Commentary Magazine


Topic: 2016 presidential campaign

Carly Fiorina: The Substantive Donald Trump Alternative

Political reporters are less vexed by the reasoning behind Donald Trump’s decision to mount a narcissistic campaign of self-aggrandizement disguised as a presidential bid than they are by the fact that it resonates with so many Republican primary voters. More than a few pieces have been penned amid the effort to understand the Trump surge and the primary voters that make up his base of support. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel submitted one of the best dispatches on the subject after spending several days covering the Trump campaign on the ground. He discovered that Trump has staying power, and not merely because of what he represents but because of who he is and how he is running for the highest office in the land. But all those traits that make him attractive to GOP primary voters are present in another candidate: Carly Fiorina.  Read More

Political reporters are less vexed by the reasoning behind Donald Trump’s decision to mount a narcissistic campaign of self-aggrandizement disguised as a presidential bid than they are by the fact that it resonates with so many Republican primary voters. More than a few pieces have been penned amid the effort to understand the Trump surge and the primary voters that make up his base of support. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel submitted one of the best dispatches on the subject after spending several days covering the Trump campaign on the ground. He discovered that Trump has staying power, and not merely because of what he represents but because of who he is and how he is running for the highest office in the land. But all those traits that make him attractive to GOP primary voters are present in another candidate: Carly Fiorina. 

Weigel’s excellent report should be read by all who cover political campaigns, and particularly those in the pundit class who – myself included – believed all the laws of political physics should apply to Trump and have been shocked to learn that they do not. Despite all the historic forces arrayed against his steady rise in the polls, perhaps because of them, Trump remains buoyed by the support of nearly a quarter of the GOP electorate. Weigel points to a variety of elements of the conventional wisdom that have failed commentators. Trump’s rude antagonism toward Republicans is a net plus among his supporters. Voters see his tactlessness as honesty. His wealth leads voters to believe he is beholden to no donor. The fun he is having on the trail is infectious. Finally and most consequentially, he has assembled the rudimentary staffing scaffolds that could become the foundation of a real campaign team.

On paper, these qualities are equally attributable to the former Hewlett-Packard CEO running for the Republican nomination. Fiorina is quite wealthy; with an estimated net worth of $60 million, she doesn’t have Trump’s $2.9 billion on hand (a far cry from the $10 billion his campaign alleged the real estate magnate to possess), but she is certainly in no one’s pocket. Fiorina is blunt and antagonistic toward those who deserve her scorn, although she reserves her barbs primarily for Democrats – a substantial stylistic distinction from Trump, who attacks Republicans almost exclusively. She’s an outsider and a patrician who is not a member of the political class – a fortunate outcome of losing her 2010 U.S. Senate bid against California’s Barbara Boxer.

“Regularly, she says things that don’t normally come out of politicians’ mouths,” National Review’s Jay Nordlinger discerned while profiling the former CEO. “For instance, she describes wind power as the pet of ‘ideologues in the environmental movement.’ Those turbines are ‘slicing up hundreds of thousands of birds every year.’ True, but who says it, among politicians?”

One intangible aspect of Trump’s allure that Weigel doesn’t touch on is the likelihood that the celebrity’s supporters are so drawn to him, at least in part, because the rest of the political universe is repulsed by him. This is one stylistic element of Trump’s approach to running for the White House that Fiorina will not be able to duplicate. Perhaps no Republican running for the 2016 nomination outside Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker so excites both “establishment” Republicans and the outside-the-Beltway activist class as does Fiorina.

“Every stop never gets off message,” observed radio host Rush Limbaugh last week. “She handles the media with aplomb and skill and it’s obvious she enjoys doing it, and she’s schooling people. She’s showing how it’s done.”

“[S]he is someone who Republicans need to have in the race because she is a woman and she is a successful woman,” GOP campaign strategist Ford O’Connell told Politico last January. From conservative talkers to the consulting class and many in between, Fiorina has struck a chord.

And, yet, she polls especially poorly among Republican primary voters. In a CNN/ORC survey of the national GOP primary electorate released on Tuesday, Fiorina secured just 1 percent of the vote with 4 percent of GOP voters dubbing her their second choice candidate. That lackluster performance may change, however, when Republican voters get a chance to assess Fiorina vis-à-vis her Republican opponents on the debate stage.

The Republicans in attendance rose to their feet at the conclusion of Fiorina’s foreign policy address at the Reagan Library on Monday night. In the address, she identified the threats facing the United States – from a nuclearizing Iran to Chinese revanchism – and she laid out a compelling case for a robust American defense of its interests abroad and those of its allies.

Taking questions from the audience at the conclusion of her speech, Fiorina was asked by an honest and frustrated Republican voter how she would, as president, force Republican congressional leaders to heed the will of the GOP’s base voters. “I believe ours was intended to be a citizen government; of, by, and for the people,” Fiorina replied. “I don’t know when we got used to this idea that only a professional political class can hold public office. It used to be, for most of our nation’s history, that leaders would step forward out of private life, and serve for a time, and return to private life.”

Rather than, as Trump has suggested, wrestled a co-equal branch of government into submission through sheer force of personality and, if necessary, imperial overreach similar to that practiced by Barack Obama, Fiorina went on to define how her administration would mobilize public pressure by, for example, using mobile technology to bombard elected leaders with text message and telephone calls. Those Trump supporters who have not entirely succumbed to fatalistic nihilism and continue to see aspects of the republic worth preserving will see this as a feasible and preferable alternative to governing through bombast.

“Margaret Thatcher, a woman I admire greatly, once said that she was not content to manage the decline of a great nation,” Fiorina said near the close of her address. “Neither am I. I am prepared to lead the resurgence of a great nation.” It was Trump’s “make America great again,” but with a touch more – well, the reality television star might call it “class.”

Don’t expect Trump’s supporters to bolt into Fiorina’s camp anytime soon. Stylistically, she is more a contrast to Trump than a compliment. His supporters want to make a statement and issue a vote of no confidence in the Republican Party. Fiorina will not satisfy that desire. On paper, however, she could serve as a capable and viable Trump alternative.

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Trump: The Case for Despairing — About America

No sense pretending: Donald Trump is the only news of the 2016 race, and this fact says something very troubling about the Republican party, the conservative electorate, the mass media culture, and the United States in general. Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Really it’s not.

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No sense pretending: Donald Trump is the only news of the 2016 race, and this fact says something very troubling about the Republican party, the conservative electorate, the mass media culture, and the United States in general. Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Really it’s not.

Ted Cruz goes to war with the GOP Senate leadership; Hillary Clinton proposes the highest tax rates in 70 years; Marco Rubio goes after John Kerry on the Iran deal in a Senate hearing. Well, big deal. Phffft. They’ve all been crowded out by the Trump noise. There will be the first Republican debate in ten days. It’s the most important political event of the year thus far. And it will be all about Trump. He will see to that; the reporters will see to that, and the minor candidates looking to move up will see to it by trying to pick fights with him and best him.

It’s not enough to say that there are matters of deathly seriousness to be discussed, from Iran to ISIS to the possible collapse of the Euro and the Chinese economy to the harvesting of fetal organs, because there are always serious matters to be discussed as elections approach. The issue with Trump is that his approach can only be called “the politics of unseriousness.” He engages with no issue, merely offers a hostile and pithy soundbite bromide about it. He yammers. He describes how wonderful things will be when he acts against something or other without explaining how he will act, what he will do, or how it will work.

The Trump view, boiled down: They’re all idiots and I’m very rich and I know how to do things and if you say Word One against me I will say something incredibly nasty about you and who cares about how the Senate works or the House works or international alliances work or how treaties work or how anything works. That stuff is for sissies and losers and disasters. I know how to do it I me me me I me me I I me. And me. And I.

Politics and megalomania go hand in hand — otherwise, why would the ancient emperors have had someone whispering “Caesar, thou art mortal” in their ears as they paraded triumphantly through Rome to remind them they were not gods? To take one random example, Ed Koch, a very good politician indeed and one who did very good things, spent the last 20 years of his life literally incapable of speaking a sentence that was not in the first person. When I made a close study of the presidency of George H. W. Bush for my first book, Hell of a Ride, I discovered to my amazement that his speeches too were remarkably self-referential and his policies often came down to a kind of “what should a person like me in this situation do” rather than representing a serious grappling with the issues at play. In that book, I called Bush’s time in the White House a “solipsistic presidency,” and the charge still stands.

Trump is something different. He is not a politician whose success has turned him into a megalomaniac, but a megalomaniac who has decided to play politician for a while the way he played being a reality television star for a while. He’s free to do this, of course.

The problem is not with him. The problem has to do with his reception. He is garnering support that may actually be real, and may actually change the course of the 2016 election — and, therefore, American history — through nothing more than blowhardism.

Efforts to figure out how to coopt him and his issues on the part of other Republicans are doomed to failure because it’s not the message that people are attracted to; it’s the messenger. Or, if it is the message, it is a message that cannot be coopted because it is little more than a vile expression of open hatred toward Mexicans in a country where people of Mexican descent make up 11 percent of the electorate. For those who want Trump because of it, anything less than his defamation will strike them as the castrated bleating of what they have started to call a “cuckservative.”

And while happy talk (some of which I’ve indulged in myself) may dismiss Trump as this year’s flash-in-the-pan like the 2012 Republican also-rans, right now he’s more likely a version of Ross Perot in 1992 — the man who got Bill Clinton elected. Perot managed to convince people he was only in it to talk about the deficit and the national debt when it was probably more the case he was running out of a long-standing personal animus toward George H.W. Bush and a desire to deny him the presidency based on an imagined slight. Trump doesn’t even have a real issue to bring in Democrats and Republicans dissatisfied with their choices. Trump is Trump’s issue.

These are unhappy times in the United States, and unhappy times generate unhappy political outcomes. Last week I made the case for despair following the Iran deal. I know people always want commentary that offers a path forward, a way out of trouble, a hope for something better. Sometimes, though, you just have to sit back and despair at the condition of things, and maybe from the despair some new wisdom may emerge.

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Hillary Clinton’s Worst Fears Are Coming True

The national political press is fixated on the chaotic and contentious Republican presidential primary, and not without good reason. But in devoting so much focus to the race for the GOP nomination, the Democratic side of the aisle has been getting short shrift. Over the course of the summer, a left-wing revolt against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has evolved into an insurgency, and her campaign is gradually imploding, albeit at a cosmically languid pace. But that tempo is set to accelerate. The tipping point may have been reached on Thursday when one of the presumptive Democratic nominee’s worst fears was realized.  Read More

The national political press is fixated on the chaotic and contentious Republican presidential primary, and not without good reason. But in devoting so much focus to the race for the GOP nomination, the Democratic side of the aisle has been getting short shrift. Over the course of the summer, a left-wing revolt against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has evolved into an insurgency, and her campaign is gradually imploding, albeit at a cosmically languid pace. But that tempo is set to accelerate. The tipping point may have been reached on Thursday when one of the presumptive Democratic nominee’s worst fears was realized. 

Hillary Clinton’s campaign team was surely reveling in the national media’s distracted focus on the messy Republican presidential primary late Thursday night when they got the news. Immediately, her campaign team sprang into action and began the familiar process of muddying the waters and misdirecting reporters with a magician’s mastery. The New York Times had revealed that two independent inspectors general requested that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton for possibly jeopardizing national security by handling classified information on her personal “homebrew” email server. By morning, however, the Times story had been edited several times. Struck from the account was the contention that Clinton had “mishandled sensitive government information” and in its place was the claim that “information was mishandled” by… someone. The lead reporter on that story confessed that the alterations were made at the Clinton campaign’s “reasonable” request. The Associated Press dutifully followed the Times lead and noted that the IG’s referrals do not suggest wrongdoing by Clinton personally – merely her subordinates at the State Department.

Several hours later, the Justice Department indicated that the referrals they received were not criminal, leading to pushback from New York Times reporters who claimed that their sources were solid. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Inspector General’s office is standing by the contention that classified information that was designated as such was sent to Clinton’s private email address. Something bizarre is happening.

All that is clear at the moment is that a classic bit of Clintonian obfuscation skillfully executed by Hillary’s rapid response shop and her campaign’s press secretary, Nick Merrill, is afoot. Reporters and commentators immediately began litigating the story as reported in the Times and not the revelation that Clinton’s email practices are now a criminal matter. The story isn’t the story; the reporters who exposed the story are the story. It’s only a matter of time before Republicans “pounce” and probably “overplay their hand.”

