant Oracle, contracted for the project….
The government-in-waiting is being orchestrated by the Heritage Foundation's well-funded Project 2025, which already has published a 920-page policy book from 400+ contributors. Think of it as a transition team set in motion years in advance.
*Heritage president Kevin Roberts tells us his apparatus is "orders of magnitude" bigger than anything ever assembled for a party out of power.
Exit take: You can’t say we have not been warned.
Flooding the Zone
On our Friday episode of the Trump Trials, Lawfare’s Ben Wittes and I broke down Trump’s weekly legal travails; and wrestled over the etiquette and law of dog sh*t disposal.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube:
1. The Evidence Is In: No Labels Should Get Out.
OTHER POLLING DATA bear out what I’ve found in focus groups. A June poll found that No Labels candidates—either a generic candidate or the hyper-popular Hogan—pull more from Biden voters than from Trump voters and would tip the balance of the election toward Trump (without, it’s worth noting, coming anywhere close to winning). A series of five polls in May and June found that, in a two-way race, Biden had a slim lead over Trump, but in a three-way race, Trump was ahead. Swing-state polling from June found that Biden would lose nine points in Wisconsin, six points in Arizona, and five points each in Georgia and Pennsylvania—enough to lose the presidency.
It’s hard to look at these results and not think of Jill Stein’s decisive 1 percent of the vote in Michigan in 2016 that, had she not been in the race, likely would have secured the state for Hilary Clinton. And since then, Biden’s polling has only gotten worse, leaving even less room for his coalition to splinter, especially considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Stein may also be on the ballot in some states.
If No Labels runs a ticket in 2024, they will attract strong support from the very people whom the country is relying on to defeat Trump. Neither Democratic nor Republican partisans will defect to a new tribe—and thanks to the Electoral College, Trump will win. We no longer need to consider these possibilities as hypotheticals. If No Labels is truly interested in the health of American democracy, they’ll wait for another year.
2. To Kill ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
AFTER ALL THE CONTROVERSIES about right-wing activists working to purge public school curricula and libraries of books they find objectionable—generally ones dealing with either sexual morality or the painful history of racism in America—the latest report of such a purge comes from a liberal blue-state community.
This time, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a beloved antiracist classic, has been taken off the list of required books in high school freshman English classes in the Mukilteo School District in Washington State due to a complaint from four progressive teachers who regard it as racially insensitive and harmful to minority students.
While Mukilteo’s Mockingbird drama first played out almost two years ago, it is the focus of a long and fascinating piece in the Washington Post last week. The saga deserves a look, because it touches on a lot of issues central to today’s cultural conflicts in the United States: from school politics to book banning to the meaning of antiracism to literature and identity. And also because it concerns an American masterpiece that has often become a culture-war lightning rod—and a target of attacks that misunderstand and misrepresent its content.
3. The Bright Line Between Good and Evil
There’s a piece of audio from October 7 that many people have commented on. It’s a recording of a cell phone call that a member of Hamas made to his family, while he was in the process of massacring innocent men, women, and children. The man is ecstatic, telling his father and mother, and I think brother, that he has just killed ten Jews with his own hands. He had just murdered a husband and wife and was now calling his family from the dead woman’s phone.
Here’s a partial transcript of what he said:
“Hi, Dad—open my WhatsApp now, and you’ll see all those killed. Look how many I killed with my own hands! Your son killed Jews!”
And his dad says, “May God protect you.”
“Dad, I’m talking to you from a Jewish woman’s phone. I killed her, and I killed her husband. I killed ten with my own hands! Dad, ten with my own hands! Dad, open WhatsApp and see how many I killed, Dad. Open the phone, Dad. I’m calling you on WhatsApp. Open the phone, go. Dad, I killed ten. Ten with my own hands. Their blood is on their hands. [I believe that is a reference to the Quran.] Put Mom on.”
And the father says, “Oh, my son. God bless you!”
“I swear, ten with my own hands. Mother, I killed ten with my own hands!”
And his father says, “May God bring you home safely.”
“Dad, go back to WhatsApp now. Dad, I want to do a live broadcast.”
And the mother now says, “I wish I was with you.”
“Mom, your son is a hero!”
And then, apparently talking to his comrades, he yells, “Kill, kill, kill, kill them.”
And then his brother gets on the line, asking where he is. And he tells his brother the name of the town, and then he says “I killed ten! Ten with my own hands! I’m talking to you from a Jew’s phone!”
And the brother says, “You killed ten?”
“Yes, I killed ten. I swear!”
Then he says, “I am the first to enter on the protection and help of Allah! [Surely that’s another scriptural reference.] Hold your head up, father. Hold your head up! See on WhatsApp those that I killed. Open my WhatsApp.”
And his brother says, “Come back. Come back.”
And he says, “What do you mean, come back? There’s no going back. It is either death or victory! My mother gave birth to me for the religion. What’s with you? How would I return? Open WhatsApp. See the dead. Open it.”
And the mother sounds like she is trying to figure out how to open WhatsApp. . .
“Open WhatsApp on your phone and see the dead, how I killed them with my own hands.”
And she says, “Well, promise to come back.”
I would submit to you that this piece of audio is more than just the worst WhatsApp commercial ever conceived. It is a window onto a culture. As I told Graeme, this is not the type of call that would have been placed from Vietnam, by an American who just participated in the My Lai massacre. Nor is it the parental reaction one would expect from an American family, had their beloved son just called them from a killing field. I mean, as terrible as Vietnam was, can you imagine a call back to Nebraska, “Mom, I killed ten with my own hands! I killed a woman and her husband, and I’m calling from the dead woman’s phone. Mom, your son is a hero!” Do you see what a total aberration that would have been, even in extremis?
This call wasn’t a total aberration. This wasn’t Ted Bundy calling his mom. This was an ordinary member of Hamas, a group that might still win an election today, especially in the West Bank, calling an ordinary Palestinian family, and the mere existence of that call, to say nothing of its contents, reveals something about the wider culture among the Palestinians.