The Unbearable Lightness of Nikki
Plus: Stop with the maskless pictures.
(Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)
Does Nikki Haley have any idea how ridiculous she sounds?
That is, of course, a rhetorical question, because she is, apparently beyond caring.
It is also a somewhat unfair question because she is not alone, especially now that she and her fellow Republicans are being asked simple and direct questions that they absolutely do not want to answer.
Things like: “Do you support the RNC censure of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger?”
“Do you agree with Donald Trump or Mike Pence about whether the vice president has the power to overturn an election?”
They are clarifying questions, but deadly ones, because they force the GOPers to take sides on the issue that the Orange God King in Exile has made a litmus test for political survival in his party.
Their choice: embrace Trump’s vast array of lies and his unconstitutional attempt to overturn the election — or tell the truth. It’s a bitter conundrum for Republicans in the Overtime Age of Trump.
Thus, Marco Rubio’s flop-sweat awkwardness on Sunday and Ron DeSantis’s attempt to dodge a question yesterday about whether he agrees with Trump or Pence.
Asked Monday with whom he sides, DeSantis wouldn’t say.
“I’m not. I …” DeSantis told reporters at an immigration-related press event at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami, before cutting himself off.
Pressed by a reporter, DeSantis then changed the subject to say that he had a “great working relationship” with the Trump administration during the two years his administration overlapped with it. And he then criticized the Biden White House for obstructing his agenda.
Brave Sir Ron basically ran away.
And then there was Nikki Haley, whose desperate attempts at political contortionism have brought us to this moment.
You will recall “Nikki Haley’s Time for Choosing,” when she was appalled by Trump’s attacks on Mike Pence — and declared was done with Trump after January 6. “We need to acknowledge he let us down,” she told Tim Alberta.
“He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
Well, “ever” lasted a few months for Nikki, before she was scratching and clawing her way back to Mar-a-Lago to drink deep the cup of self-humiliation that is always on offer there.
On Monday, she was asked to react to Pence’s declaration that “Trump was wrong.” It was another one of Nikki’s times for choosing. And she said this:
“Mike Pence is a good man,” Haley said. “He’s an honest man. I think he did what he thought was right on that day. But I will always say, I’m not a fan of Republicans going against Republicans.”
Presumably this would include things like saying “Hang Mike Pence,” but a search for any sort of consistency here seems pointless. She knows Pence is right, but cannot bring herself to say so, or to stand up for democracy, because that would risk re-angering Trump.
So Nikki clutches her pearls as she insists that she doesn’t cotton to Republicans criticizing other Republicans. Because Trump, or something.
If irony had not long since been bludgeoned to death, this would be a particularly brutal moment even for a recently reconstructed Trumpist.
For the last six years, TFG has been a Vesuvius of Insults directed at his fellow Republicans. It’s actually his brand. This is, after all, a guy who continues to insist that the late John McCain "was a bad guy ... a bully and a nasty guy.”
But Nikki has made her choice.
So don’t look for Nikki to voice objections the next time TFG calls Mitch McConnell a “broken down old crow,” or calls Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), a “terrible Republican” who “did everything he could to block voter integrity.”
Don’t expect Nikki to take umbrage when Trump calls Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) a “lightweight,” or calls other GOP officials “Super-Rinos.”
Even so, it was still a clarifying moment when she drew the line of acceptable GOP civility at the words “Trump is wrong.”
The Problem with Unenforced Laws
Here’s a reminder that toothless laws are a moral hazard. Donald Trump knows he has nothing to fear from flouting the Presidential Record Act, because it has no enforcement mechanism.
As the Wapo notes, the law relies on “the good faith of presidents.”
According to Post reporting, he tore up hundreds of documents — perhaps more — indiscriminately. His aides used burn bags to destroy documents rather than hand them over.
There’s not much to hold Trump accountable, because the creators of norms such as the Presidential Records Act probably didn’t envision a president smashing through them.
In other words, our laws are often based on an honor system that is easily shattered by a dishonorable president who believes he is above the law, and who repeatedly learns that he can break it with impunity.
Probably not a good idea.
What was GWU thinking?
ICYMI, the story starts with these satirical posters that highlighted China’s ghastly record on human rights.
As the free speech rights group FIRE reported:
Over the weekend, student groups began filing complaints with GW’s administration after discovering posters depicting artwork by Australia-based Chinese artist Badiucao on campus. An oft-censored critic of the Chinese government, Badiucao’s series satirized the Beijing Olympics and China’s human rights record.
The subject of a recent CBS News special, the works depict “a provocative visual argument for why China is unfit to host the games. Here was a Chinese hockey player bloodying a Tibetan monk. A Chinese snowboarder atop a surveillance camera. A faceless Chinese biathlete poised to execute a member of the Uighur minority. A curler representing China’s delay in warning the world about COVID.”
When the complaints began, GWU could have reaffirmed its commitment to free speech, but instead, the school’s president put out this email, and promised to remove “all of these offensive posters” and uncover the individuals who posted the art:
The good news is that GWU has since backed down, with Wrighton admitting that he “responded hastily” and that “I support freedom of speech — even when it offends people.” Which is great.
But… WTF was he thinking in the first place? How deep in the bubble of wokist victimology — or Chinese appeasement — did he have to be to write that initial response?
As the blog Simple Justice notes, the fiasco could have been easily avoided:
Was there a viable, principled way for a university president to handle this clash of principle and cries of identitarian offense?
