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It’s now five weeks since Joe Biden’s inauguration brought Donald Trump’s tumultuous four years at the top of America’s government to a close. Polls show that most Americans view Biden far more favorably than the man who arrived over an hour late to a Florida hotel ballroom this weekend to deliver a 90-minute jeremiad against Democrats, some Republicans, and the US Supreme Court.
Indeed, Trump is the only president in the history of modern polling to never garner the approval of even a full half of his countrymen; according to Gallup, he left office tied with George W Bush’s mark of 34 percent end-of-term approval. Meanwhile, Biden has spent his initial month in office with approval ratings well above the 50 percent mark in general. He polls higher yet on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 400,000 Americans on Trump’s watch, and a majority or plurality of Americans support his initial actions on immigration, climate, and Covid relief.
Yet despite Biden’s push to restore a critical mass of pre-Trump norms, traditions, and processes to the American political process, his predecessor’s hold on the Republican Party remains a concern. Trump’s refusal to follow the example of other former presidents and step back from politics — a precedent dating back to the time of George Washington — has meant that a full-scale revision of history and an alarmingly broad new campaign is emerging.
“After the complete clusterf**k that was January 6th, you’d think folks would have the presence of mind to take a breath, write a memoir, cash the check, and let the post-presidency bump happen,” one former top Trump official said. “But people aren’t thinking about history’s judgment — they’re thinking about how to discredit or sabotage Biden and the Democrats.”
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To that end, ex-Trump officials have blanketed the airwaves and kept up their own public profiles since Biden took office, attacking the 46th president and his policies in ways that would have been unthinkable during the opening days of previous administrations.
Dr Brett Giroir — last seen wearing the four stars of an Admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps as the Trump administration’s Assistant Secretary for Health — is a case in point. Giroir has taken to Twitter in recent days to assail “lies” about the Trump administration’s failure to formulate a plan for distributing coronavirus vaccines. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has kept up a schedule of Fox News appearances, during which he has accused the Biden administration of fomenting a parade of horribles with respect to China and the Middle East. Former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow now has a show on Fox Business Network, which he has used to boast of the Trump administration’s pre-pandemic economic record and continue to make false claims about a “V-shaped recovery” which he once made from the White House’s south lawn.
And on the subject of Biden’s attempts to roll back Trump-era immigration policies, a veritable who’s who of Trump immigration hardliners — including ex-White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, former illegally-appointed DHS official Ken Cuccinelli, and ex-CBP boss Mark Morgan — now make regular appearances on conservative channels such as Fox, One America News, and Newsmax. All have lobbed accusations that Biden has brought about “open borders” or is on the verge of instituting massive “amnesty” and dismantling Trump’s border wall.
But as it was with most of the public statements the same people made while drawing salaries from the public purse, none of it is true.
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Miles Taylor, the ex-Department of Homeland Security chief of staff and formerly anonymous author ofA Warning, called his former colleagues’ post-presidency publicity push “desperate revisionist history… from people who lost badly and are eager to look like winners”.
“I would go as far as to say that never before in history have people who lost tried so hard to look like they actually won,” he said. “You’re seeing a lot of folks come out and try to claim victory, both from an electoral standpoint and a policy standpoint, where victory is not the operative word — the operative word is failure.”
In no area are these attempts to reframe the past as egregious as they are with Trump’s immigration policy, Taylor said, because Trump is “the worst immigration president the United States has ever had”.
“He had the potential to go convince a divided Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, it would have been a spectacular achievement, and he failed…because the [former] president himself is an idiot,” Taylor said. “He is not a smart human being and he did not understand that the solution was more complicated than a wall.”
Another person with significant ties to the man who President Biden refers to as “the former guy” — his niece, Dr Mary Trump — has her own thoughts about the reason for the non-stop reputation-fluffing from this cohort of Republicans. They all missed their chance to make a break with him after he lost to Biden, she said, and again when GOP Senators voted to acquit him of having incited the January 6th insurrection that claimed the life of a US Capitol Police officer.
“Because they didn’t take the off-ramp, they put themselves in a position to keep being victims of Donald’s blackmail,” Dr Trump said in a phone interview late Sunday.
Dr Trump, a clinical psychologist by training, theorized that Republicans who failed to convict or even chastise her uncle out of fear that he would form a third party (a possibility he appeared to foreclose on during remarks at CPAC on Sunday) have by their inaction handed him the power to keep them under his thumb for the foreseeable future.
But she also suggested that the ex-president has done more than cow the GOP into parroting a revisionist history by tacit threats of splitting their party. The Republican push to reframe history with her uncle is the hero, she said, makes it appear as if the disordered behavior she described in her book as being passed from her grandfather — New York developer Fred Trump Sr — to her uncle has now been passed to an entire political party.
“They have taken on some of his… defense mechanisms, coping mechanisms, and other things that one would use to evade responsibility, but it didn’t just start with Donald — it definitely started with my grandfather. They could not take responsibility for anything,” she said. “And now the American people are bearing the brunt of it… It’s almost as if the Republican Party has taken on the role of my grandfather in some weird way.”
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