If you’re a fan of Batman at all, then you’ve probably seen 2009’s "The Dark Knight."
In one scene early in the film, Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent are discussing the city’s efforts to clean up its organized crime when the question comes up about how far is too far in the pursuit of justice. Dent then delivers the best line in the whole movie: "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
Such has been the case the last several days with the group of grifters, misfits, and malcontents otherwise known as The Lincoln Project.
The stories that have come out recently confirmed what many conservatives, myself included, long suspected about the group. They certainly were never heroes, but they finally saw themselves become the villains after their history of scamming donors, enriching themselves, bullying journalists, and hiding the predatory habits of one of their founders came to light.
Somewhere above, Honest Abe is shaking his head in disgust at this walking charade of an organization that bears his name.
John Weaver, Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, and the ever-loveable George Conway formed the group after years of seeing red because of Donald Trump’s takeover of the conservative movement. It’s one thing to be a conservative and not like Trump–many conservatives have abhorred his behavior for years despite his policy wins–but most didn’t cope with it by trying to actively undermine conservatism itself.
No, instead of trying to guide conservatism in a more intellectual, less populist direction in a healthy manner, The Lincoln Project did its utmost to sabotage their former compatriots.
Using the anti-Trump fervor of the Left as a springboard, they raised millions of dollars in campaign funds and actively sought to bring down Republicans down ballot while also working to help Joe Biden win the White House. Adding insult to injury, they regularly made appearances on CNN and the like to malign those of us who they once called allies.
All in a foolish belief that this would somehow fix conservatism.
This all would have been bad enough, but the dam finally broke on The Lincoln Project last month and demonstrated, to the surprise of no one, that they really are just another bunch of D.C. opportunists who made the classic D.C. mistake of believing their transgressions would never come out. Here’s a secret for those of you who have never worked in D.C.; if you work in D.C. and do something naughty, it always comes out eventually.
First, we learned that John Weaver, a married man with children, hit on numerous younger men and in many cases offered them professional advancement in exchange for sex. Some may have doubts that Weaver’s colleagues knew about this problem, but sources close to the matter claim his business partners were well aware.
Then, the Associated Press reported in a lengthy story that of the $90 million or so that The Lincoln Project has raised since 2019, only a third went to political advertising.
The rest went to consulting firms run by the various founders and was allegedly used by people like Steve Schmidt to buy or refinance fancy homes. In Weaver’s case, it apparently went to pay off creditors and the IRS for unpaid loans and taxes.
Finally, The Lincoln Project tweeted screenshots of a private message exchange between one of its co-founders and a journalist who was getting ready to publish what the group called "a smear job" on the organization’s shady activities. Apparently, it’s fine to try and intimidate reporters who ask legitimate questions about an already breaking news story as long as your name isn’t Donald Trump.
What it boils down to is this; Schmidt, Conway, Wilson, and the rest were never knights in shining armor who were going to ride in and save conservatism.
My friends and I who have worked for decades in the movement always knew, as our brothers and sisters across the aisle are now seeing, just how corrupt The Lincoln Project is.
This was never about stopping Trump. It was never about moving conservatives or the GOP back to the glory days of Reagan and Bush. No, this was a calculated scheme by a group of opportunistic consultants to cash in on Americans who, whatever their reasons, felt legitimate grievances toward Trump and his behavior.
I have no doubt that The Lincoln Project’s founders deeply hate Trump, but they were cynical enough to exploit an opportunity and raise millions of dollars for themselves under the pretense of saving the Republic from the mean, orange-skinned barbarian at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Not only did they scam millions of honest Americans to donate to their cause, but they concealed an apparent predator within their ranks and now have sunk to the level of trying to strongarm a reporter into silence.
It’s disgusting and disgraceful to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and to those of us who want to make the conservative movement better. It’s insulting to every American voter who followed The Lincoln Project because they thought it provided a good alternative to Donald Trump’s GOP.
In the magnificent play "Richard III," William Shakespeare’s Duchess of York describes The Lincoln Project's facade best: "Oh, that deceit should steal such gentle shapes, And with a virtuous vizard hide foul guile."
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His books include ''Reagan’s Revolution, The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started it All,'' ''Rendezvous with Destiny, Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America,'' "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years," and ''Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan." He is also the author of The New York Times bestseller, ''December 1941,'' and his new 2019 book, ''Mary Ball Washington,'' a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Shirley lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and the Reagan Ranch. He has been named the First Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater, and will teach a class this fall at the University of Virginia on Reagan. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. Read Craig Shirley's Reports — More Here.
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