By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill – Sept. 22, 2022

Are you ready for it? The two-year presidential campaign marathon is at the starting line, juiced on steroids with chaotic, unparalleled circumstances, legal predicaments and scars from 2020. This high-stakes power race stars complex characters with plot lines beyond scriptwriters’ imaginations.

The 2024 presidential election cycle officially begins the day after the Nov. 8 midterm elections. But I’m jumping the gun, predicting that one of the following will be elected or reelected president of the United States: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

You can monitor their chances at PredictIt, the popular online betting market, which asks, “Who will win the 2024 US presidential election?”

Although the numbers continuously fluctuate, Trump, DeSantis and Biden are in a three-way race, ranging from 26 to 23 cents each. Then, lagging behind are Harris and Newsome, tied at 8 cents.

Meanwhile, consider The Hill’s recent headline: “Most Americans don’t want Trump or Biden to run in 2024.” According to the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, “two-thirds of voters surveyed – 67 percent – said that Biden shouldn’t seek another term..” And 57 percent were against another Trump campaign.

The Hill also reported ominous statements from the poll’s co-director Mark Penn: “Americans want a clear change from this president and the last one,” and “There will be a virtual voter revolt if these are the two candidates once again.” 

Remember those foreboding messages as we discuss 2024’s potential drama, first from the Democrats’ perspective. 

During Biden’s “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday, he sent a clear smoke signal of uncertainty. After speaking about his “intention” to stand for reelection, Biden asked, “But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.”

And here is another no-go hint from a campaign management perspective. NBC reported that Biden’s reelection plan will “rely heavily on the resources of the Democratic National Committee and only have a small campaign staff…” Translation: Some Democrats are “unconvinced” Biden is running and only “going through the motions” that “could transfer to a different nominee if he stands down.”

More translation: Biden wants to avoid early “lame duck” status, which could have political and national security implications in these exceedingly perilous times.

The last president to withdraw from reelection was Lyndon Johnson, who made his surprise announcement on March 31 of the 1968 election year. But campaigns are much longer now, and Biden must announce by mid-2023.

The president, who turns 80 in November, subtly appears to be setting the stage for withdrawing from a reelection race, which would result in the drama shifting to Kamala Harris.

But the vice president is not highly regarded, with an average unfavorable rating of 51 percent and 37 percent favorable. Harris is also considered a weak national candidate. She quickly bombed out of the 2020 presidential race, withdrawing in December 2019.  

The Democrats will not easily dislodge an incumbent VP — a woman of color who represents the party’s largest demographics.

In 2020, women represented 52 percent of the electorate. Biden/Harris won women voters 57 percent to Trump’s 42. African American voters were 13 percent of the electorate, and Biden/Harris won 87 percent of them over Trump’s 12 percent. Hispanics represented 13 percent of voters, and Biden/Harris won 65 percent to Trump’s 32.

Indeed, the prospect of a historic “President Harris” could successfully maintain those voter group majorities. She will have tough primary opposition, but never underestimate the advantage and power of incumbency.

So how do challengers respectfully attack VP Harris during a primary or general election when she is one tragic breath away from becoming the early 47th president? Very carefully.

Then there is the question of Biden’s primary endorsement. If the president chooses not to endorse his logical successor, it could prove politically embarrassing and detrimental to both. Gavin Newsom will be watching closely after “undeniably, unequivocally” gearing up for a likely primary fight against Harris — two liberal California natives at war.

Speaking of primary fights, among Republicans, “fight” fails to capture the apocalyptic mega-MAGA battle if Trump and DeSantis are primary opponents.

Regarding the twice-impeached one-term president, a Sept.15 Hill headline speaks volumes: “Trump says he ‘can’t imagine’ being indicted, argues it wouldn’t deter running again.” And if indicted, he hinted at “problems” (Trump-speak for violence). Then on Tuesday, this bombshell Washington Post headline: “Trump lawyers acknowledge Mar-a-Lago probe could lead to indictment.” 

So what could happen first? Attorney General Merrick Garland indicts a former president, or does that former president declare his 2024 candidacy? Just imagine the dangerous optics: Trump facing trial, riling up angry crowds at campaign rallies.

While Trump seeks drama and revenge, he is the clear winner of the RealClearPolitics  GOP nomination poll average — 52 percent to DeSantis’s 23 percent. But that average reflects polls taken before DeSantis flew Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard — endearing the governor to the national MAGA base.

Further aggravating Trump, reportedly, DeSantis’s campaign goal is to win reelection (and bragging rights), exceeding the 3-point margin that Trump won Florida by in 2020. Noticeably and successfully, DeSantis has adopted and perfected Trump’s fighting style in his own policy-wonk kind of way. Undoubtedly, in head-to-head primary debates, these two could fill stadiums.

Ultimately, no matter whether, when or how Trump leaves the primary stage or stays enmeshed while in legal jeopardy, expect the most dramatic campaign in modern history.

Then, if it’s Trump or DeSantis who challenges Harris or Newsom, the 2024 election will be branded MAGA vs. California — the reddest red vs. bluest blue. Those colors are the new “blue vs. gray” — reflecting the most divided the nation has been since the Civil War. Sadly, in 2024, such a conflict can happen again.

Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.


By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill – Sept. 9, 2022

The impending shark-attack music from “Jaws” could be the soundtrack for Mark Meadows’s potentially perilous legal entanglements. Meadows served as former President Trump’s final White House chief of staff, from March 31, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021.

Even one of Meadows’s possible quagmires would test your fortitude, but three simultaneously are blood-pressure-busting.

First, the Georgia problem. Recently The Hill reported, “The prosecutor investigating whether Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia is seeking to compel testimony … including former chief of staff Mark Meadows.” Included is the infamous phone call, which Meadows reportedly set up and participated in, when Trump told Georgia officials that “we need only 11,000 votes.”

Second, Meadows’s extensive post-election involvement enabling Trump’s “Big Lie” that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. In June, Meadows’s silence was deafening when he never renounced the explosive testimony of his former special assistant, Cassidy Hutchinson, who disparaged his inaction during a nationally televised Jan. 6 House committee hearing.

Third, Meadows’s management role when boxes containing classified documents were transferred from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and remained there until authorities took action. This week it was revealed that foreign nuclear secrets were found among the documents. After the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Florida estate, Politico reported, “A person close to Meadows insisted that, ‘All procedures were followed in accordance with guidance.’” Again, Meadows was silent.

