mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Can A Party Divided Against Itself Still Stand?”: For Trump, Unity Is An Unnecessary Luxury

As Donald Trump made the transition from Republican presidential frontrunner to presumptive Republican presidential nominee, one of the more common words in GOP circles has been “unity.” As in, “How in the world will the party achieve anything resembling ‘unity’ with this nativist demagogue at the top of the Republican ticket?”

For his part, Trump has said, on multiple occasions, that he can and will bring the party together. Yesterday on ABC, however, the Republican candidate, no doubt aware of the broader circumstances, suggested that unifying the party may be an overrated goal.

“Does [the party] have to be unified? I’m very different than everybody else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos in an interview that will air Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.” […]

“I think it would be better if it were unified, I think it would be – there would be something good about it. But I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense,” Trump said.

It’s an unexpected posture, borne of conditions outside of Trump’s control. Less than a week after wrapping up the nomination, the Republican candidate has stopped looking for ways to bring the party together and started looking for ways to justify intra-party strife as a tolerable inconvenience – not because Trump wants to, but because so many in the party are repulsed by his candidacy.

The New York Times added over the weekend, “Since a landslide victory in Indiana made him the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump has faced a shunning from party leaders that is unprecedented in modern politics. Mr. Trump has struggled to make peace with senior lawmakers and political donors whom he denounced during the Republican primaries, and upon whose largess he must now rely.”

In a fitting twist, Republicans are divided over the nature of their divisions. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, became one of the most notable GOP Trump endorsers Friday, despite Trump’s condemnation of the Bush/Cheney administration’s handling of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

Cheney probably wasn’t thrilled about extending his support, but he’s a Republican, Trump’s the presumptive Republican nominee, and apparently that’s the end of the discussion. For the former vice president, partisan considerations are, for all intents and purposes, the only consideration. (The fact that Trump is a cheerleader for torture probably helped tilt the scales for Cheney.)

But the former vice president’s announcement was striking in part because so many other national Republican leaders are moving in the exact opposite direction.

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have both said they will stay out of the 2016 race and withhold their official support from their party’s nominee. Jeb Bush, a former Trump rival, signed a pledge last year promising to support the GOP’s 2016 candidate, but he’s since decided to break that promise and oppose Trump.

I haven’t yet seen a comprehensive list of every notable Republican officeholder who has vowed to withhold support for Trump, but as best as I can tell, the list would include at least three sitting governors (Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, Illinois’ Bruce Rauner, and Maryland’s Larry Hogan), three sitting U.S. senators (South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Nevada’s Dean Heller), and 10 or so U.S. House members. If we include former officials, the list grows much longer.

And then, of course, there’s 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who’s vowed to oppose Trump, and his former running mate, current House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Thursday he’s not yet ready to decide either way. Many more in the GOP have offered grudging support along the lines of, “I’ll back my party’s nominee, but let’s not call it an ‘endorsement,’ and for the love of God, please don’t make me say his name out loud.”

It’s tempting to look for some kind of modern parallel for a dynamic like this, but there really isn’t one. The only thing that comes close was when far-right Southern “Dixiecrats,” outraged by Democratic support for civil rights, broke off in 1948 and 1968, en route to becoming Republicans.

Those examples probably don’t offer much of a parallel here – or at least GOP officials have to hope not.

The more immediate question, of course, is whether a party divided against itself can stand. According to Trump, unity is an unnecessary luxury, though if you’re thinking this sounds like wishful thinking, you’re not alone. Given the presumptive Republican nominee’s unpopularity, Trump has very little margin for error, and having a sizable chunk of his party express contempt for his campaign poses an existential electoral risk. Winning primaries in a divided party is vastly easier than what Trump will face in November.

There’s a school of thought, of course, that says all of this strife will eventually pass. Emotions are still raw – the last contested primary was less than a week ago – and the argument goes that wayward Republicans will “come home” by the fall.

Maybe.

In a typical election cycle, this model would certainly apply, but this isn’t a normal year; Trump isn’t a normal candidate; and the scope and scale of the fissures in Republican politics are without modern precedent.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 9, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Classier Of Two Evils”: Cruz Is The Leader Of A Faction; Trump Is A One-Man Band

With less than two weeks till the Iowa Caucus, the shape of the Republican race could hardly be more frightening for the Republican establishment. Both of the two leading candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, carry baggage that would make winning the general election a tough slog. But while some establishment types still hold out hope that one of their preferred candidates—Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or even Chris Christie—can pull off a surprise resurgence, there is a growing acceptance of the reality of having to chose between Cruz and Trump. And the surprise is that all signs are pointing to Trump being the establishment’s favored candidate—or, more accurately, the lesser of two evils.

