Politics & Policy

Trump’s Good News for the 2018 Elections

Happy Monday morning; it looks like this is going to be one of those weird weeks. What are the odds of a fire at the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua on January 3 and a fire in Trump Tower this morning?

Apparently, an electrical box in the Trump Tower’s HVAC system caught fire. The New York Fire Department extinguished it and thankfully no one was hurt.

Trump: I Don’t See Myself Supporting GOP Primary Challengers in 2018

President Trump has good news for every incumbent Republican, and bad news for any aspiring lawmaker who thought they could ride Trump-ism to a successful primary challenge the way Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Nikki Haley rode the Tea Party wave in 2010.

Trump told reporters after meeting GOP House and Senate leaders at Camp David on Saturday that he’s planning a robust schedule of campaigning for the 2018 midterm elections and that includes involvement in the Republican primaries.

He’ll campaign for incumbents, he said, and “anybody else that has my kind of thinking.”

But after a stinging loss in Alabama, Trump said he’s done supporting challengers, declaring: “I don’t see that happening.” Trump had supported Roy Moore after he won the GOP primary. Moore’s defeat in the subsequent special election handed Democrats another seat in the Senate.

Of course, this is Trump, so he could change his mind at any time. But it’s good that Trump is realizing he doesn’t need different Republican senators, he needs more Republican senators.

Two Cheers for Oprah Winfrey

Look, I enjoy bashing hypocrisy as much as the next guy. But is bashing hypocrisy a sufficient response to a scandal?

Last night, Hollywood held the Golden Globe Awards, and with almost everyone dressed in black, the hosts and winners and audience tried to grapple with the scandal in its own sometimes narcissistic, sometimes self-congratulatory, sometimes-off-key way. Yes, it’s likely that a significant portion of the people in the room knew about the “open secret” of Harvey Weinstein — and/or heard the rumors about Kevin Spacey, and Louis CK, and numerous other figures in the industry. Maybe there was some guilt behind that fancy black attire and the “Time’s Up” pins.

But does being insufferably smug mean that anything they said about the need to end sexual harassment wasn’t . . . you know, right and true? If “hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue” . . . doesn’t it still mean something that virtue deserves that tribute? If you want to scoff, “oh, Hollywood was always notorious for the ‘casting couch’” . . . Yes, it was, but what if the women (and some men) of Hollywood want that unsavory tradition to end? If there’s an effort to reform a corrupt institution, should we on the outside applaud or snicker that it will never change?

If you want to say their words are insufficient, fine. It would be nice to see Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, and other women who had their careers derailed by Weinstein to start getting some jobs again.

This morning, quite a few people are buzzing about Oprah Winfey’s speech, and speculating whether it’s a veiled indication of presidential ambitions. John Podhoretz revved up the bandwagon about this a while back. I doubt it; she’s no doubt heard similar cries throughout her career, and one has to wonder if she wants to spend 2019 to whenever getting briefings on the throw-weights of intercontintental ballistic missiles.

From Winfrey’s speech:

I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.

If you feel like the line “the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice” is an attack on Trump . . . well, that says something about how you see Trump.

A couple people object to the wording, “speaking your truth” as opposed to “speaking the truth.” If Oprah means that as a full-throated endorsement of relativism, that “truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them” — then yes, she’ll deserve the criticism she will get.

But did she mean it that way, or is “speaking your truth” another wording for “trusting your instincts”? Picture working or living in an environment where certain behaviors that strike you as wrong are widely accepted. Imagine, say, a loose, laid-back working environment where profanity or “your momma” jokes are common. Or teasing that is supposedly “just having fun” but doesn’t feel fun for the target of the teasing at all. As I noted, everyone who encountered and worked with Weinstein considered him to be a violently tempered, verbally abusive egomaniac who enjoyed humiliating subordinates.

The consensus “truth” of the workplace is that these behaviors are acceptable and do no real harm, but our “truth” — maybe those quotation marks should be removed — is that it is not acceptable and does violate some aspect of our social code.

Now, perhaps “speaking our truth” isn’t always the most powerful weapon we have. (Confronted with a home invader, I’d rather have a Smith & Wesson than the power of speaking my truth.) But I think Oprah’s point is that standing up for what we know to be true and right can be powerful, because it can inspire others to do the same, until the intolerable is genuinely no longer tolerated.

Look, we’re conservatives. We’re supposed to believe in propriety and decency and manners and decorum, all of that old-fashioned stuff that allegedly makes us “squares,” prudes, “bluenoses” and Bourgeoisie Babbitts. Whether or not we’ve ever felt sexually harassed, we no doubt know what it feels like to be outsiders, to feel rejected or derided because we don’t live up to other people’s expectations of what we should be. We’re the uncool folks that the cool comedians mock, and maybe, just maybe, the fallout from the Weinstein scandal is pushing our society to grapple with the long-simmering unspoken cultural consensus that being “cool” excuses bad behavior.

The Fallout Continues for Stephen Bannon . . . 

Derek Hunter talks to a lot of former Breitbart employees — most of whom I would describe as friends or friendly acquaintances — about the turn of events for Stephen Bannon and the future of Breitbart.com.

Meanwhile . . . 

He has tried to convince allies in recent days that all will be fine — even texting one “onward!” — but he seems jolted and “even more manic than normal,” in the words of one person who spoke to him. He has remained ensconced in his Capitol Hill townhouse, with a rope on the steps blocking people from approaching. “STOP!” a large red sign reads, urging visitors to check in downstairs.

Breitbart’s coverage of the nation’s capital operates out of a three-story townhouse named the “Washington Embassy.” Most news organizations have offices in Washington, and NR used to have a floor of a townhouse. But on December 17, the owner filed an application to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office that “states the property is the home of Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and a former White House chief strategist.”

Does Bannon pay rent? Or is Breitbart.com providing Bannon with housing as well as his salary and other benefits?

ADDENDA: In case you missed it, Friday afternoon I noted that the first year of Trump has brought conservatives good policy outcomes with disturbing reports of presidential behavior and inability to focus or control his impulses. From here on out, conservatives ought to evaluate Trump with the cold-hearted cost-benefit analysis that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick brings to an aging veteran. “Applaud President Trump when he’s right, criticize him when he’s wrong, and ride the horse as far as he can take you — and the moment he can carry you no further, leave him behind. If Trump proves incapable of resisting temptation and irreparably sabotages his own presidency, conservatives shouldn’t strain any muscles to defend him.”

You can’t save a man who isn’t willing to try to save himself.

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