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“Clinton Is Defining Trump”: In A Way His Republican Rivals During The Primary Couldn’t

In our soundbite culture, memes develop about politicians that become almost impossible to break. We’ve seen that over the last few years with regards to Paul Ryan. Much of the media defines him as a “wonk,” no matter how unserious his policy proposals actually turn out to be. In the 2000 election, George Bush was the affable guy people wanted to have a beer with, while Dick Cheney was the adult with gravitas.

This is likely why Hillary Clinton is spending so much of her time talking about Donald Trump lately. She is defining him for the public and the press in a way that his Republican rivals during the primary couldn’t. It’s not just that they were afraid of offending his supporters (although I’m sure that was a big part of it). But it’s also because challenging him meant taking on things that also made them vulnerable. When Trump became so extreme about Mexican immigrants and Muslims, it was all based on policies and rhetoric that Republicans had been relying on themselves. The case they were left with was to suggest that they would simply be either a little bit more or less extreme than Trump. None of them could successfully challenge the very basis of his extremism.

Hillary Clinton and Democrats face no such limits. Over the last couple of weeks, she and her surrogates have mounted blistering attacks on the presumptive Republican nominee. It is almost as if you can hear a collective sigh of relief from those who kept silent during the Republican slugfest of a primary. The challenges to Trump are not unfounded in the way attacks can sometimes be in elections. They are all things we’ve been noticing for a while now, but haven’t seen articulated very well.

It is also interesting to observe Trump’s response to all of this. He is doing the only thing he knows how to do – dive into the gutter and lash out. For example, after Clinton’s speech yesterday in which she challenged Trump’s fitness to be commander-in-chief, he said that she should go to jail over the email issue. That kind of thing will play very well with his rabid supporters – but when it comes to addressing his fitness for office, it simply reinforces Clinton’s message about him. This tweet sums it up pretty well:

@HillaryClinton pulling off what no GOP Trump challenger could: Taking him on in a way that makes her seem bigger, not smaller, than he

— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 2, 2016

I’ve heard some people suggest that Clinton is spending too much time talking about Trump and not enough on her own vision and proposals. My response to that would be that there are still five months left in this campaign. She has plenty of time to do that. But at the outset, she is setting the meme in place that will define Donald Trump throughout the election season.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For 2016, Let Franken Be Franken”: Democrats Have The Perfect Trump Slayer: Al Franken

Now that the general election matchup is settled, the Democratic Party is starting to coordinate their anti-Trump strategy and messaging. As usual, their product is almost unbelievably lame: “Dangerous Donald.” Apparently that is the best slur they can come up with, so if you live in a swing state, get ready to hear that 900 times a day for the next six months.

But in the meantime, somebody else needs to actually come up with some decent Trump put-downs — something that at a minimum does not portray him as some sort of cool, leather-jacketed rebel. Elizabeth Warren has been putting together a reasonable first pass, getting in multi-day Twitter fights with Trump by ridiculing his pathetic business record and his extensive history of vile sexism.

However, there is one Democratic senator with the detailed, on the ground expertise this garbage reality show hellscape of an election requires. Someone, indeed, whose entire career has been leading up to this point. That someone is Al Franken, the junior Democratic senator from Minnesota.

The very obvious weakness of Trump when it comes to political trench warfare is that, like most bullies, he can dish it out, but he can’t take it. He can utterly humiliate a gutless patrician like Jeb Bush, but it’s extremely easy to bait him into undignified bursts of outrage. Alex Pareene managed it back in 2012 with a few paragraphs in Salon.

Lightweight reporter Alex Pareene @pareene is known as a total joke in political circles. Hence, he writes for Loser Salon. @Salon

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2012

On one level, Trump sort of thrives on this stuff. In the context of the Republican primary, stooping to his level of juvenility didn’t work for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

However, the general election will be very different than the Republican primary. First, none of the other Republicans were any better than Bush at trading barbs. Marco Rubio sounded like a panicky high-schooler reading from a memorized sheet of insults his dad wrote down for him, and Ted Cruz sounds like a smug oleaginous weasel regardless of what he’s saying. Anyone who’s even slightly creative and self-confident ought to be able to do far better than that.

The general election will also be before a very different audience than the Republican primary electorate. Before GOP base voters, Trump’s bigotry and sexism played pretty well, or could at least be looked past. But before the rest of the country, he can’t afford to stoop to the vile slurs that are quite obviously right below the surface. He needs to look presidential as much as possible, and one way to throw a wrench in that effort is to bait him into saying vile stuff.

