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“Failing To Deliver The Goods”: With Clinton Exonerated, Conspiracy Theorists Turn On Trey Gowdy

With the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee uncovering no meaningful new information, and with the panel’s investigation effectively exonerating Hillary Clinton, right-wing conspiracy theorists this week had no choice but to give up and find a new hobby.

No, I’m just kidding. They’re actually redirecting their ire towards Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Just yesterday, I predicted that some conservatives would turn on Gowdy, in whom they’d invested so much hope. The far-right South Carolinian was supposed to bury, not exonerate, Hillary Clinton, I wrote, and his inability to deliver a useful campaign weapon will likely be seen as both a failure and a betrayal.

A few hours later, far-right radio personality Michael Savage told his audience, “Trey Gowdy should be impeached for wasting my time! He promised us a lot! Remember?” (Members of Congress can be expelled, but not impeached, under the U.S. Constitution.)

Of course, Savage isn’t alone. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank explained today that “conspiracy-minded” conservatives are blaming Gowdy “for failing to deliver the goods.” There was a meeting yesterday of the “Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi,” where members agreed the far-right South Carolinian let them down by failing to confirm their beliefs.

A woman in the crowd floated a new Benghazi conspiracy. “Has someone in the GOP leadership gotten their fingers involved in watering down some of this to benefit Secretary Clinton?” she asked. Nobody rebutted this idea.

Herein lies a lesson for Republicans who are perpetually trying to appease the far right: It’s a fool’s errand. They went to the tea party – and now they’re taking Donald Trump to the prom. Likewise, then-House Speaker John Boehner named the Benghazi committee because activists were dissatisfied that seven previous congressional investigations had failed to uncover major scandal material. Now an eighth has produced more of the same – and the agitators are as agitated as ever.

There’s a certain twisted logic to this. The unhinged right starts with the ideologically satisfying answer – President Obama and Hillary Clinton are guilty of horrible Benghazi-related wrongdoing – and then works backwards, looking for “proof” that matches the conclusion. When their ostensible allies fail to tell these activists what they want to hear, they could reevaluate their bogus assumptions, but it’s vastly easier to believe Republicans have let them down.

Wait, it gets worse.

As Milbank reported, a former Ted Cruz adviser complained yesterday that Gowdy “did not draw a connection between the dots.” And why not? According to retired Gen. Thomas McInerney, the Benghazi Committee chairman “had his reasons – political” for holding back.

McInerney “speculated that congressional leadership had approved ‘black operations’ to run weapons from Benghazi to Islamic State forces in Syria.”

This is what it’s come to: Benghazi conspiracy theorists are so creative, and so unmoved by evidence or reason, that they can convince themselves that congressional Republicans are in on the conspiracy.

As Donald Trump and his allies try to incorporate ridiculous Benghazi rhetoric into their 2016 platform, keep in mind who his unhinged allies are.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Is Losing The Election Part Of Trump’s Plan?”: The Republican Party Has Provided The Vehicle For Trump’s Joy Ride

What’s Donald Trump really up to? Is he using the election of 2016 to enrich himself, with no intention of assuming the burdens of the presidency? Many wonder. If that’s the plan, he’s going about it the right way.

This may sound like political science fiction, but think. Success in such terms would entail two things: commanding maximum public attention and offending vast numbers of voters he would need to actually get elected. That’s what he’s been doing.

The two work together.

Vanity Fair reported speculation that the Trump endgame may involve establishing a family-run “mini-media conglomerate” — a kind of CNN or Fox News. Trump is already a media phenomenon with an enthusiastic audience. His campaign, meanwhile, has been featuring his wife, his children and a son-in-law as prominent co-stars.

The article said that Trump is sore about providing so much free content to the aforementioned media outlets without his getting a cut of the profits. (So much free airtime would be a source of joy for the conventional politician seeing election as the goal.)

Trump already controls a TV production company. Making the leap to Trump News Network, or whatever it might be called, would not seem so outlandish. The bigger the audience Trump builds dominating the news cycles, the more advertisers will pay for his product. And maintaining that high level of attention requires continually saying inflammatory things that turn off the larger electorate.

Suspicions began growing early on that Trump’s candidacy is a brand-building scheme and little more. Recall how every ludicrous thing out of his mouth — mocking John McCain for becoming a prisoner of war, smearing Latinos and savaging fellow Republicans — was deemed a campaign killer. His candidacy had to collapse. But it didn’t. Trump won more and more support from the so-called Republican base despite (or because of) his vulgarity and disregard for conservative principles that were never widely popular to begin with.

