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“Jeb Is Headed For Little Bighorn”: If You Know Neither Yourself Nor Your Enemy, You Will Always Endanger Yourself

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu provided the following wisdom:

So, it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

When it comes to Jeb Bush’s understanding of Donald Trump, let’s just say that he really doesn’t have a clue.

Now, those close to his campaign say, Bush, who has taken on the mantle of frontrunner, is bracing for the possibility of a presidential debate pile-on — with Trump leading the charge.

Gaming out how Trump — a bombastic figure who refuses to abide by the usual rules of political decorum — will present himself has become a growing subject of speculation in Bush’s world.

During one recent phone call with a political ally, Bush pointedly asked about the surging real estate mogul. What, the friend recalled the former governor wondering out loud, was behind Trump’s antics, and what was he trying to accomplish?

I don’t think Jeb is alone in being perplexed about Donald Trump’s motives for running for president, but if he doesn’t know what’s driving Trump he’s going to have a hell of a time dodging his hand grenades.

“Trump presents a challenge for Bush because he’s a hand grenade,” said Nelson Warfield, a longtime Republican strategist who has prepared a number of candidates for debates. “His people understand that and will be prepared for anything that comes their way.”

As the Aug. 6 debate grows closer, some Republicans are relishing the prospect of Trump tearing the bark off the former governor — or, at the very least, trying to trip him up. “Trump has one target and one target only,” said an adviser to a rival GOP candidate. “He’s going to bring a lawn mower for Bush.”

Maybe Trump really is best understood as a hand grenade, in which case the damage he does will be somewhat equally dispersed but will also (by random chance) injure some more than others. On the other hand, maybe Trump is better understood as a heat-seeking missile who is locked in on Jeb, and really only on Jeb. If that’s the case, he should be a little more predictable and easier to parry.

In this Politico piece, we can see that advisers to rival GOP candidates are hoping that Trump is in this latter category, and it could be that they are correct.

Now, I know that politicians will say anything and we’re fools to take many of their utterances at face value. But if Jeb believes any part of the following, he doesn’t know his party and may not even know himself:

If Trump is a danger for Bush, some close to the former governor say, he also presents opportunity. The debate will give Bush a national platform to take on Trump in strong terms, presenting himself as a mature, substantive leader who rises above toxic discourse. Bush may have hinted at that approach during a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday. “Whether it’s Donald Trump or Barack Obama, their rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong,” the former governor said. “A Republican will never win by striking fear in people’s hearts.”

Jeb should take a look around and even listen to himself as one Republican after another tells the public that we’re all going to die because the president has reached an agreement with Iran on their nuclear program. We’re all going to die if even one prisoner at Gitmo is brought here to stand trial or serve time. We’re all going to die if we don’t invade Iraq and take away their WMD. We’re all going to die if we don’t reinvade Iraq and now Syria to deal with ISIS. We’re all going to die if we give one inch to the commies in Korea or Vietnam or Angola or Cuba or Nicaragua.

And if we’re not going to die, then our culture and our religion are going to die. Our freedom is going to die. Our guns will be confiscated. Our children will be indoctrinated.

Striking fear into the hearts of Americans is pretty much all Fox News does, all day long, every day. There are almost two dozen Republican candidates for the presidency, and every single one of them is out there saying that our whole way of life is going to be destroyed.

Go ahead and try to find me the positive, Reaganesque messaging from these folks. I know Jeb aspires to be that guy, but he’s just not. And he’s going to get his ass kicked in the primaries if he doesn’t begin to understand why the crap Trump is pulling has launched him into a lead in the polls among Republicans.

Dubya once cracked this nut with a “compassionate conservative” gambit that was about as fraudulent as daddy’s thousand points of light. But the current mood of the Republican base is the farthest thing there is away from “compassionate.”

Does Jeb understand what made his father successful (exploiting amnestied black rapists) and his brother successful (buy duct tape, plastic sheeting, and bottled water!)?

Does he know himself and his political clan well enough to understand what needs to be done to capture the hearts of the Republican right?

Because, if he doesn’t, he will always endanger himself when he goes into these debates. And it isn’t only Trump that he needs to worry about.

He’s going to be on a stage with nine other Republicans, none of whom are under the misimpression that the base seeks “a mature, substantive leader who rises above toxic discourse” or whom believe that “the rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong.”