While serving Trump, could Meadows have stopped the president from engaging in these allegedly illegal activities?

This week, I posed that question to John Kelly, who served as President Trump’s chief of staff from July 31, 2017, to Jan. 2, 2019. During our phone call, Kelly said:

“A chief of staff must be willing to go to the mat. To say to the president, ‘If you insist on doing this, I will resign, and that alone will cause an explosion in this city. And, I will tell people why I am resigning.’ Meadows could and should have done that but elected not to do the right thing.”

Then Kelly explained how he dealt with Trump: “I could not control him, but I knew how to heavily influence him.” Relating that philosophy to his successors – Mick Mulvaney (who served from Jan. 2019 to March 2020) followed by Meadows – Kelly said, “Both were willing to shrug their shoulders and say, ‘that’s what the president wants, let Trump be Trump.’”

Kelly continued, “Chiefs of staff absolutely have to talk truth to power, saying ‘Boss, you are way off on this, if you do this, you will get impeached or relieved.’ But number one, and the ‘North Star’ for chiefs of staff, is the rule of law. You can’t do anything illegal.”

Speaking of illegal, one historian has described Mark Meadows as “the worst chief of staff in history,” surpassing H.R. Haldeman, the perennial titleholder. As President Nixon’s chief, Haldeman was an enabler and enforcer. He was convicted in 1975 for perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice relating to the Watergate cover-up. Haldeman spent 18 months in prison.

Kelly referenced Haldeman during our discussion, saying, “Trump would tell me, ‘If we do this, I will protect you.’ I said, ‘Look, the only chief of staff in history who broke the law was Haldeman, and he went to jail. I don’t break the law.’”

Given Meadows’s potential legal predicament, one might think that he is making a calculation: If he cooperates, he may avoid jail; if he doesn’t cooperate, he has to hope that Trump will be reelected and he might receive a pardon. But, inevitably, Trump and Meadows seem to be headed for a legal showdown. Will Trump try to make Meadows his fall guy, or will Meadows turn witness-for-the-prosecution first? As CNN recently reported

“In recent months, ‘Trump has been counseled to cut contact with Meadows’ and has ‘complained about Meadows in conversations with other allies,’ said a source.” And “Meadows handed over texts and emails to the National Archives that he had not previously turned over from his time in the administration.”

Moreover, CNN added, “‘It could be a coincidence, but within a week of the August 8 search on Mar-a-Lago, much more started coming in,’ one source familiar with the discussions said.”

Furthermore, on Jan. 19, 2021, Trump named Meadows as one of his designees to the Archives. Thus, CNN also reported:

“While he was at Mar-a-Lago last summer, Meadows talked with Trump about the documents that the Archives was seeking to have returned, sources said. Meadows has continued to work with the Archives in its efforts to recover documents since then, according to the sources.”

Those reports prompted me to ask Kelly how chiefs of staff interface with top-secret documents. He was incredulous, saying, “It is just about impossible for a chief of staff not to know that the president was stuffing boxes with highly classified material” — if, in fact, that is what Trump or his staff did.

Kelly mentioned a secure, numbered system with federal security employees overseeing the protocol. “You have to account for everything in the vault.” Kelly emphasized that these federal employees “would have gone to Meadows; he had to have known that classified docs were missing.”

Kelly suspects any document violations would have been another example of Meadows’s submissive and prevailing “let Trump be Trump” attitude. As Kelly speculated, “Meadows is thinking, ‘If Trump wants to keep this stuff in a box, I don’t care, he is the president.’”

But, Kelly added, “No way on Earth when a president leaves office should he have top secret material with him. No way!”

As he left the chief of staff position, Kelly said he was “trying to find a replacement, an adult in the room, someone who would be willing to close the door and get into a heated conversation.” Instead, Trump declared, “I want a yes man.”

Mulvaney was hired, and that led to Meadows.

Therefore, I was not surprised when John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general who knows about men under pressure in war and peace, said: “Meadows was a moral coward.”

Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.


By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill – August 11, 2022

Behind the scenes of the impending battle to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, a Hollywood movie script is writing itself. The “you can’t make this stuff up” future blockbuster features two men and a woman (intertwined), but this is no rom-com.

The woman is credited with helping Donald Trump unexpectedly win Florida in 2016 by 1.2 percentage points; in 2020, the margin increased to 3.3 points.

Then in September 2018, the woman was sent by President Trump on a mission to rescue the floundering Florida gubernatorial campaign of a little-known congressman named Ron DeSantis. And in record time, she pulled off the smallest victory, which he parlayed into becoming “America’s governor.” Now that moniker is used by his adoring GOP fan base as Gov. DeSantis gallivants across battleground states campaigning for others. Meanwhile, he has raised over $100 million for his expected 2024 presidential run (after the governor cruises to an easy reelection in November), or so the story goes.

This woman with the Florida magic touch is Susie Wiles — the most powerful Republican you don’t know. She has served as CEO of Trump’s Save America PAC since March 2021. The PAC is flush with $103 million cash on hand. In effect, Wiles is Trump’s chief of staff as he plays with the 2022 midterm election and gears up for his third White House run.

The “Games of Thrones: Everglades” version is brewing. Think two alpha alligators bred to fight and itching for a political wrestling match where failure is not an option. Wiles is in Trump’s alligator pit for reasons this “movie script” need not embellish. (Keep reading.)

A political insider who asked not to be named told me that Susie Wiles “will want to destroy” DeSantis after he “beheaded her” in September 2019. At the time, a Politico headline read: “Trump’s Florida ‘field general’ got kneecapped.” Moreover, the insider said, “Ron and his wife continue in their efforts to destroy Susie Wiles.”

Interestingly, as Trump and DeSantis continue to generate headlines, Wiles is virtually unknown. She has no Wikipedia page and never speaks to the press — the polar opposite of a Kellyanne Conway-type. Nonetheless, as the CEO of Trump’s main PAC, she wields an inordinate amount of power and influence while intentionally keeping a low media profile. Interestingly, Wiles’s father was Pat Summerall, the legendary sportscaster with a high media profile.   

Although Susie Wiles is unknown outside of political circles, that is about to change. Perfectly timed as I began writing this piece was a detailed CNN profile about Wiles headlined: “She helped Trump win Florida twice. Now she could lead his expected 2024 campaign.” CNN concluded with this memorable quote:

“‘Would I predict that she would run it? Yes,’ said a source close to Trump. ‘Would it shock me if she got fired tomorrow? No. That’s just Trump world.’”

