Friday, August 28, 2015

What Trump knows that you don't

The Washington Examiner ^ | August 27, 2015 | W. James Antle III 

When pundits call Donald Trump a "know-nothing," they are not just using a historical if pejorative term to describe his immigration stance. They really mean that he appears to know nothing about public policy or governance.
On the charitable assumption that his blustery, content-free stump speech isn't an act, you'll get no argument here. But Trump does seem to know a lot more about politics than many of his detractors, including those critics who are well versed in the finer details of entitlement reform or international trade policy.
Trump's success in the polls has been particularly frustrating for wonky conservatives. How can so many people buy into the business expertise of someone who so often gives technically wrong answers to economic questions?
Worse, why do so many conservatives seem enamored with a candidate who has taken unconservative positions on issues like taxes, abortion, healthcare reform and entitlements — that is, most of the conservative domestic agenda — and in some cases hasn't even bothered to move to the right on them?
Pat Buchanan gave us a hint in his 1992 Republican National Convention speech, when he spoke of "conservatives of the heart" whose political convictions were more visceral than intellectual. "They don't read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they came from the same schoolyards and playgrounds and towns as we did," he told the delegates.
Many Americans, even those engaged enough to identify as liberal or conservative much less Republican or Democrat, aren't systematic political thinkers. They vote for candidates based on who they like or trust. They cast their ballots on the basis of real and perceived self-interest. To the extent that they approach politics in a more ideological or partisan way, it is often through a nexus of loyalties and identity as much as a specific preference for how high the capital gains tax should be.
A lot of conservatism is based on an inchoate sense that something important about the America of old is being lost. Maybe it's because the government is getting too big, or social values are changing, or the demographics are different, or even a feeling that the country's foreign enemies are ascendant. But conservatives haven't always thought it was morning in America.
Mainstream Republicans have capitalized on these sentiments many times. Party leaders from George W. Bush to Sarah Palin have rallied attitudinal red staters. Trump has just taken this identity appeal to the next level.
But in terms of policy, it isn't just that some conservatives haven't read Hayek. They fundamentally disagree with him. At the grassroots level, the American right has always had strong strains of nationalism and moralism. That's not an inherently bad thing, but the modern conservative movement has generally tried to wed these tendencies to a more limited or even libertarian view of government.
Nationalism and moralism can easily be expressed through strong, activist government as well. The platforms of right-wing parties in Europe and the rest of the world are frequently anything but libertarian, even in the loose sense that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were.
Trump also understands that many voters across the ideological spectrum aren't looking for a detailed political platform or five-point policy plan as much they want leadership. They want their government, and the people who lead it, to fix things and get things done. They want someone who will fight for them.
All of this annoys conservative intellectuals, who patiently point out to Trump voters that they shouldn't want leadership from someone who supports single payer, or conservative activists, who with increasing impatience try to explain that the right can't be led by a Hillary Clinton/Harry Reid donor.
But certifiably mainstream conservatives, from Andrew Breitbart to Ted Cruz, have employed the fighting terminology long before Trump, with varying degrees of specificity. You knew whom they were fighting — the Left, big government, the establishment, Washington — but they didn't always have the same answer about the ultimate purpose.
Before Reagan, Richard Nixon won two terms in the White House successfully pairing populist, culturally conservative Silent Majority rhetoric with frequently quite liberal policies.
The Donald knows that for many people politics is a team sport. The fans who cheered Brett Favre in Green Bay booed him in Minnesota and vice versa. Trump is trying out for the GOP team and has the marketing experience to sell it. While his pitch may seem crude, with the thrice-married braggart invoking the "great Billy Graham" and calling the Bible his favorite book, but is it that much cruder than the fundraising appeals conservative and Tea Party groups send out daily?
In retrospect, Trump's 2013 appearance at Graham's 95th birthday celebration in North Carolina might have been the biggest tip-off that he was serious about running for president.
When Trump came on professional wrestling broadcasts and trash-talked Vince McMahon, the crowd loved it. He is simply applying the same approach to Jorge Ramos, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. The crowd still loves it.
Finally, as somebody whose success comes as much from his fame as his real estate fortune, Trump gets the celebrity culture. Americans are obsessed with it and reality TV has blurred the lines between entertainment and, well, reality.
The citizenry's desire to keep up with the Kardashians and its anger at the political class has proved a potent combination. Many Americans think the people running their government are jokes, self-promoting blowhards with bad, expensive haircuts engaged in pointless political theater.
Why not have a candidate who will:
A.) Pick up issues with significant political appeal that the establishment in both parties won't touch
B.) Treat the system like the joke that it is and
C.) Lampoon the bad-haired self-promoters just by existing?
Trump may be a blowhard, the reasoning goes, but at least he's our blowhard.
This act is probably less sustainable than the entitlements Trump doesn't want to reform, but for a limited time it can be just as popular with its intended audience. The know-nothing may know a thing or two after all.