When Trump became the presumptive nominee, the political sophisticates assumed he’d clean up his act and behave in a dignified, presidential manner. He’s done neither.

The Republican Party unwittingly created the conditions for a Trump candidacy. Its leaders have sat quietly for decades as a right-wing media — run by personalities flogging their own wares — normalized crazy political rhetoric. They probably figured that come Election Day, they could easily herd the fired-up base to the proper stalls. And they misread its strong support for Social Security, Medicare and other government programs.

That Trump has almost no campaign funds fits the theory he’s not in it to win it. His people insisted he’s never needed that kind of money. His arresting personality would do the job. Then came the sinking poll numbers.

Trump raised $5.4 million last month and spent over a million of it at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, on private jet service provided by his Tag Air and at other family-owned enterprises. He put in $2.2 million of his own money, but that was just a loan.

Trump’s dumping of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski can be interpreted as a logical response to evidence that he’s wearing thin among likely voters. But there’s no taking anything at face value in the Trumpian house of funny mirrors. It may reflect the family’s concern that it’s losing audience share.

The Republican Party has provided the vehicle for Trump’s joy ride. If at the end he returns a smoking wreck to the counter, not his problem. He’ll be fine, he keeps telling us.

For party leaders, another story. They will need much time for reflection, starting with how they got so royally set up.

 

By: Froma Harrop; The National Memo, June 23, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Monumental Headache”: Conservative Media Struggles To Defend Trump And His Widening University Scam Scandal

What good is having a right-wing echo chamber if it’s not cranked up and blaring out a disciplined message during the presidential campaign? The conservative movement continues to grapple with that propaganda question in the wake of Donald Trump clinching the nomination, which has created deep fissures within the right-wing media and its historically united front.

For decades, conservatives have taken pride in their media bubble that not only keeps Republican fans selectively informed about breaking news, but also bashes away at all political foes. In full-fledged campaign mode, the right-wing media can effectively serve as a battering ram that Republicans use to attack their enemies or fend off in-coming volleys.

But Trump has scrambled that long-held equation. Embracing positions that often fall outside the orthodoxy of modern-day conservatism, while simultaneously rolling out non-stop insults, Trump has presented conservative pundits with a monumental headache: How do you defend a creation like Trump? Or as one National Review Trump headline lamented last month, “What’s a Conservative to Do?”

That riddle is especially tricky when Trump puts would-be allies in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the truly indefensible, like the widening scandal surrounding Trump University, the presumptive nominee’s former real estate seminar business. Over the years the dubious venture has been the subject of several ongoing fraud investigations and lawsuits, including one by the state of New York on behalf of 5,000 alleged victims.

“It’s fraud. … straight-up fraud,” the state’s Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reiterated during an MSNBC interview last week after a judge unsealed court documents from one of the Trump U. lawsuits and allowed for a more detailed look into the allegations of deceit.

The strange part? Some key conservative voices agree with the Democrat’s legal assessment. That’s why back in February, a National Review writer denounced the Trump seminars as “a massive scam.” And last month, The Weekly Standard warned that Trump U. represented a “political time bomb” that could doom the candidate’s November chances: “Democrats will see to that.” (Both magazines have opposed Trump for months and have pointed to Trump U. as a reason for their opposition.)

That’s what’s so startling about watching the conservative media this campaign season: It’s been completely knocked off its game. Known for its regimented messaging and willingness to almost robotically defend any Republican front-runner and nominee, Trump is finding only a smattering of defenders when it comes to damning allegations about his scam seminars.

And when Trump recently escalated the Trump U. story by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and insisted he couldn’t be impartial because of his “Mexican heritage,” the presumptive nominee found himself even further isolated within the conservative movement. (The Wall Street Journal editorial page called Trump’s judiciary attack “offensive” and “truly odious”; Bill O’Reilly did defend Trump last night.)

As for the scamming allegations, even for members of the conservative media who are willing to try to assist Trump, there’s very little to grab on to in terms of defending the scandal-plagued Trump U. Based on mountains of allegations and complaints from angry students — students with no partisan political ax to grind — all indications point to a widespread fraud operating under Trump’s name and one that bilked victims out of millions of dollars.