The matter of whether Clinton personally behaved criminally or whether her subordinates did so without malice aforethought is, quite intentionally, beside the point. At the heart of this revelation is that Clinton’s unique emailing practices, which she said she followed out of deference to her own privileged sense of “convenience,” possibly jeopardized American national security. Reporters who suggest cheekily that there is perhaps a way in which Clinton might be absolved of personal fault for this lapse of judgment are being disingenuous. “There is no classified material,” Clinton averred unsolicited at her March press conference in the United Nations. The use of the present tense form of the verb “to be” is entirely intentional because, in all likelihood, there “was” classified material in her insufficiently secured private email account — at least, there was before she deleted over half those emails as House investigators were preparing to subpoena them.

Any reporter that has dealt with the State Department’s FOIA office knows that Foggy Bottom has a habit of over-classifying information as a means of evading transparency laws. Of the emails that Clinton handed over to the State Department for review and eventual release to the public, only a fraction have been disclosed. Of those, 25 were redacted because they contained information deemed classified after the fact. Even some congressional Democrats have acknowledged the obvious. “All of her official emails should be released to the American people,” said Illinois Representative and U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth. “There are going to be some that are classified and those that are classified — then show those to a bipartisan group of members of Congress.”

As for national security, the Secretary of State’s emails were likely the subject of intense interest by foreign actors and her improperly secured email account probably provided anyone with the capabilities a way to penetrate American diplomatic information security. Despite being discouraged from doing so, Clinton used at least one of her personal mobile devices while abroad to access emails on her private server, creating plenty of opportunities for foreign agents to compromise her account.

This is no small matter. On the heels of Edward Snowden’s revelations, American informational security has been harmed like never before. “The experts warned that the entire U.S. national security clearance system could be compromised,” read a chilling Fox News report published on Friday in the wake of the hacking of the Office of Personnel Management, “that future senior government leaders and advisors could be targeted even before taking office, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of government officials might successfully be blackmailed, bribed or otherwise manipulated in the future into handing over still more sensitive information.” How can someone who, through carelessness or indifference, imperiled American national security serve as the nation’s commander-in-chief?

There are many reasons to suspect that the IG’s recommendation will come to nothing. Even if DOJ attorneys want to pursue this investigation, they will come under considerable political pressure from the White House to let it go. This is perhaps worse for Clinton. In that case, the allegations against her and her staff will never be resolved, and exculpation will forever be beyond her reach.

But even if the DOJ does take up the IG’s recommendation and investigates Clinton’s behavior criminally, the former secretary of state’s image would remain tarnished regardless of that investigation’s outcome. Clinton’s team is quick to brush off the significance of her collapsing polling and particularly those findings that indicate the voters no longer trust her. They contend that former President Bill Clinton was twice elected with sagging trust ratings, but Hillary Clinton is no Bill. She struggles in public settings, eschews retail politics, rarely projects imperturbability or self-assuredness, and she is viewed by many as manipulative and scheming. The recommendation that Clinton’s behavior be criminally investigated will only reinforce and cement that impression among voters.

Even despite the media’s myopic focus on the GOP primary race, Hillary Clinton’s standing in the polls continues to erode. Despite her low-profile campaign, voters are paying attention to Clinton’s conduct, and they do not like what they see. For the likely Democratic nominee, this latest development is a disaster.

 

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When Populism Masquerades As Conservatism

The Donald Trump candidacy has revealed something important about a certain slice of the conservative world. Many right-wing personalities – including Fox’s Eric Bolling and Steve Doocy, radio talk show hosts Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and the writer/commentator Ann Coulter – have come to the defense of Donald Trump when he’s been criticized by the “establishment,” in part because he’s been criticized by the “establishment,” the theory being the enemy of my enemy is my friend. (Forget for now that many people who claim to be “anti-establishment” in fact personify the establishment by any reasonable definition.)

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The Donald Trump candidacy has revealed something important about a certain slice of the conservative world. Many right-wing personalities – including Fox’s Eric Bolling and Steve Doocy, radio talk show hosts Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and the writer/commentator Ann Coulter – have come to the defense of Donald Trump when he’s been criticized by the “establishment,” in part because he’s been criticized by the “establishment,” the theory being the enemy of my enemy is my friend. (Forget for now that many people who claim to be “anti-establishment” in fact personify the establishment by any reasonable definition.)

There have been notable exceptions, but even in the context of Trump’s comments on John McCain, the criticisms of Trump have been extremely muted. There were even some attempts to justify what Trump said. According to Trump’s defenders, his words were taken out of context. They praised Trump for not apologizing. It was Republican “midgets” who were attacking him. The reason Trump is being condemned is because he’s politically incorrect, it’s been said; he won’t play by the rules others do. The real offense was less what Trump said about McCain than the piling on by critics of the television host and hotelier.

“Donald Trump is like a Navy SEAL,” according to Fox’s Steve Doocy. “He never backs down when he’s in a fight.”

To be clear, not everyone I have mentioned supports Trump for president. But they all see things in Trump they admire; they are very reluctant to attack him, and they constantly give him the benefit of the doubt and praise what they consider to be his virtues. They repeatedly point to Trump as someone from whom other conservatives can learn, even someone they should emulate.

Now consider this: Most of the people I’ve mentioned have been critical, and often harshly critical, of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, on the grounds that he’s not a “true” conservative. Some have even argued that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are “two peas in the same pod.”

This is a rather bizarre charge. You don’t have to support Jeb Bush for president in 2016 to acknowledge he was among the most successful and conservative governors in several generations. (Jeb Bush’s record was, as George Will has pointed out, “measurably more conservative” than that of Ronald Reagan during his two-term governorship of California. I’ve documented Governor Bush’s conservative achievements here.)

Now let’s turn to Trump’s record, which I’ve laid out before, and is essential to re-state for the purposes of my argument. Mr. Trump has supported massive tax increases on the wealthy, a Canadian-style single-payer health care system and is a fierce protectionist. He once declared himself “strongly pro-choice” and favored drug legalization. Earlier this year he accused Republicans who want to reform entitlement programs – the essential task for those who favor limited government — of “attacking” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Barack Obama couldn’t have stated it better.

That’s not all. For most of the last decade, Trump was a registered Democrat. As of 2011, he had given a majority of his $1.3 million political contributions to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Chuck Schumer.

Even on immigration, the issue that has won over the hearts of many on the right, Trump has been erratic. In 2012, he criticized Mitt Romney’s “crazy policy of self-deportation, which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote … He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

Trump also said this:

For people that have been here for years that have been hard-workers, have good jobs, they’re supporting their family — it’s very, very tough to just say, ”By the way, 22 years, you have to leave. Get out.” … I have to tell you on a human basis, how do you throw somebody out that’s lived in this country for 20 years.

And in 2010, this:

You have American interests hiring [illegal immigrants], absolutely. And many cases, they’re great workers. The biggest problem is you have great people come in from Mexico working crops and cutting lawns that I’m not sure a lot of Americans are going to take those jobs. That’s the dichotomy. That’s the problem. You have a lot of great people coming in doing a lot of work. And I’m not so sure that a lot of other people are doing that work so it’s a very tough problem.

These are the kind of statements that, if said today, would cause Ms. Coulter to shake with rage. Yet the author of ¡Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole is among Trump’s strongest supporters.

Nobody in the GOP field has amassed anything like the liberal record of Trump. It makes Susan Collins’s political stands over the years look like Barry Goldwater’s. Yet some of those who fashion themselves as “constitutional conservatives,” principled and uncompromising, the heirs of Reagan, the keepers of the flame, have found themselves far more favorable to Trump than to Jeb Bush — a man who, unlike Trump, has sterling conservative achievements to his name. (What he and other conservatives like Marco Rubio don’t have is the serrated rhetoric of Trump.)

What this demonstrates – and why the whole controversy about Donald Trump is about more than simply Donald Trump – is that some of those who claim to speak for conservatism may not be quite as interested in conservative policies and conservative philosophy as they profess. At least, it’s become subordinate to other considerations. I say that because if policies and philosophy were as important as they claim, it seems reasonable to conclude that these same people would lacerate Trump (as they lacerate so many others they believe are insufficiently pure) rather than embrace and defend him.

There’s no rational reason self-described conservatives who accuse Jeb Bush of being a RINO, a “neo-statist,” and a Hillary Clinton clone would treat Donald Trump with respect and deference and find reasons to defend and praise him. Something quite odd is clearly going on here.

Mr. Trump is given a special absolution – amnesty, if you will – from his past/current liberal deeds and words. And that absolution, that amnesty, is granted by virtue of Trump’s style. He embodies what some on the right apparently believe politics needs more of. And that’s the problem for many of us. Trump embodies crudity and insults, anger and attacks, banalities and “barstool eruptions,” in the withering words of Charles Krauthammer. Yet it turns out that those qualities make a man like Trump, who has held left-wing positions, a star with some on the right. Being perceived as an enemy of the much-loathed “establishment” is a ticket to stardom. Nothing else really matters, or matters nearly as much.

Which leads me to my final point: What appears to be happening is that some of those who claim to be champions of conservatism are actually champions of populism. They are not the same thing, philosophically or temperamentally. (Populism has been defined as “an ideology which pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice.” It has different manifestations, some more responsible and some less, but resentment is often a key ingredient in populism. It’s also a movement that’s been historically susceptible to demagogues, a concern held by philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to the American founders.)

There is room for populism within conservatism — it can be a “cathartic response to serious problems,” in the words of George Will — but it should not define conservatism. Yet increasing, in some quarters, it is; and the sympathy and support some on the right are giving to Donald Trump is clear evidence of this.

This distinction between conservatism and populism goes a long way toward explaining why different people on the right, who might otherwise agree on a fair number of things, react in fundamentally different ways to Donald Trump. And it’s why the Trump candidacy may well catalyze a broader, clarifying debate about what the true definition of conservatism is. For many of us who are conservative, Donald Trump not only doesn’t define it; he’s antithetical to it.

 

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When ‘He Fights’ Matters More Than Whether He Wins

Among the many endlessly repeated refrains from those mesmerized by the solipsistic bombast sufficing for political rhetoric from the soapbox agitator presently sucking all the oxygen out of the 2016 presidential race is that “he fights.” The unfounded implication in this refrain is that his competition is composed of weak-kneed capitulators. What this expression of support does not take into account, however, are victories, losses, or the strategic draws. The fight is, in and of itself, an end. The same might be said for those members of the Greek public that elevated the far-left leader of the Syriza Party, Alexis Tsipras, to prime minister. He and the party he led were “fighters” who would take the Greek public’s dissatisfaction with the terms of their endless bailouts from their European creditors to Brussels. But the Greek leader’s fecklessness did little to improve his country’s position. For the Greeks, however, the fight is apparently more important than any victory. Read More

Among the many endlessly repeated refrains from those mesmerized by the solipsistic bombast sufficing for political rhetoric from the soapbox agitator presently sucking all the oxygen out of the 2016 presidential race is that “he fights.” The unfounded implication in this refrain is that his competition is composed of weak-kneed capitulators. What this expression of support does not take into account, however, are victories, losses, or the strategic draws. The fight is, in and of itself, an end. The same might be said for those members of the Greek public that elevated the far-left leader of the Syriza Party, Alexis Tsipras, to prime minister. He and the party he led were “fighters” who would take the Greek public’s dissatisfaction with the terms of their endless bailouts from their European creditors to Brussels. But the Greek leader’s fecklessness did little to improve his country’s position. For the Greeks, however, the fight is apparently more important than any victory.

Alexis Tsipras promised the Greek public the world. During the campaign, he pledged to end the austerity measures imposed on them from far-flung European capitals. He insisted that he would restore the “dignity” that had been stolen from the Greeks by a Europe that underwrote a lavish lifestyle the modest Greek economy could not sustain on its own. But the stubborn laws of economics did not bend to Tispras’ rhetoric. Politics is the art of the possible, and Tispras’ government overestimated its ability to expand the realm of feasible outcomes. The promises he made sounded lovely and the roaring crowds, fed up with the stark and unpleasant realities of indebtedness, were eager for a fairytale. Syriza spun the yarn.

When he failed to deliver his people to this Promised Land, Tispras returned to the Greek people with a convenient excuse: His best intentions had been thwarted by nasty foreign elements. Only the righteous fury of the Greek public would dissuade Europe from further humiliating them further. So Tsipras and his government abandoned their responsibilities as the leaders of a republican government who are often tasked with choosing the better of two bad options. Instead, they abdicated their roles as national leaders and put a referendum to the people. Would the Greek public accept the terms of another bailout which included further austerity measures or would they demand that the laws of economics be repealed? The outcome was never truly in doubt.