As I said, Elizabeth Warren has a good start. But Al Franken is, so far as I can tell, the only former comedian in Congress from either party. He was on Saturday Night Live for many years, and wrote several comedy books, including Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right — both genuinely funny and full of quite nasty insults. He knows this stuff backwards and forwards.

One thing Franken could do, aside from baiting Trump himself, is teach Democratic politicos how not to sound like the bloodless technocrats who have long since had the personality crushed out of them. He could knock together a few slideshows, hold a conference or two, and teach at least a few how to perform a reasonable approximation of “witty.” Because it’s probably best if people like Warren and Franken et al take point in mocking Trump, allowing Clinton to stay above the fray.

During his Senate career, Franken has been relatively modest and quiet, probably due to the personality-crushing mechanism (read: constant begging of rich people for money) I described above. But he surely remembers how to be mean to Republicans.

This election’s GOP nominee deserves his special talents more than any other in United States history. So for 2016, let Franken be Franken.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 13, 2016

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Al Franken, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Catastrophe Of His Own Making”: How Reince Priebus Handed Donald Trump The Republican Party

Racist political opportunist and billionaire businessman Donald Trump won the Indiana primary last night, effectively securing the Republican nomination despite near constant punditry predicting he would not. Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, told party followers it was time to fold and help elect Trump to the White House.

.@realDonaldTrump will be presumptive @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton#NeverClinton

— Reince Priebus (@Reince) May 4, 2016

He backed up his pronouncement today on cable news, even if it was lukewarm. “You know what, I think something different and something new is probably good for our party,” said Priebus on CNN, seemingly uncertain that Trump would result in anything other than catastrophic defeat. “Look, I don’t think anyone predicted what happened. So, look, we’re here. We’re going to get behind the presumptive nominee.”

The RNC chairman had previously struck a different tone prior to the current debacle unfolding inside the Republican Party. Just a week ago, he said that the party’s nominee needed to exceed the 1,237 delegate count, otherwise there would be a contested nomination. “You need a majority,” said Priebus. Referring to the congressional vote on the Affordable Care Act, which initially looked like it would fall short by a handful of votes, he said, “We didn’t say, ‘Oh he’s almost there, let’s give it to him.’ He had to get a majority.”

The current catastrophe facing Priebus and his party is one of his own making. When the nomination process first started, there were 17 candidates, many of whom had thrown themselves into the ring for several election cycles. After early polling showed a Trump surge, Priebus did nothing to “thin the herd,” as Scott Walker advocated when he suspended his campaign in September.

“Today I believe that I am being called to lead to help clear the field,” Walker said at the time. “With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately, and I encourage other presidential candidates to consider doing the same.”

Even after the Republican donor class began “encouraging” candidates to end their campaigns, Trump’s anti-establishment war continuously put Priebus (and the Republican Party) on the defensive, forcing him to fend off accusations of establishment meddling in the nomination process. “It’s a crooked deal,” said Trump following the Colorado primary, after the state’s 34 delegates went to Ted Cruz.

“Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself,” he said to The Hill in an interview. “He should be ashamed of himself because he knows what’s going on.”

But Priebus didn’t push back at any point, instead delivering meek responses to all of Trump’s transgressions in the name of party unity, possibly out of fear that he would upset the ever-growing contingent of Trump supporters inside the Republican Party. “Given the year we have, you know, I honestly don’t take it all that personally,” he said to Politico shortly after Trump’s outburst about the delegate allocation process.

In a separate interview, he said, “This is going to blow over. I believe this is some frustration that has bubbled.” He even appeared on CNN to reassure the American public that he wasn’t at odds with Trump. “I don’t sit here and internalize the charge, because there’s nothing the RNC can do about it,” he said.

At the start of Trump’s campaign, before he amassed the following of disgruntled Republican voters he now commands, Priebus framed the interest Trump was generating as a good thing for the Republican Party.

“I think it’s a net positive for everybody and I think it’s an indicator that there’s a lot of folks out there who are sick and tired of Washington and Trump has tapped into that,” said Priebus on Milwaukee radio. “When you have 30 million people watching [the first GOP debate], not to mention the fact that we have 16 other incredible candidates out there, I think we are showing America that we are the young, diverse party, offering a whole slew of options for people and that’s a good thing.”

