Watch this video from CNN. At the 4:20 mark, you’ll hear Ted Cruz on the Mark Davis radio show, with his response to Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who have suddenly tried to put on their conservative clothes. Sort of like when a 50 year-old gets his old football letter jacket out and tries to wear it, 30 pounds later.
We’ve got a job to do, dammit. And so all of this nonsense–I’ve got nothing to say on it. Everyone shut up and do your job.
They are fools who think a good, rousing speech against Trump will somehow absolve them of abandoning the conservative principles that got them elected, and then quitting when they’re about to be unseated.
Maybe Flake will get a job offer from CNN when he leaves the Senate. But some senators, like Cruz, think it’s more important to stick around and finish what they were elected to do. Of which, by the way, they’ve done very little.
The only people calling for Flake to stay in the Senate are liberals like Ezra Klein.
Instead of achieving his fantasy, and the fantasies of Hollywood liberal movie producers, where the “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” speech stirs up a movement to patriotic fervor, and President Trump suddenly becomes a model civics lesson, Flake made a jackass of himself by making a speech without having the standing to give it properly.
He attacked the president (and yes, that part was somewhat right but useless) and did it in the worst possible, most ineffective, most self-damaging way. He publicly quit like a 15-year-old walking out of Taco Bell because the manager bullied him.
Ted Cruz was right to get in Flake’s (and Corker’s) face. But he only got it half right. Instead of “shut up and do your job” he should have said “shut up and go away,” because quitters are unreliable, and senators who deceive themselves into believing they are something they’re not are fools.
With a call for one sitting Republican senator to resign and announcement that he plans to back primary challengers for nearly every sitting Republican in the Senate, Steve Bannon, former White House strategist and past and present chairman of Breitbart News, has effectively declared war on the Republican Party. While ostensibly still backing President Trump, Bannon’s effort also includes challengers to some Trump allies.
Bannon’s primary target at the moment is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). After Corker and Trump engaged in a flame war on Twitter over the weekend, Bannon called for the Tennessean to resign for his disloyalty to President Trump. In a tweet, Corker, who is not running for re-election, likened the White House to a “day care center” and said in a New York Times interview that President Trump acted “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” and that his lack of diplomatic skills could put the world “on the path to World War III.”
“If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately,” Bannon told Sean Hannity on Fox News.
“This is what they think about President Trump behind closed doors,” Bannon added. “He happened to tell The New York Times exactly what he thought, it’s totally unacceptable. In a time of war, we have troops in Afghanistan, in the Northwest pacific and Korea. We have a major problem that could be like World War I in the South China Sea. In the Persian Gulf, we have American lives at risk every day.”
That Bannon equates Corker’s comments with all Republican incumbents provides insight into why he plans to try to unseat practically every Republican senator. The Washington Post notes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is reportedly the only senator who will not be fending off a Bannon-backed challenger, but a CNN source said, “Nobody’s safe.” Cruz was a favorite of Bannon’s Breitbart until Donald Trump usurped that role. Cruz angered many Trump supporters with his long-delayed endorsement of Donald Trump and his heated exchanges with Trump in the primary.
Breitbart quotes Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to the Great America Alliance and ex-White House aide, who said, “We’re planning on building a broad anti-establishment coalition to replace the Republican Party of old with fresh new blood and fresh new ideas.” The site notes that the Great America Alliance is a “pro-Trump Super PAC.”
The Breitbart article also quotes Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who said, “The conservative tidal wave that carried Donald Trump into the White House may soon be eclipsed by what appears to be a conservative tsunami that threatens the [Republican] establishment death grip on the U.S. Senate.”
Much of the antipathy to the “establishment” Republicans seems to stem from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) refusal to end the filibuster and change Senate rules to allow passage of bills with a simple majority, commonly referred to as the “nuclear option.” President Trump urged McConnell to change Senate rules in a tweet in August. Mr. McConnell told Politico in April, “There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one.”
Surabian hinted at the “nuclear option” when he noted, “The group of candidates we are looking to support in 2018 are all bound together in their agreement that the new Republican Party must be bold in their thinking and aggressive in their tactics.”
Bannon’s tactics have potential downsides. If his candidates defeat Republican incumbents in the primary, they still must win the general election. This could present a problem for some Bannon-backed candidates, particularly in moderate states. President Trump alluded to this risk in deep red Alabama when he campaigned for incumbent Luther Strange (R-Ala.) against primary challenger Roy Moore, who was supported by Bannon. With a slim majority of only two seats, Bannon’s war against Republican incumbents could tip the Senate to the Democrats.
A second problem is that, if Bannon’s plan succeeds and the filibuster is killed permanently, Democrats would have the same advantages the next time they are in power. President Trump’s agenda could be passed more easily without the cloture rule, but it would also be easier for the next Democrat majority to repeal Trump’s reforms and enact their own leftist agenda.
Bannon’s frontal assault on sitting Republicans brings the GOP civil war into the open. Trump supporters like Bannon are attempting to purge the party of traditional Republicans who represent the “establishment,” regardless of voting records or conservative credentials. CNN notes that even John Barasso (R-Wy.), typically considered a Trump ally, is a target of Bannon’s effort.
