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“So Long As Party Loyalty Reigns, ‘Never Trump’ Is Just Noise”: Attacks On The GOP Frontrunner Are Little More Than Theater

Oddly enough, two of the most important and memorable moments from last night’s Republican debate came at the beginning and the end. Early on, as we discussed this morning, Donald Trump defended himself from Marco Rubio’s personal attacks by making an oblique reference to his genitals. It represented yet another new low in Republican politics.

But nearly two hours later, Fox News’ Bret Baier asked literally the final question of the event: “It has been a long time since our first debate, seven months ago in Cleveland. A lot has transpired since then, obviously, including an RNC pledge that all of you signed agreeing to support the party’s nominee and not to launch an independent run. Tonight, in 30 seconds, can you definitively say you will support the Republican nominee, even if that nominee is Donald J. Trump?” And then they answered:

Marco Rubio: “I’ll support the Republican nominee. I’ll support Donald if he’s the Republican nominee.”

Ted Cruz: “Yes, because I gave my word that I would.”

John Kasich: “[If Trump] ends up as the nominee – sometimes, he makes it a little bit hard – but, you know, I will support whoever is the Republican nominee for president.”

It was a striking moment. Rubio, Cruz, and to a lesser extent Kasich, had just spent the previous two hours – indeed, much of the last several months – making clear that they don’t want to see Trump anywhere near the Oval Office.

In fact, the Republican frontrunner’s rivals are in need of a thesaurus after nearly running out of attacks. We’ve been told that Trump’s a “con man,” a “fraud,” and a “lunatic,” who’s “unqualified” and “unfit” to lead.

And yet, when push comes to shove, Trump has an “R” after his name – and for the Republican presidential field, that’s ultimately all that matters. If voting for the Republican nominee means making an actual “lunatic” the leader of the free world, according to the GOP’s 2016 field, so be it.

NBC News’ First Read crew explained this well: “They were stunning responses [at the end of the debate], because they undercut the furious #NeverTrump movement we’ve seen over the past week. If you’re going to accuse Trump of being a con artist, a buffoon, or a threat to the country, how can you so easily say you’d support him as your party’s presidential nominee?”

Exactly. For all the handwringing about Trump being a danger to the party, to the economy, to national security, and possibly to our democracy, the moment leading Republicans say, “I’m prepared to vote for him anyway,” the implicit message to voters is unmistakable: “Trump isn’t really that bad.”

There’s simply no way for voters to reconcile the mixed message. If Trump were as bad as his GOP critics say, they’d vow to oppose his candidacy at all costs. Instead, most of them, including each of the remaining Republican presidential candidates, are saying the opposite.

The entire #NeverTrump campaign was suddenly deflated by the very people who stood to benefit from it. The end-of-the-debate positions signaled to voters that the intensity of their attacks on the GOP frontrunner are little more than theater – because they all stand ready to elect Trump anyway if it’s his name on the ballot.

Postscript: The Rubio campaign, which is quite literally selling #NeverTrump kitsch on its website, tried to make the case in the spin room last night the senator’s vow didn’t really count because the question raised “a hypothetical” that Team Rubio believes “won’t happen.”

Just so we’re clear, Rubio said during the debate, on camera, to a national audience, “I’ll support Donald if he’s the Republican nominee.” There’s simply no getting around that.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, GOP Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Clash Of Republican Con Artists”: Is Trump More Fraudulent Than The Establishment Trying To Stop Him? Not Really

So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.

But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.

Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?

Donald Trump is a “con artist,” says Marco Rubio — who has promised to enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.

“There can be no evasion and no games,” thunders Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — whose much-hyped budgets are completely reliant on “mystery meat,” that is, it claims trillions of dollars in revenue can be collected by closing unspecified tax loopholes and trillions more saved through unspecified spending cuts.

Mr. Ryan also declares that the “party of Lincoln” must “reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.” Has he ever heard of Nixon’s “Southern strategy”; of Ronald Reagan’s invocations of welfare queens and “strapping young bucks” using food stamps; of Willie Horton?

Put it this way: There’s a reason whites in the Deep South vote something like 90 percent Republican, and it’s not their philosophical attachment to libertarian principles.

Then there’s foreign policy, where Mr. Trump is, if anything, more reasonable — or more accurately, less unreasonable — than his rivals. He’s fine with torture, but who on that side of the aisle isn’t? He’s belligerent, but unlike Mr. Rubio, he isn’t the favorite of the neoconservatives, a.k.a. the people responsible for the Iraq debacle. He’s even said what everyone knows but nobody on the right is supposed to admit, that the Bush administration deliberately misled America into that disastrous war.

