Yesterday, speaking at a school in rural Vermont, Bernie predicted that a robust infrastructure bill will pass the Senate through reconciliation without a single Republican supporting it. In response to a question about the bill's passage, he responded that "If your question is, is it easy to bring 50 people together-- we can’t lose one, we can’t lose one. Listening to everyone’s particular needs and worrying about it-- Montana’s needs and New York’s needs and everybody else. It is hard, but at the end of the day, I think we are going to have a piece of legislation that the working families of this country can be very proud of." But without the so-called "moderates," like Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins... In the end, they all always put party first and America last.
Yesterday's NY Times carried an essay by Michael Wolff, who writes books about Señor Trumpanzee: Why I'm Sure Trump Will Run For President In 2024. I'm less certain but Senate Republicans are certain enough to avoid being labeled a RINO-- which can now be defined as "anyone who doesn't agree with Trump on any issue."
Wolff claims he understands Trump's "obsessions and fixations" well enough to make his prediction. "This spring," he wrote, "in another of his compulsive bids for attention-- indifferent to whether it is good or bad-- he hosted me at Mar-a-Lago, even after I had written two unflattering books about him (one whose publication he tried to stop), for an interview and dinner. After dinner, I asked about his plans for a presidential library, the traditional retirement project and fund-raising scheme of ex-presidents. There was a flash of confusion on his uniquely readable face, and then anger, aroused, I figured, by the implication of what I seemed to be saying-- that his time in office was past. 'No way, no way,' he snarled, 'no way.' It is an existential predicament: He can’t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency. He can’t hold the attention and devotion of the Republican Party if he is not both once and future king-- and why would he ever give that up?"
More than a bit of his subsequent conversation with me was about his contempt for any Republican who might be less than absolute in his or her devotion to him-- after all, he had the power to make or break the people who have since disappointed him (like Senator Mitch McConnell and Justice Brett Kavanaugh). He seemed not so much paranoid about challenges to him but warlike, savoring his future retributions.
He repeatedly returns to his grudge against his once obsequious vice president with relish; Mike Pence has become more public about his own political ambitions. In his telling, it is Mr. Pence whose actions confirmed “the steal,” by his refusal to overturn the electoral vote count, over which he presided in January in the Senate. I believe he will run again just to stop the men who, in his view, helped take the presidency from him from trying to get it for themselves. The reports that reach him of the West Wing and members of his administration who refuse to subscribe to the idea of “the steal” only feeds his fury and determination to punish all doubters-- “some very weak people who have worked for me but won’t in the future,” as he told me.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has become another frequent subject at Mr. Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where the former president is spending the summer away from the Florida heat. Many members of Trumpworld believe Mr. DeSantis, who came in second to Mr. Trump in a CPAC straw poll this month, might, unbelievably, run for the 2024 nomination even if Trump runs. The idea that DeSantis, who Trump believes he “made” by his endorsement, might not accept his dependence on and obligation to Trump would be a personal affront that must be met. Trump pointedly blew off the governor’s request that he postpone a Florida rally in the aftermath of the Surfside building collapse. Clear message: The governor is not the boss of him. (Mr. DeSantis has denied making this request.)
The continued career of McConnell, to whom Trump has not spoken since vilifying him with a heap of obscenity after McConnell acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory, is unfinished business. (Trump aides believe the two are likely to never speak again.)
Trump believes that McConnell retained his Senate seat in 2020 only because of his support. The war against McConnell is a war about who controls the Republican Party-- if it’s Trump’s party, it can’t be McConnell’s. If candidates win because of his endorsements, thereby making Trump himself the ultimate winner, and inevitable front-runner, then it’s surely his party. Trump, whose political muscle helped oust some Republican enemies from office in 2018, is confident about evicting McConnell once back in power. (I doubt he pays attention to the fact that McConnell was re-elected to a six-year term and has a reasonable chance of becoming the Senate majority leader again.)
Many Democrats believe that the legal pursuit of the former president’s family business in New York, and other cases, including the investigation of his attempt to overturn election results in Georgia, might seriously impede his political future. But in Trump’s logic, this will run the opposite way: Running for president is the best way to directly challenge the prosecutors.
Trump also believes he has a magic bullet. In his telling, the Republicans almost took back the House in 2020 because of his “tele-rallies,” telephone conference calls in congressional districts that attracted in some instances tens of thousands of callers. Who has that draw? he asked me, nearly smacking his lips. In 2022, with his draw, the Republicans, he is certain, will retake the House with his chosen slate of candidates. And indeed, this actually might be true.
But perhaps most important, there is his classic hucksterism, and his synoptic U.S.P.-- unique selling proposition. In 2016 it was “the wall.” For 2022 and 2024 he will have another proposition available: “the steal,” a rallying cry of rage and simplicity.
