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“Rethinking Their Attitudes On McCarthy”: Republican Support For McCarthyism Is Sometimes Literal

Exactly three years ago this week, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) he’s been compared at times to Joe McCarthy. Cruz said that criticism “may be a sign that perhaps we’re doing something right,” which seemed like a curious response given the context.

Asked specifically, “Is McCarthy someone you admire?” Cruz wouldn’t answer. “I’m not going to engage in the back and forth and the attacks,” he replied.

Three years later, this has come up again, but this time it’s not with the senator himself, but rather it’s one of his national security advisers. TPM noted yesterday:

Clare Lopez, a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign, earlier this month said the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was “spot on” about communists infiltrating the United States government in the 1950s.

As Right Wing Watch discovered, the Cruz adviser compared Americans’ lack of preparedness for Muslims trying to infiltrate the government to communist spies during the Cold War.

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels,” Lopez said. “And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration.”

Oh my.

There was a point in the not-too-distant past that both parties considered McCarthyism and the former senator’s legacy to be a scourge to be avoided forevermore.

But as Republican politics has shifted to the even-further-right, conservatives have begun to rethink their attitudes on McCarthy. Missouri’s Todd Akin, for example, compared himself to McCarthy two years ago, and he meant it in a good way.

In 2010 in Texas, conservative activists rewriting the state’s curriculum recommended telling students that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) endorsed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In conservative media, headlines such as “It’s Time to See Joe McCarthy For the Hero He Was” are not uncommon.

As we discussed a couple of years ago, when the political world considers how much the Republican Party has changed over the last generation, look no further than those who’ve decided McCarthyism wasn’t so bad after all.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | McCarthyism, Steve King, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Choosing Their Poison”: Anti-Trump Republicans Now Only Have 3 Options: Terrible, Miserable, And Awful

With his near-sweep of Tuesday’s primaries, Donald Trump is now in firm command of the Republican race for president, and although it’s still possible for Ted Cruz to overtake him, it’s looking increasingly likely that Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. Which leaves most Americans (and most of the world) in a state of abject horror, and presents Republican politicians, strategists, and party activists with a dilemma: What do they do?

The time for figuring out how Trump can be stopped from taking over the party is nearly gone. There are essentially three paths left open, none of which are appetizing. The question is merely which brand of poison the party wants to swallow. But each has its pluses and minuses, so let’s investigate:

1. Rally behind Trump. This is the path of least resistance, and it may be the least bad of the options. Yes, many Republicans have said they’d never support him, or at least condemned him in strong terms; they’ll now be confronted with their hypocrisy. But as I’ve argued repeatedly, Trump is going to become a different candidate once the general election comes. Perhaps in the process of appealing to a broader electorate, he’ll also become less bombastic and more serious, and it won’t seem so awful to stand by his side.

And from an ideological standpoint, there’s a powerful logic to it. If you’re a conservative, even if you think Trump would be a terrible president and an inconsistent ally (almost certainly true on both counts), he’d at least do what you want some of the time, which is better than what you’d get with Hillary Clinton as president.

The trouble is that while Trump has the support of a plurality of Republicans, that isn’t anywhere near a majority of the electorate as a whole. So Republicans may decide that it’s better to do their part and try to convince the public that a Trump presidency really would be great. If they succeed, at least they’d get to fill the executive branch with Republicans.

2. Try to take the nomination from Trump at the convention. Trump may get to the necessary 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination outright, but at the moment it’s anything but a sure thing. If he doesn’t, it would bring Republicans to a contested convention, which is likely to be a nightmare no matter what the final result. If it comes to that, the anti-Trump forces will try to find a leader to unite behind, but it won’t be easy. If it’s Ted Cruz or John Kasich, it would be hard to take the nomination from Trump on the grounds that he didn’t win a majority of the delegates, then give it to someone who won even fewer. But giving it to someone who didn’t run at all could be even worse.

Just imagine how Trump’s supporters will react if the very establishment they’ve rebelled against snatches the nomination from their champion and gives it to some low-energy weakling. All their rage and frustration would come pouring out, perhaps literally on the heads of their tormentors. Trump has already said “I think you’d have riots” if such a thing occurred, and you can bet he’d be encouraging them.

And keep in mind that conservative talk radio hosts will spend the months between now and then getting their audiences riled up about what a despicable crime it would be to take the nomination away from Trump and hand it to some establishment stooge (they’re already getting started). So Trump’s supporters would be ready for a fight as soon as they got to Cleveland.

