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“Every Time He Opens His Mouth”: Trump Veep Contender General Michael Flynn Can’t Stop Pissing Off Conservatives

Before he disappears from sight as a national political figure when Donald Trump names someone else as his vice-presidential choice, let us pause for a moment of awe at the utterances of former general Michael Flynn, who somehow manages to dig himself into a deeper hole every time he opens his mouth.

First and most famously, Flynn eliminated himself from serious consideration for a spot on the national ticket by going on a Sunday show and, via an incoherent ramble, appearing to endorse a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The next day, Flynn tried to recover by labeling himself a “pro-life Democrat” whose mother was an anti-abortion activist, but then wandered back into a swamp by suggesting the Supreme Court had for the time being resolved the issue. Then he made matters infinitely worse by saying that people who viewed the abortion issue as the most important priority for America should just stay home and let others decide the election.

And then, for his encore, Flynn allowed as how he was fine with same-sex marriage, deploying his signature clean and concise talking style:

“On the gay issue, hey, you know what, if people love each other, Jesus, I mean, come on,” Flynn told San Diego KOGO radio’s Morning News. “I’m not afraid of it. That’s my point. And I’m not afraid to tell you what I believe in.”

This statement was made at roughly the same time the Republican convention Platform Committee was beginning to approve a notably homophobic expression of GOP principles.

Flynn also commented about his position on abortion, saying it doesn’t matter that he has previously said women have a right to choose whether to have an abortion.

“I mentioned it yesterday, I’m one of these people that I don’t like, on the abortion issue, it’s not something that—I’m very uncomfortable talking about it. I’m not gonna kid you. It’s a very uncomfortable thing. I think, that, it’s a legal issue. Definitely a legal issue. It’s been decided upon by our Supreme Court.”

In case anyone out there is in doubt about this, let me be plain: Anyone joining a Republican national ticket has to be solidly and unambiguously in favor of outlawing virtually all abortions. Yes, some wiggle room is allowed over the tiny number of abortions performed in cases where pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, but that’s absolutely it. And nothing offends social conservatives much more than suggestions that their issue should be subordinated to others. Indeed, their primary grievance with the GOP is that its leaders do exactly that far too often.

To be clear, these are people who believe, or at least claim to believe, that legalized abortion is an ongoing American Holocaust and that same-sex marriage is an attack on the fundamental wellsprings of Western civilization. So no, these are not “legal issues” to them, or “divisive” topics to be put on the back burner.

Now, it’s fashionable this year, as in most years, to contend that the Christian right is a spent force in American politics, and maybe this time, unlike all of the other times, the prophecy is correct. But, for the moment, the people who say abortion is genocide or that gay people defy all of the laws of God and nature absolutely have the power to blow up Donald Trump’s convention and wreck his slim chances of becoming president. I’m guessing Trump was never serious about Michael Flynn as a running mate or he would have dispatched someone to make sure the man knew what to say on very basic ideological litmus tests like abortion policy. Once the actual veep is announced, poor Flynn can stop digging and go back to being a national-security adviser to Trump, if he hasn’t made himself so toxic that even that kind of role becomes impossible.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Vice President Candidate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Can’t Win Without Women”: Trump’s Crude Sexist Spiel Has Backfired

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s freshly-minted presumptive nominee for president, has called his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton a weak candidate lacking in stamina whose only asset is the “woman’s card.”

“And the beauty of this is that women don’t even like her,” he claimed after he won the Indiana Republican primary.

Harsh words, but not totally surprising from an unrestrained rich guy who has called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat slob,” among other epithets, and suggested that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him tough questions at the first GOP Debate. (“She had blood coming out of her whatever.”)

Clinton, however, is betting that Trump’s crude sexist spiel has backfired, igniting opposition to him from women across the political spectrum.

“The whole idea of ‘playing the woman card,’ which he charged I was doing, and by extension other women were doing, has just lit a fire under so many women across the country,” she said during an interview with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times posted yesterday.

“And I think it’s because they see his attacks on me, or Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina or whoever else he’s attacking at the moment as really a much broader attack on them. I think we are going to be pushing back and drawing the contrast whenever he does that. Because it’s just absolutely beyond the pale. He’s not going to get away with it, at least going forward.”

About half of Republican women (some 47 percent) say they don’t like Trump.

