Ron DeSantis: Real Man of Political Genius
“One of the most WTF leaks in memory.”
I had hoped today to write about anything except the Florida Governor’s flatulent, failing, fumbling campaign. That sad nag has been pummeled to death.
But you really can’t avert your eyes from this can you?
Let’s take a moment to consider the position Ron DeSantis finds himself in: He’s trailing Donald Trump by 39 points, shedding donors and voters alike. He’s reset his campaign, fired staff, and had to undergo the indignity of flying commercial. His attempts at simulating a normal human being have flopped and he’s being mercilessly trolled by Trump.
Next week’s debate in Milwaukee may be his last chance to turn this around.
As chance would have it, the debate will take place the same week that his main rival for the GOP nomination will be arrested, fingerprinted, and have his mugshot taken — after his fourth criminal indictment.
Defend Donald Trump.
Real Man of Political Genius.1
Morning Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
On Thursday, the NYT reported on a cache of memos posted online by DeSantis’s super PAC that are chock-full of the sort of brilliant insights that helped inspire his shambolic campaign launch with Elon Musk.
As they began, so, apparently, do they intend to continue.
The trove of documents provides an extraordinary glimpse into the thinking of the DeSantis operation about a debate the candidate’s advisers see as crucial.
“There are four basic must-dos,” one of the memos urges Mr. DeSantis, whom the document refers to as “GRD.”
“1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times. 2. State GRD’s positive vision 2-3 times. 3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response. 4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.”
The memo advises DeSantis to say something like: “Trump isn’t here, so let’s just leave him alone. He’s too weak to defend himself here. We’re all running against him. I don’t think we want to join forces with someone on this stage who’s auditioning for a show on MSNBC.”
It also urges DeSantis to deploy Trump-like nicknames like “Fake Vivek” or “Vivek the Fake.”
Really, this should go well, especially the part about telegraphing his plan to go after Christie (the most formidable debater on the stage) and the Hindu guy.
There are two additional memos about Ramaswamy, including one outlining his positions on marijuana legalization, mask-wearing during the covid-19 pandemic and transgender people in the military. One highlights Ramaswamy’s past statements suggesting support for a “very high” inheritance tax. And it singles out his faith and his family’s roots in India.
“Ramaswamy — a Hindu who grew up visiting relatives in India and was very much ingrained in India’s caste system — supports this as a mechanism to preserve a meritocracy in America and ensure everyone starts on a level playing field,” the memo says.
The meta-theory behind the memo? The subject line is “RE: Orchestra pit,” which refers to the Roger Ailes’s theory “that making mistakes and choreographing attacks are more likely to garner media coverage than articulating policy positions during a televised debate.”
“You have two guys onstage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit,” Ailes once said. “Who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”
So, if things aren’t going well for Florida Man, don’t be surprised if he tries to throw himself into a mosh pit of supporters. Or something.
My Colleague Tim Miller quite reasonably calls this “One of the most WTF leaks in memory. Makes your candidate seem like a pathetic baby and neutralizes potential attacks. Baffling.”
“This is not normal,” he says. “The whole thing just reeks of desperation.” (Trust me, we’re going to be talking about it on today’s Bulwark Podcast.)
National Review’s Noah Rothman is also baffled: “I don't understand why DeSantis is in the race at this point if he thinks he can win the nomination by playing blocking tackle for the frontrunner. Just stop wasting everyone's time and money.”
And I regret to tell you that even as blind squirrels eventually find the nut, the thoroughly deplorable Elise Stefanik had a good point, when she called the memo “absolute malpractice.”
“As a former debate prepper, the first and most obvious rule of debate prep is don’t leak the debate prep memo,” Stefanik wrote while sharing the story from the New York Times. . . .
Exit take: Trump’s not showing up in Milwaukee next week. Last night he bleated:
Thumbprints on a Conspiracy?
Could Trump have been dumb enough to use Twitter DMs for his plot? Plus, the dangers of not fearing the law, the politics of four indictments, and the irony of whining about election fraud and then being indicted for conspiring to commit it. Ben Wittes and Anna Bower join me for the latest episode of The Trump Trials.
My Shocked Face
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump now says he won't be holding a news conference next week to unveil what he claims is new “evidence” of fraud in Georgia's 2020 presidential election — even though no fraud has ever been substantiated — citing the advice of lawyers as he prepares to face trial in two criminal cases that stem from his election lies.
But you can’t say that Trump and his legal team do not have a sense of humor.
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed an April 2026 trial date in his federal Jan. 6 case as his lawyers negotiate arrangements for him to turn himself in to authorities in Atlanta along with 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case.
Trump asked U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to delay the case for more than two and a half years…
Are you not entertained?
The Silence of the Dems?
Not to put too fine a point on it, Donald Trump is a ridiculous human being. But he’s a bully and so no one has the courage to treat him…the way he treats other people. No one ever asks: Why is your face so orange? Or, What is that thing on top of your head? Do you really want to look like Stanley Tucci in The Hunger Games? Or, even a more restrained: “How long, Sir, does it take you to prepare your hair every morning?” Or, why didn’t you just photo-shop those pictures of your Inauguration crowd to prove you had more people than Obama? Or, did you really want to make that Texas dufus Surgeon General? Or, weren’t you pretty terrible appointing judges, since so many of them threw out your election fraud cases? Why did 63 different judges toss your lawsuits?
Treating Donald Trump with respect is not just unwarranted, it defies the law of the playground. You stand up to bullies. You expose their cowardice. You make fun of them. You say, “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Everything you say to me bounces back on you.” Jack Smith is deranged? Aha, projection! Trump is really talking about himself.
Of course, Joe Biden can’t do this. Not presidential. But his silence about this summer in Trumpland hasn’t been very effective, either. He has said nothing about the seriousness of the indictments; it is a President’s job to explain these things, to put them into perspective. He has allowed tawdry creeps like Jim Jordan to demean the authority of the Justice Department—and Biden’s surrogates are even worse: Would the Rule of Law collapse if Merrick Garland showed some righteous anger?
Would it be untoward to suggest that more Americans—especially those who associate Garland’s supine silence with weakness— might think twice about Trump if Democrats actually started to fight back in ways that people who didn’t go to law school might understand?
1. Lessons for American Democracy from a Russian Prison Cell
Just days before the court was to announce his inevitable conviction, Navalny released (through associates) a strange and interesting essay. It’s about the people he hates more than Vladimir Putin, the man who tried to kill him and who has deprived him of his rights.
Navalny’s essay is worth reading because, unlike Fear No Evil, from which he quotes, it’s hardly about his imprisonment at all. It’s not a piece of prison literature—a genre that previous generations of Russian dissidents established as something of a national tradition. Instead, it’s a meditation on democracy, the rule of law, and blame. And there’s a lot of blame to go around.
2. El Salvador’s Dictator Is a Darling of the American Right. He Shouldn’t Be.
EL SALVADOR’S PRESIDENT, Nayib Bukele, is running for re-election, and with a (supposed) 90 percent approval rating, he’s overwhelmingly favored to win. He calls himself a “Philosopher King” and the “world’s coolest dictator” on Twitter. Whether he’s “cool” is a matter of opinion; that he’s a dictator is a fact.
Bukele has created one of the toughest security states in the world. To solve El Salvador’s decades-long security crisis that has left hundreds of thousands dead since 1980 and created a lucrative illicit economy, Bukele put more than 70,000 people (more than 1 percent of the country’s total population) in overcrowded, maximum-security prisons without trial. He just finished building a mega-prison that can hold up to 100 detainees per cell.