The Roy Moore Mess

Without a new candidate, the GOP would be better off losing the Senate seat.

Several women have made detailed accusations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Moore, and multiple people now say he was known for trolling shopping malls for young girls while in his 30s. Mr. Moore’s public defenses have also been less than convincing, not least that he doesn’t know his latest accuser, though he signed her yearbook.

.. Mr. Moore to step away from the campaign and allow Alabama’s Republicans to put forth a more credible candidate to run as a write-in against Democrat Doug Jones. Most likely, Mr. Moore won’t do that. He made his reputation as an Alabama state judge by openly defying valid court orders

.. Democrats and the media will make Mr. Moore the running mate of every Republican in 2018.

.. For 25 years Democrats and feminists euphemized and apologized for Bill Clinton, starting with Gennifer Flowers before he was President. Republicans can show their standards are better.

.. Some have argued that the Bannon insurgency against the Republican “establishment” is in the mode of earlier party challenges led by Ronald Reagan or Newt Gingrich. This one isn’t close. The populism of Reagan and Mr. Gingrich was always about building the conservative movement into a majority that could govern and change the country.

.. The Bannonites have given no evidence or argument that they are aiming that high. They want to defeat the existing majority—a conservative majority by any historical standard—mainly to show that they can depose Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

They have no discernible governing agenda beyond trade protectionism and slashing immigration, and those often appear to be convictions of convenience. It is hardly a surprise therefore that instead of recruiting talented candidates, Mr. Bannon is collecting cranks and outliers like Roy Moore who, demonstrably, will take the GOP into the minority.

.. Raging against the establishment for the sake of raging is an agenda for losers, and it will cost conservatives the votes in Congress they need to achieve conservative goals.

The GOP Base Is Beyond Trump’s Control 

You can get elected as an outsider, but once in office, you have to actually govern.

The conservative movement is caught in a Catch-22 of its own making. In the war against “the establishment,” we have made being an outsider the most important qualification for a politician. The problem? Once elected, outsiders by definition become insiders. This isn’t just a semantic point. The Constitution requires politicians to work through the system if they’re going to get anything done.

.. Look at all the senators who rode the tea-party wave into power: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee. To one extent or another, they are now seen as swamp things, not swamp drainers, by the pitchfork populists.

.. Merely talking like a halfway responsible politician — “we don’t have the votes,” “we have to pay for it” — is proof of selling out. Trump bashes NBC News as ‘Fake News’ on Twitter

.. He wore the animosity of his colleagues, including the GOP leadership, like a badge of honor. He was the leader of the insurrectionists. He had only one problem: He talked like a creature of the establishment — largely because the Princeton- and Harvard-trained former Supreme Court clerk and career politician was one. He knew the lyrics to every populist fight song, but he couldn’t carry the tune.

..But not only did Donald Trump jump into the fray at the height of populist fervor, the field was also divided 17 ways. No one spoke less like a politician. No one who understood how governing works would have promised the things Trump promised

  • health coverage for all, for less money,
  • eliminate the debt,
  • bring all those jobs back, etc. —

because they’d either know or care that such things are literally impossible.

.. The establishment remains the villain and Trump the hero for his willingness to say or tweet things that make all the right people angry. For his most ardent supporters, the fault for his legislative failures lies entirely with the swamp, the establishment, or the “Deep State.”

.. he most important factor was Moore’s demonization of the establishment, particularly Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The voters valued sticking their thumbs in the establishment’s eye more than giving Trump a win.

.. there is remarkably little intellectual or ideological substance to the current populist fever. Strange was more conservative than Moore but less bombastic. Moore opposed Obamacare repeal and, until recently, couldn’t say what DACA was. In other words, MAGA populism is less of an agenda and more of a mood.

Trump Just Doesn’t Get It

It was brilliant and typically shrewd for the author of The Art of the Deal to take the very first offer the Democrats made and ask for nothing in return.

.. Less obsequious observers on the right claimed that this was the long-prophesied moment. The seventh seal had been broken. Donald Trump was “pivoting” at last. “The pivot is real and it’s spectacular!” proclaimed Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist.

.. The former New York Democrat holds no deep love for ideological conservatism, and many of his favorite issues — protectionism, infrastructure, etc. — are more naturally part of the Democratic portfolio.

.. For years, Republicans said that if they could win both Congress and the White House, there’d be nothing they couldn’t do. Whether this was a lie or just wishful thinking is debatable. Regardless, they failed for several reasons.

  1. The Republican majority in the Senate is much narrower than the Democratic majority was when Obama was elected.
  2. Many GOP leaders never thought Trump would win, and so they hadn’t prepared for victory.
  3. Also, the Republican party is divided along a host of fault lines,
  4. and a large swath of the Republican caucus has no experience at actually governing.
  5. .. The problem is there’s another reason Congress has disappointed the president and his most ardent supporters: Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing.

