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“Just Another Day On The Campaign Trail”: Donald Trump To Republican Lawmakers: Hey, Losers, Vote For Me

Donald Trump spent his day on Capitol Hill calling fellow Republicans losers, complaining that the media is just too mean, and doubling down on his defense of Saddam Hussein.

So basically, just another day on the campaign trail for the GOP nominee.

It’s just 124 days til the election and less than two weeks until he gets officially nominated, and Trump’s stop on Capitol Hill proved that—while he’s won some converts—Republican unity is still very theoretical.

Some of his relationships here are complicated. Others are simple. You can put his dynamic with Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in the latter category.

The Washington Post reported that Kirk skipped Trump’s Capitol Hill huddle, and that Trump called him a “loser” in the closed-door meeting. The mogul also predicted that Kirk will lose his re-election bid, but that Trump,  himself, will win Illinois—a state which hasn’t voted for the Republican nominee since 1988.

Kirk told reporters, flatly, that he thinks Trump is wrong.

“I’ve never been defeated in Illinois,” he said.

Then he added that he thinks Trump will bomb in Illinois, predicting that he will do about as well as Alan Keyes did in 2004—when he only got 27 percent of the vote in the Senate race against then-state Sen. Barack Obama.

Kirk wasn’t the only Senate Republican to tussled with Trump. Sen. Jeff Flake, of Arizona, confronted him in the meeting, according to the Post, criticizing him for belittling Sen. John McCain’s time as a POW in Vietnam. Next on Trump’s “to alienate” list:  Sen. Ben Sasse for criticism.

Sasse is a dogged, long-time opponent of Trump, and called him a “megalomaniac strongman” on the Senate floor last December. He left the meeting long before his fellow Republican colleagues did, and was blank-faced and silent as reporters swarmed him with questions.

Later, his spokesman released a statement saying the 2016 contest “remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.”

Trump’s courtship of House Republicans didn’t seem to generate that level of fireworks. But it also wasn’t a lovefest.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who backed Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio in the primary, told reporters that Trump’s overtures left him unmoved.

“It was a lot of stream-of-consciousness again,” he said of the mogul’s remarks, “like what you’d hear at the rallies but with less cheering.”

Multiple members told reporters that Trump doubled down on his comments on Saddam Hussein. When asked how it felt to hear the Republican presidential nominee say nice things about the late Iraqi dictator, Kinzinger gave a one-word response:

“Awkward.”

He added that he thinks giving him credit as a terrorist-hunter is “disgusting and despicable.”

“To somehow give him credit for killing terrorists—he also killed a lot of innocent people, fed them into acid and did some really terrible things,” he said.

And Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican from a swing district in Pennsylvania, also told reporters that when a member asked Trump how he would reach out to Hispanic voters, he gave an answer we’ve all heard before.

“He said Hispanics love him,” Dent said.

Dent added that the polls do not back up that assertion, and that Trump also said he is “all for trade.”

When asked if Trump’s remarks about supporting trade were persuasive, Dent chuckled.

“No!” he said.

Other members said they were charmed.

Rep. Peter King, who once joked he would leave politics if Republicans nominated Trump, said the mogul got a warm welcome. He added that his daughter, Ivanka, got even more applause. She attended the meeting along with her husband, Jared Kushner. And Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, said he’s made a complete 180 on Trump. He was a longtime detractor, but now said he’s enthusiastic about the candidate.

“I may have been one of Trump’s most vociferous opponents in the primary, and I am now one of his most committed supporters,” he said, “partially because I understand the profound significance of the coming election. If I tell you that the party’s coming together, you can believe it. Because I’m living proof.”

Kirk and Flake probably beg to differ.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, July 7, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Barking Carnival Act”: An Endorsement For The Onetime ‘Cancer On Conservatism’

At various points through the Republicans’ presidential primary process, various GOP leaders and candidates thought they could derail Donald Trump with one big speech. Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and others stepped up to the plate, delivered carefully crafted remarks on the dangers Trump posed to the party and the country, and hoped the weight of their words would change the trajectory of the race.

