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If eight Republican presidential candidates have a debate and Donald Trump is not there ... does it make a sound?
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality. If you were sent this email or are a free subscriber and would like to become a paid subscriber, you can sign up here.
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Eight Is Enough
Tonight, eight Republican presidential candidates will gather in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to debate who will be the best running mate for Donald Trump in 2024. I’m joking … but only partially. It’s hard to take seriously a debate in which the likely nominee isn’t bothering to show up, and the eight candidates on stage have little to no chance of emerging as the party’s standard bearer next Fall.
Nonetheless, I will be tuning in … because I have made bad life choices.
What makes this event particularly surreal is that Trump will be busy tomorrow, surrendering to Georgia authorities for his fourth arrest since March. And because the Republican Party is a completely normal and healthy political party and Trump’s supporters are some of the finest Americans this nation has to offer … the former president is raising money off it.
I’m not sure I could capture how bizarre this whole spectacle will be better than the Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes.
“It’s impossible to overstate how surreal this moment is that the former president of the United States will be perp walked for the fourth time, will face a more than a dozen new felony charges, will have his mugshot taken, will be out on bail and yet is by far the leading Republican candidate for president of the United States.
“We have been numbed and battered and bruised for the last eight years but this is an extraordinary moment, the split screen in American politics where you have these Republican candidates running for president over here Donald Trump facing more felonies and Republican voters looking at that and going, yeah, we’re pretty much OK with the guy – orange is the new black.”
The fact is Trump’s latest indictment is a boon to his campaign. It will only strengthen the resolve of his supporters to vote for him. But the even bigger issue is something I wrote about last year: Trump’s legal woes allow him to suck up all the oxygen in the room. No other candidate can draw attention to themselves because Trump is always the center of it — even when he’s not present. No one can get traction against Trump, especially when they are all battling each other and not him.
So, I assume that the eight GOP candidates will try and outdo each other in making the cruelest and most outlandish policy proposals in order to get noticed. The louder and more obnoxious and extreme they are … the more likely they are to pique the interest of GOP primary voters. That was Trump’s successful strategy in 2016. But don’t waste your time thinking any of this matters now. Nothing that happens tonight in Milwaukee will change the current trajectory of the GOP race.
On the bright side, I seriously doubt that anything that happens tonight will surpass this headline from a March 2016 Republican debate.
My one semi-bold prediction about tonight’s affair is that we will be talking a lot more about Vivek Ramaswamy tomorrow. Ramaswamy is disciplined, telegenic, and will pretty much say anything that he thinks will appeal to GOP primary voters.
As I noted a few days ago, he is the mutant political offspring of Donald Trump: he’s a conspiracy theorist, non-politician, and loves voicing harebrained and impossible to implement but politically popular policy ideas.
For example, Ramaswamy wants to raise the voting age to 25 unless someone is enrolled in the military, is a first responder, or passes a citizenship test (you’d have to amend the Constitution to do that). He has called for firing a sizable chunk of the federal workforce (civil service protections make that rather difficult), and says he will go to Russia and coax Putin into breaking his partnership with China and allying himself with the United States (calling this idea dumb is a slur to dumb ideas). He’s also said he’d be okay with China seizing Taiwan after 2028 because by then, the US can build up its supply of semi-conductors and will no longer be reliant on Taiwan (oh, and he also suggested “exporting the Second Amendment” to Taiwan by giving everyone in the country a gun to fend off a possible Chinese invasion).
A foreign policy genius, he is not.
However, I have a feeling that Ramaswary will get asked about this.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was caught in a blunder after he claimed The Atlantic misquoted him floating the idea that the federal government was perhaps involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
During a CNN appearance on Monday night, anchor Kaitlan Collins questioned him about the comments, to which Ramaswamy responded that they were actually about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He made a similar comment suggesting he was misquoted to Semafor. But on Tuesday afternoon, The Atlantic published interview audio that verified the original quote about 9/11 was correct.
“I think it is legitimate to say how many police, how many federal agents, were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers,” he told The Atlantic in a profile that was published on Monday. “Maybe the answer is zero. It probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero.”
Of course, one man’s blunder is another man’s wink to conspiracy-addled Republican voters. I’m not saying that Ramaswamy is purposely dog-whistling 9/11 conspiracy theories … actually, I am saying that. What better way to stand out from the crowd than embracing crazy conspiracy theories and getting in a fight with mainstream media reporters? The fact that Ramaswamy was caught lying will not matter to Republican voters. Kind of worked for another recent GOP candidate and it’s pretty clear that Ramaswamy is following the exact same playbook.
I don’t think Ramaswamy will win the GOP nod, but he’s a terrifying preview of the slick, know-nothing, ambitious Republican non-politicians who will likely follow in Trump’s footsteps.
What’s Going On
Check out my latest conversation with Pete Dominick about all things American politics.
In perhaps the least shocking news story ever, two months after plotting an aborted coup against Vladimir Putin, mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash today. I guess Russia is running out of 25th-floor windows from which to defenestrate Putin’s political opponents.
Good piece by Joby Warrick on the tenth anniversary of the deadly chemical gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in Syria.
I kinda respect Elon Musk’s commitment to destroying the social media site for which he paid $44 billion.