Republicans Who Love Too Much
Are you a Republican politician who keeps chasing after voters who hate you? Do you look at your focus groups and think, "These people are idiots"? Then this newsletter is for you.
We’ll get to the politics in a minutes and it’s a banger, I promise. But first I want to talk about something more important. Stay with me.
Also: I have a treat for you guys in the Secret pod later today. Show drops in a couple hours.
It’s been a big news week so I understand if you missed Will Selber’s piece about the people left behind in Afghanistan. If so, then I hope you’ll make time for it right now.
Because it is a tough read. And an important read.
EVERYBODY IN THE MILITARY HAS one superpower. Some are great gunslingers. Others are expert bureaucratic knife fighters. A precious few are master strategists. I am none of those things. However, my superpower was rare: I was great at befriending Afghans.
I spoke their languages, studied their history, and immersed myself in their culture.
That superpower nearly destroyed me after the fall of Afghanistan. It’s been two years exactly since the last American plane left Kabul, and I—along with thousands of other veterans—still struggle every day. . . .
During [my] treatment, I faced the intense shame I felt for leaving my Afghan allies behind. I realized that the only way to conquer my demons was to move on from Afghanistan, which felt like an enormous betrayal to those left behind.
Through the help of my therapists, I realized that I had to channel the shame, betrayal, and rage into something productive. Something good had to come from all this suffering.
By sharing my Afghan brothers’ stories, I hope to memorialize them so we don’t forget the pledges my brothers- and sisters-in arms made on our behalf.
In the course of Will’s piece he talks about a number of the Afghans we left behind. One of them is Abdullah. Here’s Will:
I walked into the Strong Hope’s director's office for my discharge meeting. We are reviewing my diagnosis: chronic PTSD, moral injury, TBIs, and severe depression. As we review the last month, she asks, “Are you ready to start giving yourself some grace over Afghanistan? We’ve talked about you walking away from Afghan evac work since it’s such a drain on you and your family.”
“Once Abdullah’s out, then I can completely walk away,” I tell her. “He’s my final case. I owe him more time.”
“Who is Abdullah?” she asks. “I don’t remember him from your stories.”
I had forgotten about him. I’ve had so many interpreters throughout my six deployments that keeping track of them is difficult.
In March 2022, I received an email from an American lawyer asking if I had worked with Abdullah in Kandahar. He attached a picture of him to help refresh my memory.
I immediately remembered him. He was so young when we worked together in 2012. I was the first American he worked with, and he was eager to prove himself.
Abdullah proved to be an invaluable asset. He was not just an interpreter but also a cultural tour guide. Although immersed in Afghan history, I was out of my element in rural Kandahar. He picked up on nuances—not so much what people said, but how they said it, or sometimes more importantly, what they didn’t say. He helped me connect the dots. I may have been well armed, but he was my real weapon.
Abdullah’s lawyers told me he had survived the fall of Kabul, despite the Taliban hunting for interpreters. But his Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) was denied despite stellar recommendations from me and another senior officer.
The problem? His former employer erroneously reported firing him for missing work in 2013. A careless filing error was barring Abdullah and his family from their spot in the United States. . . .
Abdullah’s pro-bono U.S. lawyers, who he had acquired via a friend of his sister’s, have since helped him re-apply for an SIV. We hope he will be approved since he has my affidavit and a new letter of recommendation.
As he waits underground in a third country, Afghan refugees are being hunted throughout the region and sent back to Afghanistan. For Abdullah, that would be a death sentence since he served as an interpreter for some of our most elite units.
His finances, acquired through various charities, are quickly dwindling. Hopefully his application will be approved before the money runs dry.
I am sorry to come to you twice in one week, but here it is: Will has set up a GoFundMe to help keep Abdullah hidden. If you’re able to give, I’d count it as a personal favor.
We have a lot to make amends for in America and this is one small drop in the bucket. But it’s a drop that goes to a real man, with a real family, and it might keep him alive and—hopefully—bring him to our shores so that he and his family can become fellow citizens.
Thanks in advance and please share.
2. Your Team
The New Yorker has a long piece about Ron DeSantis that illustrates something that is clear to me but does not seem to be clear to many elite Republicans:
Across several months, the source familiar with the campaign said that it consistently struggled to find a message critical of Trump that resonated with rank-and-file Republican voters. Even attaching Trump’s name to an otherwise effective message had a tendency to invert the results, this source said. If a moderator said that the covid lockdowns destroyed small businesses and facilitated the largest upward wealth transfer in modern American history, seventy per cent of the Republicans surveyed would agree. But, if the moderator said that Trump’s covid lockdowns destroyed small businesses and facilitated the largest upward wealth transfer in modern American history, the source said, seventy per cent would disagree.
You can see the problem, yes?
DeSantis focus groups were showing him that the people he views as his natural base of support are either (a) morons or (b) cultists.
A normal person, confronted with that fact, would think: Well hell’s bells, Martha. If these Republican voters are so stupid then I guess I’m not a Republican anymore.
Instead, Ron DeSantis and the rest of Republican world have looked at those voters and said, “Maybe we can trick the boobs into voting for us . . .”