“[W]e have just witnessed Greece stand up to a truly vile campaign of bullying and intimidation,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman averred, “an attempt to scare the Greek public, not just into accepting creditor demands, but into getting rid of their government.” Krugman wasn’t the only liberal celebrating Greece’s definitive “no” vote. The eccentric academic-turned-Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, promised the Greek public that a stunned and broken Europe would amend the terms of new lending that would include debt forgiveness within 48 hours of the referendum. Instead, within 24 hours, he resigned.

In the wake of the Greek referendum, Tsipras seemed to expect that he would stride victorious into the halls of power in Brussels and encounter only chastened bureaucrats cowering before a mighty display of Greek sovereignty. He was wrong. Instead, the terms Europe was prepared to offer Greece in order to ensure that their banks would reopen and it might stay within the European Union were harsher than those the Greek public had just rejected. Tsipras was compelled not only to return home to now sell those pitiless bailout terms, but he was compelled to eject from his party’s governing coalition the idealists who were foolish enough to take Tsipras at his word. In the midst of jubilant celebration in the wake of the Greek referendum, Tsipras claimed that “continued kowtowing” to Europe was over, but it had only just begun.

Bearing the brunt of Syriza’s broken promises, it is reasonable to expect that the Greek public would be irate. They had been misled by political figures with only a tenuous grasp on policy and an unduly inflated sense of their own abilities. That is not the case. “If snap elections were to happen now, 42.5% of Greeks would vote for the Syriza party, nearly double the level of support for the main center-right opposition party, New Democracy, at 21.5%, according to a survey published over the weekend by polling company Palmos Analysis,” the Wall Street Journal reported this week. “Syriza’s support remains high despite the party split, with about a quarter of the party voting against the premier in parliament last week.”

For some – the disaffected, the despondent, the disgusted – the fight is more important than the victory. For some, even quixotic battles are worth fighting, if only to register their dissatisfaction and make known the extent of their cynicism and estrangement. It’s a lesson that some in the United States would do well to internalize. What some might see as a strain of nihilism, an urge to storm the Bastille and tear it down to its foundations, those in the crowd would view as their only remaining option. Even though they know in their hearts that it is ill-fated and desperate, it’s worth the effort. That kind of terrifying hopelessness is dangerous. For the Greeks, Syriza is the physical representation of their desperation. Americans might recognize this as a familiar phenomenon.

 

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Hillary Clinton May Have to Scorch the Earth to Win the White House

Polls at this point in the presidential race do not mean a thing. That is, of course, except when they do. The latest Quinnipiac University poll of three swing states – Virginia, Iowa, and Colorado – is one such poll. In all three states, the poll shows that Clinton’s favorability ratings have plummeted, voters no longer trust her, and, against three of the GOP’s top-tier candidates, she is losing. No, polls at this stage of the race are not predictive, but they do set expectations and they focus the minds of the donor class who don’t want to throw good money after bad. If this survey is a portent of things to come, it foreshadows a general election campaign that will make the president’s brutal, no-holds-barred 2012 reelection effort appear the height of cordiality by comparison.  Read More

Polls at this point in the presidential race do not mean a thing. That is, of course, except when they do. The latest Quinnipiac University poll of three swing states – Virginia, Iowa, and Colorado – is one such poll. In all three states, the poll shows that Clinton’s favorability ratings have plummeted, voters no longer trust her, and, against three of the GOP’s top-tier candidates, she is losing. No, polls at this stage of the race are not predictive, but they do set expectations and they focus the minds of the donor class who don’t want to throw good money after bad. If this survey is a portent of things to come, it foreshadows a general election campaign that will make the president’s brutal, no-holds-barred 2012 reelection effort appear the height of cordiality by comparison. 

It’s not the head-to-head matchups in Quinnipiac’s latest survey that should trouble Democrats – it’s the rapid deterioration of Clinton’s image among voters. Even in the state that proved definitively for the left that demography is destiny, Virginia, majorities have an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton. Substantial majorities told pollsters they do not trust the prohibitive Democratic presidential nominee. But the worst numbers, the one that is surely prompting bouts of hushed panic among Democratic operatives, were the responses generated when voters were asked if Clinton “cares about the needs and problems of people like you.” Among swing-state voters in Iowa, Virginia, and Colorado, solid majorities believed that Clinton did not care about them. By contrast, the 2012 exit polls revealed that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama on every issue with the exception of the intangible matter of caring more about the little guy. Obama beat Romney on that issue by an astounding 63-point margin, and he rode that perceived empathy all the way into another four-year term in the White House.

Hillary Clinton has been a prominent figure in American politics for a quarter-century. She is already, perhaps unalterably, defined in the minds of voters. The Republican candidates, meanwhile, are not. Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter observed that Clinton and her fellow Democrats would do all within their power over the course of the nearly yearlong presidential campaign to define the nominee in negative terms. The natural headwinds confronting Democrats in their effort to secure a third consecutive term in the White House will ensure that the process of “defining” the GOP nominee is a pitiless one. But those natural headwinds are compounded by the fact that Hillary Clinton is not the political talent that Obama was.

It’s a bit trite, but it’s worth considering the substantial “coolness” deficit that Democrats are about to face. After almost eight years of branding itself as a vibrant, youthful institution whose leader was as apt to be seen in the Oval Office as he was on the set of a late-night comedy program, Democrats are about to hemorrhage some of that accumulated hipness. The tortured effort by some young progressives in the media to craft a trendy brand around the octogenarian Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg exposes the terrifying shallowness of the left’s bench of fashionable political figures. Democrats who watched a recent video released by Hillary Clinton, in which the candidate hawked her campaign’s branded “chillery” beer cozy and declared that she was “just chilling” herself, must have cringed; an android in a Philip K. Dick novel struggling to mimic human emotion could display more charisma and sincerity. Like the 82-year-old “Notorious R.B.G.,” Clinton will require a transparently fabricated campaign to be perceived as current and something that appeals to a younger generation. Among Democrats with ample national name recognition, only Joe Biden effortlessly projects the kind of approachability and nonchalance that drew young voters to Barack Obama, and he is not in the race. Yet.

If Clinton sacrifices even a modest amount of support among young voters, that must be made up on other fronts. The demographic perhaps most amenable to Clinton’s overtures are women, and the former secretary of state has already ramped up the gender-centric attacks on her adversaries. Speaking to a group of Kentucky voters, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently observed that Clinton pitch relies extensively on the candidate’s gender and has focused conspicuously on women’s issues. “You may recall my election last year,” McConnell said of his vanquished opponent, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, “the gender card alone is not enough.” Clinton’s team responded by playing the gender card with even more reckless abandon.

“There is a gender card being played in this campaign,” Clinton wrote on Facebook. “It’s played every time Republicans vote against giving women equal pay, deny families access to affordable child care or family leave, refuse to let women make decisions about their health or have access to free contraception.” Her team followed up with a web-based advertisement featuring McConnell’s remarks and scolding several members of the GOP’s 2016 field for supporting measures Clinton’s campaign dubbed “anti-women.”

The other pillar of Barack Obama’s coalition that Clinton must ensure remains intact if she is to win in 2016 are the minority voters who turned out in substantial numbers to ensure the nation’s first African-American president won two terms in the White House. The time will come when the Clinton campaign must turn the Hispanic community against the Republican nominee – a substantial task if the GOP nominates Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio – but, for now, the former secretary of state is focused on her support among African-American Democrats.

In June, Clinton called voter identification laws and efforts to curtail early voting to within two weeks of Election Day “a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to the other.” She went further by contending that Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry were “deliberately trying to stop” black voters from exercising the franchise. “Note the language here,” Fox News analyst Chris Stirewalt observed. “It’s not a misguided effort with an unfortunate result, it is a deliberate effort to prevent minorities from voting. That’s not just racist, that’s evil.”

This is a theme that you can expect the likely Democratic nominee to pound repeatedly over the course of her campaign in the uphill effort to ensure African-American turnout in 2016 matches the rates set in 2008 and 2012.

The stakes are high in 2016 – more so for Democrats than they were in 2012, when Barack Obama’s allies went so far as to accuse Mitt Romney of complicity in negligent homicide. We may come to look back on that campaign as an epoch of civility. If the GOP nominates a competent candidate, and they have a variety from which to choose, Hillary Clinton and her allies will have to scorch the earth in order to win. The torches are already lit.

 

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The GOP Entertainment Wing’s Flight of Fancy

Donald Trump is not running for president.

Oh, he acts like he is a candidate on a stage. And Trump has filed the requisite paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, as have hundreds of others. But he is not running a presidential campaign. Read More

Donald Trump is not running for president.

Oh, he acts like he is a candidate on a stage. And Trump has filed the requisite paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, as have hundreds of others. But he is not running a presidential campaign.

It might come as no surprise that the gaffe-a-minute reality television star has claimed that he has no use for pollsters. “I don’t want a pollster,” he told the New York Times. “Because if a pollster’s so good, why aren’t they running?” The logic is impeccable. But pollsters are not the only political professionals whose services Trump has eschewed. If the alleged presidential candidate had hired a consulting firm with a graphics department, he probably would not have promoted his candidacy by sending out an image with the American flag superimposed over the soldiers of the Nazi Waffen-SS that someone on Trump’s team apparently mistook for American troops. Say what you will about political consultants, at least they know the difference between U.S. soldiers and the German division responsible for their massacre at Malmedy. Perhaps that lapse explains Trump’s evident low regard for American servicemen and women who endure torture and deprivation in enemy custody.

Nor has Donald Trump or his team displayed much interest in the technical aspects of running for the president. Little things like developing an organization in the early primary states that is tasked with winning the requisite delegates to secure the party’s nod and transitioning into a grassroots general election support structure. “I met Mr. Trump for 30 seconds on May 9. Gave him my card. He hasn’t called me thus far,” South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore revealed. Moore’s frustration is shared by Iowa and New Hampshire’s GOP operatives who say they have had little contact with Trump or his organization. That does not, however, mean the reality TV star has ignored the early states entirely. Earlier this month, Trump hired as his Iowa campaign co-chair a former contestant on his canceled reality television program The Apprentice. The move generated quite a few headlines and, for the Trump campaign, that seems to be an end in itself.

Anyone with even a passing understanding of how political campaigns are waged and won knows that what they are witnessing is a spectacle. This is not a presidential candidacy; it’s a vehicle for self-promotion. That makes the unwavering support that Trump has received from prominent members of what constitutes the “entertainment wing” of the GOP, its popular radio talk show hosts and commentators, that much more egregious. Showmen and women themselves, they recognize one of their own when they see him.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board admirably drew fire from the right this week when it briefly scolded an unnamed cadre of “conservative media elites” who serve as Trump’s “apologists,” but those the Journal admonished do little in the way of apologizing for the target of their affections. “Abettors” is perhaps a more apt description of those who would willingly facilitate a grift. Some of the most accomplished, seasoned, and bright members of the conservative movement’s commentary class have inexplicably given succor to a figure who is flagrantly misrepresenting himself and misleading their audiences.

Mark Levin, a constitutional scholar and a deservedly successful radio host, bizarrely declined to challenge Trump in the same way that he has other Republican candidates who have joined him on his radio program. “You know, your biggest problem is going to be the Republican establishment,” Levin advised after noting how his candidacy has resonated with the public and lamenting how the Republican members of the legislative branch are too quick to seek compromise with the country’s executive. This is a far cry from the Mark Levin of 2011 who called Trump an “airhead” whose tenuous grasp on free market economics sounded “stupid” to him.

When Trump refused to express support for Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposal that reformed entitlement spending — very much an “establishment” Republican goal from an “establishment” Republican officeholder — Levin savaged the real estate developer for spouting the same vacuous platitudes he spouts today. When Trump advised Ryan to “sit back and relax” on the issue of entitlements, Levin reprimanded him furiously. “Apparently all your supporters are going to give you a pass on every damn thing you’ve ever said or done,” Levin exclaimed. “But not me.” What changed? Trump certainly hasn’t.

One of Levin’s radio colleagues, the accomplished radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, appears equally blinded by frustration with congressional Republicans. “Trump filled a vacuum existing in GOP,” she said in praise of his willingness to attack “Bushism” and congressional Republicans. “Prediction: Trump numbers will not change — could go up after McCain dust-up. Establishment approval will go down.”

That’s a bizarre prediction, considering the pollster in the field on Sunday after Trump’s insulting remarks about Senator John McCain’s service record noted that the candidate who drew nearly 30 percent support over the weekend was down in the single digits after those comments generated publicity.

“So Trump won’t commit to supporting GOP nominee if not chosen,” Ingraham said of Trump’s refusal to rule out a third-party bid for the White House. She asked if Senator Marco Rubio or former Governor Jeb Bush would support Trump if he secured the requisite delegates, but she must know that there is a rather substantial distinction between not supporting a party’s nominee and actively trying to handicap him or her.

