Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Miles Taylor Took Trump Seriously

A Trumper finally did what we’ve all been told we had to do.
August 20, 2020
Miles Taylor Took Trump Seriously
(Screenshot / GettyImages)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about Trump’s former homeland security chief of staff Miles Taylor than I would have otherwise liked.

Miles filmed a dramatic video testimonial for Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT). Wearing one of my other hats, as political director for RVAT, I had a hand in putting that testimonial together.

Miles came to us straight out of Trump apparatchik central casting. White skin. Blue blazer. Boyish with the standard-issue College Republican frat swoop. Like a slightly more grizzled Charlie Kirk. You can imagine him easily on a Heritage Foundation panel. Or on the early membership track at the Washington Golf & Country Club.

In the video, he’s alone in an office left barren by the pandemic that his former boss mismanaged. He talks about what he saw and heard from Donald Trump.

Miles doesn’t reveal much of anything about our president that most of us plebs don’t already see with our own two eyes every day. He offers some juicy new details, of course, but the gist of his testimony is nothing that we haven’t heard before through the reporting of Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan and Ashley Parker. The picture he paints of Trump is not much different from the ones we got from Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson and John Bolton.

Or, as Jonathan Chait wrote, “So many former high-ranking officials who have worked directly with Donald Trump have publicly warned that the president is a dangerous maniac whose authoritarian impulses are constrained only by his incompetence that it hardly registers as news anymore.”

But something did register about Miles. So what was it?

The answer, I think, lies in not what he said about Donald Trump but what he did about it. And how his actions expose just how craven and deceitful every single other person around this president and this party have been for the past four years.

What Miles did was something that so many of us have been yearning for, screaming for, pulling our hair out over.

He both spoke the truth about his former boss and acted on the consequences of those truths.

At long last, a Trumper finally did what we’ve all been told we had to do. He took the president and the job of the presidency seriously (but not literally).

He recognized both the gravity of the job and the recklessness of the man who now holds it, his total and complete lack of competence, his wanton disregard for the people he serves even in times of grave danger, his cruel intolerance, and his indifference to the rule of law. He recognized what needed to be done about it.

After four years of being gaslit, of being told that we can just ignore the president’s words because they don’t matter.

After being sold a bill of goods by those who created a bubble of unreality for themselves, one where the president is either a person of no import or someone with secret skills that we just don’t recognize. After letting so-called “good senators” stay quiet while a cult leader endorses racist conspiracy after racist conspiracy.

After having to listen to politicians and U.N. ambassadors and pundits and magazine editors whom we once admired pretend that the president is someone he’s not—pretend that, yeah, sure, he has a few peccadilloes but he really loves and cares about this country, a story that we know is not true and they know is not true and they know that we know is not true but they tell us anyway.

After all this exhausting and enraging phoniness on the part of so many people, sometimes you begin to wonder if you are the one who has gone insane.

After all that, finally—finally—there is this one person who pops the unreality bubble and simply tells the truth and takes the truth seriously.

He may not be the perfect messenger. He may be a flawed, slick, D.C. striver who gave Trump far too long of a leash. But countless other flawed messengers have had their chance and took a pass. They’ve become lobbyists or cashed in on their contacts or sold a book in which Trump is depicted as unconscionable and insane and corrupt but yet still wouldn’t testify against him or say that his standard-issue centrist Democrat opponent is a better bet.

It fell to Miles Taylor to be the first to say in public and under his own name the thing that everyone in this whole damn charade knows is true: That the person in the most serious of jobs is an incompetent madman. That four more years of an incompetent madman in charge of the most consequential country in the world is terrifying. And that, in order to prevent that future, he felt compelled to come forward to prevent another term from happening.

Hopefully people take his word seriously.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump, communications director for Jeb Bush 2016, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee.