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“The Base Doesn’t Care About Conservatism”: In The Battle Of Us vs. Them, The Donald Has Been Winning From The Start

I think Lindsey Graham is about to find out that his predictive powers are not better than Bill Kristol’s:

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), a supporter of [Jeb] Bush, said of Trump: “This man accused George W. Bush of being a liar and suggested he should be impeached. This man embraces [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as a friend. The market in the Republican primary for people who believe that Putin’s a good guy and W. is a liar is pretty damn small.”

It takes a certain kind of determined myopia not to see in retrospect that George W. Bush was a liar of immense proportions. It’s also extremely difficult to ignore the disastrous consequences of his presidency:

“The war in Iraq has been a disaster,” Trump said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It started the chain of events that leads now to the migration, maybe the destruction of Europe. [Bush] started the war in Iraq. Am I supposed to be a big fan?”

Despite all this, it might not be entirely accurate to say that the base of the GOP agrees with Trump’s assessment of our 43rd president. It’s probably more a matter of them not really caring much one way or the other. They’ve moved on.

I think it’s interesting that the Republican rank-and-file seem impervious to heresies against the Conservative Movement. Trump’s past comments calling for universal health care don’t bother them, nor do they hold his pro-Planned Parenthood funding against him. Was he pro-gay rights and pro-choice in the past? It’s no matter.

He makes a left-wing critique of the Iraq War and President Bush? Apparently, not too many people are offended.

You can go down a growing list. Trump calls for protective tariffs and opposes free trade. He uses eminent domain and strategic bankruptcy to further his business interests. He clearly fakes his piety in an unconvincing and frankly insulting manner. His private life is nearly the opposite of what the family values crowd espouses. He uses expletives and sexual innuendo (who will protect the children?).

What this calls into question is how much the appeal of conservative ideology has ever really explained the cohesiveness of the Republican coalition. Has it always been more a matter of tribalism and a team mentality? Could it be that what unites them is less free enterprise, retro-Christian values and a strong national defense than a shared antipathy for common enemies?

That’s been my working hypothesis for a while now, which is why I thought the Republican Establishment was deluding themselves when they said they’d destroy Trump once they began running ads about his record as anything but a movement conservative.

The people who support Trump are supporting him because he’s the kind of guy who will stand up the president and say that he wasn’t even born here. They don’t care whether he’s an economic protectionist or not. But they damn sure like that he’s willing to tell the Mexican government that he’s going to force them to pay for a Great Wall on the southern border.

In the battle of us vs. them, The Donald has been winning from the start.

Cruz is doing a decent job, too, but he’ll probably never be more than Trump’s caddie.

And, if Cruz does eventually outshine Trump, his appeal will be the exact same. It won’t be his adherence to strict constitutional originalism or his appeal to Christian Dominionists. It will be that Cruz convinces the base that he’ll do a better job than Trump of shattering the liberals.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 15, 2016

February 17, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, George W Bush, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Trump’s Palin-Like Word Salad About Tonights Debate”: Trump And Sarah Palin Had The Same English Teacher In School

As of this writing, it looks like Donald Trump will not participate in tonights Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News. I qualify that because – knowing the two sides involved in this battle – it wouldn’t surprise me to see further developments throughout the day. But here is Trump answering questions about all this yesterday at a press conference.

What struck me as I listened to it was that – based on his sentence structure – I’m guessing that he and Sarah Palin had the same English teacher in school. They both seem to have an appetite for the same kind of word salad.

The best I can make of Trump’s diatribe was that he has three problems. The first, of course, is that he doesn’t like Megyn Kelly. He also talks repeatedly about how “they” should donate money to Wounded Warriors. Those sound like excuses to me. What he really didn’t like is the statement Fox News issued when one of his spokespersons issued this threat.

In a call on Saturday with a FOX News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a ‘rough couple of days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.’ Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so.

Here is the Fox News response that Donald is so upset about:

We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.