Even the astute Rush Limbaugh has succumbed to the passions of the moment. “The American people haven’t seen something like this in a long time,” Limbaugh said in praise of Trump’s refusal to apologize for questioning McCain’s record as a North Vietnamese hostage. “They have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down, and tell everybody to go to hell.”

“Trump can survive this,” Limbaugh averred. He’s right, but only as long as Trump can count on the help of his friends in the GOP’s entertainment wing.

All the while, Hillary Clinton is relishing the attention she isn’t getting. The New York Times reported that Clinton’s team is weighing how best to give the GOP what it wants and inexorably link Trump, a doctrinaire liberal and Democratic donor, to the Republican Party. Reporting on its own poll of Republican primary voters, ABC News described those of his supporters who are most incensed over the issue of illegal immigration in America “nativists.” The conservatives behind the microphone in this country know exactly what’s happening here. While the Republican Party brass should welcome the chance to repudiate a vile self-promoting pretender like Trump, the conservative movement’s most booming voices seem intent on rendering that effort impossible.

Making one’s way in the business of political entertainment is incredibly difficult. Those who are successful in that profession have achieved their position only after dogged perseverance, years of hard work, and repeated displays of inborn aptitude. No one gets to where these and other accomplished personalities are today unless they are possessed of great talent, prudence, and a wealth of knowledge on history and civics, which makes this whole affair all the more demoralizing. Those who continue to prop up this faltering carnival act based on the mistaken premise that it somehow advances conservatism are making a grave error. All that is being advanced are individual careers. The Americans who truly count on the conservative program to better their lives and right the course this country is on are those who will suffer the most if Trump is allowed to indelibly tarnish their movement.

 

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As the GOP Confronts Its Demons, Democrats Indulge Them

Those who cover and discuss politics for a living tend to exhibit a bias in favor of the moment; overemphasizing the impact of non-events and the influence of figures who are, in retrospect, forgettable. Presidential campaigns, in particular, are prisoners to the news cycle. For the most part, particularly in the summer of an off-year, the daily machinations and intrigues on the campaign trail do not matter. Those all-consuming controversies that seem so urgent are, in fact, passing and trivial. Without overstating the case, Saturday July 18 may be remembered as an exception to that rule. It was a remarkably consequential weekend on the campaign trail, and its effects on both the Republican and Democratic Parties may not long be forgotten.  Read More

Those who cover and discuss politics for a living tend to exhibit a bias in favor of the moment; overemphasizing the impact of non-events and the influence of figures who are, in retrospect, forgettable. Presidential campaigns, in particular, are prisoners to the news cycle. For the most part, particularly in the summer of an off-year, the daily machinations and intrigues on the campaign trail do not matter. Those all-consuming controversies that seem so urgent are, in fact, passing and trivial. Without overstating the case, Saturday July 18 may be remembered as an exception to that rule. It was a remarkably consequential weekend on the campaign trail, and its effects on both the Republican and Democratic Parties may not long be forgotten. 

In the coming days, a deservedly significant amount of energy will be spent analyzing and dissecting the political impact of Donald Trump’s crass and irresponsible comments about Senator John McCain. You’ve probably already heard the most insulting quips: “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said when asked about McCain’s suggestion that Trump’s candidacy has made the “crazies” emerge from the woodwork. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

The comment did not sit well with the audience of conservatives in Ames, Iowa. While the vanity and simple-mindedness of Trump’s statements have been the subject of extensive deliberation, what has gone largely unremarked upon is the amateurish way in which he tried to clean them up.

The Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes grilled Trump over his impolitic comments about a man who spent years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp. He recalled their interchange:

I asked Trump if he was blaming John McCain for his capture, as his comments implied. “I am saying John McCain has not done a good job,” Trump responded, dodging the question.

When I repeated the question, Trump said: “I am not blaming John McCain for his capture. If he gets captured, he gets captured.”

“Why would you say you like people who don’t get captured?”

Trump: “The people that don’t get captured I’m not supposed to like? I like the people who don’t get captured and I respect the people who do get captured.”

To his credit, Hayes refused to move politely on to a new topic. His doggedness exposed the fact that A) Trump understood that he had made an error simply by virtue of his refusal to repeat the incendiary comment about McCain’s service record and B) that he lacked the political skill to defuse the controversy. Rarely does an adept politician stumble into a minefield, and they are usually far more competent at controlling the damage when they do. Trump has been defanged; those Republicans in the 2016 field who were reluctant to be too critical for fear of alienating his supporters have shed that caution.

During Trump’s infamous remarks in Ames, the reality television star refused to rule out a third-party bid for the White House in 2016. That might be a remote possibility, but the Republican Party should be preparing for it today. The GOP cannot provide Trump a face-saving way out of the losing confrontation he has inaugurated, and the billionaire real estate developer may calculate that he has invested enough of his credibility and lost so much of his stature to this quixotic candidacy that it would make little sense to end it merely because he cannot secure the GOP nomination. But the GOP should welcome a long, slow-motion Sister Souljah moment in which the party and its reputable candidates denounce a figure that represents all the obnoxious elements of opportunistic populism. Polls indicate that most voters, including Hispanics, still believe Trump speaks for himself when he debases American political dialogue. Republicans would do well to cement that impression, continue to cast Trump as an opportunist and erstwhile liberal, and neuter him as a political force.

Fifteen-hundred miles away, on the other side of the aisle, another event with potentially far-reaching consequences was unfolding. At the annual Netroots Nation conference of progressives in Phoenix, Arizona, another candidate was challenged by the unattractive elements of his party’s fringe base voters.

On Saturday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley were confronted by aggressive and unreasonable members of what the press has dubbed the “black lives matter” movement. Both candidates were rudely interrupted by those protestors who stormed the stage on which the candidates were seated, seized the microphone, and commandeered the event. But the most shocking episode to emerge from Phoenix involved a repudiation of the notion that all people of every racial background deserve to live.

When confronted by chants of “black lives matter” during his address to the conference, O’Malley replied: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” Contrary to press reports that suggested the crowd erupted in protest when O’Malley dared contend that “all lives matter,” video of the event clearly indicates it was his contention that “white lives matter” that proved truly unacceptable for the event attendees. For this perfectly reasonable contention, O’Malley was compelled by the unreasoning mob to apologize.

“I meant no disrespect,” O’Malley told the hosts of the web-based program, This Week in Blackness. “That was a mistake on my part and I meant no disrespect. I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.”

The nation’s political press will no doubt devote far more attention to the Trump spectacle than a Democratic candidate’s apology for daring to contend that all lives have value. That will not reduce the impact of this moment. When a crowd of Democratic National Committee attendees erupted in a chorus of “boos” when the party platform was amended to add a reference to God and the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the discomforting moment did not dominate the evening news but it was both powerful and consequential. Even today, that episode lives in infamy in the minds of voters. The press will not prompt Democrats to confront the excessive and irrational elements within their party. For Democrats as well as Republicans, they run the risk of allowing the nastier elements of their bases to come to typify both parties in the minds of unaffiliated voters. With the prodding of the press, however, only one party is busily confronting that condition.

The Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee will never be compelled by the press to weigh in on this matter. To ask Hillary Clinton to address this embarrassing debacle is to demand she sacrifice either some of her support among Democratic primary voters or the general electorate. As such, this moment and the ugly impulse it exposes will never be neutralized; it will fester, metastasize, and threaten to spread to healthier Democratic organs.

The third weekend in July of 2015 will soon be forgotten by voters and pundits alike, but the events that were set in motion this weekend will have lasting consequences. For the 2016 campaign and the trajectory of American politics, it was a significant weekend.

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Trump Is Toast

The ugly and malicious attack by Donald Trump against Senator John McCain and all POWs — “He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” – is a tipping point for the Trump campaign. It’s the moment it all blew apart for The Donald.

It’s about time. Read More

The ugly and malicious attack by Donald Trump against Senator John McCain and all POWs — “He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” – is a tipping point for the Trump campaign. It’s the moment it all blew apart for The Donald.

It’s about time.

Many of us have been repeatedly warning people, including our fellow conservatives, that Trump is a stain on the Republican Party and the conservative movement. That he is a nasty, small-minded, conspiracy-minded, and a shallow opportunist. That his vitriol was going to consume him. And that speaking sympathetically about Trump was a really bad idea that was going to backfire.

Now it has. And hopefully this cringe-inducing charade – aka the Trump presidential campaign — is about to come to an end.

In saying this, I don’t mean it will formally end. I don’t expect Trump to drop out of the race anytime soon. Nor will he lose all his support. But his slanderous comments about Senator McCain – and implicitly against all POW – have fundamentally altered things. Many people who had been speaking favorably of Trump – you know the litany by now; it was said Trump is a fresh face, fearless, a truth-teller, a marvelous communicator, anti-establishment, a master at channeling anger, et cetera — will see him in quite a different light. He no longer seems all that “refreshing,” a word Fox’s Eric Bolling, a Trump admirer, has used to describe Trump.

During an interview at a Family Leadership Summit in Iowa on Saturday, the ugliness of Donald Trump was on display. This time, because the target was a heroic war veteran rather than illegal immigrants, it finally broke through. Mr. Trump will continue to act as if nothing has changed. Except that everything has changed. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put The Donald back together again.

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Scott Walker and the Rage Factor

“If the general cannot overcome his anger and has his army swarm over the citadel, killing a third of his soldiers, and yet the citadel is still not taken, this is a disastrous attack,” Sun Tzu’s advice for martial planners preparing to lay siege to a fixed position was never truer. The left has been storming Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s citadel for years, incurring great casualties and sapping their breastworks of strength in the process. And yet, they continue to come, dashing themselves in waves against Walker’s seemingly impregnable position. What compels this fools’ rush? The Light Brigade’s charge into a battery of Russian guns was driven by error and pride, but the 118 British cavalrymen who died on that Crimean battlefield were posthumously lionized in romantic poetry not as victims of their reckless commanders but as the romantic champions of a lost and noble cause. So, too, are the liberal casualties lost to Walker’s advance fêted. In their anger, Walker’s opponents have repeatedly made tactical mistakes that should now, in hindsight, be appreciated for what they were: foreseeable disasters. Instead, ideology has clouded judgment. Walker’s opponents are prone to careless errors, and those errors are not condemned as evitable disasters but lauded as demonstrations of devotion to an ideal.  Read More

“If the general cannot overcome his anger and has his army swarm over the citadel, killing a third of his soldiers, and yet the citadel is still not taken, this is a disastrous attack,” Sun Tzu’s advice for martial planners preparing to lay siege to a fixed position was never truer. The left has been storming Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s citadel for years, incurring great casualties and sapping their breastworks of strength in the process. And yet, they continue to come, dashing themselves in waves against Walker’s seemingly impregnable position. What compels this fools’ rush? The Light Brigade’s charge into a battery of Russian guns was driven by error and pride, but the 118 British cavalrymen who died on that Crimean battlefield were posthumously lionized in romantic poetry not as victims of their reckless commanders but as the romantic champions of a lost and noble cause. So, too, are the liberal casualties lost to Walker’s advance fêted. In their anger, Walker’s opponents have repeatedly made tactical mistakes that should now, in hindsight, be appreciated for what they were: foreseeable disasters. Instead, ideology has clouded judgment. Walker’s opponents are prone to careless errors, and those errors are not condemned as evitable disasters but lauded as demonstrations of devotion to an ideal. 

The latest causalities of the eternal effort to derail Scott Walker’s Shermanesque march of annihilation through the formerly unassailable commanding heights of Democratic influence are the activists that pursued the “John Doe” investigation in Wisconsin. In the summer of 2014, a Wisconsin special prosecutor alleged that Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” involving the coordination of conservative organizations and fundraisers that helped him to become the first governor in American history to survive a recall election in 2012. But the charges were flimsy and plainly politically motivated. Shortly after that, that prosecutor backtracked and contended that Walker was never the target of this investigation.

But those who were in the special prosecutor’s crosshairs, like Walker aide and “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill” (Act 10) architect Cindy Archer, were subject to the most egregious forms of political intimidation. In the early morning hours one day this past April, Archer and her family were awoken to SWAT-like police forces that forced her to open her house up to a search. With tipped off reporters looking on, police ransacked her home, barking orders and throwing, as she claims, her “dead mother’s belongings,” among other effects, around the house in a most “disrespectful way.” In the end, the police departed with just a cellphone and a laptop. Archer wasn’t the only target of this manner of persecution.

“This was the on-the-ground reality of the so-called John Doe investigations, expansive and secret criminal proceedings that directly targeted Wisconsin residents because of their relationship to Scott Walker, their support for Act 10, and their advocacy of conservative reform,” National Review’s David French noted.

