For all of the words that have been written and spoken about – and by – Donald Trump, it’s often difficult to put a finger on what makes his presidency so incredibly abnormal.
Yes, he says (and tweets) things that no past president would ever utter publicly. Yes, he operates without any sort of blueprint or plan, choosing instead to wing it. Yes, he takes credit for everything and blame for nothing. Yes, he has upended decades’ worth of carefully crafted relationships with friends – and enemies – around the world.
But there’s just SO much to say about the radicalness of Trump that it all sort of cancels itself out.
(It reminds me of a Simpsons episode where ancient tycoon Monty Burns decides to get a physical. A set of tests is run. And the doctor informs Burns he is “the sickest man in the entire United States. You have everything.” And yet, Mr. Burns is healthy. Why? Because all of the diseases in his body are jamming each other up as they try to attack his body. “We call it ‘Three Stooges Syndrome,’” the doctor tells Mr. Burns. Watch it here.)
Every once in a while, however, someone is able to break through the clutter – and nail exactly what it is that makes Trump so unorthodox as president. Over the weekend, Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president, was that person in an interview on MSNBC.
Here’s his analysis of Trump, which ran almost exactly two minutes (and special shout-out to CNN’s Allison Gordon for the transcription!):
“Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had. And I don’t say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day where Barack Obama left office. And there were a lot of us on that day who were deeply skeptical and very worried about what a Trump presidency would be. But this is a moment of unparalleled national humiliation, of weakness.
“When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don’t use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words of the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We’ve never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities.
“It’s just astonishing that this man is president of the United States. The man, the con man, from New York City. Many bankruptcies, failed businesses, a reality show, that branded him as something that he never was. A successful businessman. Well, he’s the President of the United States now, and the man who said he would make the country great again. And he’s brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let’s be clear. This isn’t happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you’re the most likely to die from this disease. We’re the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk.”
Like I said: It’s brutal. But it’s also a decidedly succinct assessment of what Trump’s conduct in office – from coronavirus to protests over police brutality and back – have meant to the Republican Party and the country.
Now, Schmidt is without question a leading voice in the “Never Trump” movement. He is a founder of The Lincoln Project, an effort aimed at beating Trump in November.
But Schmidt is also a lifelong Republican. He worked for Lamar Alexander’s 2000 presidential campaign. He worked on Capitol Hill for Republicans. He served as the communications director of the House GOP’s campaign arm. He helped shepherd Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to the California governorship. He managed McCain’s campaign.
This is not someone who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Republican Party. Schmidt has been partisan fighter for the bulk of his professional life. He has been a Republican for a lot longer than Donald Trump has been one.
And so, while it may be easy for Trump loyalists to dismiss Schmidt’s condemnation of the President, it’s not that simple. Yes, Schmidt is someone who has made no secret of his distaste for Trump. But that doesn’t mean that all of what he says about the President above is wrong. Or should be ignored.