Украинской армии не удастся выбить российские войска с Украины. Об этом заявил председатель комитета начальников штабов вооруженных сил США генерал Марк Милли.
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Whether or not Donald Trump’s hat is in the ring, he’s finished as a serious contender for high office.
That’s not a line to write lightly. First, because he has been written off so often in the past — after mocking John McCain’s military record; after the “Access Hollywood” tape; after Jan. 6; after the Jan. 6 committee hearings — that it seems foolhardy to do it again. Second, because every time he is written off, his supporters seem to draw energy from their purported irrelevance. And third, because the line will surely be hung around my neck if I’m wrong.
But I’m not.
Last week, the realization finally dawned on his devoted supporters that Trump can no longer deliver what they want most: power. Or, let me put it in language more congenial to them: Whatever purpose they believe he was meant to serve — bringing working-class voters back to the Republican fold; restoring nationalism to conservative ideology; rejecting the authority of supposed experts — has been served. Others can now do the same thing better, without the drama and divisiveness. He’s yesterday’s man.
This is an observation made from an objective reading of political reality: Trump cost Republicans dearly in the midterms.
In key Senate and gubernatorial races, the former president proffered his endorsements based on fealty over electability. He turned election denialism into a loyalty oath. Primary victories became Pyrrhic ones. In the same states where mainstream Republicans won handily (Chris Sununu in New Hampshire, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Mike DeWine in Ohio), Trump’s candidates either underperformed or lost — a contrast that again gives the lie to the notion that Democrats somehow won thanks only to cheating, bending rules or taking advantage of early voting.
But none of this alone would be enough to turn off Trump’s devotees — just as Republican losses of the House in 2018, the White House in 2020 and the Senate in 2021 weren’t enough. Three additional factors were required.
The first is shock.
Republicans expected a blowout win last week every bit as much as Democrats expected one for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Many of the polls predicted one, as did the normal ebb and flow of American politics. Joe Biden is an unpopular incumbent presiding over an inflationary economy and a border crisis. For the G.O.P. to underperform so badly is a No Excuses moment for the party, and the only coherent explanation for it is the specter of Trump.
The second is that Trump is finally being abandoned by many of his usually unflagging apologists and enablers in right-wing media, whose influence will be felt downstream.
That includes Fox News’s Laura Ingraham: “If the voters conclude that you’re putting your own ego or your own grudges ahead of what’s good for the country, they’re going to look elsewhere.” It includes Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter: “Trump presents problems and we need to face them,” he admitted. “We owe Trump nothing. He’s a politician.” It includes Victor Davis Hanson: “Will an unapologetic Trump instead now escalate his slurs, bray at the moon, play out his current angry Ajax role to the bitter end, and thus himself end up a tragic hero — appreciated for past service but deemed too toxic for present company?”
None of these are full-on repudiations, though they come close. And they bring us to the third reason Trump is finally finished: his gratuitous pre-election swipe at Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, whose 19-point victory over the Democrat Charlie Crist was one of the G.O.P.’s few unequivocal highlights of election night.
The sin here was not that Trump violated Ronald Reagan’s famous Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump has violated that commandment as freely as he has so many of the others. It’s that he was a loser criticizing a winner — and what Trump’s base wants most of all is a winner.
A wiser Trump would have made DeSantis’s victory his own, treating the governor as his star student and designated successor. But Trump couldn’t, and can’t, help himself. And what the Republican base sees in DeSantis is everything it likes about Trump — the combativeness and self-belief and disdain for elite opinion — minus the personal baggage and habits of self-sabotage. In the battle for the affections of American conservatives, the ex-president increasingly feels like the jealous paunchy spouse, the governor like the attractive and successful neighbor.
The field of possible primary contenders might still move aside for Trump, much as Hillary Clinton mostly cleared the field the last time she ran. But with his midterm rout, Trump has proved once again that he’s toxic and can never again win a general election. He would be no match for a younger, charismatic primary candidate, just as Clinton proved no match for Barack Obama in 2008.
The field is open for a real Republican contender. It’s time someone stepped up to the plate.
Times Opinion will publish a selection of responses in a future article.
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If Sergei Lavrov, the 72-year-old whiskey-drinking Russian foreign minister, had indeed experienced a heart flutter soon after stepping off the plane in Bali it would have been understandable for a man who has been cast by his leader as his stand-in punchbag at the summit.