That last part has to do with the fact that Trump asked his twitter followers to weigh in on whether or not to participate in this debate. But what it comes down to is that Trump tried to bully Megyn Kelly and the folks at Fox News made him the brunt of their joke.

What seems clear to me about all of this is that the best way to get under Trump’s skin is to challenge his “testicular fortitude.”

I don’t offer that as any serious political commentary – after all, when it comes to a battle between Donald Trump and Fox News, I don’t have a dog in that fight. But it is a perfect example of just how dumbed-down this whole spectacle has become.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 28, 2016

January 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Sarah Palin | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Scared Of Widows And 3-Year-Old Orphans”: Obama Offers GOP A Lesson In What ‘Tough’ Actually Means

President Obama has heard the Republican reactions to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, and it seems safe to say he’s unimpressed.

“When candidates say we shouldn’t admit 3-year old-orphans, that’s political posturing,” Obama said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila – making a veiled reference to GOP candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “When people say we should have a religious test, and only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that’s offensive, and contrary to American values.”

He added, taking another jab: “These are the same folks often times that say they’re so tough that just talking to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or staring down ISIL (ISIS) or using some additional rhetoric will solve the problem – but apparently they’re scared of widows and 3-year-old orphans.”

Obama added, “At first they were worried about the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”

And while these comments were no doubt emotionally satisfying for those who’ve grown tired of watching Republicans try to exploit fear and ignorance to advance their own demagogic agenda, the president’s comments were also constructive on a specific front.

“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks,” Obama said. “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate. They’ve been playing on fear to score political points or to advance their campaigns and it’s irresponsible. It needs to stop because the world is watching.”

This wasn’t just empty rhetoric. The point about ISIS “recruitment tools” is of particular importance because it offers American political leaders a timely reminder: if you’re making things easier for ISIS, you’re doing it wrong.

The enemy is not some inscrutable foe with a mysterious worldview. As they’ve made clear many, many times, ISIS leaders want to be described in explicitly religious terms. They want to be characterized as a “state” and an existential threat to the West. They want to turn the West against refugees. ISIS leaders have a narrative – that Western leaders hate their faith – and they’re desperate to have their enemies reinforce that narrative as often, and as enthusiastically, as possible.

And in response, Republicans want to describe ISIS in explicitly religious terms. American conservatives keep describing ISIS as a “caliphate” and an existential threat to the West. The right has turned against refugees. Some Republicans have gone so far as to suggest Christians should explicitly be given preferential treatment over Muslims, effectively providing fodder for the very ISIS narrative the terrorists are eager to push.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting for a moment that Republicans are somehow deliberately trying to bolster ISIS’s agenda. That’s absurd; there are no ISIS sympathizers in mainstream American politics.

Rather, the point is that Republicans are inadvertently making things easier for ISIS when they should be doing the opposite. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, went so far yesterday as to argue that American conservatives are “materially undermining the war against terrorism” and making a challenging situation worse.

All our efforts are undermined by declaring Islam itself to be the enemy, and by treating Muslims in the United States, or Muslims in Europe, or Muslims fleeing Islamic State oppression, as a class of suspicious potential jihadists. […]

[I]f U.S. politicians define Islam as the problem and cast aspersions on Muslim populations in the West, they are feeding the Islamic State narrative. They are materially undermining the war against terrorism and complicating the United States’ (already complicated) task in the Middle East.

Vox’s Zack Beauchamp added that turning away Syrian refugees specifically helps ISIS.

ISIS despises Syrian refugees: It sees them as traitors to the caliphate. By leaving, they turn their back on the caliphate. ISIS depicts its territory as a paradise, and fleeing refugees expose that as a lie. But if refugees do make it out, ISIS wants them to be treated badly – the more the West treats them with suspicion and fear, the more it supports ISIS’s narrative of a West that is hostile to Muslims and bolsters ISIS’s efforts to recruit from migrant communities in Europe.

The fewer refugees the West lets in, and the chillier their welcome on arrival, the better for ISIS.

