Who Is the Real ‘Architect’ of Today’s Republican Party?
Plus: Tom Cruise, the Living Manifestation of Kino
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PAUL ALEXANDER: Who Is the Real ‘Architect’ of Today’s Republican Party?
DESPITE DONALD TRUMP’S DOMINANCE in national surveys of Republican voters, the party’s fundamental dynamics revealed in the 2022 midterms have not changed: the GOP is still coming apart at the seams.
Recall that, in more than a few of last year’s races, MAGA candidates won primaries but lost in otherwise winnable general-election races. The ensuing power struggle between the mainstream “establishment” Republicans and their headline-grabbing MAGA cohorts did not end with the historic stalemate over the House speakership six months ago. It continued through the fight over raising the debt ceiling in May and June, with Republicans openly squabbling on the floor of the House of Representatives. Even now, House Republicans are fighting over whether or not to proceed with an impeachment of President Joe Biden (for what is not clear).
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Few historical events have as much inherent theatricality as the French Revolution, with its colorful cast of characters and dramatic events (even the scaffold of the guillotine is a stage of sorts!). Small wonder, then, that it has generated a great many notable screen adaptations starting with D.W. Griffith’s 1921 silent epic Orphans of the Storm. Here are the ones most worth watching if you feel like a Bastille Day marathon—along with some notes on historical accuracy, to help you sort out fact from fiction.
SONNY BUNCH: Tom Cruise, the Living Manifestation of Kino
REWATCHING THE ENTIRETY of the Mission: Impossible series ahead of Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning: Part One, I was struck by how it serves as a handy microcosm for not only Tom Cruise’s career—now in its fifth decade, and arguably more robust than ever—but also Hollywood as a whole.
Tom Cruise’s career can be broken down into two basic epochs: the Auteur Age and the Starteur Age. He spent much of his early career in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s seeking out opportunities to work with some of the most domineering directorial personalities in the game, allowing his star power to be molded by the strength of their visions. Some of this was luck—he wasn’t necessarily in a position to dictate being cast in a Ridley Scott movie (Legend) or a Francis Ford Coppola movie (The Outsiders) before Top Gun and Risky Business—but it he was drawn to directors with vision.
Happy Friday! I spent the day watching the GOP candidates speak at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit in Iowa, with host Tucker Carlson. I am doing a Twitter Space with our pal Jennifer Horn on it, which you can listen to here.
Why the “i” you ask? Bob Vander Plaats puts it this way: “Whenever ‘I’ takes precedence in life, at work, in marriage or at a sporting event...you name it...things turn ugly. ‘I’ should never take precedence over ‘WE’ as life is a ‘WE’ game.
The leadership summit is a very Christian event, with 500+ pastors of various Christian flavor in attendance. Tucker responded a lot, awkwardly, with a dozen “Amens.” (No Praise Bes, though.)
Instead of your usual links, here are my takeaways: Tucker is as you’d of expected. Swarmy, constantly interrupting, and whatabouting for Russia. He clearly chose favorites.
Tim Scott: Scott had a cheat code: moving around. Everyone else sat in the chair. Scott walked around and talked to the audience, which wasn’t loving him, but no boos either. It sounds simple, and it was, but it was kind of impressive: what was Tucker going to do: demand he sit down?
It was not the breakout performance Scott needed, but it wasn’t a failure, either. A common theme was the meager clapping, which Scott joked about. Not Jeb! level #PleaseClap, but close.
Scott was at his strongest when he said that it is a vital national interest that Russia’s military is denigrated, but drew the line at putting boots on the ground in Ukraine. Knowing he’d look like a leftist Commie from the 1980s, even Tucker ceded that through silence.
Asa Hutchinson: Sat down and got a buzzsaw from Carlson. We spent the first ten minutes on puberty blockers and Asa’s veto. Carlson branded it as “one of the most important issues in the country.” (It’s not.) Asa! did not win any friends there, you could hear a pin drop hearing him try to thread the needle of parents’ rights and small government, but there were no boos, either. It felt like an episode rerun of his appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight (RIP) from two years ago.