If Sun Tzu was right, Jeb could be headed for Little Bighorn.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, The Washington Monthly; Ten Miles Square, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Blatant Double Standard”: FLASHBACK; When Mitt Romney Avoided The Media — And The Media Didn’t Freak Out

Does anyone remember the rope line kerfuffle that broke out between reporters and Mitt Romney’s campaign team in May 2012? After the Republican nominee addressed supporters in St. Petersburg, Florida, campaign aides tried to restrict reporters from getting to the rope line where the candidate was greeting audience members.

As the incident unfolded, Kasie Hunt from the Associated Press tweeted, “Campaign staff and volunteers trying to physically prevent reporters from approaching the rope line to ask questions of Romney.” And from CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Romney campaign and Secret Service attempted to keep press off ropeline so no q’s to candidate on Bain.” (Bain Capital is the investment firm Romney co-founded.)

The story was definitely noted by the press and garnered some coverage, but it quickly faded from view.

Contrast that with the media wildfire that broke out over the Fourth of July weekend this summer when Hillary Clinton marched in the Gorham, New Hampshire parade. Surrounded by throngs of reporters who jumped into the parade route to cover the event, Clinton’s aides created a moving roped-off zone around Clinton to give her more space.

The maneuver produced images of journalists temporarily corralled behind a rope, which most observers agreed made for bad campaign optics.

Note that like Romney’s episode on the rope line when reporters objected to being barred from overhearing the candidate interact with voters, journalists in New Hampshire were upset they couldn’t hear Clinton greet parade spectators. But this story was hardly a minor one. It created an avalanche of coverage — nearly two weeks later journalists still reference it as a major event.

It’s interesting to note that during his 2012 campaign, Romney often distanced himself from the campaign press and provided limited access, the same allegations being made against Clinton this year. But the way the press covered the two media strategies stands in stark contrast.

That’s not to suggest Romney’s avoidance of the press wasn’t covered as news four years ago. It clearly was. But looking back, it’s impossible to miss the difference in tone, and the sheer tonnage of the coverage. Four years ago the campaign press calmly detailed Romney’s attempts to sidestep the national press (minus Fox News), versus the very emotional, often angry (“reporters are being penned off like farm animals“), and just weirdly personal dispatches regarding Hillary’s press strategy.

In a 2011 article, The Huffington Post interviewed reporters about how Romney was employing a much more closed-off press strategy compared to his 2008 campaign. The article featured quotes from Beltway journalists like The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz saying that while Romney had been more “open and available” in his 2008 campaign, during the 2012 cycle, “In general, I think they have kept him as much as possible out of the press spotlight … And I think it’s part of what has been their overall strategy, which has been to act like a frontrunner and not do a lot of interviews.”

By contrast, The New York Times, reporting on Clinton’s press relationship, recently described her as a “regal” “freak” who “seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, returning to claim what is rightfully hers.” Slate noted “the political press has turned noticeably hostile in the face of her silence.” And the Daily Beast wanted to know why Clinton was so “determined” to “infuriate the press.”

So when Clinton’s standoffish with the press, she’s deliberately trying to “infuriate” journalists. But when Romney was standoffish, he was just employing a frontrunner strategy.

Why the blatant double standard? Why the steeper grading curve for the Democrat?

Are the Romney and Clinton press scenarios identical? Probably not. But they do seem awfully similar. Note that in February 2012, ABC News reported that “Romney last held a press conference in Atlanta on Feb. 8, and has not done so again since. Wednesday is the two week mark.” Two months later, not much had changed: “Reporters yelled questions at Romney yesterday on the rope line after a speech prebutting this summer’s Democratic National Convention — to no avail. Romney has not taken questions from the press since March 16 in Puerto Rico.”

That dispatch came on April 19, which meant at the time Romney hadn’t taken a question from the national press in more than a month, and that was during the heart of the Republican primary season. But where was The Washington Post’s running clock to document the last time Romney fielded a question, and The New York Times special section to feature hypothetical questions to ask Romney if and when he next spoke to the press?

When Romney ignored the national media for more than a month in 2012 the press mostly shrugged. When Hillary did something similar this year, the press went bonkers, sparking “an existential crisis among the national press corps,” according to Slate.