The whole chaotic mess would be broadcast live on TV, making the party look even less responsible and sane than it does now. Then even if the establishment prevailed, chances are strong that many of Trump’s supporters would simply stay home on Election Day out of frustration, increasing the chances that Hillary Clinton gets elected.

3. Mount a third-party bid. This is the most outlandish of the possibilities, yet some people are actively exploring it. There’s a meeting of prominent conservative activists happening Thursday to discuss whether and how to go about it, and some donors have already hired consultants to assemble a roadmap to a third-party campaign. The biggest practical problem is getting on the ballot in all 50 states, which requires lots of signatures before deadlines that are coming up soon. But more important from Republicans’ standpoint is that such an effort is almost guaranteed to fail.

If you had a conservative third-party candidate, he or she would face Trump, taking some portion of Republican voters, and (probably) Hillary Clinton, holding nearly all Democratic voters. A unified Democratic Party facing a Republican Party split in two means the Democrat would win.

Now it may be that some Republicans are so worried about what a Trump presidency would do to the GOP over the long term that they see Hillary Clinton in the White House as a preferable outcome. But I’m guessing there aren’t too many of them. Which is why the first option — swallow your pride, hold your nose, and get behind Trump — is the one most Republicans are probably going to take.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 17, 2016

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Owns This Phenomenon”: Donald Trump Is Merely The Symptom. The Republican Party Itself Is The Disease

We no longer have to speculate whether fascism, in Sinclair Lewis’ famous words, would come to America wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. We already know what its beginnings look like in the form of Trump rallies, which are carrying an increasingly violent, overtly racist, authoritarian aura strongly reminiscent of the 1930s in Germany or Italy.

Those comparisons were once the province of liberal activists or traffic-seeking headline writers. No longer. The incipient racist violence has reached such a fever pitch that a Trump rally in Chicago had to be canceled entirely. It’s one thing to talk in theoretical or strictly political terms about Trump’s authoritarian behavior, his effect on the Republican Party generally or the potential feasibility of Trump’s policy proposals. But the influence of Trumpism on the country is already so obviously toxic and dangerous that it must be called out and mitigated before people start getting seriously hurt or killed.

That’s just the basic decency aspect. Politically, the Republican Party knows that it has to do something to separate itself from the wildfire of racially charged violence or else lose the votes of every minority constituency for a generation. It’s not just for temporary personal advantage that the other GOP presidential candidates are calling on Trump to act to mitigate the rabid passions of his flock. Those who still have careers to make in Republican politics know that this a point of no return for the entire party and every connected to it.

But try as they might, they will not be able to escape from Trumpism. Even if the Republican establishment does somehow manage to subdue Trump, another will likely come to take his place later on. The genie is out of the bottle, and hucksters of all kinds now realize that the populist GOP base can easily be cleaved from its corporatist handlers with enough brash promises of independence and open bigotry under the guise of truth-telling.

That’s not the fault of Donald Trump. It’s the fault of the GOP itself, for three main reasons.

First, the Republican Party abandoned the notion of shared truths and shared reality. They set up an alternative media empire and convinced their voters that every set of authorities from journalists to scientists were eggheaded liberals not to be trusted. They peddled conspiracy theories and contrafactual dogmas of all stripes–from the notion that climate scientists were all lying about global warming in order to get more grant money, to the notion that tax cuts for the rich grow the economy and pay for themselves. Their base became convinced that no one could be trusted except for the loudest and angriest voices who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Fox News, talk radio and the Drudge Report became the only trusted media sources. But at a certain point those outlets stopped becoming the media arm of the Republican Party; instead, the Republican Party became the legislative arm of those media outlets. It should come as no surprise that when the Republican establishment seemed unable to deliver on its promises to their voters, conspiracy theory peddlers new and old from Breitbart to Drudge would turn on the establishment and convince the GOP masses that Fox News was the new CNN, just another liberal arm of the media not to be trusted.

Second is, of course, the Southern Strategy of exploiting racial resentment. That worked just fine for Republicans while whites were the dominant majority under no particular threat. It was a great way to win elections in much of the country while discounting voters who couldn’t do them much damage. As long as the rhetoric remained, in Lee Atwater’s words, “abstract” enough, the tensions created wouldn’t boil over into anything much more damaging than the slow, quiet destruction of generations of minority communities via legislatively enforced instituional racism. But as whites have become a smaller and smaller part of the electorate, that Southern Strategy has not only cost the GOP elections by throwing away the minority vote; it has also heightened the fears and tensions of the formerly dominant white voters it courts. What was once quiet and comfortable racism has become a loud and violent cry of angst. That, again, isn’t Donald Trump’s fault. It’s the Republican Party’s.

