Associated Press reporters wake up every morning wondering how they can best attack President Trump today. Steve Peoples’ effort for Monday is headlined: “Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republicans.”
The “forgotten Republicans” are the ones who don’t like President Trump. But they haven’t been forgotten at all; on the contrary, the AP eagerly seeks them out for comment.
The ranks of forgotten Republicans are growing.
Some were forced out, such as Tim Pawlenty, a former two-term Minnesota governor who lost this week’s bid for a political comeback. Some, such as the retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chose to leave on their own. Others still serve, but with a muted voice.
Whether members of Congress, governors or state party leaders, they are struggling to fit into President Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
The AP acknowledges that the vast majority of Republicans think the president is doing a good job:
The overwhelming majority of elected officials, candidates and rank-and-file voters now follow the president with extraordinary loyalty, even if he strays far from the values and traditions many know and love.
That’s a problem, as the AP sees it. So this article promotes the idea that the “forgotten” or “left behind” Republicans “are warning their party with increasing urgency.” The AP obviously thinks their warnings should be heeded. But what exactly are they unhappy about?
The forgotten Republicans — people like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — have been unwilling to sit quietly as Trump steers the GOP away from free trade, fiscal responsibility, consistent foreign policy and civility.
But Trump is for free trade; he starts every bargaining session by proposing that all participants drop all tariffs to zero. Since there are never any takers, he does the next best thing: he defends American interests and tries to improve our existing trade deals. Is that such a departure from past Republican practice? If it is, that’s an indictment of past presidents, not Trump. As far as fiscal responsibility is concerned, when was the last fiscally responsible administration of either party? Eisenhower or Kennedy? The AP’s reference to “consistent foreign policy” is mysterious. Trump’s foreign policy strikes me as the most consistent we have had in a long time. He puts American interests first, and he tries to help our friends and penalize our enemies.
As for civility, all I can say is: please. Civility went out the window a long time ago, and it didn’t start with Trump. Does the AP not remember George W. Bush assassination chic? Or Bushitler? Or Mitt Romney as “literally Hitler,” among other things? In the Trump era, the Democrats’ civility has plummeted still further. These items, drawn from the last few days, could be multiplied a thousand fold:
8/9: Rep. Cohen wishes Rep. Blackburn would jump off a bridge
8/12: Antifa protesters want to "murder" Trump
8/13: Pearl Jam depicts Trump carcass on concert poster
8/19: Rep. Hastings: It would be a "catastrophe" if anybody saved Trump from drowning https://t.co/d5Xei5UV77
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) August 19, 2018
Almost all Republicans are glad that President Trump is finally fighting back against the crazed hatred that emanates from the Democratic Party.
The AP asserts slanders against Trump as if they were matters of undisputed fact:
Fact checkers have recorded an extraordinary level of false and misleading statements flowing out of the White House. And beyond dishonesty, some of the forgotten have decried a disturbing pattern of racially charged rhetoric on issues like immigration, NFL anthem protests and Confederate monuments.
Actually, more false and misleading statements came from the Obama White House–and far more important ones, too, on things like Obamacare, Iran and energy policy. But “fact checkers” working for Democratic Party organizations like the Associated Press weren’t interested in pointing them out. Further, to my knowledge Trump has never said a word about race in connection with immigration, anthem protests or Confederate monuments. The idea that wanting to enforce our immigration laws, show respect for the flag, or refrain from vandalizing statues is “racially charged” exists purely in the imagination of the Associated Press.
The AP is happy to pass on sour grapes from Republicans who lost to Trump in 2016, or from Republicans who have lost, period. Thus, John Kasich:
Kasich, who has not ruled out a primary bid against Trump in 2020, said the president’s approval is misleading because the universe of people identifying as Republican is shrinking.
“We’re dealing with a remnant of the Republican Party. The party is not what it was,” Kasich said in an interview.
Any suggestion that the GOP “is not what it was” in Ohio is absurd. In 2016, President Trump carried the state by nearly a half million votes. Meanwhile, Rob Portman was elected to the Senate with a margin of more than a million votes. Ohio elected 12 Republicans to the U. S. House of Representatives, against only four Democrats. And the Ohio Senate is Republican by a 14-2 margin, while the Ohio House is Republican by 66-33. If this is a “remnant,” I would hate to see Republican dominance.
If Kasich’s theory is that the GOP has shrunk to a “remnant” nationally in the months following Trump’s presidential victory, he is wrong there, too. Trump has a higher approval rating than Barack Obama did at this stage of his administration. And over its last 12 surveys, according to Gallup, an average of 25.6% of respondents have described themselves as Republicans. If we compare that with 2014, the last midterm cycle and safely before the Trump phenomenon, Republican identification is up slightly: it averaged 25.5% in Gallup’s 2014 polls.
So the AP is happy to print claims by anti-Trump Republicans that are demonstrably wrong.
One of the AP’s anti-Trump “forgotten” Republicans is former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty:
Pawlenty’s quest for a third term collapsed after Republican primary voters determined his experience — and his years-old description of Trump as “unfit and unhinged” — weren’t welcome.
Pawlenty politely declined to be interviewed, but a former aide, Alex Conant, said this week’s result, like those of other primary elections this year, sent a clear message about the modern GOP.
“There’s not a lot of room for dissent in the Republican Party right now,” Conant said. “Moderates don’t feel welcome. And if you’re not loyal to Trump, there’s not necessarily room for you.”
I know a great deal about the just-concluded primary campaign in which Jeff Johnson, the GOP’s nominee for Governor four years ago, beat Pawlenty decisively. Tim lost that race for a number of reasons:
1) He left Minnesota after completing his second term as governor eight years ago, and worked in Washington, D.C., lobbying for large banks. Many voters didn’t see that as a great platform from which to run for a third term as governor, and others thought his years in D.C. as a highly-paid lobbyist cost Pawlenty his edge.
2) Pawlenty calculated that he could not win the endorsement of the Minnesota Republican Party. So he entered the race late and skipped the caucus process and the state convention entirely. The convention naturally endorsed Johnson.
3) Pawlenty listened to terrible advice, and ran his campaign from the beginning as if it were a general election. He made little effort to appeal to the Republican base that would be voting in the primary. Instead, while mostly ignoring Johnson, he liked to talk about futurism, technological developments that might someday impact public policy. Johnson, meanwhile, was pounding away on traditional conservative themes of taxes, spending and regulation. Johnson directed his advertising to Republican primary voters, e.g. through on-line targeting.
4) In 2016, when he was still working as a Washington lobbyist, Pawlenty blundered by calling Donald Trump “unhinged and unfit” to be President. I think that was after the Access Hollywood tape. That outburst certainly didn’t help him when, two years later, he sought the Republican nomination for Governor of Minnesota. But there was much more to Pawlenty’s primary defeat than that.
The AP terms Pawlenty’s defeat “unexpected,” and implies that it was all about his being too “moderate” in the Trump era. Pawlenty’s defeat wasn’t unexpected by me, or by many other observers here in Minnesota. After a lengthy absence from the state, Pawlenty returned and ran a poor campaign against a strong opponent. His campaign was not so much “moderate”–in office, Pawlenty was a legitimate conservative–as unfocused.
But the AP has a narrative to sell, and it won’t let inconvenient facts get in the way of its anti-Trump animus.