Each, obviously, failed.

Among the most notable of these speeches, however, came by way of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who invited the press to a DC hotel near the White House last July to deliver an anti-Trump stem-winder.

“My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets,” Perry said at the time. “Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment. I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.”

Perry went on to characterize Trump as “a barking carnival act” who offers a “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Keep all of this in mind when considering what Perry said yesterday. TPM reported:

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Thursday endorsed Donald Trump and left the door open to becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee.

“He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them,” Perry told CNN. “He wasn’t my first choice, wasn’t my second choice, but he is the people’s choice.” […]

“He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen,” Perry told CNN.

When the subject turned to a possible role as Trump’s running mate, the Texas Republican added, “I am going to be open to any way I can help. I am not going to say no.”

No, of course not. Why say no to partnering with “a barking carnival act” who represents a “cancer on conservatism,” who’s poised to send your party to the “graveyard”?

The drama surrounding the process of a presumptive nominee choosing the vice presidential contender is always fascinating. People who actually want the job are supposed to be subtle – those who are too eager tend to lose out – and aspirants are generally expected to feign disinterest.

Perry’s comments yesterday were ridiculous given what he said about Trump last summer, but as it relates to the VP process, the former governor ably put his name out there.

What makes 2016 so unusual – one of the many reasons, actually – is that under normal circumstances, serving as your party’s running mate is generally seen as a pretty sweet gig. If you lose, the campaign still raises your stature and visibility, opening the door to a brighter electoral future. If you win, you hold national office and you’re one heartbeat from the presidency.

But with Trump as the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, the usual dynamic doesn’t apply at all. Many in the party, who would otherwise make a sensible VP choice, are already rushing to withdraw their names from consideration, unwilling to be tied to Trump. As the New York Times reported earlier this week:

It’s a time-honored tradition for politicians to deny any interest in the vice presidency. But this year, with the possibility of Donald J. Trump as the Republican nominee, they really mean it.

“Never,” said Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who is still running against Mr. Trump. “No chance.”

“Hahahahahahahahaha,” wrote Sally Bradshaw, a senior adviser to Jeb Bush, when asked if he would consider it.

“Scott Walker has a visceral negative reaction to Trump’s character,” said Ed Goeas, a longtime adviser to the Wisconsin governor. […]

A remarkable range of leading Republicans, including Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, have been emphatic publicly or with their advisers and allies that they do not want to be considered as Mr. Trump’s running mate.

I suppose it’s possible that all of these folks are playing the game of appearing disinterested, while quietly hoping for a call from the candidate’s vetting team, though by all appearances, they’re quite sincere.

For his part, Trump said yesterday he intends to announce his running mate “at the convention,” which begins in Cleveland in mid-July.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2016

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan To GOP; I Can’t Be Your Everything”: His Current Job, That He Didn’t Want, Isn’t Going That Great

Paul Ryan wants you to know he’s not in the running to be president, and it’s not like when the Speaker of the House assured the public he wasn’t in the running to be Speaker of the House.

This time he wants you to know he means it.

That’s why he’s been putting out shiny, overly produced, campaign-style videos on foreign policy and giving flag draped speeches about the “common humanity” that should unify the Republican Party and the nation?

Nevermind that. This time he means it.

“We have too much work to do in the House to allow this speculation to swirl or to have my motivations questioned. So let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party,” Ryan told a room brimming with reporters at the Republican National Committee’s Capitol Hill headquarters.

(We’ll come back to the work Ryan wants to (and has failed to) get done in the House later.)

His forceful non-presidential announcement itself turned some heads on Capitol Hill.

“Was he in the running [at] the convention?” asked Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) when The Daily Beast informed him of Ryan’s press conference. “From Paul and from my friends in the House, I have had no one ever confirm the fact that he ever had any interest.”

