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“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

“Six Years Later, Still In A Bind”: RNC Chair’s Broken Promise Caused 2016 Nightmare

Reince Priebus had an awkward morning.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee appeared before some of his biggest skeptics at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and all but conceded that Trump will be the nominee.

It was hard to watch.

Priebus walked onstage with Sean Hannity, and the pair plopped down in bright white chairs for a heart-to-heart about the state of the presidential race. They started with a fairly dry discussion of the RNC’s re-vamped role as a data-gathering organization, with Priebus insisting that the party was doing everything it could to replicate Obama’s 2012 voter-targeting successes.

In 2012, Priebus noted, the party was “embarrassed.”

(Would hate for anything embarrassing to happen this time around!)

Priebus then effectively put a stake in the heart of Rubio’s presidential hopes. According to reports, Rubio and his team are gearing up for a chaotic turn at the party’s convention this summer—that means they hope they can use back-room deals and horse-trading to help Rubio win the nomination, even if Trump or another candidate gets more votes than he does in the primaries. There’s an emerging consensus that this is the only way Rubio could become the party’s nominee. After all, he’s only won a single early state contest, the Minnesota caucuses. Not great.

But Priebus said he doesn’t think any machinations like that will work.

“I think a lot of this is early talk,” he said, alluding to Rubio’s strategy.

“I think the odds of a contested convention are very small.”

When Hannity pressed him further on the prospects of a contested convention, Priebus all-but-explicitly made a dig at Rubio.

“I would suggest that it’s better to win,” he said. “And it’s better to win races and accumulate delegates.”

There’s only one candidate who is on track to win the nomination the old-fashioned way, and last night he bragged about his penis size.

It wasn’t always this way for Priebus. He was hailed as a hero when he came into the position as Republican National Committee boss following the Tea Party-driven election of 2010. While the election results from that year were fantastic for the RNC, the committee had been rocked by a spending scandal—including a bill for nearly $2,000 at a bonage club in West Hollywood. Donors blamed then-chairman Michael Steele.

Six years later, it was Priebus who was in a bind.

Perhaps more significantly, though, Priebus telegraphed a wee bit of chagrin about his party’s undeliverable (and somewhat impossible) promises. Towards the end of their chit-chat, Hannity pressed Priebus on a fact that’s very ugly for the party: Its voters are pissed.

“You look at the state polls, exit polls in every state, there’s anywhere between 55 and 65 percent of Republicans that feel betrayed,” he said.

“On the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare, on the issue of promising in 2014 to stop executive amnesty, there’s a feeling that Republicans didn’t fight, that they were too timid, that they were afraid they were gonna get blamed for a government shutdown. How does that —”

Priebus interrupted.

“Yeah, if I could singlehandedly repeal Obamacare, if I could, obviously, tear up executive amnesty, I would do it right here,” he said.

“But they had the power of the purse,” Hannity retorted.

“They do, but they also have the Constitution that provides for veto authority,” Priebus replied.

That might sound like a wonky discussion about the mechanics of Congressional funding. But the reality is that it went straight to the heart of why so many loyal, rank-and-file Republican voters are willing to support the guy with the little hands: because on immigration, the Republican Party has over-promised and under-delivered.

In the final week before the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans were working furiously to defeat incumbent Democrat senators and regain control of the upper chamber, Priebus made a promise he couldn’t keep: He promised that Republicans would defund the president’s executive action protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,” he told a Tea Party group on a conference call. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we

That didn’t happen.

In the months after Republicans won back the Senate—thanks in large part to activists rallying behind the party’s anti-undocumented-immigrant rhetoric—nothing happened. Some conservatives in the House and Senate tried to partially defund Department of Homeland Security, and the House took a symbolic vote on it. But fears of a government shutdown kept Republicans from going all-in on the immigration question. So Priebus’s promised opposition never truly materialized.

At CPAC, people remember.

“Look, I’m not—I’m for—I—I—I don’t think you can, you can’t promise things that you can’t deliver,” Priebus said, stammering. “That’s clearly something that you can’t do.”

The crowd murmured and booed.

“As the chairman of the RNC I don’t get—I don’t have the authority to walk across the street and pass the bills singlehandedly,” he said, after Hannity tried to shush the riled-up crowd.

“The people elected—that’s what are primaries for,” he continued.