As The Atlantic noted after reviewing previously secret training materials for Trump U., “the playbook focuses on the seminars’ real purpose: to browbeat attendees into purchasing expensive Trump University course packages.” According to an affidavit from former student Richard Hewson, he and his wife “concluded that we had paid over $20,000 for nothing, based on our belief in Donald Trump and the promises made at the free seminar and three-day workshop.”

The con appeared to touch every aspect of the real estate selling events. Instead of getting an implied, in-person meeting with Trump at one three-day seminar, some attendees were allowed to take their picture with a cardboard cutout of him. That’s one reason Schneiderman dubbed the whole program an “elaborate bait-and-switch” scheme. (Trump’s personal, immersed involvement was a key selling point.)

Still, some loyal conservative have tried to explain away the allegations. Last week on Fox, Tucker Carlson tried to downplay the damage by wondering if Trump U. was a “scam” the same way Princeton is a “scam.” Over at Outnumbered, co-host Jedediah Bila asked if Trump U.’s allegedly fraudulent practices weren’t just good “aggressive sales tactics.” She added, “I mean when the public hears this story, I’m wondering do they just see this as non-story?”

Bila’s co-host Melissa Francis also didn’t see what the big deal was: “You know, it goes to the story of him as an aggressive businessperson who wanted to sort of profit at all costs which is kind of what business is all about.”

And former Republican candidate Ben Carson assured Sean Hannity that, “I recently talked to a physician who went to Trump University, and this man is very wealthy, but he’s not wealthy from being a physician. He’s wealthy from what he learned at Trump University and learning how to do investments.”

Note that many of Trump’s other friends at Fox have been a bit more suspect on the matter. “Trump has a simple assignment, find five people who are graduates who are willing to go on TV and say, you know, my life was improved, my income went up, it was a good experience,” announced Newt Gingrich on Sean Hannity’s show, rather than categorically defending the dubious seminars. (To date, Trump has struggled to produce a multitude of satisfied graduates.)

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder also appeared on Hannity’s show last week to discuss Trump U. and insisted that while it was a “minor issue,” nonetheless “Trump should have settled this a long time ago.”

Even Trump’s fiercest media defender, Breitbart.com, has taken a timid approach to the Trump U. fraud story, with the site refusing to offer up a full-throated defense of the alleged scam.

The ferocious conservative echo chamber isn’t built for nuance and it’s not designed for internal debate. But by sparking so much general dissention and by putting conservatives in the position of having to defend something as noxious as Trump U., the nominee is helping to mute the right-wing media voice this campaign season.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, June 7, 2016

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, Trump University | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Trump And The Power Of Denial”: Wake Up GOP, The National Leader Of Your Party Is Donald Trump

I hate Donald Trump and much of what he represents. But do you know what I hate even more?

Denial.

The right has been deep in denial for years. Honed under the last Republican president into a sure-fire method of inspiring confident resolve in the face of adversity, denial of reality has by now become almost second nature to many party apparatchiks and their intellectual compatriots in the right-wing media. Of course we’ll find weapons of mass destruction! The occupation is going just fine! It’s not Bush’s fault that New Orleans got caught with a bull’s eye on its back when Hurricane Katrina blew by! You can’t expect the president who’s been in office for seven and a half years to take responsibility for the worst financial crisis in seven decades!

Coulda happened to anyone.

And now, after seven more years of denial — this time about Barack Obama’s popularity, the Affordable Care Act, and much else — the instinct to close eyes and cover ears in the face of what most people would consider very bad news has settled into the slow-motion car wreck of the GOP primaries.

Donald Trump has now won 26 states. (His nearest competitor for the nomination, Ted Cruz, has won 11.) Trump prevailed in all five northeastern states that voted on Tuesday, all five of them with over 50 percent of the vote, and some with over 60 percent. (Cruz appears to have finished in third place in four of the five states.) Trump is now on track to reach or come extremely close to the magic number of 1,237 delegates by the end of primary season. (Cruz will be nearly 400 delegates behind him after Tuesday’s totals are sorted out.) If Trump falls a little short — because, say, his 17-point lead in California shrinks a bit — he is extremely likely to lock up the remaining delegates in the weeks between the last primaries on June 7 and the start of the Republican convention on July 18.

Barring some unforeseen event that completely upends the race over the next six weeks, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2016.

