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“A Final #NeverTrump Revolution”: Could Desperate Republicans Buy Trump Out Of The Presidential Race?

On Friday we learned that, in response to Donald Trump’s presidential anti-campaign, some GOP delegates are trying to muster a final #NeverTrump revolution before he’s officially nominated at the Republican National Convention next month. Now, Politico is teasing desperate Trump-anxious Republicans even further — particularly those still in the bargaining stage of grief. Apparently a former Trump advisor told Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger that they believed Trump would drop out of the presidential race if someone slipped him $150 million. Then, another former Trump advisor, Jim Dornan, agreed that such a payoff would “probably” work, and wondered if the Koch brothers would be up for the investment. But while the idea was a big hit on Twitter, especially with #NeverTrump superfan Bill Kristol, Trump isn’t buying into the buy-out idea, telling Politico (whose reporters are already banned from Trump events) that they are a bunch of lying liars for passing along things his former advisors said:

This story is a total fabrication from you and POLITICO, as usual. I will never leave the race, nobody has enough money to pay me to leave the race, and if they did, it would be totally illegal anyway. Did Obama and the Clintons get you to write this garbage?

Then again, when a reality television star’s presidential campaign seems more like a garbage fire, or media-empire grab, than an actual, functional presidential campaign, it does kind of make sense that all sorts of outlandish speculation would emerge about that candidate’s intentions. Plus, Politico got a law professor to suggest a legal loophole:

“It’s against the law to bribe someone for a vote or certain favors, but if I say to Trump, ‘I’m starting a new hedge fund with $300 million committed to it. I’d really like you to join us. Your name will bring in billions. I’ll give you a 50 percent interest from the start, and you can cash out the value of your initial interest ($150 million) when you want,’ There’s no bribe there, and Trump could go away with the $150 million,” [Pace Law School’s Jim] Fishman wrote in an email.

Also, regarding the #NeverTrump delegate story, Trump is now calling it a hoax, though it’s a hoax that’s apparently worth engaging with if that provides an opportunity to brag:

Who are they going to pick? I beat everybody. I beat the hell out of them. And we’re going to beat Hillary. And it’d be helpful if the Republicans could help us a little bit. If they don’t want to help out as much, I’ll fund my own campaign. I’d love to do that.

 

By: Chas Danner, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 18, 2016

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Koch Brothers, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Inconvenient Facts, Far Beyond The Pale”: Crazy Nut Donald Trump Thinks George W. Bush Was President On 9/11

Last fall, Donald Trump claimed that, on September 11, 2001, thousands of Muslims cheered the fall of the World Trade Center. This vicious fiction drew the scorn of fact-checkers and social liberals but caused nary a ripple in the Republican field. But, on Saturday night, Trump said something else about 9/11, something so far beyond the pale that conservatives finally rose up in righteous indignation. He claimed that on 9/11 the president of the United States was George W. Bush.

Republicans disagree internally on aspects of Bush’s domestic legacy, but his record on counterterrorism remains a point of unified party doctrine. Bush, they agree, Kept Us Safe. To praise the president who oversaw the worst domestic terrorist attack in American history for preventing domestic terrorism is deeply weird, and the only way this makes any sense is to treat 9/11 as a kind of starting point, for which his predecessor is to blame. (Marco Rubio, rushing to Dubya’s defense at Saturday night’s Republican debate, explained, “The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.”) Trump not only pointed out that Bush was president on 9/11 and that the attacks that day count toward his final grade, but he also noted that Bush failed to heed intelligence warnings about the pending attack and that his administration lied to the public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Conservatives have always dismissed such notions as far-left conspiracy theorizing, often equating it with the crackpot notion that 9/11 was an inside job. The ensuing freak-out at Trump’s heresy has been comprehensive. “It turns out the front-runner for the GOP nomination is a 9/11 ‘truther’ who believes Bush knew 9/11 was going to happen but did nothing to stop it,” says Marc Thiessen, the columnist and former Bush administration speechwriter. “Moreover, Trump says, Bush knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but lied to the American people to get us into a Middle East war.” Trump is “borrowing language from MoveOn.org and Daily Kos to advance the absurd ‘Bush lied, people died’ Iraq War narrative,” cried National Review’s David French. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol demanded that, even should Trump win the nomination, fellow Republicans refuse to “conscientiously support a man who is willing to say something so irresponsible about something so serious, for the presidency of the United States.”