The news that Ryan’s taken his name out of the running, by some accounts for the 19th time now, hit more moderate Republicans like a punch in the gut as they survey the GOP field that is dominated by reality TV star Donald Trump and conservative bomb-throwing Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“That’s too bad. He was never pushing the talk – it was others,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), admitting that he was one of those on the Hill prodding Ryan to allow his name to be offered on the convention floor in Cleveland. “Paul Ryan would be great for the party and he could certainly win. I’ve known him for years and he’s a good conservative.”

But we’ve heard Ryan take his name out of the running for Speaker, only to offer it and be handed the most coveted gavel on Capitol Hill.

How different will this really be?

“Those are apples and oranges. Being Speaker of the House is a far cry from being President of the United States, specifically because I was already in the House; I’m already a congressman,” Ryan argued as progressive activists protested outside. “I was asked by my colleagues to take a responsibility within Congress that I’ve already been serving in from the one that I had. That is entirely different than getting the nomination for President of the United States by your party, without even running for the job.”

In fairness, his current job, that he didn’t want, isn’t going that great.

As Speaker, the numbers wonk has failed to unite the conservative wing of his party. Take this year’s budget battle, which Ryan seems to have lost.

Ryan was propelled to Republican fame during his tenure as chairman of the Budget Committee where he offered aggressive proposals to cut the social safety net and restructure entitlements, like Medicare. While that made him the whipping boy of progressives, it earned him the GOP’s vice presidential nomination in 2012.

After that  failed campaign, he returned to the House as the Ways and Means chairman – not as prestigious as the veep spot but that’s where tax policy is written, so powerful nonetheless.

When he was elected speaker, he vowed to use his new perch atop the House to show the American people that conservatives can govern by passing a spending blueprint by Tax Day.

That deadline is just days away. And  the tea party wing of the House revolted – as they are known to do – and it seems the lower chamber will fail to even pass a budget.

Thus instead holding a press conference showing a united Republican Party, budget in hand, he was forced to insert himself into presidential politics and beg convention delegates to stay in line and stop loving him so much.

“If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe that you should only choose from a person who has actually participated in the primary. Count me out,” Ryan added. “If you want to be the nominee for our party, to be the president, you should actually run for it.”

Many conservatives argue it would be better for Speaker Ryan’s future to focus on governing the House, instead of jumping into the crazy world of Election 2016.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told The Daily Beast. “Being Speaker of the House, it’s an extremely difficult and challenging job, and he has the ability to be successful at that. I would just ask, but I think his problems will be greater if he’s not in the mainstream of Republican voters on big questions like trade and immigration.”

Sessions, who has endorsed Trump,  added it would be unfair to millions of conservative primary voters for Ryan or another GOP leader to orchestrate a twelfth hour takeover at the convention.

“A lot of people have spoken at these elections. American people are not happy with the establishment of the Republican Party,” said Sessions. “And I guess the Speaker of the House would have to be classified as part of the establishment, right? So it would be hard to make that move—to go from a Ted Cruz and a Donald Trump to somebody who symbolizes the business as usual.”

 

By: Matt Laslo, The Daily Beast, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Election 2016, Establishment Republicans, Paul Ryan, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Iran And The Case For Realism”: The Choices We Face Are ‘Often Between Greater And Lesser Evils’

Foreign policy debates rarely get away from being reflections of domestic political conflicts, but they are also usually based on unstated assumptions and unacknowledged theories.

That’s true of the struggle over the Iran nuclear agreement, even if raw politics is playing an exceptionally large role. There are many indications that Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Susan Collins (Maine) might in other circumstances be willing to back the accord. But they have to calculate the very high costs of breaking with their colleagues on an issue that has become a test of party loyalty.