In an interview with the New York Times yesterday, Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 and the very epitome of the party establishment, said that picking Cruz as the presidential nominee would be “cataclysmic,” and the party would have better success with Trump. And it’s not just on the electability issue that Dole prefers Trump. Dole denounced Cruz as an “extremist,” but said that Trump has the type of deal-making personality that would allow him to work with Congress if elected. Cruz, he said, would not. “I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” Dole told the Times. “Nobody likes him.”

Dole is far from alone in making a move toward Trump’s camp. According to a report in the Washington Post, the GOP donor class is increasingly seeing Trump as a better bet than Cruz. “A lot of donors are trying to figure their way into Trump’s orbit,” said Spencer Zwick, who ran the finances for Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid.

On the face of it, preferring Trump to Cruz seems bizarre. After all, Cruz is a more conventional politician. He sits in the Senate, and he has longstanding ties to the conservative movement and speaks their language. Why spurn him and hook up with a wild card like Trump, who has no political experience—and a record of making reckless racist and sexist comments that will damage the Republican brand?

But it’s possible that it is precisely because Trump is such an unusual figure that he might be more attractive to establishment Republicans. Cruz is the leader of a faction; Trump is a one-man band. This means Cruz has the potential to do much more damage to the Republican Party in the long run. “If Trump loses, we wash our hands of him,” a leading GOP strategist told CNN. “Cruz will think we need to be more crazy and be a long-term nightmare.”

If Cruz wins the nomination, that extreme-right faction will dominate the Republican Party not just in the presidential run but for the foreseeable future—even if Cruz loses. Just as the followers of Barry Goldwater held key positions in the party long after 1964, Cruz’s followers will be lodged tight and will be in a stronger position to combat the RINOs.

“If Cruz wins, the Loony Bird takeover of the GOP is complete,” Ian Millhiser, Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told me by email, sketching out the establishment’s nightmare scenario: “GOP candidates view Cruz’s election as vindication of Cruz’s tactics, and they rush to emulate him. Rank-and-file voters embrace Cruz’s message that the best candidates are belligerent conservatives. And interest groups decide that they no longer need to back the proverbial most conservative candidate who can win, because the very most conservative candidate has just won the presidency. So they use their money to back Cruz clones in primaries.

“Mitch McConnell and possibly even Paul Ryan’s relevance disappears overnight, as does quite possibly their career in politics. And because all of the sitting Republican lawmakers are Cruz clones who view them as traitorous RINOs, the deposed establishment cannot even cash in as lobbyists.”

Trump, on the other hand, is so anomalous a figure that the GOP establishment can console themselves with the knowledge that he leads no faction. Even if he wins the nomination, Trump can be safely relegated to the category of a one-off, a freak mutation, never to be repeated. Trump would be like the character The Mule, in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. In the schema of Asimov’s far future science-fiction series, The Mule is a galactic conquerer who throws history off the course that it was expected to take, but the changes he introduces are ultimately minor because he has no successor.

From the point of view of the Republican elite, it’s easy to see Trump as The Mule: He’s unexpected, he disrupted their plans to coronate Jeb Bush, but he’s also someone who can’t leave a lasting legacy because the traits that made him who he is are not replicable. There are not that many billionaire reality-show stars who are interested in taking over a political party.

Further, because Trump is much more pragmatic than Cruz, it’s easier to imagine him being tamed if he won the presidency. Already, on the issue of tax cuts for the rich, Trump has reverted to GOP orthodoxy. Unlike Cruz, Trump has no army of ideological loyalists working with him. President Trump would need advisers and policymakers, which the Republican Party could happily provide him.

If this is the gamble the GOP is taking, though, it is not necessarily the right one. Trump is an unstable and unpredictable figure, governed by personal piques that take him in strange directions—like his recent, bizarre twitter feud with the actor Samuel L. Jackson over cheating at golf. As a presidential nominee, Trump would likely continue to be flighty and capricious. If Hillary Clinton is his rival for the White House, it’s a near-certainty that Trump will make sexist tirades that will damage the GOP’s reputation, as he already has with comments on Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina. Moreover, unlike Cruz or the other, more polished candidates, Trump does not know how to disguise his racism with dog-whistles. This may not hurt Trump with GOP primary voters, but it would be toxic on the national stage.

The fact that the GOP elite is sidling up to Trump is remarkable—and perhaps the ultimate reflection on Ted Cruz as a man and politician. After all, how wretched must he be that there are people who prefer to stake their money and reputations on Donald Trump?

