Like his party, the former White home chief of employee swallowed his values in the surname of power. He to be repaid in savage indignity.
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Six years ago, a humble party hack from Kenosha, Wisconsin, took on the thankless project of turning around the Republican Party. As he exits the White House—battered, bruised, and humiliated—Reince Priebus argues he accomplished just what he set out come do.
“We won,” Priebus told me in an interview. Calling indigenous the golf food on Sunday afternoon, he sound both defiant and relieved. “Winning is what us were supposed to do, and we won. It is the task of the Republican Party. That in the finest shape it’s to be in because 1928.”
The previous White house chief of staff and Republican national Committee chairman stated he was proud of his stewardship that the GOP, i beg your pardon culminated in the choice of a Republican president, Republican Congress, and Republican gains up and also down the ballot.
But the White house is mired in chaos, and all the Republican power has yet to an outcome in a single significant policy achievement. Priebus’s movie critics view him together the man who sold his party out to Donald Trump. To be it really worth it, ns asked?
“It’s absolutely precious it,” Priebus said, pointing come the meeting of a conservative can be fried Court justice, regulation reform, and also a healthy and balanced economy, though he acknowledged health care remained “an obstacle.” “The president has accomplished an incredible amount of points in the last six months,” he added. “The future can be great, and the past has been nice good.” also in exile, he to be still committed to spinning the trump line.
It has actually been a long, strange pilgrimage for Priebus, who concerned Washington together GOP chairman in 2011 top top a promise to reform a party in disarray. His story, in a way, is the story the the Republican Party itself: His early stage wariness of trump card gave means to capitulation and also then enabling. He swallowed his private qualms for the benefits of the team, until his turn to be the victim that Trump’s pageant of prominence finally came—publicly disgraced, dismissed in a tweet.
“I watch him as kind of a catastrophic figure,” said Charlie Sykes, a previous conservative radio host in Milwaukee who has known Priebus for plenty of years. “What began as a matter of duty top top his part—the decision to go all-in top top Trump—ended with this scorchingly poisonous humiliation.”
Sykes’s pity for his girlfriend was limited, however. “It’s sad, however it’s the an outcome of choices he made,” said Sykes, a never ever Trumper that is currently an MSNBC commentator. “It’s not favor he no warned.”
Ironically, Priebus’s very own career in nationwide politics started with an plot of disloyalty. In 2011, he won the RNC chair by running versus his own boss, then-chairman Michael Steele. Despite big wins in the 2010 midterm elections, party activists had come to be dissatisfied with what they viewed as Steele’s mismanagement and also penchant for gaffes. Steele knew that would have challengers when he sought one more term together chairman—but he didn’t expect a an obstacle from Priebus, his general counsel, who he considered a teammate.
“This is the bed Reince has actually been making for himself because he to be my basic counsel,” Steele told me. “He’s a man who’s always positioning self for the following thing. Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?”
Priebus’s bid because that RNC chairman to be premised ~ above the idea that he could do for the party nationally what he’d done as state party chairman in Wisconsin, whereby he had been top top the vanguard the a resurgent conservative movement. As a lawyer and also party activist, he’d watched his girlfriend Scott Walker end up being governor and another friend, Paul Ryan, get anointed a climbing Republican star.
They referred to as themselves the “Cheesehead Mafia.” In Washington, Ryan was the star policy wonk, among the “young guns” remaking the party as a slick car for too much fiscal conservatism. In Madison, Walker thrust through a sudden, shocking assault on public-sector unions—then survived the left’s effort to remove him in a hard-fought recall.
“We are not in competition through the conservative movement, we are component of the conservative movement,” Priebus stated at the time. The nationwide party, the promised, can broaden its ranking without compromising its principles—and win—just favor Republicans had done in Wisconisn.
Republicans wanted more than anything come take down President Obama, and also Priebus pitched himself together the male for the job. But in 2012, his very first big test, the party dropped short. Somehow, nobody blamed Priebus, also though one of the Romney campaign’s decisive shortcomings—an i can not qualify to complete with the Obama project in ar organizing—had to be the job of Priebus’s RNC. Priebus to be a good fundraiser and also party manager; most of all, he preserved his constituents—the committee members throughout the country who elect the national chairman—happy.
Promising to number out the party’s problems and fix them, Priebus to be reelected chairman unanimously. The convened a team of insiders to conduct a sweeping study of what walk wrong in the presidential election. Lock sifted data, carried out focus groups, and also examined party rules, posting a report that came to be known as the “autopsy.”
Young people and minorities, the report concluded, regarded the GOP together a bunch that cranky old white men. The party could adjust its image by deemphasizing society issues and also coming the end in donate of immigrant reform. A collection of tactical recommendations got less attention yet may have actually been more consequential: based upon the report’s ideas, the party to reduce the main calendar, lessened the variety of debates, and began a substantial investment in data and ground operations.