The GOP Field That Failed

The Politico Magazine ^ | August 26, 2015 | Rich Lowry, editor, The National Review 

The rise of Donald Trump is, in part, a function of a vacuum.
He is thriving in a Republican field that is large, talented and, so far, underwhelming. There’s 17 candidates and nothing on. Except Donald Trump.
Now, this has much to do with the media, and with Trump’s unique qualities as a showman. He has the advantage of not caring, about anything apparently — the facts, his reputation, or, ultimately, winning the presidency. In consequence, he is a free man.
The Jorge Ramos incident was Trump in microcosm. He did what no other Republican politician could get away with (having a security guy manhandle a Latino reporter) and displayed a cavalier disregard for reality by denying he was having Ramos removed, even as he had him removed. But the episode was mesmerizing, and Trump — in his madcap way — was commanding in how he handled it.
If any other candidate had done that or something similar, it would have been a signature event of his campaign, but for Trump it was just another day on the trail, to be eclipsed by some other memorable event tomorrow.
Trump has at least half a dozen such indelible moments — his bizarre announcement, the John McCain diss, the Lindsey Graham cellphone, the Megyn Kelly fight (x2), the Mobile rally — when the rest of the field has almost none. No speech, no policy proposal, no argument, nothing from the other candidates has come close to capturing the imagination of voters, giving Trump the space to loom all the larger.
The weakness starts at the top, or what was supposed to be the top. In the normal course of things, the establishment front-runner provides coherence to the field. Hence, the expectation that the field would have Jeb Bush and a not-Bush, or maybe two. For the moment, this assumption has collapsed, as the current shape of the field is Trump and everyone else.
This is quite the comedown for Bush. His “shock and awe” has turned into getting sand kicked on him at the beach by a loudmouth and bully. It’s not just that Bush is trailing Trump badly in the polls; he has acceded to the terms of the debate being set by the mogul. It wasn’t long ago that Bush swore off talking about Trump, as basically beneath him. Now, he is sniping with him daily.
Before he got in the race, Bush spoke of only wanting to do it if he could run joyfully. Little did he know that he would be joyously grappling with an ill-informed blowhard who takes it as his daily obligation to insult Bush and trample on the pieties he holds dear.
In the argument with Trump over mass deportation, clearly Bush is right. But the split screen with Trump doesn’t necessarily do him any favors. Trump is such a forceful communicator that he comes off as some sort of throwback alpha male, whereas Bush is such an earnest wonk he looks and sounds like a sensitive dad from a contemporary sitcom. It’s like watching a WWE wrestler get a stern talking to from Ned Flanders.
Bush is not a natural performer to begin with (he struggles with set speeches), and he believes his contribution to the race is to be the nonthreatening Republican, which is often indistinguishable from the uninteresting Republican. So while Bush has methodically built the superstructure of an impressive campaign — with fundraising, organization and policy proposals — he has so far barely warmed up an ember among voters.
Scott Walker, in contrast, had a surge early in the campaign. It dissipated over time when his limited preparation on national issues didn’t match his outsized early press exposure. A so-so debate performance and the rise of Trump have continued his long fade to middle of the pack in the latest early state polling (tied for fourth in New Hampshire and tied for seventh in South Carolina).
Walker’s ability to appeal to both the establishment and activist wings of the party had looked like a strength, but now it seems a precarious balancing act, made all the more difficult by a panicky reaction to Trump.
No sooner had Walker pronounced himself “aggressively normal” in the debate than he seemed to opt for just “aggressive” in an attempt to play to the passions tapped by Trump. Who could have predicted that the Midwestern candidate who tells stories about buying shirts for $1 at Kohl’s would have to play populist catch-up with the New York billionaire who travels by eponymous helicopter?
Walker had already changed his mind about immigration, shifting from support for a “comprehensive” approach to strong opposition to amnesty. Trump has pushed him further, and Walker has gotten tangled up on the issue of birthright citizenship.
Walker had already changed his mind about immigration, shifting from support for a “comprehensive” approach to strong opposition to amnesty. Trump has pushed him further, and Walker has gotten tangled up on the issue of birthright citizenship.
At the Iowa State Fair, he seemed at one point to say that he was opposed to it. Then, he told John Harwood of CNBC he wouldn’t take a position on it. Finally, on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” he danced around a question on the 14th Amendment before saying that anything that goes beyond simply enforcing our immigration laws is a red herring.
Earlier this week, Walker blasted President Barack Obama for hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping for a state visit, even though as governor he had been friendly to China and obligingly wore a Chinese-American flag pin in an appearance on Chinese state TV.
It’s one thing to play to the mood of voters; it’s another to give the appearance of not quite knowing who you are, which is much more deadly than an August dip in the polls.
As for Marco Rubio, for whom expectations have been so high, he has been the least reactive to Trump. His campaign is still betting on the long game. It believes his natural talent will tell over time, but he doesn’t have a natural geographic or ideological base, and his 21st-century economic agenda — although thoughtful — is not likely to stoke enthusiasm among primary voters.
Ted Cruz may be benefiting most from the Trump surge in his strategic positioning. He has a cogent theory of the case, which is that if he is nice to Trump — and the other outsider candidates — he eventually can inherent his supporters. This makes intuitive sense, although Cruz — exceedingly careful in crafting his words and in calculating his interest — is hardly a natural anti-politician.
It is still August, of course. The rules of gravity say Trump will come back down to earth. The media interest that is so intense now could burn out. His lack of seriousness should be a drag over time, and he will still have to weather more debates and presumably — should he stay strong — a barrage of negative ads.
Even if he fades, though, someone else will have to fill the screen. To this point, No one else has been big or vivid enough to do it.

