Enquiring minds want to know – will there be open carry at the Republican National Convention?

Good day Austin:

I moved this weekend from Allandale to Delwood II.

In Allandale, I lived just around the corner from Ginny’s Little Longhorn, home of Chicken Sh*t Bingo.

Ginny's Little Longhorn
Ginny at The Little Longhorn

 

chick2
the chicken

In Delwood II, the fowl of note are peacocks. Wild peacocks.

From the Delwood II Neighborhood Association from a few years ago:

The Delwood II neighborhood of Austin, TX, is a beautiful, tree-filled oasis surroundedby IH-35 to the west, the old Mueller Airport property to the north and east, and Airport Boulevard to the south. The neighborhood consists of seven square blocks with 175 homes built in the late 1940’s, the 90-unit Princeton Apartments, two churches, and a limited area zoned for businesses located on the IH-35 access road. The homes are primarily owner-occupied, and most have been remodeled and well maintained. The residents reflect Austin’s diverse population with a mixture of young families, original homeowners, gay households, and every major ethnic, racial and religious group. The Delwood II Neighborhood Association represents the neighborhood politically and hosts numerous social activities, including the city’s oldest (50 years this 2007) Fourth of July neighborhood parade and celebration.

And noisy wild peacocks.

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From a useful guide accompanying a story in the Daily Mail about an invasion of wild peacocks in the English village of Banks.

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Both Allandale and Delwood II are excellent neighborhoods, but both wanting in one respect. I could not find a current copy of the National Enquirer this weekend. Not at the HEB or CVS – which both continued to carry last week’s edition even days after the new issue supposedly hit the newsstands. And one convenience store after another seemed more focused on their craft beer selection than the people’s right to tabloid journalism, and especially access to what friend-of-Trump David Pecker, CEO of American Media,  owner of The National Enquirer, has called the publication of record on presidential scandals.

 

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The Enquirer certainly had John Edwards dead to rights.

But, as Salon points out, for every direct hit, there are a lot of misfires.

For example, The Enquirer early this month broke the real story behind Antonin Scalia’s assassination, punctuated with the exclamation point that is the universal symbol of accuracy.

In a bombshell world exclusive, The National ENQUIRER has learned that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was a highly planned “political assassination” orchestrated by the CIA and carried out by a $2,000-a-night hooker! A top Washington, D.C. source said the Feb. 13 death of the 79-year-old jurist at a remote Texas ranch just 15 miles from Mexico was part of a “shocking conspiracy that tracks back to the CIA and the White House!”
And here is what amounts to the Enquirer’s answer to the League of Women Voters Voters’ Guide for the 2016 presidential election.
The National Enquirer
The National Enquirer

The issue I was looking for was the one about “Cheating Blake” Shelton.

I mean Ted Cruz.

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Beyond the salacious headlines, the Cruz story didn’t offer anything in the way of actual evidence, but was sneakily written to blow a lot of smoke without actually saying anything that would get it sued.
And it did yield an excellent New York Post headline:
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On Friday, Cruz, without prompting from reporters, confronted the Enquirer story head on, while campaigning in Ohskosh, b’gosh, Wisconsin, describing it as “garbage” generated by the Trump campaign, and part and parcel of Trump’s negative tweets directed at Cruz’s wife, Heidi.
Cruz said:

It is a story that quoted one source on the record: Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s chief political adviser. It is attacking my family. And what is striking is Donald’s henchman, Roger Stone, had for months been foreshadowing that this attack was coming. It’s not surprising that Donald’s tweet occurs the day before the attack comes out. And I would note that Mr. Stone is a man who has 50 years of dirty tricks behind him. He’s a man for whom a term was coined for copulating with a rodent. Well, let me be clear: Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.

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Oh dear. One month, Trump is terrific, and a few months later,  Cruz has no desire to copulate with him. He might not even support him if he is the Republican nominee.

I don’t make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family.

That’s a serious estrangement.

Blame Roger Stone.

For background on Stone, here is a First Reading from November  – Roger and Me: a Saturday in the Stone Zone

Here is Stone replying to Cruz on Frank Morano’s radio show over the weekend.