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, January 21, 2016

 

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Not What The People Want”: Scott Walker Failed Because He Followed The Republican Party’s Playbook

On Monday evening, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that he was dropping out of the 2016 presidential race. “Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field,” he said. He claimed his decision was motivated by a desire to help voters “focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner,” a reference to Donald Trump.

That Walker would leave on that note is only natural: No candidate has suffered more, or more directly, from Trump’s insurgent 2016 run. Eight months ago, Walker, a deeply red governor in a traditionally blue state, was a favorite to win his party’s nomination. He had garnered a national reputation among conservatives, including the wealthy donor class, thanks to victories in dogged local fights over budget austerity and labor issues. His environmental agenda was as dangerous as any we are likely to see this campaign season. With a folksy, Cheez Whiz sort of charm, and a proven record of conservative achievements, he seemed the perfect vessel through which to unite the increasingly powerless Republican establishment with its increasingly volatile fringe.

This was supposed to be the model for the Republican Party’s success in 2016 and beyond, as outlined in the GOP’s autopsy report following the 2012 election. “Republican governors, conservatives at their core, have campaigned and governed in a manner that is inclusive and appealing,” the report stated. “They point the way forward.”

Across the board, however, the aversion to established Republican leaders is making its presence felt in the 2016 race. Of the nine governors to enter the field, only one, Jeb Bush, is currently polling within the top five, according to a CNN poll released on Sunday. Rick Perry and now Walker have dropped out, and three more—Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore—may not be far behind. In the end, Walker’s demonstrable accomplishments paled in comparison to Trump’s bluster.

Trump certainly isn’t the only reason for the Walker campaign’s collapse. Liz Mair, a former Walker strategist, offered up a lengthy autopsy on Twitter, with likely causes ranging from poor staffing decisions to the candidate’s confusion as to his “real identity as a political leader.” Others have pointed to Walker’s seeming ignorance of foreign policy issues and his campaign’s myopic focus on Iowa. In what turned out to be a prescient dissection of his campaign last week, The Washington Post quoted one “major” Walker donor as speculating that “something’s missing in the demeanor” of the candidate. Last week, Walker himself, following his second consecutive debate-night disappearing act, was quick to blame the media.

Yet, in a race that has already discarded one of the other key premises of the GOP’s post-2012 assessment—the need to reach out to Hispanic voters—perhaps it was only a matter of time before governors, too, were brought crashing down. If there’s anything to be learned from Walker’s exit, it’s that being thought of as a promising candidate may be the kiss of death in the 2016 Republican primary. As Doug Gross, a Des Moines, Iowa, lawyer and Republican activist, told Bloomberg shortly before Walker bowed out of the race, the Wisconsin governor “looks and acts and talks like a politician and that’s not what people want.”

 

By: Steven Cohen, The New Republic, September 21, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Awwwwwkward”: Meet Ted Cruz’s Tax-Dodging Sugar Daddy

Hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer is all in for the conservative Texas Republican Ted Cruz, and the billionaire will have unusually substantial influence in how his contributions get spent.

But the billionaire also has some baggage—like, the avoiding billions in taxes kind of baggage.

His alleged failure to pay those taxes led to substantial congressional scrutiny in 2014—and it’s not clear the investigation is over.

This, and some of Mercer’s side projects, could present interesting challenges for Cruz’s campaign. Especially since Cruz has been a vocal opponent of those who “give favors to Wall Street” and engage in “crony capitalism.”

On the one hand, Mercer’s support is fantastic for Cruz for all the obvious reasons (having a billionaire in your corner is nice). On the other hand, Mercer’s hedge fund—Renaissance Technologies—recently faced an unflattering congressional investigation, the results of which indicated that it used complex and unorthodox financial structures to dramatically lower its tax burden.This drew scorching bipartisan criticism from investigators on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

“Renaissance profited from this tax treatment by insisting on the fiction that it didn’t really own the stocks it traded—that the banks that Renaissance dealt with, did,” said Sen. John McCain during a hearing on the issue, per Mother Jones. “But, the fact is that Renaissance did all the trading, maintained full control over the account…and reaped all of the profits.”

In his opening statement for that hearing, then-subcommittee chair Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said that Mercer’s business avoided paying more than $6 billion in taxes between 2000 and 2013.

Since then, Levin has retired from the Senate and Republican Sen. Rob Portman has taken his place as subcommittee chair. When I called the subcommittee’s Capitol Hill office to see if any investigation into Renaissance was still underway, the person who answered the phone said he couldn’t comment on active investigations. I then asked if that meant the investigation was in fact active.

