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“I Can’t Believe I’m Losing To This Guy”: Trump Asks, ‘How Stupid Are The People Of Iowa?’

There are arguably four top Republican candidates who are in serious contention for their party’s presidential nomination: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. The tensions between them are rising, but the criticisms are increasingly limited to parallel tracks.

Yesterday, for example, half of the quartet – the two who’ve actually been in politics for years – went after each other over immigration. There’s little to suggest Cruz and Rubio are interested in targeting Trump and Carson; they’re too busy focusing on one another.

At the same time, it seems the Amateur Duo aren’t focusing on Cruz and Rubio, so much as they care about each other. Note this report from NBC News’ First Read:

It’s easy to have become a little numb to Donald Trump’s theatrics on the trail over the last five months, but his performance last night in Iowa shook them right back into perspective. NBC’s Katy Tur reports that, during a 96-minute speech, Trump compared Ben Carson’s self-described “pathological temper” to a “disease” like child molestation (“If you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, a child molester, there’s no cure for that – there’s only one cure and we don’t want to talk about that cure, that’s the ultimate cure, no there’s two, there’s death and the other thing.”)

Personal attacks are one thing; baselessly comparing an opponent (who is almost universally popular with your own base!) to a child molester is jaw-dropping.

Your mileage may vary, but for me, Trump’s comments about Carson’s mental health weren’t even the most striking part of the New Yorker’s 96-minute tirade. At the same Iowa appearance, he claimed to know more about ISIS “than the generals do”; he vowed to “bomb the s—” out of Middle Eastern oil fields; and at one point, he even acted out a scene in which Carson claims to have tried to stab someone as a teenager.

“If I did the stuff he said he did, I wouldn’t be here right now. It would have been over. It would have been over. It would have been totally over,” Trump said of Carson. “And that’s who’s in second place. And I don’t get it.”

Referring to Carson’s more incredible claims, Trump added, “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

I wasn’t in the room and I didn’t see the full event, but the Washington Post reported, “At first, the audience was quick to laugh at Trump’s sharp insults…. But as the speech dragged on, the applause came less often and grew softer. As Trump attacked Carson using deeply personal language, the audience grew quiet, a few shaking their heads. A man sitting in the back of the auditorium loudly gasped.”

I’ve lost count of how many times in recent months I’ve seen pieces insisting that Trump has finally “gone too far,” so I’d caution against overreacting to this harangue in Iowa last night.

That said, it’s likely Trump’s lengthy rant was born of frustration – he thought he was winning in Iowa, until he saw polls showing Carson surging in the state. Trump, who’s never run for public office before, wants to reclaim his advantage, and evidently believes this is the way to do it.

I’m reminded of the “Saturday Night Live” bit in 1988 when an actor portraying George H.W. Bush delivered a rambling, incoherent answer, prompting Jon Lovitz, portraying Michael Dukakis, to say, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.”

It’s hard not to think Trump is having the same reaction to Carson’s top-tier standing.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 13, 2015

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Iowa | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Scott Walker And The Masters Of Deceit”: Tailoring His Views To The Particular Audience He Is Addressing

As Scott Walker finally makes his presidential bid official today, National Journal‘s Tim Alberta wonders if the candidate can perpetually get away with tailoring his views to the particular audience he is addressing. That certainly seems to be the calculation in Walker-land:

[A]ccording to Walker allies, he’s going to pursue exactly the opposite strategy Romney used in 2012. Whereas Romney started in the middle and moved rightward throughout primary season, Walker is starting on the right and will shift toward the middle.

“You start in Iowa and lock up conservatives, because if you don’t do that, none of the rest matters,” said one longtime Walker adviser, who requested anonymity to discuss campaign strategy. “It’s much easier to move from being a conservative to being a middle-of-the-road moderate later on.”

The adviser added: “In Iowa, you see the beginnings of that. He’s capturing that conservative wing first and foremost, and then moving from Iowa to the other states and bringing other voters into the fold.”

Pretty candid, I’d say, particularly when you remember the brouhaha that erupted in 2012 when Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom talked about the “pivot” his candidate was about to execute after locking up the GOP nomination:

“Everything changes,” Mr. Fehrnstrom, 50, said on CNN, with a slight smirk that suggested he believed he was about to use a clever line. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

So here’s a Walker “adviser” (who did have the good sense to stay unnamed) saying the same sort of thing. Won’t there be some angry recriminations from conservatives who are being told Walker’s going to start sounding like a different person once Iowa is in the bag?

Maybe, but it’s worth thinking about the subject Alberta uses at the top of his story to demonstrate Walker’s slippery nature:

“I’m pro-life,” Scott Walker said, looking directly into the camera. “But there’s no doubt in my mind the decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy is an agonizing one. That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”

That was last October, less than a month before Election Day, when the Wisconsin governor was locked in a tight reelection battle with Democrat Mary Burke. Her allies were attacking Walker for signing a bill that required women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. He responded with this memorable 30-second ad, part of an ongoing effort to soften Walker’s image in the eyes of on-the-fence voters. In deeply polarized Wisconsin, they would decide the race. Exit polling shows they broke to him: Walker beat Burke among independents by 11 points en route to winning a second term.