And here is Trump on ABC This Week with Jonathan Karl on Sunday:

KARL: So, I want to get to some policy issues, but first I’ve got to ask you about this nasty fight that has broken out between you and Ted Cruz. Do you categorically guarantee that nobody on your campaign, nobody tied to your campaign, had anything to do with this National Enquirer story?

TRUMP: Totally. I had nothing to do with it. The campaign had absolutely nothing to do with it. He’s got a problem with the National Enquirer. I have no control over the National Enquirer. I didn’t even know about the story. I just got it last night. Somebody sent it to me over to read so I could at least see what it said.

I had nothing to do whatsoever with the National Enquirer, and neither did the campaign. And I will tell you for him to try and say that I had to do with it try and put the shoe on the other foot is disgraceful.

And by the way, he’s the one that started it. And from what I hear, he and his campaign went out and bought the cover shoot. She did — Melania did a cover shoot for GQ, a very strong modeling picture. No big deal. But it was a cover shoot for GQ, a big magazine. And it was, you know, fine. And from what I hear somebody bought the rights to it and he was the one or his campaign bought the rights and they gave it to the super PAC.

And just so you understand, that super PAC is very friendly to Ted Cruz. He knew all about it 100 percent. So he started. I didn’t start it.

KARL: But let me ask you, this story, this that we see in the National Enquirer, this kind of rumor mongering, should this kind of thing just be off limits? Do you condemn this story?

TRUMP: I don’t care. I mean really I don’t care. The National Enquirer did a story. It was their story. It wasn’t my story. It was about Ted Cruz. I have no idea whether it was right or not. They actually have a very good record of being right. But I have absolutely no idea.

Frankly, I said, I hope it’s not right.

KARL: Let’s go back to the thing that started this all off. You mentioned, of course, in fairness you did not start this. This started with that super PAC ad featuring Melania. But in response…

TRUMP: And he’s very close to the super PAC, just so you understand. And there’s no way in a million years that super PAC did that without his absolute knowledge.

Don’t forget, I call him Lying Ted. I call him that because nobody that I’ve known, I’ve known a lot tougher people over the years in business, but I’ve never known anybody that lied like Ted Cruz.

KARL: But let me ask you, though, because in response you said in that tweet that you would spill the beans on Heidi Cruz. What did you mean by that? Spill what beans?

TRUMP: Well, there are things about Heidi that I don’t want to talk about, but I’m not going to talk about them.

I mean, you know, you can look. But I wouldn’t talk about them.

Very classy.

Here is Cruz on Fox News Sunday with Shannon Bream.

BREAM:  Senator, it was a bit like combat on the campaign trail this week.  It took a very nasty personal turn.

I want to start first with the Facebook and Instagram ad from an anti-Trump super PAC called Make America Awesome.  They published a picture that essentially was a nearly nude photo of Melania Trump.  Mr. Trump has said that you were lying about knowing about it or having anything to do with it.  He threatened to, quote, “spill the beans” on your wife Heidi.  

Did anyone within your campaign, you, anyone else connected you to coordinate in any way or have communications with that group?  Did you know anything about the ad?  

CRUZ:  Not remotely.  It was a group — I don’t know the person who’s involved.  As far as I know, I’ve never met them.  I’ve never spoken to them.  They’re completely disconnected from our campaign.  

The ad they put out was deplorable.  And as soon as I saw it, I denounced it and said it was wrong.  But it wasn’t us.  You know what?  There are a whole lot of people in America who disagree with Donald Trump.  

And he used that as an excuse, the fact that someone else who I don’t know and have no involvement with used a deplorable ad — he used that as an excuse to go after my wife Heidi, to go after my family, to attack her directly.  And not only did he threaten her directly, but then the next day, he sent a really nasty tweet juxtaposing a bad picture of Heidi with a good picture of his wife, and I guess bragging that his wife is so attractive.  

Listen, I have never once said any negative word about Melania or any member of his family.  I don’t intend to.  Melania is a lovely woman.  Everything I’ve seen, she seems to be a terrific mother.  

Attacking spouses and children is off-limits.  It has no place in politics.  

