All Democratic presidential campaign managers should run out right now and buy a copy of Rick Wilson’s new book – and then read it out loud to their candidates.
Unlike most of the Washington reporters covering Donald Trump, Wilson, a Republican strategist and ad man, wastes no time trying to be fair or balanced about the career criminal who is the temporary occupant of the White House. His advice to Democrats is beautifully summarized in his epilogue:
Do not, as my party did, underestimate the evil, desperate nature of evil desperate people. Do not come to this fight believing that the Trump team views any action, including outright criminality, as off limits. [The 2020 election] is a battle that decides whether they have an unlimited runway to create a dynastic kleptocracy based on an authoritarian personality cult that makes North Korea look like Sweden, or whether the immune system of the Republic kicks in and purges them from the body public …
There is no bottom. There is no shame. There are no limits … He is surrounded by cowards with frightening and tremendous skills …
Like his previous book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, Wilson’s new effort is a reminder that the handful of Republicans who have found the cojones to break with their felonious leader often treat him with considerably more violence than the average Democrat does.
This is refreshing. Wilson writes that Trump will “go down in history with asterisks next to his name for endemic corruption, outrageous stupidity, egregious cruelty and inhumanity, for diminishing the presidency and the nation, and for being a lout with a terrible wig”.
The only thing that can save him is a Democratic party too stubborn, undisciplined and foolish to get out of its own wayRick Wilson
The author admits that he would prefer to have a conservative as president, but he’s willing to throw his weight behind any Democrat in order to get rid of Trump. His fear should also be ours: “There’s only on thing that can save him, and that’s a Democratic party too stubborn, undisciplined and foolish to get out of its own way.”
Because Wilson has spent practically his entire working life as a Republican consultant laying waste to Democratic candidates, he realizes his advice may be greeted with skepticism. So he suggests he should be treated like a senior KGB officer defecting at the height of the cold war: “The right response wasn’t ‘Fuck you.’ It was ‘Hey, we’d LOVE to check out this boatload of intel, plans, strategies and data you’ve collected.’”
Wilson is “coming in from the cold, whether you like it or not”. He has switched sides because this is clearly an existential moment. “If Trump wins re-election,” he writes, “freedom, opportunity and equality will no longer be the normative social forces shaping the next generation of American children.”
The good news for the Democrats is that “corruption is always a killer app in politics” – and they have been doing a slightly better job of highlighting the extraordinary “depth of corruption that orbits Trump” since they retook the House in 2018.
His lawlessness and contempt for ethics is a feature, not a bug. He ran as ‘too rich to be bought’ but governs as ‘Hey sailor, wanna date?’ … Trump’s venality and willingness to fleece the GOP rubes doesn’t repel them – it’s what attracts them.
Wilson thinks the 2020 referendum on Trump has to be based in large part on an anti-corruption message: “If Democrats can’t tell Americans a tale of how greed, corruption and self-dealing define Trump’s Washington, they need better writers.”
Whether “it’s lobbyists for Wall Street banks, big coal, the payday loan industry, private prisons, or any other number of economic vampires, the Trump kakistocracy really does have something for everyone: nepotism, cronyism, pay-for-play, backroom deals for donors, abuse of power, lying to Congress … and as a bonus, monetizing cruelty to children”.
Trump, Wilson writes, is “sending a signal, loud and clear, that he’s for sale, satisfaction guaranteed”.
He also thinks foreign policy presents another gigantic opportunity “to mount a ringing defense of America’s role as a force for good in the world”. Wilson thinks “the case makes itself: from Putin to North Korea to Iran to Isis to Saudi Arabia”. Trump has “cast us as a pay-to-play mercenary force and has divorced us from the international priorities that once defined American power in the world”.
Wilson has another, especially chilling message. One of the biggest problems facing the Democrats is that Trump’s “madness, the narcissism, the eccentricities [and] the pathological lying” have become “rationalized and normalized”.
That’s partly because it’s almost impossible for the press to keep up with the insanity of a president who was tweeted more than 11,000 times since he took office – sometimes more than 120 times a day. But it’s also because a large portion of the Washington press corps continues to bend over backwards to treat him fairly, even though the breadth and depth of his crimes have far exceeded anything Richard Nixon did as president.
Last November, the New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told Christiane Amampour: “During Watergate, the American press came to understand that Richard Nixon had violated the law, and it was time for a change. The American press did the investigative work that led that to happen.”
During the 2016 campaign, the Times failed miserably to do that investigative work about Trump. It has done considerably better since he took office, but it is long past time for serious journalists to reach the same conclusion the Times and the Washington Post reached about Nixon more than four decades ago.
Trump has violated the law many, many times, and it is time to get rid of him.