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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

“We’re All The Same Underneath”: When White People Take Drugs, It Stops Being A “War”

Chalk up another piece of evidence for the longstanding notion that the nation’s “War on Drugs” is simply another aspect of institutionalized racism: it seems that now that heroin addiction is raging through white middle-class families, the nation’s appetite for tough-on-crime tactics is waning.

When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease.

“Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.”

Apologists can try to claim that the racial disparity in understanding and treatment of the problem is due to people with more power having the ability to change the conversation.

But given the history of the enforcement of the drug war in the United States–starkly and painfully exemplified in the hysteria over “crack cocaine”–it’s a difficult stance to take.

The evidence suggests, rather, that American public policy has been centered around harsh punishment of populations that were at first openly and then more quietly assumed to be naturally subhuman and more prone to violence than whites. Racism, in other words. The drug war is another reflection of that same mentality. A large number of Americans harboring racial prejudice have an image of minority communities seething with chaos just under the thin veneer of civilization, with barbarism ready to strike at any moment in a toxic stew of drugs, handouts violence and uncouth music. The response is a war on drugs, tough-on-crime laws, hatred of taxes, and arsenals of guns for “protection.”

It’s no surprise, then, that when white people do drugs it’s not seen as the same kind of threat–because in minds of far too many Americans it’s not really the drug that is the problem, but the ability of the drug to release the supposedly natural tendencies of certain types of people. The same is true of guns: when a white person carries a gun they’re a patriot; when a black person does it they’re a criminal thug. Because it’s not about the gun, it’s about the person carrying it.

Racists don’t see this as a form of racism. They see it as a form of common sense. But it’s racism through and through. And unfortunately even for the racists, their public policy reactions in terms of gun proliferation, poor public safety nets and harsh criminal justice systems hurt not only minority communities but white ones as well.

America will make progress as a society only when we can move beyond these prejudices and realize that we’re all the same underneath, and we need policies of tolerance and understanding that reflect that fact.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 31, 2015

November 2, 2015 Posted by | Crime Rates, Drug Addiction, War on Drugs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“These Things Happen From Time To Time”: At Least 43 Instances This Year Of Somebody Being Shot By A Toddler 3 Or Younger

I don’t want to sound like some kind of weeny liberal nag, but I’m having trouble understanding how we’re supposed to use our guns in these cases to act like the good guys who are getting the bad guys with the guns.

This week a 2-year-old in South Carolina found a gun in the back seat of the car he was riding in and accidentally shot his grandmother, who was sitting in the passenger seat. This type of thing happens from time to time: A little kid finds a gun, fires it, and hurts or kills himself or someone else. These cases rarely bubble up to the national level except when someone, like a parent, ends up dead.

But cases like this happen a lot more frequently than you might think. After spending a few hours sifting through news reports, I’ve found at least 43 instances this year of somebody being shot by a toddler 3 or younger. In 31 of those 43 cases, a toddler found a gun and shot himself or herself.

I know, I know. I’m a moron.

Because only a moron believes that a two year old can pull the trigger on a gun, right?

You might as well tell me that we put a man on the moon or that real men eat arugula.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of pantywaist protesters, but I haven’t forgotten how the NRA reacted to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After a weeklong silence, the National Rifle Association announced Friday that it wants to arm security officers at every school in the country. It pointed the finger at violent video games, the news media and lax law enforcement — not guns — as culprits in the recent rash of mass shootings.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A. vice president, said at a media event that was interrupted by protesters. One held up a banner saying, “N.R.A. Killing Our Kids.”

It’s hard to say that it’s the NRA killing our kids when it’s clearly our kids killing each other and themselves and their grandmothers. And this wouldn’t happen if we just put a good guy with a gun in the backseat of all of our cars to keep a watch on our toddlers and put a quick stop to any gang-related activity.

I’m sure you can go talk to the families who have been impacted by these tragedies and find them suffering from no regrets and no second thoughts about how safe their guns were keeping their families.

Oh, yes, I know the solution. Those stupid parents shouldn’t just leave their loaded guns lying around where any Tommy, Richie or Harry can pick them up and pop off a few quicks shots.

And girls shouldn’t have sex.

And boys shouldn’t horse around.

And say ‘no’ to drugs.

And no one gets hurt.

 

By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, October 16, 2015

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Reality-Avoidance Scheme”: The Republican List Of Things You Cannot Say

You are, perhaps, already familiar with the Republican List of Things You Cannot Say. If not, here’s a quick refresher:

1. “Vagina.” That’s a definite no-no. Three years ago, Republicans in the Michigan statehouse banned Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking after she used the v-word.

2. “Condom.” The Bush administration sought to ban sex-ed teachers from mentioning the c-word or, indeed, any contraceptive method but abstinence.

3. “Gun.” A 2011 Florida law prohibits pediatricians from asking if parents have a g-word in the house. Mind you, they can ask about swimming pools, tobacco, seatbelts, lead paint and other potential home-based threats to children’s health. But not firearms.

To that list, a new term has now been added. In Florida, you may not say “climate change.”

Now, you’d think the Sunshine State would be using the double c-word quite a bit just now. Florida is, of course, a lowlands state, home to the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, i.e., the Everglades, and as such, one of the most environmentally vulnerable places in the country. That confluence of facts represents a challenge to which a governor can respond in one of two ways: 1) grapple with the problem and look for ways to solve it; or 2) ignore the problem and silence those who dare to bring it up.

