How the GOP is Fumbling the Response to the "Raid"
By pledging to fight for Trump, Republicans are reminding voters what they like least about the Republican Party
Politico Playbook captured the stupidity of the political discussion around the F.B.I. search (it wasn’t a raid!) of Mar-a-Lago with this quote from a “legal expert.”
If they raided his home just to find classified documents he took from The White House, he will be re-elected president in 2024, hands down. It will prove to be the greatest law enforcement mistake in history.
I guess the Senate Parliamentarian, a Nobel laureate in Chemistry, and a multiple-time Jeopardy winner were unavailable to offer their opinions on the political implications of a former President’s home searched by law enforcement. I am also waiting for someone from Court TV to invite me on to discuss the potential legal repercussions.
What are we doing, people?
A day later, we know very little about what happened, and we know absolutely nothing about what will happen in the weeks, months, and years to come. Just as a general rule in life, there is an inverse relationship between the certainty with which a political prediction is offered and its likelihood of being correct.
We are, however, 90-some days from the midterms. People start voting in less than two months in large swaths around the country. There is no question that the widening legal investigation into the former President and current leader of the Republican Party is going to have a political impact. It's just that no one knows what that impact will be. But I think the Republicans stumbled into a trap that Democrats can exploit down the stretch in what is looking like a surprisingly close election.
Republicans Rally to Trump
One of the major features of Republican behavior during the Trump Era is a rush to defend the former reality TV star without knowing the accusations. This dynamic played out in countless scandals and two impeachments.
There had been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about how, in the wake of the damning revelations of the January 6th Committee, some Republicans were ready to move away from Trump. The Washington Post and New York Times both recently published articles suggesting that the Murdochs and Fox News were shunning Trump. The events of the last few weeks all make those takes look ridiculous.
Within minutes of the news breaking, Fox News went into conspiracy theory overdrive. The hosts slammed the court-approved “raid,” defended Trump, and called it the “Biden F.B.I.” Jesse Watters alleged that the F.B.I planted evidence.
Kevin McCarthy, Marco Rubio, and others leapt onto Twitter without looking to attack the F.B.I and defend Trump. On one level, this is a product of a bunch of Republican politicians with the strategic sense of sloths. Washington is often divided into checkers players (tacticians) and chess players (strategists), McCarthy and his ilk would be flummoxed by tiddlywinks.
But there is something broader at play. The most powerful force in Republican politics is the MAGA media. The best way to get attention from the MAGA media is to slavishly defend Donald Trump. Attention is political power, so Republicans have incentive to rush to Trump’s defense even if it could bite them in the posterior later. And to be honest, most of them paid little to no price for covering up Trump’s crimes or parroting his obvious lies. In fact, the Republicans who stood up to Trump are losing their primaries and being drummed out of Congress (and into lucrative and gross lobbying gigs). The more aggressive the defense of Trump, or the more aggressive the attack on the F.B.I., the better. This is why Trump’s most likely rivals for the 2024 nomination are trying to outduel each other. They must defend their opponent to achieve their dreams.
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