Oh, and it’s Ted Cruz, not Mr. Trump, who seems eager to “carpet bomb” people, without appearing to know what that means.

In fact, you have to wonder why, exactly, the Republican establishment is really so horrified by Mr. Trump. Yes, he’s a con man, but they all are. So why is this con job different from any other?

The answer, I’d suggest, is that the establishment’s problem with Mr. Trump isn’t the con he brings; it’s the cons he disrupts.

First, there’s the con Republicans usually manage to pull off in national elections — the one where they pose as a serious, grown-up party honestly trying to grapple with America’s problems. The truth is that that party died a long time ago, that these days it’s voodoo economics and neocon fantasies all the way down. But the establishment wants to preserve the facade, which will be hard if the nominee is someone who refuses to play his part.

By the way, I predict that even if Mr. Trump is the nominee, pundits and others who claim to be thoughtful conservatives will stroke their chins and declare, after a great show of careful deliberation, that he’s the better choice given Hillary’s character flaws, or something. And self-proclaimed centrists will still find a way to claim that the sides are equally bad. But both acts will look especially strained.

Equally important, the Trump phenomenon threatens the con the G.O.P. establishment has been playing on its own base. I’m talking about the bait and switch in which white voters are induced to hate big government by dog whistles about Those People, but actual policies are all about rewarding the donor class.

What Donald Trump has done is tell the base that it doesn’t have to accept the whole package. He promises to make America white again — surely everyone knows that’s the real slogan, right? — while simultaneously promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, and hinting at (though not actually proposing) higher taxes on the rich. Outraged establishment Republicans splutter that he’s not a real conservative, but neither, it turns out, are many of their own voters.

Just to be clear, I find the prospect of a Trump administration terrifying, and so should you. But you should also be terrified by the prospect of a President Rubio, sitting in the White House with his circle of warmongers, or a President Cruz, whom one suspects would love to bring back the Spanish Inquisition.

As I see it, then, we should actually welcome Mr. Trump’s ascent. Yes, he’s a con man, but he is also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people’s cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Panders To Forces Of Backlash And Bigotry”: Our Exceptionalism Depends On Our Making Righteous Choices

Donald Trump may well be the most polarizing figure to come along in American politics for several generations. Still, he has managed to unite David Duke and Louis Farrakhan, men whose cultural and political profiles suggest they’d find it hard to agree on anything.

Duke is a former Ku Klux Klan leader who served in the Louisiana House of Representatives before losing several races for higher office. A white nationalist, Duke has traded not only in a frank and forthright bigotry against black people but also in anti-Semitism.

Farrakhan is the leader of the Nation of Islam, a cultish religious organization that claims roots in Islam but is more closely connected to black nationalism. He, too, has a long history of anti-Semitism, as well as reckless and unhinged attacks on white people in general.

Whatever their serious and searing disagreements, both men are attracted to Trump’s presidential candidacy. You probably know by now that Duke has spoken fondly of Trump, telling his presumably white radio audience recently that voting for anyone else is “really treason to your heritage.”

Farrakhan, for his part, has stopped short of an outright endorsement. But he did tell his followers that “I like what I’m looking at” in Trump because the real estate mogul “has stood in front of (the) Jewish community and said, ‘I don’t want your money.’”

If you’ve somehow managed to miss the rise of Trumpism in this most peculiar campaign season, the fawning of Duke and Farrakhan provides a quick guide to the roiling resentments and bitter antagonisms that undergird Trump’s popularity: He hasn’t just attracted bigots, but he has also urged them on. He was slow to repudiate David Duke’s enthusiastic support; he has engaged in a cheap and hateful xenophobia, smearing Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists”; he has vowed to close the United States to all Muslim immigrants.

Though the Republican establishment is belatedly in full-out panic over Trump’s rise, his dominance in the GOP presidential primaries isn’t the most worrisome thing about his campaign. Whatever happens to his candidacy, his voters aren’t going away — and neither are their dangerous passions. Their anger will not be easily placated.

How did we come to this? Isn’t the United States supposed to be the “shining city on a hill,” the exemplar of racial diversity and religious pluralism, the exceptional nation that respects human rights and practices tolerance?