I’m not blind to the complexities of national-security policy in this area, and I’m reluctant to be blithe in over-simplifying matters, but I’d ask U.S. policymakers and candidates to consider a straightforward test:

  1. Are you doing exactly what ISIS wants you to do?
  2. If the answer is “yes,” stop.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 18, 2015

November 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP, ISIS, President Obama, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Carly Fiorina, Crackpot Warmonger”: Did Anyone Hear Her Talk About Foreign Policy?

I agree, as I already wrote, that as these things are measured, Carly Fiorina “won” the debate. She was well prepared and well spoken; seemed to know what she was talking about; tugged at emotion when she mentioned having lost a child.

So that’s all fine. And I understand that pundits measure debate wins in odd ways. But, uh…did anybody listen to the substance of what she said? As Kate Brannen has already noted for the Beast, Fiorina’s military buildup would add $500 billion to an already historically huge Pentagon budget. But it’s far worse than that. This woman is a crackpot warmonger who would start World War III. No—III and IV. I could barely believe what I was hearing.

Many have already picked apart what appear to be Fiorina’s flat-out lies about the Planned Parenthood videos. I haven’t watched those videos in their entirety, so I can’t say with personal authority. But Sarah Kliff of Vox has, and Kliff writes that all that business about a fetus with legs still kicking and people talking about needing to “harvest its brain” just isn’t true. Doesn’t exist. The charitable explanation, according to Kliff, is that Fiorina was confusing the Planned Parenthood videos with another that includes stock footage of the sort Fiorina described and maybe she confused them in her mind. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe she just lied.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m chiefly concerned about. What I think we should be concerned about were her remarks about Iran and Russia. Let’s have a look.

Iran: “On Day One in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.

“The second, to the Supreme Leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.

“We can do that, we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies.”

Well, this sounds great. Grrrrrr, Supreme Leader! But stop and think for a second. What is Ayatollah Khamenei going to say in response? Probably something like: “Very well, Madam President. Then you are abrogating the deal, I see. OK. Thank you. Have a nice century.” Iran will then stop honoring the deal, or even pretending to, and start building a nuclear weapon or six.

And note well: The rest of the world will blame us, the United States, and President Fiorina, for being the ones who first broke the deal. And, if she makes such a phone call, rightly so, because we will be the ones to have broken it. We can reimpose some sanctions unilaterally. But will the European Union and the United Nations reimpose theirs? Not bloody likely if we broke the deal. And countries like India, which is probably now lifting sanctions it had agreed to when the United States was leading a multilateral effort, may well start giving Iran nuclear-related technologies. These are just a few of the events that phone call could set in motion.

And soon enough Iran will have a bomb. Or, President Fiorina will start a war to prevent it.

That brings us to Russia, on which she said: “Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him.

“What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.”

So the president of the United States would just not talk to the president of Russia. Now, the president of Russia is a contemptible and dangerous quasi-fascist. But he is, you know, the president of Russia, a rather important country. I can’t remember an American president since Roosevelt who hasn’t talked to the head of the USSR or of post-Soviet Russia. Don’t these people remember that Ronald Reagan communicated with three Soviet premiers and talked directly with Mikhail Gorbachev? They don’t seem to remember now, but at the time, that was when Reagan lost them!

Fiorina seemed to get a lot of cred for name-dropping the Sixth Fleet. It shows that at least she read a briefing book, which is more than some of them do. And I will admit that I didn’t know (although I could logically have guessed) that the Sixth Fleet patrols the seas around Europe and Russia, from its base in Naples. So whoop de doo for her.