A source told me:

“Wiles does not want to be Trump’s 2024 campaign manager, but it might end up being her. She has managed all of Trump’s 2022 endorsements and is close with Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) — Trump’s candidate for Senate majority leader.”

Note that Sen. Scott is another extension of Wiles’s power. In 2010 she managed Scott’s first long-shot gubernatorial campaign, and he won.

Susie Wiles might not want to captain Trump 2024, but momentum continues.

Last month a Hill piece headlined, “New faces begin to surface as possible Trump 2024 key players.” It read, “One consensus name that those close to Trump believe will play a major role in any 2024 campaign is Susie Wiles, the chair of Trump’s Save America PAC.”

Amusingly, if you click Wiles’s Hill archive, her first and only previous mention was dated July 9, 2020, headlined: “Sources say DeSantis undercutting fundraising for Republican National Convention because of personal dispute: report.” This “personal dispute” was “between himself and his former campaign manager, Susie Wiles.”

But that 2020 bad blood is a melted red popsicle compared to the potential for 2024 bloodshed. A GOP strategist who wished to remain unnamed told me, “Wiles and Trump are loyal to each other because, after DeSantis, Trump brought Susie back from the political dead.” Then he explained why Wiles had amassed so much Trump-world power:

“Wiles power is not as a manager or strategist, but as an operative. She is not Karl Rove or David Axelrod, but Trump thinks he is them.”

The strategist said, “Trump does not want to be managed or handled. Her power with Trump is based on her ability to present him with a full range of options. Because Trump is impulsive, Wiles makes sure Trump has heard the full range of options, upsides, and downsides. She makes sure he has all the information. When he does, Trump makes good decisions. When he doesn’t is when bad decisions are made.”

Finally, he said, “Wiles is like a traffic cop. She talks to the right people, and Trump trusts her. Trump has not announced early because Susie was against it.”

But this week’s “raid” could change everything. Trump being aligned with Wiles against DeSantis is the story to watch with an undercurrent from the September 2019 “kneecapping.” And what was that about?

First, after some embarrassing leaks (that my sources say DeSantis unfairly blamed on Wiles) along with paranoia about his administration and the Florida GOP being stacked with “Susie people” — DeSantis fired her.

Next, according to Politico, the governor convinced President Trump to fire her from his 2020 campaign. Suddenly, Wiles became persona non grata in the Florida Republican Party and politically dead.  

Definitely more of a “beheading” than a “kneecapping.”

Thus, as Trump’s and DeSantis’s 2024 plans careen towards mutually assured destruction, a GOP consultant told me, “A lot of famous people are going to try to stop this from happening.” When I asked, “Who?” He answered, “Conservative media people that will try to stop the skirmish — the big ones.”

As this movie script continues to write itself, you’ll be hearing the name Susie Wiles more often.

Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.


By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill July 28, 2022

When thinking about what I call the “tumultuous triad” – former President Trump’s 2020 defeat, the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and the House committee’s investigation – I recalled the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” That was a #1 New York Times bestseller by Robert Fulghum published in 1986. Its catchy, relatable title confirmed that adults needed a refresher course on basic human behaviors.

The book famously revisited such rudimentary rules as “Play fair,” “Don’t take things that aren’t yours,” “Share everything,” “Clean up your own mess,” “Don’t hit people” and “Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody,” to name a few.

So how does the “tumultuous triad” relate to Fulghum’s long-forgotten book? The answer is a panoply of despicable behaviors exhibited by top-elected leaders, appointed officials, gangs of violent citizens and White House enablers — whose actions and inactions were testified to or revealed by the Jan. 6 committee.

For example, during the committee’s eight public hearings, Americans heard about possibly illegal activities of powerful presidential advisers before and during the explosive attack on the Capitol. Unfortunately, these men forgot their kindergarten lessons to “play fair” and “share everything.” Most notably, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who cowardly has declined to testify.

Conversely, showcased on the national stage was the courageous and patriotic behavior of the only two Republican Jan. 6 House committee members. While seriously jeopardizing her congressional seat, co-chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R Wyo.) chose to put her oath of office first. She explained why on ABC News, “that we swear under God to the Constitution” means “we cannot embrace and enable a president as dangerous as Donald Trump is.”

Also, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a war veteran who was once considered a Republican rising star, declined to run for reelection but is dedicated to finding the truth.

The Jan. 6 hearings have showcased “courage” versus “cowardice” — behavioral choices and life lessons to discuss with your children.

Moreover, White House staff who chose courage have testified while potentially trashing promising careers and incurring threats to personal and family safety. Their lives will be impacted forever after working for a president who, then and now, rejects the kindergarten rule “clean up your own mess.” (Coincidentally, star witness Cassidy Hutchison also testified that she literally helped “clean up the mess” after an enraged President Trump had thrown his lunch against the wall.)

Then there is the golden kindergarten rule, “Don’t hit people,” — repeatedly violated when rioters attacked the Capitol police at the building that symbolizes peaceful democracy.

Fortuitously, pre-Jan. 6, numerous state and local officials opted to “play fair” and rejected bullying calls from Trump’s henchmen to change election results. Our nation is grateful for those Americans who played by the rules and did the right thing at tremendous personal and professional costs. So, parents, pass those lessons forward.

The more we learn how close our nation came to a breakdown in the orderly transfer of presidential power – a hallmark of any democracy – the more we must teach our children about the sacred nature of that transfer. They must learn that even if their preferred candidate loses an election, the office of the president must be respected and revered as fundamentally stronger than its temporary occupant. 

Years ago, one of my college professors said, “In our nation, there are no tanks in the streets during presidential inaugurations.” I recalled that remark when former federal judge J. Michael Luttig testified before the Jan. 6 committee. Luttig said, “If [Vice President] Pence obeyed Trump’s plea, [to halt the certification of President Biden’s victory],” the U.S. “would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.”

Thankfully, then-Vice President Pence remembered his kindergarten lessons or read Fulghum’s book because on Jan. 6  — while his life was threatened and with chants of hanging – Pence refused to “take things that aren’t yours.” And even though Pence was slated to lose his job, he stood up to the president of the United States, who never learned “don’t hit people” while they are doing their job adhering to the Constitution.

The Jan. 6 House hearings have provided robust evidence that Trump failed to learn another essential kindergarten lesson, “Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody” (or a nation). At least not yet, though it’s doubtful he ever will.

