We all know the genre. Weaponized patriot goes rogue.
Tossed into a white van as a teen, sequestered in a government training center deep underground, he emerges years later a highly trained killer. He’s brilliant and ruthless; the one you call when all else fails.
But something goes wrong. The specialized warrior sees something he shouldn’t have. It makes him question everyone and everything he’s ever trusted. Now he’s angry, out in the wild, and turning his rapier skills on the organization he once called “mother.”
Meet Rick Wilson, the real-life Republican special forces operative waging war on his former handlers. If you like a good political thriller, strap in. The fallout alone’s gonna make a helluva show.
Wilson’s new book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” is a veritable slaughter of the Trumpified Republican establishment. No one was more loyal to the GOP cause than Wilson pre-Trump. But The Donald’s brand of angry, brainless populism, swallowed hook, line and sinker by people who should have known better or who simply caved, was too much for the notorious conservative admaker.
A half dozen pages into his semi-confessional indictment, “Everything Trump Touches Dies” already feels like a 72-0 halftime romp. Wilson’s got the opponent’s playbook — he wrote parts of it himself — and he picks apart its defenses like Operation Desert Storm. No one is spared. Not the “Vichy” Republicans, not the liberal Democrats he’s spent a lifetime skewering, not the news media, lobbyists or donor class. It’s a classic Rick Wilson scorched-earth production, and it’s spot on.
I first met Rick in 1990s New York. He was commuting to New York from Tallahassee to make ads for Rudy Giuliani. It was clear in an instant that his bulb burns brighter than most. His mind is lightning-fast and his tongue is even sharper and quicker. He’s got the elite historical insights of a Northeast academic and the colorful expressions of a good ol’ boy. The combo is killer. If you’ve ever seen Rick on TV you’ll have some sense of how hilariously, or infuriatingly, caustic he can be.
We began doing projects together. I’ll always recall an early one. We were at the Republican National Committee, pitching a U.S. senator who was planning to run for governor of his state. Rick would make the ads, I’d do the PR. “Watch this,” Rick said as we stood out in the hallway before the meeting. “I’ll show him three unicorns and rainbows (positive ads) and he’ll be like where’s the #@! hate?” Hate being the incendiary stuff Wilson is famous for. It’s exactly what happened. Not just there and then, but also to American politics in general.
Don’t be fooled by Wilson’s unabashed glee in raining fire on his enemies; he’s a true conservative on a mission, and he does what he does for a reason. He’s also relentless. (I checked in on Rick after a brutal election cycle once, expecting him to be on a beach somewhere. He was already back at it, rolling out a devastating professional ad campaign for his daughter’s fourth-grade-class-president race — mail, polling, robocalls, early digital and print, the whole megillah. She won 80-2, if I recall correctly.)
“Everything Trump Touches Dies” is Wilson’s battle cry. It’s his flag in the ground to cajole or humiliate fellow conservatives into breaking from the reckless asininity of “Cheeto Jesus,” one of his favorite pet names for the president. And I get the sense this is just the start. His book feels like the opening salvo of a conservative counteroffensive I’d join in a heartbeat.
“Everything about Donald Trump’s presidency and character is a disaster for America,” Wilson writes. “The victories Republicans think they have a achieved are transitory and ephemeral and come at the cost of their principles and, probably, their immortal souls. He is a stain on the party, on conservatism, and on this country that won’t easily wash out.”
Amen, brother. Amen.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.