And sadly, what Donald has done, when he gets scared — listen, particularly on foreign policy, Donald is out of his depth, he doesn’t know.  He doesn’t understand these issues.  One of the reasons he was so scared this week is this past week, Donald called publicly for effectively withdrawing America from NATO.  Now that is a catastrophically foolish proposition. Abandoning Europe, withdrawing from the most successful military alliance of modern times makes no sense at all. If Donald were president, he actually did what he said he would do, withdraw from NATO, it would hand a massive victory to Putin, a massive victory to ISIS. ISIS would be dancing in the street at the weakness and isolationism of Donald Trump.

Now the day after he calls for withdrawing from NATO, this Brussels terror attack occurs. Brussels, is, of course, where NATO is headquartered. And so his lack of understanding on foreign policy, his lack of ability and readiness to protect his country was evident. And so Donald did what he always does, he tried to find a way to change the subject. He hasn’t campaigned for a week. He’s been hiding in Trump Tower. But late at night he sends tweets attacking my wife, attacking Heidi. It is inappropriate. It is wrong. It is, frankly, disgusting to see a candidate attacking the spouse of another. And it is a sign of just how scared Donald is right now because he doesn’t want to discuss the substance.

In fact, Shannon, that’s why he’s afraid to debate, why he refuses to debate because when he debates, his lack of understanding of the challenge facing America becomes evident for everyone to see.

BREAM: All right, let’s move on to the National Enquirer. This is what they say —

CRUZ: Yes.

BREAM: Alleging, quote, “private investigators are digging into at least five affairs Ted Cruz supposedly had.” All right, you and I are both lawyers. I have read this article in full. They use the word “supposedly” a lot, “may have,” “allegedly,” “apparently.” I don’t see any concrete allegations.

CRUZ: Yes. No.

BREAM: But would you like to respond?

CRUZ: Yes. Look, this story is garbage. It is tabloid smear. And it came from Donald Trump and his henchmen. You know the only person quoted on the record there is Roger Stone, the chief political adviser to Donald Trump. And this is the kind of lies and sleaze —

BREAM: They did have a parting of ways. They did have a parting of ways, so we don’t — we don’t know exactly what the relationship is. But, yes, he has been linked with Mr. Trump.

CRUZ: But — but — but, Shannon, they haven’t had a parting of ways. Not — Roger Stone remains the henchmen, the hatchet man, the enforcer for Donald Trump. He’s pushing these attacks. And, by the way, he’s been pushing them for many, many months online. These are complete made up lies. They’re garbage. But, you know, it’s indicative of just how low Donald Trump will go. He makes up lies and attacks —

BREAM: OK, but I want to make sure that we include what his response was on whether he’s linked to this or not. In a Facebook posting on Friday he said, “I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week’s issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it and have not as yet read it.”

CRUZ: Well, look, that’s very convenient to say except the article quotes Roger Stone, who organized and planned Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And I’ll note, David Pecker, the CEO of National Enquirer, is a close friend of Donald Trump. The National Enquirer has endorsed Donald Trump for president. And — and this entire campaign they’ve done two things, one, they’ve praised Donald Trump at every turn. And, two, they spread lies and smears and attacks on every — every one of his opponents. And — and — and this is garbage.

Look, we’ve got real problems in America. There — there are right now people — people are hurting. Their wages are stagnant. I mean people are out of work. They want to see jobs. And what does Donald Trump want to do? He doesn’t want to talk about these issues. He doesn’t — he has no answers for how to bring jobs back to America. Donald Trump has no idea how to do that. He has no answers for how to keep America safe from radical Islamic terrorism. So instead, he attacks my wife, he attacks my family he goes to garbage and sleaze and lies.

It’s categorically false and it has no business in politics. This is why people are disgusted in politics. And — and we need a — a leader who is prepared to address the real challenges facing this country. You know, I spent the last several days campaigning in Wisconsin. You know what the people there are interested in? How do we bring back our jobs? How do we see wages rising again?

And, from the Hill:

 Cruz campaign spokesperson Catherine Frazier said the campaign did not buy the photo rights. “Of course we haven’t and Trump knows it,” she said in an email to The Hill. “But [it’s] part and parcel for the sleazy, dishonest campaign he is running.”