Currently, it’s unknown whether the Department of Justice will charge the highest-level perpetrators who tried to overturn the 2020 election — but smoke signals have begun emanating from the roof. They started last week when Attorney General Merrick Garland emphatically stated, “no person is above the law in this country.”

Then, on July 26, during an NBC News interview, Lester Holt asked Garland, “The indictment of a former president, perhaps candidate for president, would arguably tear the country apart; is that your concern?”   

Garland replied: “We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable. That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”

And if Garland’s Justice Department finds enough evidence to indict any high-ranking officials who “interfered with the lawful transfer of power” – including a former president – our great nation will continue to stand firm on its constitutional foundation.

But the alternative is painful to fathom. The rule of law when “no person is above the law” will be negated if Donald Trump is not held accountable. It will mean he successfully shredded the Constitution. Consequently, our standing in the world as a beacon of democracy would be incinerated, along with our electoral process.

Then, expect tanks in the streets at future presidential inaugurations, and tell your children it’s time for a new founding document because the original 1788 version will be resting on shifting sand.

Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.


By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill – July 14, 2022

Last weekend, I received 26 emails from former President Trump or allied organizations with subject lines: “The Great MAGA King,” “Activate my Trump card” and “Brand new Trump hat, ‘Let’s go Brandon.’” Amazingly, I even qualified for “GREAT MAGA KING STATUS” (in red caps) without donating a dime. And remember, the “Great MAGA King” moniker was a gift quote from President Biden, which Trump has royally maximized.

Included in the 26 were “TRUMP WAR” emails with Drudge Report-like red sirens spewing “news” from MAGA-world’s alternative reality. While “TRUMP WAR” calls itself the “#1 Drudge Alternative,” on Tuesday the real Drudge Report’s headlines screamed some real-world reality, “POLL: HALF REPUBLICAN VOTERS ABANDON TRUMP,” and “DESANTIS CONVENES DONORS.”

Then, on cue (no joke), a new Trump email arrived with blazing red caps: “CONGRATULATIONS! YOU WON A FREE TRUMP GIFT” — accompanied by a video of Trump dancing like a chugging choo-choo with clenched fists that I can’t un-see.

If you ask, “Why don’t you unsubscribe?” my answer is, “I have in the past.” However, Team Trump’s emails are like COVID-19 — morphing into new strains and immune to deletion. But I find it instructive to observe this repetitive, juvenile messaging, which is bound to be studied in political communication courses.

Since mid-June, there has been an increase in Team Trump’s fundraising emails after the House Jan. 6 committee began televised hearings. Is that to counter the barrage of devastating Trump-related revelations? And no surprise when on Monday, ABC News reported nearly half a million dollars of Trump PAC funds had gone to pay law firms representing Trump-allied witnesses who had already testified or resisted subpoenas.

Then last week, in my postal mailbox was an official-looking white envelope from “President Donald J. Trump.” Inside, his name and title were prominently displayed on the letterhead but without a faux presidential seal. It turned out the “Dear Fellow Patriot” fundraising letter was from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, an arm of the Republican National Committee. And with Trump as their frontman, what could possibly go wrong in swing states where the GOP must win seats to control the Senate?

With Trump haunting my emails and snail mail, the explosive Jan. 6 committee hearings and polls showing 61 percent of Americans against the former president making another White House run, a “Ready for Ron” PAC — as in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — caught my attention.  

According to the Ready for Ron committee’s news release, its purpose is “to encourage Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to run for President of the United States.” (Does the uber-ambitious 43-year-old governor need encouragement?)

The familiar GOP name co-chairing Ready for Ron is Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican operative who was campaign chairman of President Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Rollins also chaired Great America PAC, which spent $26 million supporting Trump in 2016 but less than $10 million in 2020.

Thus, is Rollins “ready” to trade in the MAGA King for a younger model? Maybe, but meanwhile, he brilliantly triangulates the GOP’s past, present and future. Let’s examine the strategy:

Ready for Ron’s only page is headlined, “DRAFT DESANTIS FOR PRESIDENT: SIGN THE PETITION” followed by a paragraph that reads, in part:

“The America-First agenda MUST be revived. Governor Ron DeSantis is the next great American president — like Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump — who will turn our country around.” This is followed by a video that boldly and unabashedly brands DeSantis as the new “freedom-fighting President Reagan.”

Indeed, DeSantis is a rising national star and on track to win reelection. Nevertheless, Ready for Ron risks drawing attention to the sentiment expressed by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) — the governor’s likely general election opponent — who said, “DeSantis sees Florida as his political launching pad, I see it as my home.”

Similarly, a new anti-DeSantis group, DeSantisWatch, states in its first video, “The people of Florida are nothing but a stepping stone for DeSantis’ ambition for higher office.”

However, a DeSantis win would signal that Florida voters support his ambition to become the first U.S. president who is a native-born Floridian. But then, what would be his timing for a presidential announcement? Look to Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1998 after he was reelected with 68.2 percent of the vote. Bush waited seven months before making his 2000 presidential announcement in June 1999. So watch DeSantis’s June 2023 schedule if he is overwhelmingly reelected, at which point Ed Rollins should send a defibrillator to the MAGA King.

Speaking of the former president, ultimately, Ready for Ron means the Don is “Ready for Retirement.” But how will Trump — with his hyperactive email communications and president-titled Republican Party mailings — be dethroned without a “Game of Thrones”-style blood bath?

The answer could be “royal adoration,” as illustrated in Rollins’s quote from the Ready for Ron press release: “The era of President Trump was wonderful, but now, since he isn’t currently running, we must get ready for a new leader, we must be Ready For Ron.” Combined with the previously mentioned statement, “DeSantis would be a great American president — like Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump,” is the royal adoration translation: “Hey Don, you got your GOP gold-plated legacy, now anoint your successor and go play golf.”

Upon reaching out to Ready for Ron, I asked what happens if Trump runs. Do they fight or surrender? In an email, Lilian Rodriguez-Baz, the PAC’s co-chair and chief legal counsel, answered:

“We are specifically choosing to avoid participating in the endless speculation and hypotheticals for the 2024 race. Our focus is building up grassroots momentum for Ron DeSantis so that he can carry the America First agenda forward.” 

Moving “forward” with the “America First agenda” while the MAGA founder is crazy-glued to the GOP throne means Ready for Ron and Gov. Ron are royally careening toward an uncivil Trump-style war.