For Democrats, who see him exiled to Mar-a-Lago, stripped of his key social media platforms and facing determined prosecutors, his future seems risible if not pathetic. But this is Donald Trump, always ready to strike back harder than he has been struck, to blame anyone but himself, to silence any doubts with the sound of his own voice, to take what he believes is his and, most of all, to seize all available attention. Sound the alarm.
Trump no doubt wants to drive every one of the Republicans who opposed him out of office-- as he did to Mark Sanford (R-SC), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Will Hurd (R-TX), Justin Amash (R-MI), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Martha Roby (R-AL), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Paul Mitchell (R-MI), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA)... But if there is one who drives him the insane and who he is completely obsessed with, it is Liz Cheney, who seems to hate him at least as much as he hates her. This morning AP's Lisa Mascaro wrote about the strange political bedfellows Trump has turned Cheney and Nancy Pelosi into. and it's beyond just Pelosi appointing Cheney to the select committee investigating the Trump insurrection and coup.
"Politics," wrote Mascaro, "often creates unlikely alliances, the odd-couple arrangements between would-be foes who drop their differences to engage on a common cause. But the emerging partnership between Pelosi and Cheney is remarkable, if not astonishing, as the longtime political adversaries join forces to investigate what happened the day former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol. Rarely has there been a meeting of the minds like this-- two of the strongest women on Capitol Hill, partisans at opposite ends of the political divide-- bonding over a shared belief that the truth about the insurrection should come out and those responsible held accountable. They believe no less than the functioning of America’s democracy is on the line." Both would like to see Trump and those closest to him in prison.
As their new partnership unfolds, the risks and rewards have an uneven flow. Pelosi benefits more politically from drawing Cheney to her side, giving the committee’s investigation the big-name bipartisan stamp it needs to avoid being viewed as a strictly political exercise.
For Cheney, who has already been booted from GOP leadership over her criticism of Trump, the political dangers are far greater. She was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the insurrection, and her willingness to speak out against his top ally, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, now leaves her isolated on Capitol Hill. She is facing blowback from the ranks and serious primary challenges for her reelection back home.
...Cheney, though, shows no signs of backing down on what she views as an existential fight not only for the party she and her family helped build, but also for the soul of the nation itself.
“The American people deserve to know what happened,” she said this week.
Standing on the steps of the Capitol, Cheney lambasted the rhetoric coming from McCarthy as “disgraceful” and supported Pelosi’s decision to block two of his appointees to the panel because of their alliance with Trump.
McCarthy has suggested Cheney might be closer now to Pelosi than her own party, and he withdrew all Republican participation in the committee.
Pelosi and Cheney are hardly fast friends.
Despite their long resumes in American politics, they never really talked to each other before this moment.
Pelosi won her first term as speaker during the George W. Bush administration, largely attacking the White House over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the hawkish defense posture of then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Liz Cheney took office in 2017 defending her father’s legacy, speaking boldly at one of her first news conferences in support of the enhanced interrogation technique of waterboarding that was decried as torture under his watch. During Trump’s first impeachment, she lacerated Pelosi’s intentions in speeches.
While both are political royalty, Pelosi and Cheney have operated in parallel political universes for much of their careers. A generation apart, they bring different styles to the job-- Pelosi, the San Francisco liberal, Cheney, the Wyoming conservative. About the only thing they have in common is that both are mothers of five.
Yet when Pelosi called Cheney the morning after the vote to establish the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, both seemed to instantly grasp the historical gravity of the moment.
Pelosi thanked Cheney for her patriotism and invited her to join the panel-- a stunning moment, the Democratic speaker appointing a Republican to a spot.
Cheney quickly accepted, responding that she was honored to serve, according to another person familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks.
Behind closed doors, those involved in the committee’s work see in Cheney a serious and constructive member, hardly a Republican figurehead but a determined partner to what she has said must be a “sober” investigation. It was Cheney who elevated the idea of having former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia serve as an adviser to the committee, which is under consideration, one of the people said.
...Cheney, who warned her party in an op-ed that “history is watching” in this moment, vows to seek a fourth term but has an uncertain political future.
According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 60% of Americans say it’s very or extremely important that investigations continue to examine what happened during the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
The poll, conducted July 15-19, showed 51% of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of Pelosi, though among Democrats it’s more favorable. For Cheney, the results show her more positively rated by Democrats than Republicans. Among Democrats, 47% say they have a favorable view of Cheney and 20% an unfavorable view, while among Republicans, 21% have a favorable view and 46% have an unfavorable one.
Pitney, the professor who worked for the elder Cheney decades ago in House leadership but left the Republican Party during the Trump era, said the Pelosi and Cheney bond will be one for history.
“It’s like one of those 1950s science-fiction movies where everyone unites over the alien invader,” he said. Pelosi and Cheney have “a legitimate shared interest in getting to the bottom of the insurrection.”