Trump Claims to “Believe in Loyalty.” Not So Fast...
Let’s check the record.
Donald Trump has strong views about loyalty. He’s offended that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who benefited from Trump’s endorsement in that state’s 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, is now thinking of competing against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. “I believe in loyalty,” Trump protested on the Full Send podcast two weeks ago. “You just don’t do what he did.”
Trump’s indignation is nakedly hypocritical. He feels no reciprocal loyalty to the Republican party or its candidates. He’s already sabotaging the party’s chances in 2024. And he’s making it clear that if he doesn’t get the GOP’s presidential nomination, he’ll betray whoever does.
In 2015, Trump was the least loyal candidate in the Republican presidential field. His competitors pledged to support whoever won the nomination, but Trump refused. To this day, he brags about it. “Everybody else raised their hand—they’ll support anybody on the stage,” he recalled derisively in a WABC interview last week. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to support anybody on the stage. I’ll support some, but I’m not going to support others.”
In the past two weeks, Trump has flaunted his narcissism. He has declared himself Queen Elizabeth’s favorite president (“many people have said that I was”), claimed that he was treated worse than Abraham Lincoln (the sixteenth president was “vilified . . . but now they say Trump got treated the worst of all”), and touted himself as “the first and only hero” in the life of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a beneficiary of one of Trump’s many corrupt pardons.
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, wants to require the party’s 2024 presidential candidates, as a condition of participating in primary debates, to pledge that they’ll support the nominee in the general election. But Trump doesn’t care. He doesn’t need the debates—in polls, he has a huge lead over other Republican hopefuls—and he has no sense of obligation to share the stage or subject himself to difficult questions. “When you’re way up, what’s the purpose of doing the debate?” he asked in his WABC interview. He has reportedly urged McDaniel to cancel the debates because he already dominates the field.
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Trump cares more about hurting his rivals—or anyone who might outshine him—than he does about helping his allies. On Sunday, Fox News aired part of an interview with Mark Levin, apparently conducted late last month, in which Trump talked about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stint as host of The Apprentice after Trump left the show. Trump recalled people asking him, “Would you have rather had Arnold on The Apprentice make it big, ’cause you own the show with . . . Mark Burnett and that whole group? . . . Would you have rather had him be a tremendous success . . . or would you have rather had him fail badly?”
Trump told Levin his answer: “I said, ‘Probably fail.’”
The former president feuds constantly with other Republicans. He goes out of his way to insult Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Bush family, and many of Trump’s own appointees. When Republican candidates who don’t suck up to him lose to Democrats, Trump celebrates their defeats. Last month, when Republican Dan Kelly lost a crucial election for a seat on Wisconsin’s supreme court—handing control of the court to Democrats—Trump crowed that Kelly had “bragged that he won’t seek Trump’s Endorsement, so I didn’t give it—which guaranteed his loss.”
Some Republicans have criticized DeSantis, on conservative philosophical grounds, for using state power to punish the Walt Disney Company for its views on cultural issues. Trump has no such philosophical scruples, but he roots for Disney to divest from Florida anyway—with all the job losses that would entail in Trump’s adopted state—just to hurt DeSantis. Two weeks ago on Truth Social, Trump advised the company on how to inflict maximum damage. “DeSanctus is being absolutely destroyed by Disney,” Trump gloated. “Disney’s next move will be the announcement that no more money will be invested in Florida because of the Governor - In fact, they could even announce a slow withdrawal or sale of certain properties, or the whole thing. Watch! That would be a killer.”
If DeSantis gets the nomination, Democrats won’t have to make ads accusing him of trying to cut Medicare and Social Security. They can just quote Trump, who relentlessly accuses the governor—a “disciple of ‘Wheelchair over the Cliff’ Paul Ryan”—of scheming, along with “the Bushes,” to gut these programs. Unlike other lines of attack Trump could have chosen against DeSantis, this one is perfectly designed to help the other party.
Meanwhile, just as he did eight years ago, Trump is refusing to promise that he’ll support the Republican nominee if it isn’t him. “It would have to depend on who the nominee was,” he told Hugh Hewitt in February. And Trump is issuing not-so-veiled threats that if DeSantis beats him in the primary, Trump’s voters will destroy DeSantis in the general election.
On April 10, Trump wrote on Truth Social that if DeSantis were to enter the 2024 presidential race and compete against Trump, “he will lose the cherished and massive MAGA vote, and never be able to successfully run for office again.” And on Sunday, the former president delivered a more explicit threat. John Rich, a Trumpist country music singer, wrote that if DeSantis were to win the nomination at Trump’s expense, “there wouldn’t be one true Trump supporter left that would vote for him and he would be destroyed in a general election.” Trump recirculated Rich’s message, adding: “I’ve always said John Rich was a very smart guy!”
When Republicans embraced Trump as their nominee in 2016, they knew they were tying their party to a narcissist. As the song goes, they knew damn well he was a snake. In every election since then, he has bitten them. And he’s going to do it again.