Republican establishment

What They Voted For: Swamp

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Who: Christina Flom (Roll Call)
What: “Rand Paul on Bolton Appointment: ‘Heaven Forbid'”
When: 15 November 2016

Roll Call brings us up to speed:

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul says that President-elect Donald Trump appointing former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to his Cabinet would be a major step toward breaking his promise of “changing America’s disastrous foreign policy.”

Rumors that Trump is considering Bolton as Secretary of State prompted Paul to write an op-ed in Rare.us, calling Bolton “part of failed elite that Trump vowed to oppose” ....

.... Paul said no man “is more out of touch” with the Middle East than Bolton and that Bolton is unable to see the mistakes he has made.

“All nuance is lost on the man,” Paul wrote. “The fact that Russia has had a base in Syria for 50 years doesn’t deter Bolton from calling for all out, no holds barred war in Syria. For Bolton, only a hot-blooded war to create democracy across the globe is demanded.”

This is one of those interesting things Republicans do to themselves. The Kentucky also-ran is not without a point, but he’s also Rand Paul, and this is Donald Trump’s Republican Party, now. There really isn’t anything surprising happening, which is a strange thing considering it’s happening at all. Still, though, as Donald Trump continues to undermine pretty much every allegedly respectable reason anyone might have offered in defense of their vote, we should remember that it always was about supremacism and lulz.

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What They Voted For: That Most Special of Interests

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Who: Darren Samuelsohn (Politico)
What: “Trump’s kids to run businesses via ‘blind trust,’ Trump attorney says”
When: 10 November 2016

Politico offers the necessary context:

Donald Trump’s vast business holdings will be placed into a blind trust with his oldest three children in charge, according to the president-elect’s attorney.

Trump during his campaign faced questions about how he’d handle his business dealings and potential conflicts if he were to become president, saying repeatedly he’d separate himself from the company. And while his lawyer Thursday used the term “blind trust” when discussing the family’s upcoming financial arrangement, putting Trump’s children in charge of a set of assets that their father is aware of does not constitute a blind trust. Under the legal definition of a blind trust, a public official places his finances under the management of an independent party. The official would have no knowledge of what is in the trust or how it is managed. On CNN, Cohen conceded Trump would have a difficult time satisfying critics who continue to raise doubts about their plans.

(Samuelsohn; boldface accent added)

This is how Trump voters and supporters will work around the cognitive dissonance of cronyism and nepotism in their ostensibly anti-corruption, anti-cronyist, anti-Establishment, anti-institutional figurehead: Ego defense. Redefining terms like nepotism and cronyism in order to exclude what one desperately wishes to protect requires some manner of neurotic complex; there is no precise classification for cravenly making it up as you go, so denial and suppression cannot in themselves suffice, as it is not so straightforward. There is some pretense of intellectualization and rationalization, but scrambling to justify post hoc projection and displacement―while flailing into concomitant secondary denial about whatever prior sentiments and processes one is replacingα―is neither intellectual nor rational.

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What It Comes To (Unconventional Meltdown Mix)

Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Museum, in Winterset, Iowa, 19 January 2016. (Detail of photo by Tannen Maury/epa/Corbis.)

This is very nearly hilarious:

It’s something to keep in mind as the GOP establishment continues to rally behind Ted Cruz, a candidate party leaders have actively and fiercely hated for several years. Some see the Texas senator as a less-ridiculous option to the current Republican frontrunner, but many also see him as a means to an end: if they can boost Cruz and he does well enough to keep Trump below 1,237, it may open the door to keeping the nomination out of Trump’s and Cruz’s hands.

(Benen)

This is your Republican Party.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Museum, in Winterset, Iowa, 19 January 2016. (Detail of photo by Tannen Maury/epa/Corbis.

Benen, Steve. “The Republican convention fight already getting underway”. msnbc. 25 March 2016.

