Discover more from The Bulwark
Unlike the GOP, the Brits Still Have Guardrails
Plus: A GOP Senate meltdown?
It took longer than it should have, but Britain is showing us what happens when a political party draws red lines.
As David Frum explained on the podcast yesterday, Boris Johnson was ousted as PM because the Conservatives told him that it was time to go. Frum writes in the Atlantic: “Johnson will leave office for much the same reason, and in much the same way, as his predecessors Theresa May, David Cameron, and Tony Blair left it: because he lost the confidence of his party.”
The contrast with the GOP is stark. JVL makes the point in the Triad:
However popular Johnson was with the Conservative party’s base, at the end of the day it was the Conservative party elites who deposed him….
[Whatever] the rationalizations along the way, the Conservatives finally found a line they would not cross. Or, perhaps more accurately, a straw that broke the camel’s back.
In America the Republican party still has not found such a line even after Donald Trump attempted a coup to overthrow the presidential election.
Whatever you think of Britain’s Conservative party, at least they remain a more or less normal political institution. They are not so compromised that they represent an ongoing threat to democratic self-governance.
The same cannot be said for the Republican party in America.
A GOP Senate meltdown?
Speaking of the lack of guardrails….
Let’s start with this amaaaaazing story out of Georgia: “Herschel Walker Lied About His Secret Kids to His Own Campaign.”
The dazzling quote:
The campaign source painted a picture of an operation that for months has been at the mercy of a volatile, deceitful candidate.
“A campaign’s worst nightmare,” the source said. “It’s like a shitshow on a train in the middle of a wreck.”
This does not appear to be hyperbole. Roger Sollenberger reports:
Emails and texts show advisers discussing how they don’t trust Walker—both to tell the truth to them and to handle campaign events properly—and harboring concerns that he isn’t mentally fit for the job.
He spouts falsehoods “like he’s breathing,” this adviser said—so much so that his own campaign stopped believing him long ago.
“He’s lied so much that we don’t know what’s true,” the person said, adding that aides have “zero” trust in the candidate. Three people interviewed for this article independently called him a “pathological liar.”
That’s bad. But Arizona’s Nazi-adjacent GOP Senate candidate may be worse.
The NYT is reporting that Blake Masters — the Trumpist Peter Thiel-backed candidate — has a long trail of bizarre musings dating back to his days as a Stanford undergraduate. Masters shared his deep thoughts about history and politics on the chat room of CrossFit, which was his favorite workout.
As he had in other forums, Mr. Masters wrote on the CrossFit chat room that he opposed American involvement in both world wars — although World War II, he conceded, “is harder to argue because of the hot button issue of the Holocaust (nevermind that our friend Stalin murdered over twice as many as Hitler … why do we gloss over that in schools?).”
As the Times notes dryly: “He did not address Pearl Harbor or say whether he thought the United States should have ignored it.”
Also on the CrossFit chat room, Mr. Masters, then 20, argued that Iraq and Al Qaeda did not “constitute substantial threats to Americans.”
Jonathan Chait sums up Masters’s worldview:
Masters, a protégé of Peter Thiel — the Silicon Valley billionaire and quasi libertarian who wrote, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” — has floated a variety of insane and racist theories.
He has straight-up said Donald Trump won the 2020 election and suggested January 6 was a false flag directed secretly by the FBI.
He blamed gun violence on Black people. (“We do have a gun-violence problem in this country, and it’s gang violence,” he said. “It’s people in Chicago, St. Louis, shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly.”)
He has endorsed the “great replacement” theory.
And he has echoed far-right positions on foreign policy, opposing American entry into World War II and blaming American entry into World War I on a secret plot directed by the “Houses of Morgan and Rothschild.”
Chait notes that Masters has been enthusiastically endorsed by neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin on the white-supremacist site “The Daily Stormer.” This does not mean that Masters is actually a Nazi, Chait writes,
But Nazis see him as a vehicle to advance their agenda and bring them closer to political respectability. And they are obviously correct to do so.
And then there is Pennsylvania. Via Politico: Where in the world is Dr. Oz? The GOP hopeful has gone dark on TV since he won Pennsylvania's Senate primary, prompting finger-pointing among Republicans about what he's up to.
Holly Otterbein reports:
PHILADELPHIA — Mehmet Oz is trailing in polls. A key Republican has yet to endorse him since the celebrity doctor won the GOP nomination for Pennsylvania Senate more than a month ago. And Oz has gone dark on the airwaves since May 21 — even as his Democratic rival John Fetterman burnishes his brand on TV as a political outsider, and paints Oz as a carpetbagger from New Jersey.
This is not the general election kickoff in a pivotal Senate race that Republicans were hoping for.
Meanwhile, in Missouri: “As Greitens Drama Roils Missouri GOP Senate Race, Dems Seen Gaining Ground.”
You know things are going badly when one of your oldest friends records something like this:
As Blake Hounshell noted a few days ago:
[A] brighter picture is coming together for Democrats on the Senate side. There, Republicans are assembling what one top strategist laughingly described as an “island of misfit toys” — a motley collection of candidates the Democratic Party hopes to portray as out of the mainstream on policy, personally compromised and too cozy with Donald Trump.
More hyped duds
Savvy readers offered more examples of highly touted presidential frontrunners who turned out to be duds. In yesterday’s Morning Shots, I mentioned Fred Thompson, Rick Perry, Gary Hart, Jeb (!) Bush, Ed Muskie, Wesley Clark, Scott Walker, and America’s Freaking Mayor.
But they weren’t alone.
I’m actually old enough to remember when this guy was the Savior of the GOP:
And who could forget this?
1. Ground Truths in Ukraine
Reuben F. Johnson is a defense technology and political-military affairs correspondent who was based in Kyiv for more than 20 years. He was captured and held by the invading Russian Army for more than two weeks in March 2022. He writes in today’s Bulwark:
If America fails to support Ukraine all the way to victory, then other nations are unlikely to believe that they can rely on our assurances. And if they do not believe that we are reliable allies, then they are likely to chart their own courses. Which may be counter to our own interests. They could decide that they would be better off making accommodations with Moscow or Beijing. Or they could decide that the only true guarantee of sovereignty is nuclear proliferation.
Plans are important. But the the ground facts will determine what can and cannot be implemented.
2. The Most Pathetic Men in America
You really have to read this piece by Mark Liebovich: “Why Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and so many other cowards in Congress are still doing Trump’s bidding.”
It’s been said before, but can never be emphasized enough: Without the complicity of the Republican Party, Donald Trump would be just a glorified geriatric Fox-watching golfer. I’ve interviewed scores of these collaborators, trying to understand why they did what they did and how they could live with it. These were the McCarthys and the Grahams and all the other busy parasitic suck-ups who made the Trump era work for them, who humored and indulged him all the way down to the last, exhausted strains of American democracy.
Liebovich gifts us with the definitive Lindsey Graham proctological exam:
“My legacy doesn’t matter,” Trump told his longtime aide Hope Hicks a few days after the 2020 election, according to an account in Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. “If I lose, that will be my legacy.” This became the essential ethos of Republican nihilism. By lashing themselves so tightly to Trump, Republicans could act as if the president’s impunity and shamelessness extended to them. His strut of cavalier disregard became their own.
No one did sunken-eyed contempt like Lindsey Graham. No one worked harder at caring less.
“Don’t care,” I overheard Graham say in early 2020 to a reporter on the Capitol subway platform who asked him whether his reputation had suffered because of his association with Trump.
Wait, it gets worse: