We are ALL talking about the elephant in the room

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, Pool)

It’s not true that nobody’s talking about the elephant in the room. Every damn body is talking about that elephant. It’s all we are talking about right now.


As usual, the elephant can’t shut up, and neither can the rest of us. He’s super loud, and we are all shouting at each other in frustration. After all, he is really big and we can’t avoid the smell when he takes a dump.

I am no Donald Trump hater. I thought he was a really great president until COVID hit. I thought then and think now that COVID was an enemy Trump was ill suited to fight because no matter how insulting he was, the virus was indifferent. COVID didn’t care about insults, bluster, bullying, or showmanship. It wanted blood.

Trump understood early that COVID didn’t fit into his skillset, so he rightly outsourced the fight to “experts.” Nobody can be good at everything, and few politicians can be good at dealing with a pandemic. Hard to prepare for that in between debates, chicken dinners, and meeting with mistresses as politicians are wont to do.

It turned out, though, that the “experts” he outsourced to were both incompetent and out to kill his presidency. They did. They screwed up dealing with the virus, but managed to wound Trump badly. Trump let them, or at least couldn’t stop them from doing so.

Sad, as Trump would say. But hardly surprising. When everybody you trust to do the right thing stabs you in the back, it’s hard to survive. Even Caesar had Brutus. Hard to blame Caesar for that. Et tu?


I admit I never personally liked the guy. A New York real estate mogul who thinks PT Barnum was too subtle is not my cup of tea. But he got results–results I and few others expected to see. Despite the rage and obstructionism, he got results. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have–you can take that to the bank. Results count, being nice doesn’t in politics.

When Trump was defeated in 2020–by fair means or foul, depending upon your read of the evidence–Trump remained the issue everybody spoke of.

2021 was the year of Trump discussions. The 2022 elections were–according to the Democrats and with some evidence–all about Trump. It was the only thing Democrats would talk about besides abortion. BadOrangeMan threattodemocracy electiondenier indictTrumpnow January6blahblahblah. Exhausting.

But a funny thing happened along the way–Republicans who didn’t talk much about Trump did quite well in the elections–better than predicted. And Republicans who were tied to Trump at the hip underperformed, even in deep Red districts such as CO-3. Ron DeSantis, Brian Kemp, and by extension Glenn Youngkin all came out looking very good indeed. Herschel Walker, Mehmet Oz, and Don Bolduc not so much.

You can argue about whether Trump hurt them or not, but hard to argue that he helped. MAGA candidates did comparatively poorly in competitive races by the numbers. Fair or unfair, there it is. A fact.


The facts aren’t in dispute, but of course the lessons to be teased out of the facts certainly are. A Trump vs. anti-Trump fight is brewing, and the person steeping the brew is the former president himself. He is, as I metaphored above (I invented that word!), taking a big steaming dump in the room. And it stinks.

I don’t want to take potshots at Trump. His accomplishments deserve the respect that his enemies on both the right and the left don’t give enough of. There is a good reason that Trump’s supporters are intensely loyal to him. He led them when and to where others feared to go.

Yet it is undeniable that Trump is behaving very badly indeed right now, hurting himself, the party, and America itself. His attacks on DeSantis and Youngkin (and expect other attacks against these men and others) are wrong, stupid, and harmful to the party and the country. That, too, is indisputable. Young-kin sounds Chinese? What?! Huh?! What is that even supposed to mean, for God’s sake?

Even if you believe that Trump is the best candidate for president and that DeSantis and Youngkin owe him allegiance, you cannot argue that Trump’s behavior either helps the party or the country. A strong Governor DeSantis and a strong Governor Youngkin are necessary to make progress while they are in power. Weakening them–neither of whom, by the way, has criticized Trump–weakens the country.


Trump isn’t punching back against enemies; he is punching at potential allies or competitors who haven’t said a bad word about him–yet. He is trying to weaken people the country needs to be strong and successful. He is clearly trying to harm them not to benefit America, but to benefit himself.

That, too, is indisputable. A weaker Ron DeSantis in no way benefits America, Florida, or the Republican Party. How could it?

Neither DeSantis nor Youngkin has undermined Trump except by succeeding. Should they have failed? Should they be bad governors and bad politicians to ensure that nobody looks good but Trump? Maybe just succeed a little less and not look so good? Weird logic, that.

Politicians deserve allegiance when and only when they deserve it, and we should dump them in a heartbeat if they quit deserving it. They aren’t our friends or family. They are tools for us, and they see us as tools for them. They need our vote to get money and power; we need good policies because the alternative is civilizational decline. It is transactional, not love or friendship.


If you want a friend in Washington get a dog.

It is true that soldiers will fight and die on a battlefield for the guy in the trench next to them; politicians aren’t the guy in the trench with you. They are the generals who either win or lose battles. And if the general can’t win battles you fire them. Trump won some battles. Good on him. I voted for him in 2020 because he did.

But Trump seems intent on losing battles right now. Fighting the wrong enemy. Taking shots at his own guys. Even whining that some other general doesn’t deserve credit for winning a great victory.

The question for Republicans is whether they stick with the loose cannon shooting back at them … because he was really good in the past? Or do they choose to invest in a general who seems to get this war at this time, and is unhampered by the baggage of the past? One perhaps that doesn’t indulge the impulse to re-fight his own personal battles rather than focus on what voters want?

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