The carnival freak show that is otherwise known as the CPAC Convention was in Maryland this weekend, a collection of every far-right anti-government conspiracy theorist, gun rights advocate, sovereign citizen and patriot (sic) movement white nationalist, Christian nationalist and Dominionist fringe group longing for a crypto-fascist police state to “own the libs” and racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
The main event, of course, was a speech from their “Dear Leader,” the demagogue narcissist egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief, Donald Trump, a man who rose from the fever swamps of CPAC with his “birther” movement. He did not disappoint. Trump delivers scorched-earth speech as he tries to regain footing:
President Donald Trump delivered a scorched-earth speech to conservative activists on Saturday, calling the Russia investigation “bullshit,” adopting a southern accent to mock his former attorney general, and asserting that some members of Congress “hate our country.”
rollicking rambling and incoherent two-hour-plus appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland offered the president a brief respite from an otherwise miserable week in which his much-touted summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ended in failure and his former personal lawyer delivered explosive testimony to Congress.
Trump, basking in the adoration of the crowd, largely glossed over the North Korea summit’s collapse, instead reviving several of his greatest hits, from rehashing the 2016 election to obsessing over the crowd size at his inauguration.
The speech amounted to a boatload of red meat for conservatives, with Trump promising he’ll protect them from undocumented immigrants, socialism and liberal Democrats he claims are dead set on bankrupting the country with proposals like the Green New Deal.
“You know I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. As his meandering remarks continued, it became clear that his assessment was an understatement.
At one point, Trump wrapped his arms around an American flag on the stage, holding the hug for a moment as he mugged for the cameras. “I’m in love, you’re in love and we’re all in love together,” the president declared.
This was a vomit-inducing desecration of the American flag for any true patriotic American. The Greatest Generation that fought to rid the world of fascism rolled over in their graves.
At one point, Trump regaled the crowd with a story about a general he said was named “Raisin Caine” (it wasn’t immediately clear who he was referring to). He said he always sits with the pilots when airplanes are landing: “They know what we’re doing.” He boasted about his good eyesight and later added, “I don’t have white hair.” He derided a Hawaii senator as a “crazy person.” And he accused Hollywood of discriminating against conservatives.
He even revisited his campaign kickoff speech from June 2015. “From day one, I mentioned the word rape. If you look at that first speech, that was very innocent compared to what’s happening,” Trump said. Trump came under fire for his 2015 comments, which appeared to broadly assert that Mexicans were rapists.
He also insisted that nobody had left the speech early, but journalists present reported that in fact, some attendees were seen departing before the close of his remarks.
Later, the president sounded off on the 2020 election, expressing regret that he attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren so early. “I should have saved the Pocahontas thing for another year,” he said. “I’ve destroyed her political career and I won’t get a chance to run against her and I would have loved that.”
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The president repeatedly took aim at Democrats in Congress. “We have people in Congress that hate our country,” he said. “You know that, we can name every one of them. They hate our country.” He then bashed the Green New Deal, jokingly encouraging liberals to keep pushing it because it would benefit him politically. “They should stay with that argument,” he said. “Never change.”
Trump revived his divisive immigration rhetoric. “They don’t like it when I say it, but we are being invaded,” he said. He disputed government statistics showing that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born American citizens, calling the data false propaganda” and citing no evidence to support his claim.
The president also discussed his infamous 2016 appeal to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, arguing that he was just joking and criticizing the press for taking his comments seriously.
“So everybody is having a good time, I’m laughing, we’re all having fun. Then that fake CNN and others say, ‘He asked Russia to go get the emails. Horrible,’” Trump said, adding, “These people are sick, and I’m telling you, they know the game and they play it dirty, dirtier than anybody has ever played the game.”
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The president seemed fixated on the Mueller probe and the other investigations that are aimed at the people in his inner circle.
“All of a sudden, they are trying to take you out with bullshit,” Trump said to raucous applause from the crowd.
“Now Robert Mueller never received a vote and neither did the person that appointed him and as you know, the attorney general said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself,” Trump continued, putting on a southern accent and mocking former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “And I said ‘Why the hell didn’t he tell me that before I put him in?'”
He also railed against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has intensified his panel’s scrutiny of Trump’s business dealings.
“I saw a little Shifty Schiff yesterday,” Trump said. “He went into a meeting. He said, ‘We are going to look into his finances.’ Where did that come from? He always talked about Russia. The collusion delusion.”
At one point Trump said “I’m probably going to regret this speech.” That may be the first truth he has ever spoken.
For some reason the cable networks carried Trump’s campaign rally speech at CPAC. Any normal sentient human being viewing this shit-show on TV had to be appalled by Trump’s behavior. I was reminded of Molly Ivins’ critique of “Pitchfork Pat” Buchanan’s speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention: “Many people did not care for Pat Buchanan’s speech; it probably sounded better in the original German.”
The problem is that the far-right fringe parasites of CPAC are no longer the fringe. They have devoured the host body of the GOP and are now the mainstream of a personality cult of Donald Trump.
Acquiescence obsequiousness to Trump is now the GOP’s defining trait:
When President Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen testified last week that his former boss was a “racist” and “con man” who routinely skirts the law, Republicans showed little interest in following up on his claims.
They shrugged when Trump called murderous dictator Kim Jong Un a “real leader” and once again elevated the North Korean leader on the world stage.
And faced with a vote on Trump’s legally contested declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border, just 13 of 197 House Republicans opposed him.
Acquiescence obsequiousness to Trump is now the defining trait of the Republican Party more than two years into his presidency — overwhelming and at times erasing principles that conservatives viewed as the foundation of the party for more than a half century.