Carlson admitted during a COVID discussion that he never was vaccinated, and Hutchinson did a better job walking a thin line between not being perceived as a COVID zealot and not being a COVIDiot. Glenn Beck described his performance as similar to that of the Hindenburg. It wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that great, either.
Mike Pence: Probably the most combative of the first three. He demurred for a bit with a loaded question on January 6th, but mostly stuck to his guns about Trump like you’ve seen him hem and haw. “President Trump’s words that day were reckless… History will hold him accountable.” You’d expect that would have drawn boos. It did not.
Pence also stuck to his belief that elections are best run by states, but was OK with a hypothetical where we no longer used electronic voting machines. Carlson, whose ideally administered election was 1992 (seriously), claimed “real countries don’t use electronic voting machines.” Tell that to these very real countries.
Here’s where the boos came: Tucker’s pet issue, the “religious liberty” of Pro-Russia Orthodox priests in Ukraine. If by “religious liberty” you mean views justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine qualify as religious, then sure. Mike Pence did not accept this. And he did stick the landing here. He lives to fight another day.
But now he has to fight the Charlie Kirks of the world on social media.
Nikki Haley… Totally got a pass on Ukraine, which was weird! No questions whatsoever for the former UN Ambassador who is one of the more aggressive GOP candidates on the topic. Tucker did ask her if she thinks we blew up the Nordstream pipeline. Answer: I don’t know, do you?
Tucker hinted at some trutherism regarding Biden’s 81 million votes. Haley didn’t really take the bait, giving some vague bromides on election integrity.
I think one of the more interesting revelations from Haley was her thoughts on healthcare. I expected some Obamacare blame, but no: Haley wants to “completely tear” up the American healthcare system, citing the experiences she’s had with her aging parents. Republicans don’t really like engaging on healthcare, so this was sort of an unexpected big revelation.
Haley also brought up her experience as SC Gov with bureaucracy. Her solution for distrust in the DOJ and intel communities was that we should “really look at gutting” them. OK. Also she bragged about firing John Kerry’s sister at the UN.
Are humans causing climate change? Haley was audibly flustered, before pivoting to promises of energy independence (2008 throwback!) and blaming India and China, before observing we are “extremely good” on the environment. Tucker’s avoiding Ukraine was a choice. Whether that helps or hurts Haley remains to be seen.
Vivek Ramaswamy: In the 2016 election, Bobby Jindal “won” the FAMiLY Summit, notes Blaze host Steve Deace. We all know what happened next. Most people don’t even remember him running. History is repeating itself, as Tucker and Vivek and a total lovefest on stage. Tucker left his chainsaw offstage, maybe it was clogged with ethanol or something, as he joked earlier. Why did Ramaswamy do so well? He knew how to play the host like a fiddle. And he was good at it. There were a lot of shades of Trump (who skipped) in 2015 with the appeal to outsider solutions, which make no practical sense and would never, ever actually happen. His Ukraine solution (which JVL talked about in his Triad today) came up again.
Vivek did well with the crowd, but he didn’t kill it. But The Blaze? They loved him. If I’m the DeSantis team, I’d be worried. DeSantis speaks MAGA psychobabble as a second language and it comes across as forced an insincere. Ramaswamy’s fluent in it and he’s gonna get the votes DeSantis is debasing himself to get (and won’t.)
Ron DeSantis: Is he running for a third term as Florida governor? No? He can’t. Tucker, a Florida resident, spent a lot of time talking about Florida’s current woes… like Red Tide. Of course Ukraine would come up, since it was Tucker, on his former show, was responsible for DeSantis finally weighing in on it and whether it was a vital U.S. interest. DeSantis was able to filibuster out of much of it but thinks the goal there should be a “sustainable peace in Europe.” Tucker wasn’t nearly as hard on DeSantis as he was on Pence. There weren’t any unusual gaffes and he was fidgety and awkward as he often is when he’s trying to demonstrate that he’s listening intently. He needed a home run and didn’t get it. As he’s a candidate who is more likely to lose voters than Trump, this isn’t good for DeSantis’s chances.
Donald Trump and Chris Christie did not attend. I don’t blame them.
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