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“Courting With Disaster”: GOP Elites Think Stealing The Nomination From Trump Will Be A Cakewalk. They’re Wrong

The Republican presidential primary is settling into one of history’s most familiar grooves: Failing elites confront an internal rebellion by doing their absolute utmost to change nothing whatsoever.

The Donald Trump insurgency has demonstrated several things. First, there is a large constituency among Republican primary voters for outright bigotry and xenophobia; second, the commitment to traditional conservative economics among many Republican base voters is totally ephemeral.

It turns out that hardscrabble racist white people aren’t actually interested in gutting Medicare, privatizing Social Security, or Olympus Mons-sized tax cuts for the rich. The perception that they were was mainly created by the canny exploitation of the culture war and wealthy conservatives purchasing the entire slate of Republican candidates every year.

Now Trump has blown the scam wide open. But instead of trying to reckon with the fact that the consensus party ideology is cracking apart before their eyes, Republican elites — led by the nose by the donor class — are plotting to deliver the presidential nomination to a nice friendly establishment figure, perhaps Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Now, they are enabled in this by Trump himself, who just had the worst two weeks of news coverage of the entire primary. His campaign manager is literally being charged with battery, he stumbled on abortion, he got into an unbelievably petty fight over Ted Cruz’s wife, and the latest polling shows him being utterly blown out of the water in the general election. Then on Tuesday night, he got creamed by Cruz in the Wisconsin primary.

All that created a sense that Trump had finally, finally doomed himself. His support would begin to melt away, and the Republican big money grandees could come together and hand the nomination to a reliable plutocrat who could enact the welfare and tax cuts 1 percenters demand. Charles Koch himself is reportedly behind Paul Ryan, should Trump enter the convention at least 100 delegates short of a first ballot victory.

These people are fooling themselves. First of all, while Trump might really have done himself in, this is about the 40th time this exact same groupthink has taken hold and it’s been wrong every time so far. Moreover, whatever damage was done has barely registered in the polls. He’s off his large lead only slightly in the national average, and Wisconsin wasn’t a great spot for him in the first place. A bunch of states are coming up where conditions are a lot more favorable, and in the ones with recent polling (New York, Pennsylvania) he’s ahead by a lot.

In short, while he might not come into the convention with enough delegates to win a first-ballot victory, conditions would have to change dramatically for Trump to fail to get a large delegate plurality — and that’s leaving aside the distinct possibility that he could bounce back from his current troubles by changing the subject, perhaps with yet another round of anti-Muslim bigotry.

What’s more, the second place contender (behind by 237 pledged delegates at the moment) is Ted Cruz, who is nearly as rabidly anti-establishment (and as bad a general election candidate) as Trump. It is literally mathematically impossible for John Kasich, the only sort of non-extremist left in the race, to win in a first ballot.

Primary elections have been exhaustively covered and have developed a deep democratic legitimacy. If Trump comes into the convention with a large plurality of delegates, trying to wrest the nomination from him is courting disaster. It probably wouldn’t even work, as the delegates would likely get cold feet at what amounts to a massive, bald-faced election theft. Even if it did, Trump would have every reason to attempt a third-party run and split the conservative vote — and might even do better than the Republican candidate.

Trying to wrest the nomination from Cruz as well, so the billionaire donor class can hand it to one of their pets who didn’t even enter the primary, is even crazier than that. It’s the kind of thing that actually destroys parties. At that point the donors would be openly stamping on the expressed preference of something like nine-tenths of their own voters, and all but teeing up a presidential challenger that would beat their own candidate by 40 points.

The GOP elite, such as it is, is largely controlled by people who think a full-blown populist rebellion can be handled with a few backroom conversations and massive checks. They’re about to find out the hard way that they’re wrong.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 7, 2016

 

 

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Left With A Choice Of Three Varieties Of Defeat”: Republicans Are Faced With Their Worst Nightmare After Wisconsin

At long last, Donald Trump has shown the vulnerability that Republicans have been seeking for so long. Controversies over his words and ideas now trouble him like they never did before, everyone has realized how spectacularly unpopular he is with the general public, and just at the right time, he got beaten handily in Wisconsin by Ted Cruz. He has lost primaries before, but this one seems particularly wounding, as though it portends more hard times to come. Now he can be struck down, to fall with a thundering reverberation on the blood-soaked field of battle.