How do I know this? Because it’s been painfully obvious for a long time now that the Republican electorate prefers Trump to any of the alternatives running for the White House.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Was it obvious from the start of the primary season? No. But it was a lot less impossible to imagine than a dismayingly large number of conservative pundits seemed to think. Trump bounded to the front of the pack very quickly after announcing his candidacy last summer, and his polling lead has never seriously wavered in the intervening 10 months. While columnists and commentators spent the fall gaming out the caucuses and primaries to come, convincing themselves that Rubio or Bush or Christie was the real frontrunner, Trump stayed firmly in the polling lead.

And you know what? That meant Trump was winning.

Of course I realize that no votes had yet been cast. And that no modern party has ever elected a candidate like Trump. But the numbers weren’t lying. We learned that for sure once the voting began and it became clear that people weren’t simply threatening to vote for the man: They were actually going through with it. That meant the polls were measuring something real.

And that something hasn’t gone away.

It was there when Trump faced a dozen opponents. It was still there when he was competing against six. And it’s been there since the field narrowed to three.

It was there when Marco Rubio tried to strike a deal with Cruz and Kasich to deny Trump wins in Florida, Ohio, and Missouri, and Trump ended up winning all of them except Ohio (which, of course, was won by the sitting governor of the state — a candidate incapable of winning anywhere else).

And it’s there now, with Cruz and Kasich working desperately to find some way, somehow to keep Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates.

Oh, have I mentioned that on Tuesday morning Trump reached 50 percent for the first time in NBC News’ national weekly tracking poll? (Cruz languishes at 26 percent.)

I get the importance of resolution in practical endeavors. I understand the psychological necessity of driving doubts from one’s mind in order to lift morale and keep focused on achieving a goal. If you’re a committed Republican or movement conservative who hates the thought of the party nominating Trump, you may find it necessary (or at least helpful) to convince yourself that he’s bound to lose, that someone else can surely prevail against him, even if it requires banishing evidence to the contrary from your mind. In such a situation, the belief that victory is possible can make victory far more likely.

But there comes a time when all the pep talks and desperate rationalizations (like calling Trump’s wins a “hostile takeover” of the party) start to sound ridiculous. That’s when even those who’ve become addicted to denial should be able to recognize that it’s doing far more harm than good.

That time has now arrived.

By all means, help Cruz prevail in Indiana next Tuesday. Do what you can to keep Trump’s delegate total down. But please, Republicans, wake up from your self-induced slumber and begin to confront what reality has wrought.

The national leader of your party is Donald Trump.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, April 27, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Pot And The Kettle”: Mitt Romney; Flawed Vehicle For The Anti-Trump Message

It really doesn’t matter what Democrats think of Mitt Romney’s speech today. He wasn’t talking to them. Romney’s point was to try to persuade Republicans to vote for someone (as it turns out, any Republican) other than Donald Trump.

The truth is that not many Republicans will actually hear the speech. Instead, they’ll hear what Brett Baier, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and their guests have to say about it tonight. So that will be interesting to watch.

The challenge for establishment Republicans is that they really don’t have a leader/spokesperson who can speak with credibility to the Trump phenomenon. Romney is probably the best they can come up with right now. But he is terribly flawed in this endeavor. The biggest reason for that is that he is the epitome of everything base voters are mad about when it comes to the Republican establishment: wealthy, moderate, loser.

Given that the one skill Trump has in spades is the ability to find and exploit his opponents weak points, that is already showing up in his twitter response to the speech.

Of course, then there’s this:

This image of that endorsement four years ago will be ubiquitous on social media by the end of the day.

Nevertheless, Romney said a couple of things that are worth noting. This is one of the things I’ve heard some of my Republican friends say:

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. We have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He is the only person in America to whom we have added an article before his name. It wasn’t because he had attributes we admired.

Now imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Will you welcome that?

As angry as some Republicans might be at government and their own Party’s leadership, they care about their kids and who they look up to. Donald Trump is not the kind of person they want their children to emulate.

Romney summed up his speech with this:

Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president.

This is also something I’ve heard from my Republican friends. While they might appreciate that Trump is giving voice to their anger, there is a part of them that remembers what it is we actually elect a president to do. That is when they recognize that Trump’s temperament and judgment could pose a big problem.

I can imagine Mitt Romney telling himself that before this primary was over, he needed to speak up. He’s done that now. But given that he is such a flawed vehicle, I doubt his words will have much impact.

However…to the extent that those two parts of his message that I highlighted seep into the conversation that right wing media is having about this primary, it has the potential to give some Trump supporters a moment’s pause.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 3, 2016

March 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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