When Donald Trump appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) about a month ago, the former president boasted, "The Republican Party is united.... I think we have tremendous unity." About a week later, Trump's lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican Party's three most powerful campaign entities, including the Republican National Committee, asking that they stop using the former president's 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.
It wasn't long before RNC leaders, eager to please the former president who'd just threatened them, announced plans to reward Trump, holding an event at one of his private clubs. Indeed, the RNC reportedly paid more than $100,000 for the privilege of using Mar-a-Lago and hearing directly from the former president.
The result was utterly predictable.
Former President Donald Trump again lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calling the top Republican a "dumb son of a b----" and a "stone cold loser" in a long rant at a Republican donor event Saturday night in which he reiterated his false claims that he won the election last fall. Trump, according to a source familiar with his remarks, said "a real leader" never would have accepted the electoral results.
By all accounts, the former president had a prepared text, which he repeatedly ignored. Instead, Trump spoke his mind, which meant Republican attendees heard him attack his own party's Senate leader. And former Vice President Mike Pence (R). And Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R). And former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (R). And Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Trump also lied about his 2020 defeat. And the crowd size on Jan. 6. And unnamed Democrats whom he says secretly know he won the election he lost. And his responsibility for the development of COVID vaccines. And the illegal extortion scheme he hatched against Ukraine.
Remember, the Republican National Committee paid for all of this. It was effectively a reward for Trump threatening to sue his own political party for fundraising with his likeness.
What surprised me is the extent to which some Republicans were surprised. Politico spoke to one attendee who said, in reference to the former president's tirade, "It was horrible, it was long and negative. It was dour." A day later, Politico ran a separate report that added:
Several Republican leaders on Sunday expressed concern at incendiary comments made by former President Donald Trump during a speech Saturday night at a Republican National Committee donor retreat.... Several GOP leaders pushed back on Trump's fiery rhetoric, deeming it "not helpful" in uniting the Republican Party before the 2022 elections.
Does anyone seriously believe Trump cares about what is or isn't "helpful" to the Republican Party?
Gauging some of the partisan reactions to the former president's weekend harangue, I was reminded of Trump's favorite parable, "The Snake."
As regular readers may recall, the story is simple: a "tender woman" rescues a "vicious snake," who repays her generosity by biting her. When the dying woman asks why, the snake explains with a grin, "Oh shut up, silly woman. You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in."
As the Washington Examiner noted a while back, "During the  campaign, Trump regularly recited the poem as a cautionary tale against allowing Syrian refugees to take advantage of American generosity." And while that certainly explains his fascination with the parable, as we've discussed before, there are some striking parallels between the ballad and Trump's own leadership style.
As Republican officials are once again forced to come to terms with Trump's latest divisive harangue, much of which targeted Republicans, it's awfully tempting to respond, "Oh shut up, silly party. You knew damn well he was a snake before you took him in."
For all the chatter about how the Republican Party needs to move on, the fact remains that it isn't even trying to remove the snake. On the contrary, it's paying him $100,000 to bite them.