"I really like this guy. He gets me."
Guess who came to dinner
A notorious anti-Semite dined with the former president this weekend. And Republicans are shocked, shocked to learn that he brought another one with him.
"This is a f---ing nightmare," one longtime Trump adviser complained to NBC News.
But we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Except that having a chatty lovefest with the Holocaust denying neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes does seem a bit next level, no?
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Fuentes’s presence at the ex-president’s dinner table tends to distract from what should have been the mind-bending weirdness of the whole thing: Trump’s decision to have dinner with Kanye West, who is clearly going through a mental meltdown of some sort.
It got worse, however, because it was West’s idea to bring along the prominent white supremacist, who passed whatever sort of vetting they use at the super-mega-secure president-in-exile retreat.
But it takes only about 10 seconds on Google to find out that Nick Fuentes is not your garden variety MAGA bigot. As his Wikipedia page helpfully notes, he is an unabashed white supremacist Groyper who “denies the Holocaust” and “self-identifies as a member of the incel movement, as a supporter of authoritarian government, and as a Catholic integralist and Christian nationalist.”
In April, Fuentes appeared to urge mainstream Republicans to champion an antisemitic focus on “Jewish control,” tweeting, “The next big frontier for populist and conservative inc [sic; this is the America First term for establishment GOPers] to coopt [sic] is discussing Jewish Power. Somehow I don’t think they’ll broach that one!”
On a livestream episode… [he] compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven.
Here’s the guy who had dinner with the former — and perhaps future — president of the United States at Mar-a-Lago.
Outside of the MAGAverse, Fuentes may not be a household name. But he is far from an obscure figure. “People in the GOP have noticed,” tweeted CBS’s Robert Costa. “Fuentes is not someone who has slipped under the radar. If you follow the base, you can’t somehow not see it, just like you can’t pretend groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers aren’t gaining ground in these same online spaces, too.”
In 2020, Fuentes founded the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) to serve as a counterweight to CPAC. In 2021, speakers included Michelle Malkin and Steve King, and this year the group featured Paul Gosar and rising GOP star Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was introduced by Fuentes after he declared: “Can we give a round of applause for Russia!” and leading chants of “Putin! Putin ! Putin!”
So how did Nick’s dinner with Trump go?
There were reports that Trump starting yelling at Kanye West after Ye suggested that Trump run as his vice presidential running mate. Trump also reportedly began insulting his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian. So a good time was not, apparently, had by all.
But TFG seemed to get along perfectly well with his neo-Nazi guest.
Trump at one point turned to Ye and said, "I really like this guy. He gets me," according to the source.
"There was a lot of fawning back and forth," the source added.
By his own account, Fuentes laid it on thick:
I said, “Mr. President,” I said, “you are one of the greatest Americans that has ever lived. I campaigned for you and in 2016 I was there at stop the steal in Harrisburg. Lansing, Atlanta, D.C., Phoenix.”
I said, “and I love you. And I supported you for all these years, you know,” and I thought that was important because he really has been a hero of mine and he has been he has been the guy for the last six years.
West confirmed the mutual admiration. “Trump is really impressed with Nick Fuentes and Nick Fuentes, unlike so many of the lawyers and so many people that he was left with on his 2020 campaign, he’s actually a loyalist,” he said.
Afterward, Trump insisted that he had no idea who Fuentes was, but notably has refrained from criticizing him in any way. Via the Guardian:
Donald Trump repeatedly refused to disavow the outspoken antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes after they spoke over dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort, rejecting the advice from advisers over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said.”
The former US president was urged publicly and privately to denounce Fuentes in the aftermath of the dinner, which included the performer Ye, previously known as Kanye West, who has also recently been propagating antisemitic remarks.
But Trump eschewed making outright disavowals of Fuentes, the people said, and none of the statements from the campaign or on his Truth Social account included criticism of Fuentes, despite efforts from advisers who reached Trump over the Thanksgiving holiday.
For those of you keeping track, this is yet another replay of Trump’s winking denial of his long-standing and mutually beneficial alliance with bigots and conspiracists ranging from the KKK’s David Duke, and the “very fine people” of Charlottesville, to QAnon and the Proud Boys. He denies knowing who they are, even as he gives them oxygen and encouragement; and tacitly acknowledges his reliance on the openly racist and anti-Semitic troll base.
Meanwhile, the hate is normalized and mainstreamed.
And for most Republicans this is baked in the cake. They accepted all of this years ago. So today’s silence (with extremely rare exceptions) should come as a surprise to precisely no one.
Think of it as the muscle memory of cowardice. Here’s what I wrote last year:
Four years ago, after former President Donald Trump referred to some of the participants in the deadly rally as “very fine people,” Republicans had a chance to make it clear where they stood.
Torch-carrying bigots chanted, “Jews will not replace us!” An avowed neo-Nazi drove his car into counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
It was an easy call for a normal political party.
Republicans could have issued a historic denunciation of bigotry.
They could have denounced anti-Semitism.
They could have announced that there was no place for white nationalists in the party.
They could have drawn a bright, red line against political violence — and attempts to normalize violence.
Instead, for the most part, Republicans either looked the other way, kept quiet or went along with Trump’s gaslighting denials that he had, in fact, said what he said.
BONUS: The Kanye-Trump bromance appears to have a rough patch. Here is Ye’s new campaign manager, Milo Yiannopoulos (I kid you not) denouncing Trump for “putting Jewish interests first.”
There is an upshot to all this. Trump brought together Democrats like myself who never for a second thought I'd be breaking bread metaphorically with Bill Kristol and Charlie Sykes, let alone subscribing. The Bulwark has become my political Xanax, and this morning is no exception.
Sometimes I think I’m going to scream if I read one more unattributed quote from some Trump “advisor” who supposedly counseled him not to meet with some awful person, as if that’s really not who Trump is. These advisors seem to want people to believe that they are somehow honorable and that Trump is not a racist or anti-Semite or authoritarian but that he just ends up consorting with these people by accident. Oh please. These people are enablers. They are as guilty of trying to destroy our democracy as Trump is.