.. Trump is “being pulled in a bunch of different directions, and because he doesn’t have any strong ideological anchor, or deep knowledge of the issue, he ends up sort of not knowing what to do.” Instead, the president goes with his gut on everything, letting himself be baited by negative TV coverage.

The Week When President Trump Resigned

Trump resigned the presidency already — if we regard the job as one of moral stewardship, if we assume that an iota of civic concern must joust with self-regard, if we expect a president’s interest in legislation to rise above vacuous theatrics, if we consider a certain baseline of diplomatic etiquette to be part of the equation.

.. He abdicated his responsibilities so thoroughly and recklessly that it amounted to a letter of resignation. Then he whored for his Virginia winery on the way out the door.

.. Trump knew full well what he should have done, because he’d done it — grudgingly and badly — only a day earlier. But it left him feeling countermanded, corrected, submissive and weak, and those emotions just won’t do for an ego as needy and skin as thin as his.

.. On Tuesday he “relinquished what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: set a moral course to unify the nation,” wrote The Times’ Mark Landler

.. Did he place the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the same “moral plane” as those who showed up to push back at them?

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” Trump answered.

.. he never in fact wanted or set out to be president, not as the position is conventionally or correctly defined.

.. He revealed that repeatedly as he rejected the traditional rules and usual etiquette, refusing to release his tax returns, bragging about his penis size, feuding with the Muslim father of a fallen American soldier and electing puerility over poetry at nearly every meaningful moment.

.. All that time on Twitter wasn’t principally about a direct connection to voters. It was a way to stare at an odometer of approval and monitor, in real time, how broadly his sentiments were being liked and shared.

.. Applause. Greater brand exposure. A new layer of perks atop an existence already lavish with them. Utter saturation of Americans’ consciousness. These were his foremost goals. Governing wasn’t

.. He made clear that conflicts of interest didn’t trouble him, drawing constant attention to Trump properties

.. members of Congress who met with Trump about the repeal-and-replace of Obamacare were aghast at his ignorance of the legislation and of the legislative process itself.

.. A president is supposed to safeguard the most sacred American institutions, repairing them if need be. Trump doesn’t respect them. He has sought to discredit and disempower the judiciary, the free press, the FBI, the Congressional Budget Office. He even managed to inject politics into, and pollute, the Boy Scouts. This is the course of a tyrant.

.. I kept coming across variations on the verdict that he had “failed to lead,” and that phraseology is off. “Fail” and “failure” imply that there was an effort, albeit unsuccessful.

Donald Trump Deepens GOP Divide

President’s turbulent week fuels frustration in his party, though core supporters remain loyal

President Donald Trump’s tumultuous past week has widened rifts in his party, between those who vocally support the president’s combative style and others who bridle at it ..

.. After a week that included the president attacking his attorney general, the collapse of a GOP health bill, a surprise effort to bar transgender people in the military and a White House staff shakeup, divisions that were largely set aside at the start of 2017 have emerged anew.

..“Particularly among some of my former colleagues in the House, there is a frustration and lament about opportunities squandered in what should be a prime time for a GOP legislative agenda,” said former Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida.
..“They are going to stick with Trump—they like him the more combative he is and the more his back is against the wall,” he said. “He captured a very angry base, and Trump has mastered the suggestion that fighting and being angry is actually accomplishing results.”
.. Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) said that Republican leaders were complicit if they didn’t call out Mr. Trump for his behavior. “We can’t respond to everything,” he said. “But there are times when you have to stand up and say ‘I’m sorry. This is wrong.’ ”
.. On the other side are Republicans who echo Mr. Trump’s behavior and tone.Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas) last week suggested that he would have settled differences with Ms. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), who both made decisive votes against a GOP health plan, by challenging them to duels had they been male. Mr. Farenthold later apologized. Rep. Buddy Carter (R., Ga.), asked about Trump’s decision to attack Ms. Murkowski on Twitter over her “no” vote, used a confusing but coarse phrase that suggested resorting to physical assault.

.. Rep. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump, said that instead of turbulence, Mr. Trump last week “had one of the best weeks he has ever had.” Pointing to his calls to crack down on the street gang known as MS-13, Mr. Collins said that “he is addressing one of the scourges of America.”

.. Signs are emerging that the intraparty battle could threaten the party’s standing in the 2018 elections and the president’s beyond that. Mr. Jolly, the former Florida congressman, said he is part of a group discussing how to put together a primary challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020.
.. Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman and lieutenant governor of Maryland, said “the president is in his element when in front of a crowd of 40,000 instead of behind his desk dealing with the minutiae of governing. That’s not governing, that’s theater, a reality TV presidency.”