This is a very bad situation.

In Friday’s First Reading, I recommended that, with wives’ honor on the line, a Cruz-Trump duel was the most appropriate and satisfactory way to resolve the matter.

But, that may not be sufficient to settle what is turning into a Republican civil war with accusations of delegate rustling and stealing the nomination.

Which brings us to the Change.org petition:

RECOGNIZE OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO OPEN CARRY FIREARMS AT THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION AT THE QUICKEN LOANS ARENA IN JULY 2016

SUMMARY: In July of 2016, the GOP will host its convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Though Ohio is an open carry state, which allows for the open carry of guns, the hosting venue—the Quicken Loans Arena—strictly forbids the carry of firearms on their premises.

According to the policy on their website, “firearms and other weapons of any kind are strictly forbidden on the premises of Quicken Loans Arena.”

This is a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk. As the National Rifle Association has made clear, “gun-free zones” such as the Quicken Loans Arena are “the worst and most dangerous of all lies.” The NRA, our leading defender of gun rights, has also correctly pointed out that “gun free zones… tell every insane killer in America… (the) safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.” (March 4, 2016 and Dec. 21, 2012)

Cleveland, Ohio is consistently ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous cities in America. By forcing attendees to leave their firearms at home, the RNC and Quicken Loans Arena are putting tens of thousands of people at risk both inside and outside of the convention site.

This doesn’t even begin to factor in the possibility of an ISIS terrorist attack on the arena during the convention. Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life.

All three remaining Republican candidates have spoken out on the issue and are unified in their opposition to Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s “gun-free zones.”

Donald Trump said “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools—you have—and on military bases on my first day. It gets signed my first day…you know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait.” (Jan. 8. 2016)

Ted Cruz has accurately pointed out “shooting after shooting after shooting happens in so called gun-free zones.” He continued, “look, if you’re a lunatic ain’t nothing better then having a bunch of targets you know that are going to be unarmed.” (Dec. 4, 2015)

And Ohio Governor John Kasich has been a leader in this movement to eliminate deadly “gun-free zones” starting with his brave decision to fight the Democrats and end “gun-free zones” at National Guard facilities in Ohio. (Dec. 18, 2015)

We are all too familiar with the mass carnage that can occur when citizens are denied their basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public. EVERY AMERICAN HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THEIR FAMILY. With this irresponsible and hypocritical act of selecting a “gun-free zone” for the convention, the RNC has placed its members, delegates, candidates and all US citizens in grave danger.

We must take a stand. We cannot allow the national nominating convention of the party of Lincoln and Reagan to be hijacked by weakness and political correctness. The policies of the Quicken Loans Arena do not supersede the rights given to us by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution.

THEREFORE, WE ARE CALLING TODAY FOR THE FOLLOWING FIVE POINTS OF ACTION:

1. From the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland: A suspension of their policy preventing the open carry of firearms on the premises of the arena from July 18-21, 2016 to coincide with the Republican National Convention.

2. From the National Rifle Association: An immediate condemnation of the egregious affront to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution constituted by the “gun-free zone” loophole to the state law.

3. From Ohio Governor John Kasich: A concerted effort to use his executive authority to override the “gun-free zone” loophole being exploited by the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

4. From Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee: An explanation of how a venue so unfriendly to Second Amendment rights was chosen for the Republican Convention. Further, we demand a contingency plan to relocate the convention to another location should the Quicken Loans Arena refuse to honor the constitutional rights of the RNC guests to open carry firearms during the convention.

5. From all Republican candidates for President: You have been brave in raising awareness about the immense dangers posed by “gun-free zones.” In order to ensure the safety of your supporters, delegates and all attendees at the convention in July, you must call upon the RNC to rectify this affront to our Second Amendment freedoms and insist upon a suspension of the Quicken Loans Arena’s unconstitutional “gun-free zone” loophole. Every American is endowed with a God-given Constitutional right to carry a gun wherever and whenever they please.

As of this morning, here’s where things stand.