And several prominent female politicians in the Party of Lincoln are openly antagonistic to the foul-mouthed real estate mogul and his immodest proposals — like banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, for one, has compared Trump and other GOP candidates to fascistic dicators like Hitler.

“Trump especially is employing the kind of hateful rhetoric and exploiting the insecurities of this nation, in much the same way that allowed Hitler and Mussolini to rise to power in the lead-up to World War II,” she wrote last December in Politico Magazine.

Whitman has also said she might vote for Hillary Clinton.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and sole female in the GOP race for president before she dropped out, is no ideological sistah to Clinton. But she was quick to attack Trump for boasting about his endorsement in April from “tough” Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion who has had seriously rocky relationships with women.

“Sorry, I don’t consider a convicted rapist a tough guy,” Fiorina told reporters in Indianapolis during her brief stint as Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s pick for vice president. She was alluding to how Tyson was convicted of raping a teenage beauty contestant in the same city in 1992. (He spent three years in prison.)

Fiorina, who antagonized Trump when she was still running for the GOP presidential nomination, noted: “And I think it says a lot about Donald Trump’s campaign and his character that he is standing up and cheering for an endorsement by Mike Tyson.”

Cruz made a similar point with far stronger language when he assailed Trump as a “serial philanderer” and “pathological liar” who supports rapists as voters headed to the polls in Indiana on Tuesday. After they handed the bloviating billionaire a big win, Cruz abruptly suspended his campaign.

He was furious with Trump for making the bizarre and unsubstantiated claim on Tuesday morning that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Trump’s proof? He had seem a picture in the National Enquirer of a man who looked like Cruz’s Dad standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald. Cruz seemed astounded: “This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position This is kooky.”

Cruz’s has depicted Trump before as “utterly amoral,” in his apparent bid for the evangelical vote. Those words are among the sound bites that appear in a brutal anti-Trump ad released by the Clinton campaign earlier this week. Clinton lets Trump’s former Republican rivals on the campaign trail and other detractors do the talking. (“A con artist,” summed up Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who lost to Trump in his home state; “a race baiting xenophobic religious bigot,” stated Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who was among the first of 17 GOP candidates to drop out of the GOP contest).

Another Clinton ad shows Trump talking himself into further trouble with female voters, telling Chris Matthew’s of MSNBC’s “Hard Ball” that women should receive some sort of unspecified “punishment” for having abortions in the event the procedure becomes illegal. He’s also shown in an interview refusing to disavow an endorsement from KKK leader David Duke.

Trump’s popularity among GOP standard bearers is hardly whole hearted.

“There’s more enthusiasm for @realDonaldTrump among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. wrote on Twitter. Warren, who has yet to endorse anyone, has become a one-woman scourge of Trump.

Meanwhile, a recent CNN/ORCA survey shows Clinton mopping up the floor with her fellow New Yorker, leading him by 54 to 41, a 13 point edge. That figure augurs well for the former two-term junior senator from the big blue state should she capture the Democratic Party’s nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Philadelphia.

 

By: Mary Reinholz, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 6, 2016

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, War On Women | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Trump Drives Spike Into Culture War Politics”: Trump’s Second-Best Contribution To The Quality Of America’s Civic Life

Days before the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz paraded his two young daughters in matching pink dresses and spoke darkly of “putting little girls alone in a bathroom with grown men.”

This was a visual that, frankly, we could have done without. Thankfully, Donald Trump locked it in Ripley’s museum of the politically bizarre by trouncing Cruz in that conservative state’s primary.

It was Trump who had said that transgender people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate.” It was he who noted that there have been “very few problems” with transgender people using ladies’ rooms. Trump didn’t say — but could have — that men presenting themselves as women have been using women’s facilities for a long time, with the other occupants none the wiser or unconcerned.

So has Trump deep-sixed the culture war gambit in Republican politics? The formula is to draw votes by pounding on some controversy of little consequence to most people, preferably with a sex angle attached. The 2004 presidential election in Ohio was a textbook case. Placing a measure to ban gay marriage on the ballot probably gave George W. Bush — whose main game was tax cuts — a narrow victory.

Our friends the Koch brothers routinely give money to socially conservative groups to win over middle- or working-class followers otherwise not served by the family’s economic agenda. The brothers themselves have shrugged at gay marriage, saying they have no problem with it.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the working-class whites targeted by culture warriors don’t really care all that much about these issues — or care a lot less about them than they do about their falling incomes. Perhaps they’ve been voting all these years for an attitude, hitting back at the “liberal elites” who they feel rap them on the knuckles when they speak their mind. Trump’s magic potion involves adding attitude while subtracting threats to Social Security, Medicare and other government programs average folks depend on.