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court mercifully ended the madness. “To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law,” the Court’s final disposition read. “It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a ‘perfect storm’ of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them.”

The decision was a victory for justice over thuggery. Add another scalp to Walker’s growing collection.

Wisconsin’s 45th governor has been inspiring fits of irrational rage since he came into office amid the Republican wave of 2010. In 2012, he defeated an ill-advised recall effort by a larger margin than he managed to secure in his first election. The recall was seen as a test of the strength of organized labor, an ailing institution hurled into chaos by Walker’s successful reform of state unions’ collective bargaining rights, and national labor spent tens of millions on the failed effort to oust Walker from office. The governor’s comfortable reelection victory in 2014 represented another stunning humiliation for labor.

“What the labor movement now has to ask itself is: How could it lose three times — in 2010, a 2012 recall vote and now in Walker’s 2014 re-election — to the nation’s most blatantly anti-union governor?” asked Politico’s labor reporter, Timothy Noah. “How especially in Wisconsin, cradle of the early 20th-century Progressive movement and birthplace of public-sector unionism? If not here, where?”

The crisis of identity has propelled Walker’s political opponents into spasms of inchoate fury. Like George W. Bush before him, the left presumes that Walker’s inclination toward evil is matched only by his stupidity. The President of the United States who oversaw the implosion of Syria, the rise of ISIS, and the return of interstate war in Europe during his tenure, has had the temerity to accuse Walker of being ignorant on how foreign affairs are conducted. NBC News echoed the charge when Walker observed decorum by refusing to criticize Barack Obama on his approach to foreign affairs overseas – the presumption was that he couldn’t rather than that he wouldn’t. Of course, that scolding occurred in between self-satisfied affirmations from the left and the media who presumed, incorrectly as it happens, that they were fully abreast of the latest thinking among evolutionary scientists. Having left college a few credits shy of a degree in order to take a job offer, many of Walker’s opponents have followed a similar course of implying, or suggesting outright, that he lacks the requisite intellectual heft to serve as president. And of course – of course – Walker has been accused of embracing racial and racist politics. “Unlike Mitt Romney — who was merely adopted by the world of racially polarized politics — Walker was born in it and molded by it,” wrote Slate’s Jamelle Bouie.

The whistles blow and over the parapets they rush; headlong into a hail, and every time with the same fervor of the last, broken wave. Ultimately, their headlong charges and the victories they yield to Walker only embolden his supporters. You would think the left would have adapted by now, but their judgment is clouded. Among the Republican 2016 candidates, only Walker inspires this kind of frustration among liberals. While figures like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have also undermined the left’s powerbases in organized labor and academia, he does not move liberals to commit frenzied tactical errors. Perhaps it is Walker’s mild mannered and seemingly imperturbable comportment that so irritates his opponents. Perhaps it is something even more intangible.

While Walker is certainly a formidable general election candidate, he is not unbeatable. Walker’s critics are correct to note that his many statewide electoral victories occurred in years that were not characterized by a general election turnout (although the size of his margins of victories probably means their outcome wouldn’t have changed). Reports that indicate he is acting as his own political strategist are deeply disturbing. If they are true, that might account for why Walker has so carelessly stumbled over and flip-flopped on issues like a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants and the rights of same-sex couples. Walker is a vulnerable candidate in many ways. But his singular ability to blind his enraged opponents is a unique source of strength, and he would be wise to capitalize on it.

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Donald Trump and the No Accountability Zone

I’m on a vacation this week, and when the conversation with members of my extended family turned to politics, it turned, as it inevitably seems to these days, to Donald Trump. Read More

I’m on a vacation this week, and when the conversation with members of my extended family turned to politics, it turned, as it inevitably seems to these days, to Donald Trump.

The people I spoke with are, to a person, critics of Trump. (Several of them are Republicans.) They were curious to discuss, and at a loss to explain, his rise in the polls. I took the interest in Trump himself to be anecdotal evidence to support my belief that Trump can’t be ignored by the Republican Party; he needs to be confronted. The reason is that he’s generating enormous attention to himself, whether others disregard him or not, and to remain silent in the face of Trump’s provocations is to look weak or complicit. That doesn’t mean candidates need to obsess on him, but they do need to make their differences with him clear and emphatic. To their credit, several – Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, and George Pataki among them – already have.

Rather than recapitulating my case against Trump, I want to make an observation about Trump’s appeal to some parts of the Republican base. Before doing so, it’s necessary to start with the premise that Trump is no conservative, a case I’ve made before, as has National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. Mr. Trump once supported a Canadian-style single-payer health care system, massively higher taxes on the wealthy, and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He was “totally pro-choice.” He gave money to Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. He was a registered Democrat for most of the last decade. And he praised President Obama for doing “a very good job.”

Some of Trump’s flip-flops have been vividly captured in this video.

Any other Republican with this record would find his candidacy crippled. Yet for Trump, it hardly seems to matter. He operates in an Accountability Free Zone, where past stands, past statements, and past financial contributions are forgotten or forgiven.

The reasons for this, I think, is that Trump’s supporters don’t care about his past, his governing philosophy, or his governing agenda; all they care about his style. They believe he’s fearless, a fighter, politically incorrect, anti-establishment, hated by liberals, a man giving voice their frustration and rage at the political class. They believe the nation is collapsing, government doesn’t work, America is being beaten at every turn – and no one expresses that better than Trump. This deep disenchantment is what Trump is tapping into and what explains his appeal.

Now it needs to be said that Trump’s appeal is limited and his negatives even among Republicans are sky-high. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans, according to this poll, have a negative view of him. But what is disturbing is some conservatives not only find the Trump style impressive; it’s that they find the Trump style so impressive that it makes him immune from criticism. He gets a free pass on everything he’s said and done. The only thing that matters now is he’s targeting our enemies. He’s giving voice to our grievances. We on the right need to learn from The Donald.

In fact, the Trump style – crude, emotive, erratic, narcissistic, demagogic — should by itself be a disqualifier. That it’s not – that, for at least some number of self-described conservatives, it’s what makes him appealing — is a sad turn of events. They are embracing Donald Trump for the very reason they should be rejecting him.

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Walker the Presidential Candidate

Scott Walker is now officially in the race for the presidency, and he has the best story to tell in the Republican primary field. In the video he released today, he says he will face fighters who haven’t won battles and political winners who haven’t scored policy victories — while he is a fighter who has won his battles. This is a fair depiction. He is the most accomplished Republican governor in the country, with a startling record of political achievement in Wisconsin. You probably know his story already, but if you don’t, I commend to you the book he wrote with Marc Thiessen, Unintimidated, which is a rare politician’s book in that it actually tells a gripping and dramatic story and does it well. Read More

Scott Walker is now officially in the race for the presidency, and he has the best story to tell in the Republican primary field. In the video he released today, he says he will face fighters who haven’t won battles and political winners who haven’t scored policy victories — while he is a fighter who has won his battles. This is a fair depiction. He is the most accomplished Republican governor in the country, with a startling record of political achievement in Wisconsin. You probably know his story already, but if you don’t, I commend to you the book he wrote with Marc Thiessen, Unintimidated, which is a rare politician’s book in that it actually tells a gripping and dramatic story and does it well.

A Republican with a history of winning elections in a politically divided state and a Democratic-majority city, Walker came into the governorship of Wisconsin to find his state and its municipalities and towns in the grip of a budgetary crisis that was going to force classic bad-policy layoffs that favored union workers with long tenures over everybody else. He literally faced down violent mobs and occupiers, changed the rules, then faced a recall election and a reelection campaign — both of which he won. And he and the Republican legislators in Wisconsin have continued to reform the state’s way of doing business.

Having seen him in action as a politician and heard him speak at large gatherings and in small rooms, I think the key to Walker is his imperturbability. He is a man with an astoundingly level temperament. It is clearly very difficult if not impossible to rile him, a quality central to his ability to ride out controversies and attacks and assaults that would have torn other politicians to pieces.

The flipside of that is that he cannot really get too excited, and he can’t quite rally others to his cause through the power of his presence or his words. His announcement speech showed energy and fluency — but while it was not dispassionate, it was in no way emotive.

He can be good-natured, and in an understated way he projects an air of terrific self-confidence, but Walker is in neither an inspirational nor an aspirational candidate. His opening slogan is “Reform, Growth, Safety,” which gets the job done but doesn’t exactly sing. But you got a sense of what a smart and savvy politician he is when he got himself into the news stories on the pending Iran deal by insisting he would cancel it on Day One of his presidency.

In this regard, he is basically the polar opposite of Marco Rubio, his fellow top-tier candidate. Rubio is all inspiration and aspiration. Perhaps the best extemporaneous political speaker of our time, Rubio can leave you with your jaw on the floor. He is pure star power. Walker wants his offhanded manner to win you over in due time.

This is the problem in this race for Jeb Bush, who has raised vastly more money than either and is leading at the moment — he doesn’t get you in the kishkes the way Rubio does and he doesn’t have a contemporary record the way Walker does. But the reason these three have to be considered in a manner different from others in the race is that they show aspects of command — Walker does; Rubio inspires; Jeb simply is—that seem to elude most of the others, accomplished though they may be.

Walker is a tough politician who wears his toughness lightly. That’s what he has to sell.

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The Democrats’ Worst Fear

Republicans are obsessed with the Hispanic vote. It’s an understandable disorder considering how critical that vote has become. In the last two presidential elections, the Hispanic vote, among all minority voting blocs, was by far the most substantial as well as the most potentially amenable to the Republican message. In 2008 and 2012, Republican presidential candidates failed to win a substantial number of Hispanic voters – a project made infinitely more difficult by the presence of a minority candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket. In 2016, Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot, and the GOP could very well have a Hispanic or a fluent Spanish speaker at the top of the ballot. And yet, Republicans are still fighting the last war. They are fixed on peeling off just enough Hispanic voters to win the White House. The GOP and Republican presidential hopefuls alike should also be aiming to lay siege to the commanding heights of the Democratic Party’s “coalition of the ascending,” the central pillar of which is the African-American vote.

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Republicans are obsessed with the Hispanic vote. It’s an understandable disorder considering how critical that vote has become. In the last two presidential elections, the Hispanic vote, among all minority voting blocs, was by far the most substantial as well as the most potentially amenable to the Republican message. In 2008 and 2012, Republican presidential candidates failed to win a substantial number of Hispanic voters – a project made infinitely more difficult by the presence of a minority candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket. In 2016, Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot, and the GOP could very well have a Hispanic or a fluent Spanish speaker at the top of the ballot. And yet, Republicans are still fighting the last war. They are fixed on peeling off just enough Hispanic voters to win the White House. The GOP and Republican presidential hopefuls alike should also be aiming to lay siege to the commanding heights of the Democratic Party’s “coalition of the ascending,” the central pillar of which is the African-American vote.

It would be wise for the GOP to prepare for the possibility that it’s efforts to attract a critical mass of Hispanic voters could fail. All the Latino friendly Republican candidates in the world may be unable to repair the damage done by a primary that seems set to turn on antipathy toward Hispanic immigrant culture. The left and the allies in the press will eagerly try to conflate the GOP’s frustration with an administration that flouts immigration law with xenophobia, but the rhetorical overreach displayed by a select few self-descried Republicans has made that undertaking lamentably easy. A robust and comprehensive Republican strategy that sets its sights higher than securing a safe 50 percent plus one in November of next year would be a smart, conservative approach to minority outreach. For Republicans, the black vote presents an almost entirely untapped well. What’s more, if Republicans were even modestly successful in appealing to African-Americans, it would make winning elections substantially more difficult for Democratic politicians.

“It’s tough to overstate just how critical black voters have become to today’s Democratic coalition, particularly when it comes to the Electoral College,” Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter observed last week. She noted that Barack Obama’s entire margin of victory in 2012 in four key states that command nearly 50 electoral votes came entirely from African-American voters. “According to our number crunching, had ZERO Latinos voted in 2012, Obama would have lost the popular vote but still would have won the White House with 283 Electoral votes,” Walter discovered. She added that Hillary Clinton would not be doomed by pre-2008 levels of Democratic support from black voters (George W. Bush won the support of 11 percent of African-Americans in 2004). Her margins for error would, however, be considerably reduced.

And Hillary Clinton knows that her victory will hinge on whether she can inherit Obama’s coalition of voters and cement it into a Democratic coalition. With that in mind, Clinton has worked tirelessly to maintain the trust and support of black Democrats. “If African-American enthusiasm for Clinton comes close to matching Obama’s, then the base-first approach will pay dividends down the road,” National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar noted. “But if she’s winning non-white voters in the primary by default — running against old white men with limited ties to the rising Democratic electorate — she could face a rude awakening next November.”

