2016 GOP Primary

The Donald Trump Show (Ohio)

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

You know, there was a time when this would have seemed significant:

Donald Trump’s Ohio campaign manager on Saturday renounced its relationship with the Ohio Republican Party’s top official, laying bare the long-simmering tensions over Trump’s candidacy within the state GOP.

Bob Paduchik, a longtime campaign operative in Ohio, sent a two-page letter to the state GOP’s central committee members on Saturday saying Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges no longer has a relationship with the campaign. The letter accuses Borges of exaggerating his relationship with Trump in media interviews, and undermining Trump’s efforts.

(Tobias)

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)There is a lot that would have seemed significant, once upon a time. The thing is, though, that it’s not just Donald Trump. It’s also Republicans who, you know, nominated him.

Because, frankly, Republicans have more than a few things to answer for after this mess. There are no more pretenses of innocence about the conservative (ahem!) “conscience”. Yeah: Y’all built this. And, really, you owe the rest of us some manner of explanation.

And, you know, this is an occasion on which conservatives will actually have to start make sense for once in their lives.

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Image notes: Top ― Detail of frame from Darker Than Black, episode 14, “A Heart Unswaying on the Water’s Surface… (Part 2)”. Right ― U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Tobias, Andrew J. “Donald Trump campaign denounces, severs ties with Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges”. Cleveland.com. 15 October 2016.

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The Problem With Republicans (Justice in Waiting)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 2016. (Photo: Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

It’s not really a gaffe, is it? It’s an interesting headline from CNN: “John McCain: ‘I don’t know’ if Trump will be better for Supreme Court than Clinton”

Trump has released lists of 21 potential justices. He has pledged to choose from among those 21 when making Supreme Court selections, in a move that has earned him praise from conservatives, including his former rival in the Republican primary, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) listens to testimony by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander and Resolute Support Commander Gen. John Campbell, on Capitol Hill in Washington, 4 February 2016. (Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo)Asked on the Dom Giordano program on 1210 WPHT Philadelphia radio whether Trump was the superior candidate on issues like the Supreme Court, the Arizona senator replied, “Uh, first of all, I don’t know, because I hear him saying a lot of different things.”

Later in the interview, McCain used the opportunity to make the case for fellow Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is locked in a close battle to retain his Senate seat in Pennsylvania. McCain promised that Republicans would be “united against any Supreme Court nominee” put forth by Clinton.

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain said. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.”

Or, as Taylor Link fashioned the obvious lede for Salon:

Sen. John McCain is sure that if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins, the Senate will continue to be an obstructionist mess.

In a Monday interview, the senator from Arizona said that Republican nominee Donald Trump is not necessarily a better candidate than Hillary Clinton when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices and “promised” that Republicans wouldn’t approve any Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court.

Couldn’t see that one coming, eh?

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The Donald Trump Show (¿Paradise Lost?)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

This is worth noting:

For the good of the country, Gov. Bill Haslam believes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump should withdraw his candidacy and give way to vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

Haslam, R-Knoxville, became the first prominent Tennessee Republican to make such a statement when he issued his comments Sunday afternoon. He joins a growing chorus of national Republicans to repudiate their party’s standard bearer in light of a 2005 video where Trump made vulgar comments that appear to condone the sexual assault of women.

“I want to emphasize that character in our leaders does matter. None of us in elected office are perfect, but the decisions that are made in the Oval Office have too many consequences to ignore the behavior we have seen,” Haslam said.

“It is time for the good of the nation and the Republican Party for Donald Trump to step aside and let Gov. Mike Pence assume the role as the party’s nominee. If he does not step aside, I will write in a Republican for the office of President.”

(Boucher)

It is easy to get caught up in narrative and moment, and thus we sometimes feel flat-footed when history blows past us and, you know, of course we could see it coming, but it’s so easy to lose oneself in high-strung, even mythopoeic history that we often instinctively caution ourselves against believing the hype.