Walker will announce Monday that he’s running for president. And dovetailing with the campaign launch will be a ceremony in which the governor signs into law a 20-week abortion ban that makes no exception for rape or incest. This hard-line stance on abortion, juxtaposed against the tone he struck on the issue last fall, provides a window into Walker’s political style and helps explain how he got to this point.

That “hard-line stance” has been packaged across the country with the very rhetoric about “safety” and “information” that Walker used in his gubernatorial campaign. The latter is a deliberate deception to make medically unnecessary and onerous requirements imposed on abortion providers and the women seeking their services sound innocuous. And it’s part of a long, long pattern of deceit by antichoicers who act as though they’re only concerned with women’s health and rare late-term abortions even as they fight with each other as to whether an outright ban on all abortions should include a rape-incest exception or perhaps even extend to “abortifacient” birth control methods like IUDs. So they’re not exactly going to be upset at Scott Walker for playing the same game:

“Even as he cut that abortion ad, there isn’t a single pro-life voter in the state who suddenly thinks he’s pro-choice,” said Matt Batzel, executive director of American Majority, a conservative activist group. “They know he shares their views.”

You could undoubtedly say the same about Walker’s business backers, who may well have laughed up their sleeves during this last campaign when the good and gentle governor disclaimed any interest in passing a right-to-work law–which is practically the first thing that happened after he was safely returned to office.

So perhaps there is something about Scott Walker that inspires the kind of trust in ideologues which makes a little deception now and then acceptable so long as it produces electoral victories and he delivers the goods in the end.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, July 13, 2015

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Iowa, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bullets Outweigh Ballots”: Joni Ernst And The Right To Revolutionary Violence

The picture of IA GOP SEN nominee Joni Ernst that’s emerging from exposure of her pre-2014-general-election utterances is of a standard-brand Constitutional Conservative embracing all the strange and controversial tenets of that creed. There’s Agenda 21 madness. There’s Personhood advocacy. There are attacks on the entire New Deal/Great Society legacy–and perhaps even agricultural programs–as creating “dependency.” And now, inevitably, there’s the crown jewel of Con Con extremism: the belief that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to enable “patriots” to violently overthrow the government if in their opinion it’s overstepped its constitutional boundaries. Sam Levine of HuffPost has that story:

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Now this is a guaranteed applause line among Con Con audiences, for reasons that have relatively little to do with gun regulation. The idea here is to intimidate liberals, and “looters” and secular socialists, and those people, that there are limits to what the good virtuous folk of the country will put up with in the way of interference with their property rights and their religious convictions and their sense of how the world ought to work. If push comes to shove, they’re heavily armed, and bullets outweigh ballots. It’s a reminder that if politics fails in protecting their very broad notion of their “rights,” then revolutionary violence–which after all, made this great country possible in the first place–is always an option. And if that sounds “anti-democratic,” well, as the John Birch Society has always maintained, this is a Republic, not a democracy.

This stuff is entirely consistent with everything we’ve been learning about how Joni Ernst talked before she won a Senate nomination and decided upon an aggressively non-substantive message based on her identity and biography and one stupid but apparently irresistible joke comparing the kind of treatment she’ll give to the pork purveyors of Washington (presumably those who support obvious waste like food stamps and Medicaid) to hog castratin.’ Issues are absolute kryptonite to her campaign, so it’s no surprise she’s decided abruptly to cancel all meetings with editorial boards between now and November 4, according to Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu:

Is Joni Ernst afraid of newspaper editorial boards? After much negotiating, she was scheduled to meet his morning with writers and editors at The Des Moines Register, but last night her people called to unilaterally cancel. She has also begged off meetings with The Cedar Rapids Gazette and The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald.

Is Ernst that sensitive to the kinds of criticisms that invariably will come in such a high profile U.S. Senate race? Is she afraid of the scrutiny? Sure, it’s stressful, but all the other candidates for Congress are doing it to get their messages out, including Steven King, the target of frequent editorial criticism.

Maybe Ernst’s cynicism will be justified by the results, but I dunno: Iowans are pretty old-school about this kind of thing, and the Register actually influences votes, probably more than any newspaper I can think of. If she does win, nobody in Iowa has any excuse to be surprised if she turns out to be Todd Akin or Sharron Angle with better message discipline. As I said in another post recently, that’s pretty much who she is. Knowing she’s played the “I have the right to overthrow the government with my gun” meme makes that even clearer.

Still, somebody should ask Joni Ernst: “Since you brought it up, exactly what circumstances would justify you shooting a police officer or a soldier in the head?” Oh yeah: that would require her taking questions, which I doubt we’ll see in the last days of this campaign.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 22, 2014

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Iowa, Joni Ernst, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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