It is normally very difficult to unseat incumbents, but 2018 may be different. There may be additional retirements that leave open seats vulnerable to Bannon’s candidates. Further, polling shows that President Trump is far more popular among Republicans than congressional leaders. If Republican voters back primary challengers supported by Bannon and President Trump over party incumbents, it will signal a permanent shift in the direction of the Republican Party.
It’s safe to say any goodwill left between Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and President Donald Trump has gone out the window. On Sunday morning, Americans woke up to a series of Trump tweets directed at the outgoing senator.
Senator Bob Corker “begged” me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said “NO” and he dropped out (said he could not win without…
It’s not exactly clear what prompted the tweets from Trump this morning, but the declining relationship between the junior Republican senator and the president has been public for months now.
Way back when, things didn’t use to be this way between the two men. In the midst of the presidential election last year — when many GOP politicians were keeping their distance from Trump and his unconventional campaign — Corker was under consideration to be the real estate mogul’s running mate. Prior to meeting with the then-presidential candidate at Trump Tower in March of 2016, Corker had just publicly praised a foreign policy speech given by Trump.
While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was ultimately chosen for the running mate slot, the relationship between Corker and Trump seemingly remained strong. Immediately, following the election there was talk of Trump choosing Corker, currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to be Secretary of State.
The relationship has since deteriorated — apparently beginning with the fallout of the Charlottesville riots.
In August, following the president’s controversial response to the racially motivated riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, Corker ripped Trump in public comments. The Tennessee Republican said Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.” He also called for radical changes to be made in the White House. While the comments mimicked those of other GOP lawmakers, the denouncement appeared more harsh considering the warm relations between the two men.
Things only devolved from there.
Trump later knocked him on Twitter for the criticism, suggesting that Corker was having trouble in his home state and was asking for advice as to whether or not he should run for re-election.
Following a report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” Corker told reporters that Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were helping to “separate our country from chaos” — a sharp jab at the president.
Corker ultimately chose to announce his retirement, with his term ending in 2018. Sources to CNN said Trump’s claims that Corker had asked for his endorsement is false.
Despite running and winning the presidency as a Republican, Trump has not shied away from attacking GOP lawmakers. The president has used his twitter account to attack various GOP senators, such as Jeff Flake, John McCain, Dean Heller, Corker and others. Flake, the junior senator from Arizona, appears to be weathering the attacks horribly, per his sinking polling numbers. Heller, considered the most at-risk Republican up for election next year, faced unprecedented attack ads from a Trump-friendly super PAC.
Politico released audio of Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, calling on GOP donors to withhold campaign cash from Republican lawmakers who were not on board with the president’s agenda.
After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018.
When I ran for the Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms. Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult. But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me.
The two-term senator from Tennessee is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Before this announcement, there had been some speculation of a primary challenge from the right. Sen. Corker has drawn repeated criticism during his time in the Senate for betrayal of conservative principles and his support of moderate positions, despite coming from a strongly conservative state.
A long time saboteur of conservative legislation, it would take all day to list the ways he scuttled conservative legislation and broke campaign promises. But here are a few recent examples:
These are just a few of the big issues, in which he sided with liberals over the conservatives, who elected him.
Corker would periodically make public statements that espoused conservative ideas, but when push came to shove, he was usually a key vote in stopping conservatives and aiding liberals on Capitol Hill. Suffice it to say, he will not be missed by conservative voters.
Expect a major fight by Mitch McConnell and fellow moderates to keep a liberal Republican in that seat. Despite Tennessee’s strong conservative voting tendency, it will be a fight to get a real conservative, like Mike Lee or Ted Cruz, in there.
Republicans have not settled on a replacement plan for Obamacare and have yet to start seriously working on one according to a GOP senator. The promise to repeal and replace the unpopular health law was a major cornerstone of the Republican platform in last year’s election.
“To be honest, there’s not any real discussion taking place right now,” Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday.
When asked when he thought Republicans would start seriously working on an alternative to Obamacare, Corker said, “I have no idea. I’m not on a committee that deals with this … but I don’t see any congealing around ideas yet. And I think it’s fine that we take our time. I thought the The Wall Street Journal editorial today was dead on. I mean, we’re dealing with something that is very important, very complicated. It’s explosive if not handled properly, and we should take our time and do it right.”
Coming three months after the election, it is a bit disconcerting to hear that Republicans in Congress have not even started working on a replacement bill. After years of Obamacare’s skyrocketing premiums, rising deductibles and shrinking networks, Americans are impatient to fix the health insurance problem. While it’s understandable that there was no plan in November because no one thought the Republicans would take control of the federal government, it is not unreasonable to expect that a plan should be coming together after a quarter of a year has passed.
The lack of a plan seems to be more a result of Republican disorganization than a lack of commitment to repeal. Republicans disagree over whether a replacement plan is even necessary as soon as Obamacare is repealed. Some, such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), feel that a replacement could come after the repeal has passed. Others, such as President Trump, argue that repeal and replacement should occur simultaneously.