When Priebus did try to stop Trump, he was accused by Bruce Ash, chairman of the RNC Rules Committee, of having tried to prevent changes to the Republican convention rules that would make it harder to have a contested convention.

The final nail in the coffin of the old Republican Party was Priebus’s tweet last night. Until this morning, John Kasich had not announced that he would exit the race. The RNC chairman’s announcement that Trump was the presumptive nominee upended months of his own claims that the RNC was an impartial arbiter governing the party’s nomination process. if anyone believed that before, they surely don’t now.

There were numerous factors contributing to Trump’s rise that were outside of Priebus’s control. But Priebus had options, if he wanted to save his party: He could have reprimanded Trump for his repeated attacks on the institutions of the party he wanted to represent as the nominee, or for the wild rhetorical excesses that have become associated with his campaign. But Priebus decided not to.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 4, 2016

May 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Trump’s Ethnic Cleansing Program”: Openly Campaigning On Moral Atrocities

After a prolonged spell of missteps and atrocious press coverage, Donald Trump has regained his commanding lead in the Republican presidential primary. A week ago he swept five states in the Northeast by giant margins, and he leads every recent poll of Indiana, whose primary takes place Tuesday. The state is probably the last place for the anti-Trump faction to prevent him from winning the primary outright, and it doesn’t even look close.

It’s worth remembering what a grim development this is. Not only will his combination of open bigotry and utter lack of political or military experience be historically unique in a major party candidate, he’s also openly campaigning on moral atrocities — in particular, a plan of what amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Now, most people think of mass murder when they hear ethnic cleansing, but that’s not necessarily the case. Creating an ethnically homogeneous state can also be accomplished through deportation.

This brings me to Trump’s plan to put together a “deportation force” to remove the 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, an idea he justifies by reference to a somewhat similar program called “Operation Wetback” carried out in the mid-50s.

Perhaps the best way to begin to grasp what a horror this would be is to consider the sheer logistics of such an operation. First, one has to find the unauthorized population — no small task, as such people are understandably not keen on being rounded up and deported, and doubly so given the wide adoption of cell phones and internet service.

Though there isn’t a complete database for unauthorized immigrants, demographic estimates find that over 70 percent are from Mexico and Central America. That means a titanic amount of law enforcement rooting around in mostly poor Latino communities — probably starting with checkpoints demanding immigration papers from every brown person stopped along highways in states with high Latino populations, dragnet electronic surveillance, and huge pressure on employers. Absent a brutal secret police, it would be nigh-impossible.

But suppose the Trump Troopers manage to root out every unauthorized immigrant, with a mere few thousand U.S. citizens caught up by mistake. Then they would need to transport them back to their places of origin. Even if we assume that he wouldn’t bother to figure out where people came from, even just dumping them in Mexico (1.5 million Asians and all) would be extraordinarily complicated and expensive. Forcibly packing up 1.3 times the population of New York City, holding them while they’re processed through some sort of legal bureaucracy, and moving them thousands of miles would take thousands of trains, trucks, planes, or ships.

Any method would cost billions in fuel, food, and logistics, and grotesque abuse would be an iron certainty. Here’s how that turned out back in the ’50s:

The boatlift operations back to Mexico ended in September 1956 after seven workers drowned in an apparent attempt to escape, sparking a riot on the vessel known as the Mercurio. There were conflicting reports of what led to the drownings and the riot, according to New York Times accounts of the incident. Congressional investigators later said the boat resembled “an ancient penal ship” and that some 500 Mexican nationals were crammed aboard a boat that was equipped with two lifeboats that could only hold 48 people, according to an August 1956 Times article. [CNN]

Let’s not mince words about why Trump and his followers support this idea: anti-Latino bigotry. In U.S. discourse, the general assumption is that all unauthorized immigrants are Mexican (in reality only 56 percent are), and Trump has been railing against Mexicans for the entire campaign — asserting that the Mexican government is deliberately sending “criminals, drug dealers, rapists” over the U.S. border. It’s not a coincidence this is just when he rocketed to first place in the GOP primary. Deporting millions of Latinos, immigrant or no — and thus restoring the white demographic majority to some degree — is basically the point.