Not Feeling Well... Sick with PIST AWF?

Aug 15 | hapnHal 

I am sorry that I have not been very responsive to post comments lately. I have been somewhat under the weather since my doctors informed me that I have an acute case of Post Islamic Stress Trauma with Apologetic White House Fatigue (PIST-AWF).

For those of you who do not know what that is; PIST-AWF is a newly defined disease that has been found to be widespread and highly contagious.

January, 2015 – Doctors at the CDC released a statement disclosing a new disease that has already infected over half of the United States and is anticipated to continue its rapid spread. The disease itself affects the cells of a person’s entire body then goes dormant. The disease ravages the body and leaves serious side effects. These side effects have been labeled as PIST-AWF.
Symptoms include:
* Severe pain of the scalp from pulling your own hair while viewing your president pander to Muslim terrorists.
* Uncontrollable heartburn at 8:00 PM during the O’Reilly factor.
* Loose bowels from swallowing the fact we elected Obama – twice.
* Extreme pain and discomfort due to vomiting from seeing terrorists murdering innocent people nightly.
* Bleeding from the eyes. This is not Ebola. It is your eyes reacting to accidentally flipping to a channel that shows Al Sharpton as a legitimate news show host and presidential confidant.
Since the disease consumes the entire body, every infected person is then identified as the disease itself.
If you feel you have Post Islamic Stress Trauma with Apologetic War Fatigue, please notify your local election board and place your name on the list for a cure. It is expected, and sincerely hoped, that the cure will be available in November of 2016.

The Lid: The GOP's Dynamic Duo? (Cruz and Trump)

NBC News' The Lid ^ | August 27, 2015 | Carrie Dann and Andrew Rafferty 

If you can't beat 'em, ask 'em to join you! In what is a pretty unusual move for a primary contest, Ted Cruz has invited Trump to join him at a rally to highlight opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. The Texas senator has long appeared to be positioning himself to pick up a chunk of Trump's supporters, including through his efforts to avoid criticism of even Trump's most bombastic statements. Cruz has not attacked Trump, and has in turn been one of the few GOP candidates who have successfully stayed out of The Donald's crosshairs.(As Trump is fond of noting, candidates who have aggressively criticized him haven't fared well in the polls, while Cruz has thrived this summer.)
And take a look at these numbers: In the latest poll from Quinnipiac, Cruz had just a quarter of Trump's support overall (coming in at seven percent, compared to Trump's 28 percent lead,) but he ran much more competitively with Trump among Tea Party Republicans and those who say they are "very conservative." Among Tea Party backers, Cruz captured 21 percent, compared to Trump's 25 percent. So it looks like Cruz has a good reason to believe that he'd get support from a slice of Trump's supporters if the real estate mogul deflates.

•Donald Trump defended his hair and attacked the New York Times during a rally in South Carolina, one of us(!) reports.
•Joe Biden could face an usual challenge if he jumps into the 2016 race: his gender....
(Excerpt) Read more at ...


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