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“A Winning Theme”: Clinton’s America Never Stopped Being Great

Sometimes, you take your laughs where you find them. For me, the funniest moment in an otherwise dreary and intermittently scary election year came when Candidate Trump visited the old state fairgrounds in Little Rock. A character seemingly straight out of a Charles Portis novel provided the most incisive commentary.

The author of “True Grit” is the state’s best novelist, a master of deadpan comedy in a tone-perfect Arkansas twang.

According to the newspaper, a Trump supporter carrying a “Make America Great Again” sign encountered a young man on his way into the arena to bask in the Great Braggart’s eerie orange glow.

“America’s already great, you dumb-butt!” the kid said.

He could have been Portis’s Norwood Pratt, the would-be country singer traveling the country with Joann the Wonder Hen, the College Educated Chicken. An ex-Marine, Norwood wasn’t one to mince words.

So there was Hillary Clinton on the night of her thunderous win over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary.

“We don’t need to make America great again,” she said. “America never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show by everything we are in this together.”

Ain’t that the truth? Maybe not in Trump World, where voters who never tire of proclaiming their holiness are voting for an aging playboy who brags about the married women he’s seduced. (In his book The Art of the Deal.) But he’s going to put Them back in their place, isn’t he?

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Anyway, I suspect Hillary has found a winning theme.

Meanwhile, pundits seem oddly reluctant to say so, but Bernie’s candidacy imploded due to a classic political blunder when he accused his opponent of pandering to African-American voters by supporting President Obama.

“Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the president as closely as she possibly can. Everything the president does is wonderful. She loves the president, he loves her and all that stuff,” Sanders said sarcastically. “And we know what that’s about. That’s trying to win support from the African-American community, where the president is enormously popular.”

Never mind that she was Obama’s Secretary of State. Bernie delivered these remarks in an interview with BET’s Marc Lamont Hill on February 18. His poll numbers have plummeted like a stone ever since.

In early February, Gallup reported that Sanders’ net favorable rating stood at 57 percent to Clinton’s 44. By the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries, those numbers were reversed. Bernie dropped thirteen points as Clinton rose.

I wouldn’t presume to speak for black voters, but they tend to be very acute about being patronized. Indeed, 81 percent of Democrats generally have a favorable opinion of President Obama, along with a reported 97 percent of black voters in South Carolina.

Sanders’ remarks weren’t merely insulting, but tone deaf and objectively dumb. As South Carolina’s Rep. Jim Clyburn put it, “I don’t know how you can look at Mrs. Clinton’s history—she was not running for president in the 1970s when she came to South Carolina to work with those African-American juvenile detainees or juvenile inmates trying to better their conditions, when she went to work with Marian Wright Edelman, a native of Bennettsville, South Carolina, to come down here working with her trying to better the lives of children…So, what was she doing? Who was she pandering to back then?”

Not Barack Obama, Clyburn noted, who was in junior high school.

But then the Sanders campaign’s idea of a South Carolina surrogate was Princeton professor and controversialist Cornell West, author of this immortal trope:

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men. It’s understandable,” West said. “As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white…When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening.”

Nothing scarier than a Princeton revolutionary.

West recently suggested that civil rights icons Clyburn and Rep. John Lewis had sold out to Wall Street.

“Tell you what,” President Obama might have responded if he were a character in a Portis novel, “don’t pee on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.”

As the results of this foolishness became manifest, some Sanders supporters began suggesting it was wrong for “red state” voters to have so much to say about the Democratic nomination.

Only Yankees need apply.

“Given the reality of a Republican presidential primary where the candidates are racing to outdo each other in their contempt for people of color…” Nancy LeTourneau writes in Washington Monthly, “is it any surprise that African Americans would assume that this country is facing the threat of a confederate insurgency?”

No surprise at all.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Black Voters, Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Missouri Suicide Haunts Ted Cruz Campaign”: Campaign Manager Jeff Roe’s Bad-Boy Brand Is Major Hindrance To Cruz’s Presidential Hopes

One year ago today, the Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich took his own life.

Schweich’s political mentor, former Sen. John Danforth, blames Ted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, for contributing to his death and said Cruz’s decision to hire him should give voters pause.