This time, though, let us go ahead and mark the moment with Gov. Bill Haslam; the Tennessee Republican’s statement serves as a personal benchmark insofar as it is now possible for me to believe that Donald Trump might well have finally done gone an’ broke it.

Just sayin’.

Even still, doubt whispers and cynicism clamors; this can’t really be the moment, except that yes, if “vulgar comments that appear to condone the sexual assault of women”, as Dave Boucher’s report for the Tennessean puts it―and why not? it’s a reasonable description dutifullyα ducking the fact that we all know there’s no matter of mere appearances about it―are somehow insufficient to settle the matter, then there is far more wrong in these United States than merely Donald Trump.

We kind of knew that last, already, right? I mean, we’re all clear on what is going on, here?

‘Tis easy to hedge. This is going to be an interesting week, proverbially and otherwise. Consider it this way, please: Mr. Haslam denounces Mr. Trump’s misogyny, preferring instead Mr. Pence’s less felonious misogyny. This ought to be absurd enough to get us through the days.β

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α There are reasons why the reportage is not supposed to do the convicting and crucifying. This is, however, really, truly that straightforward. What seems striking is that the nod and wink, this time, would reject the good ol’ boys’ club.

β And that’s a completely meaningless sentence, isn’t it?

Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Boucher, Dave. “Bill Haslam: Donald Trump needs to step aside for Mike Pence”. The Tennessean. 9 October 2016.

Something Going On (Asymetrically Intriguing)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs before speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, October 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is the thing: While it is easy enough to get lost in the spectacular noise and bluster, the breathtaking incoherence and disbelief, something does seem to have happened. Jonathan Chait dove in last month, noting, “The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization”. And to a certain degree, Chait is vital, here, because of something else he wrote, all of several days before:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Nor need one be any manner of confessed media elitist; outside the circles where people perpetually complain about the media, news consumers are more than a little puzzled―indeed, some or maybe even many are alarmed―about what they are witnessing.

Part of the problem, of course, is asymmetrical polarization; Chait considered the question―

Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Liz Spayd, the New York Times’ new public editor, dismisses the problem out of hand in a column that is a logical train wreck. Spayd specifically addresses a column by Paul Krugman that lambastes two news investigations into the Clinton Foundation, one of which appeared in the Times. Both reports dug deep and found nothing improper, but instead of either walking away from the dry holes or writing an exculpatory story, dressed them up with innuendo. These stories supply a prime example of the larger critique often grouped under the heading of “false equivalence”―journalists treating dissimilar situations as similar, in an attempt to balance out their conclusions. Spayd dismisses false equivalence as liberal whining, without in any way engaging with its analysis.

―in the wake of a New York Times dispute between public editor Liz Spayd and columnist Paul Krugman.

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Trolley Ted

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press aboard his campaign plane, 5 September 2016, while flying over Ohio, as vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Let’s just go with Russell Berman of The Atlantic, framing his “Five Reasons Why Ted Cruz’s Endorsement of Donald Trump Is Stunning”:

Ted Cruz set aside his many differences with Donald Trump on Friday to endorse for president a man whom he once called a “serial philanderer,” a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and a “sniveling coward”; who insulted his wife’s looks; who insinuated Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy; who said he wouldn’t even accept his endorsement; and who for months mocked him mercilessly with a schoolyard taunt, “Lyin’ Ted.”

There is a bullet point narrative, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews over at Vox. “Ted Cruz unhinges his jaw and swallows his pride”, reads the headline, and, certes, one might contest that he swallowed anything, sneer cruzlike at any intersection of the Texas junior’s name and the concept of pride, or point out how the unhinging is a practiced move and, you know, (ahem!) insert obviousα joke here.

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The Donald Trump Show (Burning Sensation)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump departs from a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, 27 July 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

“The political establishments of both parties brought about this war. Are they willing to swallow their pride to end it or will Trump have to do to the Beltway Ivory Tower what Sherman did to Atlanta?”

