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“The Genie Is Already Out Of The Bottle”: Sorry, Wishful Thinkers; Trump Will Almost Certainly Still Be The GOP Nominee

Donald Trump is having a disastrous month. After a very brief honeymoon following his securing the delegates necessary to win the GOP nomination outright, Trump did the opposite of pivoting to center. Instead, he doubled down on hateful racist rhetoric against Muslims, Hispanics, Elizabeth Warren and anyone else on his target list, while revoking press credentials from major newspapers. In the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting he couldn’t even manage to put Democrats effectively on the defensive because the narcissist in him couldn’t help but praise himself instead of showing any real sympathy for the victims. He’s so eager for the media spotlight that he wasn’t even smart enough to lay low for a few days when Clinton suffered a bump of bad news over her emails.

Donald Trump, in short, isn’t just unfit to be President. He’s unfit to wage a modern presidential campaign.

That last bit is what is particularly disconcerting to Republican leaders who were trying to make peace with Trump as the nominee. Instead, there is now a renewed push to remove Trump from the ticket at the Convention, even though it would require an unprecedented shifting of party rules and overturning of democratic outcomes. In the minds of some in the GOP, though, it’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t problem: scuttling Trump would create an internal civil war and likely lead to bloodbath in November, but at least the party might salvage its image in future elections. Leaving Trump as the nominee would reduce internal tensions, but the party would likely still be demolished in the election and suffer decades of recriminations from women and minority voters in the bargain.

There are also those who believe (or hope) that Trump is actively seeking a way out the campaign himself: that he’s short of money and doesn’t really want the job, so he is actively self-sabotaging so that there is no way he will become president. Under this theory, Trump’s opponents need only offer him a sweet enough deal and he will find an excuse to remove himself before the convention.

The problem is that both of these underestimate Trump’s power within the GOP and his own narcissism. The reality remains that the GOP primary election proved that there is very little constituency left for a more subtly bigoted GOP that serves up supply-side ideology on behalf of the wealthy while expecting middle- and working-class Americans to suffer their own economic exploitation with pride on behalf of Burkeian principles. There are very few who want or believe in that version of the Republican Party anymore. Removing Trump as the nominee would guarantee him leading his flock to sabotage the GOP up and down the ballot with utterly disastrous consequences. Nor does the GOP have much hope of of mitigating Trump’s influence on women and minorities: the genie is already out of the bottle, and in Trump’s wake dozens more candidates like him will use his more openly xenophobic, economic populist approach to win GOP primaries all across the country.

As for Trump making a convenient exit himself? Unlikely. While the Donald does hate to lose, he can always go all the way into November, get a thumping from Clinton, and claim that the GOP establishment stabbed him in the back and denied him a chance at victory. He can then spend the rest of his life as a kingpin of sorts, conning his devoted Alt Right flock in any number of schemes to increase his wealth and influence. If he exits now, on the other hand, he’ll fade into a lesser version of Sarah Palin.

No matter how poorly Trump fares in the next month, he’s still almost certain to be the nominee. And there’s not much of anything the GOP can do about it.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 18, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Problematic Unhinged Rhetoric”: John McCain; President Obama Is ‘Directly Responsible’ For Orlando

When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was “directly responsible” for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who’s abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.

Wait, did I say Donald Trump? I meant John McCain.

Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.

He said the president is “directly responsible for it because” of his “utter failures” in Iraq.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.

The senator added, “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”

It wasn’t long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he “misspoke.”

That’s probably not the right word. When someone says “Iraq” when they meant “Iran,” that’s misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that’s more than a slip of the tongue.

McCain added, by way of a “clarification,” that he was blaming the president’s “national security decisions” for the rise of ISIS, “not the president himself.”

How gracious of him.

The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what’s wrong with McCain’s argument? Everything.

Right off the bat, let’s not forget that the lunatic responsible for the Orlando massacre was not a member of ISIS. He may have been inspired in some way by the terrorists, and he may have pledged some kind of allegiance to them, but there’s no evidence at all that ISIS was somehow involved in planning and/or executing this attack.

It may be politically convenient to blame a foreign foe for an American buying guns in America and then killing Americans on American soil, but giving ISIS more credit than it deserves is a mistake.