It’s not a universal view—far from it. Roe rejects any responsibility for the suicide, and police haven’t in any way assigned him with legal culpability for Schweich’s death. But as Cruz’s opponents question his character, some point to Schweich’s death as evidence of a morally sick presidential campaign.

At the very least, it’s a PR nightmare.

As Cruz gears up for a month of primaries that will likely determine the Republican nominee, his campaign manager has gotten significant attention. That includes a Page One New York Times story describing Roe as “an operative with a reputation for scorching earth, stretching truths, and winning elections.”

Danforth says the truth is less sexy: that Roe loses—a lot—and that his bad-boy brand is a major hindrance to Cruz’s presidential hopes.

A year ago, Roe was working for Catherine Hanaway, who was (and still is) running in the primary to be Missouri’s next Republican gubernatorial nominee. Schweich, then the state auditor, was the contest’s frontrunner. The race got ugly fast.

One of Hanaway’s supporters, John Hancock, started telling people that Schweich was Jewish. Hancock said he may have mentioned Schweich’s heritage to a few people as a neutral fact, and didn’t intend to hurt his chances by stoking anti-Semitism.

Schweich, in fact, was not Jewish; he was Episcopalian, though of Jewish ancestry. Schweich suspected Hanaway’s allies had launched an anti-Semitic whisper campaign against him—a prospect he found deeply disturbing, according to reports from local and national publications.

Another part of the race was weighing on his mind as well: a radio ad, narrated by a Frank Underwood sound-alike, that criticized his physical appearance by saying he looked like the deputy sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show. The ad, which you can listen to here, also called Schweich weak.

“Once Schweich obtains the Republican nomination, we will quickly squash him like the little bug that he is,” intoned the narrator.

Roe, working for Hanaway’s campaign, took responsibility for the ad. He told The Kansas City Star that he paid for it to air during The Rush Limbaugh Show. The ad left Schweich deeply shaken, according to his friends.

“I talked to Tom two days before he shot himself to death and he was terribly upset,” Danforth told The Daily Beast. “And he was upset about two things: One was the radio commercial that was being run making fun of his physical appearance. But even more, he was upset about what I would call a fishing expedition in the waters of anti-Semitism.”

Two days after that conversation, Schweich shot himself. The death shocked the Missouri political world. According to The Washington Post, his wife subsequently told police that he’d talked about suicide in the past while holding a gun.

Danforth said Roe bears some responsibility for Schweich’s death.

“Yes, of course, of course he does,” he said. “When two days before a man shoots himself to death he’s upset about a radio commercial and it’s Roe’s commercial—of course. You don’t just do dirty things to people and then just walk away from it as though, ‘Oh, I didn’t do anything.’ Of course you did. ‘I’m not responsible.’ Of course you are. Of course you’re responsible.”

Danforth made similar comments in the homily for Schweich’s funeral, which he delivered.

“Words, for Jesus, could be the moral equivalent of murder,” he said in the homily last year. “He said if we insult a brother or sister, we will be liable. He said if we call someone a fool, we will be liable to hell.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Roe declined to give additional comment on any allegations of culpability for Schweich’s death.

A few months after the suicide, Roe told The Kansas City Star that the death had saddened him. And he defended the ad.

“His resemblance to Barney Fife had been characterized in Missouri newspapers,” Roe told the paper. “He made fun of himself on the stump. It was a parody.”

Speaking with The Daily Beast, Roe said attacks on the moral character of Cruz’s campaign are meritless.

“This campaign is being fueled by millions of people around the country who are putting their heart and soul into electing a consistent conservative, and of course our opponents would have to attack our underlying credibility of telling the truth,” he said.

“They want to change the subject from their liberal records, that they admit, and that’s exactly what we see here,” Roe added.

Though Danforth—the elder statesman of Missouri Republican politics—blames Roe for the death, other prominent conservatives in the state defend him.

“Nobody should be blamed for a guy’s suicide,” said Ed Martin, the president of Eagle Forum, which is based in St. Louis. “I don’t lay it on Roe or anybody.”

Martin added that he disapproved of Danforth’s homily.

“Danforth’s homily, when I sat in the pew, it was a terrible thing—it was a terribly inappropriate thing,” he said. “Danforth should have held a press conference afterwards, not at the eulogy. And because of that, it really spun the whole argument in a way that wasn’t really fair.”

