Back to the Future

Like the Terminator, it’s back. Same lies, same fairy tales.

“We began it together four years ago and it is far from being over,” Donald Trump told cheering supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. That’s too bad. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious and America will be greater and stronger than ever before.”

Sure, just as it was for the past four tumultuous years, tax cut for the wealthy included. And topped by a siege at the Capitol that killed five people for which he was impeached by the House for inciting it but acquitted by a divided Senate.

Nothing divided the conservatives who cheered, applauded and egged on Trump to run again for “four more years” even as they endorsed the lie that he won the election against Joe Biden.

The indoor scene appeared to be reminiscent of his presidential and campaign rallies, a never-ending display of concentrated enthusiasm for someone who made himself absent through the country’s worst health disaster in a century that has killed half a million Americans.

How is it possible for someone like that to be admired?

His first political appearance since he lost his second run for the presidency wasn’t so much of a comeback as it was a self-sought reaffirmation for his outsized ego of his popularity. After all, he never conceded defeat to Biden and claimed during his 90-minute address that he won.

“Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House,” he lied about the Democrats. “But who knows, I might even decide to beat them for a third time” by running for president in 2024.

The repeated Big Lie that he beat Biden – who defeated the insufferable blowhard by seven million votes – is an injustice to his supporters, to the American people generally and to a morality in politics that just doesn’t seem to exist in the Trump camp.

It would take a high-powered psychiatric analyst to figure out whether Trump for some unhinged reason actually believes he won the election because he can’t fathom being a loser or whether it’s all an Orwellian machination intended to keep him politically alive among his followers, in part to attract the attention that’s his oxygen. He did get 74.2 million votes.

He even lied that it was wind turbines that caused the Texas winter storm blackouts. Wrong. It was frozen natural gas lines.

Even if he doesn’t run for office again – his niece, Mary Trump, said after his defeat in November that he wouldn’t run again for fear of losing – he certainly intends to play power broker in races for Congress as leader of the Republican Party. He served notice he has no plans to break away from what was the Grand Old Party and launch a third party.

“We are not starting new parties,” he said. “We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”

Trump has a strange way of showing Republican unity. Right in character as his old vindictive self, he denounced everyone in the party who voted to impeach him, hitting hardest against Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third ranking House Republican.

“Get rid of them all,” he said.

Much of Trump’s future depends on some significant variables, among them investigations into his taxes, pending lawsuits and, not insignificantly, what other Republicans intend to do about him, especially the Never-Trumpers and the seven senators who voted for his impeachment.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, perhaps the biggest hypocrite in Congress, already said he “absolutely” would vote for Trump for president if he is nominated in 2024. This even though McConnell condemned Trump’s “incitement of insurrection” charge yet voted to acquit him of impeachment on the lame excuse Trump was out of office.

Of course, McConnell engineered that when he refused to hold an impeachment trial in the Senate while Trump still was president. So he created a perfect excuse to vote to acquit on the Republican argument that a former president cannot be impeached.

And there are the grumbling Republicans.

As in Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana who voted to impeach Trump.

“CPAC is not the entirety of the Republican Party,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union. “If we speak to the voters who are less sure, who went from President Trump to President Biden, we win. If we don’t, we lose.”

And Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. His allies plan to launch a super PAC to support Republicans who have gone against Trump, The Washington Post reported.

It quoted documents as saying the group’s founders also are launching a second nonprofit to “build a grass roots army.”

In a six-minute video, according to the Post, Kinzinger unveiled his lead PAC, Keeping Country First, saying, “Republicans must say enough is enough. It’s time to unplug the outrage machine, reject the politics of personality and cast aside the conspiracy theories and the rage.”

The Terminator was full of rage.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.