Staff Columnist

These Trump haters are not your friends

From the people who brought you the Iraq War, a new political movement

John Bolton on March 3, 2018. Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer
John Bolton on March 3, 2018. Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer

President Donald Trump’s detractors in the Republican Party are coming to Iowa with deep pockets.

The Lincoln Project is a super PAC led by current and former GOP operatives, who are opposing Trump’s re-election bid. The group has aired at least two television commercials in Iowa markets and is targeting Iowa voters through digital ads. The group also is calling out vulnerable pro-Trump Republicans, such as Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

As a never-Trump Republican myself, I wish I could get excited about a big anti-Trump ad campaign. But the characters behind the Lincoln Project are no friends of mine.

From the start, the neoconservative themes were palpable in the Lincoln Project’s messaging. An introductory statement from founders included phrases like “the nation’s status as a beacon of hope” and “preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home.”

Those strike me as code words for preserving the United States’ vast and aggressive military footprint, a throwback to the George W. Bush administration. It makes sense, given who the Lincoln Project’s allies are.

John Bolton, former national security adviser in the Trump administration, is not officially involved in the Lincoln Project, but they share the same mission. When Bolton this month published excerpts of his new book bashing the president, the Lincoln Project quickly released an ad based on Bolton’s account of Trump’s relationship with China.

Bolton left the Trump administration at least in part because Trump rebuffed Bolton’s warmongering about China, Iran and others. Bolton has said he won’t vote for Trump in 2020. Reportedly, neither will former President George W. Bush, nor former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the guys behind the Iraq War.

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For all his many faults, Trump does not share his predecessors’ affinity for perpetual and prolonged military adventures. It makes you wonder — if Trump had been willing to start a few more wars, would the newly awakened anti-Trump right have woken up at all?

Many of the Lincoln Project’s short video advertisements are like political pornography for the MSNBC crowd. They make some good points, but often resort to conspiratorial innuendo and cheap shots at the president’s personal appearance. Rather than rise above Trump’s demeaning rhetoric, the Lincoln Project chooses to emulate it.

An ad released after Trump’s recent campaign rally in Oklahoma, titled “Shrinking,” is basically a 45-second string of penis jokes. The narrator says “it was smaller than we expected” and “you can’t keep your polls up.”

Disability rights advocates have criticized the Lincoln Project for insinuating Trump is mentally or physically disabled, with hashtags such as #TrumpIsNotWell. Rebecca Cokley, director of Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, wrote in a Washington Post guest column this month, “The answer to the president’s ableism isn’t to outdo him.”

The Lincoln Project has reported spending nearly $1.4 million so far this election season. The campaign finance watchdog organization Open Secrets reported last month that the super PAC is funneling money through campaign operatives on its board and buying ads through subcontractors, which makes the spending less transparent, a tactic borrowed from the Trump campaign and others.

In a guest column announcing the Lincoln Project’s formation last year, authors trumpeted in a subheadline, “The president and his enablers have replaced conservatism with an empty faith led by a bogus prophet.”

I wholeheartedly agree with that analysis — Trump is an authoritarian and no true conservative. But the conservatism the authors hope to restore — marked by perpetual war, unchecked government spending and the erosion of civil liberties — is not worth preserving. Jilting Trumpism for a spruced up Bush-Biden fusionism is not a good deal for the American people.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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