Governor Rick Scott has chosen the second option. The state now operates under an unwritten gag order banning environmental officials from using the double c-word in any official email, correspondence or report to discuss the threat from human-caused planetary warming and rising seas.

The governor, for the record, denies any such rule exists. “It’s not true,” he told reporters last week. But Scott’s words are simply not credible in the wake of a withering report published last week by the Miami Herald. In it, multiple former state Department of Environmental Protection officials describe how they were, in fact, censored by their superiors. “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said former DEP attorney Christopher Byrd.

No, the GOP is not the only party to regulate what its officials may say. Yes, the Obama administration has lately come out against language conflating Islam and terrorism in order, it says, to deny gangs of criminal thugs the legitimacy of religious underpinnings. You may or may not find that reasoning persuasive, but give the White House this much credit: The ban seems designed to make a philosophical point — not to forestall discussion of terrorism.

What we see in Governor Scott, on the other hand, amounts to little more than a reality-avoidance scheme, a way of not having a debate he cannot win and would rather not have. The governor has previously tried denying the reality of global warming. He has used the “I’m not a scientist” dodge that the GOP adopted in lockstep last year. But this may be his most effective means yet: Commandeer the language, rendering discussion impossible.

It is not, however, the debate about global warming that threatens to submerge downtown Miami, but global warming itself. It turns out that, contrary to what we believed as children, if you ignore a thing, it doesn’t go away. Often times, it simply festers and gets worse. And as guns, condoms and vaginas continue to exist despite GOP silencing, so too does the threat to Florida, the country and the planet from rising seas and temperatures.

Yet in the face of that existential danger, the GOP continues its strategy of sowing doubt, denial and delay. It is a depressing sign of our times that Florida’s governor exerts so much energy to manage the language of catastrophe.

Here’s a thought: Address the catastrophe and the language will take care of itself.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 18, 2015

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Rick Scott | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“You And Your Brother Are Evil’: GQ’s Insane Profile Of George Zimmerman’s Family

October’s issue of GQ features a profile of the family of George Zimmerman, the man who owes his life to Florida’s “stand your ground” law and extremely understanding jurors, after fatally shooting Trayvon Martin. Writer Amanda Robb paints a picture of a family tormented by paranoia, as the Zimmermans struggle to live in a country where the vast majority of the population despises their brother.

Here are a few of the most fascinating, heartbreaking, complicated moments.

Their paranoid security protocols

“They watched the movie Argo to learn how to live like CIA. Code names for everyone. No mail delivered to the house. No visitors. No talking to the few neighbors they had. No long phone conversations — keep it short and vague to outwit surveillance. Never discuss your whereabouts via phone or text. Keep a weapon close by at all times. [George’s brother] Robert slept with his gun. Still does.

“And in case someone–or multiple someones–decided to mount an attack on the house, the Zimmermans pre-packed their own ‘go-bags’ filled with everything they would need to flee in a rush, as well as what they called ‘footballs’ — like the one President Obama has with the nuclear codes–that contained laptops, cell phones, and other essential electronics.

“They also memorized a color-coded threat-ID system. Code blue: Law enforcement at the door. Code brown: Draw your weapons. Code black: Come out guns blazing.”

Concealed weapons certification class

Robb accompanied Gladys to a concealed weapons certification class to learn more about the region’s gun culture. “The class’s instructor, a police officer in Belle Isle, repeatedly recommends ‘accessorizing your gun,’ which he illustrates by lisping and wagging his wrist like a stereotypical ‘queen.’ The instructor keeps up the act until he finds out I live in New York City. Then he veers into Colonel Klink from the 1960s TV series Hogan’s Heroes. ‘Welcome to Germany,’ he says. ‘Everyone on the train!’

We don’t actually learn to fire our weapons in this concealed-weapons class, so eventually I tell the instructor, “I have no idea how to load, aim, or shoot a gun.” He recommends I get a .38. “It’s a good baby gun,” he says. “Yes!” [George’s mother] Gladys exclaims. “Personally, I love my .45!” Then she does this kind of Angie Dickinson draw-and-aim move from the TV show Police Woman.

A brush with luxury

The Zimmermans agreed to make an appearance on CNN after the network agreed to pay for two hotel rooms for three nights and “everything” else they might need. After racking up debts from lawsuits, mortgages and the rent from their secret home, this looked pretty good.

“They ran up a big room-service bill, cleaned out the minibars, got their clothes laundered, made several trips to the spa, treated a party of ten to dinner at the hotel restaurant, and bought swag–from bracelets to bath fizzies–at the gift shop.

“Toward the end of their stay, according to Robert, a manager presented him with a bill for $3,600. He says he called CNN, outraged, only to have the producer accuse them of splurging shamelessly on CNN’s dime. “You and your brother are evil!” he remembers her screaming. The hotel manager threatened to call the police. Alone in his room, Robert started shaking. He wrapped all the blankets around him, ordered shrimp, chain-smoked cigarettes, got roaring drunk. Nothing helped. He called his mother in a panic. “I can’t get warm,” he sobbed. “I just can’t get warm.”

 

By: Joanna Rothkopt, Assistant Editor, Salon, September 29, 2014

October 1, 2014 Posted by | George Zimmerman, Gun Violence, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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