There is also the unfortunate way in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen to frame Congress’s vote as a pro- or anti-Israel proposition. Many staunch supporters of Israel may have specific criticisms of the inspection regime, but they also believe that the restraints on Iran’s nuclear program are real. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), for example, has said that U.S. negotiators “got an awful lot, particularly on the nuclear front.” And the “nuclear front,” after all, is the main point.

But the pressures on Cardin, who is still undecided, and several other Democrats to vote no anyway are enormous. A yes vote from Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, would be a true profiles-in-courage moment — and have a real influence on his wavering colleagues.

President Obama and his allies are right to say that the dangers of having the agreement blocked by Congress are much higher than the risks of trying to make it work. The notion that the United States could go back and renegotiate for something even tougher is laughable, because this is not simply a U.S.-Iran deal. It also involves allies who strongly back what’s on the table. Suggesting that the old sanctions on Iran could be restored is absurd for the same reason: Our partners would bridle if the United States disowned what it has agreed to already.

The administration’s core challenge to its critics is: “What is the alternative?” It is not a rhetorical question.

The counts at the moment suggest that Obama will win by getting at least enough votes to sustain a veto of legislation to scuttle the pact. He has a shot (Cardin’s decision could be key) of getting 41 senators to prevent a vote on an anti-deal measure altogether.

But once this episode is past us, the president, his congressional opponents and the regiment of presidential candidates owe the country a bigger discussion on how they see the United States’ role in the world. Obama in particular could profit from finally explaining what the elusive “Obama Doctrine” is and responding, at least indirectly, to criticisms of the sort that came his way Friday from Republican hopefuls Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.

There are many (I’m among them) who see Obama primarily as a foreign policy realist. Especially after our adventures in Iraq, realism looks a whole lot better than it once did. I say this as someone who still thinks that the United States needs to stand up for democratic values and human rights but who also sees military overreach as a grave danger to our interests and long-term strength. The principal defense of Obama’s stewardship rests on the idea that, despite some miscues, his realism about what military power can and can’t achieve has recalibrated the United States’ approach, moving it in the right direction.

A useful place to start this discussion is “The Realist Persuasion,” Richard K. Betts’s article in the 30th anniversary issue of the National Interest, realism’s premier intellectual outpost. Betts, a Columbia University scholar, argues that realists “focus more on results than on motives and are more attuned to how often good motives can produce tragic results.” While idealistic liberals and conservatives alike are often eager to “support the righteous and fight the villainous,” realists insist that the choices we face are “often between greater and lesser evils.”

“At the risk of overgeneralizing,” he writes, “one can say that idealists worry most about courage, realists about constraints; idealists focus on the benefits of resisting evil with force, realists on the costs.” On the whole, “realists recommend humility rather than hubris.”

For those of us whose heads are increasingly realist but whose hearts are still idealist, realism seems cold and morally inadequate. Yet the realists’ moral trump card is to ask whether squandering lives, treasure and power on impractical undertakings has anything to do with morality. Critics of realism confront the same question that opponents of the Iran deal face: “What is the alternative?”

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 31, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Obstructionists”: Congress Can Still Mess Up The Iran Deal

“Now, Congress takes up the matter” are words that are ensured to send shudders down the spine, so shudder away: We’ve just entered the congressional phase of the Iran talks, with a Senate hearing next Tuesday, after which it’s up to Mitch McConnell to decide how fast and aggressively to move with the bill from Tennessee Republican Bob Corker that would bar the administration from making any changes to U.S. sanctions against Iran for 60 days while Congress reviews and debates any Iran agreement.

There are, as the Dude said, man, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous here. It’s all quite complicated. But here, it seems to me, is your cut-to-the-chase question: Is there enough good faith in this United States Senate for something to be worked out? Or is it just impossible?

