Can’t convince Uncle MAGA that he’s wrong? This Thanksgiving, let Trump’s “best people” lead the discussion

(Emily Elconin/Getty Images)

Can’t convince Uncle MAGA that he’s wrong? This Thanksgiving, let Trump’s “best people” lead the discussion

On Ed

Jackie Calmes

November 21, 2023

Last Thanksgiving, Donald Trump had just announced he was seeking re-election, but his political stock was low. He was blamed for the Republicans’ unexpectedly poor performance in the 2022 midterm elections. Toxic Trump in MAGA Meltdown, headlined the Drudge Report, while the front page of Murdoch’s New York Post proclaimed the newly re-elected governor. Ron DeSantis of Florida DeFuture.

A year later, the Thanksgiving tables have turned.

Across America, Democrats and Never Trumpers are suffering from heartburn and the MAGAts are toasting: In the polls, the disgraced former president is raging over DeSantis and every other Republican who deigns to challenge him, and perhaps on away to defeat President Biden. And that’s despite 12 intervening months in which Trump has filed four indictments for trying to reverse his 2020 defeat and stealing top-secret documents, 91 criminal indictments and two trials that ended with findings of liability for sexual abuse and financial fraud.

Yet both the legal and substantive arguments against Trump 2.0 are outdated; the true believers will swallow none of it. What else can anti-Trumpers say to contradict MAGA devotees on their holiday celebrations?

My advice: let others speak to those who saw him up close in the White House.

No president in American history has been so damned by so many who were part of the inner circle. Here’s a far from exhaustive cheat sheet of condemnations of Trump’s top people, who only hire the best people, remember.

Mike Pence, Vice President: On January 6, 2021 President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and our Constitution. Anyone who puts themselves above the Constitution should never become President of the United States.

William Barr, second Attorney General: A very petty person who will always put his interests above the countries. He shouldn’t be anywhere near the Oval Office.

John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Homeland Security, and retired Navy general: Someone who thinks that those who defend their country in uniform are either shot or seriously injured in battle or are held as prisoners of war for years tortured, all fools because there is nothing in it for them. A person who didn’t want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because it didn’t look good to me. A person who has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution and the rule of law. God help us.

James N. Mattis, first Secretary of Defense, retired Navy general: The first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people. Instead, he tries to divide us. He would order the military to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.

Mark Esper, Second Secretary of Defense: He is unfit for office. His actions are all about him and not the country. And then of course I believe he also has integrity and character issues.

Rex Tillerson, Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs: an idiot. The president would say, “Well, this is what I want to do, and this is how I want to do it,” and I would have to say to him, “Well, Mr. President, you can’t do it that way.” It’s against the law. It is against the treaty. He got very frustrated when we had those conversations.

Gary Cohn, first director of


White House National Economic Council: That’s not what we did for the country. That’s what we saved him.

H.R. McMaster, Second National Security Advisor, retired Army Lieutenant General: A dope.

John Bolton, Third National Security Advisor: I was in those rooms with him when he met [foreign] leaders. I think they think he’s a laughing fool.

Richard Spencer, Secretary of the Navy: Trump has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically, or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.

Thomas P. Bossert, White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor: Trump has baselessly undermined American democracy for months. This makes him guilty [Jan. 6] victory and a total disgrace.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, White House Communications Director: We all said the same thing: We worked with him, we knew him and we told you: America, this man is unfit to be president. And a second term would be more dangerous than the first.

Unfortunately, Griffin knows something about how hard it would be to convince the Trumpers at your table, about how decent

the former president

has cut families apart with his hateful politics. Her father boycotted her wedding because of her criticism of her former boss.

We just have to keep trying to break through, she said, but do so with respect. We need to “have these challenging conversations.”

If your Thanksgiving is likely to involve politics along with the turkey, keep this cheat sheet handy. If Uncle MAGA goes, give him a chance.

With respect.



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