However, the most potentially significant intervening variable in modern political history is if Attorney General Merrick Garland is “ready” to defend the rule of law and bring King Trump to justice for criminal actions relating to Jan. 6, 2021. And then, we all must be ready to expect the unexpected.   

Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams. TAGS 2024 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2024 REPUBLICANS BIDEN CHARLIE CRIST DONALD TRUMP  ED ROLLINS FLORIDA GOVERNOR’S RACE RON DESANTIS RONALD REAGAN

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from the Hill – June 30, 2022

During the House Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 21, I had a teenage flashback to the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings after hearing the word “cancer” used in a political context. Nearly five decades later, it is likely that millions of Americans have had similar flashbacks since that word was seared into our Watergate memories and is now equated to actions related to Jan. 6, 2021. And for that, we can thank committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Referencing former President Trump in his opening statement, Schiff said, “The president’s lie was and is a dangerous cancer on the body politic.”

For maximum historical impact, Schiff channeled the bombshell revelation by then-President Nixon’s former White House counsel John Dean during his testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee hearing on June 25, 1973. After being granted immunity, Dean recounted what he told Nixon in March 1973: “I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency, and if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it.”

Forty-nine years later, could there be instructions for moving our nation beyond Trump by connecting Schiff’s “cancer on the body politic” with Dean’s “cancer growing on the presidency”? Yes, but first, some background.

While coming of age during the Watergate scandal, I believed that whatever crimes Nixon or his staff had committed, truth would prevail, perpetrators would be punished, our democracy would stay strong and our nation would move ahead.  

The “cancer growing on the presidency” stemmed from wide-ranging attempts to cover up a bungled burglary inside the Watergate building headquarters of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972. The men arrested were connected to Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President, aptly called CREEP.

Over two years, the cover-up metastasized, later revealing how Nixon illegally mobilized the FBI, CIA and IRS as political weapons against his enemies. Ultimately, on Aug. 8, 1974, Nixon resigned rather than face certain impeachment, conviction and removal from office for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.

Remember the Watergate outcome: 69 of Nixon’s henchmen were indicted, with 48 sent to jail, including the White House chief of staff and the attorney general; John Dean received just four months. Then, national outrage erupted when President Ford pardoned Nixon on Sept. 8, 1974. But years later, the pardon was characterized as a positive move for the nation.

Currently, Schiff’s description of Trump as unleashing a “cancer on the body politic” — the totality of all Americans — appears more egregious than any of Nixon’s crimes. If Trump’s actions go unpunished, they institutionally threaten our democracy, security and electoral system. Speaking for the Jan. 6 committee, Schiff said, “If you can convince Americans that they cannot trust their own elections, that any time they lose it is somehow illegitimate, then what is left but violence to determine who should govern.” 

The mounting evidence of witnesses’ explosive testimony, including Cassidy Hutchinson’s (who appears to be the new John Dean), was summarized last week by Schiff: “President Trump and his campaign were directly involved in advancing and coordinating the plot to replace legitimate Biden electors with fake electors not chosen by the voters.” 

All that culminated in a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, preceded by Trump continually pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to commit an illegal act to keep himself in power. Trump’s actions stained the hallmark of American democracy — a smooth transition of power — dutifully followed by every president until the 45th attempted to subvert this revered constitutional order.

So what are the Watergate-learned instructions for moving our nation forward?

Attorney General Merrick Garland must fearlessly prosecute Trump and the Trump aides and elected members of Congress who assisted him in trying to undermine our democracy.

But every step Garland takes or chooses not to take is fraught with harrowing political risks that could alter the course of American history. If Garland’s Department of Justice decides to indict former President Trump, his ensuing trial could, and likely will, shred the cloth of a nation with split seams. Violent outbreaks could erupt, possibly fueled by Trump encouraging millions of his armed supporters to stand up.

Moreover, don’t put it past Trump to take preemptive measures shortly before or during prosecution by announcing that he is running for president in 2024 — making Garland’s actions appear more politically daunting.

Yet Garland not prosecuting Trump would be equally horrific. Our justice system must not fear punishing a former president who violently tried to cling to power and might have succeeded if not for well-positioned heroes at every level of government who stood up to Trump and bravely said “no.”

What follows is a multipart compromise based partly on Watergate:

First, Garland must prosecute and potentially convict all of the Trump underlings who assisted his illegal efforts, including members of Congress who asked for pardons.

Second, Trump must be indicted for crimes against the United States (or whatever is the appropriate legal language). At the same time, the Justice Department should make a concerted effort to educate the public about the overwhelming evidence for his conviction.

Third, before Trump heads to trial, Garland should offer him a compromise that avoids trial but precludes Trump from running for or holding public office. The compromise would include Trump making a live public statement apologizing to the American people for perpetuating lies about his election victory, the attempted overthrow and all the events related to Jan. 6, 2021.

Indicting Trump but avoiding a Trump trial is in our nation’s best interests. Nonetheless, the former president must be held accountable so America can move ahead and secure the integrity of future presidential elections.

“We need to get back to the solemn business of preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States and the United States of America,” said retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig during his recent Jan. 6 committee testimony.

If not, our nation can expect chaos no matter which party wins in 2024.

Through the filter of history, Watergate is often associated with Nixon infamously saying, “I am not a crook.” And someday, Trump might one-up Nixon with this potential one-line zinger: “I did not stage a coup.”

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill on June 16, 2022

Before presidential candidates make their official announcement, they must be confident that their spouse is equally enthusiastic, supportive and strapped in for a wild ride. 

Now consider Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose wife Casey is said to be emboldening his 2024 White House ambition five months before his (presumed) reelection as governor. That soft bombshell was recently dropped in a Washington Post piece headlined: “The shadow race is underway for the Republican presidential nomination.”

The Post reported, “DeSantis’s wife, Casey, a former television host and among a small circle of confidants, wants him to run for president.” It’s newsworthy only because Florida’s first lady wields tremendous power as the governor’s most influential adviser.

Polished and articulate, Casey DeSantis, age 42, is camera-ready from her Emmy award-winning television career — envisioning her current title on the nation’s most prestigious set. Casey’s private encouragement of her husband, now publicly revealed, helps us answer “yes” to the second most-asked question in the 2024 GOP stratosphere: “Will DeSantis run if Trump runs?” (Naturally, “Will Trump run?” is first.)

While ambition fuels the DeSantis’s White House dreams, their timing is prudent and politically justified, as the Post explained:

“The couple believes that the governor’s skills are uniquely matched to the current political climate, and are wary of waiting six years, by which time the tides may have shifted. DeSantis has not indicated if he would defer a campaign if Trump runs.”