Joseph R. Murray, II

We might indeed acknowledge uncertainty as to why the thought of Donald Trump’s queer outreach administrator appealing to the burning of Atlanta with all the grace of a domestic abuser making excuses for himself might seem remotely funny.

“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will,” General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote to Atlanta’s officials as he moved forward with plans to evacuate and burn the city. “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.”

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, via Daily Kos, 15 August 2016.Less than three months before the presidential election, the political establishment and media elites are facing the “curses and malediction” of war of their own making. After years of being used and abused, the Silent Majority they muzzled is rising up and its voice is Republican nominee Donald Trump.

There is no doubt the protectors of the status quo see a threat in Trump. Why else does the media hang on Trump’s every word and pounce whenever they get a whiff of a salacious scent, no matter how faint? Why else has the establishment professed that Trump must change the very formula that resulted in him trouncing multiple Republican rivals―many of whom were thought to be the crème de la crème of Republican politicians?

The answer? Trump is winning this war to restore the Silent Majority and his victory means the pay for play power structure in Washington―enjoyed by both Democrats and Republicans alike―is about to come crashing down.

Maybe it has something to do with the vein-popping apoplexy about what reads like the embittered triumphal confession of defeat, as if it is all of the third week in August and already the time has come to start accounting for what pass as blessings or redemption amid the devastation of failure.

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Image note: Top ― Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump departs from a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, 27 July 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri) Right ― Detail of This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow, via Daily Kos, 15 August 2016.

Murray II, Joseph R. “Trump’s recruitment of Bannon means war and everyone knows it”. The Hill. 19 August 2016.

The Clinton Nexus: Critique and Purpose

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses supporters at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, 7 June 2016, after vote projections achieved a majority of pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential primary. (Detail of photo by Steve Sands/WireImage)

As editorials in the guise of reportage go, Niall Stanage’s effort to get into the presidential race for The Hill isn’t as completely terrible as it could be:

In the general election, Clinton can offer a depth of policy experience that far exceeds that of Trump, who has never held elected office. But she also has no slogan as simple and straightforward as his exhortation to “Make America Great Again.”

It’s a failure that some Democratic insiders find perplexing.

“It’s not clear what the over-arching message is yet,” said New York-based Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “It is clear that being the anti-Trump has some value; it is clear that offering economic policy has some value. But there is no over-arching message.”

An anonymous Democratic strategist asks, “What’s her vision for the country?” In a way it seems a pertinent question, but in the end it is just another reporter complaining about a non-traditional year.

Part of the difficulty, Democrats say, resides in Clinton’s cautious personality and her past political experiences. Her tendency toward incrementalism doesn’t lend itself to bumper sticker slogans, but she learned the hard way how tough it is to enact sweeping change. Her push for health care reform during the first term of her husband, President Bill Clinton, ended in utter failure.

Those past political experiences help explain why Clinton exhibits a mild disdain for the soundbites that Sanders and Trump―and other candidates―can deploy so readily.

When Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists almost a year ago, she told them, “Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”

Her arguments are such moments may well be fair, or at least plausible. But “change allocation of resources” is not the kind of call to thrill the masses.

In addition, some people suggest that the sheer length of Clinton’s record means that it is hard for to her to gin up the same enthusiasm as new arrivals on the political scene.

Trump “can say anything and he gets applause because he’s fresh and new. She doesn’t get the same applause because she’s not fresh and new,” Sheinkopf said. “It’s more difficult for her than it is for him because Trump has no political history and can therefore say anything and do anything.”

The answer exists within the explanation; it’s just not necessarily apparent because we are all supposed to be looking elsewhere. Stanage’s entire article orbits a presupposition that Hillary Clinton is making a mistake, yet here we encounter an occasion when the question of a mistake seems counterintuitive.

