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“Donald The Dangerous”: Heartbreaking Prospect That America’s Next Commander In Chief May Be A Global Joke

Is there any scarier nightmare than President Donald J. Trump in a tense international crisis, indignant and impatient, with his sweaty finger on the nuclear trigger?

“Trump is a danger to our national security,” John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to the State Department under President George W. Bush, bluntly warned.

Most of the discussion about Trump focuses on domestic policy. But checks and balances mean that there are limits to what a president can achieve domestically, while the Constitution gives a commander in chief a much freer hand abroad.

That’s what horrifies America-watchers overseas. Der Spiegel, the German magazine, has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Even the leader of a Swedish nationalist party that started as a neo-Nazi white supremacist group has disavowed Trump. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, reflected the views of many Britons when she tweeted that Trump is worse than Voldemort.

Leading American conservative thinkers on foreign policy issued an open letter a few days ago warning that they could not support Trump. The signatories include Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security, Robert Zoellick, the former deputy secretary of state, and more than 100 others.

“Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe,” the letter declared.

A starting point is Trump’s remarkable ignorance about international affairs. And every time he tries to reassure, he digs the hole deeper. Asked in the latest debate to name people whose foreign policy ideas he respects, Trump offered Gen. Jack Keane, and mispronounced his name.

Asked about Syria, Trump said last year that he would unleash ISIS to destroy Syria’s government. That is insane: ISIS is already murdering or enslaving Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities; executing gays; destroying antiquities; oppressing women. And Trump wants ISIS to capture Damascus?

A second major concern is that Trump would start a trade war, or a real war. Trump told The New York Times in January that he favored a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods, then denied ever having said such a thing. The Times produced the audio (that part of the conversation was on the record) in which Trump clearly backed the 45 percent tariff, risking a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump has also called for more U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, and raised the prospect of bombing North Korean nuclear sites. A poorly informed, impatient and pugnacious leader can cause devastation, and that’s true of either Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump.

The third risk is to America’s reputation and soft power. Both Bush and President Obama worked hard to reassure the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. Trump has pretty much declared war on all Muslims.

The damage to America’s image is already done, even if Trump is never elected. Simply as a blowhard who gains headlines around the world, he reinforces caricatures of the United States and tarnishes our global reputation. He turns America into an object of derision. He is America’s Ahmadinejad.

On Twitter, I suggested that Trump was pugnacious, pugilistic, preening and puerile, and asked for other P words to describe him. The result was a deluge: petulant, pandering, pathetic, peevish, prickly, pernicious, patronizing, Pantagruelian, prevaricating, phony, presumptuous, potty-mouthed, provocative, pompous, predatory and so many more, including the troubling “probably president.”

There’s something heartbreaking about the prospect that America’s next commander in chief may be a global joke, a man regarded in most foreign capitals as a buffoon, and a dangerous one.

Trump is not particularly ideological, and it’s possible that as president he would surround himself with experts and would back off extreme positions. It was a good sign that on Friday he appeared to reverse himself and pledged that he would not order the U.S. military to commit war crimes, yet that’s such an astonishingly low bar that I can’t believe I just wrote this sentence!

In any case, Trump is nothing if not unpredictable, and it seems equally plausible that he would start new wars. It’s a risk that few sensible people want to take. As Mitt Romney notes, “This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who was a national security official in the Bush White House, noted that most Republicans are united in believing that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have damaged the United States and added to the burdens of the next president.

“Yet what Trump promises to do would in some important ways make all of the problems we face dramatically worse,” he told me. “Why, at a moment when the country desperately needs our A-team, would we send in the clowns?”

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 5, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Establishment Gets What It Deserves”: Republicans Stopped Producing Moderates And Wound Up With Trump

The Republican establishment, the one we hear so much about: That wall is crumbling in plain sight.

You may ask how I know this. Once the media and powers that be chose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the last best hope to slow Donald Trump’s rise to the nomination on Super Tuesday, things felt surreal. If that’s true, then the establishment deserves to lose. It is sending too few moderate Republicans to Congress.

From what I’ve seen in the Senate, Rubio does not have the chops to challenge Trump, despite their nasty verbal brawling. In his 40s, Rubio is a slight figure in the Senate, when he is actually there. A bit vacuous, he’s what they call a showhorse, not a workhorse. Few bills bear his name. He balked at his big chance to take part in actually passing legislation, a bipartisan immigration bill that failed in 2013 in a close call.

