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Thank You for Your Servitude Donald Trump's Washington and the Price of Submission by Mark Leibovich Book

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Overview: From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller This Town, the eyewitness account of how the GOP collaborated with Donald Trump to transform Washington’s “swamp” into a gold-plated hot tub—and a onetime party of rugged individualists into a sycophantic personality cult.

In the early months of Trump’s candidacy, the Republican Party’s most important figures, people such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham, were united—and loud—in their scorn and contempt. Even more, in their outrage: Trump was a menace and an affront to our democracy. Then, awkwardly, Trump won.

Thank You for Your Servitude is Mark Leibovich’s unflinching account of the moral rout of a major American political party, tracking the transformation of Rubio, Cruz, Graham, and their ilk into the administration’s chief enablers, and the swamp’s lesser lights into frantic chasers of the grift. What would these politicos do to preserve their place in the sun, or at least the orbit of the spray tan? What would they do to preserve their “relevance”? Almost anything, it turns out. Trump’s savage bullying of everyone in his circle, along with his singular command of his political base, created a dangerous culture of submission in the Republican Party. Meanwhile, many of the most alpha of the lapdogs happily conceded to Mark Leibovich that they were “in on the joke.” As Lindsey Graham told the author, his supporters in South Carolina generally don’t read The New York Times, and they won’t read this book, either. All that cynicism, shading into nihilism, led to a country truly unhinged from reality, and to the events of January 6, 2021. It’s a vista that makes the Washington of This Town seem like a comedy of manners in comparison.

Thank You for Your Servitude Donald Trump's Washington and the Price of Submission by Mark Leibovich Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Thank You for Your Servitude Donald Trump's Washington and the Price of Submission by Mark Leibovich Book

Thank You for Your Servitude Donald Trump's Washington and the Price of Submission by Mark Leibovich Book Read Online Chapter One



August 2015–March 2016

Everyone had a theory about why it was their turn.

Chris Christie kept pushing the idea that voters tend to favor presidential candidates who represent the biggest departure from the incumbent. He was their departure. “That is the argument people make to me about why I should run,” Christie told me, just before he started his prolonged public campaign of “looking at it.” “They say, ‘No one could be more the opposite of Barack Obama from a personality standpoint than you. Therefore, you’re perfect.’ ”

Governor Perfect had built-in assets. New York–D.C. media and GOP donor types loved him. He was great on WFAN and a superstar banterer in the TV greenrooms. He was a merciless but familiar brute, like the New Jersey Turnpike. He would stay within certain lanes, unlike Trump. But if you were sick of the same old robots, clowns, Clintons, or Bushes, Christie was your viable off-ramp.

I ran into him in Cleveland before the first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign, or “cycle,” as the pros call it. It was a Fox News production, billed on the chyrons as “The Rumble in the Rust Belt.” Christie arrived at Quicken Loans Arena a few hours before the cattle call. He tossed out towel-snapping insults at reporters, comparing us to jackals, snakes, maggots, and other beloved creatures.

As he entered his backstage holding area in Cleveland, Christie compared himself to a penned-in bull, eager to make America his china shop. I wished him luck.

Likewise, Rand Paul, who was entering the arena at an adjacent loading dock. He had heard that libertarians were, at long last, “having a moment” in America. Why not him? He was younger, slicker, and less of a crank than his patriarch dad, Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas and a three-time presidential candidate. Rand had even gone straight enough to get elected to the Senate, from Kentucky. He was an odd duck, no question, but was he any worse than Ted Cruz? John McCain once referred to them both as “wacko birds.”

Cruz was at the debate, too, convinced this was his moment. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and in short order proved he had zero interest in achieving the kinds of things senators had traditionally prided themselves on, like passing laws, getting committee assignments, and earning the respect of colleagues. These were never distinctions that would impress the Fox News bookers, or the blood-lusting “base,” so he never saw the point. Becoming a maximum nuisance was far more productive for his purposes.

He would do things like promise to shut down the government unless Obamacare was killed. This was never going to happen, for many reasons, two being that the president was still named “Obama” and the Constitution still granted him veto power. Cruz’s colleagues knew this was a wasteful and self-destructive effort that would succeed only in “stirring up the crazies” (another McCain term).

“If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” Lindsey Graham once said. No one exactly rushed to Cruz’s defense, either, unless you counted this “defense” from Senator Al Franken, who maintained that he did like Cruz, or more than most of his colleagues did. “And I hate Ted Cruz,” Franken said—important caveat.

Still, Cruz’s unpopularity in Washington was a defining asset, to his mind, in that it lent him credibility as an irritant. It offered proof that he was not concerned about fitting in with these grimy swamp creatures. He was happy to play the turd in the Republican punch bowl. His problem was that Trump proved to be an even bigger turd, glowing orange and impossible to miss.

