I’m still confident Trump will not be this year’s GOP presidential nominee — and, after he got dinged in last week’s debate, the rightbloggers who oppose him should be, too, at least a little. But they remain rattled — by Chris Christie’s endorsement, and by their own doubts, including some about what they do want besides Trump.
After Trump’s South Carolina victory, and facing a potentially bigger one on the multi-primary Super Tuesday on March 1, prestige rightbloggers who consider Trump a threat to true conservatism (or to their sinecures, depending on how you look at it) hurled advice at the #2 and #3 contestants, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
At National Review Charles C.W. Cooke demanded Cruz and Rubio “all-but-machine-gun the man to the floor” and suggested some approaches, including the dark art of comedy. For example, Cooke offered: “Trump’s mother was Scottish, can he really be president?”
See, because Trump said Cruz was…oh, never mind; the idea wasn’t to actually be funny, but to use funny-type material as kryptonite to the bully Trump. (I think they got the idea from Saul Alinsky.) Cooke’s NR colleagues concurred: “Don’t be afraid to mock him, and mock his tactics — even before he uses them,” urged Peter Spiliakos. “The Time Has Come to Heap Scorn and Mockery on Trump…[Rubio and Cruz] must laugh at his kindergarten-level grasp of national-security policy,” Mark Antonio Wright commanded. “…laugh at him for not knowing what the nuclear triad is, and guffaw at his inept attempt to revitalize Atlantic City.” And when laughs and guffaws fail, titter and snicker! Let’s see some teeth, people!
Came the February 25 debate and Rubio and Cruz, it seemed, heeded their cry, with Rubio especially cracking on Trump like Martin scoring on Bart in “Grade School Confidential,” and filling the brethren with hope.
Rubio “stripped bare for the public the person who was once thought as the consummate ‘alpha male in the room,'” crowed Daniel Horowitz at Conservative Review. “This debate is basically the one where Rocky draws blood on Ivan Drago for the first time,” gushed Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner. “[Rubio] went after [Trump] with a chainsaw,” giggled Jonathan V. Last of the Weekly Standard. “And Ted Cruz brought a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.”
Cooke was most pleased. “Yes, yes, yes — in theory I would prefer our politicians to be fighting each other solely on policy,” he said. “But as a practical matter I’m not remotely offended by Rubio’s smiling mockery, or even by his more ‘juvenile’ offerings.” Whatever works, even if it’s what the punters call “jokes”!
After the debate, Rubio kept up the insult comedy, employing playground zingers such as “[Trump] should sue whoever did that to his face” and suggesting Trump had urinated on himself during the debate.
But then Chris Christie fucked it all up by endorsing Trump. Rightblogger reactions were swift and hilarious.
“The only lingering question about Christie is how many of his flirtations with conservative policies were products of genuine interest and how many were pure opportunism,” seethed Allahpundit at Hot Air. “From Great Republican Hope To Big Fat Dope: The Chris Christie Story,” snarled Jamie Weinstein at the Dally Caller. “The 500-pound wonder from Joisey has endorsed el Trumpo,” burped the Right Scoop.
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post lashed out at “Chris Christie’s despicable endorsement of Trump…I have probably interviewed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie more times for more hours than any journalist outside New Jersey. You can understand my shock, then, when a man who claimed to be serious about public service…” and then she broke down and couldn’t go on. Kidding! She said a bunch of other how-could-you guff (“None will be as morally culpable as Christie if Trump succeeds…no matter how cynical one becomes about politics, it seems never to be enough”) before ending: “Shame on him.” At least they made it through Valentine’s Day.
Some rightbloggers gamed out nuclear options. “If the hostile takeover [by Trump] succeeds,” tweeted the Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso, “there will a market for a 3rd man (or woman). GOP candidates down-ticket will need it, in fact.” “#Romney2016?” asked the Paradox Project. “Could do worse,” responded Freddoso. “Has to be someone with name recognition, and ideally some money of his own to spend.”
Others turned on the remaining GOP candidates who, in their view, were messing up their anti-Trump plans by drawing votes from the more plausible Cruz and Rubio. “These pro-life Christian candidates can do nothing by staying in the race except help a biblically illiterate, thrice-divorced, proud philanderer hurtle ever closer to the nomination,” David French shame-shamed at National Review.