DeSantis’s refusal to rule out running against the former president is a long-time bone of contention, reportedly sparking Trump’s “souring” on the 43-year-old governor. With elections approaching, the widely predicted Trump v. DeSantis war of oversized egos is about to go nuclear. So, imagine Trump’s fury after reading the Post’s quote that DeSantis “has told donors ‘No one’s nomination is inevitable.’” Advantage: DeSantis.

That same political truth applies to “No one’s victory is inevitable.” However, match-up polls with the governor’s likely opponent, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), are impressive. And again, Trump’s ire was raised when the Post revealed DeSantis’s reelection goal:

“Beating Trump’s 2020 margin of three percentage points in Florida has become a key campaign goal, according to three people familiar with the conversations.” (Those same unnamed “three people” revealed Mrs. DeSantis is cheerleading his presidential run.)

Remember, three percentage points is a quantum leap from when DeSantis was elected governor in 2018 with a 0.4 percentage point victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum. Furthermore, if DeSantis is reelected by at least three points, he wins national bragging rights, including the right to drive Trump ballistic. Whereas winning by five points would be a “Florida landslide,” catapulting DeSantis to “frontrunner” status.  

Florida’s close races are legendary. The last time a gubernatorial election was won by a margin greater than 1.2 percentage points was in 2006. Ironically, the Republican victor was none other than Charlie Crist, then a Republican, who defeated his Democratic opponent by 7.1 percentage points.

Then in 2014, Crist, as the Democrat nominee for governor, lost to incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott by one percentage point. Hence, since 1998 – after a string of consecutively elected GOP governors – Crist might be the Democratic nominee best suited to thwart DeSantis’s reelection and future Oval Office occupation. But don’t bet on that.

DeSantis, with a 56 percent job approval rating and 38 percent disapproval, is beloved by many Florida Republicans, who assume he’ll become “President DeSantis.” His campaign war chest of $124 million overflows since 42 billionaires from 15 states have opened their wallets with expectations beyond Florida. Even Elon Musk is a fan.

All eyes are watching whether Trump will graciously support and campaign with his home state governor. Or is Trump “taking aim” and “spooked” by DeSantis, as reported this week in Rolling Stone?:

“Donald Trump in recent months has been telling confidants that he may launch his 2024 presidential campaign early — and that he’s considering launching it in Florida to stick it to Gov. Ron DeSantis.” Here is why:

DeSantis’s increasingly frequent fundraising emails emulate Trump’s MAGA-base branding, with the governor wrapping himself in the message mantle of Trumpism without mentioning Trump.  

Recall the Washington Post’s quote: “The couple believes that the governor’s skills are uniquely matched to the current political climate.” That “political climate” is fear of national decline — which Gov. DeSantis has operationalized with his confrontational fight-fight Trump-inspired governing style that the left calls “authoritarian.”  

Here is a preview of DeSantis’s 2024 presidential message doubling as his gubernatorial reelection campaign quoted from recently received emails:

“Our country is currently facing a great threat. A new enemy has emerged from the shadows that seeks to destroy and intimidate their way to a transformed state, and country, that you and I would hardly recognize.”

“This enemy is the radical vigilante woke mob that will steamroll anything and anyone in their way. Their blatant attacks on the American way of life are clear and intensifying: stifling dissent, public shaming, rampant violence, and a perverted version of history. “

“I am choosing to counter this enemy with faith, with reason, and with freedom. As Governor of the Free State of Florida, I have chosen to lead with a vision that builds America up rather than tears it down.”

[Time to…] “fight for the rights you know were given to man by God Himself – the time is now.”

“I promise you; I will never stop fighting.”

Gov. DeSantis’s fighting message, more articulate than Trump’s, is gaining traction. Meanwhile, Predictit, the popular online betting prediction platform, has him edging ahead of Trump for the GOP nomination.  

Casey DeSantis is also a fighter. She recently beat breast cancer with “six rounds of chemotherapy, a surgery, six weeks of radiation” and reentered the campaign trail last month. Fox News reported what Florida’s first lady told the crowd:

[When] “you feel like your back is against the wall, fight! Fight like hell!”

“Never ever give up, never ever back down.”

“I am the testament that God is great, that God is good, and hope is alive.”

Her father told her, “‘Casey, have faith and don’t let the bastards win.’”

That could be DeSantis’s campaign mantra.

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill on June 2, 2022

Whenever two or more politically active people engage in conversation, invariably someone asks, “Will Donald Trump run in 2024?”

My standard answer is always “I have no idea” — until last week when Trump’s much-ballyhooed vendetta campaigns to defeat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ended in embarrassing anti-Trump failures. 

Reportedly, Trump was “stunned” by the results and headlines such as The Washington Post’s “Trump rebuked with stinging losses in Georgia GOP contests.” But they’re not surprising since the former president’s primary challengers — former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) — were Trump stand-ins specifically chosen to promote the “Big Lie” — his perpetual mantra about the “stolen” 2020 election.

Trump’s repudiation in Georgia has Republicans speculating about his declining kingmaking powers, openly defying him as he loses his “vise-like grip on the party” and potentially endangering his front-runner status. So, circling back to the most-asked question, my new answer is “Trump won’t run in 2024” — based on personality traits rooted in the words “fear” and “fight.” 

We begin with “fear,” indirectly drilled into young Donald Trump’s psyche by Fred, his authoritarian father, who demanded that his son always win and show strength but never weakness. Fred taught Donald that he could lie or twist the truth but never back down. Consequently, Trump developed an unnatural fear of losing or being called “a loser.”

Those grueling family dynamics were chronicled in Mary Trump’s book “Too Much and Never Enough,” subtitled “How my family created the world’s most dangerous man.” Donald Trump’s niece is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist whose best-seller was published in July 2020. Then, during a television appearance on Dec. 3, 2020, Mary explained, “It’s impossible for Trump to believe that he lost the election.”

That inability is why Trump can’t let go of 2020 and will tease a 2024 run for as long as possible. But, ultimately, Trump’s fear of losing is likely stronger than his willingness to take the risk. Moreover, during a second reelection campaign, the former president would be hard-pressed to use the same predictive excuse first heralded in a May 25, 2020, Politico headline: “Trump sees a ‘rigged election’ ahead. Democrats see a constitutional crisis in the making.”