“I can’t say whether it’s active, I can’t say whether it’s inactive, I can’t even say whether we’ve investigated them,” he said.

Later, Portman’s spokeswoman, Caitlin Conant, emailed to say that the committee doesn’t comment on its work beyond what’s in the public record. Renaissance Technologies didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether they’re currently being investigated.

Given this probe into his company’s books, it’s no surprise Mercer has invested heavily in keeping financial industry watchdogs from gaining political power. However, you’d think this might conflict with his candidate’s populist zeal.

“[M]y criticism with Washington is they engage in crony capitalism,” Cruz told Bloomberg Politics. “They give favors to Wall Street and big business and that’s why I’ve been an outspoken opponent of crony capitalism, taking on leaders in both parties.”

But the Cruz campaign doesn’t seem to see any problems with the arrangement. When I asked Rick Tyler, the campaign’s senior communications adviser, if he was worried about potential conflicts, he said, “No way.”

Mercer has long backed conservative candidates, and he’s spending heavily on Cruz through a new breed of super PACs started by the super rich.

An anonymous Cruz source told Bloomberg on Wednesday that a franchise of pro-Cruz super PACs—formed just this week—will have raised $31 million by end of the day on Friday. There are four super PACs, called Keep the Promise, Keep the Promise I, Keep the Promise II, and Keep the Promise III.

This is not normal; presidential candidates usually give their imprimatur to one such group, which then rakes in contributions and makes independent expenditures to help the candidate. After all, there are legal limits on how much donors can give to presidential candidates, but no limits on how much they can give to these PACs.

One longtime campaign lawyer said the widespread Republican donor buyer’s remorse exists from the 2012 general elections—when a few powerful super PACs spent massive sums of money to get Mitt Romney elected, and were left empty-handed on Election Night. As a result, billionaires are starting their own PACs to fund political campaigns to have more control on how their money gets spent.

It’s worth noting that this explanation doesn’t make sense to everyone. Dan Backer, an attorney who’s worked extensively with Republican and Tea Party groups on campaign finance issues, said he thought having multiple super PACs could make life unnecessarily difficult for everyone involved.

“All you’re doing is multiplying your reporting and compliance burden for no good reason,” he said. “At first blush, it just strikes me as a little weird.”

Regardless, the operating assumption seems to be that having a cadre of super PACs will give mega-donors like Mercer more power over the dynamics of the presidential election. Saul Anuzis, a Michigan Republican operative who started a Mercer-funded super PAC in the 2014 midterms, indicated as much in an interview with Mother Jones. He told the magazine that he expected to see “more and more super-PACs starting that are donor-centric or district-centric.” In Cruz and Mercer’s case, that prediction seems remarkably prescient.

In 2010, 2012, and 2014 the billionaire spent significant money trying (unsuccessfully) to take out Oregon Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio, who has made his support of higher Wall Street taxes a signature issue. And DeFazio has used the fact that he’s a Mercer target to burnish his fiscal-progressive bona fides.

Mercer helped Lee Zeldin defeat former Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor George Demos in a 2014 Republican House race primary. Mercer also helped Zeldin win the general election, where he defeated a Democratic incumbent who was a vociferous defender of Dodd-Frank.

But his areas of interest are broader than just elections. He singlehandedly paid for a $1 million TV ad campaign opposing the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. And his affinity for conservative causes seems to go back to his early days doing research for the Kirtland Air Force Base’s weapons lab in New Mexico.

Mercer hinted at his political evolution in a 2014 speech he gave to accept the Association for Computational Linguistics lifetime achievement award. He described rewriting a computer program so that it worked more efficiently, and then said that his bosses at the lab decided to just make the program do more complicated computations.

“I took this as an indication that one of the most important goals of government-financed research is not so much to get answers as it is to consume the computer budget, which has left me ever since with a jaundiced view of government-financed research,” he said.

Excepting Zeldin, Mercer’s chosen candidates haven’t fared particularly well. The billionaire spent $1 million to help pay for the 2012 Republican National Convention, and also gave Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS significant funds to try to boost Republicans’ fortunes. And he spent $200,000 on Wendy Long’s Senate race. Who’s Wendy Long, you ask? Right.

There’s a kind of funny flip in the media narrative here, too. After Cruz announced that he would run, a Politico sub-hed blared that he was “months behind his competitors in recruiting mega-donors and bundlers.” If the storied $31 million materializes, then those concerns were probably meritless.

But, to paraphrase the poet, with new money comes new problems. And it remains to be seen how a cozy alliance with a guy whose hedge fund allegedly dodged $6 billion in taxes could play out for the senator.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, April 10, 2015

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Crony Capitalism, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: