You don’t get big in New York City without having to deal with those who cross you. When Donald Trump turned into a national politician, he apparently took that grit with him — and applied it to the “Never Trump” contingent within his own party.
At a presidential campaign-style rally in Ohio for Republican House candidate Troy Balderson, who’s running in a special election on Tuesday, Trump boasted about how he “destroys” Republican candidates who try to take him down.
“How do you get 100 percent of anything? We always have somebody who says, ‘I don’t like Trump, I don’t like our president, he destroyed my career,’” Trump told the audience Saturday in Lewis Center, Ohio.
“I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me, and you fight back and they go down the tubes, and that’s OK,” he added.
This line provoked a predictable reaction from liberals like Aaron Rupar of Think Progress:
Trump says he only "destroys careers" of anti-Trump Republicans because "they said bad things about me." pic.twitter.com/Hj5XGaKx9N
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 4, 2018
So, how has Trump been at “destroying” careers in the GOP?
There are a few names one could think of here. “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, who went from 2016 Republican frontrunner to 2016 has-been, comes to mind immediately. So do any number of members of the Republican presidential field.
Since he’s been elected, we’ve seen Trump send the very establishment Rep. Mark Sanford back to the Appalachian Trail after the president tweeted his opposition to Sanford on the day of his primary election. The South Carolina Republican will instead be watching general election returns on Nov. 6 from somewhere other than his own victory party.
There’s also Don Blankenship, the thoroughly wretched coal executive who tried to couch his incendiary babble under the guise of being “Trumpier than Trump” while pursuing the West Virginia GOP Senate nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin. Trump didn’t buy Blankenship’s puffery, leading to this tweet:
To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
Blankenship, once ahead in the polls, lost the race rather handily to state Attorney General Patrick Morrissey. Of course, Blankenship didn’t cross Trump in the traditional sense, but one could say that the president wasn’t especially fond of either too-conspicuous flattery or someone riding his coattails.
There are others, as The Hill points out, that have benefited from Trump’s imprimatur. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp won over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a recent race after getting a bump from the president.
The one that the president missed on was former Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate when former Sen. Jeff Sessions became attorney general. No matter how you feel about former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and the allegations against him, a Strange victory in the primary stages would have almost certainly guaranteed the seat would have remained in GOP hands.
As for the putative horrors of Trump saying this at a campaign-style event, let’s all please stop clutching our cruelty-free, lab-made pearls here. Politics is a barbarous contact sport where we expect participants to act as if they wouldn’t hurt a fly even as they try to end each other’s careers.
Trump’s honesty is refreshing. For better or worse, it’s an illuminating view into the actual psyche of a political figure. He’s not threatening anyone physically. He’s merely showing a bit of New York grit, something every politician needs in the arena. If that’s not what you have the appetite for, perhaps politics isn’t your thing.
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