3/29/2021 WSJ by William McGurn
“My predecessor. Oh God, I miss him.”
So spoke Joe Biden Thursday in his first press conference as president. In February Mr. Biden had said he was “tired of talking about Donald Trump ” and vowed to spend the next four years talking about the American people. Evidently it’s not to be. Mr. Biden’s presser was chockablock with references to Mr. Trump, including the accusation that he’d let unaccompanied minors “starve to death” on the other side of our southern border.
Mr. Biden’s inability to stop talking about his predecessor speaks to the Trump codependency that has followed the Trump presidency. For the whole promise of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign was this: Elect me and we will put Donald Trump behind us.
Voters bought it, but the Biden administration remains as fixated on Mr. Trump as ever. We saw this after the horrific shootings in Atlanta that took the lives of eight innocent people, including six women of Asian descent. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president had no desire to “attribute motive.” But she then went right for the old go-to when she claimed “there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration” has “elevated threats against Asian-Americans.” The message was unmistakable: The shootings were partly Mr. Trump’s fault.
Not a single member of the press questioned this assertion. [So do you still argue that the MSM and The Left aren’t biased?? mrossol] Meanwhile, investigators say they have no evidence the killer was even motivated by anti-Asian bias.
In this way Mr. Trump functions much the way the deposed Farmer Jones does in Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Each time the animals that replaced Jones as rulers of the farm do something contrary to their promises, they deflect difficult questions by bringing up the farmer. “Surely, comrades,” they ask, “you don’t want Jones back?” Same with Democrats and Mr. Trump.
Nancy Pelosi understands this perfectly. Unlike the president, the House speaker admits the situation at the border is a crisis. But she says it’s all Mr. Trump’s fault. That’s the beauty of the Trump codependency: If something your side does blows up in your face, blame it on Mr. Trump.
Likewise with Mrs. Pelosi’s call for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. As the speaker proposed it, the commission would be stacked with seven Democrats against four Republicans. It’s a handy way to distract attention from the Bernie Sanders agenda she’s pushing through Congress while damning the opposition implicitly as white supremacists, insurrectionists or the equivalent of al Qaeda.
Then there’s Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York. No one benefited more from the Trump presidency than Mr. Cuomo, especially over the past year.
As Mr. Trump played the heavy, Mr. Cuomo wrote a book on “Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which landed on the New York Times bestseller list. The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences threw in an Emmy for his press conferences. Alas, karma has caught up with Mr. Cuomo. Without Mr. Trump as his foil, he’s become just a governor whose administration covered up Covid deaths in nursing homes—and another male pol accused by women he worked with of sexual harassment. Plainly Mr. Cuomo has a bad case of Trump withdrawal.
He’s not alone. Turns out that among the most codependent are the same news outlets that spent the past four years as proud members of “the resistance.” In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, President Trump alluded to this by predicting he’d be re-elected because “newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes.”
He didn’t win, of course, but a Washington Post piece last Tuesday conceded Mr. Trump had a point. “Trump’s various scandals and outbursts helped reporters build résumés, sell books, land lucrative commentary gigs and win awards,” it reported. By contrast, post-Trump “traffic to the nation’s most popular news sites” has “plummeted” over the past five weeks. CNN and MSNBC have respectively lost 45% and 26% of their prime-time audiences over the same time.
But no one has suffered more for its codependency than the Lincoln Project, a super PAC launched in 2019 by Republican Never Trumpers. The group has emerged from the elections as discredited as Mr. Trump. When news broke that co-founder John Weaver had regularly sent young men explicit messages soliciting sex in exchange for help with their careers, several key players in the organization resigned.
In response to the scandal, the board announced an external investigation, with co-founder Steve Schmidt insisting that he and the group’s leaders were unaware of any inappropriate behavior until this January. But the Associated Press reports that the leaders learned of the allegations against Mr. Weaver last summer. The question has become distinctly Nixonian: What did the Lincoln Project leaders know and when did they know it?
On top of this, the Lincoln Project increasingly looks like a clever grift. According to Federal Election Commission data, of the nearly $90 million in donations it raised, more than half was directed to consulting firms controlled by the Lincoln Project’s founders. In short, they lined their own pockets.
When Mr. Biden won in November, the received wisdom was that Mr. Trump’s voters would be absolutely lost without him. Who would have thought that would be even truer of his critics?