In fact, some Republicans have presented replacement plans already, but the plans differ in details and none has the full support of the party. The author of one such plan was Rep. Tom Price (D-Ga.), who has been nominated by President Trump as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. The process of crafting a replacement bill may speed up after Price’s confirmation.
President Trump campaigned on an immediate repeal of Obamacare, but recently downplayed expectations of swift movement on the health care law. “Obamacare doesn’t work. So we are putting in a wonderful plan. It’s statutorily … takes a while to get. We’re going to be putting it in fairly soon,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly in an interview last weekend. “I think that yes, I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year.”
The president’s comment that the Obamacare repeal process might extend into 2018 were overshadowed by his defense of Vladimir Putin in the same interview.
Although Republicans appear to remain committed to repeal of Obamacare, but they are no longer committed to doing it quickly. That may come as a shock to Republican voters who voted for a fast change.
We’ve seen this show before. In fact, it’s so familiar, I can’t believe the media still falls for this gag. President-elect Donald Trump floats the idea of Mitt Romney for Secretary of State, and the press goes student body left.
Then Kellyanne Conway tells the media how upset she is that her boss would betray his “loyalists” with his chief critic in such a high profile role.
Then MSNBC gets wind through “sources at the top” of how Trump is “furious” with Conway for her comments. Then Conway denied the reports in a statement: “It is all false. And it is sexist.”
I don’t think a better reality script could have been developed by Mark Burnett. (Oh, don’t you know that reality shows are micro-produced and basically scripted, although the “actors” can say what they want.*)
This entire sequence has the air of a set-piece, designed to throw the media off balance, keep the public guessing as to what Trump will do, and incite interest, trust, and belief in Trump’s team.
While the media is reporting that this is a circus, Trump goes on with his business. “Look, over there! A recount!”
“Wait! Over here, three million illegal votes!”
Now Trump is going to meet with Mitt Romney again. And Bob Corker. On Monday, Trump met with no less than four corporate chairmen/CEOs, an energy public policy wonk, Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta, and Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County.
Those of us who have been following Trump for 16-plus months get it, because we’ve seen this plot unfold before. It’s not a circus. It’s the Muppet Show, and the media is being controlled like Jim Hensen and Frank Oz controlled Kermit and Miss Piggy. He moves his hand, they open their mouths, and they speak his words.
Does anyone really think that Kellyanne Conway has gone rogue? Does anyone really believe that Stephen Bannon is twisting knives over Mitt Romney? Seriously? Bannon really was the sharpest tool in the shed at Harvard Business School, and he knows how to manipulate the media, almost as well as Trump himself.
Like all things in the Trump-universe, this is a hall of mirrors, where only a few people are inside on the entire illusion. The rest of us (and the media) get to see what they want us to see. And the media dutifully turn the cameras exactly where Trump directs. It’s a marvelous reality show unfolding right before our eyes.
It’s very possible that Mitt Romney will get the nod for secretary of state. Or retired Gen. David Petraeus. Or Corker, or Rudy Giuliani. Or even California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher?
The link on the tweet above will take you to an email archive which reads: “I have been told that I am under consideration to join President Trump’s team as Secretary of State.” It then implores you to take an online poll through Breitbart of various candidates for the job.
Talk about clickbait! This is the mother of all clickbait!
Just for fun, as of Monday night, the results are as follows:
John Bolton: 25.17%
Mitt Romney: 9.26%
Rudy Giuliani: 36.55%
Dana Rohrabacher: 6.14%
David Petraeus: 19.43%
Keep in mind that this is made up of Breitbart viewers, so the poll is somewhat skewed. Even so, Romney is doing quite respectably among the “loyalists.” I expected him to be around 0.5 percent.
But it’s all a show. I can’t tell you that Trump has made up his mind, but I can tell you that he’s not really listening to the noise around him. He’s probably listening to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, and most of all Jared Kushner. These are the people who get and keep Trump’s ear.
The rest of his mouthpieces are just doing their assigned tasks. They are reading from a script, albeit a reality show script, so they get to make up their own words as long as the plot advances.
I am continually impressed at Trump’s preternatural ability to freeze the press like Magic Johnson used to freeze defensive guards at the top of the key. It’s really fascinating to watch.
But don’t get too hung up on the drama. Remember: it’s a show. It’s for entertainment, just like The Apprentice. We can only hope that Trump makes the right appointments and nominations so real work can get done while he keeps churning out fresh drama every day.
I keep waiting for him to borrow the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. “I’ve chosen my cabinet. We have top men working on it right now.”
*I am fairly well acquainted with a former reality show contestant who told me the ongoing interviews are grueling. The producers ask questions, and you’re free to not answer, but then they ask you a different way again and again until you say what they want you to say. You might spend seven hours doing one of those 3 minute “private” segments. The shows are micro-produced, and essentially scripted, although the outcome isn’t known. Trump knows the ropes here, he’s done it for years.