Are we even remotely surprised ‘Birdbrain’ flew into the MAGA nest?

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To best assess Nikki Haley’s decision to kiss Trump’s rear – big surprise, right? – I first need to tell you about Franz Von Papen.

Papen was a prominent conservative German politician who helped pave the way for Adolf Hitler. In 1932, he was thirsting for a share of power and figured that Hitler, as chancellor, would be a useful and controllable tool. When one of Papen’s allies warned that the whole scheme would end badly for everyone, Papen replied: “In two months we’ll have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he’ll squeal.”

Papen boasted that he’d soon have Hitler in his “pocket,” and that when Hitler inevitably imploded, surely within months, savvy politicians like him would reap the rewards.

None of that happened. Early in Hitler’s reign, Papen was reduced to a neutered poodle. He wound up indicted in Nuremberg.

Faux rebel Nikki Haley is just like Papen and all the other pols who endorsed Hitler. They knew full well that he was a dangerous demagogue, but they thought they were cleverly positioning themselves for after.

Only one problem: There was no after. There was only national ruination.

We all knew Haley would cave. So what if Trump insulted her husband and called her “birdbrain?” She’s a conventional pol with the principles of a weathervane in a windstorm. For your average gutless Republican, the conventional calculation is to keep pretending that Trump is somewhat normal (even though he’s an adjudicated rapist and fraudster with a potential criminal conviction in the offing), and that kissing his butt will ensure the kisser’s bright political future.

But Haley’s announcement on holiday eve that she’ll vote for Trump this fall was still nauseating, given the fact that she’d spent so many months, in her quixotic campaign, sharing what she called “the hard truths.”

She called Trump “disgusting…awful…unhinged.”

She said, “I think that what happened on January 6 was a terrible day, and I think President Trump will have to answer for it.”

She said, “He’s gotten more unstable and unhinged. He spends more time in courtrooms than he does on the campaign trail…He’s completely distracted, and everything is about him. He’s so obsessed with his own demons from the past. He can’t focus on delivering a future Americans deserve. He’s taking out his anger on others. He’s getting meaner and more offensive by the day.”

But this was my favorite: “Many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him. They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party. They’re just too afraid.”

She dreads him, too. But suddenly, presto!, she’s too afraid to confront him any longer. Even though he was freshly outed last week, in an unsealed court opinion, for hiding stolen classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago bedroom. Even though he celebrated Memorial Day by denouncing all his courtroom accusers as “Human Scum.” Even though he’s reportedly forging alliances with accused murderers and convicted criminals. Even though he himself could soon be a convicted criminal.

As a result, Haley has sold out the roughly 25 percent of Republican primary voters who’ve cast their ballots for her. My hope is that those voters are sufficiently anti-Trump to abandon him in November, and that Haley was merely the vehicle for their rightful discontent. But we don’t know that.

What we do know is that Haley and the rest of the GOP’s Franz von Papen puppets are abetting the potential destruction of democracy itself. Believe it or not, the Marquis de Sade said it best:

“Those who have no principles are never more dangerous than when they reach the age when they lose all sense of shame.”

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

Cited by the Columbia Journalism Review website as one of the nation's top political scribes, and by ABC News' online political tip sheet as "one of the finest political journalists of his generation, " Dick Polman is the national political columnist at Philadlephia NPR affiliate WHYY, and has covered or chronicled every presidential campaign since 1988.

A Philadelphia resident, Dick roamed the country for most of his 22 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has been blogging daily since 2006. He's currently on the full-time faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, as "Writer in Residence." He has been a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and various NPR shows - most notably Philadelphia's "Radio Times" on WHYY-FM.