Missouri Senator's Josh Hawley announced plan to fight for Donald Trump's attempted coup next Wednesday in Congress has everything to do with Hawley. And nothing to do with Trump.
Hawley did what he does best -- receive major headlines -- with his announcement that he'll contest the presidential election results in Congress next week. He's doing Trump's bidding for one reason, and one reason alone: He's running for the 2024 Republican nomination for president. Esquire Magazine didn't dub him the "Thirstiest Man in Washington D.C." for nothing.
The announcement was a brilliant political move. Hawley elbowed several of his top challengers for 2024, including Vice President Mike Pence (who had to be praying no senator would allow the circus to proceed), and some fellow Republican senators including, but not limited to, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. In a recent Chicago Tribune piece, Hawley was alone among that group in having publicly pledged to support Trump should he run again.
That's vintage Hawley. Most observers agree that the odds of another Trump candidacy are slim to none, so why not support the return of King Lear? In the same vein, Hawley well knows this is a hopeless quest. All that's required for failure is for a majority of either chamber to reject challenges to states' certification of electors. There's virtually a 100 percent chance of that happening: The Democratic controlled House of Representatives will deny any objection if the sun comes up in the east on January 6.
But for Hawley, this has nothing to do with winning in Congress. By being willing to fall on the sword and make the pro-forma effort to please Trump, he wins with the prized base when he loses.
It's a political clinic. And it shows why Hawley has emerged as the preeminent master of smoke-and-mirrors on the national stage.
Consider this: Josh Hawley has only held public office for four years. In 2016, he made his first (and successful) run for office at 36, becoming Missouri attorney general as nothing more an associate law professor at the University of Missouri. He hadn't spent a moment in public office. He didn't come from a successful business career. He wasn't even a full professor.
Hawley's two years as attorney general were unremarkable, He joined the Republicans' national legal assault on Obamacare. He jumped on the pile investigating Missouri's corrupt, now-former Governor Eric Greitens and -- tellingly -- he took a swipe at Big Tech, his signature issue today.
That was no coincidence. Hawley used his fleeting moments as attorney general to run for the next office, almost from the start. With the help of some big-money donors, Hawley took on Senator Claire McCaskill, who, despite a centrist voting record, had widely been sent as vulnerable in a state Trump had won in 2016 by almost 19 percentage points.
In 2018, the Kansas City Star reported that his office wasn't merely influenced by his national aspirations. It was basically run by his consultants.
"Josh Hawley pledged to Missouri voters in 2016 that he was not the kind of career politician who would use "one office to get to another. But within weeks of Hawley's swearing in as the state's top law enforcement official, the high-powered political team that would go on to run his U.S. Senate campaign had stepped in to help direct the office of the Missouri attorney general — and raise his national profile.
"Out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff, and followed up to ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records" obtained by The Kansas City Star."
Hawley would go on to an upset win over McCaskill. He became the U.S. Senate's most junior member, but one of the loudest.
As Esquire writer Charles Pierce observed, "In a town full of thirsty people, Josh Hawley is a man crawling across the Kalahari. And this is the thing that I know for certain. The most dangerous place to stand in Washington D.C. is any place between Senator Josh Hawley and a live microphone."
So the story continues. There's literally nothing one can take at face value about Hawley. He grew up comfortably in rural Missouri as a banker's son yet spins wonderful tales about his upbringing on a farm. He was educated in private schools and at elite institutions like Stanford and Yale universities, but since his maiden Senate speech in 2017, has been railing about cosmopolitan elites. That angle that drew condemnation by the Anti-Defamation League and rave reviews on Nazi websites.
Hawley bemoans the evils of money in politics but is one of the most shrewd and effective fundraisers on the national scene. He ran in 2018 as an admirer of Trump's tax cuts and pounded McCaskill for having opposed them, but his favorite populist-rhetoric schtick is to attack the evil Wall Street power brokers who benefitted from Trump's largesse.
Hawley has adroitly used social-media platforms to build a formidable national political base by trashing social-media platforms. So it's hardly a shock that he's now crusading for Trump as a loyal Republican by forcing a vote that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others fear as toxic to holding the Senate in 2022 and maybe in the short run.
On the day after the election, Hawley staked out his turf as a potential leader of Republicans by acting like he wasn't one of them:
Republicans in Washington are going to have a very hard time processing this. But the future is clear: we must be a… https://t.co/wV6Q3kbwla— Josh Hawley (@Josh Hawley)1604542107.0
Josh Hawley should never be underestimated, even when embarking on what appear an impossible dream, such as the present political errand for Trump. What a perfect guy to call out fraud. He is one.