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Pay Attention to Who Trump Spends His Time "Fighting"
"But he fights" is actually quite instructive.
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1. Actually, He Doesn’t Fight
“But he fights.”
During the 2016 GOP Primary this was the catch-all defense/explanation for then candidate Trump’s persistent lead in the polls despite his manifest flaws. He may be a [sexist, bigot, fool, liberal, con man, philistine, dotard] but at least he fights our enemies! Unlike the lily-livered, mannered, cucked establishment Republicans.
For some of Trump’s supporters, his mandate was not about accomplishing anything but simply the fact that he would fight the people they don’t like and put them in their place. It’s why there are so many MAGAcore pornos on YouTube featuring people being sad or scared after Trump won.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about how much the 2020 campaign has also been defined by Trump’s fighting. But what’s struck me has been the people and things he’s not fighting that are revealing.
These non-fights began to envelop him when he was confronted with l’affair “white nationalism” at the first debate. Trump handed out some Proud atta Boys, then refused to condemn it, and then finally, reluctantly, days later, said the words. His defenders then bristled that surely this was enough.
But it was so obviously not enough, because when Trump wants to condemn someone, you know it. He is not a subtle man. The leveling of harsh condemnations, his willingness to “go there” when others will not because of politesse, were literally his raison d’etre in the eyes of the GOP.
And so when Savannah Guthrie reprised the question in this week’s townhall but turned the subject to QAnon, Trump once again took a pass. And once again it consumed his campaign.
Throughout the summer months as the “invisible enemy’s” death toll rose, Trump decided that the pandemic was another fight that he no longer wanted to pick. And so he ignored it, until he was forced to. Once the enemy invaded his lungs and he became concerned he might be “one of the diers,” he realized that the fight was thrust upon him. So he framed his recovery through that prism—going to the hospital, getting special treatments and experimental therapies, putting on a bizarre show as a strong man. He put up an all-out fight against the virus once it was inside him; just not when it was ravaging the rest of the country.
Given that Trump isn’t taking on these more complicated fights, you would think he’d at least be aggressive about fighting the Democrats . . .
But even on that score the answer is mixed. Yes, he’s willing to take shots at Chuck and Nancy, at Gretchen Whitmer, and at Ilhan Omar (more on that in item #2). But when it comes to the Democrats he actually needs to defeat if he cares about winning a second term and having a governing majority well . . . you don’t see him using his patented fighting skills against them much.
For instance, Trump has never mentioned Sara Gideon on Twitter. But he took a swipe at Susan Collins yesterday, fighting against a member of his own party who is desperately trying to hold onto a Senate seat that Republicans need if they want to maintain their majority.
In North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham is embroiled in a few sex scandals even while he holds a slim lead over another endangered Republican senator—but no sign of Trump going after him. Yet Trump was happy to fight Republican Ben Sasse this week.
In fact, in a search through the Trump twitter archive I saw only two Trump tweets targeting Democratic Senate challengers in all of 2020 (one each for John Hickenlooper and Theresa Greenfield).
By contrast, there have been 15 Trump tweets containing the words “Psycho” and “Joe”—which were all aimed at a morning television host, not the president’s general election opponent.
Meanwhile we’re 16 days out from the election and Trump still hasn’t settled on a nickname that he likes for Sleepy / Corrupt / China / Beijing / Basement / Quid Pro / Creepy / Slow Joe Hiden/Biden.
Wasn’t this supposed to be the whole point of Trump? Wouldn’t any Republican who was less “fighty” have picked the same judges?
But of course, just because Trump isn’t fighting the contagion that’s debilitating his presidency, or the extremists who are overshadowing his campaign, or most of his key political opponents doesn’t mean he’s not fighting. He sure is.
Here’s the But He Fights Pyramid, with a ranking of who Trump actually has spent his time fighting during the first term.
2. Ilhan Omar
For weeks the Trump campaign has been leveling a disgusting smear against Ilhan Omar that has gotten drowned by the diarrhea avalanche that is his campaign. But we shouldn’t just let this slide.
It all started with a video that was released by Project Veritas, the right-wing propaganda operation run by James O’Keefe that specializes in releasing deceptively edited “undercover” videos that purport to show bias in media or illegal activity among liberal groups (but are often complete shams).
In this instance Veritas released a video that is largely indecipherable and claimed to show Somali immigrant Omar Jamal harvesting ballots on behalf of Ilhan Omar. The 10 minute long version video is here if you want to suffer through it. The president of the United States shared a shorter version on his wheels-off Snapchat feed a few weeks ago, with some bonus Arabic music at the front. Again with the subtlety.
The whole illegality claim made by Veritas is premised on Jamal’s testimony, which he later withdrew in an interview on Somali TV. In addition to that minor issue, Jamal was a rather unreliable narrator to begin with. And he delivered no actual evidence of connecting the plot to Omar. Not to mention the fact that Omar won her 2018 campaign by 56 points—so it seems pretty unlikely she would feel it necessary to participate in a voter fraud scheme.
And despite the complete lack of credible evidence against her, President Trump brought up Omar again at yesterday’s rally in Janesville, saying that she hates our country and using this video to call her a criminal, after which he led the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Lock Her Up.”
So to sum up: The president has targeted a muslilm immigrant congresswoman, said she should be “sent back” to where she came from, claimed she doesn’t love our country, publicized a criminal accusation that is almost certainly fraudulent, and said that she should be imprisoned.
And he did all that in the midst of a campaign that is fear-mongering about refugee resettlement using the most crass, racist tropes imaginable.
I share General Hayden’s disgust.
If there is anyone in this story who doesn’t love America, it’s the president who is trampling on the spirit of our country and putting out the light atop our city.
3. Rudy! JFK Jr.! Saban!
A succinct primer on what Rudy’s current computer repair man story is.
The voting line problem isn’t as bad as you’ve heard . . . a lot of it was first day of early vote/get rid of Trump excitement.
See you Bulwark+ members next Sunday!