Gulp.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | CPAC, GOP Presidential Candidates, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Ugliest Campaign Ever”: We’re Headed For Most Divisive, Scorched Earth General Election In Modern History

“Don’t vote for a Cuban” seems like a pretty straightforward campaign motto for Donald Trump at this point. True, it’s not his campaign that is making these robocalls. Instead, it is a Super PAC associated with the American Freedom Party, a white nationalist organization that loves them some Donald.

Their message is admirably concise.

“The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’” the call said. “I am afraid to be called racist. Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”

It’s curious that they don’t want to be called racist. Sounds like they’re afraid to be called racist.

Anyway, these robocalls have been detected in Minnesota and Vermont, and then there is this:

David Duke, a white nationalist and former Klu Klux Klan grand wizard, told his audience Wednesday that voting for anyone besides Donald Trump “is really treason to your heritage.”

“Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said on the David Duke Radio Program

…“And I am telling you that it is your job now to get active. Get off your duff. Get off your rear end that’s getting fatter and fatter for many of you everyday on your chairs. When this show’s over, go out, call the Republican Party, but call Donald Trump’s headquarters, volunteer,” he said. “They’re screaming for volunteers. Go in there, you’re gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have.”

That’s kind of vague, but you can see a closer tie between the robocalls and David Duke here:

In December, Duke told POLITICO that Trump’s candidacy allowed Americans to be more open about their racial animus.

“He’s made it ok to talk about these incredible concerns of European Americans today, because I think European Americans know they are the only group that can’t defend their own essential interests and their point of view,” Duke said. “He’s meant a lot for the human rights of European Americans.”

It’s a good thing that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has a plan to keep Trump on a leash. Maybe that will work (I doubt it), but a better question might be to ask what the RNC plans to do if the lawsuit over Trump University doesn’t go well.

…the upcoming civil trial could be a much bigger burden on Trump’s time. If it takes place in May, that would put it in the middle of the final phase of the GOP primary schedule: Nebraska and West Virginia vote on May 10, Oregon on May 17, and Washington state on May 24. Then on June 7, the biggest prize of all: the California primary (with 172 delegates at stake). New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota vote the same day.

Trump could easily have the nomination wrapped up before these late primaries and caucuses. (We’ve written about the Trump University scam here, here, and here).

Yeah, it’s going to be a scorched earth campaign for sure.

The unintended consequences of both parties nominating their most unpopular or polarizing figures means we are headed for the most divisive and scorched earth style general election in modern history. When you start with negatives at 50% or above, it means the only way to win is to become the lesser of two evils.

I don’t see Trump becoming more popular. But Reince Priebus has a plan, so I guess things will go swimmingly.

In reality, Priebus won’t be able to control any of this, but he will be able to assist in making Hillary the greater evil. And, considering how difficult that task will be to achieve, we’re all gonna need hazmat suits.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, White Nationalists | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Wrong Lessons Are Being Learned”: Stop Calling Them ‘Debates’. They’re Game Shows

After the bloody mess made by holding nearly two dozen debates in the 2012 election cycle, RNC chair Reince Priebus made reforming the Republican debate process one of his top priorities for 2016. It hasn’t worked. Why? Because these events are not debates at all. They’re game shows.

In 2011-12, attention-hungry candidates jumped at the chance to hold more and more debates, thinking the spotlight would help their candidacies. Instead, all those debates gave the media extra opportunities to find gotcha sound bites that damaged the party’s chances of winning against Barack Obama. Priebus pledged to keep that from happening this time around, by taking control of the debates, limiting their number, and pushing campaigns out of the strategy loop.

That didn’t work out so well.

Wednesday’s debacle on CNBC has infuriated the GOP’s 2016 presidential candidates, and has the RNC backpedaling. But the wrong lessons are being learned — and the candidates seemed poised once again to open the door to another 2012-style free-for-all.

Most observers agree that the CNBC debate was a disaster from start to finish. Seasoned journalists without a partisan ax to grind expressed their amazement and disgust at the spectacle. “Biggest loser of this debate isn’t JEB,” Ron Fournier tweeted during the debate. “It’s MSM. We’ve earned this bashing.” Even former DNC chair (and current governor of Virginia) Terry McAuliffe called the CNBC debate “an absolute farce … a joke … an embarrassment to our country.”