The Marco Rubio Show (Elephant Gore Pioneer)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), talks to CNBC correspondent John Harwood during an interview at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, 5 October 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This is the Marco Rubio Show:

Speaking before dozens of influential Jewish Republicans here last week, Marco Rubio lashed out at President Obama’s foreign policy and vowed, “When I am Commander-in-Chief, I will fortify our alliance with Israel.”

Applause filled the room and Rubio sought a deeper connection. “As speaker of the Florida House,” he said, “I pioneered what became a national effort by requiring the Florida pension program to divest from companies linked to Iran’s terrorist regime.”

It was groundbreaking, but Rubio had nothing to do with creation of the legislation.

(Leary)

We have before noted that the junior U.S. Senator from Florida has shown himself something of a dim bulb in the foreign policy pack; everything from his campaign slogan to his understanding of history to his comprehension of nation-building is borrowed failure―he is a walking rehash of bad ideas and, apparently, empty bluster and braggadocio.

Here is a fun irony: With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) palling around with terrorists, did Marco Rubio just have an “Al Gore moment”? Hindsight suggests they might actually be trying to do this; the only rational argument otherwise is the reasonable―even otherwise convincing―proposition that such endeavors require way too much effort for the payoff. But, really, can Republicans be any more ironic right now?

You know, don’t answer. Something about the elephant in the room goes here.

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Clowntastic

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.

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The Clown Car Breakdown

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Four paragraphs from Steve Benen:

Nine candidates would be a big field under any circumstances, but in this case, just the governors alone―Bush, Christie, Gilmore, Huckabee, Kasich, Jindal, Pataki, Perry, and Walker―had enough to field a baseball team. Add Democratic governors to the mix―O’Malley and Chafee―and the number swells to 11.

And at a certain level, this is understandable. For many in both parties, it’s long been assumed that governors have the edge in the party’s nominating contests, in part thanks to history―Reagan, Carter, Clinton, W. Bush, Romney, et al―and also because of the nature of the job. Being the chief executive of a state, the theory goes, offers ideal training for being the chief executive in the White House. Governors learn how to manage and respond to crises. They learn how to oversee a massive, bureaucratic team, while working opposite a legislature. They learn how to lead.

How many sitting GOP senators have ever been elected to the White House? Only one. It was Warren Harding, who was elected nearly a century ago. This is hardly accidental―Americans tend to hate Congress, so they don’t necessarily look to Capitol Hill for national leaders.

And yet, here we are. Two of the most experienced candidates of the cycle―Rick Perry and Scott Walker, both governors―have already quit (as has Lincoln Chafee). George Pataki and Jim Gilmore were excluded from the debates altogether this week, while Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee were relegated to the kids’ table, where they joined Bobby Jindal. Jeb Bush and John Kasich made the prime-time stage, but both are struggling badly. The latter faced booing.

This is actually important in its own right; in an anti-institutional year when career politicians who achieve governorships are actually being viewed as career politicians, the landscape really does seem strange from an unradicalized perspective. Indeed, how strange might we now find the recollection that back in April, even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was pitching for senators against governors in the presidential context. Even in unhinged quarters, gubernatorial experience was actually respected earlier in this cycle.

With a flaccid RNC and impotent Congressional leadership, the anti-institutional movement driving Donald Trump and Ben Carson to the top of the polls would seem to get the nod: Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party.

Nor might we begin to speculate at what that means. Still, as Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa of the Washington Post explore the now perpetual chatter of growing discomfort and even “panic” among establishment Republicans, it is hard to fathom the idea that even in the GOP, this is starting to become an American existential question:

The apprehension among some party elites goes beyond electability, according to one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the worries.

“We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job,” this strategist said. “It’s not just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”

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Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015

Benen, Steve. “Governors find a hostile 2016 landscape”. msnbc. 13 November 2015.

Rucker, Phillip and Robert Costa. “Time for GOP panic? Establishment worried Carson or Trump might win.” The Washington Post. 13 November 2015.

