On Saturday night, Donald Trump embarrassed Republican donors by delivering a rambling, grievance-laden speech that attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “dumb son of a bitch.” This morning, by an odd coincidence, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced it was creating a new annual prize: the Champion for Freedom Award. And the inaugural winner is … Donald J. Trump!
There are several unusual things about this award. One is that there is no evidence the NRSC had any intention of giving it out before Trump attacked the party’s leader. The second is that Trump, who adores awards so much he sometimes invents them, did not even bother to put on a sport coat to receive this. The third is that the NRSC apparently plans to give it out every single year from now on.
But perhaps most interesting is the basis for the award. Here is the language from the NRSC:
So, the silver bowl seems to have been awarded on the basis of four criteria:
1) Conservative leader
2) Work tirelessly
3) Protect values that make our country great
4) Stop the Democrats’ socialist agenda
Trump’s strongest claims are No. 1 and No. 3. He is definitely a conservative leader (indeed, some would describe him as outright authoritarian bordering on fascistic). And while the “values that make our country great” are highly subjective, the NRSC and Trump clearly share those values, and it couldn’t have hurt Trump’s application that “make our country great” is very close to his campaign slogan.
And yet the other two criteria would seem to be highly problematic for his application. Trump does not work tirelessly. As innumerable staffers have told the media over the years, he barely works at all. As president, he would roll into the office around 11, check out at six, and spend much of the time watching television or ranting on the phone with his buddies. He could barely be bothered to listen to a briefing.
The biggest shortcoming on his résumé is No. 4. If you want to “stop the Democrats’ socialist agenda,” at minimum you need to prevent them from gaining control of at least one of the presidency, the House, or the Senate. Republicans controlled all three when Trump took office. Now, they have none.
A cynic would say the NRSC created the award for Trump in an effort to get him to stop trashing its incumbent officials. But if it did that, it could have designed criteria that made him the clear winner: .500 or better record in national elections, highest income for a sitting elected official, etc.
Instead, the committee created a list of attributes for which Trump’s claim is extremely shaky and then awarded it to him anyway despite a clear lack of qualifications. Maybe Trump won because the NRSC’s leaders happened to be in Florida and he was nearby, sparing them the cost of flying in a winner from a more distant location. Or perhaps the committee to determine the award’s recipient was stacked with Trump supporters who allowed their personal bias to override his obvious shortcomings.
Whatever the reason, supporters of freedom can only hope next year’s silver bowl is awarded more judiciously.