In truth, we’ve never been as exceptional as we claim. Our history shows a faltering and hesitant path toward the practice of our stated ideals, a twisting, wrenching journey toward full equality for all. But either through divine inspiration or sheer luck, the nation has had the right people at the right time, whether Abraham Lincoln or Eleanor Roosevelt or Martin Luther King.

Still, there have always been forces of backlash and bigotry among us. Those forces are most powerful during times of economic dislocation and rapid social change, when ordinary citizens grow anxious about their jobs and fearful about their place in the social order. And we are living through just such a moment: The population is becoming more diverse just as the crosswinds of globalization and technological change have buffeted the economy. It is only too easy for some people to blame the “other,” to find scapegoats in those people who don’t look or sound like them.

Perhaps the nation might have avoided the rise of Donald Trump and his odious politics if more of our political and business leaders had avoided the impulse to pander to hate and to profit from fear. Instead, there has been pandering aplenty. Politicians have played to the peanut gallery, exploiting racial, ethnic and religious fault lines for advantage. Meanwhile, media moguls interested less in policy than in money have found it lucrative to exploit divisions with tendentious news-talk shows that foster fear and cultivate anxiety.

If the nation survives this crazy season — and I still don’t believe we will swear in a President Trump next January — perhaps our leaders will learn an important lesson: This democracy is a delicate matter, a fragile proposition, and it must be nurtured and protected. Our exceptionalism depends on our making righteous choices.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, March 5, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | David Duke, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Louis Farrakhan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Six Years Later, Still In A Bind”: RNC Chair’s Broken Promise Caused 2016 Nightmare

Reince Priebus had an awkward morning.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee appeared before some of his biggest skeptics at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and all but conceded that Trump will be the nominee.

It was hard to watch.

Priebus walked onstage with Sean Hannity, and the pair plopped down in bright white chairs for a heart-to-heart about the state of the presidential race. They started with a fairly dry discussion of the RNC’s re-vamped role as a data-gathering organization, with Priebus insisting that the party was doing everything it could to replicate Obama’s 2012 voter-targeting successes.

In 2012, Priebus noted, the party was “embarrassed.”

(Would hate for anything embarrassing to happen this time around!)

Priebus then effectively put a stake in the heart of Rubio’s presidential hopes. According to reports, Rubio and his team are gearing up for a chaotic turn at the party’s convention this summer—that means they hope they can use back-room deals and horse-trading to help Rubio win the nomination, even if Trump or another candidate gets more votes than he does in the primaries. There’s an emerging consensus that this is the only way Rubio could become the party’s nominee. After all, he’s only won a single early state contest, the Minnesota caucuses. Not great.

But Priebus said he doesn’t think any machinations like that will work.

“I think a lot of this is early talk,” he said, alluding to Rubio’s strategy.

“I think the odds of a contested convention are very small.”

When Hannity pressed him further on the prospects of a contested convention, Priebus all-but-explicitly made a dig at Rubio.

“I would suggest that it’s better to win,” he said. “And it’s better to win races and accumulate delegates.”

There’s only one candidate who is on track to win the nomination the old-fashioned way, and last night he bragged about his penis size.

It wasn’t always this way for Priebus. He was hailed as a hero when he came into the position as Republican National Committee boss following the Tea Party-driven election of 2010. While the election results from that year were fantastic for the RNC, the committee had been rocked by a spending scandal—including a bill for nearly $2,000 at a bonage club in West Hollywood. Donors blamed then-chairman Michael Steele.

Six years later, it was Priebus who was in a bind.

Perhaps more significantly, though, Priebus telegraphed a wee bit of chagrin about his party’s undeliverable (and somewhat impossible) promises. Towards the end of their chit-chat, Hannity pressed Priebus on a fact that’s very ugly for the party: Its voters are pissed.

“You look at the state polls, exit polls in every state, there’s anywhere between 55 and 65 percent of Republicans that feel betrayed,” he said.

“On the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare, on the issue of promising in 2014 to stop executive amnesty, there’s a feeling that Republicans didn’t fight, that they were too timid, that they were afraid they were gonna get blamed for a government shutdown. How does that —”

Priebus interrupted.

“Yeah, if I could singlehandedly repeal Obamacare, if I could, obviously, tear up executive amnesty, I would do it right here,” he said.

“But they had the power of the purse,” Hannity retorted.

“They do, but they also have the Constitution that provides for veto authority,” Priebus replied.

That might sound like a wonky discussion about the mechanics of Congressional funding. But the reality is that it went straight to the heart of why so many loyal, rank-and-file Republican voters are willing to support the guy with the little hands: because on immigration, the Republican Party has over-promised and under-delivered.