A Clown Car Presentation: Insurevirentaderble

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Never read too much into any one poll, but the lede from Associated Press is nonetheless troubling:

Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.

But wait, there’s more:

Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Trump could win in November 2016 if he is nominated, and that’s the most who say so of any candidate. By comparison, 6 in 10 say the same for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of antiestablishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest.

And then there is the reality check: “Trump and Carson are considered among the least electable general election candidates by the Republican Party’s professionals, those who are in the business of helping candidates run campaigns and win elections”, explain Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson, and in truth one need not be a political professional to figure that out. Still, though, how superstitious do we really wish to be?

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The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger Sequel)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), in uncredited photo circa 2013.

It is true that if This Is actually issued candidate endorsements, you know, pretending that our opinion actually meant anything significant, we would at this time seriously consider endorsing South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham for the Republican nomination.

Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right – and presidential contender Sen. Lindsey Graham is wondering how the heck he’s not doing better in the polls.

The hawkish Republican, who’s spent nearly 13 years in the U.S. Senate, shared these gripes today on Morning Joe.

‘On our side, you’ve got the No. 2 guy, tried to kill somebody at 14, and the No. 1 is high energy and crazy as hell,’ Graham said of Ben Carson and Donald Trump, respectively.

‘How am I losing to these guys?’ Graham asked.

(Schwab)

The Daily Mail article really is near to hilarious, but that’s the thing. For all the show Lindsey Graham is putting on, it is not as if his politics exactly―or, you know, remotely―match up with the issues and perspectives covered here, but once again the American right wing has become so ridiculous that, yes, the South Carolina Republican becomes so moderate by comparison that one might stand shoulder to shoulder. Mr. Graham seems to have some reasonable perspicacity about the magnitude of the spectacle we are witnessing in the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest; he is enough of a Party stalwart to bear some caution in his heart toward the future. For now, unfortunately, the serious candidates are judged by popular ratings, not the content of their campaigns. Or, you know, maybe we’re wrong about that. Maybe this really is about the content of their campaigns.

It is, after all, undeniable that Trump and Carson alike seem to prosper by bigotry and potsherd insanity. And as Republicans seem to be at least going through the motions of pretending to prepare themselves for resigning with heaving sigh to the reality of a Donald Trump nomination―over two months before voting begins and delegates gather―we might reasonably wonder at the power of such toxic content.

And all Lindsey Graham wants is to save the Republican Party from itself. And, yeah, you know, if we could get back to former valences of moral bankruptcy of what once counted for dignified conservative politicking in the Republican Party―you know, heartless capitalism and authoritarianism that rolled its eyes at having to occasionally accommodate the disdainful adventures of its rabid social conservative wing―we might at least call it some degree of progress.

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Schwab, Nikki. “Lindsey Graham says he’s shocked he’s losing to ‘crazy as hell’ Trump and Ben Carson after retired neurosurgeon admits trying to stab someone when he was a teen”. Daily Mail. 26 October 2015.

The Ben Carson Show (And Your Mother, Too!)

“They tell you that there’s a war on women. There is no war on women. There may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.” ―Dr. Ben Carson

So, you know, we finally got around to making up a quote image for Dr. Ben Carson’s wonderful war inside women gaffe.

Because, like, you know. You care. Or something.

And, you know, because if people are going to read, they tend to need pictures, too, these days. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to socmed another freaking cat video, why not this?

Because, you know, sure, why not? I mean, look, I’m not going to knock sports fans. But in truth, if most of the sports fans I know paid half as much attention to, you know … er, look, okay? I know. I come from a football family. And I get it. Sports really do affect our lives.

But compared to elections? Yeah, I know, maybe the trade seems inexplicable, giving up prospects when there’s no way it’s going to pay off five years down the road, but I am a father, goddamn it! Yeah, I like championship trophies and hoisting pints to victory as much as the next, but you know what I like even more? A world in which creepy old men aren’t declaring war on my daughter’s insides.