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Ideologically and intellectually, I’m not sure how any courageous constitutional conservative can oppose open carry at the Cleveland convention. And, as a reporter who will be covering the convention, I think it will be a lot more convenient to cover violence within the convention hall rather than something like that messy 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, where the violence sprawled across the city.

I’m sure I would write with greater speed and urgency if the Quicken Pulse Arena turned into a free-fire zone.

And, really, think of how the power of the Texas delegation would be enhanced in an open carry convention, where they could bring a Remember the Alamo spirit and their superior fire power to claiming a second- or third-ballot victory for Ted Cruz, not to mention avenging Obamacare, Jade Helm and the assassination of Antonin Scalia.

Yee Ha!

And, for those who worry about friendly fire, the convention could open with an informational film narrated by Dick Cheney.

Trump was asked for his thoughts on an armed showdown at the Quicken Loans Arena on This Week:

KARL: OK. So let me ask you about a petition you may have seen that is gaining strength now, with more than 30,000 signatures, that is calling on the Republican National Committee to allow delegates at the convention in Cleveland to exercise their Second Amendment rights by carrying guns to the convention.

They have put this petition there, calling on presidential candidates like you, to, quote, “call upon the RNC to rectify this affront to our Second Amendment freedoms and insist upon a suspension of the Quicken Loans Arena unconditional gun-free zone.”

So let me ask you, what do you think?

Should delegates to the Republican convention be allowed to bring guns?

TRUMP: I haven’t seen the petition at all. You’re — I’m hearing it now for the first time. I will certainly take a look at it and I’ll let you know. But I have not seen the petition.

KARL: So you’re open to the idea of — of…

TRUMP: I have — I have not seen the petition. I want to see what it says. I want to read the fine print. I have to see what it says. I’m a very, very strong person for Second Amendment. I think very few people are stronger. And I have to see the petition.

But I’m not going to comment to you when I haven’t seen it. Just give me a few words.

KARL: OK, because you — you are a — as you said, probably the biggest critic of gun-free zones of any of the candidates. Uh, but as you said, very strong on the Second Amendment.

Forget the petition, what do you think of this idea of having delegates be able to carry guns, exercise their Second Amendment right — right there…

TRUMP: I don’t want to forget the petition. I don’t want to — I don’t want to forget the petition, because you’re talking about a petition. I will take a look at it.

It’s the first I hear about it — of it, and frankly, you know, nobody is stronger on the Second Amendment than me.

But I would like to take a look at it.

KARL: OK. Now, you’re getting closer and closer to getting the delegates you need to clinch the nomination. But look at what happened in Louisiana. You won the state of Louisiana. But it looks like Ted Cruz is coming out of there with more delegates, maybe as many as 10 more delegates. And he’s getting them on the key committees that will write the rules for the Republican convention.

Is Ted Cruz trying to steal this nomination from you?

TRUMP: Well, it tells you what a crooked system we have and what a rotten political system we have. And frankly, I’m so — I’m millions of votes more than — I have millions of votes more than “Lying Ted.” I have millions — millions of votes more.

I have many, many delegates more. I’ve won areas. And he’s trying to steal things because that’s the way Ted works, OK. Uh, the system is a broken system. The Republican tabulation system is a broken system. It’s not fair.

I have so many millions of votes more. I’ve brought people into this party by the millions. You understand that. They voted by the millions more. It’s one of the biggest stories in all of politics.

And what do I have?

I have a guy going around trying to steal people’s delegates. This is supposed to be America, a free America. This is supposed to be a system of votes where you go out, you have elections, free elections, not elections where I won.

I won Louisiana and now I hear he’s trying to steal delegates. You know, welcome to, uh, the Republican Party.

What’s going on in the Republican Party is a disgrace. I have so many more votes and so many more delegates. And, frankly, whoever at the end, whoever has the most votes and the most delegates should be the nominee. And I will beat Hillary Clinton. I haven’t even started on Hillary Clinton yet. I haven’t even — I only had one little skirmish with her about two months ago and she didn’t come out so well.

I haven’t even started on Hillary Clinton yet. I’m only focused on the two people I have left.