Republicans candidates have by and large done their party a disservice by focusing on electoral math that could yield the GOP national victories even without a substantial number of African-American voters. That tendency to overlook the African-American vote has yielded a rift that will not heal in just one election cycle. What’s more, Republican voters might be so discouraged by the daunting prospect of winning back black voters’ support that they may feel their energy is better spent elsewhere. A study published in Political Research Quarterly in May revealed that even black Republican candidates fail to generate much enthusiasm among African-American voters. But the key to convincing Democrat-leaning African-American voters to take another look at the GOP platform is not to attempt to play the game of identity politics better than Democrats, even if such an outcome were possible. That project will hinge on whether Republicans are speaking to and of the African-American experience.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul deserves unqualified praise for inaugurating and sticking with the project of reaching out to black voters on their terms. The senator was mocked by those on the left who are threatened by the prospect of effective GOP minority outreach, but Paul deserved to be gently chided for giving Howard University students a trite history lesson. “Did they all know that the NAACP was founded by Republicans?” Paul asked a roomful of African-American students in 2013, all of whom rolled their eyes and responded with an exhausted “yes.” Condescension won’t convince anyone. African-American voters don’t need a history lesson.

The summer of 2015 has been pivotal. The long, hot summer of racial violence that many anticipated would materialize following the violence in Baltimore and Ferguson in the last six months has thus far failed to materialize. In the Deep South, Republican officeholders are furling the Confederate flag; the party of emancipation and desegregation has dealt another deep wound to the legacy of institutionalized racism. Some of the GOP’s 2016 candidates, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, have delivered masterful addresses on the nature of racial disparity. In doing so, the governor scolded his party’s 1964 nominee, Barry Goldwater, over his antipathy toward the Civil Rights Act. “Too often, we Republicans – myself included – have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth,” Perry emphasized. Would that the GOP-led Congress could devote some energy to reforming the gutted Voting Rights Act with conservative and federalist principles in mind (while they still have the opportunity). That, too, would go a long way toward restoring some trust.

It was not that long ago that African-American dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party was palpable. The Washington Post observed in 1998 that the perception among black voters that were being taken for granted sparked “outright rebellion and open flirting with the GOP to growing rumblings of discontent.” The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina combined with Barack Obama’s ascension put a halt to that process, but that may be changing. In 2014, Republican candidates won 10 percent of the African-American vote – the best GOP showing with this demographic since 2006. Perhaps most worrying for Democrats was in pivotal Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott outperformed most of his fellow Republicans by winning 12 percent of the black vote.

The substantial number of black voters who identify as liberals will always have a home in the Democratic Party, but those with less firm ideological affiliations could be willing to take a second look at the GOP. It’s up to Republicans to give them something worth looking at.

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The Progressive Regression

This fascinating quote from Havas Media’s Tom Goodwin has been frequently cited, even in this space, but it is so eye-opening that it merits repeating yet again. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles,” he wrote in March. “Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” Anyone who marvels at the pace of human innovation should by rights appreciate the inventiveness of this wildly successful economic strategy. For those who purport to embrace “progress,” however, this ongoing revolution is a grave threat. It is not without irony that those who call themselves “progressives” have no greater objective than enforcing and preserving the status quo – at least, beyond the realms of gender and identity politics. Rarely, however, has the contrast between conservatism’s support for modernism and progressivism’s retreat from it been as unambiguous as it is in regards to the advent of the sharing economy.  Read More

This fascinating quote from Havas Media’s Tom Goodwin has been frequently cited, even in this space, but it is so eye-opening that it merits repeating yet again. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles,” he wrote in March. “Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” Anyone who marvels at the pace of human innovation should by rights appreciate the inventiveness of this wildly successful economic strategy. For those who purport to embrace “progress,” however, this ongoing revolution is a grave threat. It is not without irony that those who call themselves “progressives” have no greater objective than enforcing and preserving the status quo – at least, beyond the realms of gender and identity politics. Rarely, however, has the contrast between conservatism’s support for modernism and progressivism’s retreat from it been as unambiguous as it is in regards to the advent of the sharing economy. 

Last month, gangs of disaffected Parisians wrapped bandanas around their faces and took to the streets where they tipped over cars, smashed windows, set tire fires, assaulted tourists, threw objects from overpasses, and barricaded the highways linking the French capital to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Were these the estranged and alienated youth tormented by fabricated phenomena like “income inequality” that haunts the imaginations of American liberals? Hardly. These rioters were the employed, unionized livery workers of Paris who have seen a fraction of their business lost to the upstart cab sharing company Uber. In response to this modest economic challenge, Paris’s cab drivers chose to indulge in an orgiastic tantrum of masochism and property destruction. In the end, the French capital caved to the hostage takers’ demands and kneecapped the cab sharing firm’s ability to do business in that restive city.

The Parisian riots generated little coverage in the United States; they represent a dark portent of things to come in America if those who are busily trying to prop up failing livery unions by hobbling services like Uber and its competitor, Lyft, have their way. And those who do seek to handicap these and other novelties of the sharing economy are invariably members of a clan that has the unmitigated gall to call itself “progressive.”

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has sought to stave off a challenge from a self-described socialist by seeking to put a human face on the left’s preferred totalitarianism. When she outlines her economic philosophy this week, the former secretary of state will reportedly take dead aim at these and other innovations; and all in the name of “progress.”

“Clinton’s aide said she will discuss some of the structural forces conspiring against sustainable wage growth, such as globalization, automation, and even consumer-friendly ‘sharing economy’ firms like Uber and Airbnb that are creating new relationships between management and labor (and which now employ many Obama administration alumni),” Politico reported. “But she will argue that policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.”

“She will propose to expand on Obama’s high-income tax hikes, while also pushing measures to fight wage theft, raise the minimum wage, encourage profit-sharing for workers, and support collective bargaining by unions,” the report added.

Much of Clinton’s economic platform can be written off as constituency maintenance. As the power of organized labor in the United States has contracted amid unfavorable economic realities, this paranoid and cornered institution has grown rabidly protective of the privileges it earned in the 20th Century. Democrats are more than happy to take advantage of the organizational muscle and campaign contributions that they can exploit from labor unions, even if that means sloughing off its image as the party of tomorrow.

It was this impulse that led President Barack Obama to lament the “structural changes” in the economy that have replaced bank tellers with automatic teller machines and airport ticketing agents with kiosks. The left has always regarded the creative destruction inherent to capitalism as a problem to be managed and guided (or abolished altogether). But this fundamental aspect of market economics can only be leashed for so long before it must be suppressed through state-sanctioned coercion. Democrats who are consumed with the project of hiking the minimum wage will be shocked to discover that those states and municipalities that pass wage hikes have only incentivized and accelerated the process of automating rote tasks. And to inhibit this innovative evolution further, the left must again appeal to the power of the state. Only the threat of force can compel the tides of history to recede.

Rarely have Republicans been in such an advantageous position, blessed as they are with an opposition party that is so consumed with the preservation of unearned privilege and the maintenance of special interests. While the left stands athwart history, yelling “stop,” they victimize the millions of average Americans who benefited from cheaper taxis, no-frills hospitality services, and reduced retail prices as a result of a lack of brick-and-mortar overhead. The modern “progressive” wants nothing more than to roll back the clock to the turn of the 20th Century. If Republicans cannot make the case for advancement better than the spooked Luddites who today dare call themselves “progressives,” they should clear the field for those who can.

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How the GOP Can Neutralize the Donald Trump Threat

Republican Party officials are, apparently, paralyzed with fear and indecision. This lamentably familiar condition was not brought about by the deft maneuvering of their Democratic opponents, but by someone who purports to be a member of the tribe: reality television star and 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump. The GOP’s incapacitation in the face of this relatively minor challenge ahead of what is sure to be a testing presidential cycle does not bode well for the party’s electoral prospects. The conundrum posed by Trump’s self-aggrandizing, scorched earth candidacy is not an insurmountable one; in fact, it’s relatively modest. The Republican National Committee’s impulse has thus far been to attempt to contain Trump and mitigate the damage done by his irresponsible rhetoric, but in doing so the party has taken some unnecessary ownership of his candidacy. Trump cannot be contained. He cannot be reasoned with. The GOP has but one course available: neutralize him.  Read More

Republican Party officials are, apparently, paralyzed with fear and indecision. This lamentably familiar condition was not brought about by the deft maneuvering of their Democratic opponents, but by someone who purports to be a member of the tribe: reality television star and 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump. The GOP’s incapacitation in the face of this relatively minor challenge ahead of what is sure to be a testing presidential cycle does not bode well for the party’s electoral prospects. The conundrum posed by Trump’s self-aggrandizing, scorched earth candidacy is not an insurmountable one; in fact, it’s relatively modest. The Republican National Committee’s impulse has thus far been to attempt to contain Trump and mitigate the damage done by his irresponsible rhetoric, but in doing so the party has taken some unnecessary ownership of his candidacy. Trump cannot be contained. He cannot be reasoned with. The GOP has but one course available: neutralize him. 

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was not without reason when he reportedly put a call into Trump’s office asking him to rein in his nativist rhetoric. The celebrity candidate has leveraged his name recognition and tapped into a sense of economic fatalism among Americans who have borne witness to wage and opportunity stagnation over the course of the Obama presidency. Trump has adeptly, if not admirably, fomented deep animosity toward the millions of illegal immigrants who live and work in this country. By definition, all illegal immigrants are criminals, and Washington’s refusal to stem the tide – indeed, policy makers are more eager to accommodate the nation’s illegal population and create incentives for new waves of border-crossers – is indicative of a lack of courage and seriousness on the part of American policymakers. But Trump’s contention, one that has been powerfully resonant among his conservative supporters in the activist grassroots, is that there is also an epidemic of violence perpetrated by illegal immigrants. This claim is simply not supported by anything other than anecdote.

Nevertheless, a great many honest, forthright, capable American citizens believe this myth and are convinced that Trump alone is speaking the “hard truths” that others won’t. The opposite is the case; his “hard truths” are, in fact, comforting fictions. Democrats are not fools. They know an opportunity when they see one, and the president’s party has taken to labeling the GOP the “ReTrumplican Party.” Their aim is to frame the GOP as a xenophobic institution and rob it of the Hispanic support that it needs to win the White House. To stop the bleeding, Priebus asked Trump kindly to “tone it down.”

It was a well-meaning move, but a misguided one. To acknowledge Trump’s reckless comments is to take ownership of them, and that has only enabled Democrats in their quest to cast Trump as the quintessential Republican. What’s more, Priebus was feeding the beast. Trump’s “anti-establishment” bona fides is only lent credibility by the RNC chairman’s handwringing. Finally, the deeply unprincipled Trump took the opportunity to contend that all the reportage on this call was wrong. Not only was he not reprimanded by the RNC chair, the reality television star claimed that Priebus congratulated him for telling it like it is. After all, the chairman of the RNC “knows better than to lecture me,” Trump claimed. “We’re not dealing with a five-star Army general.”

So much for Mr. Nice Guy.

But the GOP remains terrified of alienating Trump and his conservative supporters. They fear, according to a well-reported New York Times dispatch, that the real estate mogul might go rogue, mount a self-financed independent bid for the White House, and rob the Republican Party of what should be a good election cycle.

“Any top-down campaign by Republicans to marginalize Mr. Trump might encourage him to follow through with a threat to run on a third-party ballot,” the Times reported, “a scenario reminiscent of Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign, which diverged critical votes from President George Bush.”

When Trump’s Republican presidential bid flames out – and it will flame out, as any candidate with negative GOP voter disapproval as high as his must – Trump will consider the prospect of running an independent campaign. To do otherwise would be interpreted as a retreat, and the self-assured celebrity would probably rather sacrifice an exorbitant amount of money on a quixotic endeavor like an independent White House bid if only to save face. Those who make the case that 2016 could be 1992 all over again have a point, but the parallels are perhaps a bit overstated.

A superficial take on the 1992 election was that the populist H. Ross Perot exploded onto the political scene by denouncing the “sucking sound” of American jobs heading to Mexico if the NAFTA free trade agreement were ratified, and he cost George H. W. Bush just enough votes to allow Bill Clinton to win a plurality of the popular vote and 370 Electoral College votes. But the exit polling in 1992 indicated that Perot voters were split at 38 percent each on whether they would have voted for Bush or Clinton if the Texas businessman wasn’t on the ballot. The third-party candidate drew the support of 30 percent of self-described independents but also 18 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats to win 19 percent of the overall popular vote.

