John McCain and the End of Romantic Conservatism

McCain’s deepest idealism, which he reserves for nato and the defense of the West, is not much shared in the Republican Party now, subsumed as it is by Trump and nationalist retrenchment.

.. the homage has been so personal that it has obscured the political matters of why the President continues to make an enemy of him, and of what conservatism will lose when McCain is gone.

..  “I’ve worked for him for thirty years, I’ve listened to him so much. I can impersonate the guy,” Salter said. “In terms of pop-culture sensibility, it’s more Rat Pack—kind of smart-ass, a little bit of a wiseguy. But he can also be quite sentimental. He’s like a romantic cynic. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. It comes out of this grand-gesture sensibility.”

.. He’s seen the very worst that humanity can produce and he expects it at any moment. And it gives him a sensibility—that’s why he can identify with these hopeless causes in Belorussia or wherever. He knows how to hold on to hope when it’s for suckers.”

..  I asked what, for McCain, had been the worst moment of Trump’s ascendance. “The Khans,” Salter said.

.. the event that stuck with him most, Salter said, was a reënlistment and naturalization ceremony that David Petraeus held in Iraq on the Fourth of July, in 2007, for soldiers who had yet to become citizens. “And there were two pairs of boots on two chairs,” Salter said. “Two guys who were about to become citizens but they were killed that week. And he’s told me that story a hundred times and he cries every time he tells that story. Petraeus had some line—‘They died for their country before it was their country.’ It was like a gut punch to him. That’s who the Khans’ son was to him.”

.. McCain spent the months after Trump’s Inauguration on an international reassurance tour, telling overseas allies the story that some Republicans in Washington were telling themselves—that Trump’s authoritarianism would be constrained by those around him, that this was a phase that would pass. “He has a lot of faith in Mattis,”

.. McCain, without naming the President, delivered a broadside against Putin, Trump, and the national retrenchments across the West that struck some valedictory notes. “I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries,” McCain said. “I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it.”

.. “That speech was really, ‘Hey, this thing we’ve done together is the greatest thing an alliance of nations has ever done in history. Be proud of it. It’s worth preserving. Don’t give up on us.’ ” Of course the nativism he so despised had taken hold of his own political party, and his choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential nominee marked an obvious pivot toward Trumpism.

.. It fell to Salter and Rick Davis, another longtime aide, to inform McCain: “We told him, ‘If you get the flu, you’re not going to survive it, John.’ ”

.. By the late nineties, journalists had the outline of the character: the war hero possessed by regrets. “One of the traits McCain’s staff finds most maddening in their boss is his tendency to recall for journalists only his most damning moments,” Michael Lewis wrote, in 1997. “Ask him about Vietnam and he’ll tell you about the time he stole a washrag from the guy in the adjoining cell. Ask him about his first marriage and he’ll leap right to his adultery.”

.. Conservatives could celebrate the extremity of McCain’s patriotism, and liberals could detect a recognition that war breaks men.

.. McCain’s story was one small way that Americans reconciled themselves to the waste and failure of Vietnam, and it was this reconciliation that Trump went after when he said his own war heroes were the men who hadn’t been captured. Trump imagines war without suffering, which leaves no room for McCain.

.. The closest thing that McCain has to an heir is the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who is a former military lawyer and shares McCain’s faith in American power, but who is also a more conventional partisan figure and has at times sided with Trump (including, most recently, about his decision to revoke the security clearance of former C.I.A. director John Brennan).

.. Lindsey really believes,” Salter said. “But he always makes a joke of it—‘We’ve got to get out of here, they’re going to kill us.’ ”

I said, trying to get the contrast between McCain and Graham right, “So McCain’s the more—”

Salter cut me off. He said, “The more romantic.”

 

The Myth of Conservative Feminism

While groundbreaking in the literal sense, there is nothing feminist about a woman who oversaw a site where detainees were tortured, someone who refuses to say whether she believes torture is immoral. In the same way, there is nothing “empowering” about Ms. Scott, a media executive who reportedly enforced a “miniskirt rule” for female on-air talent, and who was cited in two lawsuits for contributing to a toxic work environment and retaliating against a sexual harassment victim.

Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power.

The real political duplicity here is Republicans’ continued efforts to co-opt feminist language while actively curtailing women’s rights.

.. Conservatives appropriating feminist rhetoric despite their abysmal record on women’s rights

.. In our eagerness to make feminism more friendly to the mainstream, we didn’t fully consider what it would mean if any woman could claim the label.