At the risk of pushing this metaphor WAY too far, Jeb Bush was the innocuous lemon slice in this punch bowl. Trump dismissed Bush, the former Florida governor, as “low energy,” a brutally effective descriptor for a candidate whose logo included an exclamation point—“Jeb!”—in a desperate attempt to inject vitality.

Bush had been anointed the early “establishment favorite” by those who anointed such things. He was accustomed, by birthright, to such deference from professional Republicans. Trump never bothered with deference, at least when it came to Bush, as opposed to, say, Putin.

Neither did Marco Rubio. The former Speaker of the Florida House had been a protégé of Governor Jeb’s years before, which compelled a few media Freuds to trot out the trusty oedipal cliché about son overtaking Dad. Others preferred the Rubio-as-Judah construction. Who did Marco think he was, anyway, not waiting his turn?

What the media geniuses all agreed on was that Trump’s turn was about to end. His noisy parade float would assuredly run aground in Cleveland, because there was no chance that he could share a stage with a supposedly elite field of Republicans without having his basic ignorance exposed.

Plus, the serious anchor people had arrived and would make certain of it: in particular, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, one of the three moderators, had fashioned a formidable reputation for herself as a “real journalist,” armed with tough but fair questions. She also met the minimum Fox requirement of being attractive and blond, the Roger Ailes equivalent of spelling your name right on the SAT.

“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals,’ ” Kelly said, asking Trump to kick things off.

And we were off.

Again, you might recall some of this. Sorry to rehash. These episodes can feel as old as time and as endless. They’re worth going over here, though, if only in brief and as a reminder of the low point where Trump began, to counter the dumb trope from his apologists that somehow Trump devolved as the campaign wore on. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell wrote. This was always right in front of the Republican Party’s nose.

Trump would suggest the next day that Kelly’s “nasty” demeanor toward him at the debate was because she was getting her period. Not classy!

This alone would make him irredeemably toxic to women voters, right? No less an authority than the former First Lady Barbara Bush would weigh in to say as much, and wasn’t Babs a Grande Dame/Sacred Cow Republican at some point?

What’s more, an even greater authority, Twitter, agreed, so this had to be true: The clown was dead!


Long live the clown!

The power of Twitter to codify misguided groupthink had become much greater in 2016 than it had been the last go-round, in 2012. This gap between wise-guy Twitter and Trump World reality was all too evident when I attended my first rally that summer. The pageant featured a packed crowd of seventeen thousand at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Thousands more snaked around several city blocks and fed into an overflow mosh pit.

FUCK POLITICAL CORRECTNESS! screamed the big banner held by a guy in front of me in the metal detector line. I tried to interview him but got nowhere.

“Fuck the media,” the man told me. (I recognized the sentence structure.) “And fuck Megyn Kelly.” I tried to tell him that I was not Megyn Kelly, but he was not impressed.

His friend was slightly more reflective. “We’re just sick of being told what to do,” said the friend, a contractor named Michael Lopez. “Especially by y’all in the media.”

“America is being pushed into a corner,” echoed Matt Yelland, a sixty-year-old electrical engineer, just before Trump took the stage. That was a common sentiment among Trump supporters, who loved his disregard for Republican manners and sacred cows. “Trump didn’t get into politics to play by somebody else’s rules,” Yelland said. He could care less that Trump would not commit to supporting the GOP’s eventual nominee, the kind of thing that “party leaders” considered sacrilege but that many real voters believed was proof of Trump’s unwillingness to be bullied. He didn’t care, either, about what aspersions Karl Rove was casting upon their hero on Fox News—well, Trump himself cared, but that was just Trump (being Trump).

“Karl Rove is a totally incompetent jerk,” Trump railed from his Dallas stage. The crowd went nuts at the put-down, which was itself remarkable: the “architect” of George W. Bush’s political rise being abused at a Republican campaign event in Bush’s home state of Texas.

Where were the GOP’s designated adults and influencers to restore order? Erick Erickson, editor of RedState, a leading conservative publication, tried. He disinvited Trump to the annual RedState Gathering of presidential candidates in Atlanta that weekend. Take that, Donald.

“If your standard-bearer has to resort to that,” Erickson said, referring to the Megyn Kelly/period unpleasantness, “we need a new standard-bearer.” Alas, Trump was undeterred.

It kept going. Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, was beside himself, but trying to be comforting in public, for the sake of the children and, more important, the donors. This robust debate was healthy and natural and part of the process, he kept saying. Privately, he tried to reassure everyone: this would not last; Trump would implode soon enough.

