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“Most Would Join His Ticket Only If He Kidnapped Their Children”: How Badly Will Trump Hurt Himself With His Choice Of A Running Mate?

When Donald Trump was asked by a local television station about his potential choice of a running mate, he responded, “Everybody wants it, that I can tell you.” Like many of the things Trump says, it was a laughably transparent lie; there are any number of Republicans who have said that they wouldn’t run with Trump, and that only counts the ones who have been asked by reporters. The number of prominent politicians interested in that job is pretty small, and you can’t blame them; while it’s possible to run on a losing ticket and emerge with your reputation intact (as Paul Ryan did), spending a few months going around the country talking about what a great president Donald Trump would be is unlikely to be a career booster. To emphasize the point, today Trump tweeted, “The only people who are not interested in being the V.P. pick are the people who have not been asked!” Which is actually much closer to the truth, since there are lots of people he hasn’t asked (he may not have actually asked anyone yet), and most of them would join his ticket only if Trump kidnapped their children.

Nevertheless, there are some willing to take that plunge into the unknown with Trump, and he’s been meeting with them as he gets closer to a decision. On Saturday he got together with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and today he’s meeting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. The other names we’ve heard mentioned most often are former House speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who is managing Trump’s transition planning), and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose relationship with Trump seems based on their shared anger about immigration.

Of course, as a successful businessman who has hired many people, Trump will give this decision all the care and deliberation it deserves, arriving at a choice that nearly all Americans will praise for its wisdom and foresight.

Or maybe not. In fact, there are multiple forces pushing Trump to make a choice that will hurt him, not help him.

He wouldn’t be the first nominee to do so. The truth is that running mates almost never help the nominee win the election; at best, their selection provides a few days of positive news coverage that gives a small bump in the polls, which soon settle right back down to where they were before. The only times where a running mate had an appreciable impact on the race were those where they hurt their nominee, as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin did.

So the best strategy is for the nominee to choose someone who would actually make a good vice president. Judging by what he’s said to this point, Trump might have a hard time determining who could perform well in the job, since he seems to have virtually no idea what the federal government does or how it works. But the most important factors are that the VP have a strong relationship with the president (vice presidents can’t be effective unless everyone knows they can speak for the president) and that he have a detailed knowledge of government. The ones who have been effective, such as Joe Biden and Dick Cheney (in George W. Bush’s first term, though less so in his second) are those with long experience in Washington that enabled them to navigate the federal government’s complexities to accomplish the tasks the president set out for them.

Trump has seemed to acknowledge this by saying that he wants someone with Washington experience as a running mate, an insider who can make up for what Trump himself lacks. But many of the people on his list don’t really qualify. Christie hasn’t served in Washington, and Ernst has been there only a year and a half, during which time she’s just been a backbench senator in a Congress that does almost nothing. Sessions has been in Washington for almost two decades, but he’s not exactly known as a legislative wizard, not to mention the fact that when people are calling your campaign racist, choosing the guy who once said that he thought members of the KKK were “were OK until I found out they smoked pot” might not be a great idea. Pence spent a decade in Congress, so he’d have a case to make, as would Gingrich, who engineered the GOP takeover of 1994, then went down in flames just a few years later after he oversaw the impeachment of Bill Clinton while simultaneously carrying on his own extramarital affair.

If those are the only options, one might think Pence is the obvious choice. He’s colorless, bland, uncharismatic and has the appropriate résumé. But is it really plausible that Donald Trump would make that kind of choice? Wouldn’t he want someone with a little more pizazz?

Now add in the fact that Trump is trailing in the polls, which increases the incentive to try to do something dramatic to dominate the news and shake up the race — which Trump is inclined to do anyway. Of course, that’s the same impulse that led John McCain to pick Palin.

The internal dynamics of the Trump campaign are opaque, but one can’t help but picture the candidate leaning back in his chair and saying, “I gotta tell ya, I really think Newt would be great,” at which everyone else in the room grinds their teeth and looks around nervously at one another, until someone finally speaks up and says, “Sir, the problem with Newt is that, well, everyone hates him. Republicans, Democrats, independents — nobody can stand the guy.” On the other hand, Newt is such a self-important, pretentious blowhard that he and Trump must get along great. He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, which might make him irresistible to Trump.

On the other hand, Trump might surprise us and choose a running mate who hasn’t been publicly discussed. He might be persuaded by his staff to choose someone sober and responsible. But given what has happened up until this point, the real surprise would be if Trump didn’t make a decision that looked bad on first glance, then revealed itself to be even worse than anyone had imagined.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republicans, Vice-President Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Loretta Lynch Is Now Public Enemy #2”: Guess Why The GOP Hates Our Black Attorney General?

It’s something I always figured would happen, and now it has. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is now public enemy #2 to the conservative media, after the president. The Justice Department’s initial decision to remove mentions of ISIS or the Islamic State from the transcript of conversations between Orlando massacre shooter Omar Mateen and the police not only showcase Lynch’s supposed incompetence, but also her inability to recognize what they see as America’s gravest threat: “radical Islam.” And the recent release of the full unredacted transcript has done little to dampen their ire.