.. Now that feminism is more culturally and politically powerful than it has been in decades, however, conservatives are eager to capitalize on its cachet. Or wield it as a cudgel.

.. The conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, for example, has said that any woman who doesn’t support Ivanka Trump’s business because of her father’s policies isn’t “really a feminist.”

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, blasted any Democrat “who claims to support women’s empowerment” but opposed Ms. Haspel’s nomination as “a total hypocrite.”

.. In 2015, conservative female leaders leveled the same criticism at women’s rights advocates for not rallying around Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid.

.. It’s a hollow argument from the Republican Party, which does next to nothing to prioritize women’s representation. The truth is that while feminism need not be complicated .. it is not for everyone.

.. Women like Gina Haspel and Suzanne Scott have certainly benefited from the movement; without feminism, they very likely wouldn’t have the jobs they have now. But taking advantage of feminist wins does not make someone a feminist.

.. You cannot be a feminist and support an immigration policy of taking children away from undocumented immigrant mothers.

You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.

.. Amassing professional power at the expense of other women isn’t feminism — it’s self-interest.

.. Now we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation. We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding “anything a woman does” — even hurting other women — then it means nothing.

Is Trump the Second Coming of Reagan?

Fox News’s Bret Baier wants you to think he just might be.

.. Bret Baier, chief political anchor of Fox News, President Trump’s favorite network, insists he isn’t living in some alternate reality. He knows that our current President is louder, cruder, and ruder than Ronald Reagan, “a counterpuncher” from New York far different from his genial Republican predecessor.

.. Right before our conversation, Baier had appeared on the radio with Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host who reveres Reagan so much he refers to him as Ronaldus Magnus. Limbaugh waxed on to Baier about “the parallels” between two different men, and Baier agreed. “Exactly,” he said. “One thing you can say is, like Reagan, Trump has changed the paradigm. I mean, the jury’s still out on the end result, but the game changed in the way Washington worked.”

.. Since the start of Trump’s outsider campaign to remake the Republican Party in his own image, his partisans have branded him a Reagan for our times—a brasher and brusquer one, perhaps, but like Reagan in that they were both renegades who fought the party establishment and politically revitalized the G.O.P. with a new coalition of former Democrats like themselves. This is the “heads were exploding then, heads are exploding now” part of Baier’s argument.

.. An establishment figure no less than James Baker, Reagan’s first-term White House chief of staff, has said that Trump’s ascendance reminded him of Reagan’s; he made the remark during a lunch before Nancy Reagan’s funeral, in 2016, as Trump was in the midst of trouncing sixteen other Republicans to take the nomination of a party whose leaders had hardly welcomed him.

.. when they met in the spring of 2016, Baker handed Trump a two-page memo full of advice, which Trump promptly ignored.

  1. .. “Number one,” Adelman told me, “Reagan was a Republican. Number two:
  2. Reagan was a conservative and it’s clear Trump is not. Number three:
  3. Reagan was a very, very decent person…. And number four:
  4. basically, Reagan was very competent.”

.. Kristol told me the Republican whom President Trump most resembles is not Ronald Reagan, but Richard Nixon. “I would say Trump is more like Nixon, though it’s unfair to Nixon in that Nixon was a more serious person,” Kristol said. “He’s more Nixon than Reagan, but of course a much degraded version of Nixon.”

.. In Republican circles, Reagan’s brand remains as golden as the lettering on Trump Tower. The endless Fox News segments with pictures of Reagan and Trump flashing on screen together certainly give the impression of a well-timed and not particularly subtle image-burnishing campaign.

.. A report in New York magazine that was released before we met claimed that Sean Hannity, the Fox prime-time star, talks to the President on the phone as frequently as several times a day, often at night before they go to bed.

 

Trump’s New Solicitor General Could Fire Russia Investigator Robert Mueller

Francisco was a partner at Jones Day, which Bloomberg Businessweek has called“Trump’s favorite law firm.” The outlet reported in March that at least 14 lawyers from the firm had joined the Trump administration or had been nominated to do so, including Don McGahn, the White House counsel.

.. lawyers from “Trump’s favorite” firm contributed only $7,422 to Trump’s campaign, compared to $267,899 to Hillary Clinton’s.

.. Francisco also is an expert at the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarians in the legal world. The executive vice president, Leonard Leo, is said to have secured the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch and FBI Director Christopher Wray also are listed as experts there. Francisco has donated thousands of dollars to federal election candidates, all Republicans, though not to Trump.

..  Ted Cruz, who once worked with Francisco at the law firm Cooper & Kirk. “He’s a brilliant lawyer & a principled conservative.”