And so Republican candidates gathered this weekend to find a way to change the trajectory of the debates — and ended up making the problem even worse. The Ben Carson campaign argued that the debates needed to be severed from their network “sponsors.” A number of other campaigns didn’t want changes made to the format at all. The result was a series of “tweaks,” as Byron York put it, to be implemented after the upcoming Fox Business Channel debate on Nov. 10, which was deemed too close to change.

Even that modest outcome didn’t last a day. By Monday afternoon, the tenuous confederation of Republican candidates blew apart as frontrunner Donald Trump repudiated the agreement. Instead of coordinating between campaigns and broadcasters, Trump declared that he’d negotiate his own terms with the “sponsors,” and that the other candidates could either follow along or not. That threatens to return the GOP back to the 2012 dynamic, where candidates jumped at the chance to appear on television and dragged the other FOMO-plagued candidates through a gauntlet of televised debates.

The candidate confederation failed because all of these campaigns are competing with each other. The reason the RNC stepped into this role was to prevent exactly what Trump and his team want to do, which is to have 14 free agents negotiating with broadcasters.

But the reason the RNC’s original reforms failed is this: The RNC attempted to reform the wrong part of the process. The issue isn’t really how many debates take place, but the nature of the debates themselves, and the risk any one of them poses to the GOP.

These events are not debates in any substantive sense. The game-show format and the number of candidates on stage make substantive debate all but impossible. These are sound bite and gaffe contests, not a forum for sharp, honest arguments about the future of our country and party.

Nothing of substantive value emerged from two hours of wasted air time in the CNBC debate; indeed, all we have learned in nearly 14 hours of debate is how well the candidates can launch zingers. That might be valuable if we were electing the next Borscht Belt headliner, but hardly useful for choosing the next leader of the free world.

This is a failure of imagination more than a deficit of competence. We need to truly rethink debates themselves, and not just squabble over a hopelessly broken process. The RNC needs to put an end to both network sponsorship and the game-show format. If 14 candidates make the grade for a debate, then use a format that allows all 14 to make arguments for their policy choices. Offer a set of identical questions on a policy area to every candidate individually and give them each 15 minutes to answer, providing equal time for every candidate. That would require three and a half hours. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it’s still shorter than the undercard + main event of each of the three previous debates.

When the field comes down to a manageable number — say, six or fewer — then a two-hour debate has a chance to offer substantive discussions that can frame Republican and conservative policy in an attractive manner.

If networks don’t like that format, they can cover the forums from the sidelines. In fact, with the proliferation of broadband internet, the media partnership model should be an anachronism, not a tradition. Carson’s campaign is absolutely correct about the need to cut the network strings. Presidential forums will get plenty of coverage regardless of whether they get broadcast by an alphabet-named media outlet; filing rooms fill up with reporters from all media organizations for every debate. By taking ownership of the entire event, the RNC can select moderators who display objectivity in their reporting, or even better yet, choose media figures who know the Republican voters that candidates need to reach in the primaries. Priebus deserves credit for pushing the envelope already by involving media groups on the right (including my employer, Salem Media Group, as a partner in the CNN debates), but the reform needs to go all the way toward self-sufficiency.

The Republican Party learned a hard lesson last week about the game-show format and the ability of media figures to exploit it, especially in a crowded primary. Until they change the debate format itself and replace it with a format that rewards depth and substance, they will continue to get caught with their pants down — even if the RNC or the campaigns delude themselves into thinking they’re in control.

 

By: Ed Morrissey, The Week, November 4, 2015

November 5, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primary Debates, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Retreating Entirely Into Their Own Little World”: GOP Debate Flat-Earthers Would Rather Just Talk Among Themselves

The defining essence of today’s Republican Party is that it lives in its own reality with its own set of “facts.”

You know this well enough. On the planet most of us inhabit, huge tax cuts for the rich hurt the economy and compound the deficit. The Earth is warming, and man-made carbon emissions have a lot to do with it. Evolution is a fact that happened and is still happening. On GOPEarth, tax cuts for the rich help the economy and reduce the deficit. The Earth isn’t warming, and even if it were just a little, it’s nothing to do with us. Evolution is just a theory.

