I can’t decide if this is stronger proof that Crenshaw is good at this or that the Democrats he’s paired with are bad at it. Some of both, for sure.
"This broad brush criticism that the president is somehow undermining our democracy, I always wonder like, what exactly are we talking about?" @DanCrenshawTX tells @margbrennan @FaceTheNation https://t.co/ac7ve4LCfw pic.twitter.com/u9QPUmwMMl
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 18, 2018
If you’re a Dem and you’re invested in the idea that Trump is a unique threat to the media, you have to come armed to this with evidence stronger than “Jim Acosta wasn’t allowed to grandstand at press conferences for a few days” or “Trump is disrespectful towards the media clerisy.” And you need to be ready for the obvious counterargument that I flagged earlier today and which Crenshaw notes, that Obama and Eric Holder were more aggressive about snooping on the media than Trump and Jeff Sessions have been.
An interesting footnote about Crenshaw in light of his (qualified) defense of POTUS here: He took a beating in the primary this year for having harshly criticized Trump in a Facebook post in 2015.
In the runoff for the 2nd Congressional District — where U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, is not seeking re-election — Houston state Rep. Kevin Roberts has seized on a series of years-old Facebook posts from his opponent, Dan Crenshaw, to paint him as unfriendly to Trump. In a 2015 post that has drawn the most scrutiny from Roberts and his allies, Crenshaw writes that Trump’s “insane rhetoric” toward Muslims “is hateful” and takes away from conversations around “the reform of Islam.” He also calls Trump an idiot while writing of “equally ignorant liberals” on the other side of the debate.
He’s been toning down the volume ever since. How much of that is sincere and how much of it is due to a reckoning with electoral reality, that his political career could be a short and unhappy one in Texas if he makes an enemy of the president, only he knows. His bottom line, though, is similar to one I made myself in a post last week. For all the authoritarian law-and-order rhetoric from Trump about cops roughing up suspects and mass deportation, he just endorsed a major criminal-justice reform bill and offered Democrats a deal earlier this year that would grant amnesty to nearly two million DREAMers. In his worst moments he can sound like Duterte but the actual policies he ends up pushing are almost always mainstream Republican, even centrist Republican, fare. He’s spent the better part of two years publicly lambasting Jeff Sessions and Bob Mueller but Sessions lasted all the way through the midterms and Mueller is hard at work even now.
Jonathan Last recently noticed the mismatch between Trump’s most blowhardy verbiage and his seeming total disinterest in following through on it via policy, describing his administration as “The Vaporware Presidency.” Vaporware, Last noted, is a tech term used to describe software that’s supposedly in development but which may not even exist. Which seems familiar:
My personal favorite bit of Trump vaporware was the president’s announcement that he was going to end birthright citizenship via executive order. There was, as you may recall, quite a kerfuffle about this ridiculous proposal. Some people argued that not only could Trump do away with birthright citizenship with a stroke of his pen, but that he must do so, because it was a critical step for defending our nation state.
And then a week or so later, suddenly the entire topic of birthright citizenship was just . . . gone. Trump stopped talking about it. Trump supporters seemed to forget about it. And the people who had rushed out to argue how crucial it was that Trump end it were suddenly on to the next thing.
There are literally dozens of examples of that from the past two years you can conjure up yourself. E.g., how many times has Trump complained about tightening up libel laws to punish the “Fake News Media”? And how many times has he done anything that might remotely advance that idea legislatively? (Never mind that any congressional bill would be DOA in court.) “Trump’s not a fascist, he’s a golfer,” said James Kirchick last year. He can sound like a fascist, which is what the Democrats on the panel are worried about, starting with his “enemy of the people” rhetoric, but when it comes time for the hard work of turning that rhetoric into law, the man would usually rather play golf. That’s what Crenshaw’s focused on. Trump’s almost all talk.
If his Democratic colleagues were on their game they would have countered by arguing that Trump, wittingly or not, is moving the Overton window of what’s not merely acceptable but potentially dogmatic in right-wing politics. Trump’s not going to change birthright citizenship; he’s not committed enough to that battle and he hasn’t done enough to rally the right behind it. But as the idea takes root, maybe pols will come along who are committed to it; maybe it’ll become a litmus-test issue by which a Republican’s resolve in decreasing immigration is measurer. That’s what the chatterati mean when they complain about Trump and “norms.” He can’t do much about the laws but he can do something about the norms on which American law is based. The “attack on our freedoms” or whatever may show up 25 years from now, with Trump having cut an ideological path for it.
But who are we kidding? In 25 years America will be a socialist paradise under President Ocasio-Cortez. In lieu of an exit question, a fun ad from Crenshaw’s primary that failed to sink him.