Rubio comes from the Cuban-American community in Miami and rose on the financial wings of a wealthy car dealer. His base is hard-right, especially bitter when it comes to Fidel Castro and Cuba. Rubio held up an administration diplomatic appointment because the woman had worked on normalizing relations with Cuba. The exiled generation that raised Rubio – and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, roughly the same age – vowed to never forget nor forgive the revolution. They tend to have a dark outlook on foreign policy. At home, Rubio is equally stark, all for requiring – forcing – girls and women victimized by rape or incest (or both) to carry their pregnancies to term. I don’t think he will sell well outside the South.

It’s a lot for the Republican establishment to take in a week. First there was Jeb Bush’s unimaginable fall from tall heights of family and fortune. He had to leave the party early after a fatal fourth finish in South Carolina. It was fun to watch him unwind. The pundits said the environment wasn’t right for Jeb Bush this cycle. The truth is, he was a terribly flat candidate, whatever the cycle. He could not spin anything to his advantage. And it is not as if there is anything noble about his family tree. The Bushes play rough to win, as his father and brother did in their presidential campaigns; just remember the Willie Horton ads against Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Swift Boat campaign wielded against Sen. John Kerry in 2004

So it likely comes down to Trump vs. Rubio. Let’s not forget Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are resilient, stubborn candidates. Cruz is wicked smart – both in equal measure – and Kasich comes across as the reasonable man in this field. Still, it’s a safe bet Trump will take the party on a forced march to the nomination like General Sherman to the sea in the Civil War. He’s just the bracing medicine the formerly grand old party needs to see what it has become.

And it wasn’t overnight. It just seems that way with Bush’s meteoric fall from grace. Observers say Trump will set the party back for years if he becomes the standard-bearer. Let it be. In the meantime, the Republican Party has some serious soul-searching to do.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, February 29, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Can Trump Bully His Way To The White House?”: Channeling Anger In The Most Ugly And Predictable Way

Donald Trump—with his swashbuckling, profanity-laced bigotry and searing, rapid-fire assaults against his opponents—is poised to either upend modern-day conservatism or reveal the true nature of its ideological roots. For now, it appears, his most serious remaining challengers—Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio—possess neither the gravitas nor the electoral might to save the GOP from the darkest impulses of its base.

Notwithstanding their fervent attempts to distance themselves from the billionaire businessman, Trump’s brand of conservatism is a creature of their own making. Until now, as long as the monster could be controlled, it found safe harbor in their midst. It has proven difficult to walk away from Trump wholesale or even authentically criticize him when they themselves have peddled a more digestible, coded form of the same cultural biases.

Trump, however, has now given voice to an ideological strain of extremism that is imbued with an ugly nativist theology and racial animus. Once secreted away in the shadows, where questions of its existence and influence over the party’s platform could be batted away or outright denied, the roots of economic loathing and racial resentment have been unearthed and paraded under cable news studio Klieg lights.

Some of the same party establishment players who chafe at Trump’s prominence now once delighted in the bully’s capacity to fell his foes. One after another, they trekked to his gilded Manhattan office tower to curry the favor of an unrepentant birther. In their lust to reclaim the White House, they relished the fruits of his largesse—pocketing thousands in campaign donations—despite Trump’s extensively documented track record that included allegations of housing discrimination, corporate bankruptcies that crushed small-business owners and their families, and tales of marital infidelity worthy of an E. L. James trilogy.

But, then the tables turned. Trump, the archetypical ruffian, grew dissatisfied with the size of his political kingdom and proffered himself for the grandest prize of them all—the American presidency.

In doing so, Trump, the celebrity wrecking ball who eschews the confines of conservative principles, has built an intractable movement fueled largely by a wave of white male resentment. It is the same tide, advanced by gerrymandering and funded by billionaire kingmakers, that swept through state legislatures—especially in the South—and delivered congressional control to Republicans. It was in that climate, one seeded and nurtured by conservatives, that the Trump candidacy found fertile ground.

“Conservatism has never been about anger,” Rubio told a crowd gathered at CPAC Saturday.

In fact, conservatism—from William F. Buckley to George Wallace, from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich—has always been about the politics of resentment. Rubio’s flowing rhetoric is soundly disproven, both by contemporary evidence and the history of conservatism in the U.S. Party re-alignments that came after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation proclamation and Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Acts demonstrated the willingness of conservatives to switch parties when one or the other proved too liberal for their collective tastes. Because of this, the GOP has not always been the “party of white men.” But conservatism has always been driven by a desire to maintain their political and economic power—and their anger at the possibility of losing it.

And there has always been a chest-thumping, populist ringleader willing to take up that charge.

