Fractures In The GOP
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
What a week. The big news was that the Senate failed to pass a health care bill. The most dramatic failure went down at close to 2 a.m. Friday morning.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: We kept our commitments. We worked hard. And everybody on this side can certainly attest to the fact that we worked really hard.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell getting a bit choked up there. But that wasn't all that went down. On Wednesday night, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci got down and dirty with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza in a call where he attacked other members at the Trump administration in a profane tirade. Here's Lizza, reading some of what Scaramucci said on CNN.
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RYAN LIZZA: He starts off with, Reince is a expletive paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then, unsurprisingly, on Friday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus stepped down. Here he is on CNN, where he very tactfully explained his interaction with the president.
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REINCE PRIEBUS: I've always said to him - and he always agreed with me - any time either one of us think that we need to make a change or move in a different direction, let's just talk about it and get it done. And so I think the president thought about that. And we talked about it yesterday. And I resigned, and he accepted my resignation.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does all this mean for the Republicans? Joining us now is Boston Herald columnist and former GOP consultant Michael Graham. Good morning.
MICHAEL GRAHAM: Good morning. It is just a great day to be a Republican...
GRAHAM: ...'Cause we're the only organized, disciplined - we don't have all that drama with the Clintons, Obama.
GRAHAM: No, no, no. We're straight.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're on message.
GRAHAM: By the way, I just got word from my White House connections that Trump offered a job to Susan Lucci.
GRAHAM: But she turned it down because it's too much of a soap opera over there. So not good.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. This was not a good week for the Republicans or the Trump administration, I hazard to say. What is your take? How does this help or hurt the Republicans?
GRAHAM: Well, I think you saw the problem that Republicans have with a lack of a singular vision on big issues. The fact is Trump did not kill the Obamacare repeal. The fissures inside the Republican Party did. And I think it's worth noting that John McCain, war hero - you know, you look at his record of service, a willingness to serve. It's - you know, that's respected by the vast majority of sane people. But he has always been a, you know, troublesome Republican. You know, he's never happier than when he's beating the snot out of other Republicans. When I write my Boston Herald column, I reference him - it's always R dash New York Times editorial page. He would much rather have praise on NPR than have praise from his fellow Republicans. And what he did was a true betrayal of the party as a team. Look. Either you're going to move forward towards the single-payer, socialized vision that we all know Obamacare was put in place to get us towards. The backers of it said as much in 2009 and '10. Or you're going to turn and go back towards something more free market-esque. Those are the two choices - either free market, free way or socialized medicine street.
GRAHAM: And McCain betrayed his party on that issue. And that had nothing to do with the disaster that is Donald Trump.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is it over, though? Is the health care debate for the Republicans over for I mean, we've seen President Trump tweeting about it this morning already. But is it done?
GRAHAM: Who knows? I thought it was done weeks ago. It certainly looks done for right now because, once again, how do you resolve that issue, particularly when you have Susan Collins of Maine here in New England, who's going to leave to run for the governorship most likely? So she's voting that way. Lisa Murkowski has her own agenda. So you can't - the Democrats were unified around Obamacare. Plus, don't forget they had 60 votes there for a while in the Senate. So they had a lot more room to work. And even for them, pushing through Obamacare was a struggle - came down to the last vote. You know, every person - Republicans are in that same spot.
I will say, though, that the complaints from inside the Congress and the complaints from movement conservatives that Donald Trump isn't helping - that all these distractions aren't helping - are legitimate. It's a legitimate concern. And would it have happened if Donald Trump had been focused on getting this done from the beginning and had less time, you know, out tweeting about, you know, ratings for Schwarzenegger, et cetera? Who knows?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Speaking of distractions, no political discussion of the past week would be complete without discussing that now-infamous New Yorker article on the new communications director at the White House.
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QUEEN: (Singing) Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're talking about Anthony Scaramucci here. I had to get that on. I just had to. I think that's about the only thing we can play referencing that exchange, though, because nearly everything else was X-rated.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is that the communications strategy from here on out?
GRAHAM: You know, I've loved Anthony Scaramucci ever since he went down South to get his cousin Vinny off that murder rap. I thought that was his - oh, wait, that's not the same guy?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, I'm afraid not.
GRAHAM: Once again, this is part of this distraction. It's fascinating to talk to traditional-movement conservatives who were horrified by the behavior of Bill Clinton and the, you know, demeaning the stature of the White House with the various personal, you know, behaviors, et cetera. And they rally around Donald Trump and his team. And you ask yourself, how do you get that gap? And the gap is simply this. We have reduced politics now down to tribalism. It's your team versus my team. And the people who are sticking with Trump - they want a fight. And there's a certain element. It's a minority inside the Republican minority. But they they love the fisticuffs. They love to see blood. And it is personally satisfying to them. Long term, I don't see how it's a winning strategy. But that's what they want.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Michael Graham is a columnist for The Boston Herald. Thanks so much for talking with us this Sunday morning.
GRAHAM: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.