In fact, Trump has not claimed that Bush had specific knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. He said, “George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn’t listen to the advice of his CIA.” That is correct. Bush was given numerous, detailed warnings that Al Qaeda planned an attack. But the Bush administration had, from the beginning, dismissed fears about terrorism as a Clinton preoccupation. Its neoconservative ideology drove the administration to fixate on state-supported dangers — which is why it turned its attention so quickly to Iraq. The Bush administration ignored pleas by the outgoing Clinton administration to focus on Al Qaeda in 2000, and ignored warnings by the CIA to prepare for an upcoming domestic attack. The Bush administration did not want the 9/11 attacks to occur; it was simply too ideological and incompetent to take responsible steps to prevent them.

It is certainly true that Trump took his attack a step too far when he insisted the Bush administration “knew” there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All of the evidence suggests that the Bush administration, along with intelligence agencies in other countries, believed Saddam Hussein was concealing prohibited weapons. But the evidence is also very clear that the Bush administration manipulated the evidence it had to bolster its case publicly, like police officers framing a suspect they believed to be guilty.

The cover-up was grotesquely crude. Republicans in Congress insisted that the original commission investigating the issue confine itself to faulty intelligence given to the Bush administration and steer clear of manipulation by the Bush administration itself. The report stated this clearly: “Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry.” It was not until a subsequent commission that the administration’s culpability was investigated. And that commission, which became known as the “Phase II” report, found that the Bush administration did indeed mislead the public: “[T]he Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”

You might think Republicans would have developed a sophisticated response, but they haven’t. Their defense for the last decade has consisted of claiming the Phase I report, which was forbidden from investigating the Bush administration, actually vindicated Bush, and ignoring the existence of the Phase II report. Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial does it again, calling the claim that Bush lied a “conspiracy theory,” which was refuted by — you guessed it — the Phase I report. (“Their report of more than 600 pages concludes that it was the CIA’s ‘own independent judgments — flawed though they were — that led them to conclude Iraq had active WMD programs.’”)

Republicans have walled inconvenient facts about the Bush administration’s security record out of their minds by associating them with crazed conspiracy theorists. It is epistemic closure at work: Criticism of Bush on 9/11 and Iraq intelligence is dismissed because the only people who say it are sources outside the conservative movement, who by definition cannot be trusted. The possibility that the Republican Party itself would nominate a man who endorses these criticisms is horrifying to them. To lose control of the party in such a fashion would be a fate far worse than losing the presidency.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 16, 2016con

February 17, 2016 Posted by | 9-11, Conservatives, Donald Trump, George W Bush | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Base Doesn’t Care About Conservatism”: In The Battle Of Us vs. Them, The Donald Has Been Winning From The Start

I think Lindsey Graham is about to find out that his predictive powers are not better than Bill Kristol’s:

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), a supporter of [Jeb] Bush, said of Trump: “This man accused George W. Bush of being a liar and suggested he should be impeached. This man embraces [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as a friend. The market in the Republican primary for people who believe that Putin’s a good guy and W. is a liar is pretty damn small.”

It takes a certain kind of determined myopia not to see in retrospect that George W. Bush was a liar of immense proportions. It’s also extremely difficult to ignore the disastrous consequences of his presidency:

“The war in Iraq has been a disaster,” Trump said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It started the chain of events that leads now to the migration, maybe the destruction of Europe. [Bush] started the war in Iraq. Am I supposed to be a big fan?”

Despite all this, it might not be entirely accurate to say that the base of the GOP agrees with Trump’s assessment of our 43rd president. It’s probably more a matter of them not really caring much one way or the other. They’ve moved on.

I think it’s interesting that the Republican rank-and-file seem impervious to heresies against the Conservative Movement. Trump’s past comments calling for universal health care don’t bother them, nor do they hold his pro-Planned Parenthood funding against him. Was he pro-gay rights and pro-choice in the past? It’s no matter.

He makes a left-wing critique of the Iraq War and President Bush? Apparently, not too many people are offended.

You can go down a growing list. Trump calls for protective tariffs and opposes free trade. He uses eminent domain and strategic bankruptcy to further his business interests. He clearly fakes his piety in an unconvincing and frankly insulting manner. His private life is nearly the opposite of what the family values crowd espouses. He uses expletives and sexual innuendo (who will protect the children?).

What this calls into question is how much the appeal of conservative ideology has ever really explained the cohesiveness of the Republican coalition. Has it always been more a matter of tribalism and a team mentality? Could it be that what unites them is less free enterprise, retro-Christian values and a strong national defense than a shared antipathy for common enemies?