KARL: All right, Donald Trump, thank you so much for joining us on this Easter Sunday.

 This just in

From CNN:

Washington (CNN)The Secret Service says guns won’t be allowed into the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland this summer for the Republican National Convention, despite a petition pushing for it.

The agency said Monday it won’t allow any firearms past a perimeter and into the convention hall, despite the urging of pro-gun activists who called for Ohio’s open-carry laws to extend into the arena.
“Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event,” a Secret Service spokesman said in a statement.
The agency cited federal law authorizing them to prevent firearms from entering sites that protectees are visiting.
“Only authorized law enforcement personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service for a particular event may carry a firearm inside of the protected site,” the Secret Service said.
Well, what do you expect out of the Obama administration.
On Monday, Cruz said that he had not reviewed the open carry petition, but that the Secret Service has “the principal decision-making concerning security.”
So, no duel, no armed convention. It’s back to the drawing board.

 

The ballot or the bullet? Cruz should challenge `sniveling coward’ Trump to a duel

Good Friday Austin:

The Republican presidential campaign moved further into the darkness yesterday

Trump didn’t like the Facebook ad that an anti-Trump super PAC unaffiliated with the Cruz campaign ran in the run-up to the Utah caucuses, where Cruz creamed Trump.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.16.50 AMIn retaliation, Trump went on the attack against Heidi Cruz, which seemed on the face of it pretty despicable.

Yesterday, in Wisconsin, Cruz responded, “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.”

Asked if he would still support Trump, as he has pledged, if he is he ultimate nominee, Cruz replied. “I am going to beat him for the nomination … Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee.”

This sounds like a scene out of movie.

The other day, earlier in this quarrel, Cruz borrowed an apropos line from The American President.

I don’t see what’s wrong in reciting a little Aaron Sorkin at an appropriate moment.

Cruz, who once aspired to be an actor, is a bona fide movie buff and a bit of a ham.

His favorite movie – the one he has memorized like it is the U.S. Constitution – is The Princess Bride.

It seems to me Cruz has now reached that moment when he should deliver a variation on perhaps the most famous line from the movie.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Montoya is addressing that evil, six-fingered vulgarian, Count Tyrone Rugen.

It seems to me that Trump has now tread into territory where Cruz has every right to challenge him to duel to defend his wife’s honor.

Repeat after me: Hello. My name is Rafael Edward Cruz. You insulted my wife. Prepare to die.

From Jay Nordlinger in National Review:

 Of Donald Trump’s vile streak, I needed no more proof. He mocked a handicapped person — physically mocked him, imitated him. He said despicable things about Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina. He compared Ben Carson to a child molester. (Turns out, Carson didn’t mind so much, but that’s a different story . . .) He praised and defended Putin. He expressed the moral equivalence that one usually hears from the Left: “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”
But Trump’s antics in regard to Heidi Cruz are a new low. I’ve known Ted and Heidi for many years. In fact, I will have a piece on this subject in the next National Review: the one that becomes available tomorrow. Furthermore, I’ll expand on that piece in my online column.
Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.41.42 PMWhen I met Heidi, she was Heidi Nelson, an economic-policy whiz and beautiful, sporty California blonde. She had been in faraway places, on missions. She had hiked and trekked all over. She was exceptionally capable, and she was fearless. You can see why Ted was drawn to her, and why anyone would be. Like me and most other people, she has had highs and lows. Life has a way of being eventful. And Heidi, in my experience, has been a picture of poise, grace, and perseverance.
If Ted is president, I think Americans will like him a lot — more than they know now. If Heidi is first lady, they’ll probably like her even more. She can teach Trump, his supporters, and his apologists a thing or two about how to treat people.
I have nothing against Melania Trump. I’ve liked all of Trump’s wives. I like Trump too, for that matter, except when he’s being vile, or trying to be president. I think Mrs. Trump No. 2 was my favorite. She was beautiful, like all of them, and I liked the way her husband said her name: “Mawla.” “Mawla, she’s turrific.”
Melania was once a model (duh). She is Slovenian, and, trust me, even an average Slovenian is attractive. You ever been to Ljubljana? There are few other places like it. Pepperdine University comes to mind. And Ole Miss. Naturally, Melania has had racy photo shoots, and an anti-Trump PAC used one.
The Cruz campaign had nothing to do with it. But Trump lashed out at Ted, and Heidi.

