Tuesday, November 19, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt eleven)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

The third and most significant reason for Trump's survival: the unflinching support of the Christian right. Where many evangelical leaders had once expressed an open contempt for the primary candidate, they became his staunchest, most faithful allies during the general election campaign--including in the aftermath of Access Hollywood. There were notable exceptions. On the evening of the tape's release, Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's political arm, tweeted in response to his high-profile peers, "What a disgrace. What a scandal to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the integrity of our witness . . . The political Religious Right Establishment wonders why the evangelical next generation rejects their way. Today illustrates why." The next day, after Trump defended his transgression as "just words," Moore tweeted: "No contrition. 'Just words.' How any Christian leader is still standing behind this is just genuinely beyond my comprehension."

But Moore was an outlier. In case after case, over the final five weeks of the election, prominent Christian leaders rallied around the Republican nominee. "The crude comments made by Donald J. Trump more than eleven years ago cannot be defended," Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist Billy Graham, wrote on his Facebook page. "But the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended." Added Jerry Falwell Jr., the other spiritual dynasty scion, "We're never going to have a perfect candidate until Jesus Christ reigns forever on the throne."

Their principal rationale in standing by Trump: the Supreme Court.



Monday, November 18, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt ten)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

In August 2015, two months after Trump announced his bid for the presidency, they came to an understanding. In a meeting first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Pecker offered to protect Trump from women who came forward alleging sexual escapades. He would use AMI and its biggest brand, the National Enquirer, to "catch and kill" on behalf of the candidate: purchasing testimonies that could be damaging to Trump, having the women sign exclusivity and nondisclosure agreements, and then burying the stories for good. Trump loved the idea, and instructed Michael Cohen, his lawyer and fixer, to work in concert with Pecker.

The arrangement would prove extraordinarily beneficial--at least, in the short run. Over the ensuing year, Pecker and Cohen defused to bombshells that might have blown up Trump's campaign. The first deal was with a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who approached AMI with details of her extramarital romance with Trump. Pecker bought the rights to her story for $150,000. Cohen, meanwhile, brokered an agreement with adult-film star Stormy Daniels, paying $130,000 in hush money to conceal her past sexual relationship with Trump.



Sunday, November 17, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt nine)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

By early March, with Trump clearing 40 percent in multiple nominating contests, it was clear that something radical needed to happen, and quickly, to prevent him from running away with the nomination. That's when an idea took root among Cruz's staff: a ticket with Rubio. The Florida senator was treading water and heading for a certain exit after losing Florida; what would happen if he teamed up with Cruz, running as his vice-presidential-pick-in-waiting?

Cruz was lukewarm to the idea. The two senators had a strained relationship, and the last several months, including Rubio's jab about not speaking Spanish, had been especially spiteful. But his outlook brightened upon seeing the polling. According to number compiled by Cruz's gold-standard data analytics team, a Cruz-Rubio ticket would demolish Trump in head-to-head competition in the remaining primaries, often winning more than 60 percent of the vote.

Cruz's pollster, Chris Wilson, called Utah senator Mike Lee to share the campaign's findings. Lee had not endorsed in the primary; he was close friends with both Cruz and Rubio. Reviewing the data, Lee sprang into action. He called dozens of hotels in the Miami area, needing one with an underground parking garage and an elevator that could ferry guests directly up to a private suite. Upon securing such an arrangement, at the Hilton Miami Downtown, Lee called Rubio to set up a meeting for March 9, one day before the Republican debate in nearby Coral Gables. He then informed Cruz that Rubio had agreed to a secretive sit-down at five o'clock that afternoon. Cruz cleared his campaign schedule and held his breath.



Saturday, November 16, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt eight)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Mark Meadows had never quite fit the mold of a Freedom Caucus radical. Unfailingly polite and winsome, with the faintest trace of a sweet-tea accent and his hand always on someone’s shoulder, the North Carolina congressman was as threatening as a sweater-clad kitten.

He was conservative, sure, but nobody’s idea of a firebrand. When word leaked to the GOP leadership that Meadows had been involved in the plotting against Boehner in 2013—even though he ultimately did not oppose him—the brand-new lawmaker requested a meeting with the Speaker. “He’s on the couch, sitting across from me in my chair, and suddenly he slides off the couch, down onto his knees, and puts his hands together in front of his chest,” Boehner recalls. He says, ‘Mr. Speaker, will you please forgive me?’”

Boehner’s chief of staff, Mike Sommers, who witnessed the encounter, said it was “the strangest behavior I had ever seen in Congress.”



Friday, November 15, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt seven)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

He was a latecomer to the birther movement. In fact, he had first commented publicly on Obama’s citizenship just a month earlier, during an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. Trump called the circumstances surrounding Obama’s birthplace “very strange,” adding, “The reason I have a little doubt—just a little—is because he grew up and nobody knew him.”

This was not true. Obama’s upbringing on the big island was thoroughly documented by friends and family members, not to mention verified by journalists and academics. But that didn’t stop Trump from peddling falsehoods, with increasing certainty, in the days that followed. On ABC’s The View, he asked “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” On Fox News, he said Obama “spent millions of dollars trying to get away from this issue.” On Laura Ingraham’s radio show, he said of the certificate, “Somebody told me . . . that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’” And on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump announced that Obama’s “grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh, no, he was born in Kenya, and I was there, and I witnessed the birth.’ Now, she’s on tape. I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon.”

In fact, the tape features Obama’s grandmother stating repeatedly that she did not witness the future president’s birth because it occurred in Hawaii and she lived in Kenya. But facts had never stood in the way of conservatives’ theorizing about Obama’s shadowy past: How he was raised by his radical father (who actually had abandoned the family when his son was two years old); how he inherited an anticolonial bias from living in Kenya (he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia after his mother remarried); how he was a Muslim (despite being baptized in 1998 and writing extensively about accepting Christ after being raised by his nonbelieving grandparents).

Trump would later claim that he never truly believed that Obama was born outside the United States. But Boehner, a frequent golfing buddy, says Trump absolutely did. “Oh yes. Oh yes. He wouldn’t have sent people to Hawaii and do the investigation if he didn’t believe it.”



Thursday, November 14, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt six)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Suddenly high-strung and wary of his surroundings, Ailes proceeded to unpack for Boehner the outlines of an elaborate, interconnected plot to take him down. It started with Ailes’s belief that Obama really was a Muslim who really had been born outside the United States. He described how the White House was monitoring him around the clock because of these views. He concluded by assuring Boehner that his house had been fortified with combat-trained security personnel and “safe rooms” where he couldn’t be observed.

“It was the most bizarre meeting I’d ever had in my life. He had black helicopters flying all around his head that morning,” Boehner recalls. “It was every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard, and I’m throwing cold water on all this bullshit. Ratings were ratings to Murdoch, but I began to realize that Ailes believed in all this crazy stuff.”

The Speaker had come with hopes of quieting the furor on Fox News. He left more concerned than ever about the threat it posed to the country.



Wednesday, November 13, 2019

the last book I ever read (Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, excerpt five)

from American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta:

Looking back, Boehner says that not solving immigration is his second-biggest regret after the failed Grand Bargain. He blames Obama for “setting the field on fire.” But it was the inaction of the House of Representatives—not voting on the Senate bill, not bringing up any conservative alternative, not doing anything substance to address the issue—that enabled the continued demagoguing of immigration and of immigrants. Ultimately, Boehner’s quandary boiled down to a choice between protecting his right flank and doing what he thought was best for the country. He chose the former.

It wouldn’t be the last time.