If you want to see the differences and the similarities between the old school GOP leaders and the new breed, you have to look no further than the two most powerful Republicans in the land, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Former President Donald Trump, both of whom gave sit-down interviews this week.
McConnell spoke with Jonathan Swan at Axios while Trump was questioned by Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post. The two septuagenarian leaders don't speak the same language and they don't like each other at all but they both want the same thing: power. Their public approach to getting it couldn't be more different but I have a suspicion that if they both end up back on top they'll find a way to get what each of them wants.
Dawsey has been covering Trump down in Mar-a-Lago and reported on a party earlier this week in which Trump henchman David Bossie premiered his new film, "Rigged: The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump," produced by his group Citizens United. (Recall that the famous court case which unleashed unlimited money into U.S. elections revolved around another Citizens United film called, "Hillary the Movie.") Dawsey describes a festive get-together in which servers offered up bottomless glasses of Trump wine as paying guests strolled throughout the grounds hoping to catch a glimpse of Dear Leader who was "ebullient" at the prospect of the film. The party was basically a reunion of prominent Big Lie promoters from around the country, all of whom were there to feed Trump's delusional insistence that he actually won the 2020 election. Bossie repeatedly introduced Trump as "45th and 47th president of the United States" and told the group, "Some of the people here say we shouldn't be talking about 2020. I think it's vital that we do. If we don't prove what happened in 2020, how can we stop it from happening again." Joe Biden won the election fair and square but among these people, proof is in the eye of the beholder.
All the grifters, hangers-on and grasping operatives will carry on regardless, bilking the true believers out of their money and pretending they can alter reality simply with repetition and lies. It is becoming the Trump operation's overarching modus operandi and while it may not work on a majority of Americans, it's fully accepted among the followers. Here's an example of it from former congressional accomplice and current CEO of Trump Media Devin Nunes:
In reality, however, it is exactly the opposite.
Trump's social media platform Truth Social is a ghost town and Twitter is doing just fine. But in Trumpworld all you have to do is say what you want reality to be and it is.
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Dawsey got Trump to sit down for an interview the day after the party and he clearly had an agenda. If I had to guess, he is a bit concerned about the January 6th Committee and feels the need to set his own narrative of his behavior that day before the public hearings begin next month. He said he has no regrets about calling for the rally on January 6th, going on and on about the "yuge" size of it as usual, claiming that the fake news refuses to acknowledge just how enormous it was, and insists that he really wanted to lead the march to the Capitol with the crowd but that the Secret Service wouldn't let him.
"I would have done it in a minute," Trump told Dawsey.
First of all, Trump hasn't walked that far in decades. He drives his golf cart on to the green so he doesn't have to walk six feet. Second of all, he defied the Secret Service dozens of times during the pandemic, holding super spreading events all over the country and sickening dozens of agents in the process. I don't think we'll ever know if he said it to get the crowd to go down there and storm the place or if it just sounded good to him in the moment to say he would "lead" them, but had he really wanted to do it, he could have.
"I would have done it in a minute."
He also claimed the insurrection was solely the fault of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who failed to provide adequate protection from Trump's rabid mob when they trashed the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
"I hated seeing it," Trump said of that day. "I hated seeing it. And I said, 'It's got to be taken care of,' and I assumed they were taking care of it."
He, of course, did not hate seeing it and we know this because of reports from many people on that day who tried and failed to get him to step up and call off the dogs. For some reason everyone, including his daughter, thought the president of the United States had some influence over that crowd and when he finally relented and put out a lame video telling everyone that he loved them because they were so special but it was time to go home, they did.
As Twitter wag, @nycsouthpaw put it, "Trump in every interview is like Col. Jessup but 5x stupider, and no prosecutor in America has the stones to subpoena him."
Why is that?
Underneath it all Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are the same: ruthless, self-serving, power-hungry brutes.
Trump's lie about that day is as big as his lie about the election but he believes that by just saying out loud that up is down and black is white, he will make it so. And apparently, tens of millions of people are susceptible to this monumental cascade of bullshit.
Mitch McConnell, on the other hand is an old school snake, who doesn't outright lie, he slithers around the questions, carefully telling the press only what he wants them to know. In his interview with Swan he made it clear, without ever saying it, that he would do whatever it takes to win and would do it by any means necessary:
I think this answer may be why people like Trump so much more than McConnell, the traditional politician. Trump's primitive thirst for revenge against anyone who crosses him is actually much easier to understand than that evasive, non-response from McConnell. It's not that Trump has any "moral red lines" either. In fact, the two of them are perfectly in sync on that question. But McConnell still has the sense that people might think there is something wrong with being an amoral monster so he obfuscates. Trump just comes right out and admits it.
But really it's a distinction without a difference. Underneath it all Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are the same: ruthless, self-serving, power hungry brutes. They despise each other but it's a hatred of those who see their own moral bankruptcy reflected in the other's eyes.