Third and most important is the effect of conservative economics. For decades laissez-faire objectivism has hurt mostly the poorest and least educated communities in America. Due mostly to institutional racism, those have tended in the past to be communities of color. The deregulated economy simply didn’t need their labor so it tossed them aside, leaving squalor and a host of social problems in its wake. This was convenient for those peddling racist theories, as it laid the blame for drug and family problems in those communities directly on the individuals involved–and by extension on their racial background.

But now a combination of globalization and automation, buoyed by intentional deregulatory corporatist policies, have rendered large swaths of white America also useless to the capitalist economic machine. And lo and behold, drug use, suicide and other social problems have followed in tow. Huge numbers of white Americans now find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and despair once reserved for the minorities they despised, without even the psychic wage of perceived racial superiority to maintain their dignity. That, too, is a recipe for violent tension.

Don’t blame Donald Trump for any of this. He’s merely the symptom, not the disease. The Republican Party owns this phenomenon. Its media, economic and political strategies guaranteed Donald Trump’s rise. And they guarantee that regardless of Trump’s electoral success or failure, Trumpism will continue to dominate among their voters.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 12, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP, Institutional Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Holds An Unflattering Mirror To GOP, Fox News”: The Important Message Is That Trump Dominated Fox News

The GOP debate he wasn’t attending hadn’t yet begun, but Donald Trump, safely tucked into the plush leather seats of his 757, declared himself the winner.

He was right.

Political commentators would spend the next several hours parsing his feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly. They would rehash the more genteel tone of the GOP debate that went on without Trump and try to determine if he offended Iowa voters by not appearing at the debate in Des Moines, attending his own event a few miles down the road instead.

They were missing the point. The tiff had little to do with Trump fearing Kelly’s stern and persistent questions as one of the debate moderators. It had to do with Fox News boss Roger Ailes’ role as GOP kingmaker.

If you are going to run against the Republican establishment, that means running against Fox News. Trump knew it; Ailes knew it (which is why premier Fox talent scurried to placate Trump); and now everybody knows it.

Ailes built his network empire by defining it against the so-called mainstream media. At the same time, he was building it as a sort of “oppo” research and broadcast arm of the Republican Party, a talent incubator for conservative media stars and a source of comfy sinecures for past and aspiring Republican candidates. Whatever part of the Republican Party Fox News doesn’t own, it keeps in line with its ideological beat cops.

Fox News has been a great brand, but now Trump has decided he has to rough it up to build his own brand as a candidate. So far, it’s working.

Trump reiterated in interviews before the debate that he had to stand up to Fox News. This isn’t just the narcissistic bluster we’ve come to expect from Trump. It’s true. Forget about his counter-event and whether it succeeded or disappointed on its merits. The important message is that Trump dominated Fox News — and that is unprecedented.

The squabble with Fox News illustrates how Trump has become such an appealing candidate. It’s a peek into the brain under the pompadour.

A lot of what he does is shtick, as you might expect from someone with a background in pro wrestling and reality TV. Consider the interview he gave on his plane with CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar before taking the stage at his veterans event

“I was insulted by Fox,” he said, following a well-honed script. Of voters, he added: “I think they are going to say he’s the one person who stands up for himself. And we need that.”

Claim that you are being mistreated and disrespected by the political establishment — a victim, if you will. It takes a lot of chutzpah to do that when you’re Donald Trump. But that has been the script at Fox News since forever, and now Trump is making it his own.

Another Fox News trope that Trump has turned against the network is its grievance over political correctness. While for years the network (and conservatives generally) have prissily wailed against this form of supposed oppression, Trump has run his mouth and Twitter account, violating decorum and decency with reckless and unapologetic abandon. When he did so against Kelly, Fox News was put in the uncomfortable position of having to acknowledge that such standards should exist.

Fox News — and the Republican Party it has remade — likes to bully. Its audience likes to see it bully. Now comes the spectacle of Fox News and the Republicans being bullied, outright dominated by a free-lancer nobody took seriously. Democrats and Republicans alike may despise Trump, but he understands all too well the populist strategy that lifted Fox News and the Republican Party to commanding heights in American politics.

How do you take down this verbose bully? If you’re the Republicans, you probably can’t. The other GOP candidates can’t beat him at his own game. He’s too good and they’re so lame. The verbal ribs that the other candidates lobbed at Trump in his absence at the debate came off flat. Spontaneity and authenticity are not their forte. Political life has stilted them.

Trump is a different story. What you see is what you get, and it’s very entertaining.

Republicans can’t attack his simplistic prescriptions for foreign policy and the economy. (2,000-mile border wall? Deporting millions? Good luck with that.) Facts do not matter to the Republican base — and haven’t for some time. So appealing to reality is futile.

