July 5, 2024 (Friday)

For all that certain members of the media continue their freakout over Biden’s electability after his appearance in last Thursday’s event on CNN, it is Trump and his Republicans who appear to be nervous about the upcoming election.

Journalist Jennifer Schulze of Heartland Signal noted today that as of 8:00 this morning, the New York Times had published 192 pieces on Biden’s debate performance: 142 news articles and 50 opinion pieces. Trump was covered in 92 stories, about half of which were about the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling. Although Trump has frequently slurred his words or trailed off while speaking and repeatedly fell asleep at his own criminal trial, none of the pieces mentioned Trump’s mental fitness.

But for all of what independent journalists are calling a “feeding frenzy,” egged on by right-wing media figures, it seems as if the true implications of Project 2025 are starting to gain traction and the Trump campaign recognizes that the policies that document advocates are hugely unpopular.

On July 2, Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts assured Trump ally Steve Bannon’s followers that they are winning in what he called “the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” In March, Roberts told former Trump administration official and now right-wing media figure Sebastian Gorka about Project 2025: “There are parts of the plan that we will not share with the Left: the executive orders, the rules and regulations. Just like a good football team we don’t want to tip off our playbook to the Left.”

This morning, although Roberts has described Project 2025 as “institutionalizing Trumpism,” Trump’s social media feed tried to distance the former president from Project 2025. “I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it,” the post read. Despite this disavowal of any knowledge of the project, it continued: “I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

In what appeared to be a coordinated statement, the directors of Project 2025 wrote on social media less than two hours later that they “do not speak for any candidate.”

Aside from the fact that “[a]nything they do, I wish them luck,” sounds much like the signaling Trump did to the Proud Boys when he told them to “stand back and stand by,” Trump’s assertion and Project 2025’s response can’t possibly erase the many and deep ties of the Trump camp to Project 2025. Juliet Jeske of Decoding Fox News noted that Trump’s name shows up on more than 190 pages of the Project 2025 playbook.

Rebekah Mercer, who sits on the board of the Heritage Foundation, was one of Trump’s top donors in 2016; her family founded and operated Cambridge Analytica, the company that misused the data of millions of Facebook users to push pro-Trump and anti-Clinton material in 2016. Trump’s national press secretary, Karoline Leavitt, has appeared in a Project 2025 video. Trump’s own super PAC has been running ads promoting Project 2025, calling it “Trump’s Project 2025,” and many of its policies—killing the Department of Education, erasing the separation of church and state, ending renewable energy programs and ramping up use of fossil fuels, deporting immigrants—are also Trump’s.

Project 2025’s director, Paul Dans, as well as both of its associate directors, Spencer Chretien and Troup Hemenway, were in charge of personnel in Trump’s White House, and the theme of Project 2025 is that “people are policy,” by which they mean that hand-picked loyalists must replace civil servants. Trump’s former body man John McEntee, who reentered the White House as a senior advisor after having to leave because he failed a background check, was in charge of hiring in the last months of the Trump White House; he helped to draft Project 2025. Key Trump ally Russell Vought wrote the section of Project 2025 that called for an authoritarian leader; he is also on the platform committee of the Republican National Convention.

If indeed Trump knows nothing about Project 2025 and has no idea who is behind it, his cognitive ability is rotten. As former chair of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele wrote, “Since [Project 2025] is designed to institutionalize Trumpism and you know nothing about it, then why do you echo some of its policy priorities during your rallies? Coincidence? And how exactly don’t you know that Project 2025 Director Paul Dans served as your chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management, and Associate Director Spencer Chretien served as your special assistant and associate director of presidential personnel? And folks say we should be worried about Biden.”

Trump’s attempt to distance himself from Project 2025 indicates just how toxic that plan is with voters. As political scientist Ian Bremmer dryly noted, it seems that “the second [A]merican revolution apparently [is] not polling as well as the first in internal focus groups.” Former Republican strategist Rick Wilson was even more direct, saying that Trump was trying to distance himself from Project 2025 because “most of it polls about like Ebola,” the deadly virus that causes severe bleeding and organ failure, and has a mortality rate of 80 to 90%.

The extremism of the MAGA Republicans was on display in another way today as well after The New Republic published a June 30 video of North Carolina lieutenant governor Mark Robinson, currently the Republican nominee for governor of North Carolina, saying to a church audience about their opponents—whom he identified in a scattershot speech as anything from communists to “wicked people” to those standing against “conservatives”—"Kill them! Some liberal somewhere is gonna say that sounds awful. Too bad!... Some folks need killing! It's time for somebody to say it.”

Today the Vatican turned against one of those extremists when it excommunicated pro-Trump archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who was the Vatican’s diplomat to the U.S. from 2011 to 2016, for “schism” after he refused to recognize the authority of Pope Francis. Viganò has repeatedly attacked Francis’s Catholic Church for being “inclusive, immigrationist, eco-sustainable, and gay-friendly.”

Also today, Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing Trump’s criminal trial for retaining hundreds of classified documents, to dismiss charges that can no longer be prosecuted in light of the Supreme Court’s decision that a president cannot be charged for crimes committed while engaging in “official acts.” They also called the case “politically motivated” and asked Cannon to stop the case entirely in light of Justice Clarence Thomas’s suggestion that Special Counsel Jack Smith was not properly appointed.

The other big news today was that the U.S. added 206,000 jobs in June, bringing the total number of jobs created under this administration to 15.7 million. Last month’s numbers were, once again, higher than economists expected and, according to economic analyst Steven Rattner, above job growth levels before the pandemic. He added that these jobs are not simply a bounceback from the depths of the pandemic: 6.2 million more Americans are employed now than before Covid hit.

Poking fun at the calls for Biden to step down, conservative lawyer George Conway posted: “Biden needs to RESIGN NOW before any more of these terrible job things are created.”

In a speech today in Madison, Wisconsin, Biden vowed to stay in the race, and the speech appeared strong enough that right-wing extremists, including Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and activist Laura Loomer, posted on social media—falsely—that he was having a medical emergency aboard Air Force One. Tonight, George Stephanopoulos of ABC interviewed Biden without a teleprompter or notes, focusing only on Biden’s age without any questions about policy. ABC News posted the interview transcript with the president’s conversation portrayed the “g”s dropped off the words and with other colloquial pronunciations spelled out, as if it were dialect. Trump, whose words the press tends to turn into clean prose, has refused to do an interview under the same conditions.