In the final week before the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans were working furiously to defeat incumbent Democrat senators and regain control of the upper chamber, Priebus made a promise he couldn’t keep: He promised that Republicans would defund the president’s executive action protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,” he told a Tea Party group on a conference call. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we

That didn’t happen.

In the months after Republicans won back the Senate—thanks in large part to activists rallying behind the party’s anti-undocumented-immigrant rhetoric—nothing happened. Some conservatives in the House and Senate tried to partially defund Department of Homeland Security, and the House took a symbolic vote on it. But fears of a government shutdown kept Republicans from going all-in on the immigration question. So Priebus’s promised opposition never truly materialized.

At CPAC, people remember.

“Look, I’m not—I’m for—I—I—I don’t think you can, you can’t promise things that you can’t deliver,” Priebus said, stammering. “That’s clearly something that you can’t do.”

The crowd murmured and booed.

“As the chairman of the RNC I don’t get—I don’t have the authority to walk across the street and pass the bills singlehandedly,” he said, after Hannity tried to shush the riled-up crowd.

“The people elected—that’s what are primaries for,” he continued.

Gulp.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | CPAC, GOP Presidential Candidates, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can Newt Gingrich Save the GOP?”: He’s Trying To Play Peacemaker Between Republicans And The Trump Campaign

The Republican Party’s establishment is slowly coming to terms with a tough reality: Donald Trump will be the nominee, and resistance is futile.

Newt Gingrich is the latest party elder to try and normalize the ever-increasing possibility of a Trump presidency, visiting with top GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this week to pave the way for a future working relationship.

“The time is coming when you’ve got to put the party back together,” Gingrich told The Daily Beast.

Asked whether he was meeting with GOP leaders about Trump, Gingrich indicated it was more of a casual conversation—but confirmed that he has spoken with party leadership about starting the healing process—no matter which of the four candidates end up winning the nomination.

Behind the scenes, however, Gingrich’s outreach is more obvious. None of the other remaining Republican nominees would require the kind of healing that a Trump presidency would demand.

“Newt has been on the Hill sharing his views on how Congress could work with a Trump administration,” a Republican leadership aide told The Daily Beast. “Gingrich is trying to legitimize Trump while Mitt Romney and others are out there saying he’s terrible. Gingrich is saying that Trump’s positions are valid—he’s trying to add legitimacy to Trump while everyone else is doing the opposite.”

Gingrich visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to sit down with Speaker Ryan and hold a Facebook Q&A. Just the day before, Gingrich waxed poetic about Trump’s “seriousness” and “shift toward inclusiveness” following the Super Tuesday primaries.

Trump’s shift toward inclusiveness, team effort and unity was vitally important. He has to build a Reagan like inclusiveness to win this fall

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 2, 2016

Trump’s decision to hold a serious press conference instead of a campaign speech was masterful and a great contrast to Cruz and Rubio.

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 2, 2016

During one meeting, a leadership aide said, Gingrich said he had been in quiet talks with the Trump campaign.

But Gingrich has stopped “short of endorsing Trump publicly because he knows it’s not the right way to win over conservatives who are alarmed by Trump’s policy positions and rhetoric,” said the aide.

Publicly Gingrich has walked a fine line: praising Trump without quite endorsing him.

“He is a man totally unique. He lives life at a 100 percent pace. I have never seen anything like it,” Gingrich cooed on Fox News Thursday evening. “If he becomes president, there is going to be a wall.”

The former House speaker added, “I don’t mind people saying, ‘I don’t want Trump.’ I mind people saying, ‘I’ll never vote for him.’ I think faced with Hillary [Clinton] as an alternative, that’s a very dangerous position.”

Trump was right to skip CPAC. The votes are in Kansas not Washington. Why give the anti-trump activists a target

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 4, 2016

Gingrich is hardly the only Republican leader, in recent weeks, to make peace with the idea of Donald Trump as the party’s nominee.

“There is so much at stake… however you disagree with Cruz or Rubio or Trump, the moderate Republican Party is going to coalesce against Hillary. She’s the uniter not a divider, she’s going to unite the Republican Party,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, told The Daily Beast. “There were a number of significant Republicans who came out against Goldwater, there were people that talked about doing this against Reagan, but I don’t know that anybody significant did it after the primary.”

 

By: Jackie Kucinich and Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Newt Gingrich | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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