These procedures were to plan to protect against the kind of drawn-out melee the was believed to have actually weakened Mitt Romney’s candidacy, and also to put an facilities in place to aid the party’s candidates. But they may have had actually unintended consequences.
Like everyone else in the GOP, Priebus didn’t see Trump together a risk for the nomination. Because that years, he had grew the Manhattan mogul as a party donor, playing along with his flirtations with running because that office on the assumption it wouldn’t ever happen. Once Trump did acquire into the race—on a platform diametrically opposed to the autopsy’s references for a kinder, gentler party—Priebus tried to leverage their connection to rein the in. He referred to as Trump after his campaign announcement and urged him to tone under the anti-immigrant rhetoric. And also after Trump competed that john McCain was “not a war hero,” for example, the RNC authorize a statement declaring, “there is no location in our party or our country” for such comments.
But trumped ignored him, and also the conflict-averse Priebus dropped into line. Trump card exploited the divisions and weaknesses the the party had permitted to fester for so numerous years—the anger-primed base, the oppositional fervor. ~ the McCain incident, his consistent outrages elicited nary a peep the rebuke native the party, nor was any attempt made to exclude him from the disputes over i beg your pardon the RNC had actually near-total control. Together Priebus’s friend in the GOP establishment wrung their hands, he insisted it wasn’t his ar to intervene. His job as he observed it was to carry out the will of the party’s voters, and also to regulate the chaos the resulted.
Privately, Priebus was commonly horrified through Trump’s habits during the campaign. The deplored Trump’s assault on Khizr Khan, and also when the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, he even urged Trump to drop the end of the race—an insult Trump never let the forget. However publicly, he play the an excellent soldier. Once Trump winner the Indiana primary, Priebus preemptively asserted him the presumptive nominee. At the convention, the was important in placing down a desperate rebellion the anti-Trump partisans.
To the never Trump crowd, Priebus was a craven patsy who marketed out his principles.“He empowered trumped again and again,” the anti-Trump conservative writer David French tweeted on Friday. “Reince was tireless in defending, excusing, empowering, and allowing Trump.”
All along, Priebus presume Trump would lose. In the campaign’s last weeks, he considered rerouting project funds come the party’s down-ballot candidates; the RNC held a pre-election briefing to make the instance to reporters the the intended loss i will not ~ be the party’s fault. The party, a source familiar through the illustration told me, also put under a deposit top top a to meet in California for the RNC conference to it is in held during the presidential inauguration in January—based on the assumption that it was the various other party that would be celebrating in Washington. (Priebus said me the party had actually reserved hotels in D.C. And California in order to be prepared for either choice outcome.)
When the impossible came to pass on choice Day, Priebus’s strategy seemed to have actually been vindicated. Together the management quickly came to be a rojo soap opera, the cook of staff was actors as the voice the the timeless GOP in the White House. However Trump never trusted him, and he never had actually the authority of a true chef of staff. Fairly than gift empowered to do decisions and also to speak on the president’s behalf, he played the part of a worried courtier, always hovering about the boss in an attempt to curry favor, constantly scrambling come clean up messes he was powerless come prevent. “He acts prefer a battered spouse,” the anti-Trump Republican consultant stack Wilson called me.
Trump no respect Priebus, however he observed him together his link to Ryan, the speak of the House, and the conference GOP. Priebus mostly discovered himself a harried go-between, frantically to run interference between his out-of-control boss and also exasperated lawmakers. “Reince constantly wanted come make sure he did no lose any friends,” Sykes called me. “Maybe that was the problem—he never wanted come burn bridges. He wanted to keep everybody happy.”
Everyone that works because that Trump needs to know the their turn in the barrel can come at any type of time, that the slavish commitment he demands will it is in repaid only in abuse. Still, Priebus’s defenestration was specifically savage: a detested interloper brought in over his protestations, his ideal ally propelled out, trump deafeningly quiet as the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, publicly derided him as “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic.” ~ his dismissal to be announced, that suddenly discovered himself alone in a black color Suburban together the rest of the motorcade left because that the White house without him.
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With Priebus out, the only classic conservative continuing to be in the administration’s top ranks is the evil president, Mike Pence, leading countless on the ideal to fear that trumped will now openly rotate on the GOP and also begin pursuing an agenda antithetical to his party’s traditional principles.
Like Priebus, the Republican Party make a Faustian bargain when it capitulated to Trump’s takeover—it would sell its spirit in order come win. But as chaos proceeds to swirl, Priebus is surely no the only Republican questioning himself: What was the victory great for?
“We have a Republican president, a Republican Senate, and also a Republican House,” Priebus said me. “I have no regrets at all.”