For whatever reason, the Beltway press signaled a long time ago that the press was going to be a central topic during the Clinton campaign and the press was going to write a lot about how the press felt about Clinton’s relationship with the press. (Media critic Jay Rosen has dismissed some of the media’s campaign complaints as being nonsensical.)

We’ve certainly never seen anything like this in modern campaigns. And it certainly did not happen with Romney four years ago.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Media, National Press Corp | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is The Iran Deal ‘Liberal’?”: Shifting The Reigning Washington Foreign-Policy Paradigm From War-Making To Deal-Making

So, Senator Chris Coons, what do you think of the Iran deal?

There’s a pause. I have spoken a few times in recent weeks to the Delaware Democratic Senator, because a) he is deeply immersed in the details of this negotiation and b) he’s coming from what seems to me roughly the right place here: He wants to support his president and he wants to see diplomacy succeed, but he doesn’t trust Iran and he wants a deal that has a chance of actually working. He’s thoughtful and smart and not a demagogue, and his ultimate support (or not) of the thing really will hang on the details and what he concludes about them.

So he opens by telling me that he first wants to give credit to President Obama and John Kerry for getting this done, because any negotiation is hard, this one almost incomprehensibly so. Then he gives an answer: “It seems on the face of it from press accounts to meet most of the goals that were set.” He hadn’t read it yet, but he’d read enough about it to draw a few conclusions.

Still, Coons says he hasn’t made up his mind yet how he’ll vote. “I’m aware that it’s easier to be critical than supportive because this deal is so complex and the stakes are so high,” he told me. “I do think the diplomacy was worth exploring.” He wouldn’t say this of course, but it seems to me unlikely that Congress can kill the deal; Obama needs the backing of only 34 senators, which would result in a failure to override his certain veto of a “no” vote. It’s hard to imagine he can’t get that.

We’ll circle back to Coons, but first let’s acknowledge a point that liberal Obama-backers everywhere ought to acknowledge in this case: The deal is a big gamble. Nobody can know today that it will work in the main goal of keeping the Islamic Republic from getting a nuclear weapon. Of course, nobody knows for certain that it will fail either, and Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton and John Boehner’s instant and predictable Munich-ification of a deal they obviously hadn’t even read was revolting.

But the way to counter their false, know-nothing certitude is not with more false, know-nothing certitude. From a liberal internationalist point of view, it’s clearly a good thing that Obama is trying to shift the reigning Washington foreign-policy paradigm from war-making to deal-making. The war-makers have been wrong about everything for the last 15 years, have told us endless lies, have harmed American credibility, have sown destruction and death—and, by the way, have done a hell of a lot more to strengthen Iran than we doves have. So deal-making is a fine principle for which to strive. But that doesn’t mean the deal is without risks and downsides, and liberals do themselves and the world no favors by not acknowledging them just because Tom Cotton is such a dreary soapbox haranguer.

Here were Coons’s four concerns in the order he listed them to me. First, the inspections regime; second, the timing of the sanctions relief; third, the degree to which the International Atomic Energy Agency will be able to keep track of the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities; and fourth, restrictions on centrifuge development after about year 10. “I need to have a much better sense of the breakout time after 10 years,” Coons said, noting concerns that limits on centrifuge development might ease after the tenth year.

For my money, Coons’s second concern is the biggest potential problem here. Iran will get a $150 billion windfall starting in December, and while the regime will presumably spend some of that money at home, it’s a certainty that the Syrian regime and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Houthis in Yemen are all going to get their share.

Combine this money with the deal’s lifting of the conventional arms embargo, which hasn’t gotten much attention yet but you can be sure will get more, especially once Congress starts holding hearings on this, and you have a recipe for Iran to make far more trouble in the region than it has been in recent years. It should not comfort Americans, and American liberals in particular, that the likes of Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, both busy murdering Syrian children and suppressing any chance of real democracy being able to grow in Syria and Lebanon, praised the deal to the heavens.

Coons told me he had a lengthy phone call with Joe Biden Tuesday, and “that’s precisely what I was discussing with the vice president.” He said he’d let Biden speak for himself, but he did tell me that he pressed Biden on questions like what we’d be doing to beef up our commitments to our allies and to check Iranian influence. He says Biden assured him that stern measures were in the works. We’ll see about that. This, too, will be much discussed in the upcoming hearings, and it’s not only Republicans who have these concerns.