Viewing the forces arrayed against him at the G20, President Vladimir Putin deputed Lavrov to attend the two-day event in his stead, and for a brief moment it appeared to have been too much. News agencies reported Lavrov had been sent to hospital for a checkup, only for the Russian foreign ministry to rush out a picture of Lavrov in shorts, sporting an Apple watch and Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired T-shirt, thumbing his notes for his first address at the summit on Tuesday.
Sergei Lavrov reads documents on a patio in Bali, Indonesia, on Monday. Photograph: Maria Zakharova/Telegram/Reuters
The Russian foreign ministry had a field day denouncing what it called western propaganda as a high-level lie.
Oddly, if Lavrov has succumbed to ill-health, it would have been a moment of genuine regret for some western diplomats, who over two decades have become inured to this fixture of Russian diplomacy.
“He is a rogue,” said one western diplomat, “but we all know his outbursts are stage-managed and calculated. It’s all smiles afterwards. He is a professional.”
Born in 1950 towards the end of the Stalin era to diplomatic parents, he was educated at the elite Russian Institute of International Relations before ascending to become Russia’s envoy at the UN, where for a decade he lived through the trauma of the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the time, the then US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said Lavrov seemed a man unmoored by the fate of his country.
Appointed foreign minister in 2004, he has since then through successive US administrations developed a Putinesque revulsion for all western ideas, if not all western consumer durables. At one point, he said all the ills of the 20th century colonialism, two world wars and the cold war lay at the door of American arrogance. He has clashed with the US over Iraq, Iran, Syria and now Ukraine, all the while well briefed and loyal to his own motto, “Do not rush but pursue your goals stubbornly.” The constant theme has been the need to end the US monopoly on the international order.
But he also knows when to stop the verbal onslaughts. He once ended talks with the then US secretary of state, John Kerry, with a post-midnight dinner at the foreign ministry’s guesthouse and a toast to the American B-50B bomber that made the world’s first nonstop flight around the world in 1949 – with a wine of that year’s vintage.
The number of secretaries of state that have come and gone during Lavrov’s period at the foreign ministry – seven – is a testament to his longevity and usefulness to Putin, even if he is not seen as part of the inner sanctum of decision makers. To have survived that long given his intake of whiskey, vodka and cigarette smoke is a tribute to his reliability for Putin, but also a reproach to health advocates worldwide.
Apart from ice hockey and football, Lavrov is said to be happiest going white water rafting and fishing with friends in Siberia.
It is in the last year that he has faced his most punishing time. He had made a career out of condemning the US for the interference in the affairs of other countries, elevating this to the high point of Russian principle, and has had to contort himself to defend the special military operation in Ukraine, portraying it as an operation in defence of the Russian minorities provoked by Ukrainian aggression.
At the G20 it will take more than a health scare to stop him relentlessly sticking to his talking points.
G-20 nations on Tuesday will issue a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying “today’s era must not be of war.”
Leaders of the world’s largest economies are gathered in Indonesia this week. Tensions over Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine has raised questions about whether they would be able to unite on what is one of the most pressing issues globally, with Russia being a member of the G-20 grouping. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is attending the summit.
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy — constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks,” the joint statement will say, according to a draft document seen by CNBC.
The joint statement also said “the peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”
The communique has been agreed upon by the highest public servants of all the G-20 nations and is expected to be approved by the heads of state on Wednesday. At the time of writing, it was unclear whether China was among the nations condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.
An official, who is following the high-level discussions in Indonesia and preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the talks, told CNBC that “the ambiguity is there for a reason” — refraining to confirm if Beijing was among the “most members” group condemning the Kremlin.
The same official added that the G-20 “narrative is progressing because we see the consequences of the war.” “A few months ago, it would have not been possible to reach such agreement,” the source said.
In recognition of the differences of opinion, the joint statement also said: “There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.”
Russia has dubbed its invasion of Ukraine as a “special operation” aimed at “demilitarizing” its neighbor. Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov said Tuesday that Western countries were making the G-20 declaration politicized, according to Russian state media.
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The defiant timing of Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for president in 2024, dropping amid Republican recriminations over their midterm disappointments, is an admission of weakness poorly disguised as a show of strength.