“Fully 53% of Perot’s vote came from self-defined moderates, 27% from conservatives and 20% from liberals; so about 10 points of his 19% came from self-described moderates, with 5 points coming from conservatives and 4 points from liberals,” Polling Report’s Tim Hibbitts noted. He added that voters who cast a Perot vote were angrier at the political system than were Bush or even Clinton voters, suggesting that they would not have voted for the incumbent if they had the chance. “And even in Ohio, the hypothetical Bush ‘margin’ without Perot in the race was so small that given the normal margin of error in polls, the state still might have stuck with Clinton absent the Texas billionaire,” the Washington Post reported at the time. As MSNBC host and political analyst Steve Kornacki accurately observed, the recessionary economy, not the third party candidate, cost the 41st President a second term in the Oval Office.

Now, back to Trump. His appeal to the conservative electorate is certainly founded in antipathy toward illegal immigration, but this is really an outgrowth of his populist, protectionist approach to international trade relations. As the liberal revolt over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement demonstrated, antipathy toward free trade is not the province of conservatives alone. Polls suggest that a substantial number of partisan Democrats agree with Trump that the TPP is a “disaster.”

Trump’s suspicion of free trade is not the only position that is more in line with orthodox liberal thinking on policy matters. As the Washington Post’s Hunter Schwarz observed, Trump was not all that long ago the “liberal’s liberal.” In 1999, he considered himself “very pro-choice,” and told CNN host Larry King that he was “very liberal when it comes to health care.” Indeed, Trumps embrace of virtually every European aspect of “universal health care” was far more aggressively liberal than most of what was passed in the Affordable Care Act. In his book published the following year, Trump back an assault weapon ban and longer waiting times for gun purchasers. As recently as 2005, Trump lavished Hillary Clinton with both praise and campaign contributions. The billionaire has donated to liberals more than he has conservatives, including Democrats like Harry Reid, Ed Rendell, Rahm Emanuel, John Kerry, Charlie Rangel, Charles Schumer, and the late Ed Kennedy. The surest way to identify whether Trump has the country’s rather than his best interests at heart would be, as National Review’s John Fund noted, to ask him if he would eventually support the party’s nominee over Clinton. Few expect him to answer with an emphatic and unhesitant “yes.”

It’s unlikely that Trump will attract a significant number of Democratic votes if he did mount an independent presidential campaign given how viciously he has attacked Barack Obama over the course of his presidency. If, however, the Republican Party cannot through surrogates make a prolific Democratic donor with a history of embracing liberal positions toxic for conservative voters, they should just close up shop today. This is a surmountable hurdle, and Republicans are far more imperiled by contorting themselves in the effort to keep Trump inside the tent than they would be by casting him out and temporarily alienating his fickle, discouraged base of supporters. It’s only 2015, and the fundamentals do not suggest that Democrats will have the wind at their backs by November of next year. The GOP should stop being so scared of its own shadow and show Donald the door.

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Rick Perry, Republicans, and Race

I wanted to build on the excellent comments by Noah, as well as National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, on former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent National Press Club speech. It’s a marvelous and moving speech, dealing with equal opportunity, race, the Republican Party’s history on race. (It’s also more evidence that Perry is a much better and more impressive candidate today than he was in 2012.) As Ramesh points out, Perry has done something unprecedented for a conservative presidential candidate: criticizing the conservative icon Barry Goldwater for opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Governor Perry went on to say this:

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I wanted to build on the excellent comments by Noah, as well as National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, on former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent National Press Club speech. It’s a marvelous and moving speech, dealing with equal opportunity, race, the Republican Party’s history on race. (It’s also more evidence that Perry is a much better and more impressive candidate today than he was in 2012.) As Ramesh points out, Perry has done something unprecedented for a conservative presidential candidate: criticizing the conservative icon Barry Goldwater for opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Governor Perry went on to say this:

Too often, we Republicans – myself included – have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth – an Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

Goldwater was no racist; he opposed the Civil Rights Act on the grounds that it was unconstitutional (Titles II and VII in particular). But Goldwater’s ultimate stance was wrong, and the political ramifications were lasting. It helped Republicans in the Deep South. (Goldwater won six states in 1964 — his native state of Arizona and five Deep South states –Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina; and today the South is the most reliably Republican region in the nation.) But it also hurt Republicans — the party of Lincoln — with blacks.

A brief history: From the end of the Civil War through the early part of the 20th century, blacks voted mostly for the Republican Party, which was rightly viewed as the party of emancipation. That began to change during the Roosevelt presidency. By 1948, Harry Truman  garnered 77 percent of the black vote in 1948 (Truman had issued an order desegregating the armed services and an executive order setting up regulations against racial bias in federal employment). Still, Dwight Eisenhower carried 39 percent of black votes in 1958 and Richard Nixon 32 percent in 1960. But by 1964 — Lyndon Johnson v. Goldwater — Johnson won 94 percent of the black vote. Since then, no Republican has won more than 15 percent of the black vote, and in 2008 John McCain won four percent of the black vote and in 2012 Mitt Romney won six percent. (See this useful analysis for more.)

I’m not under any illusions. Most black voters are liberal, and the Republican Party is a conservative party. So there are differences of philosophy, including where many blacks and Republicans stand on many of the major issues of the day. That said, it gnaws at many Republicans, myself included, that the GOP has not made any serious and sustained effort to win the support of black Americans. Governor Perry made this point quite well when he said, “For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all.”

Whether or not Republicans win the support of African-Americans remains to be seen. But if they do, it will be because we’ve followed the approach and adopted the tone of two governors from the South, Texas’s Rick Perry, and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley.

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Hillary Clinton’s Lies

Hillary Clinton entered this race treating the press like a nuisance at best; marks whom she could easily distract with a bit of misdirection. When she’s not corralling photographers in their allotted, roped-off stations, she’s mocking their efforts to cover her serial mendacities. In March, while delivering the keynote address during the awarding of the Toner Prize for excellence in journalism, Clinton issued a self-effacing series of jokes joking about her own penchant for paranoid secrecy and her unfolding email scandal. It was a display of arrogance and chutzpah that would make Donald Trump blush. “Too many of our most important debates occur in what I call an evidence-free zone,” she told a roomful of reporters, counseling them to pursue their craft with vigor in 2016. Indeed, they should. In every one of the minimal interactions the former secretary of state has had with the press, she has made a series of debatable or outright falsifiable statements. The political media would do well to internalize just how little the prohibitive Democratic nominee thinks of their institution or their individual talents.  Read More

Hillary Clinton entered this race treating the press like a nuisance at best; marks whom she could easily distract with a bit of misdirection. When she’s not corralling photographers in their allotted, roped-off stations, she’s mocking their efforts to cover her serial mendacities. In March, while delivering the keynote address during the awarding of the Toner Prize for excellence in journalism, Clinton issued a self-effacing series of jokes joking about her own penchant for paranoid secrecy and her unfolding email scandal. It was a display of arrogance and chutzpah that would make Donald Trump blush. “Too many of our most important debates occur in what I call an evidence-free zone,” she told a roomful of reporters, counseling them to pursue their craft with vigor in 2016. Indeed, they should. In every one of the minimal interactions the former secretary of state has had with the press, she has made a series of debatable or outright falsifiable statements. The political media would do well to internalize just how little the prohibitive Democratic nominee thinks of their institution or their individual talents. 

Clinton’s Toner Prize address occurred in March, just days after the snowballing effect of the scandal involving her email practices compelled the former secretary to abandon caution and finally address the press. Over the course of a news conference at the United Nations and a Q&A period, Clinton disseminated a convincing defense of her behavior. Though the first handpicked questioner attempted to contend that Clinton’s travails were the result of latent American sexism toward the most powerful woman in U.S. history, the remaining reporters asked admirably cutting questions and elicited some informative responses. But as the ensuing days passed, many of the assertion’s Clinton made in that presser came into question.

“The server contains personal communications from my husband and me,” Clinton said of her private “homebrew” system on which she kept her emails. This, she contended, was one of the reasons why she summarily destroyed over half of the emails she sent to the State Department for vetting and eventual release. But according to Clinton’s husband’s spokesperson, the former president had sent a total of two emails in his entire life and both of those were fired off while Bill Clinton still occupied the Oval Office.

“Going through the emails, there were over 60,000 in total, sent and received. About half were work-related and went to the State Department, and about half were personal,” former Sec. Clinton contended before the United Nations lectern. Not so, according to emails provided to House investigators by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal. Clinton withheld emails from State related to Benghazi, oil contracts in post-war Libya, and the NATO-led intervention in that North African country. What’s more, Blumenthal’s correspondences indicated that some of the emails that she did provide to the State Department had been altered with some portions removed.

Hillary Clinton claimed that she only used one mobile device on which she checked her emails because it would be “easier” – a practice that is discouraged by the State Department due to the increased likelihood that foreign intelligence services can gain access to those devices. That, too, was not true. “Hillary Rodham Clinton emailed her staff on an iPad as well as a BlackBerry while secretary of state, despite her explanation she exclusively used a personal email address on a homebrew server so that she could carry a single device,” the Associated Press revealed in March.

“The vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department,” Clinton insisted. She had to be aware that the agency she led was unprofessionally lax about its archival practices. “[In 2011], Department employees created 61,156 record emails out of more than a billion emails sent,” a recent State Department Inspector General’s report read.

Clinton also insisted that her email communications contained no classified material. In the latest tranche of 3,000 emails State released last week in response to a court order, the department revealed that 25 of them were redacted because they contained information reviewers deemed classified. This should come as no surprise to reporters who cover the State Department and are regularly frustrated by the culture of over-classification in that agency that allows diplomatic personnel to skirt transparency laws.

You might expect at least one of these discrepancies to have come up in Clinton’s much-anticipated interview with a bona fide member of the press corps this week, but CNN’s Brianna Keilar failed to note that a variety of assertions Clinton made in March have since proven dubious. So why wouldn’t the former secretary continue to mislead?

“I’ve never had a subpoena,” Clinton contended when asked about her decision to delete 33,000 allegedly personal emails. But she did receive a subpoena after House investigators drew one up in March. “This letter will respond to (1) the subpoena duces tecum issued by the Benghazi Select Committee to the Hon. Hillary R. Clinton and served by agreement on March 4, 2015,” read a letter addressed to House Select Committee on Benghazi members. Clinton’s supporters in the campaign and in the Capitol Building contend that she understood the question Keilar asked to pertain only to December, when that subpoena was only pending and when the emails at issue were deleted.

“Everything I did was permitted,” Clinton further averred. “There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate.” In order to support this contention, Clinton and her abettors cite an interim directive issued in October of 2014 that advises State employees to take only “personal papers” and “non-record materials” with them when they leave the agency. But, as the Washington Post noted, State’s Foreign Affairs Manual made it perfectly clear that “correspondence or e-mail received or sent in an employee’s capacity as a Department official is not personal.” That guideline was issued well before Clinton ever joined the State Department.

“In reality, Clinton’s decision to use a private e-mail system for official business was highly unusual and flouted State Department procedures, even if not expressly prohibited by law at the time,” the Post’s fact-checkers admonished. “Moreover, while she claims ‘everything I did was permitted,’ she appears to have not complied with the requirement to turn over her business-related e-mails before she left government service. That’s a major misstep that she has not acknowledged.” Clinton earned three out of four “Pinocchios” for this particular fib.

At some point, the political press has to tire of being used and underestimated by Hillary Clinton. Until that time, she will continue to flagrantly mislead the press and the public, making a mockery of the journalistic profession in the process.

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Carl Bernstein’s Journey From Journalist to Liberal Apologist

I suppose one could do this a dozen times a day, but this particular example stood out to me. It’s a CNN interview with Carl Bernstein, one half of the most famous journalistic duo (Woodward and Bernstein) in American history. The subject is Hillary Clinton, someone Bernstein has written a book about. Read More

I suppose one could do this a dozen times a day, but this particular example stood out to me. It’s a CNN interview with Carl Bernstein, one half of the most famous journalistic duo (Woodward and Bernstein) in American history. The subject is Hillary Clinton, someone Bernstein has written a book about.

Here’s what struck me about this interview. Mr. Bernstein concedes what any reasonable person has to: Mrs. Clinton “has had a difficult relationship with the truth” since the Arkansas years. But here’s what’s known in poker as the “tell”: Bernstein spends the rest of the interview making excuses for Clinton’s prevarications. There are reasons for her dishonesty, you see, and they have to do more with Mrs. Clinton’s critics than with Mrs. Clinton. Let’s see if we can follow the bouncing ball.

Mrs. Clinton has been the object of “attacks” because she’s been “at the heart of the cultural warfare in this country over the last 30 years” — and “the demographics today reflect that she is on the right side of this cultural warfare.” This is a non sequitur. What does this have to do with Mrs. Clinton being dishonest on issue after issue? Answer: Nothing. She dissembled because of her flawed character, not because of the culture wars.

