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For Eric Greitens and Mo Brooks, Ambitions at Last Indulged

The newest entrants to the Missouri and Alabama Senate races have been plotting this course for years. 

Left: Eric Greitens speaks at a Trump rally in Missouri, 2016 (By Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock). Right: U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks speaks at a Ted Cruz rally in 2015 ((Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images).

How did we ever get Roy Moore? The answer on the swift, Icarusian ascent and fall of a purported pedophile has a lot to do with another, two-syllable Alabamian conservative: Mo Brooks.

It’s all ancient history now, but Moore was the favored Senate choice of much of the nascent “Trumpist wing” of the Republican Party back in 2017. A toxic brew of Donald Trump’s personal patronage, internecine conservative politics to rival the old socialists, and what ended up being a gnarly health scare for Brooks dashed the veteran congressman’s initial Senate run four years on back.

President Trump backed the interim incumbent, Luther Strange, perhaps most likely because he liked calling him “Big Luther,” and because Mitch McConnell likes incumbents. Not so behind the scenes. Then-White House official Steve Bannon and much of the greater Breitbart-verse favored Brooks. Just one problem: Evangelical politics often holds a veto over Republican politics and perhaps nowhere is this more true than in “the Heart of Dixie.” A show-horse former Alabama chief justice, made notorious by refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from government lands, entered the race; he muddied the waters and the rest is history.

Bannon had to back Moore in his jihad against McConnell, but then the Moore allegations broke; Moore narrowly forfeited the seat to the Democrats, and the Republicans’ “Scott Brown” moment was born. And this was all before Trump’s animus with his Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who had originally vacated the seated—truly calcified, resulting in the eventual firing of a serious, O.G. ally, and a second reversal in fortunes when the ex-Cabinet official lost a Senate primary for his old seat last summer, not least because Trump backed future Senator “Coach” Tommy Tuberville.

So there is a lot of history here.

History that Brooks now hopes to roll up and ultimately transcend as he mounts his second Senate bid. Brooks said in January that “today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking” posterior, ahead of the calamity at the Capitol. He plunged into the race beside former White House consigliere Stephen Miller, in what I believe was his first campaign stop back as a civilian (Miller relished speaking at Trump’s rallies in 2016). “Nobody has had President Trump’s back more over the last four years than Mo Brooks. Now I need you to have his back. Your vote for Mo Brooks will allow him to carry on the America First agenda,” Miller was quoted as saying.

The second, major new Senate entrant is, like Donald Trump himself, quite recently a Democrat.

Eric Greitens was once recruited, in vain, by President Barack Obama himself. Obama has a thing for telegenic, heartland veterans and Rhodes Scholars. But quite unlike now-Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Greitens became a Republican governor in Missouri, then quickly a disgraced Republican governor in Missouri, and is now under the tutelage of a man with a much different worldview than President Obama. Who else? Mr. Bannon. Greitens has been appearing alongside the ex-White House chief strategist in recent months on “The War Room,” Bannon’s influential if beleaguered podcast, the frequent target of clampdowns from large technology firms.

Greitens’s sex scandal was, like Judge Moore’s, not good. Though it, thankfully, did not involve minors. The allegations Greitens assaulted and also blackmailed a mistress with bondage-themed revenge porn came amidst a frankly bewildering farrago of other alleged wrongdoing that defined his time in office. This included outrage that his staff apparently used encrypted messaging in breach of state transparency laws and allegations that Greitens appropriated a donor list from a veterans charity he once spearheaded for his successful gubernatorial campaign. Greitens—like with Nixon, his impeachment votes being tallied behind the scenes—resigned the governorship in the spring three years ago, reportedly in exchange for assurance by the St. Louis prosecutor’s office that they would not charge him, which they didn’t.

But now he’s back.

Greitens says he’s an “outsider” which actually now may pretty much be true. “I’ve been a fierce defender of President Trump from Day One. D.C. needs more fighters who will continue Trump’s America First policies,” Greitens said this week. “I have what it takes to serve” and “protect America from Biden’s leftist agenda.” Greitens is touting the endorsement of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Bannon ally and Trump’s longtime personal attorney, who has allowed a similarly gadfly reputation of himself to emerge in recent years. Other than ambition and opposition to Biden, Greitens’s policy prerogatives are pretty unclear (What is his foreign policy? Does he have in-depth views on trade nationalism? Certainly not ones he highlights), but an ally of Bannon in the Senate would be a clear boon to the stalwart Trumpist wing of the party, or at least a certain kind of Trumpist.

It would also, obviously, be revolting to Mitch McConnell.

The minority leader is telling allies on the Hill that Greitens is the only man who could blow the seat. He is set to at least privately favor an alternative, most likely Rep. Ann Wagner if she runs, given McConnell’s record of preferring women, such as former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who can theoretically, but often don’t, stop the right’s bleeding in the suburbs, most cascadingly among white women. Rep. Billy Long, a former auctioneer cut straight from Americana, and Rep. Jason Smith, who has cultivated a populist-friendly reputation of his own, are also looking at runs. But for now the noise is all around Greitens, and in the era of President Trump, of 78-year-old President Biden, he is a man who has reckoned similarly to many politicians.

“Why not me?”

“Why not now?”

about the author

Curt Mills is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, where he previously served as senior reporter. He specializes in foreign policy and campaign coverage and has worked at The National Interest, U.S. News and World Report, Washington Examiner, and the Spectator, and his work has appeared in UnHerd and Newsweek. He was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow.

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