Or so Republicans hope. But the truth is, they may be facing the worst of all possible worlds: a terribly damaged Trump who nonetheless can’t be stopped from winning their party’s nomination.

Trump has certainly suffered in the last couple of weeks, as the horrifying farce that his candidacy represents has become more clear with each passing day. He could lose momentum and lose more primaries before the final contests in June. Then he could limp into the convention in Cleveland with fewer than the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination outright. But for all that, it may already be too late to stop him.

Why is that? The first reason is that Trump’s lead in delegates is simply too big for Ted Cruz to overcome. Trump came into this week with 737 delegates to Cruz’s 505, a lead that will get only somewhat smaller after Wisconsin’s 42 are allocated (Cruz will get most of them, but Trump will probably pick up a few). Cruz will still need to win almost all of the remaining delegates to get past 1,237 himself, which is essentially impossible. Trump, on the other hand, needs to win around 60 percent of those that remain — difficult, but still possible.

And if he doesn’t, what happens? Everyone arrives in Cleveland with Trump having won far more primaries, votes, and delegates than anyone else. The convention can hand the nomination to another candidate, but no matter who that person might be, it will be seen as a grave injustice by Trump’s supporters, who are a clear plurality (if not quite a majority) of Republican voters.

And who would grasp that nomination? Ted Cruz, who came in second? That won’t sit right. In the current establishment fantasy, a deadlocked convention is resolved when the attendees finally give the nomination to that fine young man, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

That would be a disaster of a different sort. It would validate everything that the angry voters who have dominated the GOP for the last seven years, and who have driven this primary race around every dangerous curve, have been saying all along. Just as they feared, the party bigwigs — or what Cruz likes to call “the Washington cartel” — came in at the end to steal the nomination away from the guy who got the most votes, and hand it to an insider who didn’t even compete for the people’s favor. Trump may or may not have been right when he said “I think you’d have riots” if that happened, but you can bet that Trump’s voters — and probably Cruz’s too — would be positively enraged. They might even be angry enough not to bother voting in November.

But in the meantime, they’ll shout and scream and maybe even throw a few punches. And with the first contested convention in decades, every camera will be on the lookout for signs of chaos. The country will watch as the GOP tears itself to pieces, all before the Democrats hold an optimistic yet sedate convention at which Hillary Clinton assures the country that whatever they may not like about her, at least she isn’t some kind of lunatic like the people who populate the other party.

Up until now, Republicans had a hard time imagining anything worse than Donald Trump becoming their party’s nominee. But their minds might just be able to expand to envision an even more horrifying scenario. It’s one in which the widely loathed Ted Cruz becomes the man on whom they pin their fading hopes, and yet they are not saved. It’s one in which they are left with only a choice between three different varieties of defeat, and find themselves with no power to choose. And it’s one in which Donald Trump grows more and more unpopular even before the general election begins — and then they wind up stuck with him anyway.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Washington Playbook”: If You’re Not Responding Militarily, You’re Not Responding

Richard Cohen has finally gotten around to writing about President Obama’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that was the impetus for so much discussion almost a month ago. In doing so, he demonstrates exactly what the President referred to as the “Washington playbook.” As a reminder, here is what Obama said to Goldberg about that.

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”

Cohen doesn’t so much champion the Washington playbook as he criticizes Obama for not employing it. For example, here is what he writes on the President’s statement about Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

It’s a rule that Obama himself should have followed. He speaks the unspeakable, conceding that eastern Ukraine, Moldova and Crimea are Russia’s for the taking. “Now, if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they should speak up and be very clear about it,” he told Goldberg.

Ambiguity is not Obama’s forte. Rather than keeping Vladimir Putin guessing — and maybe restrained — he signals the Russian president not to worry. Putin already has Crimea. He’s got eastern Ukraine. Will Moldova be next? Just a matter of time, it seems to me.

