Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Two of the best-known voices in the mainstream political press seem shocked that Donald Trump's response to the death of Colin Powell was so ... Trump-like.

Trump wrote:

Cillizza responded:
What Trump's statement should remind us is that this is a man uniquely self-obsessed -- and without any ability to see beyond himself.

Powell was openly critical of Trump -- he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 -- and of the dark direction the billionaire businessman was leading the country. And so, Trump saw Powell's death as an opportunity to get back at him -- and took it.

This is, in a word, classless. In two words: Utterly classless....

No one should be surprised by this latest degradation of what it means to be a president by Trump. He spent four years in office defining the job downward. That some people will applaud Trump's trolling of a dead man is, perhaps, his most toxic legacy.
But much of the right was angry at Powell long before Trump entered politics, because he endorsed Democrats and criticized some of the right's heroes. Sometimes this was expressed somberly, as in this Human Events column published shortly after the 2008 election:
... last Sunday, [Powell] popped up on CNN to criticize Rush Limbaugh for misleading, if not destroying, the Republican Party.

Powell tried to make the rejection of Limbaugh the path Republicans need to take to win elections again....

Of Limbaugh’s supposed influence on the Republican Party, Powell said: “Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?" ...

And what are the “lesser instincts” to which Limbaugh appeals? I wonder if there’s any way Powell is referring to that instinct to defend life — both of the born and the unborn? Powell is pro-abortion; Limbaugh is pro-life....

Powell, like former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, wants to remake conservatism into something without form or substance, something that is liberalism in all but name....

Powell and Gerson — and too many other phony conservatives — are the problem, not the solution. It was by their philosophy and political strategy that the Republican Party ended up abandoning conservatism in favor of McCainism. And that was the path to failure, not victory.
And some people just used Trumpian name-calling, years before Trump. This is from a story about a North Carolina campaign appearance by Barack Obama in 2008:
When Sen. Barack Obama entered a barbecue joint here to greet dozens of people eating lunch after church services on Sunday, Diane Fanning, 54, who works at a Sam's Club, began yelling, "Socialist, socialist, socialist — get out of here!"

Fanning said she'd heard Colin Powell had endorsed Obama but that "Colin Powell is a RINO, R-I-N-O, Republican In Name Only."
Trump's main political innovation was talking to Republican voters the way they talk to one another, in person and in online forums. Trump attacked John McCain in 2015 and suffered no negative consequences because much of the base had always been wary of McCain (for years he'd been called "Juan McCain" at Free Republic for his support of immigration reform). So why shouldn't Trump attack Powell, too? It won't lose him a single vote in 2024.

Republican voters believe Democrats are the worst people who ever lived, and anyone who enables them (as Powell did with his endorsements) or shares some of their political goals (McCain on immigration and campaign finance reform, Powell on abortion and affirmative action) is complicit in pure evil. The GOP base would have been as horrified by a gracious Trump statement about Powell as we would be if Joe Biden commended a recently deceased politician who'd praised Hitler. Why don't Cillizza and Haberman understand that?

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