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“Can Newt Gingrich Save the GOP?”: He’s Trying To Play Peacemaker Between Republicans And The Trump Campaign

The Republican Party’s establishment is slowly coming to terms with a tough reality: Donald Trump will be the nominee, and resistance is futile.

Newt Gingrich is the latest party elder to try and normalize the ever-increasing possibility of a Trump presidency, visiting with top GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this week to pave the way for a future working relationship.

“The time is coming when you’ve got to put the party back together,” Gingrich told The Daily Beast.

Asked whether he was meeting with GOP leaders about Trump, Gingrich indicated it was more of a casual conversation—but confirmed that he has spoken with party leadership about starting the healing process—no matter which of the four candidates end up winning the nomination.

Behind the scenes, however, Gingrich’s outreach is more obvious. None of the other remaining Republican nominees would require the kind of healing that a Trump presidency would demand.

“Newt has been on the Hill sharing his views on how Congress could work with a Trump administration,” a Republican leadership aide told The Daily Beast. “Gingrich is trying to legitimize Trump while Mitt Romney and others are out there saying he’s terrible. Gingrich is saying that Trump’s positions are valid—he’s trying to add legitimacy to Trump while everyone else is doing the opposite.”

Gingrich visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to sit down with Speaker Ryan and hold a Facebook Q&A. Just the day before, Gingrich waxed poetic about Trump’s “seriousness” and “shift toward inclusiveness” following the Super Tuesday primaries.

Trump’s shift toward inclusiveness, team effort and unity was vitally important. He has to build a Reagan like inclusiveness to win this fall

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 2, 2016

Trump’s decision to hold a serious press conference instead of a campaign speech was masterful and a great contrast to Cruz and Rubio.

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 2, 2016

During one meeting, a leadership aide said, Gingrich said he had been in quiet talks with the Trump campaign.

But Gingrich has stopped “short of endorsing Trump publicly because he knows it’s not the right way to win over conservatives who are alarmed by Trump’s policy positions and rhetoric,” said the aide.

Publicly Gingrich has walked a fine line: praising Trump without quite endorsing him.

“He is a man totally unique. He lives life at a 100 percent pace. I have never seen anything like it,” Gingrich cooed on Fox News Thursday evening. “If he becomes president, there is going to be a wall.”

The former House speaker added, “I don’t mind people saying, ‘I don’t want Trump.’ I mind people saying, ‘I’ll never vote for him.’ I think faced with Hillary [Clinton] as an alternative, that’s a very dangerous position.”

Trump was right to skip CPAC. The votes are in Kansas not Washington. Why give the anti-trump activists a target

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 4, 2016

Gingrich is hardly the only Republican leader, in recent weeks, to make peace with the idea of Donald Trump as the party’s nominee.

“There is so much at stake… however you disagree with Cruz or Rubio or Trump, the moderate Republican Party is going to coalesce against Hillary. She’s the uniter not a divider, she’s going to unite the Republican Party,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, told The Daily Beast. “There were a number of significant Republicans who came out against Goldwater, there were people that talked about doing this against Reagan, but I don’t know that anybody significant did it after the primary.”

 

By: Jackie Kucinich and Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Newt Gingrich | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Ted Cruz Doesn’t Seem To Mind”: Cruz’s Cozy Ties To DC’s Most Prominent, Paranoid Islamophobe

The top two Republican presidential contenders share more than a star-crossed bromance: They are also both big fans of an Islamophobic birther conspiracy theorist who thinks Huma Abedin is a sleeper agent.

It’s old news that Donald Trump has a thing for Frank Gaffney, who helms the conspiratorial Center for Security Policy. When the reality television star-turned-presidential frontrunner decided we need to temporarily ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States, he cited a methodologically goofy poll from Gaffney’s group suggesting one quarter of the world’s Muslims support global jihad and violence against America.

Though the Trump megaphone probably gave Gaffney more exposure than he’s ever had, Gaffney has friends in other high places as well: namely, the office of Ted Cruz. But Cruz, might have more to lose than his golden-hued frienemy, since his connections to Gaffney highlights just how hard it may be for him to posture as simultaneously mainstream-friendly and die-hard conservative.

In fact, just yesterday Cruz sent a video message to his buddy’s Nevada National Security Action Summit, in which he praised Gaffney without equivocation.

“I’m so sorry I can’t be there in person,” he said in the video, “but I want to thank Frank Gaffney and the entire team at the Center for Security policy for elevating these critical issues.”

“Frank, a patriot, he loves this country, and he is clear-eyed about the incredible threat of radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz added.

Then he said that Loretta Lynch has implemented a “ban on anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

Nope. That didn’t happen.

