There’s an undeclared 2020 presidential candidate who’s in a considerable amount of hot water this week and it doesn’t have anything to do with creepily sniffing women’s hair. The not-yet-official Democrat in question is Michael Avenatti. As you may have heard, the long arm of the law decided they’d like to have a few words the infamous porn star lawyer about absconding with vast sums of money from various people, including a severely disabled man. If found guilty, one estimate has him looking at as much as 355 years in the crowbar hotel.
But it wasn’t so long ago that this paragon of integrity was being talked about very differently. Rather than a thief or a crook (allegedly), he was all the buzz inside the Beltway and on cable news as a possible challenger to President Trump next year. The Free Beacon has a wonderful walk down memory lane in the form of the superest of supercuts. Here are all the government and media figures praising Avenatti as being everything from “a beast” (in a good way) to the “savior of the Republic.”
In 2018, one couldn’t turn on the news without seeing his face while promoting himself and his client Stormy Daniels’s case against President Donald Trump, which delved into a non-disclosure agreement and hush money payment over an alleged 2006 affair she had with Trump. In addition to being a near-daily guest on CNN and MSNBC, Avenatti appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, Today, The View, The Circus and more, racking up hundreds of millions of dollars of free media. On May 3 last year, he appeared on 10 different shows in 24 hours.
Avenatti won accolades from liberal media members for his aggressive style and promises of bringing down Trump—he repeatedly has predicted Trump won’t serve out his first term—such as MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude, Jr. calling him a “beast” and claimed historian Jon Meacham called him the “savior of the republic.” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle said she had to offer Avenatti an apology for doubting his ability to combat Trump, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said Trump was “terrified” of Avenatti, and The View‘s Joy Behar said he was “saving the country.”
Turn on your volume and play this compilation. It’s worth your while.
Ah, good times, my friends. Good times.
Avenatti wasn’t just a hero on cable news for slamming Trump. He was actually being taken at least somewhat seriously as a possible candidate. It was almost exactly seven months ago (what feels like a lifetime now) when Bill Scher, writing at Politico, said: “Michael Avenatti is Winning the 2020 Democratic Primary.”
Avenatti is the lead storm chaser in a little-noticed front in the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign: Who can out-Trump the sitting president by going the furthest to break procedural “norms”?
Even if Avenatti has little chance of winning the nomination, he could still wreck the 2020 Democratic race. In fact he’s already doing it, by using his considerable media skills and political instincts to frame the contest around how far Democrats should go when wielding power, and to pressure his rivals to follow his cue. If we begin measuring candidates on the basis of who has the weakest attachment to the written and unwritten rules which have stabilized American democracy for centuries, the country will be in serious danger.
Turns out that Scher really had Michael Avenatti pegged back then, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. The disgraced former attorney certainly was a leader in “breaking procedural norms.” The funny part is that the normal procedures he was breaking involved allegedly bilking his clients out of money and violating the law. And I wonder what ever happened to that Trump guy? I’m sure I remember Avenatti promising he’d be gone by now.