The other candidates figured the same. “I don’t think a lot of the people on that stage were convinced that Trump would stay,” Christie recalled to me later. “What we were all trying to do strategically was stay alive so that we’d be viable if one of two things happened: either Trump gets out, or he does something disqualifying. Everyone up there had the same theory of the case.”

Bad theory. Nothing changed, except Trump started winning primaries. Where was Jeb? Wasn’t he supposed to be the front-runner? His heart was never in this. The exclamation point was always more of a question mark.

Bush was gone soon after the voting started. Same with Christie, but not before he obliterated Rubio in a debate in New Hampshire, taunting him for his cyborg adherence to “memorized thirty-second speeches.” It was classic Christie, beating up the smaller, less threatening target (Rubio) while winning favor with the real bully (Trump).

Trump sought out Christie after the debate, threw his arm around him, and praised the governor for “destroying” Rubio.

Trump won New Hampshire in a rout; Christie finished sixth and quit the race with zero delegates. Trump called him on the night of the primary and told him he loved him. This was obviously meaningful to Christie, who recounted the exchange fulsomely in his memoir. He then turned around and planted a big wet kiss of an endorsement on Trump’s powdered forehead.

This was a much bigger deal than Christie’s paltry vote total would suggest, because it offered Trump a seal of approval from a big-name Republican. Christie kept talking up his long friendship with Trump, how they had so much “history” together and how loyalty was always very important to him. “Where I come from, friendship is important,” Christie said. “Loyalty is everything.” (Yep, friendship and loyalty, totally unique to New Jersey.)

The whole “we go WAY back” thing is always a red flag from would-be tough guys. And there was always a sense with Christie that no matter how hard he sucked up to Trump, he was destined to wind up like one of those peripheral hangers-on from The Sopranos, whose limp corpse wound up getting tossed into an icy swamp.

Still, Christie had a seemingly limitless appetite for, among other things, being humiliated by Trump. This was true of a lot of people, but Christie was special in this regard. Trump mocked him for his weight (“No more Oreos”), ordered him around, and basically treated the former Garden State governor like Mr. French, the portly and exasperated butler from the old show Family Affair.

Not everyone was moved by Christie’s claim of loyalty to his dear old friend Donald. “An astonishing display of political opportunism” was how Christie’s own campaign co-chair Meg Whitman described his heel turn.

Christie’s support “gave a stamp of credibility to a thoroughly uncredible candidate,” wrote Tim Miller, Bush’s former communications director. “Like every other pathetic, podgy, scared, insecure bully who has ever disgraced a schoolyard, Chris Christie talks a big game.”

Christie was a bit stunned by this blowback, but that was the price he paid for the rebound relevance Trump offered him. “This is politics,” he said. “You make certain judgments.”

Trump is “not who we are,” Rubio declared, deploying a royal “we” that apparently did not include the Republicans who kept voting for Trump by massive margins. Things were getting desperate enough for Graham to say he’d even support Cruz before he’d support Trump.

Cruz called Trump “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar” (basically true) after Trump described him as a sleazy asshole whom everyone in the Senate hated (also true). For good measure, Trump suggested Cruz’s wife was ugly and his father was somehow caught up in the John F. Kennedy assassination.

The party elders were now rallying to Rubio as their preferred Trump alternative. I met up with the Florida senator in Nevada, a few days before that state’s Republican caucuses in February. We were sitting aboard his campaign plane—on a short flight from Reno to Las Vegas—and I was detecting a slight whiff of Marco-mentum in the recirculated air. “This was a great day for us,” Rubio kept telling me. His undertaking was as urgent as ever, he said, because he knew the GOP elders were counting on him to stop Trump. He had their endorsements to prove it. He vowed to be worthy of everyone’s trust.

We were surrounded on the plane by a retinue of Rubio-backing Nevada dignitaries: the state’s lieutenant governor and a former governor, a congressman, and a senator. It seemed as if every hour brought a new endorsement of Rubio from another vintage piece of the Grand Old Furniture: Lamar Alexander, Bob Dole, a senator from Indiana, the governor of Arkansas. Together, this cavalry of grown-ups would lock arms around Rubio and save the GOP from its bender with the casino owner. This had all gone on for far too long.

The night before at a rally in North Las Vegas, Rubio strode onto a stage crowded with a bunch of new brand-name validators: seventeen in all. They included a buffet of Nevada pols, someone from a reality TV show called Pawn Stars, and Donnie Wahlberg: once a New Kid on the Block, now all in for Marky Marco.

This brief Pyrrhic hot streak for Rubio in Nevada epitomized the insane fantasy that an all-powerful Republican “establishment” could swoop in and impose its will. They would anoint their choice and unleash their onslaught of elder gravitas, and Trump would never know what hit him.

“You can sort of feel it coalescing,” Rubio said as he waved his hand around the campaign plane, showing off his growing entourage.

