Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, speaks during a “Save America” rally near the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Before we get to the latest episode of our culture war, let’s pause to take the measure of the actual war that continues to rage in Ukraine. Some key developments:
War Crimes: “U.S. has determined that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine, Blinken says”
Losses : “NATO says that up to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded, taken prisoner or are missing in Ukraine, said a senior military official from the alliance.”
Sinking: “Ukrainian forces claim to destroy a Russian landing ship.”
An influx of arms: “First deliveries of $800 million in new US military aid have been delivered to Ukraine.”
A Ukrainian counter-offensive:
Russia is stalled: “Western assessments indicate Russian forces remain stalled in much of Ukraine.”
Trouble in paradise: “As Russia Stalls in Ukraine, Dissent Brews Over Putin’s Leadership.”
And a reminder:
Until yesterday, Mo Brooks’ greatest claim to fame was his fiery speech — while wearing body armor — at the January 6 rally at the Ellipse where the congressman told the crowd — “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!”
Brooks was so deep into the Big Lie that he continued to insist for months that Trump would have won the 2020 election if only “lawful votes” were counted. His lavish adherence to the MAGA version of reality won him Trump’s endorsement for the senate in Alabama.
He was so proud.
But Brooks has been struggling in that race and, as his candidacy started to falter, the anxiety apparently began to spread in Mar-a-Lago: Maybe he was a loser. And we know how TFG feels about losers.
But the final blow, apparently, was Mo’s suggestion that it just might be time to move on from the 2020 election. As Steve Bannon noted yesterday, any suggestion that the election might have been legitimate is “a mortal sin” in Trump’s world.
“It’s a lesson to everyone,” Bannon said. “Trump can giveth, and Trump can taketh away.” And Wednesday, Trump tooketh away with a vengeance.
In his excommunication of his fellow seditionist, Trump complained, “Mo Brooks of Alabama made a horrible mistake recently when he went ‘woke’ and stated, referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, ‘Put that behind you, put that behind you,’ despite the fact that the Election was rife with fraud…”
(Mild digression here: Mo Brooks does not have even an infinitesimal trace of “wokeness,” so this is a reminder that the word has now, officially, lost all meaning other than as a random MAGA insult.)
But back to Trump’s defenestration of Mo.
“When I heard his statement, I said, ‘Mo, you just blew the election, and there’s nothing you can do about it,’” Mr. Trump said in a statement on Wednesday. “Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I.”
And so ended a beautiful friendship. But please take a moment to contemplate what happened next.
The jilted Mo issued a statement outlining what he said Trump had demanded of him. Let me break it down. Brooks claimed that Trump had asked him to:
rescind the 2020 elections
immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House
immediately put President Trump back in the White House and
and hold a new special election for the presidency
As God is my witness, these are words I never thought I would write: Too crazy for Mo Brooks. But what Trump was asking was too unconstitutional, too illegal, too undemocratic, too coup-like, and too insane… even for Mo Brooks. He explained:
As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”
“I’ve told President Trump the truth knowing full well that it might cause President Trump to rescind his endorsement.”
One obvious caveat is in order: Mo Brooks may not be a reliable narrator. But you have to ask yourself, why would he lie about this, knowing that it will obliterate his future in Trumplandia? And why would he draw the line here, when he had been a reliable cheerleader for Trump’s last coup-attempt, and his multiple lies about the election?
Occam’s Razor: Because it was that bad.
Let’s put all of this in context for all the cool kids who are yelling Charlie, why can’t you just move on? Donald Trump remains the near-prohibitive favorite for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. He is obviously not moving on, and neither is the Republican Party.
This also seems a good time to revisit the whole question of Trump’s endorsements. The Republican CW has been that the coveted blessing from the Orange God King was political gold — worth any amount of groveling, dissembling, and self-abasement.
But, let us count the ways that Trump’s endorsement is toxic.
It might not work.
It requires recipients to say — and keeping saying — stupid and untrue things.
It can be revoked at any time.
A few days ago, Josh Kraushaar warned that Trump was “staring at resounding rejection in GOP primaries.”
The former president's endorsed candidates are struggling to capitalize on his support. If he goes 0-3 in three pivotal statewide primaries in May, it would suggest his peak influence has passed.
