Trump Returns to Washington With a Dark Outlook If He Doesn’t Win in 2024

From a story on by Eugene Daniels and Ryan Lizza headlined “Trump’s return to Washington prompts choice for GOP”:

TRUMP RETURNS TO WASHINGTON — When DONALD TRUMP arrived in Washington five-plus years ago and delivered his inaugural address, he spoke of “American carnage” and used dark language (“rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones,” “disrepair and decay,” etc.) in previewing his first term as president.

But that vision was positively sunny compared to the dark-as-Vantablack outlook he shared Tuesday at the America First Agenda Summit — the clearest articulation yet of his likely 2024 message.

Calling the U.S. “a cesspool of crime,” Trump spoke of an America whose “streets are riddled with needles and soaked with the blood of innocent victims.”

He warned of “sadists who prey on children” and “drugged-out lunatics[who] attack innocent victims at random,” and said “the dangerously derangedroam our streets with impunity.”

He spoke of violent gangs “laughing as they bludgeoned the life from their helpless victims,” of a woman being repeatedly “stabbed … [and] bleeding to death in her own bathtub,” of another man being “bludgeoned, absolutely bludgeoned and shot,” of another woman who was “raped, murdered and set on fire,” of Americans being “beaten to death to uphold the left’s vision” of law and order.

He said that other nations were “emptying their jails into the United States,” likened our country to “a dumping ground,” called for the death penalty for drug traffickers and specifically said the U.S. should emulate China’s criminal justice system with its “two-hour” “quick trials” for defendants.

He went on for another 50 minutes after that, with a long transphobic riff that included an imitation of a trans weightlifter, recounting MS-13 members flaying two teenage girls alive, and so on.

And as our Meridith McGraw put it, “Trump became most animated when talking about the thing even some allies wish he would drop — his false claims of a ‘stolen’ election, which incited the events of Jan. 6.”

For anyone who listened to what other leading Republicans said earlier in the day — including some at Trump’s own event — the contrast was whiplash-inducing.

— Shortly before Trump took the stage, House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY delivered remarks at the summit that, while critical of President JOE BIDEN and hammering him over inflation, offered a comparatively hopeful, less dire outlook in keeping with the approach of the GOP’s campaign apparatus as it seeks to make gains in suburban battlegrounds.

“Our No. 1 bill is going to be about protecting the American people, making us energy independent, lowering the gas price, making your streets safe, securing your border and holding Washington accountable,” McCarthy said. “That will be a breath of fresh air.”

— And on Tuesday morning, former VP MIKE PENCE spent most of his speech at a Young America’s Foundation conference pushing Republicans to unite and look ahead.

As NYT’s Michael Bender noted in his piece on the rivalry between Pence and Trump, the former VP “left out of his speech the kind of effusive praise for Mr. Trump that he had regularly injected into his addresses as vice president and instead referred to the ‘Trump-Pence’ administration’s accomplishments.”

“Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future,” Pence said, neatly contrasting himself to Trump with an understatement for the ages: “I don’t know that the president and I differ on issues, but we may differ on focus.”

That difference in focus is at the center of several big questions for Republicans in 2022 and 2024: Which vision do they want the party to follow? Which do they think is more appealing to the voters they need in order to win a majority? And even if they agree with Trump on the issues, is his focus — with its dark tone and feedback-loop quality — helpful in that pursuit?

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