Trump has stomped on so many of the right wing’s most cherished wedge issues — while winning majorities among the Republican base — it gets you wondering how big that tide of moral umbrage really was. How much of it was a mirage pulled off with talk radio’s smoke and mirrors?

Abortion is a truly difficult issue. Your writer believes an abortion should be easy (and free) to obtain early in a pregnancy and limited later on. Others oppose abortion altogether, and it is this group’s genuine concerns that the right seeks to stoke.

As a result, it’s the rare Republican who will put in a good word for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides a variety of women’s health services in addition to abortions. But Trump praised the organization for doing the former without apology. And he won races in the heart of value-voter America — including the entire Deep South.

For liberals and moderates alike, Trump deserves gratitude for putting away Cruz. (Too bad about John Kasich, though.) It spared us from having to hear his running mate, Carly Fiorina, go on about Planned Parenthood’s harvesting “body parts” from a kicking fetus, a complete fiction.

Making things up happens to be a Trump specialty, so there’s some poetic justice in his volleying back some outright fabrications. His suggestion that Cruz’s father helped John Kennedy’s assassin is a classic of the genre.

Putting an end to culture warmongering as a political strategy — or at least dialing it back — could go down as Trump’s second-best contribution to the quality of America’s civic life. His best contribution would be to lose badly in November. Luckily, on getting himself not elected in the general, Trump has made a strong start.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 5, 2016

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Culture Wars, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Constraining Trump’s Erratic Impulses”: The Coming Struggle Over Policy Between Donald Trump And The GOP

Now that Donald Trump has nearly secured the GOP presidential nomination, Republicans everywhere have to start thinking seriously about how they’re going to deal with him and how having him as their party’s leader affects their own plans for the future. And here’s the basic challenge that will create for Republicans: How can they keep Trump from veering wildly from the straight and narrow path of conservatism?

It’s going to require constant work. For Republicans, the next six months will be a struggle to constrain Trump’s erratic impulses, and even if they’re mostly successful, it still might not diminish the damage Trump could to do the conservative project.

Some Republicans are already trying to downplay this challenge. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is currently engaged in an effort to shape his party’s policy agenda for the next decade or two, said this morning that he and other Republicans who care about conservative ideology have nothing to worry about:

House Speaker Paul Ryan downplayed any conflict between his detailed policy proposals and those pushed by Donald Trump on Wednesday, hours after the front-runner sewed up five more states and marched ever closer to locking up his party’s nomination.

“The key for populism, Joe, as you well know because you practiced this, how do you take this populism and connect it to principle so that it’s populism tethered to good principles which give us good solutions, not unprincipled populism and that to me is our value added to this equation,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, referring to co-host Joe Scarborough’s time as a lawmaker representing Florida.

Though he did not mention Trump by name and has been magnanimous even in his policy criticisms of Trump in the past, Ryan signaled that no matter Republicans’ standard bearer in November, the party will be “comfortable” and unify around the platform that he is advocating in Congress.

He also described any differences with Trump and other candidates over Obamacare and tax reform as small obstacles, remarking that they share broader agreement on the issues.

It’s possible that Ryan could prove right about this. But the amount of vigilance that will be required from Republicans could itself prove a strain.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Trump’s relationship to the conservative policy agenda, and to any agenda at all, is that he just doesn’t care about policy in the least. He has some sincere opinions on some issues, but for the most part, not only has he never thought much about any policy issue one might present him with, there’s almost nothing he thinks about an issue that isn’t subject to revision.

That’s why we’ve seen a particular pattern repeat itself so often. Trump will get asked a question about an issue he obviously hasn’t considered before. He’ll give an answer that doesn’t line up with conservative orthodoxy, because he isn’t aware of precisely what conservative orthodoxy is. Then Republicans will get enraged, the controversy will blow up, and a day or two later — after he’s had a chance to learn what he’s supposed to say — he’ll come back and offer a revised version of his position.