Trump’s ownership of the GOP was on vivid display again Saturday, when the president appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, an annual gathering that has transformed into a raucous celebration of Trump, featuring propaganda-style art and a speaker, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who said Trump was ‘chosen by God’ to run for president.
When people start deifying a demagogue cult leader, we are far down the road to fascism.
Standing before an exuberant crowd chanting “Trump!” and “U-S-A,” Trump spent two hours railing against the “failed ruling class,” calling the special counsel’s Russia investigation “bullshit” and portraying his election as a major moment in global history.
“We are reversing decades of blunders and betrayals,” Trump declared at one point, before asserting that he was only joking in 2016 when he asked Russia to release Hillary Clinton’s private emails.
“Lock her up! Lock her up!” CPAC attendees roared at the mention of the former Democratic presidential nominee.
In interviews over the past week, Republicans on Capitol Hill offered an array of reasons for their unflinching loyalty to Trump as the 2020 campaign begins to take shape: a deep-seated fear of his pull with their supporters in primary races; fraying consensus about conservatism as nationalism takes hold of the party; and shared partisan disdain for Trump’s perceived enemies in the news media and the Democratic Party.
The hallmark of authoritarian regimes.
“We’re not going to turn on our own and make the Democrats happy,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who is up for reelection in 2020. “We don’t see any benefit in fracturing, but we do see a lot to lose.”
He is talking about losing power, not losing his soul. Priorities.
Republicans say Trump’s overhaul of the federal judiciary and the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices, along with the passage of the GOP’s sweeping tax law, have helped bind the party together through bouts of political turbulence — from the loss of their House majority to the longest government shutdown in history to the torrent of developments related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
All of it has left Trump firmly in control. Most potential 2020 primary challengers sit on the sidelines as the GOP establishment rallies around Trump’s reelection. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who once gave Trump a jar of hand-selected Starbursts candy as a gift, is a Trump booster and confidant. Former GOP foes in the Senate, such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.), flatter him and are regulars at his golf courses.
“They fetishize this nonconservative in the Oval because it’s tribal,” said Mike Murphy, a veteran GOP strategist and Trump critic. “It’s us versus them, we’re right and they’re evil, and it’s created this Trump cult that dominates the party.”
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) publicly acknowledged what many Republicans say privately: The GOP is wholeheartedly accepting behavior and policies from Trump that would spark outrage from a Democratic president, particularly Trump’s attempt to use executive power in defiance of Congress to secure funding for a wall along the Mexican border.
“It’d be a little different,” Simpson said with a chuckle. “If President Obama had done the national emergency, Republicans would have gone crazy.”
Nonetheless, most Republicans backed Trump’s move last month, seeing it as a political exit ramp for the president as he flailed during the latest shutdown fight. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged Trump not to do it, only to eventually accept it. When House Democrats forced a vote Tuesday on legislation to overturn Trump’s declaration, just 6 percent of House Republicans dared to break publicly with Trump.
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Opposition among Senate Republicans has been more visible. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), facing a difficult reelection race next year, has said he would vote to curb Trump’s use of emergency powers in this instance, worrying that a Democratic president could “exploit” those powers in the future. Three GOP moderates — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have also voiced opposition to Trump’s declaration and called on him to withdraw his plan or risk a rebellion.
But Trump had an ominous warning for those GOP critics in an interview last week with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity: “I think they put themselves at great jeopardy.”
On foreign policy — long the bastion of Republican hawks who have been hostile to dictators and supportive of global institutions — Trump has been cast as a GOP hero, despite his feuds with allies, protectionist trade policies and chummy engagement with autocrats such as Kim, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
When Trump declared after a summit with Kim in Hanoi last week that the North Korean leader was not responsible for the death of former prisoner and U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, most Republicans stayed mum.
“He’s doing a hell of a job as commander in chief,” the servile Sen. Graham said at CPAC on Thursday.
Trump’s near daily dismissal of the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” has become another GOP refrain. Trump’s elected allies, such as Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), have buoyed the cause, repeatedly questioning the integrity of the Justice Department and FBI in the process.
Any high-profile voices in the party objecting to Trump are increasingly scattered or silent, while the “Never Trump” faction from the 2016 campaign has all but fallen into obscurity.
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According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in January, 75 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents approve of Trump’s performance in office.
The Republican National Committee, led by Romney niece and Trump ally Ronna McDaniel, is using aggressive measures to stave off any possible primary threat. RNC members passed a resolution giving Trump the party’s “undivided support” and effectively merged with Trump’s campaign.
“They will lose horribly,” McDaniel said at CPAC about Trump’s potential Republican primary challengers.
Sen. Graham, who has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis from noisy Trump foe to vocal booster, isn’t worried about the scandals engulfing the White House.
John McCain must be turning over in his grave to see the complete and total debasement of his former friend Lindsey Graham.
“I think people know what they’re going to get with President Trump,” Graham said in an interview. “A lot of people said some of the same things about him in the campaign. I’ve come to get to know the president. I like him, I understand his warts.”
But Michael Cohen, who served as a top RNC official following Trump’s 2016 victory, offered words of caution for the president’s defenders during his House testimony Wednesday.
“I did the same thing that you’re doing now,” Cohen said, addressing Republicans on the panel. “And I can only warn people, the more people who follow Mr. Trump as I did, blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”
It is a warning currently going unheeded by the cult followers of the personality cult of Donald Trump. We are living in dangerous times.
The 2020 election is about the very survival of American constitutional democracy itself.