He could have responded that their feelings were nonsensical and childish, but that can’t happen as feelings of offense are beyond dispute.
He could have explained that this was protected expression, contrary to their popular reimagination of free speech, but that would have been insensitive to their cries of racism.
If something had to go, and something clearly had to go, it was the principle of free speech and the criticism of China’s Communist Party.
After all, it’s not as if there were any Uyghurs on campus to grieve about the lack of opposition to their genocide.
What was the RNC thinking?
Great read from our friend Paul Rosenzweig: “The RNC — A Case Study in Political Insanity.”
There are really only two ways to look at this: I know most members of the RNC really don’t believe that the insurrectionists really were just ordinary citizens and that the assault on the Capitol really was just normal political discourse. They’re not delusional.
So they knows it’s a lie. But in the end they seem to think it is a lie in the service of a greater good — namely the continued power of the Republican party. Maybe they truly believes that Republicans are better at governing and that the ends justify the means. Or maybe they are so enamored of power that having power justifies its own ends. I really don’t know.
But the risk here are grave. The record is increasingly clear (in no small part thanks to the committee the RNC condemns) that Trump tried every trick in the book to stay in power illegally. He asked Georgia to cheat. His team filed fraudulent elector certificates. He considered forcing the NSA to dump raw data of foreign intelligence in a vain hope of proving interference. He thought of having the military take over. He asked Giuliani to ask DHS to seize the voting machines.
Perhaps that might persuade some. But for the RNC I know it won’t have any effect. The members of the RNC are past caring. And the Trumpian Republican party is beyond redemption. The RNC’s lickspittle condemnation of Cheney and Kinzinger for the sin of being committed to the truth is just the latest straw on top of an already broken camel’s back. They’ve betrayed the country.
1. Memo To Dems: Stop Taking These Maskless Pictures
Some staggeringly good advice from Tim Miller in today’s Bulwark:
Over the past two weeks, several Democratic politicians have found themselves in the Twitter barrel as a result of photographs featuring their maskless (gasp!) faces in situations where either a) officials from their party had instituted a mandate on masks or b) the plebeians who surrounded them were unable to show their pearly whites due to the stringent social covenant in their environs.
This is horrible optics—and thus bad politics! Because whether we like it or not optics is politics. Since some of you don’t seem to understand why these pictures in particular are so bad, let me lay it out for you…
2. Don’t Cry for Mark Meadows (Or Let Him Cry to You)
Amanda Carpenter in today’s Bulwark:
Here is everything you need to know about Mark Meadows: In 2013, after he failed to oust Speaker John Boehner, he went to the speaker’s office, literally got down on his knees, and begged Boehner for forgiveness. Boehner let him cry it out but didn’t buy the act because, as Boehner told it, “I knew he was carrying a backpack full of knives, and sooner or later he’d try to cut me again with them.”
Meadows’s willingness to adopt a slavish posture has served him well in the Trump era. But now, with the January 6 investigation fully underway, it’s not clear who his various sob stories are intended for.
As of now, he’s laying it on thick for Trump. In his book, The Chief’s Chief, Meadows said he was fated to work for Trump because “God cornered” him for the White House job. People ask him if Trump will run again, and Meadows says they “often look as if they won’t be able to breathe another few minutes without knowing whether it’s really going to happen . . . the question comes from deep in their soul, sounding more like a desperate prayer than a simple inquiry.” He describes himself as feeling similarly.
It’s a lot to unpack.
Because as Trump’s right-hand man, Meadows was like the Holy Spirit of all Trump’s insane election schemes, the hidden hand that moved Trump’s ideas into action and tested the realms of presidential possibility—legally and otherwise.
Quick tears and figurative knives may not be enough to save him this time.
3. It’s Time for Federal Budgeting Rules to Match the New Reality
James Capretta, in today’s Bulwark:
The dysfunction—of which this year’s long delay is but one symptom—has been evident for some time. According to the rules now in effect, Congress is supposed to approve separate bills reported by each relevant appropriations subcommittee before October 1 (there are now twelve such bills). Congress has not met that deadline since 1997, has met it only four times since 1977. The new normal is the late—and sometimes very late, such as this year—approval of a phone-book length measure, negotiated behind closed doors by a small group of leaders, covering the entire federal enterprise (and often much else besides). Last year’s omnibus appropriations bill, passed in December, clocked in at 2,216 pages. It is safe to assume that very few House or Senate members read the bill, or fully understood its contents, before they were forced to vote on it.
When we see the changes of direction from people like Haley or Cruz or Graham, we wonder how they can sleep at night. We need to change our frame. These are not people abandoning principles. Rather, they are rats in a maze, trying to get to the cheese at the end. Backing out of a dead end is no more than trying to solve a puzzle. Unlike you, they don't see it as a retreat from, or betrayal of, principle. They took a wrong turn, and are now backing out to go down another path that will lead to power. That's it. That's ALL.
Charlie, just a comment to say that it is a pleasure to read such a crisp, witty, incisive writing about such a painful subject. One of the challenges of this insane time is processing the onslaught of nonstop, jaw-dropping outrages, hypocrisies, betrayals, and disappointments. Having someone define, interpret, and condemn those actions is providing a valuable mental health service to people who are exhausted by looking for new words to describe their feelings. Thanks for reminding us about Nikki Haley's debasement of herself and her values.