And he said the attacks Schweich faced are just politics as usual—and that if he hadn’t committed suicide, they wouldn’t have drawn special reprobation.

Bill Kenney, who heads Missouri’s Public Service Commission, concurred.

“I think any politician realizes that politics is politics,” said Kenney, who is a former state senator. “The radio ads didn’t cause Tom Schweich to take his life.

“I like Jeff,” he added. “I’m glad I’m out of politics so I don’t have him against me.”

After Schweich’s death, many called for a change in Missouri’s political culture.

“The auditor might have pulled the trigger, but the bullies who were campaigning against him held the gun to his head,” read an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Tom Schweich is a martyr for the cause,” the same editorial said.

But a year later, Danforth said, things aren’t better. And now, one of the men he holds partly culpable for Schweich’s death is running a top-tier presidential campaign.

Danforth also said the so-called dirty tricks that have damaged the Cruz campaign’s reputation are all classic Jeff Roe. As examples of those tricks, he pointed to the “voter violation” mailer in Iowa, the false statement that Carson was about to drop out of the presidential race, and the use of a photoshopped image of Marco Rubio shaking hands with President Obama.

“I don’t know Roe, but I know what he did to Schweich,” he said. “And as soon as I saw what happened to Carson in Iowa, I said to myself, this is Jeff Roe.”

Martin said Cruz shouldn’t be surprised that his campaign is taking significant heat for its tactics. After all, he said, that’s what Cruz should have expected when he hired Roe: controversy and criticism.

“He likes to play very aggressively and flashily,” Martin said. “There are plenty of people who do hardball tactics who you never hear from, you never know. Then there’s the Lee Atwater model, where you talk about it, and the Jeff Roe model, where you revel in it.

“He’s got a problem now,” Martin continued. “And I bet they’ll address it, but they definitely have a perception problem.”

Danforth said the Cruz campaign has far greater problems than its image.

“In The New York Times article about Roe it said, ‘Well, he’s a master of dirty tricks, but it works,’” Danforth said. “Well, I don’t think it does.”

Danforth noted that while Roe has helped several candidates win statewide races, he’s also chalked up a number of high-profile losses—including a blistering defeat in Jackson County, where he led a $1 million effort in 2013 to hike sales taxes. Fewer than 14 percent of voters ended up supporting the effort.

“I don’t think losing a campaign in Kansas City 86 to 14 is exactly a stellar accomplishment,” Danforth said. “You almost have to try to do that. Who’d ever hire this guy?”

Other statewide losses include Sarah Steelman’s defeat in the 2008 gubernatorial primary, Brad Lager’s 2008 general election bid for treasurer, and Bill Stouffer’s campaign in the 2012 Republican primary for secretary of state.

Roe has won plenty of races, especially on the local and congressional levels. But statewide, he’s also lost a lot.

A year later, Schweich’s family and friends still grieve.

“I think he was probably too sensitive a person to be in elective politics, but so what?” Danforth said. “Does that mean that we all only want the rough-and-tumble people in politics? I don’t think so. Is it OK to pick on somebody who is sensitive? I don’t think so.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, February 26, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Jeff Roe, Missouri Republican Party, Ted Cruz, Tom Schweich | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Super-Duper Tuesday”: March 15 Could Be A Bigger Deal For The 2016 Presidential Race Than Super Tuesday

A few weeks ago, I began to map out the March Madness that is the race for the White House. There has been a lot of focus on yesterday’s March 1 Super Tuesday line up. On the Democratic side after all, 859 delegates were at stake, roughly 20 per cent of the total. Republicans had about 25 per cent at stake.

For both parties, things shook out more or less as expected: advantage Clinton and Trump. But, given the results, one can argue that the lead up to March 15 and that big day may be even more critical.

For the Democrats, 11 states are up in the next two weeks with nearly 1,000 at stake, more than yesterday’s total. Three of these are caucuses – Maine, Nebraska and Kansas – and the rest are primaries. Michigan next week has 130 delegates, Florida has 214, Illinois has 156, Ohio has 143, North Carolina has 107 and Missouri has 71. As we know with the Democrats, there are no winner-take-all primaries and delegates are awarded proportionately.

