During his speech today at the NRA convention in Indianapolis, Donald Trump shot himself in the foot. ‘Now we’re going after the rest,’ he announced about Obamacare. ‘We had it done except for one vote,’ he added, in another swipe at John McCain. It’s a pronouncement that will surely feature prominently in forthcoming Democratic political ads about Trump’s relentless efforts to target healthcare. He also signaled that he has a proclivity for indulging in conspiracy theories, claiming that ‘Democrats are obsessed with hoaxes, delusions, and witch hunts. That’s what they’re obsessed with, that’s what they wanna do. And we can play the game just as well, or better, than they do.’
When it comes to delusions, Trump already appears to hold a patent. This morning, for example, Trump suggested that he looks and feels like a ‘young man,’ a claim that perhaps even those who view him as the new Messiah wouldn’t quite credit. Good grief, soon he’ll announce that he’s really svelte as well.
He also maintained that Joe Biden’s campaign ad yesterday decrying his stance on Charlottesville, where a violent ‘Unite the Right’ rally took place in 2017, had it all wrong. Trump doubled down on his support for all the very fine folks that he alone had discerned on both sides two years ago. According to Trump, ‘I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general. Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals. I have spoken to many generals here, right at the White House, and many people thought – of the generals, they think that he was maybe their favorite general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.’
No, they don’t. Demonstrators with tiki torches shouting ‘Jews will not replace us’ were not marching on behalf of Robert E. Lee’s generalship. They had other things on their minds. For Trump to wade into this controversy shows not only that he remains thin-skinned, but also that Biden can needle him successfully. In framing the debate as centering on the future of American democracy, Biden can corner Trump by depicting him as a betrayer, not redeemer, of American greatness.
Trump – and, by extension, the GOP – face challenges on other fronts. The Washington Post reports that the Chamber of Commerce, long a pillar of the GOP, is seeking to reinvent its brand by attenuating its support for Republicans. Geoffrey Kabaservice, a prominent historian of the modern American conservative movement and a guiding spirit at the Niskanen Center in Washington, DC – a redoubt of NeverTrumpers that is highlighted in an informative new New York Times essay by Mark Leibovich – emphasized to me that the Chamber of Commerce’s move could mark a real caesura in the fortunes of the GOP. ‘The Republican party,’ he said, ‘is losing the support of big business – it’s always been a business party.’ According to the Post, ‘Senior Chamber officials have launched a charm offensive on Capitol Hill, reaching out to freshman Democrats from swing districts whom they perceive as reasonable to set up meetings and highlight areas of common ground. During the sit-downs with Democratic members, Chamber leaders are explaining how they will change the scorecard this year to incentivize Democrats to work with them.’
They aren’t the only Republican stalwarts that are defecting. The rumor has been that the McCain family will endorse Biden. Today Meghan McCain is posting pictures of herself with him on Twitter. Will she speak on his behalf at the Democratic convention in Milwaukee?