Republican lobbyist and power broker Matt Schlapp told Yahoo News today that he is “disappointed” in his former boss, George W. Bush, for snubbing President Trump amid a daunting reelection effort. Bush has been noticeably quiet during this Republican National Convention, issuing not so much as a statement expressing support for the president. The silence hasn’t escaped the notice of Schlapp, Bush’s former longtime political director.
“When you see the socialist agenda that’s being put forward by the Democratic Party, I think you can get past some of your personal animosity and support the president, especially when you see what the Democrats want to do to the policy legacy that you care about,” Schlapp said during a wide-ranging interview with the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast.
Schlapp, who is chairman of the American Conservative Union and runs the CPAC conferences, went on to criticize Bush for popping up occasionally to say “awfully nice things about Obama or Bill Clinton” and for his friendship with Michelle Obama. A spokesman for the former president did not answer an email seeking comment.
Bush’s brother Jeb ran against Trump in the 2016 primaries and was a frequent target of Trump’s campaign tirades and Twitter attacks. Trump cast his campaign as a repudiation of the Republican establishment and in particular of George W. Bush for his prosecution of the Iraq war.
In Schlapp’s view, the so-called Never Trumpers, Republicans who refuse to vote for Trump or who have defected to the Democrats, are irrelevant to the average Trump supporter, many of whom he said are working people. The party base has coalesced around Trump, Schlapp said, and is enthusiastic for him.
“Conservatives and Republicans have never been behind a nominee at the level they’re behind Donald Trump,” Schlapp said.
He believes the election will be decided by a group he refers to as the “Go to Church Catholics,” whom he says are the “number one, ultimate swing constituency.”
“Will they stick with Biden, who would only be our second elected Catholic, or do they abandon Biden because of, I believe, hostile policies he’s putting forward that Catholics care about?” Schlapp asked.
Later in the interview, the president’s penchant for repeating discredited conspiracy theories came up in the context of QAnon, a fictitious Internet conspiracy theory built around the belief that Trump is engaged in a hidden struggle against a cabal of child molesters in the U.S. government and among the global elite.
Last week, Trump was asked about QAnon after he praised Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a passionate QAnon devotee, as a “future Republican star.” He declined to disavow QAnon, saying only that he knows members of the conspiracy theory group like him “very much” and that he believes they are “people that love our country.”
Schlapp defended Trump over the response.
“This is the double standard,” Schlapp said. “What you want Trump to do every day is be responsible for every single person, including kooky people, who might support him.”
Schlapp said he plans to give Greene a chance. He said he doesn’t know much about QAnon and doesn’t “endorse it.” He noted that the annual Republican CPAC conference he oversees has not invited any QAnon-backed candidates to speak. But Schlapp is open to sitting down with anyone the president sees as an up-and-comer.
“My view on Marjorie Taylor Greene] is I’m going to be happy to talk to them and meet them and see if their views are in line with something we can support,” Schlapp said. “I believe the coverage of Donald Trump is so over the top and so ridiculous that, no, I’m not going to take your analysis of this woman who you don’t know. ... I’m gonna give her the benefit of the doubt.”
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