The intended flex is obvious: The early announcement is meant to cow potential rivals, force them to come off the blocks explicitly running against him, seize the media spotlight, run up endorsements and fund-raising totals, and hopefully elevate the former president in national polling.
It’s also intended as a pre-emptive political strike against any potential indictment that might be awaiting him, assuring Republican primary voters that the Biden Department of Justice is coming after him only because they want to keep him from the White House.
Even before the midterm results, though, it was a sign of Trump’s potential weakness that such calculation was even necessary. If the former president were as strong as he wished everyone to imagine him to be, he could have afforded to wait in Mar-a-Lago, accepting supplicants, while any pretenders exhausted themselves with futile campaigning and the people clamored for their once and future king.
Instead, he decided on this move, telegraphing it before the midterms, because his position had steadily weakened over the course of 2022. The emergence of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida as the singular, popular, potentially deep-pocketed rival, the drip-drip of state polling showing DeSantis competitive with Trump, the uncertain politics of a potential prosecution, the pre-election polling showing more Republicans identifying with their party than with Trump — it all created a scenario in which the former president remained the favorite, but he clearly needed to do more to win than simply show up.
And now the results of the election, the DeSantis landslide in Florida and the consistent underperformance of Trump-associated Republican candidates nationwide, have made it uncertain whether the former president should even be considered the 2024 favorite anymore. This isn’t just a matter of Trump-skeptical conservatives griping on Twitter or anonymous Republican politicians hoping vaguely that this time will be different; a pair of postelection surveys of potential GOP voters, one national and one of delegate-rich Texas, show DeSantis suddenly in the lead. So do polls of early primary and caucus states commissioned by the Club for Growth — a formerly Trump-allied outfit, now increasingly aligned against him.
A Politico-Morning Consult poll released today shows Trump leading DeSantis nationally 47 to 33 percent, so it’s too soon to talk about Trump as a primary-season underdog. But even that poll suggests he’s starting under 50 percent, despite a claim to incumbency and universal name recognition, which suggests a difficult battle for the nomination rather than an easy coast or coronation.
This means, among other things, that the campaign that he just began — in a notably low-energy style, it must be said — will need an actual strategy. And here the very Trumpification of the G.O.P., the routing of his enemies and the burial of the older models of Republicanism, may work against his attempted restoration. As David Byler of The Washington Post noted in a shrewd summertime column, by remaking the party in his own image, Trump has potentially given some of his supporters permission to look elsewhere in 2024.
Much of Trump’s success in 2016, Byler pointed out, rested on his distinctiveness within that year’s G.O.P. field. This wasn’t just a matter of his celebrity status or his zest for demagogy. He also tapped into a fundamental policy mismatch between the Republican Party and many of its voters, by running to the party establishment’s right on immigration and somewhat to its left on issues like foreign policy, health care and entitlement reform.
Flash forward to 2022, however, and those contrasts have diminished. On substance and style alike, the party and its leaders moved closer to Trump during his presidency; at the same time, by governing as a fairly conventional Republican — tax cuts, yes; infrastructure, not so much — Trump also moved closer to the party. This convergence has left rank-and-file Republicans more satisfied with the G.O.P. than they were in 2016, while depriving Trump of signature issues that might set him apart from a figure like DeSantis. And the main exception, his determination to relitigate the 2020 election, isn’t obviously a high priority even within the Republican Party — and it’s likely to be less of one now that so many “Stop the Steal” candidates have gone down to general-election defeat.
This vulnerability need not be fatal to his second coming. Trump’s mythic narrative — the wronged and exiled king returning to claim his throne — remains potent, and his adaptable ruthlessness has not yet been turned to the task of making DeSantis look like the smaller, weaker man.
But running on the mythos alone, making the primary a crude test of loyalty while bragging about his past glories and accomplishments, probably isn’t enough to defeat a disciplined primary rival with unified establishment support. And it also sets up Trump poorly for a general election, should he eke out a victory. In 2016, his primary-season populism, anti-establishment and anti-globalization, segued naturally into the general election pitch that helped him win the Midwest, and with it the electoral college. It’s hard to see a similar segue from a primary season message fixated on voter-fraud conspiracy or endlessly replaying his first term’s greatest hits.
