One of Donald Trump's greatest accomplishments was to purge from the Republican Party (mostly unintentionally) its most transactional, self-righteous, and sanctimonious grifters.
This week, I'm thinking of Steve Schmidt, the former top campaign aide to John McCain, who has been on one of his 25-hour tweet binges against Maggie Haberman and the New York Times, Eliana Johnson and the Washington Free Beacon, Josh Holmes and the men of the Ruthless podcast, and the late senator himself. Schmidt has been triggered in this regard by McCain's daughter Meghan.
Schmidt, like similar turncoats of the 2008 campaign, has been persona non grata among the McCains since he publicly bashed the late senator's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. That took some gall, considering that Schmidt was intimately involved in that decision.
As sources close to McCain told Free Beacon boss Johnson, then at Politico, about the Arizonan's funeral, "The [Washington National C]athedral will be filled with people who stabbed McCain in the front. Schmidt and Nicolle [Wallace, now of MSNBC] and [John] Weaver stabbed him in the back, and you can't find a single McCain loyalist who will say different or feels different."
It has been 14 years since McCain lost the presidency. He's been dead for nearly five. But thanks to the tragicomic implosion of the Lincoln Project and the slow, painful death of the anti-Trump #Resistance in general, Schmidt is now incinerating what remains of his decades-old relevance for one final grift.
A week ago, Schmidt was claiming Cindy McCain had bashed her own daughter to him while on the campaign trail. By Sunday, he claimed he had lied about an extramarital affair that John McCain denied at the time in order to undercut a thinly sourced New York Times report. Today, Schmidt tells Politico he didn't even vote for his boss in '08, whom he believed "completely unfit to be president."
This whole meltdown is far more unhinged than I or anyone else can express. Stephen Miller (not the Trump one), sums it up succinctly: "The difference between Steve Schmidt and Comet Ping Pong [of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory] is there's actual proof Steve Schmidt's group actually covered for a sexual predator."
Even conservatives reveling in the schadenfreude of Schmidt's collapse have expressed concern over the operative's mental health. I'm less concerned with the clown himself than with the fact that someone like this was able to build and maintain conservative and then cultural credibility for more than two decades.
Schmidt once held the keys to the metaphorical kingdom of the presidential campaign war room — not once, but twice. MSNBC made him a #NeverTrump celebrity specifically because of his fealty to a man he now claims, without a shred of evidence, cheated on his wife, and one whom he didn't even vote for.
The Republican Party that platformed Schmidt for a decade is gone in all but name. But the media that catapulted him into Resistance celebrity needs a reality check. Grifters come and go, but political gatekeepers are forever, and clearly, ours require an upgrade.