Early on, Trump validated the most deeply held anxieties of his supporters with coarse language aimed at the marginalized and disenfranchised. He, his base said, was just “telling it like it is.” Only Trump, they believe, can protect them from the boogeyman of their shrinking majority.

Trump’s popularity is buoyed by his ability to channel and manifest the anger of those who believe they are losing power as the country—and the electorate—grows more diverse. For them, the casino magnate is the perfect antidote— the proverbial captain at the blockade—who represents their best and last hope to maintain an economic system built on racial privilege.

No one—least of all Mitt Romney—cared about Trump’s volatile temperament, his string of failed businesses or his proclivity toward xenophobia and chauvinism while he was helping them carry the water. Ironically, for Trump, the measure of leadership is counted in the number of people who fit tidily under his diminutive thumbs—people like Romney, whom Trump alleges was once so desperate for his endorsement that he would have “dropped to his knees.”

That he would utter something so foul, so devoid of basic decorum, should have come as no surprise. According to researchers, studies of teens with history of aggressive bullying behavior suggest that they derive pleasure from seeing others in pain, and there is no question that Trump enjoys pummeling anyone who utters an unkind word about him. His goal has always been to strike enough fear to silence or discredit his naysayers.

“We find that bullies have a strong need to control others,” John Lochman, a psychologist at Duke University Medical School, told The New York Times. “Their need to be dominant masks an underlying fear that they are not in control, and they mask the sense of inadequacy by being a bully.”

“Bullies see the world with a paranoid’s eye,” added Kenneth Dodge, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University. “They feel justified in retaliating for what are actually imaginary harms.”

Like any self-respecting schoolyard bully, Trump is unapologetic, seemingly emboldened by the cheering crowds and rising poll numbers. In turn, his swell of supporters continues filling hotel ballrooms and bingo halls—cheering his unchecked bravado, erupting loudly as he unleashes round after round of bombasts. They rejoice in his ability to degrade and dominate, proudly shoving and heckling dissenting protestors. Young activists for Black Lives Matter have drawn Trump’s specific ire and his supporters make no secret of their disdain.

“Their thuggish and uncivilized actions are going to be met with a response these people understand,” one Trump supporter posted on Facebook.

Trump, who has promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who assaults a demonstrator, has faced no backlash on this issue from his opponents. That silence is tacit approval and now, it appears, nothing stands between Trump and the GOP nomination.

“There’s nothing short of Trump shooting my daughter in the street and my grandchildren—there is nothing and nobody that’s going to dissuade me from voting for Trump,” 71-year-old Lola Butler told a New York Times reporter.

But will it be enough? Can Trump ultimately win the keys to the Oval Office?

“I haven’t even started on her yet,” he says of Hillary Clinton.

However, “the math suggests Trump would need a whopping 70 percent of white men to vote for him,” writes David Bernstein for Politico Magazine. “That’s more than Republicans have ever won before—more than the GOP won in the landslide victories of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and far more than they won even during the racially polarized elections of Barack Obama.”

But that the GOP cannot find a single candidate who can fell this tailor suited-hooligan once and for all, speaks volumes about the party itself. Over time, Trump has vilified undocumented immigrants, suggested a travel ban on all Muslims and even demanded that the nation’s first black president produce his birth certificate and college transcripts—to prove he was born here and had duly earned his laudable achievements. He has openly mocked a reporter living with disabilities and regularly disparaged the journalists who cover his campaign events. Cameras have captured him jeering and sneering at protestors from behind the microphone.

“Get out! Get ’em out!” he shouts.

For his part, Rubio claims Trump is attempting to “hijack” the conservative movement. The truth is the real-estate titan is simply taking the wheel of a car that was custom-built for him.

There is no evidence that a kinder gentler Trump will voluntarily emerge, nor is there—at this point—any incentive for him to rehabilitate his public personae. Once a bully has established his superiority, he tends to escalate the “violence” in order to maintain that reputation. He knows that when the fear is gone, power walks out behind it.

A bully like Trump will continue to wreak havoc on the meek, fueled by his escalating hegemony, until he is felled either by humiliation or brute force (in this case, a brokered convention). Or, as my late Uncle Ross used to say, “They won’t stop until you knock ’em on their ass.”

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, March 6, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Forced To Show His Hand”: Marco Rubio; By ‘NeverTrump,’ I Only Mean ‘I’m Never Voting For Donald Trump In The Republican Primary’

Marco Rubio has rebranded his presidential campaign as the “NeverTrump” candidacy, trying to appeal to conservatives who regard the current front-runner as a dangerous authoritarian they could never support, even if nominated. But it’s clear that Rubio does not subscribe to the “NeverTrump” analysis. At Thursday night’s debate, he conceded he would vote for whomever the party nominates, even Trump. Asked about it again on a radio interview, Rubio reaffirmed his position. “For me, I’m never voting for Donald Trump in the Republican primary … that’s the point that I was making,” he explained. So that means Rubio can count on at least one vote for himself in Florida’s March 15 primary.

