Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
For your Sunday reading pleasure: No one should be surprised by anything these guys do anymore. It’s no secret, no riddle, no mystery. It’s all right here:
1. A Radical Plan for Trump’s Second Term
Via Jonathan Swan at Axios, your absolute must-freaking-read of the week:
Former President Trump’s top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his "America First” ideology, people involved in the discussions tell Axios.
The impact could go well beyond typical conservative targets such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. Trump allies are working on plans that would potentially strip layers at the Justice Department — including the FBI, and reaching into national security, intelligence, the State Department and the Pentagon, sources close to the former president say…
They intend to stack thousands of mid-level staff jobs. Well-funded groups are already developing lists of candidates selected often for their animus against the system — in line with Trump’s long-running obsession with draining “the swamp.” This includes building extensive databases of people vetted as being committed to Trump and his agenda.
The preparations are far more advanced and ambitious than previously reported. What is happening now is an inversion of the slapdash and virtually non-existent infrastructure surrounding Trump ahead of his 2017 presidential transition.
These groups are operating on multiple fronts: shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.
Don’t let anyone tell you that they haven’t been warned.
2. GOP Leaders Won't Get In The Way of Trump 2024
And leading the parade? Elise Stefanik. Via Politico:
Congressional Republican leaders have no apparent plans to keep Donald Trump from a third presidential run. Some are even encouraging it.
“I support President Trump running in 2024,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican, who said she’d endorse him over other GOP candidates for the White House.
Of the more than 12 GOP leaders in both chambers POLITICO interviewed for this story, Stefanik went furthest in her expression of support for Trump. Yet while Republicans aren’t endorsing him early, they aren’t getting in his way, either. Many are prepared to adopt the same playbook they did in 2016: Allow a crowded presidential primary field to sort itself out with minimal interference.
3. CPAC Will Feature One Of Europe’s Most Notorious Authoritarians
This is what passes for “conservatism,” circa 2022. Via Rolling Stone:
The 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference will play host to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The most influential Republican ideas conference lending the podium to Europe’s most notorious nationalist is yet another troubling sign of the right’s embrace of authoritarianism.
Orbán, who recently won reelection for his fourth term as Hungary’s prime minister, has become a darling of the American right by transforming Hungary into an autocratic regime through aggressive nationalist policymaking and the use of executive power to curb criticism and opposition. Orbán’s Hungary is a far-right wet dream, featuring hardline crackdowns on immigration, increased government control of the press, and courts that cater to the powerful.
4. On the Campaign Trail, Many Republicans Talk of Violence
That argument has been dramatized in ads that, for instance, show one armed candidate appearing to charge into the home of a political enemy, and another warning of “the mob” that threatens ordinary Americans. In many cases the candidates are brandishing firearms while threatening harm to liberals or other enemies.
In central Florida, U.S. Army veteran Cory Mills has run ads about his company selling tear gas that was used to quell riots in 2020. “You may have seen some of our work,” he says, introducing a montage of what are labeled “antifa,” “radical left” and “Black Lives Matter” protesters running from the gas.
In northwest Ohio, a campaign video for Republican congressional nominee J.R. Majewski shows him walking through a dilapidated factory, holding a semiautomatic weapon, warning that Democrats will “destroy our economy” with purposefully bad policies.
“Their agenda is bringing America to its knees, and I am willing to do whatever it takes,” says Majewski, who’s seeking a House seat in a district around Toledo that has been redrawn to make Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) beatable. “If I have to kick down doors, that’s just what patriots do.”
In Missouri, Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens has issued two ads this summer in which he holds or fires weapons, vowing to go “RINO hunting” — for “Republicans in name only” — in one ad and targeting the “political establishment” in the second.
5. Bullies on Parade
ICYMI, my latest for MSNBC Daily:
So, despite the bluster, bullying and bombast, Bannon may soon trade in his multishirt finery for an orange jumpsuit. The effect may be largely symbolic, but in this case symbolism matters.
Bannon’s MAGA world was built on swagger. But this time the bully stumbled.
After months of giving Congress the middle finger, Bannon caved, offering to testify. No one bought the ruse, and the judge eviscerated his case. After all his threats, Bannon’s lawyers offered no defense witnesses. And the MAGA sense of impunity was dented.
Which brings me to Sen. Josh Hawley.
Like Bannon, the Republican senator is an elitist who plays at demagoguery and anti-establishment populism. The graduate of Stanford and Yale has cultivated an image of manly strength captured in his infamous raised fist salute to Capitol protesters. (He is so proud of that photo that he actually started selling coffee cups with his profile emblazoned on them.)
But, as with Bannon, there are real-world limits to the playacting, and Thursday night we got a glimpse of the ambitious prep-school grad fleeing the mob he pretended to lead. As rioters entered the Capitol, Hawley is seen on tape running away.Get ready for this video coming up right before recess. Reminds me of a certain movie line: “Run! _______Run!” Feel like this one might get a lot of replay
For many, the video felt like comedic comeuppance. But it was also a reminder of what happens when bullies are called out. “The ‘tough guys’ are never tough when things get sporty,” tweeted retired Gen. Mark Hertling.
The laughter directed at Hawley won’t end his political career, and Bannon’s conviction doesn’t mark the end of MAGAism. It may not even be the beginning of the end. But the two stories remind us that bullies are vulnerable. Even the one down in Mar-a-Lago. Maybe this is how MAGA ends. Not with a bang, but with humiliation.
6. Not a Coincidence
WASHINGTON — Before Sarah Matthews, a former deputy White House press secretary, even opened her mouth to testify on Thursday before the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, the House Republican Conference attacked her on Twitter as a “liar” and a “pawn” of Democrats.
The group did not mention the man seated beside her, Matthew Pottinger, the former deputy national security adviser, who was also there to issue a scathing indictment of President Donald J. Trump’s behavior on the day of the riot. Nor did Mr. Trump himself mention Mr. Pottinger when he lashed out hours later with a statement calling Ms. Matthews a fame-seeker who was “clearly lying.”
7. Performative Assholery Update
Fighting to defend traditional, conservative cultural norms:
Plus, A Real Man of Political Genius:
8. And, finally…
You know he’ll do it the second time around…
Just remember next time you see or refer to Ted to call him my his preferred pronoun. Dear Kiss my Ass. Hey, Kiss my Ass! This should be his name in Morning Shots from now on.
Reposting some comments I just put on a JVL thread:
Trumpy intellectuals say they want to trim back the "administrative state" in order to restore democratic accountability -- which is fine as far is it goes. The promoters of Schedule F will say it's about letting a "duly elected president" enact his own agenda as the Constitution allows.
But when Donald Trump is the hero of that project -- and when Trump loyalists applaud playing hardball to prevent a Democratic president from enacting his agenda -- one has to suspect that something other than democratic accountability is at its heart. It looks more like: "A president who will do what I want should not be limited in any way -- or held accountable for illegal acts."
Trump himself clearly has an expansive view of presidential powers & immunities, and obviously believes that federal employees owe personal allegiance to him. His elite defenders aren't bothered by it. Instead, they've attacked those who insist that the president is not supposed to be a monarch.
Among hard-core Trumpites are people who suggest that democracy itself is problematic in that it allows the wrong kinds of people to gain power. And unlike much of America, they don't identify Trump as the wrong kind of person. Also in MAGA-land one can find a belief that the Constitution is defective insofar as it's informed by Enlightenment liberalism and doesn't give religion a dominant place in public life, and it allows cultural changes they dislike.
So if you delve into the world of those saying “We must restore and defend the American constitutional order," you may come upon a fantasy of repealing essential features of the Constitution and putting in place a different kind of governance.