Breitbart, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Fox News, and more have become apoplectic with indignation. “The Orlando attack confirms Donald Trump’s analysis of the threat,” wrote Joel B. Pollack of Breitbart.

Lynch’s press conference in Orlando only increased their fury after she encouraged love in the face of hate and said that she did not know the present whereabouts of Mateen’s wife.

Sure, we’re all entitled to complain about how the transcript was released and the whereabouts of Mateen’s wife. Who can argue against it being better for the investigation if the shooter’s wife’s location is known and she has been questioned by authorities? Personally, I’m not too bothered by how the transcript was released, but I also don’t think “radical Islam” is our gravest domestic threat. Yet dismissing the importance of compassion, unity and love in the face of terror and hate is not only bizarre and dehumanizing, but perpetuates a divisive us vs. them narrative.

To the right, Lynch is an Obama lackey who just wants to “manipulate the truth” and “rewrite history.”

It is clear that they dislike her because she’s an Obama appointee—her arduous confirmation process is proof enough—but also, her fairness toward other groups signals an end to the predominantly pro-white male favoritism they have grown accustomed to. As a black woman, her experiences, perspectives, priorities and struggles will naturally clash with theirs. The increasingly polarized and radicalized conservative base also means that reason and compromise will be shunned, demonization will be encouraged, and that Lynch would inevitably climb up their hit list.

Lynch’s nomination was delayed for over 160 days. That is longer than the nomination process of the previous seven AGs combined. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has well-known racial issues of his own, led the charge against Lynch’s confirmation based on her support for Obama’s immigration executive actions. Senator Ted Cruz also vociferously disapproved of her confirmation. And many other Republicans wanted her to distance herself from outgoing AG Eric Holder before approving her.

Holder had a tumultuous relationship with Republican legislators to say the least, including being held in contempt in 2012 by the GOP-led House in relation their “Fast and Furious” investigation. Holder too found it inconceivable how long Lynch’s nomination was being delayed, especially since this meant that he had to stay in the job until she was approved.

The absurdity of her delay was so stark that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin compared it to Jim Crow Segregation by saying that Lynch was being asked to “sit in the back of the bus.” Republican Senator John McCain responded to Durbin by saying that it was beneath the decorum of the United States Senate to “suggest that racist tactics are being employed to delay Ms. Lynch’s confirmation vote.”

Yet despite McCain’s ire, there’s a long history of racist tactics being used to prevent African American participation and advancement. And when you factor in nearly eight years of unprecedented Republican obstruction toward America’s first black president, combined with the opposition his two black AGs have faced from the GOP, these race-based accusations become even less outrageous.

Accusing the GOP of outright racism, especially since Donald Trump is their presumptive presidential nominee, and given the party’s opposition to virtually every civil-rights position that African Americans care about, is hardly an outrageous claim. But is it productive? Sure, some members may harbor racist or bigoted sensibilities, but does assigning a group an inflammatory label provide clarity in a complex situation? Does this label enable progress through compromise, or does it perpetuate an unhealthy polarization of our society?

Throughout Lynch’s tenure she’s applied an unbiased application of the law and a willingness to prosecute white-collar criminals and defend civil liberties and civil rights. These positions bizarrely appear antithetical to modern-day GOP ideology.

Few would have imagined the amount of corruption rife within FIFA, the world soccer body, until the Justice Department got involved. Following the terrorist attack by Dylann Roof at Emanuel AMC Church, Lynch announced that Roof would be charged with a hate crime after it was confirmed that white supremacist beliefs were the motivation for the attack.

She’s also launched a historic investigation into the Chicago Police department following the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. Hers and the Obama Administration’s stance in favor of allowing transgender people the right to use the restroom of the gender they identify with also continues her application of the law that prioritizes equality regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

The investigation into the Orlando shooting also follows this pattern since it demonstrates an unwillingness to demonize, demean, or unjustly label a person or a community until the facts are evident and the investigation has concluded.

The GOP’s dislike of Lynch, Obama, and Holder may be motivated by race, but it may also be far more complex than that. Yet there is very little doubt about how dangerous their myopic us vs. them mentality that encourages rushing to judgment and demonizing “them” has become. They’ve encouraged a prejudicial environment within a society where guns are readily available, and have a presumptive presidential nominee who has campaigned on stoking these societal divisions. This sounds like a dangerous radicalization that has nothing to do with Islam.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daly Beast, June 27, 2016

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Domestic Terrorism, Loretta Lynch | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Problem With Donald Trump’s Fact-Free ‘Instincts'”: Lack Of Basic Understanding Of Government And Public Policy

Donald Trump has a handful of core issues that help define his political identity. Indeed, one need not be a political news junkie to be able to rattle off the list: the New York Republican wants to “make America great again” by banning foreign Muslims from entering the country and addressing immigration by building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

It was literally in his surreal campaign kick-off speech that Trump made international headlines by declaring, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

For anti-immigration voters, Trump quickly became the presidential candidate they’ve been waiting for. But what does the presumptive Republican nominee actually know about his signature issue? Joshua Green has a fascinating new piece in Bloomberg Politics, which is largely about Trump undoing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ years of work, but the article included one anecdote in particular that amazed me.