Obama says people should judge the deal only on whether it prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, that it isn’t designed to change the nature of the regime or address regional terrorism. What this means is the administration made the decision that keeping a nuke out of Iran’s hands was the job that took precedence over all other tasks. All in all that’s probably the right call. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that this deal would start an arms race. Not if it holds. If anything, it’s the opposite that’s true: Without a deal, Iran would surely develop a bomb more quickly, leading Saudi Arabia and perhaps others to do the same.

But surely Obama doesn’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t discuss the other possible consequences of the deal. American liberals in particular should discuss these things. Nuclear non-proliferation is an old-school liberal value, but so is seeing our country take stands against the fundamentalist extremism that Iran exports and the kind of slaughter of civilians we see in Syria.

I was pleased to see that Hillary Clinton’s statement on the deal took both of these concerns seriously. Oddly, it’s not on her website. I got it via email, and the part that impressed me says this: “Going forward, we have to be clear-eyed when it comes to the broader threat Iran represents.  Even with a nuclear agreement, Iran poses a real challenge to the United States and our partners and a grave threat to our ally Israel. It continues to destabilize countries from Yemen to Lebanon, while exacerbating the conflict in Syria. It is developing missiles that can strike every country in the Middle East. And it fuels terrorism throughout the region and beyond, including through direct support to Hamas and Hizballah.  We have to broadly confront and raise the costs for Iran’s destabilizing activities…”

That’s real liberal internationalism, and I hope she spells out in the coming weeks what “broadly confront” means. I’d rather have her doing it than Jeb Bush or Scott Walker.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Chris Coons, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“Have Only Themselves To Blame”: If The GOP Had Settled The Immigration Issue, It Wouldn’t Have A Donald Trump Problem

You cannot overstate how embarrassing Donald Trump has become for the GOP. The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower is getting pantsed by a tacky reality TV star and Clinton Foundation donor who tweeted that Jeb Bush likes “Mexican illegals because of his wife.” A man who has repeatedly made can’t-lose enterprises like casinos and New York real estate go bankrupt has the gall to get off the phone with his party’s chairman and tell the media, “We’re not dealing with a five-star Army general.” The Republican leadership even confesses that it is paralyzed by this crazy right-wing challenger whose last presidential run began by quitting the GOP for the Reform Party, with the explanation: “I really believe the Republicans are just too crazy right.”

But the truth is that Republicans have only themselves to blame. Trump’s success in the polls is not just a matter of spectacle. Republicans have let the issue of illegal immigration simmer for two decades. And rather than pick a course and stick to it, the party has done a series of head fakes. That has allowed Trump to ride this issue, more than any other, into the top tier of early polling.

During election season, Republicans typically campaign as get-tough, border-patrolling Minutemen. “Complete the danged fence,” John McCain growled in a 2010 campaign ad, while invoking the specters of drug smugglers and home invasions. After the election, however, Republicans draw close to The Wall Street Journal editorial board and try to come up with less damning euphemisms for amnesty. And ensconced in office, they lecture other Republicans, as John McCain did in Time magazine last year, saying that without comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship (read: amnesty) the party is doomed.

This is the party’s style on other issues as well. The drawl disappears on Election Day. George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 on a tide of Evangelical votes, then spent all of his political capital failing to pass a privatization of Social Security and a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Neither featured heavily in his campaign, and they both died.

No wonder, then, that a certain breed of Republican primary voter is taking a shine to Trump. Whatever can be said about the substance of Trump’s utterances, the tone of sneering populist contempt never varies. His political strategy is to go on permanent offense by being perpetually offensive. To voters accustomed to the Republican head-fake, the man with the fake-looking head has a certain kind of integrity. Yes, he’s an ass. But at least he’s always that way.

The GOP knows that immigration is a powerful issue. But the party has avoided the chance to do something about it for two decades. A restrictionist position single-handedly saved the career of California’s Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s. The issue fueled the Buchanan insurgency that nearly derailed Bob Dole’s nomination in 1996. At that time the issue even threatened to split off some Democrats. Former Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s commission on the issue called for reducing even legal immigration levels. “Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave,” she said.

Alternating between fear of current restrictionist voters and cowardice before future Latino voters, the GOP has never said anything so clear as Barbara Jordan. Instead the issue has been ceded to populist media figures like cable television’s Lou Dobbs, talk radio’s Michael Savage, and the one-woman anvil chorus, Ann Coulter. It has been transformed from a normal policy question that every nation faces to a hotheaded insult directed south of the border.