Trump’s Operation Wetback II would be an ethnic cleansing on par with the post-World War II “population transfers” in Eastern Europe, when about 30 million people, half of them Germans, were hastily and often brutally shuffled across borders so as to create ethnically homogenous nation-states. Those too were heinous crimes, but one can sort of understand why Germans might be a bit unpopular in the region. Proposing such an operation in a peaceful and basically prosperous nation, where the target population is quite well-integrated (indeed practically model citizens) is grotesque.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 3, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Ethnic Cleansing, GOP Primaries, Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Are The Problem, Politician”: Ted Cruz Is Losing Because He’s The Second-Best Con Man In The Republican Party

The most revealing debate of the 2016 primary was held on the side of a road in Marion, Indiana, on Monday. In a widely circulated video, Ted Cruz asks a Trump supporter wearing dark sunglasses and a contemptuous grin to kindly explain what he finds so appealing about the Donald.

“Everything,” the man replies.

The former litigator implores his opponent to be more specific. The man says, “The wall.” Cruz informs him of an interview Trump gave to the New York Times, in which he reportedly suggested his most ambitious proposals were just campaign poses. “Lyin’ Ted!” the man retorts. “You are the problem, politician.” Cruz presses on, noting that Trump is the only 2016 candidate who has been sued for employing the undocumented and that, at his resort in Florida, the mogul has shown a preference for hiring guest workers over American-born citizens. “I believe in Trump,” the man eventually interrupts.

“A question here everybody should ask,” Cruz begins.

“Are you Canadian?” the man finishes, to the adulation of his peers.

Watching this exchange, one experiences a strange, disorienting sensation — sympathy for Ted Cruz. With patience and courtesy, the Texas senator tries to engage his interlocutor in a fact-based discussion of Trump’s merits as a candidate, only to be rebuffed and then humiliated by the ecstatic epistemological closure of the Trumpen proletariat.

But Cruz does not deserve your sympathy (and not just because he is almost certainly a serial killer who terrorized northern California throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s). In Marion, Cruz was overwhelmed by the very force that birthed his presidential campaign. Back when Trump was still dreaming of buying the Buffalo Bills, Cruz was already exploiting the defiant faith of GOP voters.

In 2013, the freshman senator rallied the conservative grassroots around a plan to build his email list, disguised as a strategy for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Cruz assured the tea-party faithful that Republicans could force Barack Obama to rip up his signature legislative achievement by threatening to shut down the federal government — a notion roughly as plausible as Mexican taxpayers funding Trump’s border-long monument to American xenophobia. But implausibility wasn’t an issue for Cruz, who made sure that blame for his gambit’s inevitable failure would be laid at the feet of his skeptics.

“I can’t count the number of Republicans in Washington who say, ‘Look, we can’t defund it. No, no, no. We can pass symbolic votes against it but we can’t actually stand up and take a risk and be potentially be blamed,” Cruz told a crowd at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, framing his colleagues’ assertion of basic facts as proof of their duplicity.

How many of those colleagues found themselves in debates like the one Cruz suffered in Marion? How many tried to explain the nature of divided government to earnest constituents, only to be told, “You are the problem, politician”?

Contrary to popular conception, Cruz’s quixotic mission wasn’t driven by ideological fervor but by ruthless ambition. The senator was willing to throw his party and government into chaos for the sake of attaining greater fame and power. This cynicism was of a piece with his broader career. As Ross Douthat has convincingly argued, Cruz’s political trajectory resembles that of an unscrupulous striver, not an uncompromising zealot. He is a populist who, whilst attending Harvard Law School, refused to study with anyone who hadn’t gotten their bachelor’s degree at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. He is an anti-Establishment gadfly who tried desperately to win a spot in George W. Bush’s inner circle. Once he was rejected by the Washington Cartel and successfully rebranded himself as the sworn enemy of “compassionate conservatism,” Cruz waffled on matters of trade, immigration, and government spying, all while relentlessly hectoring the other members of his caucus for their political cowardice. He is a #NeverTrump conservative who spent the first half of his campaign defending and then imitating the Donald’s demagoguery.

Cruz is not losing the Republican primary because of his commitment to principle and reason; he is losing because he is the second-most-talented liar his party has to offer.

“[Trump] is perpetuating the greatest fraud in the modern history of politics,” Cruz told Glenn Beck on Tuesday.

That statement shouldn’t be read as condemnation but as a confession of defeat.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 3, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , | Leave a comment

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