On the offhand chance you aren’t a long-time Gaffney watcher, a few things about his resume stand out. For starters, he helped push birther conspiracy theories about Obama, writing in 2008 at the Washington Times that “[t]here is evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya rather than, as he claims, Hawaii.” He argues that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, is a secret agent for the Muslim Brotherhood.

And he floated that a logo redesign for the Missile Defense Agency “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo” and was indicative of “submission to Shariah by President Obama and his team.”

Yipes!

On top of that, Gaffney has long argued that Grover Norquist, who heads the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, is secretly working to help Muslim Brotherhood moles infiltrate the U.S. government.

Big if true.

Because of curious statements like those, many mainstream conservatives have tried to banish him from their movement. He lost access to the CPAC mainstage, for example, and in 2012 got disinvited from a weekly off-the-record meeting of D.C. conservative power brokers.

But while everyone else has run away from Gaffney, Cruz has embraced him.

The video in Nevada wasn’t a one-time thing. Cruz also sent a video message to Gaffney’s July 25 New Hampshire National Security Summit, calling the organizer a “good friend.”

In March, Cruz appeared in person at Gaffney’s South Carolina National Security Action Summit—an event that Breitbart News co-sponsored—where he lavished praise on the birther.

“Frank Gaffney, the one and only,” Cruz said at that event, “you are a clarion voice for truth.”

He also appeared in person at Gaffney’s “Defeat Jihad Summit” in February of this year, where he praised his conspiratorial organization.

“This is an important gathering,” Cruz said at that event. “Let me say thank you to the Center for Security Policy for its leadership, for the Secure Freedom Strategy, a comprehensive serious strategy addressing the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

Secure Freedom Strategy is authored by a group called “The Tiger Team” and calls for identifying the Muslim Brotherhood’s operatives, “overt and covert.”

(Cruz’s team didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether he shared Gaffney’s concerns that Norquist is a covert Muslim Brotherhood operative. We will update this story if we hear back from them.)

On Feb. 6, 2014, he and Gaffney sat next to each other to discuss the dangers of an electromagnetic pulse attack at an event Gaffney’s group sponsored.

On September 8 of this year, he appeared on Gaffney’s radio show and said the Iran deal means “we are at a moment much like Munich in 1938, where allowing homicidal maniacs to acquire the military power to murder millions.” He also joined the show on April 22, 2014.

While Gaffney has found favor with Cruz and Trump, he isn’t buddy-buddy with everyone in the Republican presidential field. In fact, he suggested in 2011 that Chris Christie committed “misprision of treason” by appointing a Muslim lawyer, Sohail Mohammed, to the New Jersey Superior Court of Passaic County.

“Mr. Mohammed’s work for the American Muslim Union (AMU), an organization with close ties to Hamas, is what concerns Mr. Gaffney, not his religion,” emailed Alex VanNess, a spokesperson for the Center for Security Policy. “During an interview with Andy McCarthy on his book, Mr. Gaffney simply asked Mr. McCarthy if appointing a person with ties to such a terrorist group amounted to ‘misprision of treason.’”

Cruz and Trump aren’t the only 2016 contenders to legitimize Gaffney. Carly Fiorina sent a video message to the group’s most recent event, and Rick Santorum spoke at its South Carolina summit. But the Texan, by far, has done the most to consistently and publicly praise a guy who thinks Grover Norquist is a secret Muslim spy.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, December 15, 2015

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Frank Gaffney, GOP Presidential Candidates, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Smoke And Mirrors”: Trump Soaking The Rich? Eh, Not Really

So now Donald Trump’s gone and done something serious. Bummer.

But actually, don’t sweat it, because if you look a little more closely and the tax plan he unveiled Monday, you’ll see it isn’t very serious at all: one more piece of evidence that to Republicans, when it comes to tax cuts, deficits truly don’t matter. He’d reduce the top marginal rate to 25 percent on dollars earned above $300,000 (for a married filer); it’s now 39.6 percent on dollars earned above $450,000. And he’d dramatically increase the number of people who pay no tax at all (but I thought Republicans were angry at these people and wanted them to pay more!).

The nonpartisan tax experts haven’t run the numbers yet, but they will soon, assuming there’s even enough detail in the proposal for them to try, and I expect that when they do, we’ll see what we always see with GOP tax proposals—it won’t add up, because they never do. And when confronted with these numbers, Trump, like Mitt Romney and George W. Bush and a parade of Republican candidates before him, will say these geeky little experts don’t know what they’re talking about because he’ll unleash the growth that’s been suffocated for the last eight years and the federal coffers won’t even be able to hold all the revenue that will roll in and life will be a dream.