But this is what constitutes a good answer, just because she drops a little specific knowledge, even as she is essentially saying that her strategy as president with regard to one of the world’s two or three most dangerous and aggressive men is to surround him, provoke him, goad him into an act of war? That’s what “aggressive military exercises in the Baltic” states quite possibly ends up meaning. There’s this city in Estonia called Narva. Google it. It’s like 80 percent Russian or something. Putin has his little eye on it. World War III could start there, and all it would take is an errant American military shell landing in the wrong backyard. Or World War IV, in case President Fiorina has already started III in the Middle East.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 19, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Foreign Policy, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“So Sad, Too Bad”: Sorry, Republicans; It’s Still Donald Trump’s World

Sorry, Republicans, but it’s still Donald Trump’s world. And sorry, Donald, but now you have to share it with Ben Carson.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Carly Fiorina won herself a big patch of political territory in Wednesday night’s marathon 11-candidate debate on CNN. But the conventionally wise have been consistently wrong about this campaign, and I wonder if voters were equally impressed with her performance.

There’s no question that Trump, the clear front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, had an off night. The blustery mogul is at his best when he can feed on the energy of a fired-up crowd, but the audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was small and consisted mostly of party insiders. They showed him very little love.

His worst moment came when he claimed, without elaboration, that if he were president he would “get along with” Vladimir Putin and somehow convince the Russian leader to support U.S. foreign policy goals. Sure, and maybe Putin will give him a pony, too. You had to wonder if Trump has given more than five minutes’ thought to relations with Moscow.

But he stuck to his guns on the issue that propelled his rise: immigration. Trump’s claim that he can somehow deport 11 million undocumented men, women and children is absurd, ridiculous, unthinkable, cruel, dishonest — pick your adjective. But it has electrified much of the Republican Party base, and I’m betting that his supporters heard him loud and clear.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush’s attempts to go after Trump reminded me of the time when British politician Denis Healey said that being attacked by his patrician rival, Geoffrey Howe, was “like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

Bush tried gamely to land a punch, at one point demanding that Trump apologize to his wife, Columba, for the ugly things he has said about Mexican immigrants. Trump refused, and that was that. Bush is taller than Trump but for some reason could not contrive to loom over him. Mano a mano , the billionaire still seemed large and in charge.

Carson has zoomed to second place in most polls, and I think his debate performance will give him another boost. His soft-spoken, low-key approach might annoy the political cognoscenti, but voters apparently like it, perhaps because he doesn’t seem as needy or desperate as the others.

I thought his best moment was when he was talking about border security and related his recent trip to Arizona, describing simple measures in one county that had reduced illegal crossings almost to zero. Sometimes practical solutions have more impact than high-blown rhetoric.

If Fiorina wanted to convince everyone of her toughness, she succeeded. She barged in whenever she wanted, no matter who was speaking, and she icily backhanded Trump over his piggish remarks about her face. I thought she overdid the Iron Lady routine when she declared she “wouldn’t talk to [Putin] at all,” but any woman running for high office faces unfair pressure to project strength. She made this factual error: A constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states, not two-thirds.

Did she do enough to vault into the top tier of candidates alongside Trump and Carson? Maybe, but she’s starting from the low single digits. And while she nailed Trump for his sexism, I thought the extended back-and-forth over their accomplishments in business was the one exchange in which he was a clear winner. If Fiorina gets tarred as a mediocre chief executive, what qualifications does she have to run on?

As for the rest:

John Kasich was upbeat and reasonable, qualities that would definitely help him in the general election — but maybe not in the primaries.

Chris Christie was sharp and funny. His campaign probably isn’t going anywhere, but after Wednesday it still has a pulse.

Marco Rubio was stridently, alarmingly hawkish. Where doesn’t he want to use military force? And did his youth make him seem vigorous or callow? You decide.

Mike Huckabee was so apocalyptic on Iran that he must have frightened any children who happened to be watching.

Rand Paul seems to have become a libertarian again, sticking up for individual rights. And unlike the others on the stage, he spoke out for peace rather than war.

Scott Walker looked, once again, out of his depth. The party establishment once thought this guy was its savior? I expect his slide to continue.

And finally, the unctuous Ted Cruz looked and sounded as if he were trying to sell me a reverse mortgage. No thanks, senator.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 17, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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