Thunderdome: Throw the Book at Trump, Slap the Biden Wrist
Trump, Biden, Durham take center stage
Welcome to Thunderdome, your weekly update on Hunter Biden’s love life, which won’t require any conjugal visits after all! (A downside perhaps, because some girls find that hot.) Thanks for listening to our weekly podcast, the latest edition of which is available here — I hope you’ve subscribed, and you can stream it here:
The dynamics of parallel stories often create ridiculous scenarios for today’s partisan water-carriers. When a system is inhabited by people who often share aspects of corruption, the amount of pot-kettle moments tends to overwhelm. So it is with the current dominant narratives being pushed wholeheartedly by those with no apparent compunctions: you can be lulled to sleep by an entire CNN panel agreeing that ProPublica’s targeted campaign against Supreme Court justices is on the up and up, with the suggestion that a lifetime appointee like Samuel Alito can be bought with a fishing trip, only to wake startled to see them decry the Republican investigations into the millions upon millions of dollars from China raked in by a network of Hunter Biden LLCs, saying there’s nothing to see here and you’re a conspiracy theorist if you say there is!
The blatant nature lends itself to hilarity — once, these media entities counted on you forgetting what you’d seen or read weeks or months earlier. Now, they assume you have the mental storage capacity of a fruit fly. And much as the Biden White House would like all of this to be the end of the Hunter Biden storyline, it refuses to go away, and Republicans aren’t about to stop investigating. Had the 2022 midterms gone differently and it was in the interest of Democrats to push Biden out, the New York Times would be covering this, too. But with things as they are, they need Biden to hold on, even if that grip is feeble. There’s too much risk that anyone else could lose to Donald Trump.
Trump Can’t Stop Talking
When you are facing a delicate legal matter with the armed might of the government’s lawyers arrayed against you, giving a public national interview on the topic of your indictment is not typically advised by your attorneys, if they are worth much at all. That didn’t stop Donald Trump for one second. His choice to sit down with Bret Baier for an extended conversation about his campaign and his case is truly something only he would do — because it’s just so crazy! Prosecutors can use anything he says against him, and he’s obviously tipped his hand on how he views this entire situation. Perhaps the most useful thing he gets out of it is sympathetic support from the widespread number of hoarders we have in America. But a defense that amounts to “don’t touch my stuff, there’s golf shirts in there” is hardly the basis for confidence.
Beyond the former president’s comments related to his case, there were three moments that stood out: first, his response to Baier’s question about how to win over the female independent swing voter whose turn against him was so critical to his loss in 2020. Trump launched into not a winning message for those voters, but a defense that accused Baier of ignoring evidence of a rigged election and meandered around his typical claims of malfeasance by Democrats here there and everywhere. No message for that hypothetical voter was ever really offered, and Trump doesn’t seem interested in offering it.
Second, there was this interesting line of questioning about criminal justice reform and the First Step Act, something that, as my colleague Amber Athey has pointed out, Trump and other Republicans have been stepping away from after progressive prosecutors have made such a mess on crime in major cities. Ron DeSantis in particular has been attacking Trump on this:
DeSantis has led the pack on repeal, calling the bipartisan legislation a “jailbreak bill,” blaming it for higher crime, and denouncing the release of a terrorism financier who benefited from its sentencing reduction.
“They're releasing people who have not been rehabilitated early, so that they can prey on people in our society,” DeSantis said on The Ben Shapiro Show last month, echoing some of the law's original critics, like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.
Baier invited Trump to defend the law, which he did, of course, but also pointed out that he’s been calling for the death penalty for drug dealers, which created this awkward moment:
Baier: “Critics of that law point out that 13,500 people have been released, about 12% of them have committed serious crimes after that. Joel Francisco was serving a life sentence for selling crack cocaine. He was released in 2019, allegedly stabbing a man to death. Rearrested. Paul Moore, drug trafficker, fatally shot a rival, received a reduced sentence.”
Trump: “But I focused on non-violent crime. As an example, a woman who you know very well was in jail. She had 24 more years to serve, she served for 22 years. Alice [Johnson]…
Baier: “But she’d be killed under your plan.”
Baier: “As a drug dealer.”
Trump: “No, no. No. Under my, oh, under that? Uhh, it would depend on the severity.”
Baier: “She’s technically a former drug dealer. She had multi-million dollar cocaine ring.”
Trump: “Any drug dealer.”
Baier: “So even Alice Johnson?”
Trump: “She can’t do it, ok? By the way, if that was there, she wouldn’t be killed, it would start as of now.”
Baier: “No, I know, but your policy–”
Trump: “Starting now. But she wouldn’t have done it if it was death penalty. In other words, if it was death penalty, she wouldn’t have been on that phone call. She wouldn’t have been a dealer.”
And third, of course, was this amazing montage: the litany of former cabinet members and high ranking staffers who are opposing Trump this time around, and the dismissive insults he uses even for those who were loyal til the very end:
Baier: “This time your vice president Mike Pence is running against you. Your ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, she’s running against you. Your former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said he’s not supporting you. You mentioned national security adviser John Bolton, he’s not supporting you either. You mentioned Attorney General Bill Barr, says you shouldn’t be president again, calls you a consummate narcissist and troubled man. You recently called Barr a gutless pig.
“Your second defense secretary is not supporting you, called you irresponsible. This week you called your White House chief of staff John Kelly weak and ineffective and born with a very small brain. You called your acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney a born loser. You called your first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dumb as a rock and your first defense secretary James Mattis the world’s most overrated general. You called your White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany “milquetoast.”
“And multiple times you have referred to your transportation secretary Elaine Chao as Mitch McConnell’s China-loving wife.
“So why did you hire all of them in the first place?”
Of course, Trump fired back that he had 10 names for every 1 bad one. But this itself is an object lesson in how difficult it will be for Trump once he returns to office to have the best people in critical roles. If the only way your story ends is with him turning on you, who wants to sign up for that? But that’s a problem for future Trump, so it essentially doesn’t matter at all.
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