The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which exists to elect Republicans to the Senate, issued an unexpected press release this morning. It read in part:
This weekend, NRSC Chairman Rick Scott presented President Donald J. Trump with the NRSC's inaugural Champion for Freedom Award. This award is presented to conservative leaders who have worked tirelessly to create good jobs, protect the values that make our country great, and stop the Democrats' socialist agenda.
The text appeared alongside a photograph of Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Trump, and an engraved metallic bowl.
Right off the bat, it's worth noting that this new, made-up award comes with odd criteria. The former president has a variety of qualities, but the idea that he's "worked tirelessly" and protected American "values" is plainly ridiculous. Trump also hasn't done much of anything to "stop" the Democratic agenda -- in fact, by losing badly, he made it possible for the Democratic agenda to advance.
Indeed, to characterize the former president as a "champion for freedom," given his authoritarian agenda, affinity for dictators, and outright hostility toward democracy makes the name of this honor, among other things, ironic.
But of particular interest in this case is the timing.
As we discussed earlier, Trump hosted and headlined a Republican National Committee donor retreat on Saturday, which culminated in a bizarre tirade in which the former president lashed out wildly at a variety of other Republicans. Trump's tantrum included an attack against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whom the former president called a "dumb son of a b----" and a "stone cold loser."
By some accounts, in the same remarks, Trump vowed to campaign against some GOP incumbents, including Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- both of whom the National Republican Senatorial Committee is supposed to protect.
There's some ambiguity about Rick Scott's timing from the weekend. It's possible the Florida senator bestowed Trump with this made-up Senate Republican honor on Saturday afternoon, and the former president showed his appreciation by trashing the Senate Republicans' leader soon after. It's also possible that the GOP senator waited until after Trump trashed McConnell -- and vowed to help defeat other Republican incumbents -- to reward him with the engraved bowl.
Either way, it's safe to say the party has a thank-you-sir-may-I-have-another problem.
About a month ago, Rachel noted a scene from the 1978 classic, Animal House, in which fraternity members haze new recruits by spanking them with a paddle. Every time they get smacked, the pledge has to say, "Thank you, sir, may I have another."
The relationship between Trump and his party is quickly taking on similar characteristics. It was last month, for example, when the former president's lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to the party's three most powerful campaign entities, including the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, asking that they stop using his name and likeness in fundraising appeals and merchandise.
Trump soon after made clear that he wants supporters to send their money to him, not his party.
Republican leaders quickly offered him a reward: the RNC reportedly paid more than $100,000 for the privilege of using Mar-a-Lago and hearing directly from the former president.
This back-and-forth continued, with Trump demanding that Republicans give their money to him, not the party, which Republican officials responded to with glowing, genuflecting praise for the former president.
And the pattern continues today. Trump slammed party leaders on Saturday night, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced a new, made-up award for Trump on Monday morning. The NRSC press release didn't literally say, "Thank you, sir, may I have another," but the text is certainly implied.
It's quite likely that party leaders believe that if they simply keep telling Trump how much they adore him, and keep asking for his benevolence and mercy, then maybe he'll stop doing things that undermine Republicans and their message.
But if that is their motivation, party leaders are setting themselves up for bitter disappointment.