President Donald Trump is quoted in a new book trashing former President George W. Bush and the late Sen. John McCain, blaming them for the Republican Party’s failures in recent years and crediting himself for bringing the party back to its former glory. Where do we even start?
The book, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump,” is due out this month. According to the website Axios, the author, Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent, “argues that Trump won the presidency by channeling anxious Americans’ indignation and darker impulses.”
That’s probably true — especially the “darker impulses” part — though Trump, of course, has a more self-aggrandizing explanation: “Nobody gave them hope. I gave them hope,” he told Alberta in an Oval Office interview. He added, “The Republican Party was in big trouble. I brought the party back.”
Bush, Trump said, “caused tremendous division … tremendous death, and tremendous monetary loss” by focusing on foreign policy instead of the economy. In fact, the division, death and debt of those years mostly stemmed in one way or another from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. History has already judged Bush harshly (and correctly) for the Iraq War that followed.
But Trump, the man who promoted the bigoted lie that Muslims throughout New York cheered the attacks — and then incorporated that bigotry into his immigration policy — has little room to criticize anyone else about causing division. As for debt: The government’s own experts say the massive Republican tax cut Trump signed will add almost $2 trillion to the deficit, with almost no economic benefit to anyone but the wealthy.
As always, Trump had harsh words for McCain, blaming him for the Republican loss of the White House in 2008. McCain, Trump said, was wrong to tell laid-off Midwesterners that some of their jobs wouldn’t return. It was an honest assessment by McCain, but Trump isn’t one to let honesty interfere with political pandering.
“He just gave up on an entire section of the country,” said Trump — who frequently threatens to isolate and punish California and other blue states with everything from funding cuts to shipments of undocumented immigrants.
There are legitimate criticisms of both Bush and McCain. Republican policies and principles before Trump were by no means perfect. But they were policies and principles, offered in good faith, in hopes of bettering America.
All the Republican Party has today is a philosophically unmoored leader who in three short years has stripped away any veneer of the GOP as the “law-and-order” party, or the “fiscal-responsibility” party, or the “national-defense” party, or, certainly, the “family-values” party. In both his lurching policies and his personal behavior, Trump has made sick jokes of those former Republican ideals — and Republican leaders have stood by and watched it happen, trading principle for power. Trump hasn’t brought the Party of Lincoln back from the edge; he’s pushed it there.