As Trump Announces, GOP Rivals Are Packing Into The Clown Car Again
The campaign is underway. I’m going to be covering it right down to the wire in November of 2024. This column is free to all subscribers, but many will be available only to paid subscribers. If you want to receive all of my columns, free and paid, you can become a paid subscriber right here.
Donald Trump’s in the pool – in fact, he’s in the deep end, over his head with all the investigations and possible indictments he faces – and the question now is, who else is going to jump in?
Mike Pence? He’s on a book tour, polishing his Jayzus bona fides, perhaps responding to the fact that several evangelical leaders have expressed doubts about the former president, at least giving the former vice president some hope. Robert Jeffress, a pastor at the First Baptist Dallas church in Texas and previously a close ally and spiritual adviser to Trump (yes, there were such things afoot in the land in past years), told Newsweek last week that he isn’t prepared to support Trump just yet. Although he called the Bellowing One “a great president” and said he would support him in 2024 if he becomes the nominee, for now, Jeffress is sitting on his Bible: “The Republican Party is headed toward a civil war that I have no desire or need to be part of,” Jeffress told Newsweek.
Another evangelical leader spoke out frankly about the Eminently Indictable One at a meeting last week of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers (NACL) in Irving, Texas. James Robison, the president of the Christian group Life Outreach International, told the group that Trump acted “like a little elementary schoolchild…if Mr. Trump can’t stop his little petty issues, how does he expect people to stop major issues?” Christian lawmakers in the room did not respond positively, The Washington Post reported: “The crowd remained still. Some lawmakers in the ballroom exchanged glances, appearing unsure of how to respond. A few people chuckled awkwardly.”
Mike Evans, Texas author and Christian Zionist who raises money for outreach and support in Israel and was on Trump’s loosely-formed “evangelical advisory board,” wrote in an op-ed in the Post earlier this month that he once left a rally held by the Fake Christian One “in tears because I saw Bible believers glorifying Donald Trump like he was an idol. Donald Trump can’t save America. He can’t even save himself. He used us to win the White House. We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us,” Evans wrote in the Post. “I cannot do that anymore.”
Ron DeSantis? The Harvard and Yale Educated One is said to be meeting with major Republican donors and biding his time. Dan Eberhart, a big-time Republican fund-raiser who has backed the Palm Beach Secret Hoarder in the past, told NBC he’s all-in for DeSantis this year. “If Trump is going to be in, I would like for him not to be the only national Republican candidate out there. But DeSantis isn’t going to get in until after the Florida legislative session ends, at least. Anyone that gets in now runs the risk of peaking too early.”
What about the rest of them? Well, the Clown Car is still out there. You remember Nikki Haley, don’t you? Former South Carolina Governor and Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., Haley told the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas over the weekend that she is considering getting into the race “in a serious way.” She told the crowd that it’s time for “a younger generation to lead across the board.” Hinting strongly at who she was really talking about, Haley said she wasn’t ready to blame “one person” for the disastrous Republican showing in the midterms, but “we don’t need more politicians who just want to go on TV and talk about our problems.” Then she pointedly reminded the crowd that “I have never lost an election and I’m not going to start now.”
Mike Pompeo? He was at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference, too, declaring that although he had been “loyal” in the past, his loyalty had never been “to a person, or a party or a faction.” By omitting the name of the guy who appointed him to be secretary of state, Pompeo left no doubt who he was talking about. If Republicans want to win elections, Pompeo thundered, they can’t just “go on Fox News or send tweets. Personality and celebrity just aren’t going to get it done. We can see that. The American people did not want to look back, they wanted to move forward. They care about what happens tomorrow, not what happened yesterday.”
In fact, there was a whole thing about it’s not a time to “look back,” and we’re finished with “talking about the past” at the meeting in Las Vegas. Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who was term-limited and did not run for reelection this year, told the crowd that his reading of the Republican losses in the midterms showed that voters had “sent a clear message that they want to turn the page.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the crowd that Republicans lost the midterms because “Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.”
The ex-Trump confidant Christie, however, was the only speaker at the conference to utter the name of the FBI Searched One out loud.
The Associated Press reported that while “No fewer than 10 White House prospects stepped onto the stage in Las Vegas…perhaps no one was cheering louder than Trump himself from his Florida estate.” Why would that be, you ask? Well, with so many challengers making noises about getting into the race, Putin’s Favorite Candidate is in the same position he was in back in 2016, when he trashed the occupants of the Clown Car one by one and split the vote in the primaries until he arrived at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July as the Anointed One.
What do we hear from the Lily-Livered Caucus in the Senate? Well, The Hill reported today that only one Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, has come out and said he will support Trump for the presidency. What about the Senator from Obsequious, Lindsey Graham (R-SC)? Not on board yet, but he has allowed as how Trump will be “hard to beat.” Senator Kevin Cramer from North Dakota – I know, I’ve never heard of him either – bravely says “it’s too early.” Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming – another Republican stand-out from a state with a population smaller than Brooklyn – “made a splash last week when she identified DeSantis, not Trump, as the de facto leader of the Republican Party,” according to The Hill. But perhaps Utah's Mitt Romney, the Senator From The 47 Per Cent, described the reaction of the Lily-Livered Caucus best: “One senator in a meeting we had this week said, ‘How many in this room want to see President Trump announce he’s running for president today?’ Not one hand up.”
With all this bravery in the Senate, how, exactly, does a prospective candidate begin inching away from The Frightening One? For an answer to this imponderable, let’s go back to West Point graduate Mike Pompeo. He should know something about Courage In The Face of Imminent Danger, shouldn’t he? Well, this is what he told Semafor when he was asked how and when he was going to begin to move away from Le Gros Terrible de Mar a Lago: “I haven’t shifted. Tell me what the shift is? I’m contemplating presenting myself as the potential president of the United States to the citizens of America. There’s no shift. The things that worked, we should continue to go do.” Wow, you’ll be on the list for the Silver Star for that one, Mike.
Back at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas, Eric Levine, a Republican donor from New York, told the AP that it was past time for some of the clowns to get off the stage so the party could settle on two or three candidates and avoid the mistakes they made in 2016. “I don’t think we have the luxury of waiting,” Levine said. “If he [Trump] becomes the Republican brand, the party is going to be destroyed.”
But try to tell that to the base, even the relatively wealthy base that was at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas over the weekend. Politico reported that when Trump addressed the crowd by video from Mar a Lago on Saturday, he was “met by rapturous applause.”
I can think of a few folks who hope the crowds stay just as rapturous about The Excessively Made-Up One as the campaign gets underway. Let’s see…the entire Democratic Party, maybe?
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.