So to the extent that Trump and his team are capable of executing a strategy, they will be looking for versions of what he found six years ago: opportunities to outflank a more establishment Republican in multiple directions, from the right one moment and the left the next.
Those opportunities will depend on the specific positions that DeSantis or some other rival (but come on, it can really only be DeSantis) ends up taking. For example, Trump’s announcement speech’s boast about his record of peacemaking previews a scenario where the Ukraine war drags on while a potential Taiwan crisis continues to percolate, Beltway Republicans continue to take a generally hawkish line (the populist flank in the House notwithstanding) and Trump pitches himself as the peace candidate, the tough guy who can make the necessary deals with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to stabilize the world.
Or in domestic policy, you can imagine a world in which the desire to appear tough on inflation tugs Republicans toward austerity politics, allowing Trump to pull off some shamelessly dishonest posturing: We replaced Obamacare with Trumpcare, it’s beautiful and it works, and now a bunch of Swamp Creatures and Ron DeSanctimonious want to take it away. Which then could be paired with some extreme and shocking gesture that even a practiced culture-warrior like DeSantis might be loath to imitate, some variation on the Muslim ban.
We don’t know what that gesture might be, but that’s the point — just the original idea of a Muslim ban was an on-the-fly response to Islamist terrorism, the headlines of 2023 will presumably offer something suited to Trump’s instincts.
It’s those instincts, ultimately, that were decisive in the destruction of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in 2016 — the shamelessness, the cunning, the ideological flexibility, the quick sizing-up opponents’ weaknesses. Does Trump still have them sharp and ready? Is he too deep in his labyrinth of self-pity and conspiracy?
Lucky America; lucky Republican Party; lucky, lucky media: Everyone gets to spend the next year and more finding out.
Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times
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By Michael Wolff
Mr. Wolff is the author of three books about Donald Trump.
In August 2020, the Trump campaign found itself with a staggering $200 million budget shortfall. In September 2020, Brad Parscale, a senior adviser who had until recently served as campaign manager, had a public breakdown on the street in front of his house in Florida, and the police were called to restrain him. In the crucial last months of the race, campaign staff members kept Donald Trump away from their data guru, Matt Oczkowski, whom Mr. Trump found weird and boring. And by the final weeks of the campaign, the incumbent president was being outspent by as much as three to one — an unprecedented mismatch in the history of modern presidential races.
In the opinion of the many Trump insiders with whom I have spoken, including nearly all the top members of his campaign and West Wing staff, those few months laid bare the chaos at the heart of Trumpian politics, exposing Mr. Trump for what he is: not a model chief executive but an inattentive, lazy, incompetent manager whose defiance of convention and hot mess of a personality were saddling his campaign with a heavy disadvantage. The government can continue to function if a president isn’t on top of the details, but a presidential campaign is in trouble when a candidate can’t be bothered with the game plan and is dismissive of the people trying to stick to it. And while Mr. Trump won his first campaign and lost the second by only a relatively slim margin in just a few key states, that was in spite of the calamity that surrounded him.
The path to his 2024 declaration has been a characteristic prelude to the burden he imposes on a campaign. His close circle first believed he had signed off on plans for an announcement in early summer, which was seen as the best opportunity to frame the investigations proceeding against him as inherently political, stop the advancing prospects of Gov. Ron DeSantis and seek an early consolidation of the Republican Party behind Mr. Trump. But that time passed without any action or explanation from the prospective candidate. New dates were rumored to be set, and missed, throughout the summer and early fall, first, according to one aide, to distract from the Mar-a-Lago documents search and then to position him to claim as his own the red wave he believed was coming.
At the same time, though, there was never any doubt that he would run. “He would put his head down and die if another Republican became the king,” the aide told me. In long rambling calls and meetings with aides and friends, Mr. Trump never considered a different avenue for himself. At the same time, he made little effort to assemble a team and organization. His most reliable political handlers — among them Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Jason Miller and Kayleigh McEnany — were pursuing their own interests. Even Donald Trump Jr. was staying mostly on the sidelines. No new team had clearly emerged. Boris Epshteyn, a persistent Trump hanger-on who never quite made it into the White House and who became involved in Rudy Giuliani’s ludicrous legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is one of the few people now front and center in the incipient campaign — a portent of the kind of talent that might fill the West Wing in a Trump restoration.
