Republicans — the smart ones at least — know that they have a Donald Trump problem.
The former president remains the leading figure in the party and sits atop almost every poll done on the 2024 race. At the same time, he continues to go further down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and general wackiness — making his appeal in a general election narrower and narrower.
But, never fear. Those same smart Republicans have a plan! They just need Trump to, well, die.
So What? is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
This, from the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins, speaks to that death wish:
In his recent book Thank You for Your Servitude, my colleague Mark Leibovich quoted a former Republican representative who bluntly summarized his party’s plan for dealing with Trump: “We’re just waiting for him to die.” As it turns out, this is not an uncommon sentiment. In my conversations with Republicans, I heard repeatedly that the least disruptive path to getting rid of Trump, grim as it sounds, might be to wait for his expiration.
Their rationale was straightforward: The former president is 76 years old, overweight, appears to maintain the diet of a college freshman, and believes, contrary to all known science, that exercise is bad for you. Why risk alienating his supporters when nature will take its course sooner or later? Peter Meijer, a former Republican representative who left office this month, termed this strategy actuarial arbitrage.
“You have a lot of folks who are just wishing for [Trump’s] mortal demise,” Meijer told me. “I want to be clear: I’m not in that camp. But I’ve heard from a lot of people who will go onstage and put on the red hat, and then give me a call the next day and say, ‘I can’t wait until this guy dies.’ And it’s like, Good Lord.” (Trump’s mother died at 88 and his father at 93, so this strategy isn’t exactly foolproof.)
Yes! This is really their strategy! Just wait for him to die! That will solve everything!
Let’s dig into that a bit. Trump is 76 years old. Life expectancy for the average American male is 73, according to the CDC.
The last time Trump had a physical where the results (or at least some of the results) were made public was 2020. At the time, he weighed 244 pounds, his blood pressure was 121/79 and his resting heart rate was 63 beats per minute
“Trump’s doctor at the time recommended an increase in the dose of his cholesterol-lowering medication and certain lifestyle changes. Without those changes, the President has a moderate risk of having a heart attack in the next three to five years, according to the Mayo Clinic.”
Then there’s Trump’s approach to food and exercise, which is, um, unorthodox.
On the food front, he appears to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Trump, when honoring various championship teams at the White House would order massive quantities of fast food. “If it’s American, I like it,” he once said of his food intake.
His favorite order from McDonald’s, according to longtime aide Corey Lewandowski, is “a full McDonald’s dinner of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, and a small chocolate shake
(Sidebar: Trump’s preference for fast food comes from his germaphobe tendencies. He explained it thusly: “One bad hamburger, you can destroy McDonald’s. One bad hamburger and you take Wendy’s and all these other places and they’re out of business. I like cleanliness, and I think you’re better off going there than maybe some place that you have no idea where the food is coming from.”)
He had been told to shed a few pounds by none other than celebrity doctor — and former Pennsylvania Senate candidate — Dr. Mehmet Oz. To which Trump responded: “I don't have time to lose weight!”
Then there is the matter of Trump’s views on exercise. He subscribes to the battery theory. Which, in short, goes like this: You are born with a certain amount of life force. You die when that life force runs out. Exercise drains that life force. So, never exercise.
And, no, I am not kidding.
This, from the book “Trump Revealed” by Washington Post reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, explains Trump’s theory in a bit more detail:
“After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, ‘You are going to die young because of this.’”
In the wake of his first physical as president, Trump defended his workout regimen. “I get exercise,” he said. “I mean I walk, I this, I that. I run over to a building next door. I get more exercise than people think.”
And even out of office, Trump has remained fixated on ensuring people he is in great health. After announcing on his Truth Social platform that he had “won” the club championship at his Florida golf course recently — more on that here — Trump added this: “The reason that I announce this on fabulous TRUTH is that, in a very real way, it serves as a physical exam, only MUCH tougher. You need strength and stamina to WIN, & I have strength & stamina – most others don’t. You also need strength & stamina to GOVERN!”
Which brings me back to the Republican “strategy” of waiting for Trump to die in order to move the party beyond him. Which is not a strategy at all.
And that’s in keeping with how establishment Republicans have approached Trump from the start. Remember in the early days of the 2016 race, the strategy was to simply ignore him and he would go away.
Then, when it became clear that Trump wasn’t going away, the prevailing wisdom in the party was to hope against all available evidence that if he managed to get the nomination that he would turn over a new, more presidential leaf. Trump 2.0!
When Trump became the party’s nominee, Republicans convinced themselves that Trump, if elected president, would be changed by the gravity of the job. Trump 3.0!
Over and over again throughout the 7 years Trump has dominated Republicans politics, the GOP establishment has substituted blind hope in lieu of an actual strategy to deal with the problems he presents their party.
And they’re still doing it! Here’s what former Sen. Rob Portman told McKay about his belief that Trump will eventually bow out of the presidential race:
“I think at the end of the day, he’s unlikely to want to put himself in that position when he could be more of a Republican senior statesman who talks about the policies that were enacted in his administration.”
Like, come on man.
But Portman’s optimism is of a piece with the death wish that other Republicans have for Trump. No one wants to confront him. No one wants to, really, take him on. They are all hoping — as they have from the beginning of this Trump odyssey — that he will just, well, go away.
How’s that worked out so far?
It’s hard to believe Portman had the intellectual capacity to be a Senator. Credit for putting his name to it, tho.
Trump’s demise isn’t going to do them any good. He’s replicated. The second most powerful person in the party is now in charge of the House, Marge Greene. McCarthy, Scalise and Stefanik may think they’re in leadership. She isn’t living on Big Macs and KFC.
Also, how much of that “life force” was Jack LaLanne born with? He lived to be 96 and remember seeing him do all kinds of incredible physical stunts. I’m sure Trump could do the same, tho. I’ve seen the super hero memes.
Were there any consequences to Trump's bodyguard taking the medical files from Trump's NY doctor? Where are those files now?