By Justin Hart
February 12, 2024
Political Echos of the Past
Here's a fun family factoid I recently learned: my parents' first date was on the occasion of RFK (Sr., not Jr.) visiting BYU in 1968 for a presidential campaign tour across Utah campuses. My dad, a part of the BYU student leadership, served as RFK's chauffeur for the day, even taking him skiing at Sundance. This early breakfast date led to a marriage that, 55 years later, has resulted in 4 children, 20 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. What a start to their journey together!
This historical anecdote is particularly resonant now, as we find ourselves in a similar political predicament. Just as LBJ withdrew from the race three days after RFK's visit, we're now witnessing a new chapter in political history unfold. A special counsel assigned to investigate Joe Biden's handling of classified documents has decided not to press charges, citing significant memory lapses during interviews as a key factor in their decision.
The special counsel made the determination that they would not be seeking charges against President Biden. And here's why:
In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden's memory was worse. He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (if it was 2013 - when did I stop being Vice President?"), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began in 2009, am I still Vice President?"). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him. Among other things, he mistakenly said he "had a real difference" of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Biden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving memo to President Obama. In a case where the government must prove that Mr. Biden knew he had possession of the classified Afghanistan documents after the vice presidency and chose to keep those documents, knowing he was violating the law, we expect that at trial, his attorneys would emphasize these limitations in his recall.
They went on to say:
I have never been a strong believer in political conspiracies. I attribute most of these issues to incompetence rather than malice or conniving. The specter of some puppet master secretly waiting for a Trump nomination, so they could shuffle in a useful Gavin Newsom to represent the Democrats seems to be far-fetched. The rumors about Michelle Obama taking the helm were even more delirious as if we needed more representation from the Obamas in the White House anyway. (Key staff members of Biden's White House are longtime Obama acolytes). Trump's War on C... Best Price: $35.96 (as of 01:01 UTC - Details)
But now, there is real purported evidence that might just marginalize President Biden. Of course, there are a hundred million reasons why Biden might stay in the White House, and all of them are in the bank between the DNC and his campaign. Who knows what would transpire then! And then, what do you do with Kamala?
The promised geriatric reprisal of Trump versus Biden might seem in doubt. Although I wouldn't bet against it.
Obama's Terrible Coattails
Speaking of Obama, there are many parts of this country that consider him one of the greatest presidents of all time. I do not subscribe to that view, but I can understand his inclination to do so, given the vestige he holds as the first elected Black president. But if you're a Democrat, you might remember it differently, especially if you were in politics. Obama has, perhaps, one of the worst records down-ticket over his two-term tenure as president. Nearly 1,000 congressional, state, and Senate assembly seats were lost over eight years.
The Tea Party was born, and even though Mitt Romney lost, 2012 and 2014 were still fortuitous years in many respects for the Republican Party and terrible outcomes for the Democrats.
The Left was blindsided. Smart conservatives like Matt Margolis, Dinesh D'Souza, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and David Limbaugh wrote scathing books with inside scoops, first-hand interviews, and great journalism. Online journalism made its heyday in those years and led to incredible investigative works that really took a bite out of Obama's prestige. The Tea Party was born, and a wave of strong Republican senators came into power. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee... the list goes on and on. Then Congressman DeSantis made his debut in 2012, along with a host of vigorous constitutional-defending Republicans. It was a great time to be on the Right! Fellow Gen X-ers represent!
The Tables are Turned
The shoe is now on the other foot. Massive volumes of former staffers, cabinet members, and insiders (and Trump himself!) are galvanizing the Left - because the record of his actions in the White House is shocking and frankly, disqualifying for a second term.
My readers here are very familiar with my main beef with President Trump: the decisions he made during Covid. From my November 2022 WSJ Op-Ed:
Mr. Trump did very little to constrain this overreach. His dramatic Covid order shut down your business, barred your kids from school, denied you access to your church, your gym and your coffee shop. It suppressed screenings and treatments for cancer and other illnesses and kept people from visiting loved ones in the hospital or attending their funerals.
But it goes beyond that. I've had the chance to delve into numerous books over the last six months about President Trump's behavior in office. For me, this was the first time I had ever heard any of these stories. But I'm told on the left, they know these very well.
We're about to be blindsided
Here's one pressing example. On Twitter, I sometimes have to couch this in a bit of satire, but here I give you the straight shot.
Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump's Secretary of Homeland Security, refused to "shut down the border" as Trump demanded. In part, it was not possible. It was not legal. Then, there was an incident where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals went against Trump on some immigration ruling. And Trump thought... How do we cancel that court?
That is perhaps one of the tamer experts I read from the book "The Decider" by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.
Here's another excerpt from another book about another topic in the news, the chairman of the Republican party Rona McDaniels
It was a rocky road after the 2020 election. As Trump left the White House for Mar-a-Lago, Ronna rang him on the plane. Trump blurted out: "I'm starting my own party!" This is from Jonathan Karl's recent book: "Tired of Winning"
You might chalk this up to made-up stories by admittedly left-leaning authors but you should know that Jonathan Carl records all his conversations. Many of these quotes and stories are from the people firsthand. In fact, on his audiobook for his book, he includes interviews that he did with President Trump. Please note that only four of the 40+ cabinet secretaries who served in the Trump administration have endorsed him.
Trump knows how to fight, though! Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty is his mantra! You never wanna get on Trump's bad side. Jeff Session's recusal triggered the special counsel. From then on he was a traitor (in Trump's eyes). Behind closed doors, Trump called Sessions "Mr. Magoo." He called the Senator a "dumb Southerner" and "mentally retarded." In public, called him "beleaguered" and "VERY weak," termed his handling of the Justice Department "DISGRACEFUL," and even questioned his masculinity.
Trump's hiring practices were not great:
Well, we can all appreciate the authentic honesty that Trump brought to politics. But in my opinion, his brawl-style lowball hitting is not great for a country or certainly not our party or for our Team Reality movement.
I think my friend Mary Katharine Ham said it best when she surmised, "It's like the Republicans were tired of getting bullied, so they found the biggest bully they could and elected him President."
But I'm a good soldier, and I've always stuck with a mantra: vote for the best Conservative candidate on the ticket who could win. That person, of course, was Ron DeSantis, but alas, we have defaulted to Trump again.
When I say that Trump is not great for our party, let me be specific. Since taking office in 2017, here are the numbers:
The Republican Party has gone from:
- 34 to 24 governorships
- 68 to 55 state leg chambers
- 26 to 22 Republican trifectas
- 5 to 17! Democrat trifectas
- 241 to 222 Reps
- 52 to 49 Senators
- 1 President to no President
A "trifecta" is when a single party dominates both the governor's mansion and both bi-cameral bodies in the state legislature. The Democrats have gone from 5 to 17 trifectas, and most of that happened in the years of 2017 to 2020.
This is the dilemma: boiled down:
- A soundly defeated Biden is the healthiest outcome for our movement in the SHORT TERM.
- A soundly defeated Trump is the healthiest outcome for our movement in the LONG TERM.
My gaze has been on the distant horizon, where is yours?
But if this is a Trump vs. Newsom fight, this becomes a different game altogether.