Opinion/column: Trump sycophant smears a hero |
Max BootWashington Post
Ohio is sometimes called the “Mother of Presidents” because it has produced seven occupants of the White House. Until recently, it was a battleground state whose Republicans — say, Gov. Mike DeWine, Sen. Rob Portman, former Gov. John Kasich — were of the bland, traditional variety.
If you want to see the calamitous impact of Trumpism on the GOP, look no further than the party primary to succeed Portman, who is retiring. The two strongest voices in the contest belong to JD Vance and Josh Mandel. Both are former moderate conservatives doing their best Trump impersonation — or is it Marjorie Taylor Greene? These fake populists, who are, in fact, examples of elitist efforts, are locked in a race to the bottom to see who can say the dumbest, vilest things to wake up the MAGA hordes.
Vance may have just won the Olympics on offense and lost his soul trashing one of America’s most distinguished soldiers. It all started when Vance said during an appearance on a right-wing podcast, “I don’t care what happens to Ukraine.” This led to a scathing retort from retired General Barry McCaffrey: “JD Vance is a disgraceful person unfit for public office. His comments are those of a stooge of Russian aggression.
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Rather than slip away in shame, Vance fired back, “In all your time leading the army, we won no wars. You drank fine wine at security conferences while thousands of working-class children died on the battlefield. Oh, by the way, how much do you have to gain financially from a war with Russia, Barry? »
Vance may think his brief stint in the Marine Corps (where he worked in public affairs) gives him the power to insult one of America’s greatest war heroes. He is wrong. While Vance spent his time in the Army writing aircraft maintenance press releases, McCaffrey earned four stars on his epaulets and received three Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses (the Army’s second highest honor for bravery) and two Silver Stars. He served in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. In the latter conflict, he commanded the 24th Infantry Division as it executed the “left hook” which pulverized Iraqi forces in Kuwait. It was, in fact, a war we won, in large part due to the inspired leadership of McCaffrey.
There are no words to describe what Vance said about McCaffrey, accusing the legendary general of cowardice and corruption. His animadversions aren’t just fake. They are monstrous, despicable, obscene. They are all too characteristic of Republican politics today.
The degraded tone was set by Trump in 2015 when he insulted Senator John McCain, another war hero, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured. When Trump won the nomination and the presidency, the message received by junior league fighters such as Vance and Mandel was that campaigns should be conducted without regard for truth or decency, that restraint is for the “losers” and that the more messed up your Twitter feed is, the better, to show that you are not – horrors – an “establishment” creature.
To read Mandel and Vance’s Twitter feeds is to see where this nihilistic mindset leads. These right-wing performance artists are bashing Anthony Fauci (“Why is Anthony Fauci still free?” asks Vance); denounce Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a dictator for clearing the roads of truckers protesting vaccination mandates; promoting discredited theories about Hillary Clinton spying on Trump; and engage in creeping subservience to Trump, whose endorsement they desperately covet.
Vance, who once called Trump a “cultural heroine” and a demagogue leading “the white working class into a very dark place,” today tweets that “Trump not having social media right now is a real loss to the world. country”. Mandel, who backed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the 2016 primaries and once kept Trump at bay, now says, “I’m pro-God, pro-gun, pro-Trump.
There is no line these shameless opportunists won’t cross. Mandel, who is Jewish, addresses Christian fundamentalists by saying, “The separation of church and state is a myth. As chronicled in Politico, he also called Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., “terrorist spokespersons,” described Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., as “a pollutant,” and compared Afghan refugees to “alligators.” Naturally, both Vance and Mandel embraced the “big lie” that Trump won the 2020 election.
Of course, it’s possible that neither Vance nor Mandel win the GOP nomination. The nod could go to a more established candidate, like former state party chairwoman Jane Timken, who has Portman’s endorsement. She hasn’t gone as far as them, but she’s catching up: Her new ad involves Vance and Mandel trying to make up for sexual shortcomings and shows her getting close to Trump and carrying a shotgun.
Ohio demonstrates that while some GOP candidates will act more Trumpy than others, there’s simply no room in the party for anyone who isn’t at least a little Trumpy. Which means there’s no hope for the party of prominent Ohioans like Ulysses Grant and William Howard Taft.
Max Boot is a Washington Post columnist.