Nov 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump's own goal


Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A stream of Republicans has now forcefully condemned Donald Trump's dinner with antisemitic rapper Ye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, twisting the knife at the most perilous moment in the former president's political career since Jan. 6.

Why it matters: The guardrails that Trump ditched in the final days of his presidency — when conspiracy theorists descended on the Oval Office to feed him lies about the 2020 election — haven't returned.

  • Own goals like hosting one of the nation's most prominent racists at his Mar-a-Lago home are likely to accelerate the Republican Party's move away from Trump in 2024 — and toward an alternative like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • "Mr. Trump isn’t going to change, and the next two years will inevitably feature many more such damaging episodes," the Wall Street Journal's editorial board wrote today. "Republicans who continue to go along for the ride with Mr. Trump are teeing themselves up for disaster in 2024."

Driving the news: Former Vice President Mike Pence today became the most prominent Republican to condemn the dinner, telling NewsNation that his old boss should "apologize."

  • "I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite," Pence added, however. "I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot. I would not have been his vice president if he was."

In Congress, where Republicans returned from break bracing for the media onslaught, the chorus of condemnations was near universal. A sampling:

  • Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.): "Well, that’s just a bad idea on every level. I don’t know who was advising him on his staff, but I hope that whoever that person was got fired."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah): "There’s no bottom to the degree which he’s willing to degrade himself and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting.”
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.): "President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party."

The intrigue: Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp criticized the Mar-a-Lago meeting as "un-American" in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

  • Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Herschel Walker, meanwhile, declined to comment — breaking the united front the two Georgia Republicans had sought to convey in the weeks before the Dec. 6 Senate runoff.

Yes, but: Republicans didn't fully abandon Trump even after his years-long flirtations with extremism culminated in a physical attack on the Capitol. For some of them, this will just be another bump in the road — if that.

  • “The meeting was bad, he shouldn't have done it. But again, you know, there's a double standard about this kind of stuff," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. "And I don't think it'll matter in terms of his political future, but I do believe we need to watch who we meet with."
Go deeper