As I caught a clip of an interview Dr. Deborah Birx did on MSNBC recently, my mind quickly began recalling the myriad other former Trump administration cabinet members and officials who have openly criticized their former boss.
Birx, who served as the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, has been making the rounds of network and cable TV news programs answering questions about her new book Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late. In her book and in the interviews, Birx says she tried to counter the COVID misinformation being spread by the former president. She said she even went so far as to tell Vice President Mike Pence that she was publicly countering Trump’s loony and dangerous assertions about a virus that was killing Americans by the thousands. And Pence, she says, told her to “Do what you need to do.”
Yes, even Trump’s sidekick knew that, for the good of the nation, he had to give his loyalty to sanity and truth over his boss’s derangement and lies. And, perhaps also for the good of the nation, Pence recently garnered the gumption to declare, “President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,” and “The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Coming from the cautious, restrained, often timid former vice president, that seems like a pretty harsh denunciation of the former president. But it’s mild compared to criticisms from other former Trump administration officials, such as the following:
“You never can tell with Trump. His relationship with the truth is very tenuous.”
“You never can tell with Trump. His relationship with the truth is very tenuous,” Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton told an interviewer. When the interviewer asked Bolton if Trump could have acted as a statesman during a second term, Bolton answered, “He’s not capable of it. This would require thinking through a policy and considering the pluses and minuses, the risks and costs involved. That’s just not what he does.”
Stephanie Grisham, one of Trump’s many press secretaries, told interviewers, “I also think he admired [Putin] greatly. I think he wanted to be able to kill whoever spoke out against him. He loved the dictators and … people who could kill anyone, including the press.”
Alyssa Farah Griffin, communications director, another short-time staffer who passed through the Trump administration’s furiously revolving door, warned that re-electing Trump would lead to “a nightmare scenario” in which he would “weaponize the justice department” and, possibly, use the military for his own political purposes.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer,” told a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, “As I’ve been saying since the beginning, Trump was a mobster, plain and simple.”
Trump’s second Chief of Staff, John Kelly, called Trump “the most flawed person I’ve ever met.”
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s first Secretary of State, described Trump as “undisciplined,” and said the former president had to be constrained from doing “illegal things.”
Omarosa Manigault Newman, a Trump White House advisor says Trump is a racist who regularly used the “n-word.” She also said she “was offered $15,000 a month to serve in a 'senior position' on Trump's 2020 re-election campaign” as payment for keeping quiet about her White House experiences.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy–who developed a severe case of amnesia about a week after the January 6th attempt to violently overthrow the U.S. government–said the following in newly released phone conversations and emails:
“The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s [January 6th] attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
“I’ve had it with this guy [Trump].”
“What he [Trump] did was unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it.”
And that’s just a small sampling of the criticisms aimed at the former president by many who were close to him during his time in office. Yet he remains the frontrunner among the still-unannounced Republican presidential candidates for 2024. If he runs–and he almost certainly will if he doesn’t die from obesity-related illnesses first–he will win the Republican nomination. Why? How?
He’ll win because despite his “tenuous relationship with the truth, despite his aversion to critical thinking, despite his love of brutal dictators, despite his weaponization of the justice department, despite his mobster management style, despite his being a deeply “flawed person,” despite his lack of discipline and his desire to “do illegal things,” despite his racist attitudes, and despite his responsibility for the January 6th Capitol insurrection, Donald Trump is white evangelicals’ new messiah. And white evangelicals will turn out faithfully to support their new messiah.
A messiah need not align himself with some external, objective standard of truth and justice. A messiah defines truth and justice. Those qualities must align themselves with the messiah. For his cult followers, he is the reference point for all virtue.
The idealist within me still holds out some hope that all the high-level criticisms of the new evangelical messiah will tarnish his crown in his disciples’ eyes. But the realist portion of me knows better.