Personally, the only thing I could feel coalescing was nausea. The plane had hit a patch of rough air. It started bouncing and shaking, as if we were flying through a blender. Rubio was unfazed and kept delivering his lines:

“I’m best positioned to bring this party together.”

“I honestly believe the American dream is in trouble.”

“I offer a new generation of leadership for the twenty-first century.”

“This is getting a little hairy,” I said to Rubio, of the worsening turbulence. “Just think,” I went on, “I might be the last human being to ever have to listen to these talking points.” This might have been disrespectful on my part, but I seemed not to care and neither did Rubio. The end might have been at hand, anyway.

Finally, the plane landed, and Rubio received word that he himself had landed a bunch more “key endorsements.” He’d earned the support of—drumroll—the former New York governor George Pataki. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona also lent his name to Marco’s juggernaut, as did Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. “Marco has a unique ability to effectively communicate detailed conservative plans,” Hatch affirmed.

Marco also had a unique ability to effectively communicate that Donald Trump had a small penis.

He proved this at a rally a few days later. “He’s always calling me Little Marco,” Rubio told a bunch of college students in Virginia. “And I’ll admit the guy is taller than me, he’s like six-two, which is why I don’t understand why his hands are the size of a guy who’s five-two. And you know what they say about men with small hands.”

A dick joke! The college kids loved it.

Trump responded at the next debate with a robust defense of his manhood. Because of course he did.

“It’s not a problem, believe me,” Trump said. The press declared this to be another “new low,” at least for this week. Everyone was “deeply saddened” and “deeply troubled.” We were supposedly better than this.

And once again, you might recall all of it.

Rubio seemed to be emboldened for a time. He enjoyed this Miami street-fighter version of himself: Marco from the block, the fine young choirboy who could bust chops with the best of the big boys. But mostly, he wanted me to know, he was a man of conviction.

“I’m as conservative as anyone in this race,” Rubio told me. “But I am the conservative that can unify the Republican Party and also beat Trump.” He kept collecting new endorsements like snow globes.

“We got Pat Toomey,” Rubio boasted the night before the caucuses, after the Republican senator from Pennsylvania had jumped aboard. Yet for some reason, the voters of Nevada were not following Pat Toomey’s lead, either. Trump won by twenty-two percentage points. Rubio edged out Cruz for second.

Rubio managed to win in Minnesota and Puerto Rico—two more snow globes. And the District of Columbia. Who knew there were Republicans in D.C.? (I live here, I didn’t, but they both like Rubio, apparently.) Maybe this could be something to build on for next time.

But what if the “bright future” Rubio had been promised in the Republican Party never existed, neither the future nor the party? After the ordeal of his campaign subsided, Rubio tried to reclaim a bit of retroactive stature. “This man turned the most important election in a generation into a freak show,” Rubio told me. “I allowed myself to get pulled into a portion of that.” He sounded, at this moment, tired and sheepish, less a man in a hurry than a pol out of time.

He expressed regret that he had stooped to Trump’s level. “It’s not who I am,” he said. It never is.

Over the next few months, Rubio traveled the path to full capitulation. He reaffirmed his continued unease with Trump in the most self-aggrandizing ways possible. He deployed the humblebrag maneuver of preemptively ruling himself out to be Trump’s running mate. “I have never sought, will not seek and do not want to be considered for Vice President,” Rubio said in a Facebook post. I suspected Rubio did this in part to annoy Trump, which it did, of course.

Later that spring, Rubio finally took the trouble to say that he would in fact support the inevitable Republican nominee. He simply had no choice, Rubio said, given the alternative, “now that it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee.” As if that prospect came out of nowhere.

Rubio now held the astonishing position of saying he would vote for someone he previously declared unfit to hold the American nuclear codes. I envisioned him under a mushroom cloud, telling his kids that at least Dad didn’t vote for the ghastly Hillary.

You knew this was where it would wind up. Not just for Rubio, but also for the other would-be Trump stoppers, no matter how tough and appalled they claimed to be.

There was one sad and telling episode in March, at the end of a debate in Detroit. It had been a night of sky-high dudgeon over Trump, with plenty of scorched-earth rhetoric from his Republican rivals. Rubio, Cruz, and John Kasich discharged frantic warnings about how Trump was a cruel/know-nothing/calamitous con man. Cruz had just called Trump a “pathological liar” and “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.”

But in the end, the debate came down to the one question for the non-Trumps: Would they still commit to supporting the Republican nominee, even if that was this lying, narcissistic madman with zero impulse control sharing the stage with them? If Trump was really such pure evil, shouldn’t that override whatever musty notions of party loyalty they still clung to? I’m assuming you remember how this turned out, also.

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