Donald Trump is just the latest of these media figures, but unlike the rest he has the money and the lack of self-awareness to run for office and unburden himself about it. But the GOP could have avoided this by settling the issue one way or the other.

Had the GOP taken the hint after Gov. Wilson’s re-election, and worked with Democrats like Barbara Jordan, they could have taken the issue off the field for a generation. A decade later, they had the chance to do the same again when George W. Bush pushed for comprehensive reform. The public’s fury over the war in Iraq and a stalling economy were coming to hit the party anyway, and anger from the conservative base over Bush’s reform would have made little difference in 2006 and 2008.

Instead the party did nothing. And now it reaps the whirlwind of Trump’s hot air.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, July 13, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Jeb Bush Suffers From Foot In Mitt Disease”: As Simple As That, The Beleaguered American Middle-Class Proles Are Slackers

Jeb Bush ought to be running away with the Republican nomination. He isn’t, and his persona as a national candidate looks increasingly — how shall I put this? — Romneyesque.

Bush is supposed to be the safe, establishment-approved choice, which is where the Republican Party usually turns. He and his allied super PAC have raised a phenomenal $114 million thus far. The hot mess that is Donald Trump ought to be sending GOP primary voters toward Bush’s column in droves. But the scion-in-waiting hasn’t yet consolidated the establishment’s support.

Instead, Bush made news for announcing an economic strategy that sounded straight from the Mitt Romney playbook. He told the New Hampshire Union Leader that “people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.”

Simple as that, beleaguered American middle-class proles. You’re slacking.

The echo of Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark was unmistakable. Bush seemed to blame those struggling in these unsettled economic times for their own predicament. Coming from a man who was born into great wealth and privilege, it was tone-deaf to say the least.

Politically, Bush’s pronouncement was the equivalent of a hanging curveball over the fat part of the plate. Hillary Clinton couldn’t have missed it if she tried.

“Well, he must not have met very many American workers,” the likely Democratic nominee said Monday in a speech outlining her economic policy. “Let him tell that to the nurse who stands on her feet all day, or the teacher who is in that classroom, or the trucker who drives all night. Let him tell that to the fast-food workers marching in the streets for better pay. They don’t need a lecture. They need a raise.”

Bush’s supporters claimed that what the candidate meant to say had to do with the millions of men and women who would like to have full-time jobs but are settling for part-time work — and also the millions who have dropped out of the workforce altogether. But why, then, didn’t he speak of the need to create better jobs for the underemployed? Why did he approach the problem from the opposite angle by blaming the workers for their plight?

There are two possible explanations. One is that Bush, like his father and brother, clearly has a troubled relationship with proper syntax. He may never match George Bush the Younger’s classic mangling of the language — he once said “you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda” — but Jeb appears to have the potential, at least, to match George Bush the Elder for linguistic pratfalls.

When he was reacting to Trump’s anti-Mexican screeds, Bush tried to warn that the Republican Party could not succeed by appearing to be angry and negative all the time rather than sunny and positive. But he couldn’t find some elusive synonym for anger and instead went “grr,” thus creating one of the campaign’s most entertaining sound bites to date.

So maybe the “work longer hours” line was simply the kind of clumsy misstatement that Bush’s aides will spend a lot of time and effort cleaning up in the coming months. But maybe — and this is the other explanation for the remarks — it’s what he really believes.

If any Republican is going to win the White House, I’m confident it won’t be by scolding the middle class for its shortcomings. It is clear that Americans have no problem electing wealthy candidates. But in the 2012 campaign, Romney inadvertently helped define himself, accurately or not, as a rich man who held the less fortunate in contempt. People don’t like that so much.

With Trump (speaking of contemptuous rich men) now drawing the support of up to 13 percent of Republicans in recent polls, you would think the saner factions of the party would be coalescing around an alternative. But they’re still shopping. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who formally entered the race Monday, is about to have his day in the sun. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is still polling well. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Texas governor Rick Perry and political neophyte Carly Fiorina all have significant establishment support.

All this suggests to me that the GOP mainstream, determined to avoid Romney Redux, hasn’t made up its mind yet about Bush. As his brother once said, “Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again!”

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 13, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Jeb Bush, Middle Class, Working Class | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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