GOP Strategist Rick Wilson: Avenatti, O'Rourke Could be Better Trump Challengers Than Warren
WASHINGTON – GOP strategist Rick Wilson, a #NeverTrump Republican, said a Democratic presidential candidate like Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti or Texas Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke may be better to take on President Trump than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“I look at Elizabeth Warren, that schoolmarm technocrat, yeah, you may love her but make her secretary of the Treasury or something. And I know people are like, ‘Oh, what about Avenatti?’ Maybe. The guy’s got smack. He can shit talk like nobody’s business and he’s under Trump’s skin so far,” Wilson said during a discussion on his new book, Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever, at Politics and Prose on Tuesday evening.
“You may find somebody else that can do that. There might be some other rising star. Look, if Beto O’Rourke wins in Texas – it’s a long shot – if that guy wins in Texas, he is going to be a rocket in the Democratic Party… he’s good on his feet and he’s smart. And his answer the other day on the [national] anthem questions was as good; I mean, I sat there watching that going, ‘I wish I had written that.’”
Asked about the anthem protests during a campaign stop, O’Rourke replied, "I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place." Cruz released a campaign ad hitting O’Rourke for the response.
Before the 2016 election, Wilson said in an interview that a President Hillary Clinton “would be less damaging to the Republican Party than President Trump.”
Wilson was asked if he agrees with Republicans who are satisfied with a Republican president, rather than a Democrat, getting two Supreme Court picks.
“Would picks from Hillary, do you think, have been a better scenario?” he was asked.
“There was no scenario where I thought, ‘yay Hillary.’ I wasn’t a fanboy of Hillary Clinton by any stretch. Her nominees would have been in the normal, sort of, range of Democratic nominees,” Wilson replied.
Wilson described himself “as an actual constitutionalist and not one of these guys who treats the Constitution like a Chinese menu.” He said the founders intended to have three co-equal branches of government that would work with a “sort of dynamic between them.”
“Republicans are now doing what Democrats did for years, which is fetishizing the Supreme Court and thinking, ‘Well, we’re screwed because our ideas suck and we can’t get these things done on the legislative side, the president can’t pass a damn thing because he’s incompetent, so we’ll just kick it to the courts and that will settle everything for us,’” Wilson said.
“And that to me is something that is a broken way to approach a constitutional government and a Republic, so I think there is a meaningful chance that we will be surprised as Supreme Court justices do – as John Roberts drifts into the center, the court corrects itself largely over time,” he added.
Wilson said if Republicans are going to look at the Supreme Court picks as their “big win, then President McConnell ought to be proud because Donald Trump couldn’t pick Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh out of a lineup.”
“He couldn’t identify them if they bit him on the ass,” he continued. “Those guys were a product of the Federalist Society and of Mitch McConnell, and a lot of people in the conservative movement who worked for a long time to get those guys elevated up through the system. So I don’t look at those as a Trump triumph.”
Wilson slammed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) for doing “everything he can to block” the Russia investigation.
“I don’t say this lightly. There is a limitless list of people who belong at Gitmo, but that man is outright obstruction of justice,” he said.
Wilson, who has worked for George H.W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani, condemned the GOP’s tax reform package, which the party is touting as its major legislative achievement heading into midterm elections.
“My party has to get its head out of its own backside on crony capitalism because what we’ve done for a long time, what this tax bill did was take care of a specific industry in the legislation. Now, I was told when Barack Obama was president, that picking winners and losers was a bad thing. The tax bill picked 150-some winners in the hedge fund and Wall Street world and about 60 guys out there in the economy, and they got 85 percent of the benefit of the tax bill that requires 4.5 percent economic growth to sustain itself. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
“We are picking winners and losers by protecting the coal industry, which should be dead by now. So Republicans have not been a good example of free-market capitalism in Congress for a long time,” Wilson added. “This goes back before Trump. I’ve been a critic of this in my own party before Trump, where we have decided that free-market capitalism is great except if a guy gave us a big enough donation to the super PAC, then we’re going to make sure that his industry – it could be a dead industrial sector completely – that Congress says we are going to keep buying buggy whips from this guy because the buggy whip industry is the heart of American commerce. Capitalism works when it’s tried, and socialism often leads to people starving and freezing in the dark.”