Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger came up with a good line about the Iran-Iraq War, the vicious conflict of attrition between Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. "Pity," Kissinger quipped, "both sides can't lose."
Democrats elated by Republicans' poor showing in the 2022 midterms are taking similar pleasure in the Grand Old Party's suffering and, in particular, the internecine warfare that has broken out within the GOP. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, whose gelatinous spine will land him in the history books for the wrong reasons, is battling the simply crazy elements of the Republican House caucus to win election as the next House speaker. Sen. Rick Scott thought that the disastrous performance of Republican Senate candidates fielded under his tenure as head of the Republican Senatorial Committee made him a strong candidate to replace Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. His colleagues begged to differ, decisively.
At Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump watched as his most buzzed-out acolytes lost their election races. His former protege, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, reinforced his standing as Trump's chief rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. His crushing victory in his reelection campaign stood in stark contrast with the party's generally dismal performance, one for which Trump is widely blamed by Republicans and thanked by Democrats.
Hoping to wrest the spotlight from DeSantis and reposition it on himself, and to throw sand in the gears of the Justice Department's accelerating criminal investigation, Trump announced before the midterms that he would launch his campaign to retake the White House on Nov. 15. His announcement speech was a pallid affair, delivered to a ballroom full of hangers-on and sad cases by a candidate who sounded like a carnival barker on Librium.
The reaction from those whom one expected to serve as Trump's Hallelujah Chorus was worse than tepid. Some of those who attended grew so bored so quickly that they headed for the ballroom's exits -- or tried to. Those who sought an early getaway were prevented by security guards from leaving. Once reliably fawning sycophants like former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hoping to run for president themselves, issued carefully worded, cautious statements intended to signal some distance -- but not too much -- from The Big Guy.
Rupert Murdoch dissed Trump with gusto. Fox News declared DeSantis the new leader of the GOP, and the New York Post ostentatiously buried its dismissive "coverage" of Trump's speech, placing the words "Florida Man Makes Announcement -- page 26" at the bottom of its front page the morning after Trump's campaign kickoff.
Still, Democrats would do well to keep their chortling to a minimum. There was plenty about the midterms for them to worry about.
For starters, despite oft-expressed hopes that they were poised to turn from red to blue, electoral vote-rich Ohio, Texas and Florida just aren't. Instead, the midterms showed that they are hard locks for the Republicans in 2024.
Despite the hoopla about Democratic victories in Nevada and Arizona, those victories were razor thin. Kari Lake, nut cake par excellence, lost the Arizona gubernatorial race by only 17,000 votes. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto defeated election denier Adam Laxalt by only 9,000. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams lost her return match with Gov. Brian Kemp by 300,000 votes. And Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, a virtual rap sheet on two legs, trailed Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock by barely 35,000 votes out of 3.9 million cast as the two headed to a runoff that could just as easily go Republican as Democrat. In Wisconsin, another battleground state, the largely untethered incumbent, Sen. Ron Johnson, won reelection to the Senate, even if just by the skin of his teeth.
The good news for Democrats is that the Republicans' "case," such as it is, continues to be this: President Joe Biden got his foot caught on a bicycle pedal, and not only that, but his son also once had drug problems. It's pretty thin gruel. But thin gruel is a Republican specialty, and Democrats had better beware of hubris.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.