And by the juxtaposition, it is worth pointing out that those of us who have better awareness of the political farm leagues than, say, the baseball version from which we take the term, are slightly awestruck today as more evidence emerges that the Republican establishment is afraid of what might be about to happen. But that also throws the political calculus of what happens when and if Donald Trump actually does crash and burn the way the conventional wisdom once believed he must; Dr. Carson would, given the apparent mood among Republican voters at this moment, be a more likely nominee than, say, Jeb Bush.

And in the time you wasted reading my halfwitted justification for wasting it, you could have grabbed that image and sent it to a friend who probably needs it either for their own benefit, or as something to send to someone they know.

I mean, really. I have a daughter. And, you know, a mother. And lots and lots of friends and neighbors who just happen to be female. And not a one of them needs Ben Carson’s goddamn war inside their bodies.

And, you know, “Some of my friends are women!” hardly makes me special. Indeed, for the most part it makes me just like you.

Admit it. You know someone who needs to be paying attention right about now.

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Image note: Source photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, 2015.

Johnson, Eliana. “The Establishment Thinks the Unthinkable: Trump Could Win the Nomination”. National Review. 19 October 2015.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger)

No, seriously, people need to start paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Graham has told colleagues he launched his implausible presidential campaign, in part, for two reasons: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

(Everett)

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina has not even a tattered map fragment with a shadow of a line that might have once been there that could possibly be something resembling a pathway to the presidency. Yet to consider a personal context, he is also the kind of Republican who it is much, much easier to respect, even if we don’t like the guy. And if it is true that he is in this for the long haul regardless of the outcome, Lindsey Graham suddenly becomes one to watch:

Graham said in an interview he’s prepared to confront Cruz directly as the chamber braces for a rhetorical assault from the Texas senator, with Graham arguing that a shutdown would be futile and politically damaging. It’s an opportunity, Graham says, “to tell my side of the story here.” And, the senator with the syrupy Southern drawl admits, it won’t be because he thinks it’s going to give him a bounce in the polls.

“I’m running to be the president of the United States. And a certain amount of honesty comes with that,” Graham said in an interview. “Shutting down the government, I think it hurts our overall cause and I don’t mind telling people that. If I’m going to be a good nominee and a good president, I’ve got to tell you what I believe” ....

.... Still, Graham has little to lose at this point in his campaign. He can’t sink any lower in the polls, and fighting a pitched battle against the conservative wing of the party could help boost him in the eyes of moderate Republicans.

In fact, Graham was thinking about squaring off with Cruz and Paul from the very beginning of his campaign.

No, really, this could be interesting. Like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, Mr. Graham will have some difficulty navigating the turbulent waters of the preseason feeding frenzy as voters chomp down on platform and principle; later, when serious questions of how to actually win the White House rise (we hope) to their proper prominence, America’s most eligible bachelor hawk might find himself well positioned to not only shore up the establishment Republican guard, but compete for the nomination. Steve Benen noted, in reflection on Scott Walker’s early withdrawal:

Many observers – inside the Republican Party and out – simply assume as a matter of course that the Inexperienced Three will eventually fizzle, leaving a race featuring only a handful of credible contenders. The list will likely include two establishment governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two very conservative senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio).

In this scenario, is this a contest that could elevate Rubio to the GOP nomination? Of course it is.

The weird thing about the Rubio pathway is that it is not so far-fetched. But how does the political calculus change if another establishment Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also in there peeling votes from the insurgents?

This could be entertaining, indeed. It should certainly be interesting. As to the question of whether or not it is real, we need only keep our eyes and ears open. Perhaps something is about to happen.

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Image note: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). (Detail of photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Everett, Burgess. “Graham itching to confront Cruz, Paul”. Politico. 24 September 2015.

Benen, Steve. “As GOP field shrinks, Marco Rubio gets the spotlight”. msnbc. 22 September 2015.