Nancy Pelosi ripped Donald Trump’s final State of the Union address into little pieces. The speaker delivered her own assessment of the country this week.
“But the fact is, right now, it’s time for healing. We want the country to heal,” she told CNN in an interview that aired Monday evening.
Trump will never allow it.
If he is the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, that is. There are, perhaps, only five people who can stop him.
One is President Joe Biden, who prevented a midterms wipeout for Democrats by serving voters a cocktail about, in his words, a fundamentally strong economy mixed with warnings about MAGA threats to democracy with a splash of calls to codify women’s federal reproductive rights.
Then there are the attorneys general of Georgia and New York, Chris Carr and Letitia James. They are investigating Trump’s actions to overturn the 2020 election and his questionable business tactics. And, of course, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is overseeing multiple probes related to the 2020 election, Jan. 6 Capitol riot and alleged mishandling of classified documents.
Another emerged this week in a thunderous way: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. More on the man who is selling himself as the conservative slayer of wokeism later.
Trump’s entire political persona and movement — and, yes, legacy — is constructed on a foundation of grievance, revenge, recrimination and retribution. There is no elixir included in the MAGA cocktail, Madam Speaker.
The former president, during his final midterms rally the same night in Dayton, Ohio, told his supporters the United States is “our country” 30 times, according to a transcript compiled by C-SPAN.
His “Make America Great Again” and “America first” message has not softened since he reluctantly left office on Jan. 20, 2021.
Instead, it is even more vitriolic, violent and divisive. He used some form of “fight” nearly 20 times in Dayton, including these chilling lines, which conjured the words of the Pelosi attacker and the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — both echoing his messages.
“We will stand up to the radical left Democrats, and we will fight for America like no one has ever, ever, ever fought for. There is no mountain we cannot climb, there is no summit we cannot reach, there is no challenge we cannot meet. There is no victory we cannot have,” Trump said at the end of 142 minutes worth of remarks.
“We will not bend. We will not break. We will not yield. We will never give in. We will never give up. And we will never, ever, ever back down,” he said. “As long as we are confident, united and loyal to the cause, the tyrants we are fighting do not stand even a chance because we are Americans.”
“The cause,” as always, is all about The Donald — not his supporters and other loyal GOP voters. His power. His influence. His need for tons of attention. His private plane. His path back to the White House, with its likely immunity from prosecution(s).
“Tyrants.” Capitol rioters screamed the word that day in search of Democratic lawmakers, some calling them tyrants despite being the ones trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power. David DePape echoed them after bashing Paul Pelosi’s head, later telling law enforcement officers “he did not leave after Pelosi’s call to 9-1-1 because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender,” according to a federal affidavit.
But if you are Donald Trump, there is no need for anyone to “heal.” There is only a need to return to power at any cost, even if more people get hurt. There can be no healing — only winning.
Church of Trump
In yet another surreal and troubling moment of Trump’s surreal and troubling 7-plus-year political career, the conclusion to the TelePrompter portion of his latest rally spiel is dramatically read over even more dramatic organ music.
He sounds more like an evangelical pastor at a low-budget tent revival asking for his flock’s donations than a former president again aspiring to become the leader of the free world. Especially when he declares this: “Americans kneel to God and to God alone.”
Pelosi sees something similar, only more sinister.
“There has to be some adult supervision on the Republican side, in order to say, ‘Enough. Enough,” she told CNN. “We need a strong Republican Party in our country. I’ve said that over and over again.”
“A strong Republican Party has done great things for our country. And they should take pride in that instead of yielding to a cult — to a thug, actually, the way I see it,” she said of the MAGA movement and Trump. “But nonetheless, really to stay with the healing part of it: I think that prayers, I mean, we have been receiving so many prayers, thousands of well wishers with prayers for Paul’s healing.”
The time has come for a national agreement that, no matter if one loves or loathes the 45th president, prayers can only go so far.
Just examine his own words from a single rally. They make it crystal clear that rather than realizing — or caring — that his rhetoric can be used for great harm, he will always put his own interests over any damaging and embarrassing stains on “our country.”
“Of course, I think she’s an animal too, you want to know the truth,” Trump said at the rally after recalling Pelosi’s rebuke of him using the same word to describe MS-13 gang members. “They’ll say, ‘Oh what a horrible thing he said about Nancy.’”
The MAGA crowd in Dayton laughed and cheered as he mocked a fellow human who fought back tears on worldwide television as she expressed guilt that her life partner of 59 years was so badly beaten he needed brain surgery when she was the intended target, and revealed she worried her children or grandchildren had been harmed as she “raced” to open the door for Capitol Police officers who arrived around 5 a.m. on Oct. 28 to her Washington apartment to deliver the news about her husband.
Turning down his rhetoric would require empathy, something the former president lacks and has all but excommunicated from the MAGA movement, which might as well be known as the “Church of Trump.”
Dismissing the attack in the Pelosi’s San Francisco, even mocking it, is encouraged in this church because, as Trump said Monday night: “She impeached me twice for nothing.”
Fact check: Pelosi and House Democrats impeached then-President Trump once for pushing a foreign leader to investigate his top political ally while threatening to hold up taxpayer-funded and congressionally approved military aid. They did it again over his role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“I will just say this: My favorite scripture verse is ‘fight the good fight, and finish the course. Keep the faith,’” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said when called to the lectern by Trump in Dayton. “Fight, finish, keep. Words of action, not timid words. Not sissy words. Words we associate with America. Words we associate with the best president we have ever had, President Trump.”
To be sure, the Church of Trump is open for business and the pews are as packed as ever.
“This is not a path that we can continue on. And we want people to run for office, local, in every way,” Pelosi said, before continuing her unofficial state of the country assessment. “And you can’t say to them, ‘You’re risking the safety of your families by going forward. There are no guarantees of safety.’”
There will only be more calls to “fight” for “our country” after Trump announces, which could happen as soon as Tuesday, when he has scheduled a “big announcement” at his South Florida resort.
Trump has spent 7 years tearing a hole in the flesh of American politics and society. He seems more intent than ever at ripping open the wound and extracting the guts.
Ignore the resulting American carnage and just step over the lifeless carcass on the road back to the White House, if that’s what it takes to again garner all the attention and those expansive executive powers.
That’s the true golden rule in the Church of Trump.
But DeSantis made clear during his reelection victory speech Tuesday night he is no member, essentially kicking off the 2024 GOP presidential primary on that stage in Tampa.
Where Trump spent the midterms homestretch at rallies ranting and raving about personal grievances and self-focused retribution, DeSantis spoke about his record, focusing on what he has done for Floridians.
“The woke agenda has caused millions of Americans to leave these jurisdictions for greener pastures. This great exodus of Americans, for those folks, Florida for so many of them, has served as the promised land. We have embraced freedom,” he said. “We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers, and we reject woke ideology.”
Included was a shot directly across the bow of the S.S. Trump: “We not only won an election, we have rewritten the political map.” He forcefully gave GOP voters a clear choice. Which path will they choose?
Editor-at-Large John T. Bennett writes a weekly column for Roll Call, parts of which first appeared in the subscription-only CQ Afternoon Briefing newsletter.