And again, on Aug. 17, 2020, a Hill headline quoted the president’s losing rationale: “Trump: ‘The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.’” 

Then, amazingly, on Tuesday, Trump activated his go-to playbook, writing his followers, “ICYMI: ‘Something Stinks In Georgia,’” explaining why his nemesis, Gov. Brian Kemp, won 73.7 percent of the primary vote. Stay tuned for that explosion.

Furthermore, Trump’s fear of running and losing reelection a second time is not assuaged by presidential history. In 1892, Grover Cleveland was the first and only former president to win the office nonconsecutively. But there is a striking political difference between Trump and Cleveland’s win-loss record.

Cleveland, a Democrat, was first elected in 1884 after winning the popular vote and Electoral College. In his 1888 reelection defeat, Cleveland lost the Electoral College but still won the popular vote. Then in his second reelection campaign, Cleveland won the Electoral College and the popular vote for the third time. By comparison, Trump has never won the popular vote — a fact that must haunt his ego and heighten his fear of 2024.

And now, since I don’t believe that Trump will run again, it’s a good time to solicit Roger Stone’s opinion. Stone, a colorful political operative, is Trump’s longtime consultant and confidant who received a presidential pardon in 2020. In a text message, he wrote:

“I think he [Trump] wants to run, is inclined to run, has not made a decision to run. If he chooses to, I don’t think he could be stopped for the nomination, and I would be for him. This is a precisely accurate reflection of my conversation with him on this topic.”

But between the lines in Stone’s message, I read, “fear.” Why else would Trump have excessively teased his run and still “not made a decision”? Of course, the “Big Tease” has been an effective fundraising platform, banking more than $100 million for Trump’s PACs while solidifying his dual status as king of the GOP and MAGA world. And is there any difference between the two? “Yes,” is the answer that brings us to “fight” — the second word explaining why Trump will not run in 2024.

Usually, the 45th president loves fighting, but fighting for his party’s nomination is now beneath his stature and shows weakness. Thus, King Trump wants and believes he deserves the 2024 crown delivered to his Mar-a-Lago palace on a blue satin pillow.

Meanwhile, a fighting bench is forming with numerous former and current officeholders unlikely to bow to Trump’s crowning demands. Most prominent is former Vice President Mike Pence, who is actively “campaigning” focusing on “the future.”

Meanwhile, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent fundraising email was ostensibly for his reelection campaign but packed with poll-tested, red-meat phrases to gin up the national MAGA base without its baggage-laden founder. I firmly believe that the Republican version of “the future” is “Trumpism without Trump” — anticipating the next generation of leadership, and DeSantis, age 43, fits the bill.

To recap: Trump won’t run because he fears losing and does not want to fight for the nomination. But here is why I could be wrong:

I asked Mark McKinnon, the co-host of Showtime’s “The Circus” and the last presidential strategist to win the reelection of a Republican president — George W. Bush in 2004. McKinnon replied:

“Trump will never concede the stage or the spotlight to anyone else unless he’s in prison or a hospital. He’s not licking his wounds, he’s licking his chops. Every defeat is someone else’s fault. Every victory is his alone. The notion that he would simply exit stage left because of some political reality, self-reflection, or awareness flies in the face of everything we’ve learned about him.”  

It is fitting to conclude with a favorite Trump quote: “We’ll see what happens.”  

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill on May 19, 2022

America’s national debt is currently $30.4 trillion — an astronomical number confounding most Americans who are more familiar with the word “billion.” Thus, a more relatable calculation is that $30,000 billion equals $30 trillion. And, if our government cared to raise public awareness about this massive debt, the Treasury might consider sending us a monthly “national credit card statement.” For example, the May balance would appear as $30,457,000,000,000 (rounded because it grows by the second), with an asterisk warning about rising interest rate charges that add another $433.8 billion.

Furthermore, the 43 percent of Americans who paid some federal income tax in 2021 might receive their monthly statement printed on gold-tinted paper to highlight their $242,985 share of the debt. But all “citizens” could receive a monthly postcard indicating a more manageable debt share of $91,476. 

All of this data is shown on the U.S. Debt Clock, which I have called the “ticking time bomb of doom” in past writings. Meanwhile, as the ticking grows louder, the debt clock displays troubling vital signs of a nation on an unsustainable economic trajectory. Note that today’s $30.4 trillion in national debt increased by $2.1 trillion from June 2021. At current spending rates, it is projected to reach $41 trillion by 2026.

Now brace yourself for the shocking truth concerning U.S. unfunded liabilities — payments the government owes and promises its citizens without the funds to fulfill those obligations. These payments include Social Security, Medicare Parts A, B and D, federal debt held by the public, plus federal employee and veteran benefits.

When I last wrote about unfunded liabilities in January 2019, the tab was $122 trillion, with a 2023 four-year projection of $157 trillion. Today, only three and a half years later, unfunded liabilities are $169.2 trillion. More astonishing is the 2026 projection of $214.4 trillion.

All Americans should be alarmed by these jaw-dropping numbers, with soaring inflation and rising interest rates part of this broader problem. For decades, our nation has spent and promised more than it can generate through federal tax revenue — currently at $4.2 trillion. Although a vast amount of revenue, it is still a small percentage compared to federal government spending and out-of-control unfunded but promised payments.

Remember when a “balanced budget” used to be among the top issues and goals in Washington? When was the last time you heard any elected official utter that phrase?

Our elected leaders are reluctant to discuss mounting debt and unfunded liabilities because that would force them to make painful decisions about increasing taxes and cutting spending — actions that put them at risk of being voted out of office. And that is why, during this midterm election year, you will not hear federal candidates or incumbents mention the warnings found in an April report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Ominously titled “The Economic Effects of Waiting to Stabilize the Federal Debt,” the report states: “Perpetually rising debt would also increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis and pose other risks to the U.S. economy.”

To explain those “risks” of “rising debt,” I asked Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in economic issues, for some comments. In an email, he wrote:

“The very high public debt level means that for many years the government will be obliged to dedicate a large amount of its spending to pay interest on its debt. That will leave less money for the government to be spent on other items that might improve public welfare. It will also likely require higher interest rates that will limit investment needed to get the economy to grow more rapidly. In short, by running up the debt, we have mortgaged the economic future of our children and our grandchildren.” 

So far in the 21st century, let’s examine how the national debt has spiraled out of control compared to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In 2000 the national debt was only $5.7 trillion, and the GDP was $9.5 trillion.