Former President Trump is staring at a real chance that his endorsed candidates go zero-for-three in competitive Senate primaries in May, an outcome that would underscore his already mixed record in primaries and raise serious questions about the depth of his political clout within the Republican Party.
The LA Times noted that Trump’s endorsed candidate for governor in Idaho was also floundering.
Not that the endorsement — make that Total Endorsement — seems to be doing much good. Less than two months before the May 17 primary, [Janice] McGeachin (pronounced Mick-GHEE-hin) is fighting for credibility and traction in a race that polls show her losing badly.
She is not alone in facing those difficult straits.
Trump coaxed former Georgia Sen. David Perdue into the Republican primary against Brian Kemp after the governor committed the heresy of refusing to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. But Perdue is also struggling ahead of the May 24 GOP primary….
There is also the moral price that has to be paid for Trump’s favor. Here is the statement from Alabama senate candidate Mike Durant, issued within minutes of Trump’s divorce from Mo Brooks.
You can feel the sweaty, desperate sycophancy in every line: “President Trump was ROBBED by the corrupt Democrats who changed the rules and then refused to investigate valid instances of fraud, and then was shockingly betrayed by do-nothing career politicians who refused to investigate.”
One final thought. In the “The Gulag Archipelago,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells a story about Stalin’s demands of loyalty. (Hat tip: Catherine Rampell.)
At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation,” continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop?
The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on – six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks!
At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly — but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten!
In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter…
Then after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.
That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of his interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:
“Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!”
Exit take: Mo Brooks stopped clapping too soon.
“Trump Is Guilty of ‘Numerous’ Felonies”
One of the senior Manhattan prosecutors who investigated Donald J. Trump believed that the former president was “guilty of numerous felony violations” and that it was “a grave failure of justice” not to hold him accountable, according to a copy of his resignation letter…
“The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes — he did,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote.
Say Their Names
Sen. Ben Sasse didn’t name names, but shortly after his fellow Republicans Graham and Ted Cruz (Tex.) repeatedly interrupted Jackson and tangled with Durbin, the Nebraska Republican called out performative behavior.
“I think we should recognize that the jackassery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities,” Sasse told Jackson during his turn questioning the judge.
Join us tonight!
1. Trans Politics Needs to Slow Down and Wait for Trans Science
Mona Charen with a thoughtful approach to an incandescently divisive issue:
Progressives are right that transgender people used to be treated with some contempt. It’s important to correct that. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. But conservatives are right that we’ve rushed into radical approaches to medicating children with gender dysphoria because the medical establishment and large parts of the opinion-shaping commentariat have treated this as a social justice matter rather than as a question of what’s best for kids.
An NBC Think piece gives the flavor of the progressive approach: “We Should be Celebrating Lia Thomas Like We Did Jackie Robinson.” Meanwhile, gender ideology—that it’s common for people to be born into the wrong body—is creeping into schools. In Connecticut, the curriculum for first grade includes titles like Jacob’s New Dress and Are You a Boy or a Girl?, a story about a child who’d rather not say. A 2017 California law made it a criminal offense for healthcare workers not to use a patient’s preferred pronouns. (The progressives sometimes use state power too.)
2. Supreme Court Summarily Smacks Down Wisconsin Electoral Maps
Kim Wehle, in this morning’s Bulwark:
Ironically, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the third day of Judge Jackson’s grueling confirmation hearings—a day when Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, accused Jackson of having “used every possible ounce of discretion to essentially remake . . . policy from the bench” in applying Congress’s sentencing guidelines as a federal trial court judge.
By any stretch, Judge Jackson is not the judicial policymaker we need to worry about right now.
Regarding transgender rights... Please find and read the Utah governor's veto message over a draconian bill, rushed through the legislature at the last minute. His reasoning is nuanced, heartfelt and kind. Compare and contrast with the demagoguery of Florida's Ron DeSantis waging war on other human beings. Sadly his veto no matter how reasonable and humane--- is bound to be overridden. Because for Republicans the cruelty IS the point.
"Let’s put all of this in context for all the cool kids who are yelling Charlie, why can’t you just move on?"
Some of us have expressed how depression inducing the fact that we need to continue to talk about Trump is. (A.B. Stoddard expressed something similar on your podcast yesterday.) Please don't interpret this as a request to move on. When a house cat can't seem to master using the litter box, this is a depressing fact. But it's a fact that needs to be dealt with.