Substance is not what is drawing people to Trump. It’s the allure of strength, the thrill of watching somebody assert his will against the weak.

In the upside-down world that has become the 2016 race, it’s the leading Republican candidate that is showing us what a corrupt and sick institution his party has become.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, February 1, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Fox News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Out Bullying The Bullies”: The Donald Trump Vs. Fox News Clusterfuck, Explained

A quick recap of the tumultuous, on-again/off-again relationship between Fox News and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump:

Trump has an ally in Fox News.

Trump doesn’t like Megyn Kelly.

Trump irons things out with Roger Ailes.

Trump is boycotting Fox News.

Trump is no longer boycotting Fox News.

Trump spends New Year’s Eve with Fox News.

Trump might not show up at Fox News’ GOP debate.

Trump is kind of a chicken for ducking Fox News’ debate.

Trump is “definitely not” going to the debate.

Why can’t these two frenemies just get along?

Like the bickering Sam and Diane duo from Cheers sitcom fame, Trump and Fox News obviously belong together (they like all the same things!), but they just can’t get past their stubborn differences.

Thursday night’s Fox-hosted primary debate on the eve of the Iowa caucus has now been completely overshadowed by the roiling feud between friends/enemies Trump and Fox, as the two institutional bullies lock horns. Is the current impasse a lasting one, or will the harsh words be papered over in the days and weeks to come the way previous Trump vs. Fox skirmishes ended in handshakes and smiles? It’s too soon to tell.

What’s so strange about the discord is that Trump is practically the living personification of the Fox News id: He’s a bigoted nativist who wallows in Islamophobia and thrives on dividing Americans and insulting President Obama as an un-American radical.

After the traditionally nice campaign of Mitt Romney in 2012, you’d think Fox News would be loving the insult-throwing Trump, a candidate who, like so many Fox anchors and hosts, isn’t afraid to make stuff up. Trump mirrors the often-tasteless brand of divisive rhetoric that Ailes helped hallmark at Fox.

But the truth is, Trump seems to hold Fox in the same general contempt that he holds the rest of the press. Meaning, from the Trump worldview, Fox doesn’t operate on a similar plane as him. Fox is subservient to Trump and — in his mind — should be in the business of touting his campaign. If and when it does not, Trump loses his cool because he doesn’t like to be second-guessed by “lightweight” journalists.

This represents a whole new world for Fox, which has controlled the conservative debate, and in turn controlled Republican politicians, for more than a decade. Fox sets the parameters. Fox picks the agenda. Fox grooms a handful of Republicans for right-wing media stardom. That’s why I can’t recall anyone ever picking such a public fight with Fox News from inside the GOP tent the way Trump has. It’s simply not done. And Fox’s frantic, off-key corporate response to Trump’s jabs has confirmed that executives there have very little practice fighting intramural skirmishes.

Forget that Fox cemented Trump’s right-wing celebrity status in 2011 when it handed over uninterrupted airtime for him to unfurl his misguided birther campaign against President Obama. Forget that Sean Hannity’s basement is probably lined with Trump for President posters.

Without Fox News’ exaggerated generosity over the years, and without Fox providing endless free airtime in the form of promotional blitzes to tout Trump as a possible presidential player, it’s unlikely Trump today would be perched atop the Republican field.

Trump this week is exercising a power play, pure and simple. (He knows he’s the reason Fox likely sold ads for the debate at a sky-high rate.) Bottom line: Roger Ailes is finally facing someone who’s willing, and eager, to out-bully him. And do it in public.

Of course what makes all this angry back-and-forth so funny is that one combatant is supposed to be a news organization. News organizations aren’t supposed to have bizarre, on-going public spats with one party’s leading candidate. Anchors on a news channel aren’t supposed to plead with candidates to show up at debates. And the head of a news channel doesn’t usually try to patch things up by directly phoning powerful politicians. But this is Fox News, so all the normal rules go out the window.

Indeed, the underlying truth here is that if Fox News conducted itself as an ethical news outlet, these kinds of messy spats and hurt feelings wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, Fox is often run as a Republican National Committee marketing arm, or a GOP clubhouse, raising expectations from Republicans in terms of how they’ll be treated. Trump clearly senses a weakness there and is now trying to exploit it.

In August, I suggested that Fox News, via the unwieldy Trump charade, had “eaten the Republican primary season” and that the “slow-motion fiasco is only going to get much, much worse for Republicans.”

Boy, has it. Democrats are likely pointing and laughing this week.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, Roger Ailes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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