At Hot Air, Jason Hart laid into John Kasich’s “lack of organization, lack of funding, single-digit poll numbers, and thinly veiled hatred of Republican primary voters.” “AWKWARD! John Kasich throws a KASICH-TANTRUM with Megyn Kelly and LOSES!” headlined the Right Scoop. “For the good of the country, now is the time for Kasich to withdraw,” intoned Ken Falkenstein at Bearing Drift.
Maybe Kasich thought defunding Planned Parenthood in Ohio last week would get these guys off his back, but RedState actually headlined their coverage, “Thanks for Signing Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood, Kasich. Now Please, Drop Out.”
As for Ben Carson, rightbloggers began to admit what I have been telling you good people for months: Carson’s book-tour-cum-presidential-campaign is essentially a — how shall we say — enhanced-earnings opportunity for the neurasthenic neurosurgeon.
NR’s Cooke suggested Carson had “put the construction of his own political shopping network above the country he supposedly loved.” “Confirmed: Ben Carson’s Campaign Is a Scam,” cried the Lonely Conservative, quoting, of all sources, the Atlantic. “Every Day Carson Remains in the Race Is Further Proof That His Campaign Is a Scam,” sputtered RedState. Well, there goes the black vote.
But which true anti-Trump, then, should be the nominee? Some of the brethren hoped for a deal, any deal, between Cruz and Rubio.
Guy Benson at TownHall suggested Rubio take the lead, offering Kasich the VP slot — and Cruz a Supreme Court appointment. But Benson knew Cruz’s fellow senators, who’d have to clear Cruz for SCOTUS, despise him, and might “reject him out of spite.” And, he added, “If that’s the case, what does that say about [Cruz’s] prospects to win the presidency, let alone govern?” Well, I’m convinced, but who’s gonna tell Cruz?
“Rubio Needs to Move Aside for Cruz, Not Vice Versa,” insisted D.C. McAllister at the Federalist. Rather than make the case for Cruz’s popularity — the best she could do was say “Cruz is more electable than people assume” — McAllister asserted that if Cruz dropped out too many of his votes would go to Trump for Rubio to win. Plus, like Benson, she admitted the Supreme Court was out because Cruz’s fellow senators hate him.
Ben Shapiro, on the other hand, thought Rubio should get the nod and Cruz take VP — or maybe SCOTUS, though “given how many enemies he has in the Senate,” said Shapiro, “[Cruz] knows he can’t count on them to confirm him even if nominated.”
Boy. What’s it say that even conservatives admit everyone Cruz works with winds up hating him?
Even amidst this anti-Trump agitation — which the excitable Cooke compared to Agincourt and World War II — some of the brethren were still splitting the difference between Trump the candidate and Trump as Will and Idea. Perhaps, they thought, the short-fingered vulgarian had something to offer the party, philosophically at least.
“There are parts of Trumpism I want the GOP to adopt,” said Ace of Spaces. “For example, I’m tired of the fucking GOP acting as if it is its God-given role to wage Holy War on the American working man, as if they straight-up hate them.” By this, he meant immigration; Trump was unserious about it, claimed Spades, and “that’s why he didn’t put the ‘Ban Muslims’ line in a more palatable, persuasive form…No, he put it in the most bigoted, ugly way he could think of, because that’s about his level, and because, also, that’s what he thinks ‘conservatives’ are.” And, awkwardly, became the GOP front-runner, he might have added.
At the Federalist, Bill James repeated some standard-issue slurs on Trump but announced that, though he would not vote for him, “what Trump is advocating, I believe, is courage…” And by courage, he meant that Trump, like James, was against “a class of professional do-gooders who have made a lot of rules for the rest of us” — which rules James didn’t really explain, though he did stress that he himself was not racist, not like some people had suggested, and “we are becoming a nation of whiners.” Also: “You don’t like Guantanamo? Tough shit. The rest of the world doesn’t approve of water boarding? Tough shit. That, I think, is what Donald Trump is saying…”
All kinds of things can happen, but lately I’ve been amusing myself with one possible scenario: The rightbloggers get one of their preferred nominees and, as Hillary cuts him to pieces, they begin to wish aloud: If only Trump were running…