It’s not the most important subplot of the “President Trump” reality show but it is the most gripping.
Until now George’s anti-Trump mania had taken a predictable form. He could and did call the president every name in the book, but he wouldn’t engage Kellyanne directly about him. (At least not in public.) That was his apparent concession to family harmony. Trump is fair game, Mrs. Conway is not. That rule held through more than 30,000 tweets.
But something’s changed.
Your boss apparently thought so. https://t.co/yje099pkPU
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) December 2, 2019
On the one hand, he’s right. On the other hand, this dude’s urge to bash Trump now somehow compels him to dunk on his own wife.
In measuring the purity of a person’s Never-Trumpism, being willing to dunk on your own wife has to merit a perfect score. I’ll leave to you to gauge what score it would earn on the “good husband” scale.
It’s part of a trend too. Until a few weeks ago, through many months of ranting about Trump online, Conway had resolutely stayed away from television. That rule was broken on the first day of Schiff’s impeachment hearings, when he showed up on MSNBC. Two days later he attacked Donald Trump Jr directly on Twitter, another unusual escalation that led to a sustained nasty exchange; up to that point, TrumpWorld had been notably reluctant to engage with Conway. A week later, the president himself hit back by calling Conway a “wack job” on Fox. While all of that was happening, Conway somehow found himself at an impeachment-inspired party with the likes of Paul Krugman, Kathy Griffin, and Hillary advisor Philippe Reines.
He’s gone rogue. In terms of what’s next, nothing can be ruled out at this point, up to and including his own MSNBC show titled “The Good Conway.” (“By George” is too easy.)
I’ll make one point in his defense. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t the first time one Conway has criticized the other in public. Last year WaPo interviewed both of them for a profile about how the family navigates the fact that Kellyanne is arguably the president’s most well-known spokesman and George is a guy prone to calling him a delusional sociopath several dozen times a day. That led to this exchange, in which Kellyanne complained about George to WaPo’s reporter on background. Or at least tried to:
In Washington, changes in allegiance are nothing new, nor is the art of redirecting any criticism that might follow. Trump loyalists have not changed the fundamental rules of the city — the weapon of shame remains most powerful in the hands of the shameless — but they have redefined the boundaries of play. Some people seem uncomfortable with that, but not Kellyanne. Here’s a conversation from a few days after our walk:
Me: You told me you found [George’s tweets] disrespectful.
Kellyanne: It is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows . . . as “a person familiar with their relationship.”
Me: No, we’re on the record here. You can’t say after the fact “as someone familiar.”
Kellyanne: I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.
Me: No, that’s not true. That never happened.
Say what you will about George, at least he’s stabbing Kellyanne in the front. When she stabs him, or attempts to, it’s in the back.
Speaking of seeking help from Ukraine, which was the subject of the Conway dispute in the tweet above, Trump was excited today to learn that Zelensky had said once again for the record that there was no quid pro quo with the United States in a new interview with Time. It’s true that he said that, although he really has no choice: Zelensky would be nuts to risk Trump’s wrath by admitting that he felt pressured to reopen the Burisma probe. But in any case, he said more than that.
When did you first sense that there was a connection between Trump’s decision to block military aid to Ukraine this summer and the two investigations that Trump and his allies were asking for? Can you clarify this issue of the quid pro quo?
Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.
I wonder if he realizes that Trump doesn’t view Ukraine as a “partner” of any kind or if he’s in the dark. Presumably he knows and was aiming his comment at the bipartisan pro-Ukraine/anti-Russia faction in Congress. Zelensky has also had some success in reducing corruption since he took office, one of Trump’s core gripes about the country, but there’s a Trump-related problem there too. One of the people whom Ukraine wants to investigate is the owner of Burisma, for alleged self-dealing he engaged in before Hunter Biden joined the board. Because of Trump’s insistence that Ukraine investigate Burisma and the Bidens, though, Zelensky’s now in a no-win position with respect to relations with the U.S. Whatever his government ends up doing to probe Burisma will be seen here as evidence that he’s either currying favor with Trump or turning his back on him, alienating Democrats or Republicans. The best he can do, perhaps, is to try to play both sides, as demonstrated by his Time comments. Republicans are right that there’s no quid pro quo — but Democrats are right that the aid shouldn’t be delayed. Throw each side a bone to maintain bipartisan relations.
President Trump: "There was breaking news today — the Ukranian president came out and said very strongly that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong. That should be case over." pic.twitter.com/dWe9QRrwba
— The Hill (@thehill) December 2, 2019