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The Donald Trump Show (American Distress)

Detail of image via Trump campaign.

“Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 + 1 does not equal 5.”

Steve Benen

The thing about politics right now is that everything is really, really depressing. I’m deathly sick of Donald Trump, yet the question persists: How did this happen?

Nor do I mean that in any context suggesting plaintive puzzlement. We all have a reasonable idea how the abdication of civic leadership in the context of public service struck the Republican Party so low after decades of pandering to ill-educated bigotry.

Donald Trump saying something stupid really shouldn’t be headline news. It shouldn’t be anything unusual. It shouldn’t be anything the rest of us have any reason to give a damn about. Then again, just how the hell did Republicans find themselves with Donald Trump as their presidential nominee apparent?

Oh, right.

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The Donald Trump Show (Sacrifice of the Intellect)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is―

Has Donald J. Trump become a born-again Christian?

That is the suggestion of James C. Dobson, one of America’s leading evangelicals, who said Mr. Trump had recently come “to accept a relationship with Christ” and was now “a baby Christian.”

Dr. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and one of the country’s most prominent social conservatives, gave his account at a meeting Mr. Trump had in New York on Tuesday with hundreds of Christian conservatives.

In an interview recorded at the event by a Pennsylvania pastor, the Rev. Michael Anthony, Dr. Dobson said he knew the person who had led Mr. Trump to Christ, though he did not name him.

“I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long,” Dr. Dobson said. “I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”

(Gabriel and Luo)

―you know, I don’t know. It’s fucking pathetic, is what it is.

Look, if this naïveté is the bounty of faith―no, really, pick your punch line. How about, I’m glad I called bullshit and walked away decades ago/ Maybe, Why would anybody want to be like them? Oh, hey, I got it: Why are we still paying attention?

I get that these people are desperate, but the capacity for self-delusion among conservative Christians is emblematic of self-inflicted human frailty.

And while “the dumbest thing James Dobson ever said” is kind of like trying to pick the best rock song ever recorded by surveying an 80s catalog, or the best movie ever made by scrolling through free cable on demand, the craven idiocy of trying to justify Donald Trump is itself a spectacle; “baby Christian”, though, is an all-time great.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Gabriel, Trip an Michael Luo. “A Born-Again Donald Trump? Believe It, Evangelical Leader Says”. The New York Times. 25 June 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Total Devastation)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), at left, joins Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump during a press event at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Super Tuesday, 1 March 2016. Christie, who suspended his own presidential campaign in February has been widely ridiculed for endorsing Trump.

“A spokesman for Christie denied he was a manservant.”

Andrew Kaczynski

Two important points:

• Do you really want to know what that sentence means?

• Okay, look, the thing I still can’t figure out about the phantom candidate conspiracy theory is why. Still, though, it occurs to wonder at the actual reason Donald Trump has every appearance of trying to destroy the Republican Party. The bizarre bits and pieces we hear about Chris Christie seem nearly emblematic. Whatever hell the New Jersey governor’s reputation had already discovered one wonders at the penance of such humiliation in Donald Trump’s shadow. That the Republican nominee apparent is so vicious is beyond doubt, but what does Mr. Christie think he’s doing? Or Republicans, for that matter? The RNC, many congressional Republicans, and various prominent voices in the conservative discourse seemed to shrug and roll, shuffling in line behind their party’s primary winner. And then what happened? Look at what Donald Trump is doing to conservatives. This is astounding. This is unimaginable. This is your Republican Party, and if it wasn’t for the fact that they were Republicans we probably ought to pity them right about now. I mean, sure, for a lot of the rest of us our diverse grievances against and disputes with Donald Trump are pretty clear, but what the hell did the GOP do to piss him off this badly?

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Kaczynski, Andrew. “Scott Brown Says He Won’t Fetch Trump’s McDonalds Like Christie (Reportedly) Did”. BuzzFeed. 15 June 2016.