While few other politicians might contemplate a presidential run without a ready and serious brain trust, staffing for Mr. Trump is only ever a remote concern: He has always run things out of his own chaotic head.
Having written three books in less than four years about Mr. Trump, with near constant input from his closest aides and friends, as well as hours of rambling from him, I have come to two primary conclusions: that there is almost never any true plan, strategy or forethought in Trump world and that everyone around him lives in the prison of his monologues, which allow for no interruptions or reality checks and overrule any plans others have tried to make. His fixations, misunderstandings and contempt for better minds that might correct him reign.
The aide recently described the constant churning within Trump world, as grievances and resentments are rehashed and blame assigned, as the workings of Mr. Trump’s “blender brain.”
Chaos suits him, allowing him again and again to turn what ought to be humiliating and defeating disorder into potent conflict: If he can’t find a solution to a problem, he can almost always identify an enemy to blame it on. Trouble is, the problem remains.
The federal grand juries investigating him, plus the investigations in New York and Atlanta, are to him, and apparently to many of his followers, political prosecutions. Running for president becomes his main defense. But it doesn’t solve the problem that he has monthly multimillion-dollar legal bills, with lawyers on retainer, now being paid by the Republican National Committee and by his super PACs, which he seems to view as his $100 million personal piggy bank. Both sources of funds will dry up with his declaration — the R.N.C.’s support because it can’t show favoritism for one Republican candidate over another and the super PACs’ because they can’t coordinate with Mr. Trump now that he has officially entered the race. Without their support, Mr. Trump’s campaign could soon be in a serious, even mortal, financial hole.
Yes, he survived Impeachment 1 and Impeachment 2 and the Russia “hoax” and Trump University and Trump steaks and Trump women … but no one has ever run for president under criminal indictment, and many if not most Trump aides believe that at least one is coming. An indictment would surely help provide more of the Sturm und Drang that motivate him and his legions, but it would also impose, over the coming two years of the campaign, an almost unimaginable burden in cost, time, human resources and attention from an uncooperative man. And, of course, he could well be convicted.
Joe Biden will turn 80 this month, clearly frail and with obvious mental lapses. This is, admittedly, a weak hand. But the Democrats yet have a critical advantage: the professionalism needed to administer a modern presidential campaign, which is one of the most intensive management efforts imaginable, a complicated, data-driven enterprise that involves not only raising $1 billion at the drop of a hat but also spending it wisely within months.
The Republicans may find themselves stuck with a candidate who makes numbers what he wants them to be, puts family above professionals and has no doubt that his own advice is better than everyone else’s. Arguably, Mr. Trump won in 2016 only because, three months before the election, Steve Bannon stepped in with a Hail Mary strategy of concentrating on the normally Democratic states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania while sidelining Mr. Trump with an amped-up schedule of the daily rallies he craved. Mr. Bannon later claimed credit for the victory, guaranteeing that Mr. Trump would never again give someone that opportunity, even if it meant defeat — hence the appointment in 2020 of Mr. Parscale, an inexperienced and apparently unstable campaign manager happy to be a toady to the president and his family.
In this petty vindictiveness lies the key point: Mr. Trump’s main goal isn’t victory. It’s holding the spotlight. His effort to upend the 2020 result was a colossal failure, but it succeeded in keeping him at center stage. Were he to become president again, we might see not a breaking of democracy, as liberals dread, but an ever more bizarre distraction from it.
Mr. Trump does not learn from his mistakes but rather comes to see them as virtues. Another Trump campaign will — like the two before it, as well as his White House term — lack the most basic management controls. This may well help empower him, allowing him to be the spectacle he believes, not unreasonably, his base wants him to be. But it does not help make wise spending decisions.
Democrats, in their inability to find a language to quiet or dismiss Mr. Trump, will continue to be his reliable dramatic foil. They will threaten, investigate and possibly indict him, to his immediate benefit, galvanizing his passionate base. The result will be another close election. The good news for Democrats — though those will confirm the resentments of the Trumpian base — is that a presidential election, along with the world itself, is financially, organizationally and data driven, demanding great expertise and keen attention. That’s not a reality that even the opera of a Trump campaign can change.