Sure, it's cringy.
And unintentionally hilarious.
Peter Wehner: ... the other thing that is required [in order for Republicans to prove their party loyalty] ... is not to admit the critics of Trump [like Peter Wehner and Charlie Sykes] over the last six years were right in any respect. They can't bring themselves to say that.
Charlie Sykes: And I want to come back to that. The [Bill] Barr position makes no sense morally, but of course it's completely consistent with what Republican leaders have done over the last five or six years, which is that no matter what he has done, they will ultimately support his return to power.
Sykes: ...and I think this is the dilemma the Republicans have. Even if you have the donors, the political operatives, even former White House staff members, even the Murdoch empire, even if elected Republicans turn against him, as you point out in your piece in the Times, the break wouldn't come clean or easy... And you look at the numbers, and you still have about 40% of Republicans are Always Trumpers, right? They will never abandon him. You get about 50% who are Maybe Trumpers. So I guess, Peter, the question is how does he go away?
Wehner: But look, their [Republican leadership] are responsible for [Trump]. They created him. They supported him...Sykes: You bought this ticket, they're taking the ride now.Wehner: They propagated his lies. They allowed the base to get radicalized?
Wehner: And then they thought, well, when the time comes, we'll just hit the "Off" switch. Guess what? There's no "Off" switch.
A Doomsday Machine that could not be reasoned with or bargained with.
A Doomsday Machine with no "off" switch.
And they succeeded.
Sykes: Republicans need to, if they're ever going to move past this, they're not just going to have to denounce Trump, they're going to have to go after that base. They're going to have to go after this [white nationalist] Groyper army just the way William F. Buckley...
Wehner: Yeah, a lot of these people are, y'know, shocked! shocked! that Trump has gone in this direction -- these ugly and dark forces and passions have been unleashed -- and this was so predictable.
Wehner then recounts more of the Imaginary Good Old Days of the GOP when morality and republican virtues and civic values were all the rage.Wehner: You could see this coming...six years ago.
Wehner: All of us, to some degree, have gotten inured to this.Sykes: And, again, this was predictable. This was not something that just happened as a one-off. I know you remember 2015 and 2016.
Sykes: You know, when I wrote my book...
Sykes: I wrote a piece for the Weekly Standard...this has been building for years!Sykes: The other point that I think it's important to stress here is that, the modern Conservative movement, which I would trace back to Buckley and the National Review.
Sykes: Again, every single thing here was done in the open. None of this was a secret. And so I guess this really tests their capacity for denial. Which has been pretty amazing. The degree to which they can engage in denialism. I mean, how many years did Paul Ryan spend saying, "Well, I didn't read the Tweets. I never read the Tweets."?
Sykes: And again, I don't know if you feel this way about it...
Sykes: ...I am prepared to lower the bar and open the gates a little bit. That if you're willing to speak out now, let's not relitigate all of the failures in the past. I...I think it's a good thing that they are speaking now.
Sykes: ...for those of us who had taken the slings and arrows for seven years! And been derided and sneered at by many of the anti-anti-Trumpers...
Sykes: ...how should we think about, y'know, all of those emphatic supporters, uh, of Donald Trump until that moment they decided, "Well, wait. Maybe he's a loser?" What should we think about these people?
Wehner: Yeah, it's a really intriguing question. I agree with you. If people are willing to take an exit ramp from the Trump highway then they should do it. And we should celebrate that they're doing it. We should be glad that they're doing it. Because it's just the essential first step that's required to get the country back on course. Get the Republican party back on course. To get the Conservatism back on course. If all of those things are, in fact, rectified and straightened out. So that's important to do.
Wehner: I do think, at the same time, it's important and fair to critique where those people have been and what's motivating them now... And it also means that there isn't a lot of credit due to them for getting off at this exit. It's not as if they've had a revelation of any kind. Any contemplation, self-reflection. A sense that they had missed something important.
driftglass: Something important...like the Left has been right about the Right all along?
Wehner: And then there's just sort of basic, I don't know...maybe this is some degree of good graces. Which is, uh, if you've been attacking people who, for five, six, seven years for making essentially the same critique you're making now, to try and explain what they missed about it. What do you see now that you didn't see before, because, as we've talked about, none of this is surprising about Donald Trump. There was almost an inevitability to it going here.
Wehner: And it would be helpful and impressive for some of the Never Never Trumpers who are now...uh...welcome to the Resistance, to reflect on... on that. I think it's hard for them for two reasons.
Wehner: One is, it's not easy for any of us to admit that we were wrong. So I think there is this... tendency ... to just skip over that part of the process. Just to say, "We were with him, but he's changed, and he's a loser. Now we're against him." So they don't want to admit they were wrong on any deep or fundamental sense -- that they missed something important, or that they were morally blind.
Wehner: The other thing is -- I think this is even harder than admitting that they were wrong -- is to admit that the people they had been attacking for the last four or five, six years were right. I think that's even psychologically more difficult.
Wehner: Because there was so much energy, so much antipathy, um... uh... that's...that's been, uh, um, aimed at critics of Trump. And those sensibilities had...have been shaved [?]. And now, well, say, look maybe... maybe there was a point... maybe those critics saw things that... that we didn't, is probably asking too much of... of them.
Sykes: Well...well, and as a Never Trumper from before there was a Never Trumper... a Never Trump, I... I do find myself thinking about...
Sykes: I do find myself thinking about...the prodigal son story. We've been out here taking the slings and arrows, and then these guys, uh, just sort of show up and everything and they want the fatted calf. But, their are going to have to be strange alliances, and we're going to have to, uh, um, welcome back people that we've been alienated from...
driftglass: The "we" he's referring to ain't you and me kids. You and me are yesterday's allies-of-convenience. The "we" he's talking about is himself and his fellow Never Trumpers. And the "people that we've been alienated from" ain't you and me either. It's Mike Pence and Christ Christie and Bill Barr and It's the trolls at the National Review and Fox News.
Sykes: ...that we've been alienated from...I think, to get... to get through all of this. And I say this as somebody...
Sykes: And I say this as somebody that until about a year ago, here in my basement study, had a picture on the wall -- I'm embarrassed to even tell the story -- picture of me with Ted Cruz. Right before the 2016 Wisconsin primary, saying "I will do anything I can to beat Donald Trump." And of that meant supporting Ted Cruz -- which, by the way, is a choice that does not age well. I do not feel better over time.
Sykes: But, it, y'know, ah, um, I'm sure there were a lot of people who felt that way about Joseph Stalin in World War II. OK, I went there. But there's going to have to be those moments where we're going to have to make that...that common cause. And it's not going to be easy for anybody.
Wehner: I think it's important to do. It's important for the good of the country, and the good of this "movement" that we care about.
Wehner: And so it's good in every respect, to be able to welcome people back.
driftglass: And of course, do it for Jesus!
Wehner: And beyond that, there's this point about grace. Reconciliation. We've all failed. Made misjudgements. I certainly have, um, too, and... you... um... you don't want those things to... uh... uh... y'know, be a millstone around your neck... um... all the time. ... So I think it's completely fair and legit to have those conversations and to say to the people who are now "joining the resistance" to... to reflect. It doesn't have to be said with bitterness or acrimony. Doesn't have to be said in a way that says, "We never want you", or, y'know, that you're irredeemable, or anything like that. That I'm a person of Christian faith, you are as well, and grace is a central concept...