For the Republicans, one can argue that the winner-take-all primaries of Florida and Ohio are now looming as critical to any effort to stop Donald Trump. Sen. Marco Rubio has to win Florida and Gov. John Kasich has to win Ohio. If Trump wins those states, plus does well in the other 13 contests, he will be well on his way to securing a majority of the delegates.

Clinton is piling up large delegate leads in states with very diverse populations, especially in the South. She stands to not only win Louisiana and Mississippi handily in the next couple of weeks but also could score big victories in Illinois (with a 43 percent non-white Democratic primary electorate), North Carolina (38 percent non-white), Florida (34 percent non-white), and possibly Michigan (28 percent non-white) and Ohio (24 percent non-white).

Sen. Bernie Sanders can not win enough delegates by scoring victories in caucus states like Maine, Nebraska or Kansas. He must win the big states and Michigan is the first up on March 8. He has the money to stay in and compete but this is now about the math. He can’t continue to lose major delegate-rich states, especially by large margins.

So, the next two weeks and March 15 will be very important for Clinton’s march to 2,383 delegates and Trump’s effort to amass 1,237. Unless Sanders can show that he can win in a number of these big delegate-rich states, he will not be able to overtake Clinton, especially with her huge lead with the 712 super delegates. Also, Republicans’ efforts to stop Trump may rise or fall in the next two weeks.

There will be more to come, but we may be talking about the Super-sized Tuesday come March 15.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Democratic Presidential Primaries, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“We Can’t Do The Rubio Thing Anymore”: More Bad News For Marco Rubio: He Just Lost The Support Of Fox News

In his role as the donor class’s darling, Marco Rubio has enjoyed support from the Republicans’ media arm, Fox News. Throughout the primary, Fox provided Rubio with friendly interviews and key bookings, including the first prime-time response to Barack Obama’s Oval Office address on ISIS. Many of the network’s top pundits, including Stephen Hayes and Charles Krauthammer, have been enthusiastic boosters. Bill Sammon, Fox’s Washington managing editor, is the father of Rubio’s communications director, Brooke Sammon.

But this alliance now seems to be over. According to three Fox sources, Fox chief Roger Ailes has told people he’s lost confidence in Rubio’s ability to win. “We’re finished with Rubio,” Ailes recently told a Fox host. “We can’t do the Rubio thing anymore.”

Ailes was already concerned about Rubio’s lackluster performance in GOP primaries and caucuses, winning only one contest among the 15 that have been held. But the more proximate cause for the flip was an embarrassing New York Times article revealing that Rubio and Ailes had a secret dinner meeting in 2013 during which the Florida senator successfully lobbied the Fox News chief to throw his support behind the “Gang of 8” comprehensive immigration-reform bill. “Roger hates seeing his name in print,” a longtime Ailes associate told me. “He was appalled the dinner was reported,” the source said.

Already, there are on-air signs that Fox’s attitude toward Rubio has cooled. This morning, anchor Martha MacCallum grilled Rubio about his poor Super Tuesday performance. “Is that a viable excuse at this point?” she asked, when he tried spinning his second-place finish in Virginia.

Fox’s corporate support of Rubio has also been a growing source of tension with the network’s more conservative talent. Sean Hannity was furious that the Times article reported how he went along with Rubio’s immigration proposal. During an interview with Trump on Monday, Hannity barely defended Fox while Trump trashed Rubio backers like Hayes. “He shouldn’t be on the air,” Trump said. The best Hannity could muster was to change the subject. “Have you ever watched MSNBC?” he said. “They suck.”

Ailes is now back to searching for a candidate the channel can rally behind. “He’s thinking, What do we do about the whole damn thing?” one of the news executive’s friends said.

Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti did not return a call for comment.

 

By: Gabriel Sherman, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Fox News, GOP Campaign Donors, Marco Rubio, Roger Ailes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Marco Rubio Is Right: Donald Trump Is A Con Man”: The Key To The Donald’s Success Has Always Been A Gullible Public

Even now, as Republicans mount a last, desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump, they have to do it on his terms, not theirs.

