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.”
Donald Trump’s ‘look over there’ media strategy is a trap that keeps Democrats from focusing public attention on his bad policies.
We didn’t hear much about the administration’s secret plan to bypass Congress (and common sense) to give a giant tax break to Wall Street investors, a possible violation of the constitution and a betrayal of the president’s promises to stand up for the little guy. It’s the result of what I call the “Trump Trap.”
- He pledged to clean up the D.C. swamp, but he made it swampier.
- He said he would make health insurance better, but he actually asked a judge to strip it away from people with serious diseases like cancer and diabetes.
- His tax cuts ballooned C.E.O. salaries and stock buybacks, but real wages are still frozen.
.. But you wouldn’t know it from watching the news. That’s because his unnecessary insults and controversies create a constellation of outrages that deflect accountability for his actions.
.. A person you probably don’t remember is Cheryl Lankford, who also spoke at the convention. She lost her husband, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Lankford, to a heart attack while he was serving in Iraq. Left alone to raise their son, Ms. Lankford used her survivor benefits to enroll in Trump University, hoping Mr. Trump’s advice could jump start her career. After paying more than $30,000 in tuition, she got no training. Like so many Americans, she thought Mr. Trump could improve her economic future, but he swindled her and thousands of others. Now the swindle is happening on an epic scale.
.. we tried to get out of the way of the negative coverage of Mr. Trump and his outrageous comments about Mr. Khan.
But the result was that people heard his message, not ours. So much so that after the election, some people thought Mrs. Clinton never talked about people’s economic lives. But she did. It just went into the black hole of the Trump Trap.
.. Mr. Trump never attacked Cheryl Lankford or the other people suing Trump University. Instead, he disparaged the Latino judge in the case, so we spent a week talking about how racist he is, not about how he had cheated working people.
.. Mr. Trump will say and do things that demand a response from anyone who values decency and morality. The result is that he decides what gets attention — and he’s not held accountable.
.. Third, we Democrats have to pick fights that highlight Mr. Trump’s malfeasance. When the president seeks to take away health insurance from seniors or people with cancer, we can’t let that go unnoticed.
.. Candidates: Beware the Trump Trap. The president has promised to spend a majority of his time campaigning this fall. He will call you names. He will come at you with outrage after outrage. It will be very tempting to wear this as a badge of honor to reap the rewards of social media attention and campaign donations. You will think he is drowning in backlash. But
Candidates: Beware the Trump Trap. The president has promised to spend a majority of his time campaigning this fall. He will call you names. He will come at you with outrage after outrage. It will be very tempting to wear this as a badge of honor to reap the rewards of social media attention and campaign donations. You will think he is drowning in backlash. But he will really just be making the debate about anything other than his own failings or the lives of the voters you wish to represent. Your vision and motivations will be obscured and vulnerable to subterfuge.
Before you give Mr. Trump more rope, make sure the debate is on your terms, not his.
Live in Helsinki, Trump brings his blame-America-first tour to a close... let me admit that my absolute top take away was that at a critical moment in modern American history, our president managed to mention his winning margin in the Electoral College.
Bret: Also, I’m thinking about just what Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and the rest of right-wing punditry would be saying if it had been President Barack Obama at that podium, saying the sort of things Trump was saying, not to mention the way he said it.
.. They’d call him the Manchurian Candidate. They’d accuse him of treason. They’d call for an armed insurrection or something close to it. They’d say he hates America. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Here is a president of the United States who repeatedly blames America first; who takes the word of a former K.G.B. agent over his own intelligence agencies; who promises to work constructively with a despot whose regime
- kills journalists,
- shoots down civilian airliners and
- uses nerve agents to assassinate its enemies abroad;
and who aims his rhetorical fire on an opposing party instead of an enemy government. And the Make America Great Again crowd, with an exception or two, says pretty much nothing, or averts its gaze, or switches the subject.
.. John Brennan has noted, “people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”
.. The thought that the government — our government — just put this child through that trauma for no other reason than Jeff Sessions’ fantasy that it will “deter” desperate migrants or otherwise help Stephen Miller work out his manhood issues turns my stomach as nothing else has in a long time. That a majority of Republicans support the policy turns it even more.
In some ways, this worries me a lot more than whatever Putin and his cyber-armies might be trying to do to us. Putin is a former KGB agent, so at least he’s playing to type. It’s the trashing of democratic values from the inside that concerns me even more.
.. During his press conference in the U.K. with Theresa May, he warned Europe to watch out for immigration because it was “changing the culture.” It was such a pathetic call for racism to rise up. And then of course he blamed Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim mayor, for encouraging terrorism.
.. I guess that, as horrific as I find the stories about those poor kids being tormented at the border, I’m even more disturbed by the way our president is trying to promote this kind of ideology around the world.
.. it’s also important to understand why they’ve gained so much strength recently. The key is their ability to traffic in half-truths, to pick up on a legitimate issue and put it to an illegitimate end.
.. That’s why I think calls in the United States to “abolish ICE” are so dangerous: They create the impression that Democrats want unregulated migration, as opposed to a generous but lawful immigration policy. And that just helps Trump and the Bannonites.
.. Gail: For most Democrats, “abolish ICE” is just shorthand for getting rid of the Trump anti-immigration agenda. Although I do agree we could use a better code. Perhaps involving a quote from the Statue of Liberty.
.. in California, their state of nearly 40 million people is only going to be represented by two senators, which is exactly the same number as Wyoming, population 579,315. I keep harping on the fact that the real division in this country is between the empty-places people and the crowded-places people. Us crowded folk are virtually disenfranchised.
.. I think Democrats need to find a way to change the conversation about immigration, in two ways. First, stop feeding the perception that immigration is an act of humanitarianism by the United States. It’s a matter of self-interest: Newcomers mainly bring energy and drive and imagination and ambition to this country. Second, accept the premise that we need to police our borders, while making the case that we can police them better with a much more liberal system that diminishes the incentive to come into the country illegally.
.. Gail: And maybe we can get somebody from Mar-a-Lago to testify on how hard it is to get affordable help.
But this protracted battle, now entering a fourth day, is testing the limits of his bullying, no-apologies political approach in a way no other self-inflicted wound or crisis has.
.. “I understand they challenged him, but there’s some things you just can’t win and you shouldn’t engage in. [Trump] wanted to change the subject to radical Islamic terrorism — which is what this guy died fighting. He just can’t win the argument and needs to shut up about it, but his personality won’t allow him to do that.
.. Over the weekend, longtime Trump ally Roger Stone suggested that a link between the Khans and the Muslim Brotherhood. (In a later Tweet, Stone issued a “correction” to instead accused Khizr Khan of being linked to a Saudi financier of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.)
.. But by doing this, he’s really hurting himself in his efforts to woo undecided voters.”
.. Trump’s chorus of prominent Republican critics includes few leaders who are ready to rescind their endorsements of him altogether. And they may hold firm until Trump begins to hurt their own reelection chances or standing with constituents.
.. “But if they flat-out reject him, they risk alienating a significant portion of their base.”
.. His pivot, however, was not to attacking Clinton, but rather to a lengthy riff in which he bragged about winning the GOP primary, slammed CNN and spoke angrily about his supposed mistreatment by the media.
He also suggested, for the first time, that November’s election will be “rigged” against him.