Second, McCain’s broader point is hard to take seriously. Here’s the senator’s logic: Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2010, which eventually and indirectly led to the creation of ISIS, which eventually led lunatics to identify with ISIS, which eventually led to the Orlando mass-shooting.

Even putting aside the bizarre leaps of logic necessarily to adopt such a thesis, McCain is overlooking the fact that (a) he celebrated Obama’s troop withdrawal in 2010; (b) the troop withdrawal was the result of a U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush/Cheney administration; and (c) by the senator’s own reasoning, given his enthusiastic support for the war in Iraq, McCain would have to hold himself “directly responsible” for the Orlando slayings, too.

Look, I’m aware of the broader circumstances. McCain is facing a tough re-election fight in Arizona, including a competitive Republican primary. He has an incentive to say ridiculous and irresponsible things about the president, and perhaps even try to exploit a tragedy for partisan ends.

But if these are the final months of McCain’s lengthy congressional career, is this really how he wants to go out? Using the kind of rhetoric more closely associated with Trump than an ostensible Republican statesman?

Postscript: Earlier this month, a college in Pennsylvania awarded McCain a “civility” prize. Perhaps college administrators can ask for it back?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, John McCain, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Unexpectedly Accommodating Affair”: Yes, Bernie Sanders Really Is Winding Down His ‘Revolution’

Was that Bernie’s way of saying “uncle”? I’d imagine that most people who watched his video address tonight to his supporters didn’t think so, because he did not officially concede or endorse Hillary Clinton. But I say it was an unexpectedly accommodating affair nonetheless.

I thought he was going to lay out specific demands for the Democratic Party going forward these next few weeks and insist the demands be met or else. He did some of that. But emotionally, his emphasis was on other things. Metaphorically, he pointed his gun not at the Democratic Party’s head, but at its orotund midsection.

Consider the speech’s structure. It came in four parts. Part one, how amazing are the things I/we have accomplished. Part two, how important it is to defeat Donald Trump. Part three, how the Democratic Party needs to change more in his image. Part four, how the people’s revolution must continue beyond this year and manifest itself in Bern-feelers running for office and staying involved in politics far beyond this campaign.

That is to say, only one part out of four was directly confrontational to the Democratic power structure, and even that part picked its spots quite carefully. He ticked off 15 matters on which he suggested the Democrats ought to follow him. But on 10 of them, Hillary Clinton already agrees (and indeed on a few of them, like guns and equal pay for women, she’s done more than he has and is more committed than he—I’d even add health-care-as-a-right to that list, since as first lady she helped lead the charge for health care for poor children, the S-CHIP program, which is free for poor children).

There were five that left room for platform committee fights: the $15 minimum wage (she backs that in more expensive cities but says it could be lower in less expensive areas); a fracking ban, which she does not support and which a president has no power to impose anyway; a “modern-day Glass-Steagall” to break up the banks; free college tuition; and health care as a right for all, which she would say she backs but not in the sense that he means it (everything free for everyone, financed by taxes).

He then did take on what he euphemistically called the “Democratic Party leadership.” He never mentioned chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz by name, and never directly called for the removal of an unnamed chair. Instead he demanded that the Democratic Party pursue a “50-state strategy.” That probably comes from the people in the red states he won like Oklahoma and Idaho and so on, and it’s totally unobjectionable and even the right thing for the Democratic Party to do, as it was when Howard Dean proposed it as chair back in the mid-2000s (there’s an irony there all right, as there’s no love lost between these two Vermonters, and Dean is a Clinton endorser from the early days). But the important point is that it isn’t a confrontational demand, something that puts immediate pressure on the DNC. It’s a Beach Boys demand: wouldn’t it be nice.

Also basically unmentioned: any reform of the primary process. Sanders and Jeff Weaver—and maybe the media, to be fair—had led us to believe that reform of the voting process was going to be demand number one. But it wasn’t to be heard in Thursday night’s speech. I can’t imagine this was an oversight. It had to be a conscious decision to toss this demand overboard.

Then the last part of the speech, and the part that drew the most attention from Bernie people on Twitter, was the “the revolution must go on” part. This was the section that gave his people the signal that this was bigger than Bernie, and I give him credit for emphasizing it, because to me this was a campaign that had some cult-of-personality aspects to it from the start. But this was Sanders clearly signaling: “I know I’m 74, and I hope what I’ve started here survives me.”