They tried saying he wasn’t conservative enough, because, they thought, isn’t that what we’ve been arguing about for the last few years? Who’s a real conservative and who isn’t? But it turned out that while ideology matters a great deal to the elite, it’s less important to the rank and file, and it doesn’t matter at all to the plurality of Republican voters supporting Trump. Then they figured he might just implode on his own, so nobody bothered to dig up the dirt that would arm them against him. Despite the fact that there surely is plenty there.

It was the South Carolina primary that finally made Republicans realize that everything they had been doing when it came to Trump was wrong. It wasn’t just that he won, it was that he won after a debate in which he actually—brace yourself—criticized George W. Bush for not stopping September 11. Jaws hung slack as one of the most critical conservative taboos was violated, and someone calling himself a Republican mocked the idea that Bush “kept us safe.” Then Trump won South Carolina anyway, and won Nevada to boot.

After that, Marco Rubio obviously decided that the only way to beat Trump was to be Trump, or at least a somewhat less compelling version of him. So the guy who had touted himself as knowledgeable, smart, and serious went out and started tossing personal insults at Trump, with all the cleverness of your average fifth grader. “Donald Trump likes to sue people,” Rubio said. “He should sue whoever did that to his face.” Zing! Trump replied that Rubio isn’t smart enough to get into the University of Pennsylvania, where he went to school. Zap!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln would be so proud.

But in the back-and-forth, Rubio may have come upon an attack that might lead some people to reconsider their support of Trump: that he’s a con man.

At the moment, Rubio is making the case through the story of Trump University, which does indeed appear to have been a con. People desperate to change their financial circumstances were roped into seminars on the belief they’d be learning Trump’s real-estate secrets, when in fact, “The contents and materials presented by Trump University were developed in large part by a third-party company that creates and develops materials for an array of motivational speakers and seminar and time-share rental companies,” according to a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Once they had you there, they’d tell you that to learn the real secrets you’d have to pay for a higher-level (and of course even more expensive) seminar. And the instructors “urged students to call their credit card companies during a break in the sessions, requesting increases to their credit limits.”

While Trump University may be the clearest example of a con game Trump has established, is it really that far from Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, or the Trump presidential campaign? Trump’s business these days is less about real estate than it is about monetizing his brand. Here’s the model: Take a crappy third-rate product, slap the name “Trump” on it, and hope that rubes who are blinded by the big plane and the gold-plated furnishings will think they’re buying success.

But the idea that Trump is a con man isn’t potent simply because it’s true. Like the most successful campaign messages, it not only tells you something about who the candidate is, it tells you something about who you are if you vote for him.

The best presidential campaigns have always done this. If you voted for Richard Nixon in 1968, you were part of the Silent Majority, the ones who were sick and tired of hippies and protesters and the degradation of their society. If you voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, you were optimistic and confident, ready to march into an American future that would be just like the past, only even better. And if you voted for Barack Obama in 2008, you were young, hip, creative, multicultural, open-minded, and future-oriented.

The story Trump tells is that his voters are fed up with losing, angry at the idiots in Washington, and ready for a strong leader who can kick the stuffing out of all the immigrants and foreigners keeping us down. But there’s another story you can tell about them: They’re marks. They’re losers. They’re suckers.

Every con man needs suckers, after all—the people who are gullible and dumb enough to turn over their money (or in this case their votes) to the one doing the conning. But a sucker is the last thing anyone wants to be.

The trouble is that America is full of suckers. We’re a nation of people who pay money to have motivational speakers tell us to reach for our dreams, who buy books describing three-year-olds who got to heaven and meet Jesus on his “rainbow horse,” who also bought millions and millions of copies of The Secret, which told you that if you wanted something, like a new Hermes handbag, you just needed to imagine yourself having it and it would actualize its way to you. We’re a nation of the Puritan ethic but also of the get-rich-quick scheme, and Donald Trump’s presidential run is the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme. Just vote for Trump, and before you know it “We will have so much winning … you will get bored with winning.”

Well if you believe that, you are indeed a sucker. The problem for Marco Rubio and the rest of the GOP is that it may just be too late to make the case. Super Tuesday is this week, and Trump may deliver a crushing blow to his opponents as all those suckers come out to vote for him, ready to make America great again. How long can he keep this con going? We’re all going to find out.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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