It’s all fantasy, and all promulgated partly out of deluded belief but mainly for the benefit of Republican politicians’ benefactors and shock troops—in the three cases above, for the über-rich, for energy and oil companies, and for religious-right voters. And because of the way discourse in a democratic society works, if one party decides that it believes and wants to peddle empirically untrue things, well, provided it gets enough people to believe and repeat those things, the rest of us have no choice but to take those arguments seriously and engage them and quarrel with them. So we waste a lot of time in this country “debating” things that in every other advanced democracy in the world are settled matters of fact.

But now Reince Priebus may be doing those of us on mother Earth a favor. With his astonishing admission Monday that anyone allowed to ask a question of a Republican presidential candidate at a debate ought to “care or give a rip about the Republican Party,” the GOP chairman is unwittingly hastening the arrival of the day when the flat-earthers can just talk among themselves and the rest of us don’t really have to pay attention.

It’s an incredible statement in the way it imposes a precondition of support for the party before a person is even allowed to ask a question. Now, there may be a reasonable role for ideological journalists to be on a debate stage. I’d love to participate in a Democratic debate. But not so I can lob them softballs. Rather, I’d ask them tough questions that it would never occur to Anderson Cooper to ask, because I’m immersed in liberal thought and policy debates in a way he isn’t, and I have a pretty strong sense of what kinds of questions might get them off their talking points. So there’s a role for that. But that of course is not what Priebus meant. He meant lickspittles.

On the surface, the Republican anger over the debates is about a series of somewhat picayune questions about format, like these, which were set forth in a letter from GOP lawyer Ben Ginsberg to the networks (Will you commit that you won’t “show an empty podium after a break/describe how far away the bathrooms are”?)

While Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich all said Monday that they would not sign the letter, even I would agree that Republicans have a couple of legitimate gripes on some of these format questions.

The format of having the top 10 (or 11) candidates debate and leaving the others to the kids’ table has been ridiculous from jump street. Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, both of whom have actual policy knowledge, aren’t any less serious than Chris Christie and John Kasich just because they’re a point or two behind them but within the margin of error. From the start, it should have been two groups of eight or nine, randomly drawn from a hat (although, interestingly, the campaigns did not agree Sunday that this should be the practice going forward).

They’re right that the CNBC debate was chaotic. And they’re right that questions aren’t fairly distributed. Underlying these two problems, especially the latter one, is a hard economic fact that the networks won’t acknowledge and which Republican free-marketeers are unlikely to condemn. These debates, especially with Donald Trump in the picture, are far less about civic edification than they are about ratings and the ad rates that can be charged when Trump-scale audiences tune in who naturally enough want to see more of Trump than they do of Mike Huckabee. Did CNN expand that GOP debate to three tedious hours so the public would learn more, or so that the network could rake in one extra hour’s worth of ad revenue? Let’s not kid ourselves.

But at bottom, the Republican complaints about the debate process aren’t really about these format issues. They’re about GOP resentment that the questioners don’t share the candidates’ ideological presumptions and don’t see the debate as a PR opportunity for the party; which is to say that they’re about this insular reality that Republicans and conservatives have created for themselves in which everyone who doesn’t reflexively agree with a long list of litmus-test assumptions about the world, many of them provably untrue, is a liberal and an enemy of freedom and all the rest.

So now, with Priebus’s words Monday, they’re edging close to retreating into that reality in a way that would have been unimaginable a few years ago but that we may yet see. Picture this: Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. In 2019, Republicans start contemplating running against her and start thinking about primary debates. First off, they may not even have them at all (a blessing in a way, though not really a triumph for democracy). But if they do have them, is it far-fetched to think that there will be only two, and that they’ll be limited to, oh, the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Tea Party Network? After all, remember, it’s C-effing-NBC they’re mad at—the network that helped create the Tea Party! Remember also that Fox made them furious back in the summer, when Fox moderators asked tougher-than-expected questions. Pretty soon their own mothers won’t even be allowed to ask them questions (especially Jeb Bush’s).

Priebus doesn’t seem to have thought through one basic fact: If the Republican Party really sues the political media for a debate divorce, then the political media will be under decreasing obligation to take the party’s barmy positions seriously, and they can talk on their networks about their world, and the rest of us can talk in every other outlet about the real world. It’s sad, but not as sad as having to take all their whining seriously.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 3, 2015

November 4, 2015 Posted by | CNBC Debate, GOP Primary Debates, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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