It’s become a trite saying on the right, but Andrew Breitbart must be rolling over in his grave when he sees what has happened to the website that bears his name. Breitbart News has all the credibility of the Weekly World News, and it’s not nearly as entertaining.
The latest target of Breitbart is state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield), a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Vukmir is running in the Republican primary against Kevin Nicholson who is the second coming of Hans Delbrück, according to Breitbart.
Designated Breitbart hitman Matthew Boyle attacked Vukmir last week for trying to hide the fact that she drives a Toyota. He actually accused Vukmir of leaving the trunk open on her car in a commercial to hide the Toyota logo, even though nobody at Breitbart has explained how else Vukmir was supposed to get the groceries out of the trunk to hand to the “union boss.” I didn’t like the commercial either, but that’s at the level of dope-smoking-induced paranoia.
Now Breitbart is attacking Vukmir for being Never Trump. Hey Breitbart, I was there in 2016. I remember Never Trump. I was Never Trump. Vukmir was not Never Trump, and she isn’t Never Trump now.
The attack on Vukmir is largely based upon how she has a few people in her campaign that were Never Trump, or at least Trump critics, in 2016. I’m betting that Vukmir also has people in or around her campaign that aren’t Greek Orthodox. Heck, a few of them probably have never been to Greek Fest at State Fair Park. Their presence in the campaign doesn’t make Vukmir any less Greek, any more than a few Never Trumpers in the campaign makes Vukmir sound like Charlie Sykes.
The other Breitbart “evidence” that Vukmir is Never Trump is that when Sykes asked her in 2016 if she would vote for President Donald Trump in November, she held her nose but said yes she would. She also speculated that a number of Republican women would do the same thing.
This isn’t surprising news. Lots of Wisconsin Republicans felt the same way. It’s worth remembering that Trump lost the Wisconsin primary in 2016 to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
I remember spending some time on public radio talking to Republican voters who were trying to reconcile voting for someone who casually insulted just about everyone on the campaign trail, including Governor Scott Walker and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Other Republican voters were understandably upset about what Trump said about women, about the war record of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the race of a federal judge presiding over a lawsuit involving Trump, and even Cruz’s wife. It was like a group hug on the radio.
If Trump hadn’t promised to appoint conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court, there are a lot of conservatives in Wisconsin and elsewhere that would not have voted for Trump. Trump was also the beneficiary of an even more awful opponent, Hillary Clinton. As obnoxious as Trump was, there were very few Republicans that were going to let Clinton move back into the White House. Like Vukmir, they were willing to vote for Trump even though they didn’t like him.
But Vukmir went a step further than most Republicans in 2016 to support Trump’s candidacy. What the Breitbart hit piece didn’t mention is that she actually cut a commercial, “women for Trump,” at a time when it looked like Trump was going to lose Wisconsin. She actually took a political risk to support Trump in Wisconsin, and it paid off for the president. If there is any gratitude left in the president’s hard core supporters, they should remember how Vukmir helped give cover to Trump among Republican women after the video surfaced of Trump talking about what he could do to women because he was rich and famous.
It’s now two years later and there isn’t a Trump policy that Vukmir hasn’t supported. “Build the wall” is not only in her stump speech, it’s in half the answers she gives in interviews. Even on tariffs, Vukmir has been more supportive of the president than Walker or Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). If Vukmir wins the primary, tying herself so closely to Trump is probably going to hurt her politically when she takes on Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
What’s funny is that while Breitbart is so concerned with Vukmir’s association with known Never Trump Republicans, it ignores her primary opponent Nicholson’s Never Trump ties. Nicholson also has campaign aides that were highly critical of Trump, including his current spokesman who criticized the president in an op-ed in 2017. Nicholson is supported by the national Club for Growth, an organization that has sharply criticized Trump and actively fought his nomination in 2016. Nicholson also didn’t criticize Steve Bannon when he criticized the Trump family. Ironically, Bannon’s remarks resulted in his removal from Breitbart.
Perhaps if Breitbart was serious about digging up the past, Nicholson’s track record of voting for Democrats might be a concern for the publication. It’s not hard to learn about Nicholson’s Democratic past. He only mentions it in every speech.
Using Breitbart’s standards, perhaps Wisconsin voters should be wary of a candidate, Nicholson, who is backed by an online publication that backed Paul Nehlen in 2016 and 2017, especially given Nicholson’s own criticism of Ryan. As long as we’re playing blame by association, right?
Unfortunately, the Nicholson campaign couldn’t help themselves. They just sent out an email to reporters touting the Breitbart article and actually asking, “did Leah Vukmir even vote for Trump in the general election?”
This is pretty funny coming from a campaign that has a hard time explaining Nicholson’s presidential primary vote in 2008. Nicholson’s campaign, of course, doesn’t mention his own aides’ criticisms of the president, nor does Nicholson’s campaign mention Vukmir appearing in a television campaign ad for Trump.
Both Vukmir and Nicholson have made it clear that they will be stalwart allies of the president, regardless of the president’s policies and behavior. Both have defended the president’s policies on trade and on foreign relations even when it might have seemed more politically advantageous. It’s silly to pretend that either one could be Never Trump.
But what’s really disconcerting about Breitbart’s attack on Vukmir, besides the lying and the double-standards, is the nature of the attack. Vukmir didn’t support Trump early enough, according to Breitbart. Her campaign aides didn’t support Trump early enough. It’s like the lackeys in a totalitarian regime checking the number on your party membership card to see if you were an early member of the party or joined later, and using that to determine your loyalty to Dear Leader. Did you march with Dear Leader when he came down the escalator of Trump Tower?
As I sit here in my “SMOD 2016” t-shirt typing this editorial, I wish that Vukmir and Nicholson would separate themselves more from the president. Baldwin is going to make Vukmir or Nicholson seem like Trump’s Siamese Twin before this election is over. Whichever of the two Republicans prevail, they will have to wake up every morning to the latest Trump Twitter storm and figure out how to defend the president.
If the nominee is Vukmir, there may be mornings when she looks at that Breitbart hit piece as a character reference. But the accusation that Vukmir was, or is, Never Trump simply isn’t true.