That’s been my working hypothesis for a while now, which is why I thought the Republican Establishment was deluding themselves when they said they’d destroy Trump once they began running ads about his record as anything but a movement conservative.

The people who support Trump are supporting him because he’s the kind of guy who will stand up the president and say that he wasn’t even born here. They don’t care whether he’s an economic protectionist or not. But they damn sure like that he’s willing to tell the Mexican government that he’s going to force them to pay for a Great Wall on the southern border.

In the battle of us vs. them, The Donald has been winning from the start.

Cruz is doing a decent job, too, but he’ll probably never be more than Trump’s caddie.

And, if Cruz does eventually outshine Trump, his appeal will be the exact same. It won’t be his adherence to strict constitutional originalism or his appeal to Christian Dominionists. It will be that Cruz convinces the base that he’ll do a better job than Trump of shattering the liberals.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 15, 2016

February 17, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, George W Bush, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It Ain’t Gonna Happen”: No, There Won’t Be A Major Third-Party Candidacy In 2016 — From Bloomberg Or Anyone Else

Let’s face it: we in the media are suckers for any kind of political story that offers something unpredictable. And like clockwork, every four years someone suggests that there might be a viable third-party presidential candidacy in the offing, spurring legions of reporters and commentators to lick their lips in anticipation. At the moment the attention is focused on former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, but there is also discussion of whether conservatives might rally around a third-party candidate if Donald Trump, no true conservative he, becomes the GOP nominee.

I have some bad news: It ain’t gonna happen.

Not only is Bloomberg not going to run, but if Trump wins the Republican nomination, every last prominent Republican will line up behind him like good soldiers.

Let’s start with Bloomberg. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that he is thinking about running because he’s distressed at the thought of a race between the vulgarian Donald Trump and the socialistic Bernie Sanders. They made it sound like he’s really on his way to a bid:

Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, according to people briefed on his deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his plans. He has set a deadline for making a final decision in early March, the latest point at which advisers believe Mr. Bloomberg could enter the race and still qualify to appear as an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

He has retained a consultant to help him explore getting his name on those ballots, and his aides have done a detailed study of past third-party bids. Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a poll in December to see how he might fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and he intends to conduct another round of polling after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 to gauge whether there is indeed an opening for him, according to two people familiar with his intentions.

You might read that and say, Holy cow, he’s doing it! But the thing about having $36.5 billion is that you can explore lots of things without being serious about them. Bloomberg has political consultants who work for him, and he can open the paper one morning, decide he’s troubled by today’s news, then pick up the phone and say to one of those consultants, “Write me up a report on what it would take for me to run for president.” Then they go off and do a poll, conduct a little research on ballot access, and put together a “plan” in a couple of weeks. Maybe it costs $100,000 all told to satisfy the boss’s curiosity, but that’s nothing to Bloomberg.

And he’s done it before. Here’s an almost identical article in the New York Times from eight years ago, about how he was laying the groundwork for a third-party run. Practically the only thing that’s different is the date.

You might say, “Hey, nobody thought Trump was going to run, either!” Which is true. But Trump found an opening in one of the two parties, and Bloomberg hasn’t suggested running as a Democrat. While I’m sure Bloomberg thinks he’d be an excellent president, he’s also smart enough to know that unlike in New York, where he could swamp the field with money and circumvent the Democratic Party’s dominance in the city, running a national third-party campaign is a different matter altogether.

It’s no accident that there hasn’t been a successful third-party presidential candidacy in modern American history. The closest anyone came was Teddy Roosevelt’s run in 1912, when he got 27 percent of the vote. In 1992, Ross Perot managed 19 percent of the vote — and zero votes in the Electoral College.

Perot offers us a hint as to why the talk from some Republicans about a third-party run is just that, talk. It has come most notably from Bill Kristol, who has been toying with the idea in public for a couple of months now, on the theory that if Donald Trump is the nominee, true conservatives would simply have to find an ideologically true standard-bearer to promote. Given the horror many conservatives are expressing at the prospect of a Trump nomination, you might be tempted to think they’d sign on to any conservative who decided to run.

But don’t believe it for a second. Are those conservatives heartfelt in their anguish about Trump being the GOP nominee? Absolutely. It’s not just that he’d probably lose, it’s that he obviously has no commitment to their ideals; he’s just saying whatever his current audience wants to hear, and once that audience changes (as in a general election), he’ll say completely different things. And who knows how he’d actually govern.