The playbook Cohen is working from assumes that the only possible response to Russia is a war. If President Obama isn’t willing to do that in response to Crimea and eastern Ukraine, it’s just a matter of time before Putin goes into Moldova.

What that completely ignores is that there are other possible responses – like economic sanctions that are coordinated with our international partners and the European Union.

Cohen also doesn’t seem to think that President Obama is doing anything about the situation in Syria.

But the Syrian civil war has produced a humanitarian calamity, at least 250,000 dead and an almost unprecedented refugee crisis that is destabilizing Europe. Obama acts as though this is a minor matter, just another Middle Eastern dust-up, but the Syrian mess is an example of the slippery slope he does not mention when he mentions the one he wants to avoid. Like, possibly, Moldova, it is the consequence of inaction that may matter more than any action itself.

It seems as though Cohen is unaware of the fact that the U.S. is engaging in air strikes against ISIS in Syria. But even more importantly, Sec. of State John Kerry has been working tirelessly on the multilateral peace negotiations that are seeking an end to the Syrian civil war.

For people like Cohen, if the U.S. isn’t using military intervention to wield it’s way around the globe, it’s not doing anything. That pretty much sums up the Washington playbook that President Obama refuses to implement.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 5, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Foreign Policy, President Obama, Richard Cohen | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tentative, Unprepared And Unaware”: Rough Interview Raises Awkward Questions For Sanders Campaign

If you talk privately to Hillary Clinton campaign aides, one of the more common complaints is that Bernie Sanders just hasn’t faced enough scrutiny. It’s ironic, in a way – Sanders supporters generally argue the Vermont senator doesn’t get enough attention from the national media, and in a way, Team Clinton agrees.

As the argument goes, much of the political world has treated Sanders as a protest candidate, who’s serious about putting his ideas in the spotlight, but less serious about actually winning the presidency – a dynamic Sanders’ own campaign has conceded was largely true at the start of the race. The result has been less scrutiny and a less robust examination.

Whether you find these concerns compelling or not, Sanders’ Democratic critics embraced this Sanders interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News with the kind of enthusiasm we haven’t seen all cycle. The Atlantic’s David Graham helped explain why.

There’s little doubting Bernie Sanders’s core political convictions – he’s been saying the same things for decades, with remarkable consistency. But turning convictions into policy is the challenge, and the Vermont senator’s interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News raises some questions about his policy chops.

Throughout his interview, Sanders seemed taken aback when he was pressed on policy – and not just on the matters that are peripheral to his approach, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or interrogation of detainees, but even on bread-and-butter matters like breaking up the big banks, the Democratic presidential hopeful came across as tentative, unprepared, or unaware.

It’s easy to overstate these things. A Washington Post piece called the interview, conducted on Monday and published yesterday, a “disaster.” A writer at Politico argued that when Sanders was pressed for specifics on trade and jobs, the senator was “not much better than Trump in his cluelessness.”

I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s not unfair to note that the Daily News interview raised concerns about Sanders that the Vermonter has largely avoided after nearly a year on the campaign trail.

If the senator had flubbed a question or two, struggling with details on obscure areas outside his wheelhouse, it wouldn’t have made much of a ripple. But as Jonathan Capehart noted, this happened more than once or twice in this interview. Asked about breaking up the big banks, Sanders wasn’t sure about the Fed’s authority, or the administration’s. Asked about court fights over too-big-to-fail measures, Sanders conceded, “It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.”

There were a few too many similar answers. On negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Sanders said, “You’re asking me a very fair question, and if I had some paper in front of me, I would give you a better answer.” Asked whether the Obama administration is pursuing the right policy towards ISIS, he responded, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Asked about interrogations of ISIS leaders, Sanders said, “Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”

This is a sampling. There were other related exchanges. They were not encouraging.

For Sanders’ supporters, I suspect the response is that the senator is leading a revolution by emphasizing broad themes and identifying systemic crises. Presidents don’t need to know a lot of specific details, the argument goes, so much as they need to establish clear goals.