So that’s how his people saw it. How actual Democrats saw it—and I don’t mean the banking lobbyist, I mean the state committeewoman from Illinois who is a public-interest lawyer in Evanston—I’m not sure. Less favorably, I’m sure. She no doubt hung on the key two sentences: “The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.” Those sentences, along with the election reform matter he left out, signaled a de facto endorsement of Clinton, whether his people want to admit that or not.

But I’m pretty sure my Evanston lawyer also heard the grandiosity that Sanders, a candidate who certainly did much better than expected but in the end lost by quite a large margin, assigned to himself. To her and to thousands like her—precisely the people forgotten in the Clinton-Sanders debate all these months, because they are representative of the “little people” who are for Clinton, which seems to most of the media oxymoronic, but they are real, and they number in the many millions—Bernie is now old news. And he’s just going to get older every week.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 16, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Revelations Are Absolutely Devastating”: ‘Deadbeat Donald’ Caught Refusing To Pay His Bills

The front page of USA Today’s print edition features an all-caps, above-the-fold headline that Republicans probably didn’t want to see: “Trump’s Trail Of Unpaid Bills.” And while the headline is rough, the article hits like a sledgehammer.

During the Atlantic City casino boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah’s at Trump Plaza.

The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder.

Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company… which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.

USA Today recently broke some news, noting that Trump and his business enterprises have been involved in “at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades.” But this new report goes one step further, noting much of the litigation involves ordinary Americans – mechanics, plumbers, painters, waiters, dishwashers, etc. – who sent Trump bills for completed work, and the New York Republican simply refused to pay.

The new report added, “The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.”

Adding insult to injury, the Wall Street Journal published a related report overnight, documenting the same problem. In some instances, Trump-owned businesses felt they had leverage over small businesses, so when bills came, Trump’s enterprise would offer part of what was owed – take it or leave it – knowing that the small businesses couldn’t afford to get tied up in a lengthy court fight.

This really is brutal. It’s hard to say whether this news will be overshadowed by the institutional Democratic support Hillary Clinton has picked up over the last day or so, but by some measures, these Trump revelations are absolutely devastating.

Keep in mind, Trump has picked up voter support over the last year in part by touting his private-sector successes. These new reports suggest his business background may actually be the most controversial aspect of Trump’s life.

It’s easy to see the ads: Deadbeat Donald claims to be a successful billionaire, but he doesn’t pay his bills and has repeatedly stiffed small-business owners. How in the world will he respond?

Postscript: Keep in mind, at one point last year Donald Trump had 16 rivals for the Republican nomination, not one of whom did any real opposition research on him. Any of the GOP campaigns could’ve tracked down this information and put it to use during the primaries, but they just didn’t have their act together.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 10, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republicans, Small Businesses | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To ‘Make It Stop'”: A New Assault Weapons Ban, Written For The Realities Of 2016

Almost four years ago in Newtown, the victims were mostly children – first graders. Last weekend, the victims were mostly LGBT adults at a night club. But the one thing they all had in common is that their deaths were the result of an assault weapon in the hands of a deranged killer. Today the Boston Globe – in a bold statement – says simply, “Make it Stop.”

In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

For those of us who were already convinced, the Globe also asserts that any action on an assault weapons ban is likely to begin in the Senate. They give us the names of 6 senators who stand in the way:

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

Richard Burr (R-NC)

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Rob Portman (R-OH)

Of course there are other (mostly Republican) senators who would vote against an assault weapons ban. It’s clear that these 6 were chosen by the Globe because they are the most likely to be either convinced to change their position or defeated. That’s where it starts.

I am reminded of a commitment President Obama made back in January in an op-ed titled: Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility.

Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve.

All of us have a role to play — including gun owners. We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us after every mass shooting, who support common-sense gun safety and who feel that their views are not being properly represented, to stand with us and demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent.

We can chose to remain cynical that anything will ever change, or make this a priority and keep fighting. I think about our historical heroes of reform. Some of them didn’t even live to see the fruits of their efforts – for example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But that certainly didn’t stop them.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 16, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Assault Weapons Ban, Orlando Shootings, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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