And yet, if he is the nominee, Republicans will be faced with a choice. They could launch a third-party bid, but that would almost certainly guarantee that the Democratic nominee would win. Republicans long ago convinced themselves that Perot delivered the 1992 election to Bill Clinton (even though the evidence makes clear that Perot took votes equally from Bush and Clinton, who won easily and would have done so with or without Perot in the race), so they’d be extremely skittish about repeating that outcome.

Far more importantly, if they have to choose between supporting their party’s nominee and mounting an almost certainly doomed third-party run, their feelings about Donald Trump will be far less critical than their feelings about the Democratic nominee, who will probably be Hillary Clinton — for whom they’ve nurtured a passionate loathing for two and a half decades now. We live in an era of “negative partisanship,” in which people’s hatred for the other party has become more central to their political identity than their love for their own party. Faced with the imminent possibility of Clinton sitting in the Oval Office, virtually every Republican will race to get behind Trump. Those now writing articles about what a nightmare a Trump nomination would be will be writing articles touting his virtues.

They won’t be dissembling — rather, they’ll just be trying to make the best of a bad situation. Once the point of reference is not a more preferable Republican but Hillary Clinton, Trump will look to them like a hero in the making. So as fun as a three-way presidential race in the fall might be, we in the media won’t be so fortunate. But don’t worry — it’s still going to be an interesting election.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 25, 2016

January 26, 2016 Posted by | 3rd Party Presidential Candidates, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Fraud And A Danger To The Republic Itself”: ‘National Review’ Goes To War Against Donald Trump

National Review, the most prominent conservative magazine of the past 60 years, has now gone to press with a new issue dedicated to a single topic: Stopping the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, declaring him to be a fraud and a danger to the republic itself.

“There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner,” the editorial states. “But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”

From a magazine that in its founding era officially supported white supremacy and segregation — as well as endorsing the fascist Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, among many other sins — these are certainly strong charges.

The editorial signifies a greater problem for the right, beyond just one candidacy: Once upon a time, the inmates took over the asylum — and now after all the paranoia, ginned-up outrage, and barely-veiled racism they have engineered over these many decades, a whole new generation of inmates are revolting against them.

Trump was quick to respond — on Twitter, of course:

National Review is a failing publication that has lost it’s way. It’s circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

Very few people read the National Review because it only knows how to criticize, but not how to lead.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

In its editorial, the magazine declares:

If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives? The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed.

Trump nevertheless offers a valuable warning for the Republican party. If responsible men irresponsibly ignore an issue as important as immigration, it will be taken up by the reckless. If they cannot explain their Beltway maneuvers — worse, if their maneuvering is indefensible — they will be rejected by their own voters. If they cannot advance a compelling working-class agenda, the legitimate anxieties and discontents of blue-collar voters will be exploited by demagogues. We sympathize with many of the complaints of Trump supporters about the GOP, but that doesn’t make the mogul any less flawed a vessel for them.

Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

NR has also included a “symposium” piece, composed of short notes from various conservative activists decrying Trump and what he stands for — many of them carrying their own levels of irony, from people who helped to foment the paranoia that now fuels The Donald’s rise.

As just one example, let’s take a look at this plaintive cry from Bill Kristol:

In a letter to National Review, Leo Strauss wrote that “a conservative, I take it, is a man who despises vulgarity; but the argument which is concerned exclusively with calculations of success, and is based on blindness to the nobility of the effort, is vulgar.” Isn’t Donald Trump the very epitome of vulgarity?

In sum: Isn’t Trumpism a two-bit Caesarism of a kind that American conservatives have always disdained? Isn’t the task of conservatives today to stand athwart Trumpism, yelling Stop?

Recently, Kristol has been talking up the “semi-serious” notion of starting a whole new party of breakaway Republicans, to run their own ticket if Trump were to win the GOP nomination — so outrageous does he view the idea of Trump as the conservative standard-bearer.

But on the subject of American conservatives having allegedly always disdained vulgarity, Kristol is overlooking a very salient point: He, Bill Kristol, was one of the original, key boosters of Sarah Palin, promoting her selection as John McCain’s running mate in 2008. And as recently as 2014, Kristol was still touting Palin as a potential candidate for president in 2016.

This week, of course, Palin endorsed Trump with a cry of “Hallelujah.”

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, National Review | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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