This happened on abortion (where he said women should be punished for having abortions, then said they shouldn’t), on transgender people being forced by the government to use the wrong bathrooms (where he said they should use whatever bathrooms they want, then said the issue should be decided at the state and local level), and on Israel and the Palestinians (where he first said he wanted to be a neutral arbiter, then went to AIPAC and said “There is no moral equivalency” between Israel and the Palestinians).

That’s not to mention the positions on issues like abortion and guns that he changed before the race began. So if you’re a Republican, that’s about as much as you can hope for. He may not be with you already, but he’s responsive to pressure. Once you tell him that he has strayed, he comes back to the fold.

To be sure, whenever Trump comes out with a formal policy proposal, it’s right in line with conservative orthodoxy. So for instance, he has repeatedly said we should raise taxes on rich people, much to Republicans’ horror, but when he actually released a tax plan, it featured, guess what, a huge tax cut for the wealthy. The same thing happened on health care: he said some things suggesting there were parts of the Affordable Care Act he liked, but when he released his plan, it could have been lifted from the boilerplate on the issue you’ll find on any Republican candidate’s web site.

Today Trump is going to deliver an address on foreign policy, and while we don’t know what’s going to be in it, because this is a prepared speech — which means it was written for him by other people — I’m almost sure that there will be little if anything in there that Republicans will object to. It’ll talk about how Barack Obama is weak, our enemies don’t fear us, we need to increase military spending, we should tear up the Iran nuclear deal — all things ordinary Republicans say all the time.

This is all possible because, to repeat, Trump just doesn’t care about policy. That should make Republicans at least somewhat sanguine about what his presidency would be like. Paul Ryan can deliver him one bill after another written and passed by the GOP Congress, and Trump is likely to say, “Sure, whatever” and sign them.

And yet, there are some trouble spots for conservatives ahead, signaled by the areas where Trump has in fact gone against conservative orthodoxy. Trade is a big one — Trump seems to believe that if we increase tariffs on Chinese goods, then everyone in America will have a great job. There have been a few others, like his lack of enthusiasm for cutting Social Security. Then there’s his ban on Muslims entering the U.S., which (while Republican voters support it) GOP elites find vulgar and damaging to the party.

And so, in the general election, we may see examples of Republicans like Ryan struggling to pull Trump back into line: when his impulse takes him to a place that’s popular with the electorate, but it’s a place other Republicans don’t want to go. Then they’ll have a much harder time making the case to him that he needs to get back with the conservative program.

On the other hand, if Trump remains as dreadfully unpopular with the general electorate as he is now, and he goes down to a sweeping defeat, maybe Republicans would be better off if he proves to be an imperfect representative of GOP ideology. Though that may not be much comfort.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 27, 2016

May 1, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, GOP Establishment | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Origins Of The Religious Right”: Still Insisting That Religious Freedom Is A Justification For Discrimination

It is often assumed that the origins of the religious right’s political awakening (known back then as the so-called “moral majority”) was in response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. But in an article a friend recently pointed out to me from 2014, Randall Balmer locates it’s origins in another court case: Green vs Connally. It has interesting relevance for some of the issues we are hearing about today.

Balmer first points out that immediately before and after Roe vs Wade, evangelical leaders didn’t see a problem with abortion. He provides several quotes, including this one:

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Meanwhile, Paul Weyrich was looking around for an issue that would galvanize evangelical support for Republicans. He found it in an edict from President Nixon’s Treasury Department that the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act precluded a tax-exempt status for private schools that discriminated against African Americans. Schools like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University responded.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation.

In other words, “religious freedom” was used as the justification for discrimination. Sound familiar? That was the issue at stake in Green vs Connally.

It was on the heels of that argument that these religious leaders then turned to theologian Francis Schaeffer and surgeon C. Everett Koop (who later became Reagan’s Surgeon General) to stir up objections to abortion. They did that with the film Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

In the early months of 1979, Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea.

It is hard to avoid seeing a parallel with the doctored videos produced by The Center for Medical Progress that have raised evangelicals in opposition to Planned Parenthood.

All of that laid the groundwork for the involvement of the religious right in the 1980 presidential race between Carter and Reagan, although their positions on these issues were not as well-defined as we have been led to believe.

By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the IRS “against independent schools,” but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.

More than 35 years later, the religious right is still insisting that religious freedom is a justification for discrimination and using deceptive videos to ignite opposition to women’s reproductive health. As the saying goes…”everything old is new again.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, Religious Freedom, Religious Right | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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