Yada yada yada. But there is something interesting about Trump’s proposal: He wants to eliminate the carried interest provision that gives the hedge-fund guys a much lower tax rate than the rest of us. Right now, they often earn many millions every year and supposedly pay a rate of around 24 percent.

Jeb Bush is for doing this too. So that’s two major GOP candidates (we still calling Bush major?) who are for a tax increase. And not just any old tax increase. One that would soak the rich! Isn’t this awesome?

Actually, no. Well wait. Yeah, I mean, ever since Warren Buffet put it so starkly a few years ago by saying how ridiculous it is that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, sure, fixing this has been a matter of basic decency. The loophole is an absurd scam. It would be great to close it on principle.

But the problem is that it would make almost no difference to the United States Treasury. According to the Tax Foundation, closing the loophole for hedge-fund managers and private-equity partners, the two groups who take advantage of it now, would bring in a paltry $1.3 billion a year in revenue. By comparison, the estate tax that Trump and Bush both promise to eliminate brings in around $24 billion a year.

And in fact, Trump’s loophole fix wouldn’t bring in even $1.3 billion, because there’s a key difference between his proposal and Bush’s. As noted above, the lower rate is paid by two groups, hedge-fund managers and private-equity partners. Trump would have the new, higher rate apply only to hedge-funders, not PE people. Bush’s would make people in both categories pony up. Trump hasn’t explained why, but I imagine he would say that PE people are making longer-term investments that at least (hopefully) contribute to the economy, while hedge-funders just traffic in short-term profit maximization. They’re the people he means when he says things like these guys just push paper around.

So with Trump’s plan at least, we’re talking about a few hundred million dollars a year into the treasury. Meanwhile, he cuts the top rate from 40 to 25 percent. Bush would cut the top rate to 28 percent. Both would also reduce the top capital gains tax rate by a few points, would completely eliminate the inheritance tax, and would do away with something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, which limits the extent to which high-income earners can reduce their tax bills through deductions and exemptions. There’s a lot more along these lines. In fact, Josh Barro of The New York Times wrote that Trump’s proposal would still cut the tax bills of many hedge-funders because it would not subject all their income to the 39.6 percent rate.

Okay, let’s get out of the weeds now. The point is this. Because the carried-interest loophole gets a lot of press, and because nobody likes hedge-fund guys to begin with, lots of even pretty well-informed people think that closing this loophole constitutes the wielding of a mighty sword of economic justice. It is that in principle, but in practice it’s nothing. Comparative pennies in the grand scheme of things. So Republicans like Trump and Bush can go around saying “hey, look at me, I wanna tax the rich guys!”, and the media will buy it, while in fact they’re doing the opposite.

This is why Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the leading conservative cop on the tax-increase beat, is just fine with all this. He gets the perception. “Doing carried-interest [repeal] permits rate reduction,” Norquist told me Monday. “So I’d say that’s a fine change.”

Democrats are partly to blame for how poorly all this is understood. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and (almost) all of them thunder about the Buffett Rule and the nasty hedge-funders because they’re an easy mark. But they don’t do a very good job of going on to explain that eliminating the loophole doesn’t amount to much. Well I say it’s time to start explaining.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Carried Interest Loophole, Donald Trump, Hedge Fund Managers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pure Fanaticism”: Tax-Cutting Sam Brownback Pushing Huge Tax Increase–But Not For His Corporate Friends

As noted at Lunch Buffet, Louisiana Republicans finally caved in to Bobby Jindal’s demands that the state budget he’s screwed up can only be fixed if Grover Norquist goes along. Their counterparts in Kansas have not yet thrown in the towel in their fight to keep Sam Brownback from dragging them and the state to the bottom of fiscal hell. But he’s refusing to bend, and is now pre-blaming legislators for across-the-board budget cuts he says he’ll be forced to impose if solons don’t give him a budget that reflects his fanatical faith in supply-side economics.

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal‘s Tim Carpenter, it’s getting tense in Republican circles in that city, and Brownback even got “choked up” in one meeting with GOP legislators. And that’s understandable. He wants to insulate the out-of-state corporations to whom he’s given a huge tax cut from any budgetary pain, and can’t seem to figure out why legislators don’t just go along with his proposal to hike sales taxes on everybody else. If he’s rebuffed, obviously he has to cut the budget more, right?

Today it looks like Brownback may dry his tears, and in the words of Kansas City Star columnist Yael Abouhalkah, even have the “last laugh:”

Gov. Sam Brownback edged closer early Friday morning to his second greatest victory as the leader of Kansas government.

Shortly after 4 a.m., the House took the spineless way out and approved the largest tax increase in state history.

