The Washington Post truly has some particularly dumb takes from some particularly dumb columnists. Ruth Marcus is their deputy editorial page editor, after all. Max Boot is one of those columnists, especially when it comes to his latest. On September 5, The Washington Post published Boot’s claim that “The GOP reaction to Biden’s speech shows that his anti-MAGA strategy is working.”
Boot doesn’t begin right away by demonizing the opposition. Rather, he begins his piece by singing the praises of President Joe Biden for supposed bipartisan legislative successes. There’s no mention, though, of how the misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act,” which will do no such thing, passed completely along party lines, with not a single vote from Republicans.
It’s because of these supposed victories, Boot argues, that Biden has now moved on to demonizing opponents, as he did during last Thursday’s speech outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. “Now that Biden has gotten so much of his agenda enacted, and with the midterm elections looming, he has switched to a more combative mode,” Boot writes.
As Boot goes on to write about that speech:
…His Thursday speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia was billed as a salvo in the continuing battle for “the soul of the nation,” but it was really a well-justified expression of rage and despair about what the Republican Party has become. The president is finally telling Democrats what they want to hear: “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” This comes only a few days after he described the MAGA philosophy as “semi-fascism.”
It was not just a speech where Biden was “finally telling Democrats what they want to hear,” but rather, as confirmed by Karine Jean-Pierre during last Wednesday’s press briefing, “an official event” from the White House.
Then comes a particularly dumb portion of the column, where Boot attacks Republican responses, and engages in quite the game of whataboutism:
As if on cue, Republicans screamed bloody murder, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accusing Biden of choosing “to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans.” So does this mean that Biden’s previous commitment to working with Republicans was merely transactional and has now been discarded in the heat of the campaign?
That is certainly the right-wing interpretation of his speech, with conservatives accusing Biden of discarding his campaign pledge to “unite our country” and not stoke “division.” (Republicans demonstrated their own commitment to unity and uplift after the speech by comparing Biden to Hitler and accusing him of being a “raving lunatic.”)
Boot tries to make excuses for Biden and clarify his remarks, by referencing Biden’s claims that “not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans,” and that “not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.”
When asked by Fox News’ Peter Doocy last Friday if all Trump supporters are a threat to the country, the president responded that “I don’t consider any Trump supporter to be a threat. I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence and refuses to acknowledge an election has been won. That is a threat to democracy.”
Beyond that walk-back, the president’s official Twitter account has also tried to achieve that goal, while also putting out even more anti “MAGA Republican” tweets.
I want to be clear: Not every Congressional Republican is a MAGA Republican. I know because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
But an extreme set of MAGA Republicans in Congress have chosen to take us backwards.
Together, we can choose a different path.
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 6, 2022
Boot only further doubles down on going after Republicans, though, by claiming they are all pretty much MAGA Republicans. The Democratic Party’s beloved Liz Cheney is referenced, though there’s no mention of how she lost in large part because of the mutual hatred between herself and her constituents:
What Biden is doing is smart, if difficult to pull off: He is attempting to draw a dividing line between those Republicans who threaten U.S. democracy and those who don’t.
The problem, as he acknowledged, is that the MAGA Republicans aren’t some fringe movement: “The Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans.” As Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) showed by losing her primary by nearly 40 points, there is no room for Trump critics in the Republican Party outside of a few blue enclaves such as Maryland and Massachusetts.
While Boot’s concluding paragraphs emphasize how Biden’s strategy of demonizing his political opponents is supposedly going to “succeed,” it’s worth pointing out he does acknowledge it could backfire. “By focusing on “MAGA Republicans,” Biden is trying once again to persuade independents and the small number of moderate Republicans to support Democratic candidates. His strategy could backfire by simply firing up enthusiasm among Trump supporters (as was the case with Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment),” he writes.
When it comes to the Independents that Democrats are seeking to curry favor with, whom Boot makes reference to, a recent Trafalgar Poll conducted after the speech showed that 62.4 percent of Independents believe it “represents a dangerous escalation in rhetoric and is designed to incite conflict amongst Americans.”
— The Trafalgar Group (@trafalgar_group) September 6, 2022
Our friends at Twitchy highlighted some responses to one tweet from Boot sharing his own column. So far since it was published, he has tweeted or retweeted his column approximately two dozen times.
This kind of take of harping on “MAGA Republicans” seems to be a pattern for Boot, as his most recent column before that, published on August 31, claimed “MAGA Republicans are out of touch with the real America,” which promoted Provincetown and Martha’s Vineyard as “the real America.” That column was sufficiently mocked by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on his show last week.