One proceeds from the assumption that the Senate will do whatever it can to kill a deal. It’s a Republican Senate, by a pretty wide margin (54-46); history would suggest that these Republicans simply aren’t going to hand President Obama a win like this. It hardly matters what the details are, about what Iran can or can’t do at Fordow, about the “snapback” provisions of the sanctions, about the inspections regime, or about what precise oversight role Congress has. It’s just basically impossible to imagine that this Republican Party, after everything we’ve seen over these last six years, and this Republican Senate majority leader, who once said it was his job to make Obama a one-term president, won’t throw up every roadblock to a deal they can conjure.

Once again, we’re left separating out the factors the way scientists reduce compounds to their constituent elements in the lab. How much of this is just Obama hatred? How much is (this is a slightly different thing) the conviction—quite insane, but firmly held—that he doesn’t have the best interests of the United States at heart? How much is a genuinely paranoid, McCarthy-ish world view about the intractably evil nature of our enemy and the definitional Chamberlainism of ever thinking otherwise?

And how much is just self-interested politics, as it is bequeathed to us in its current form? Which is to say—if you are a Republican senator, you simply cannot cast a vote that can be seen as “pro-Obama” under any circumstances. You just can’t do it.

I asked in a column last week whether there would be one Republican officeholder in Washington who might say, “Hey, upon examination of the details, this looks like a decent deal with risks that are acceptable, and I’m going to support it?” It’s still a good question. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is conceivable. He called that noxious Tom Cotton letter “not appropriate.” But Flake is pretty new to the Senate and doesn’t carry a lot of weight on these matters.

Some suggest Corker himself. Corker has this reputation, in part earned, as one of the reasonable ones. He gets articles written about him like this one,  from The New York Times a couple of days ago, which limned him as a Republican of the old school, a sensible fellow who still wants to horse-trade.

And he is—but only up to a point, at which the horses return to their stalls. The most notable example here is the Dodd-Frank bill. This is all detailed at great and exacting length by Robert Kaiser in his excellent book about how financial reform became law, Act of Congress. Then, Corker talked for hours and hours with Chris Dodd about the particulars—derivatives reform, oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more. He wanted to play ball, even thought he might deliver some votes. But as time passed, it became clear to Corker that the base just wasn’t standing for it. He faced reelection in 2012. Not tough reelection—he won with 64 percent of the vote. But reelection campaigns are great excuses for senators to do nothing, and nothing is what Corker did. He withdrew from all participation with Dodd and Frank, and he ultimately voted against the bill.  When it mattered, he caved to the extremists, in other words, among his colleagues and in his base. Why that means he should be getting credit for a spirit of compromise now in New York Times articles is something that, to my obtuse mind, requires further explanation.

“He’s not Tom Cotton.” Uh, okay. Wonderful. But that’s where we’ve come, celebrating a guy because he doesn’t want to start World War III. Happily, though, all is not lost. It’s far from clear that Corker or Cotton (and yes, they are different) can block a deal. There are, I’m told, three categories of senators on this question. The first is our own mullahs—no deal no how. The second is a group of mostly Democrats and independents—Virginia’s Tim Kaine, who is a close ally of the White House, and Maine’s Angus King—who basically wants a deal but wants to be sure that it’s good, and want to influence the shape of any legislation the Senate might pass.

The third group is senators who also basically would like to see a deal but want the Senate to serve as a backstop against a deal they see as bad. I’d put Chuck Schumer in that third camp. So when these people say they back the Corker bill, as Schumer did this week, it doesn’t mean they’re against the administration or a deal per se. Democrats aren’t going to be Obama’s problem here. A few, the ones from the deep red states, may be boxed in. But most will stick with the administration, if a deal is finalized along current terms.

I don’t think our mullahs have the numbers right now. But Obama is going to have to sell this to more parties than Tom Friedman and Steve Inskeep. He has, or should have, Friedman’s readers and Inskeep’s listeners already. The way to get someone like Corker to play ball is to sell it in Knoxville. Public opinion still influences foreign policy, as Obama knows from his Syrian experiences. Put it to work.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 8, 2015

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Iran, Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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