Republicans' Capitol Hill pep rally for Trump's return was a flop

The GOP may be giddily welcoming Donald Trump back after Jan. 6, but their fawning can't hide his unfitness

By Heather Digby Parton


Published June 14, 2024 10:15AM (EDT)

Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media after speaking outside a polling location on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 at Londonderry High School in Londonderry, NH. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media after speaking outside a polling location on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 at Londonderry High School in Londonderry, NH. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As Donald Trump made his first visit to the scene of the crime since the Capitol insurrection, the Biden campaign launched a new ad reminding Americans of that notorious event:

You'd think that of all people, members of the United States Congress would be reluctant to welcome the man who sicced a violent mob on them. But no, they greeted him with rapturous applause and even broke into a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" as they brought out a cake for Trump.

The House members were beside themselves. Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene gushed about how "funny" and "sweet" he is in real life and how it's just so, like, awesome that he mentioned her by name and everything! She hasn't been this excited since that time she had front-row seats for the Back Street Boys back in '98 and A.J. winked right at her (everybody said so.) 

 She was far from alone. 

Even the Speaker of the House, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, came before the cameras to say what a privilege it was to have Donald Trump tell him how great he is.

(I'm not sure why Johnson tends to speak in the third person but maybe it has something to do with the fact that he thinks he's the New Moses or something.)

When the former president met with GOP senators, his nemesis, Minority Leader Mitch "Broken Old Crow" McConnell, extended his hand in friendship as if Trump had never racially insulted his wife or tried to stage a coup. They had not spoken since December of 2020 but the so-called "gravedigger of democracy" apparently decided to bury what was left of his reputation and personal integrity once and for all.

One GOP Congressman was so excited that he planned to immediately offer a bill to name all American coastal waters after Donald Trump:

You might think that's a very odd thing to propose but considering Trump's apparent obsession with electric boats, woke sharks and low-flow toilets maybe it makes some sense. It's only a matter of time before they propose to rename the entire country "Trumplandia." 

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This pep rally for Donald Trump, as one congressman described it, needless to say, featured the usual whining about unfairness, weaponization of the government, persecution, etc. One attendee said he went off on lots of tangents. Another source in the room described it as “like talking to your drunk uncle at the family reunion." 

He seems to be quite worried about Taylor Swift possibly endorsing President Biden because he's mentioned it a few times recently, musing that she might not really be all that liberal and going on about how beautiful she is as if he has a schoolboy crush. At this meeting, he wondered aloud how she could possibly vote for "that dope" Joe Biden, whom she endorsed in 2020. And he shared a bizarre anecdote about Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi's daughter (whom he called a "wacko") telling him "If things were different Nancy and I would be perfect together, there’s an age difference though." (He's 24 years older than his wife, who is actually younger than Pelosi's daughter)  Speaking on behalf of all of her sisters, Christine Pelosi said it was a lie and that Trump has a "deranged obsession" with Pelosi.

Then Trump insulted Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the GOP is holding their convention next month, calling it a "horrible city." That's particularly bad form, even for Trump and GOP members fell all over themselves either denying he ever said it or saying he meant different things by it. Trump cleared the matter up by admitting that he said it essentially because Milwaukee is a crime-infested hellscape where they steal elections from him. So that's nice. 

Aside from all the predictable meandering, Trump did make some news on policy. He reportedly said that he believes Ukraine is “never going to be there for us” almost at the same moment that Biden was signing a 10-year bilateral security agreement.  (Apparently, he's still smarting from the fact that President Zelensky failed to do his bidding back in 2019.) He railed against Biden's push to expand electric vehicles calling it "the dumbest thing" and had this to say about the GOP's problem with abortion:

Roe v Wade, everyone was against it because they wanted it to be decided by the states, there was no 10 weeks, 12 weeks, every person said it’s got to be back to the states. It became a complex issue 10 years ago, everyone wanted it back in the states, and we got it back in the states, sometimes good sometimes not good, some states went one way and some states went a different way. But like Ronald Reagan, you have to have three choices: life of mother, rape and incest you have to do, but you have to follow your own heart. Republicans are so afraid of the issue, we would have had 40 seats.

None of that is true or makes any sense and we can only hope that the entire Republican Party follows his lead and babbles as incoherently on the subject. 

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As we know, Trump only has a few policy ideas, most of which were formulated years ago when he saw something on TV. When it comes to economics it comes down to one thing and one thing only: tariffs. (He has admitted that it came to him when he saw Japanese cars being offloaded from ships back in the 1980s and became convinced that America was being ripped off. )

If you liked the inflation of the last few years, you're going to love what he's got in mind now. He's been saying for some time that he wanted to impose a 10% tariff on all imports. Now his one idea is even bigger. Saying that he's a big fan of President William McKinley (whom I would bet he'd never heard of until someone mentioned him recently) he told the senators that he wants to eliminate the income tax and replace it completely with tariffs. 

MSNBC's Chris Hayes explained that it "would effectively take us back to the 19th century — the idea makes as much sense as ripping up the entire interstate highway system and replacing it with canals." According to economist Paul Krugman, this policy would amount to something like a 133% sales tax that would cost the average American family thousands more dollars while giving the richest 1% (of which Trump is a member) a windfall of millions of dollars. As Hayes said, "he is seriously and earnestly running on the most inflationary platform I have ever seen."

None of this phased the Trump super-fans of the GOP caucus, many of whom know better but applauded everything he said like a bunch of trained seals anyway.

It's a cliche at this point to evoke the old fable of the Emperor's New Clothes. But it's unavoidable in this situation. Donald Trump was manifestly unfit back in 2016 and had a disastrous presidency, failing miserably at the most important crisis he faced. He was thrown out of office by the people, had a massive temper tantrum, incited an insurrection and left office as the worst president in American history. And yet, here he is again, like a zombie risen from the Earth, even more unfit than he was before, and the Republican Party is giddily worshiping him like he's Alexander the Great. At this point it's clear that it isn't him anymore — it's them. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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