The House Democrats’ prime-time partisan program last week and the continuing hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot have two aims. One is to get midterm voters to think about something other than wallet-busting inflation, surging violent crime, the baby-formula shortage and the wide open southern border.
No sooner had Thursday’s show ended than that goal grew even more elusive. Friday’s historic inflation numbers mean voters’ pain at the pump and supermarket will continue, and led to another big drop on Wall Street as pessimism over the economy deepens.
The other aim of the hearings is to put a target on Donald Trump’s back. He is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s white whale and she would like nothing more than to lock him up to humiliate him and make sure he doesn’t run again in 2024.
Coming more than 500 days after the appalling attack on the Capitol, the bid to paint Trump as the mastermind of an attempted coup fell far short of convincing despite the fact that Pelosi devised a one-sided presentation. And with this being the only prime-time hearing scheduled before the committee’s September report, it is unlikely she would hold back any bombshell evidence of Trump’s guilt.
Certainly Trump doesn’t think he’s in danger.
“I can’t imagine I would be prosecuted,” he told me Friday. “I did absolutely nothing wrong. We have free speech.”
He may not have committed a crime, but there is plenty wrong with what Trump said and did. The long list begins with his too-hot speech that January morning, his public and private demands that then-Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election and his delay in telling his rampaging supporters to leave the Capitol.
Still, charging him criminally based on what we know would be a giant leap even for Attorney General Merrick Garland’s politicized Justice Department.
Trump also expressed the same disdain for Pelosi she has for him.
“These are the same people who created the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax, the Mueller investigation and the Ukraine hoax,” he said. “It’s a disgrace and they can’t run the country. Look at it. It’s going to hell.”
2024 is looking booked
I had contacted the former president by phone after I learned Trump told an associate he was definitely running in 2024. Similar reports have surfaced in the past, and this one met the same fate: He wouldn’t confirm or deny he made the comment.
“Well, something has to be done but I haven’t announced anything,” he said. “But in my mind, I’ve made a decision.”
It’s a near-lock he is running but he sees no advantage in saying so now. It would mean complying with federal rules on reporting fund-raising and expenditures and would stretch the campaign to an unbearable length.
It could also change the midterm dynamics. As it stands, a red wave is forming and there is little upside credit available to Trump. On the other hand, if he announces early and the wave fizzles, he would be blamed.
The last time I interviewed Trump was on Presidents’ Day at Mar-a-Lago. My main focus was on his continued claims that the 2020 election was stolen, which I see as a dead end.
It’s backward looking and is likely to turn off moderate Republicans and independents who might otherwise be attracted to Trump’s policies, which were certainly superior to Biden’s.
I had asked then if he regarded agreement with him on the stolen election as a litmus test for supporters, including candidates he endorses. He insisted the answer was no and claimed he talks about the last election mostly “because it’s the most important thing” for some supporters.
I reminded him of that exchange and this time he didn’t cite his supporters as an excuse for why he talks about it so often, saying “a lot of things have come out since then that are as hot as a pistol.” He was referring to some state audits and presumably the movie by Dinesh D’Souza called “2000 Mules,” both of which try to prove his claims but have not made serious inroads among unpersuaded voters.
Using the stolen theme also serves as a smokescreen for Trump to escape any second-guessing about his term or the way he campaigned for reelection. By his way of thinking, if he actually won the 2020 election, why should he admit any errors?
But 2020 a moot point
Another reason why the backward focus is misguided is that, even if Trump wins in 2024, there is nothing he can do about the past. Joe Biden’s victory can’t be undone, so what’s the point beyond a rallying cry?
Friday, for the first time, he tied his stolen claim to forward-looking congressional action, albeit an impractical one. As he puts it, “What you need to have for secure elections is all paper ballots, same-day voting only, an identification requirement and absentee voting only for military stationed out of the country and for people who are truly sick and can’t get to the polls.”
He believes mail-in ballots are ripe for fraud and would ban them other than for a limited absentee program.
The chances of such legislation passing Congress are zero, and I told him he sounded like he wanted to federalize election rules and override state control, which was a main objection the GOP raised against Biden’s national election bill.
Called the John Lewis Voting Rights Act after the late Georgia congressman and civil rights leader, the measure would have made permanent many of the lax ballot-security changes states and leftist activists made in 2020 because of the pandemic. Thankfully, even with Biden making shameful racial accusations, the Lewis bill stalled in the Senate.
Trump’s response to that history was to say that “Republicans should do something” about voting laws, and added that “you need to have secure, honest elections and strong borders or you don’t have a country.”
That’s certainly true, but it’s also true that Trump gives the impression he’s stuck in the past and needs a fresh message. Although he is clearly still a huge power within the GOP, his old feuds and grievances already sound stale and by 2024, they are not likely to inspire the hope and confidence America desperately needs.
Dem outta ‘control’
Reader Joe Alloy points out the two faces of Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Dem. He writes: “Murphy is leading the talks on gun control but in the midst of the George Floyd riots of 2020, he and Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation that would have removed approximately 10,000 armed police from schools.”
Headline: Dems say no to Biden in ’24.
Finally, a united nation!
Hunter TV? Ha!
Tom Schultz wants equal time, but isn’t holding his breath. He writes: “I can’t wait for the Hunter Biden hearings to be nationally televised by all major outlets and directed by a Hollywood- type.”