For Sanders’ detractors, meanwhile, it’s likely this interview was evidence that Sanders’ understanding of major issues is, at best, superficial. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are technocratic wonks, fluent in granular policy details on a wide range of issues, and Sanders just isn’t in their league when it comes to knowledge, preparation, and breadth of expertise.

Obviously, observers will make up their own minds about the significance of the interview. But as an objective matter, Sanders is just now facing the kind of questions he’s avoided for months: there’s no doubt the senator has a clear vision and the ability to inspire his supporters to follow his lead, but how much does he know about implementing his goals? Sanders can paint beautifully with a broad brush, but how prepared is he when it comes to the unglamorous work of governing?

If the senator and his campaign have good answers to these questions, now would be an excellent time to offer them.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, National Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“As Confused As Goats On Astroturf”: The Clueless GOP Establishment Is Fueling Hurricane Donnie Trump

Elites tend to be… well, elite. As in, “clueless” about what your everyday working stiff is thinking.

This is not a problem for most hoity-toities, for they don’t deal with the great unwashed. But cluelessness about the masses can become a major occupational hazard for political elites — including campaign operatives, candidates, pundits, and the big-money donor class. And while this is a problem for the establishments of both major political parties, today’s Republican establishment now finds that it is so out of touch with regular voters that it now faces a howling, Category-5 hurricane that’s threatening to implode the Grand Old Party.

None of the elites saw Hurricane Donnie coming, and with the blow-hard now raging at full force, the GOP’s upper-crusters still don’t seem to know what hit them, much less what to do about it. They are so out of it that they even tried to blunt his surge by having Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush rush out and say bad things about The Donald, imploring voters to turn their backs on him. To see these two buttoned-down pillars of the moneyed establishment huffing and puffing at the storm was hilarious – and as hopeless as them trying to blow away a real hurricane.

What the aloof, affluent leaders of the Republican Party don’t get is that the source of the storm presently wrecking them is not Trump, but infuriated, rank-and-file, working-class voters who feel betrayed by them. None other than Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, the corporate CEOs and lobbyists, Mitt & Jeb, and the other well-off swells who run the GOP are the ones who’ve stripped the party of any blue-collar appeal. They’ve single-mindedly pushed a plutocratic agenda of trade scams, tax cuts for the rich, and subsidies for runaway corporations, while constantly slashing at Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that their own non-affluent voters need.

The Party powers now wail that Trump is stealing their voters. But he’s not — he’s just picking up the people the GOP elites threw away.

All that said, the Republican Party’s establishment has come up with a secret plan to peel off its long-faithful, blue-collar supporters from the Donnie Trump spectacle. Their plan is code-named: “Operation Paul Ryan.”

Good grief — the GOP’s old line clique of congressional bulls, corporate funders, lobbyists and right-wing think tanks is as confused as goats on Astroturf when it comes to grasping a core part of Trump’s appeal. He’s reaching out to longtime Republican voters who’ve finally realized that it’s the party’s own Wall Street elites who knocked them down economically and the party’s insider cadre of K-Street influence peddlers who’ve shut them out politically.

The party powers are trying to comfort themselves by insisting that The Donald is winning only because he’s drawing voters who’re ignorant, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. In fact, he’s drawing huge numbers of disaffected Republicans who’re mainly antiestablishment and deeply-anti the party’s own power players. These hard-hit, angry voters are not Koch-headed, laissez-faire ideologues — they like Trump’s opposition to job-busting trade scams, his mocking of big-money campaign donations, his call to hike taxes on Wall Street’s pampered hedge-funders, his support for Social Security, etc.

For these voters, “Operation Paul Ryan” is a dud, a farce … and an insult. Rep. Ryan has long been the kept-darling of the Wall Street/K Street crowd and the Koch brothers. The obtuse establishment snootily calls him “serious” presidential material — only because he champions such plutocratic policies as privatizing Social Security, cutting taxes on the superrich, deregulating Wall Street, and turning Medicare into a voucher system. The only thing serious about Ryan’s agenda is that it’s a dead-serious loser with the great majority of Americans.

Trying to knock-off Trump for Ryan is a sign of the GOP’s irreversible decline into cluelessness and political irrelevance.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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