He explained the genesis of his heterodox views. “I’m not sure I got there through deep analysis,” he said. “My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party.” […]

I asked, given how immigration drove his initial surge of popularity, whether he, like [Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions], had considered the RNC’s call for immigration reform to be a kick in the teeth. To my surprise, he candidly admitted that he hadn’t known about it or even followed the issue until recently. “When I made my [announcement] speech at Trump Tower, the June 16 speech,” he said, “I didn’t know about the Gang of Eight…. I just knew instinctively that our borders are a mess.”

For quite a while, it’s obviously been a problem that Donald Trump lacks a basic understanding of government and public policy. But anecdotes like these are a reminder about an alarming, related detail: he’s not particularly interested in current events, either.

I’m not even sure he’s clear on the meaning of “instinctively.”

The political fight surrounding the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill was a politically dominant issue for months, and given Trump’s apparent interest in immigrants and the Mexican border, one might assume he followed the debate closely. Except, he didn’t. As recently as a year ago, he launched a presidential campaign predicated in part on his immigration views, which consisted of a few offensive soundbites.

After all, he doesn’t arrive at his conclusions “through deep analysis.”

Instead, Trump says he understood U.S. border policy “instinctively.” That doesn’t make any sense. If he had literally no substantive understanding of developments at the border, it’s impossible to rely on instincts to understand the value of current border policy.

Let me put this another way. If I pitch Rachel Maddow on a story for the show, she can instinctively tell whether or not it’s a good idea because she has expertise in this area. If I were to ask her the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, she couldn’t offer an instinctive answer because she has a limited background in birds and physics.

If I were to ask Donald Trump about the value of a high-rise in Midtown Manhattan, he could probably give me a decent instinctive answer. If I were to ask him to reflect on U.S. border security, he can’t – because, according the man himself, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

When Trump refers to his “instincts,” he seems to mean guesses that result from superficial news consumption. For a guy having an argument in a bar, that’s fine. For someone seeking the nation’s highest office, it’s cause for alarm.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Governing, Immigration Reform, Public Policy | , , , , , | 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

“Scarier Than His Friend Ted Cruz”: Why Right-Wingers Want Sen. Mike Lee On SCOTUS

The Republican battle to make Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland go away, and the efforts to pin down GOP presidential candidates on pre-vetted lists of potential Supremes, have all led to increased speculation about the next justice. At present, there’s a major boom among conservatives for Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

Today the Washington Post‘s James Hohmann offers a rundown on all the reasons Lee is enjoying this attention. For one thing, the Utah senator has long been considered Ted Cruz’s best friend in the upper chamber, so if Cruz is elected, it’s a bit of a no-brainer if Lee wants a robe. For another, Lee would probably have an easier time getting confirmed by his colleagues in the clubby Senate than some law professor or circuit-court judge, and might even avoid a Democratic filibuster (assuming Republicans haven’t already killed the SCOTUS filibuster via the “nuclear option”).

But one of the two most important reasons for the Lee boom is buried pretty far down in the story:

Lee is just 44. That means he could squeeze four or more decades out of a lifetime appointment.

Yep. If nominated next year for the Scalia seat, Lee would be the youngest nominee since Clarence Thomas, who has now been on the Court for nearly a quarter of a century, with many years of extremism probably still ahead of him. Before Thomas, you have to go all the way back to Bill Richardson’s favorite justice, Whizzer White, in 1962, to find a nominee as young as Lee would be. As you may have noticed, life expectancy has been going up for Americans in recent decades. For conservatives seeking a permanent grip on the Court and on constitutional law, someone Lee’s age is money.

But the second reason Lee would be significant is only hinted at by Hohmann in the praise lavished on the solon by the Heritage Foundation and longtime right-wing legal thinker Senator Jeff Sessions (the two most likely sources for SCOTUS advice for Donald Trump, as it happens). Lee’s not just any old “constitutional conservative”; he’s a leading exponent of what is called the Lochner school of constitutional theory, named after the early-twentieth-century decision that was the basis for SCOTUS invalidation of New Deal legislation until the threat of court-packing and a strategic flip-flop resolved what had become a major constitutional crisis.

Lee has, on occasion, suggested that child labor laws, Social Security, and Medicare are unconstitutional, because they breach the eternal limits on federal power sketched out by the Founders. Like most Lochnerians, he views the constitution and the courts as designed to keep democratic majorities from stepping on the God-given personal and property rights of individuals and corporations alike. So it’s no surprise he’s been a bitter critic of the deferential view towards Congress expressed by Chief Justice Roberts in the decision that saved Obamacare.

In effect, Mike Lee could become a more influential successor to Clarence Thomas — after overlapping with Thomas on the Court for a decade or two. If Democratic senators have a problem with that possibility, they might want to begin making noises about it so that at least the supposition that Lee is pretty easily confirmable may be called into question.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 7, 2016

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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