It was badly needed to fill the huge budget hole created by Brownback’s greatest “victory” — income tax cuts he pushed in 2012 for thousands of businesses.

Those cuts — as everyone knows by now — slashed state revenues by more than $600 million a year, imperiled funding for education and other state services, and caused the Kansas Legislature to continue meeting until Friday, the 113th day of a scheduled 90-day session….

[T]he Kansas Senate has already passed a similar bill to boost the sales tax — by the narrowest of margins last Sunday — but would still have to vote Friday to endorse the House’s action.

If that happens — and let’s hope it doesn’t — Brownback will have succeeded in making the Legislature come up with a solution for a mess he created, and for which he has never taken responsibility.

At least Bobby Jindal has the excuse of wanting really really badly to become President of the United States, and convincing himself his party and constituents owe it to him to help out by gutting their own public services and making a hash of the state tax code. In Brownback’s case, it’s pure fanaticism.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 12, 2015

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Kansas, Sam Brownback, Tax Increases | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Working Man’s Wingnut”: Huckabee Laid Down Two Markers Directly Across The Class Lines That Divide Rank-And-File Republicans

So Mike Huckabee is “formally announcing his second presidential candidacy this morning from his rather famous home town of Hope, Arkansas. He’s not generally thought to be a threat to win the nomination, partly because his poll ratings in an incredibly crowded field aren’t that impressive, partly because he’s notoriously poor at fundraising, and partly because he has pre-alienated important elements of the Republican Establishment (Grover Norquist) and the conservative movement (the Club for Growth). His other problem is that having won Iowa in 2008, his expectations there are so high that if he fails to win again he may get written off before he reaches the Deep South primaries where he might be able to live off the fat of the land.

More fundamentally (pun intended), Huck’s natural base among white conservative evangelicals is no longer where it was in 2008, when it all but belonged to him after he disposed of Sam Brownback at the Ames Straw Poll. As they recently showed at Ralph Reed’s Iowa cattle call, nearly the entire gigantic 2016 field knows how to pitch the Christian Right, and many of the candidates–viz. Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and potentially even Jeb Bush–have credentials for appealing to that constituency which rival Huck’s.

What he could bring to the table, however, is sort of a full-spectrum conservative white working class message that transcends the usual cultural issues and spits fire at Republican as well as Democratic elites. He tried that to some extent in 2008, though his “populism” was more rhetorical than substantive. This time around, though, Huck’s laid down two markers directly across the class lines that divide rank-and-file Republicans on the rare occasions their leaders are challenged on them: trade and “entitlement reform.”

Last month in Iowa, Huck attacked free trade agreements with China for depressing U.S. wages, and argued “globalists” had too much power in the GOP. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership drawing a lot of attention right now, it will be interesting to see if Huckabee mentions this topic again in his campaign launch.

Huck got more attention earlier this month for letting it be known he opposed any “entitlement reform” plans that modified Social Security or Medicare for people already paying payroll taxes into the systems for those two programs–in other words, grandfathering current retirees or those very close to retirement, as Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals do, isn’t enough in Huck’s view. This was taken as an attack on Chris Christie, who had made means-testing of Social Security and Medicare a signature initiative for his doomed proto-candidacy. But Jeb Bush came out about the same time for an increase in the retirement age, and nearly all the GOP candidates have embraced “entitlement reform” in one form or another, if only via serial endorsements of serial Ryan Budgets.

The thing is, “entitlement reform” is very unpopular, not least among white working class voters. So it is the perfect subject for a would-be “populist” conservative.

Huckabee may have competition for this working man’s wingnut approach, notably from the man who inherited a lot of Huck’s 2008 supporters in 2012: Rick Santorum. Santo’s angle seems to be focused on immigration policy rather than trade and entitlements, however. If Huck continues to cover his flanks on immigration by repudiating his earlier openness to comprehensive reform, I think he’s got the broader and more evocative pitch. Even if it doesn’t elevate him into the top tier along with Bush, Walker and Rubio, it will get their attention, and may very well have an impact on Republican fiscal and economic policy.

I said in a piece in the latest issue of WaMo that Huck had more or less appropriated the savage appeal of Sarah Palin, at least in his pre-campaign book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy. That book is chock full of anti-elite resentment, and implicitly offers Huck’s campaign as an instrument of vengeance for the same kind of working-class conservative activists who lick envelopes for the anti-choice movement, pay attention to Glenn Beck, laugh at the tired jokes about God not creating “Adam and Steve”–and have to worry about their own jobs and retirements and health care.

I don’t know that there’s enough distinctive appeal there to offset Huck’s other handicaps, and other candidates will poach on the same turf. But I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 5, 2015

May 6, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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