But Bernstein isn’t done yet. He points out that Hillary Clinton is a politician and fudging the truth is endemic among them — though he’s quick to add that she’s become “a specialist at it.” (How euphemistic. She’s a “specialist” at “fudging” the truth rather than, say, a chronic liar.)

And the reason she’s become a specialist at it? Why, it has to do with the “peculiarities of the Clinton’s situation.” It has to do with Bill Clinton’s relationship with other women and the fact that “she’s had to defend him.”

“It’s been very difficult to do with the whole truth and all the truth and nothing but the truth,” according to the man who made his career covering and then fiercely condemning a president had great difficulty tell the whole truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth.

Bernstein sums up his case this way: “She’s been in a very difficult position.” What we need to appreciate about Mrs. Clinton are her “complexities.” She’s “sui generis” — the “most famous woman in the world” and “all over the world this morning, people are having the discussion we’re having around their breakfast tables (!). It’s remarkable, this phenomenon.” So, you see, we have to “look at this election in a little bit different terms, and her in a little bit different terms than anybody else.”

Now think about how the Bernstein case could have applied to oh, say, Richard Nixon. Mr. Nixon had a difficult relationship with the truth — but the reason for that, you have to understand, was that he was a key figure in the culture war fight over Alger Hiss. And what Nixon did in Watergate wasn’t right — but then again, it wasn’t all that unusual. Those kinds of dirty tricks had been going on forever, including during the Johnson and Kennedy administrations. And remember: Nixon didn’t give the approval for the Watergate break-in; he fudged the truth in order to protect underlings who had done something without his approval. Sure it wasn’t right, but at the heart of this case was a two-bit burglary. And in any event, Nixon was a great foreign policy president — and the first from Yorba Linda — so you have to look at what he did in a little different terms, and him in a little bit different terms.

Carl Bernstein is a regrettable case — a journalist who helped expose a scandal and who has now, for ideological reasons, become something of an apologist for scandal. His liberal political biases have blinded his ability to speak with any dispassion on matters, including Mrs. Clinton. His CNN interview was a perfect example of motivated reasoning, and evidence of much of what is wrong with the press these days. Carl Bernstein isn’t really a journalist so much as he’s a liberal advocate. That’s his right, but we shouldn’t pretend he is what he’s not.

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Scott Walker’s Flip-Flop Problem

During his first term of governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker underwent a trial of fire that few politicians are ever forced to endure. His struggle with union thugs and determined to preserve their power to bankrupt the state and their Democratic Party allies made him a conservative folk hero. But once he started running for president, some of the glow from those struggles has started to wear off. While his fight with the unions was about his devotion to principle, his push for the presidency has seemed to bring out some less attractive qualities, such as a tendency to flip-flop when pressed on controversial issues. The latest such instance concerns a conversation with a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who said Walker had promised him he had not completely renounced a previous position in favor of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Given Walker’s decision to swing to the right in order to win the Iowa caucuses next winter, such a stance would be a problem. So Walker’s office prevailed on Stephen Moore to recant his account of a conversation with the governor and to say the conversation had never taken place. Would that it were that easy to answer all the questions that have emerged about Walker’s willingness to walk on both sides of the fence on that issue.

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During his first term of governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker underwent a trial of fire that few politicians are ever forced to endure. His struggle with union thugs and determined to preserve their power to bankrupt the state and their Democratic Party allies made him a conservative folk hero. But once he started running for president, some of the glow from those struggles has started to wear off. While his fight with the unions was about his devotion to principle, his push for the presidency has seemed to bring out some less attractive qualities, such as a tendency to flip-flop when pressed on controversial issues. The latest such instance concerns a conversation with a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who said Walker had promised him he had not completely renounced a previous position in favor of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Given Walker’s decision to swing to the right in order to win the Iowa caucuses next winter, such a stance would be a problem. So Walker’s office prevailed on Stephen Moore to recant his account of a conversation with the governor and to say the conversation had never taken place. Would that it were that easy to answer all the questions that have emerged about Walker’s willingness to walk on both sides of the fence on that issue.

This isn’t the first time Walker has been accused of flipping on immigration. Back in March, I noted that the Wall Street Journal reported that the governor had told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans that he favored amnesty for illegals. That was consistent with his past stands on the issue prior to his entering the presidential contest. As late as 2013, he backed a path to citizenship for those here without documentation. But, as they did with Moore, Walker’s staff denounced the Journal article even though the paper had three witnesses to back up their account.

Walker understands that, while he appears to have held onto his spot in the first tier of Republican candidates, his path to the nomination depends on winning Iowa. To do that, he has calculated that he must position himself firmly on the right. His hope is to crush challenges from the likes of Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and, now, Donald Trump before emerging to take on the winner of the titanic struggle between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Florida and/or a surprise moderate winner in New Hampshire in what will ultimately be the finals of the GOP contest over the course of the rest of the campaign.

But in order to do that, he needs to allow no room on his right flank on the issue of immigration. While he is as potentially vulnerable on immigration to criticism from the right as Marco Rubio (who co-sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he has subsequently backed away from), Walker has tried to compensate in the past few months by assuming a stance of strident opposition to amnesty proposals. But his discomfort with this pose seems to come out every now and then such as the speech in New Hampshire or his talk with Moore where he tries to assure more moderate Republicans that he is “not going nativist.”

In this latest case, no doubt Walker’s camp will accuse the New York Times of playing “gotcha” journalism in an effort to embarrass him. But while the bias of the Times against Republicans is real, in this case the material they’re working with is the product of Walker’s own penchant for hedging privately in a way that makes his public statements sound hypocritical or false.

As I also noted back in February, when Walker adjusted his views on ethanol subsidies in Iowa in the same manner, a pattern of behavior is emerging. Instead of sticking to his past positions on these issues, Walker has shown a disturbing willingness to chuck them aside in order to gain votes among Iowa farmers and conservatives. While such behavior is not exactly unusual in politicians, it is in marked contrast to the sort of exemplary conduct that first brought him to national attention.

Walker is still a dynamic speaker and has a lot of the elements that ought to make a perfect candidate for the Republican nomination. His everyman persona, strong record as a governor, and mix of mainstream and conservative positions puts him in a sweet spot where he should be able to command support from Tea Partiers and mainstream establishment Republicans, who want a fiscal conservative, and evangelical Christians who seem him as one of their own. But a tendency to waffle on a key issue like immigration is a bad sign both for his campaign and his ability to govern effectively on the national stage.

With the first GOP debate only a month away, it is no longer possible to excuse Walker’s missteps as the inevitable mistakes of a rookie on the national stage. Walker needs to make up his mind about immigration and stick to it. Walker’s flip flop problem is real. If he continues to need his staff to pressure people to walk back accounts of his flip-flopping, he’s going to find himself outflanked by conviction conservatives on the right who need no such help as well as other Republicans who are prepared to stick to their guns in the same manner that Walker demonstrated back in 2011 when he was besieged by the unions.

 

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Bernie Sanders Exposes the Media’s Enraging Double Standards

If you were looking to substantiate the inescapable impression that the political press is vastly more sympathetic toward Democrats than Republicans, look no further than the eccentric collectivist senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders and his quixotic presidential campaign. Sanders brings all the baggage and more to the table that former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin lugged with them into the 2012 election cycle, and yet the nation’s political reporters cannot identify a single thing that the surging socialist says about his party as a whole. The press’s collective refusal to identify “the Democrats’ Bernie Sanders problem” says all that you need to know about that increasingly activist enterprise.  Read More

If you were looking to substantiate the inescapable impression that the political press is vastly more sympathetic toward Democrats than Republicans, look no further than the eccentric collectivist senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders and his quixotic presidential campaign. Sanders brings all the baggage and more to the table that former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin lugged with them into the 2012 election cycle, and yet the nation’s political reporters cannot identify a single thing that the surging socialist says about his party as a whole. The press’s collective refusal to identify “the Democrats’ Bernie Sanders problem” says all that you need to know about that increasingly activist enterprise. 

Political reporters find themselves newly enthralled by Bernie Sanders’ effort to create a contrast with Hillary Clinton’s low-key style of campaigning by organizing massive rallies in stadium-sized venues situated in left-of-center cities like Portland, Maine, and Madison, Wisconsin. Crowd sizes, while not even remotely indicative of future electoral performance, are captivating symbols. Few in the press have, however, remarked on the decidedly monochromatic nature of those packing stadium seats to see the Democratic presidential candidate – these being virtually all-white crowds in predominantly white cities. Fewer still have speculated about how these crowds, uniform in both ideology and skin tone, reflect on the Democratic Party’s ascendant progressive wing.

“He’s been to Portland, Maine, he’s been to Portland, Oregon, Madison, Wisconsin, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, and he’s consolidated that white progressive vote,” Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd remarked on Tuesday. “This is what Bill Bradley did. Gary Hart did it. Paul Tsongas did it.” He noted that the Clinton campaign can take this development in stride so long as Sanders’ crowds fail to become more “diverse,” but he demurely declined to speculate about what the Vermont senator’s predominantly white progressive support says about him, his campaign, or the Democratic Party’s activist base voters. This was charitably coy on Todd’s part, but it is safe to assume that the same courtesy would not have been extended to a phenomenon candidate on the right enjoying a similar surging in the polls.

That is not the only bit of deference by the political press from which Sanders has benefited. The avowed socialist politician’s economic views are objectively anachronistic, but they have not generated the same scorn as have those of the famously libertarian, hard money advocate, Ron Paul. “Paul apparently thinks that the best approach to a 21st century globalized economy is a return to banking practices of the 19th century,” The USA Today editorial board scolded in January of 2012. No word from USA Today on the century in which Marxist-Leninism’s economic prescriptions belong.

For all the contrived efforts on the part of Democrats and their allies in the press to make Todd Akin the face of the GOP in 2012, despite his narrow ascension to the party’s senatorial nomination in the Show Me State, few in the press have noted that Sanders once held similarly antediluvian views on women’s health and sexuality that could harm his party’s standing. This week, the New York Times revealed that, in the late 1960s, Sanders wrote in the revolutionary left-wing Vermont paper, the Freeman, that cervical cancer was an unfortunate side effect of ungratifying sex.

“[H]e cited studies claiming that cancer could be caused by psychological factors such as unresolved hostility toward one’s mother, a tendency to bury aggression beneath a “facade of pleasantness” and having too few orgasms,” the Times reported. “‘Sexual adjustment seemed to be very poor in those with cancer of the cervix,’ [Sanders] wrote, quoting a study in a journal called Psychosomatic Medicine.”

One only has oneself to blame after being led astray by a medical journal that calls itself “psychosomatic,” but Sanders lapse would be excusable if it were only one instance. A Mother Jones investigation revealed that Sanders also penned a thought piece for the Freeman investigating the nature of gender roles in which he indulged in a series of almost graphic rape fantasies.

“A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.

“A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.

“Have you ever looked at the Stag, Man, Hero, Tough magazines on the shelf of your local bookstore? Do you know why the newspaper with the articles like ‘Girl 12 raped by 14 men’ sell so well? To what in us are they appealing?”

Had a Republican candidate for the presidency (or the U.S. Senate, for that matter) indulged in this manner of self-gratifying sexual assault fantasy – literary exercise or no – they would be made to account for it if only to tar the party with which they identified as unfriendly toward women. But Sanders, being a nominal Democrat, has his politically incorrect short story “explained” by the likes of National Public Radio.

“One way to read the essay is that Sanders was doing (in a supremely ham-handed way) what journalists do every day: draw the reader in with an attention-getting lede, then get to the meat of the article in the middle,” NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben soothingly averred.

“Nobody honestly believes that Bernie Sanders is a sexual pervert or that he is a misogynist or that he intends to do women any harm,” National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke wrote, admirably advising conservatives to take the high road in regards to the revelations about Sanders’ youthful essays. “Nobody suspects that he harbors a secret desire to pass intrusive legislation or to cut gang rapists a break. Really, there is only one reason that anyone would make hay of this story, and that is to damage the man politically.”

Correct. That is precisely why Democrat-aligned media figures did what they did with regards to Akin’s rape comments, compelling every politician with an “R” after their name to condemn his remarks or be implicitly associated with them. Commentators like Cooke can, and probably should, avoid the naked narrative setting in which the media indulged in 2012. That doesn’t mean the double standards the press sets for their own conduct should be summarily dismissed.

Democrats do not have a “Bernie Sanders problem” any more than the GOP had a “Todd Akin problem,” but the fact that the political media embraced one narrative but has apparently rejected the other outright exposes quite a bit about the ailing state of that industry.

 

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