By 2008 that debt had nearly doubled to $10.1 trillion, with GDP at $13.8 trillion.

In 2012 the debt had reached $15.2 trillion — slightly surpassing the $15.1 trillion GDP.  Also significant is that in the 10 years since 2012, the national debt has doubled in size to the previously mentioned $30.4 trillion.

Four years later, in 2016, the national debt rose to $19.5 trillion, starting to drift away from the $18.6 trillion in GDP.

Then in 2020, the COVID-19 economic shutdown, combined with President Trump initially pumping $2.2 trillion into the economy, resulted in the national debt rising to $26.9 trillion, with the GDP lagging at $22.1 trillion.

Today our economy is still recovering, with a growing gap between the $30.4 trillion debt and the $23.6 trillion GDP — yielding a federal debt-to-GDP ratio of 129 percent.

AEI’s Desmond Lachman included a stunning fact in his email comments: “Our debt to GDP ratio now is higher than it was at the end of the Second World War.”

Moreover, the previously mentioned CBO report also warned: “A perpetually rising debt-to-GDP ratio is unsustainable over the long term because financing deficits and servicing the debt would consume an ever-growing proportion of the nation’s income.”

Our leaders in Washington are not leveling with the American people about our economic unsustainability. The CBO report advises that to avoid a fiscal crisis, “debt must be stabilized.” That means the pain of spending cuts in conjunction with raising taxes must be instituted as soon as possible.

Therefore, incumbents and House and Senate candidates who fail to make the national debt crisis a national priority during an election year contribute to this national travesty.

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill on April 14, 2022

Former President Trump is the master of confusing mind games. His skill-set was recently showcased in a Daily Mail headline: “Trump, 75 admits his health could stop him running for president in 2024 and says Pence, DeSantis and Mike Pompeo would NOT oppose him in a Republican primary.”

Let’s translate that conflicted two-part headline with direct quotes from Trump’s Washington Post interview published last week.  

Part one – The Excuse: Trump admits holding what can be construed as a “face-saving doctor’s order.” Specifically, the former president said, “‘You always have to talk about health. You look like you’re in good health, but tomorrow, you get a letter from a doctor saying come see me again. That’s not good when they use the word again ’” (Is Trump’s future doctor’s order self-activating when weak knees and irritable bowel syndrome preclude him from engaging in primary fights against his former vice president, former secretary of state or a popular Republican governor from his adopted home state?)

Part two – Intimidation: Trump said, “‘If I ran, I can’t imagine they’d want to run. Some out of loyalty would have had a hard time running. I think that most of those people, and almost every name you mentioned, is there because of me.’” Later in the interview, Trump repeated his usual tease, “‘I don’t want to comment on running, but I think a lot of people are going to be very happy by my decision…because it’s a little boring now.’” 

Only Donald Trump could utter such convoluted messages that potentially forecast a health-related campaign withdrawal while actively discouraging rivals, using “how dare you” psychological guilt tactics questioning their motives and loyalty.

Such a crafty combination leads one to conclude that Trump’s 2024 chief strategist is Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War.” Tzu, an ancient Chinese general from the 5th century B.C., wrote this classic strategy handbook about defeating your enemies, applicable to any modern high-stakes venture. Thus, is it a mere coincidence that the title of Trump’s 1987 bestselling (ghostwritten) book was “The Art of the Deal”?

Furthermore, Google revealed a 2012 Trump tweet quoting Sun Tzu: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” And a comparable Sun Tzu quote not tweeted by Trump reads, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

Currently, both proverbs mirror the mind games and pressure tactics Trump uses to achieve his goal – to be crowned the GOP presidential nominee without opposition – as if he were the incumbent president. Then and ultimately, Trump’s “greatest victory” is to avenge his 2020 election loss that, in his mind, he won.

Here is another Sun Tzu quote embraced by Trump: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” The former president continuously teases another White House run while refusing to stop speaking about how the 2020 election was stolen. But Trump believes that is what his loyal base and Trump-endorsed candidates still want to hear. Hence, Trump generates chaos for Republicans who want to move ahead while maximizing his opportunity to keep the GOP firmly under his control.

Regarding Trump’s will-he-or-won’t-he 2024 plans, he abides by “The Art of War” quote, “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

The former president likely relishes being “the director of the opponent’s fate” when potential 2024 presidential primary candidates discuss their plans while evoking his name, directly or indirectly.

For example, after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” the headline read, “2024 Watch: Pompeo hints potential presidential run not dependent on what Trump decides.”

Moreover, considering Pompeo’s new book, strategic speaking schedule and fundraising for his “Champion American Values” (CAVPAC), Pompeo must be girding for accusations of “no loyalty” and he is “there because of me” backlash from Trump.

The same goes for Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, who unveiled a “Freedom Agenda” that qualifies as a presidential platform through his organization, “Advancing American Freedom.” At his March 31 launch event, Pence fired an indirect but unmistakable tactical missile at Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election, telling reporters, “Elections are about the future. ”

Both Pence and Pompeo, while successfully raising millions of dollars and gearing up for a long primary season, know challenging Trump is risky business. Perhaps they believe that together, Trump does not want to battle them and will activate his doctor’s orders card.

Then, hovering over the two Mike’s is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Besides being a national money magnet, every poll shows that without Trump, DeSantis is more popular than Pence or Pompeo.

Earlier this year, the media spotlight shined on a DeSantis/Trump rivalry. Reportedly, Trump was angry after the governor refused to announce that he would not run against Trump in 2024. Fueling the coverage were Trump’s statements that his 2018 primary and general election gubernatorial endorsements of the young, then-unknown Florida congressman had made Ron’s career. True or not, Trump’s pattern of intimidation was once again on display.

Unofficially, the 2024 presidential campaign begins the day after the midterm elections. And, if Republicans win control of Capitol Hill, that momentum is bound to encourage more primary contenders. Perhaps former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will jump in, while numerous ambitious Republican senators see the next president in their mirror.

Yet, for Trump, 2016-like numbers of primary opponents are the polar opposite of what he expects — more reasons a crowded primary might prompt the face-saving medical card. But “The Art of Withdrawal” could have a Trumpian twist.

Assuming Trump is healthy enough, a heavy-handed endorsement might influence who wins the nomination due to his legions of primary-voting loyalists. Then, if that nominee wins the White House, Trump could continue saying, “He or she is there because of me.” And from his Mar-a-Lago palace, “The Art of Kingmaking” might be written.