Obviously, the (completely justified) passion behind the NeverTrump movement is useful for Rubio’s political ambitions. But it’s only useful up until such time as the party selects a nominee. If the nominee is Trump, Rubio will need to fall in line to have a career in Republican politics. And if Rubio manages to pull the nomination out of some contested-convention scenario, he’ll also need to patch things up with Trump so his voters turn out.

But by admitting he’s not really with “NeverTrump,” Rubio undercuts his appeal to Republican elites. The point of that campaign is to tell the party Establishment not to make its peace with Trump. A Trump nomination, they are saying, will split the party in two and cause a large schismatic faction to either stay home or back a splinter candidacy. That threat is designed to stop, or at least slow, the trickle of Establishment surrender to the front-runner. But that tactic only works if the NeverTrumpers can make the threat credible. Some of them will follow through, but a lot of them — especially the ones whose careers are most closely tied to partisan politics — are bluffing. Rubio has been forced to show his hand.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 4, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio | , , , , | 3 Comments

“Cuddling Up To Criminals”: Criminal-Justice Reform At CPAC

Attendees wait in line to vote in the presidential straw poll at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Thursday, March 3, 2016.

On Thursday, conservatives of all stripes descended on the Gaylord National Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland, just a few miles south of Washington, D.C. In recent years, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference has featured presentations on topics ranging from the future of the Republican Party to voter engagement to criminal-justice reform, which lately has gained support from the right side of the aisle.

This year’s panel on criminal-justice reform featured a debate pitting reformers Pat Nolan of the American Conservative Union and Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, against lock-’em-up apostle David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who’d famously compared Black Lives Matter protesters to ISIS terrorists.

“Folks,” Clarke began, “you’re not being told the truth when it comes to this criminal-justice reform and sentencing reform.” Clarke went on to tout the policies from the tough-on-crime era. “This led to record low numbers of crime, violent crimes, in your communities,” he said.

For conservatives who favor reducing the prison population, a popular talking point has to do with costs. The United States spends approximately $80 billion each year keeping people behind bars. For those fond of fiscal conservatism, that’s just more government spending that can be cut.

But Clarke dismissed the idea in his opening remarks. “All this is going to do, at best, is shift the cost from the federal government down to the state level,” he said. Citing high recidivism rates, he argued that re-offenders would be put into state prisons, forcing states to incur the costs. Of course, the overwhelming majority of prisoners are in state, not federal, prisons to begin with, so cost-shifting from the federal to the state level isn’t really an issue in the criminal-justice reform discussion—not that Clarke seemed to understand that.

Cuccinelli, who is a part of of the Right on Crime initiative—a campaign for conservative solutions to criminal justice—sang a different tune. “Over the last ten years, [Texas] has reduced both their budget for prisons and their crime rate by double digit percentages,” he said.

“It’s not the Californias and the New Yorks of the world, it’s the Texases, the Georgias, the Dakotas,” that are reforming their criminal-justice systems, he said—even though Texas and Georgia are in the top ten states with the highest incarcerations rates.

Nolan delivered a semi-impassioned defense of why the government should only prosecute certain crimes like rape, murder, and robbery and should target major drug traffickers as opposed to street dealers. Clarke interrupted him to demonstrate why nonviolent drug offenders deserve to be in prison for as long as possible.

“If you’re a struggling mom living in a slum or a ghetto in a city in the United States of America,” Clarke said, “and you’re doing everything that you can to keep your kid away from that dope dealer standing on the corner who’s out there every day … do you know that to get that guy off the street for as long as we can be allowed by law is a big deal for her?”

Though Nolan and Cuccinelli continued to make the case for shorter sentences for certain crimes as well as ways to reduce prison spending—a case that other Republican legislators are making as well—Clarke made clear that there was plenty of pushback from other conservatives. He name-checked four Republican senators who agree with him on the need to stick with the status quo. “Tom Cotton is right on this. Jeff Sessions is right on this. Orrin Hatch is right on this. Ted Cruz is right on opposing this Trojan horse.”

“I find it unfathomable that we would cede this [issue] back over to the left and to the Democrats,” said Clarke, “by cuddling up to criminals.”

 

By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, March 4, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, CPAC, Criminal Justice Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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