Perhaps anticipating this day might come, the voters in Wisconsin 41 years ago voted to amend the state Constitution to repeal a provision that barred anyone who engaged in a duel from holding public office.

I assume that means that Ted Cruz could demand satisfaction in Wisconsin, shoot and either kill or maim Trump, and remain eligible to win the critical April 5 Wisconsin primary, where he is now running even with Trump. And, if you’re going to stop Trump, you’re going to have do better than a hashtag.

Back in 1975, most Wisconsinites supported the ballot measure, and those that didn’t were probably all Democrats anyway.

From Ballotpedia:

The Wisconsin Dueling and Disenfranchisement Amendment was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the April 1, 1975 ballot in Wisconsin, where it was approved.

This amendment modified Article XIII, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution to repeal a unique provision that barred people from voting or holding public office if they had been found guilty of dueling.[1]

Election results

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 11.21.02 PM

Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:

“Shall section 2 of article XIII of the constitution, which provides penalties unique shall to the offense of dueling, be amended to eliminate the requirement that person who engages in a duel shall be forever disqualified from voting or holding public office?”[1]

Sure, there might be rioting in some Trump neighborhoods (which are usually situated cheek-by-jowl with the Muslim-American enclaves that Cruz would like to have patrolled), and there is the possibility that Cleveland, where the Republican National Convention is being held in July, might be burned to the ground.

But, many Americans would be relieved and, just as freshly-minted and super-reluctant Cruz supporter Lindsey Graham said a month ago – If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.– I don’t think, after what Trump tweeted about Heidi Cruz, any jury of decent, God-fearing Wisconsonites would convict him.

I mean look at Trump’s negatives back in February’s Marquette Law School Poll in Wisconsin.

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And here’s how uncomfortable they’d be with Trump as the GOP nominee.

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Also, if elected, Cruz wouldn’t be the first president to have killed a man in a duel.

Andrew Jackson – the populist-nationalist, big-haired, uncouth, other-hating Donald Trump of his day – for one.

From the History Network, this day in history, for May 30

On this day in 1806, future President Andrew Jackson kills a man who accused him of cheating on a horse race bet and then insulted his wife, Rachel.Contemporaries described Jackson, who had already served in Tennessee’s Senate and was practicing law at the time of the duel, as argumentative, physically violent and fond of dueling to solve conflicts. Estimates of the number of duels in which Jackson participated ranged from five to 100.Jackson and Dickinson were rival horse breeders and southern plantation owners with a long-standing hatred of each other. Dickinson accused Jackson of reneging on a horse bet, calling Jackson a coward and an equivocator. Dickinson also called Rachel Jackson a bigamist. (Rachel had married Jackson not knowing her first husband had failed to finalize their divorce.) After the insult to Rachel and a statement published in the National Review in which Dickinson called Jackson a worthless scoundrel and, again, a coward, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.On May 30, 1806, Jackson and Dickinson met at Harrison’s Mills on the Red River in Logan, Kentucky. At the first signal from their seconds, Dickinson fired. Jackson received Dickinson’s first bullet in the chest next to his heart. Jackson put his hand over the wound to staunch the flow of blood and stayed standing long enough to fire his gun. Dickinson’s seconds claimed Jackson’s first shot misfired, which would have meant the duel was over, but, in a breach of etiquette, Jackson re-cocked the gun and shot again, this time killing his opponent. Although Jackson recovered, he suffered chronic pain from the wound for the remainder of his life.Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.00.10 AMJackson was not prosecuted for murder, and the duel had very little effect on his successful campaign for the presidency in 1829. Many American men in the early 1800s, particularly in the South, viewed dueling as a time-honored tradition. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson’s vice president Aaron Burr had also avoided murder charges after killing former Treasury secretary and founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. In fact, Rachel’s divorce raised more of a scandal in the press and in parlors than the killing of Dickinson. 

I assume Cruz would choose as his second his sure-shooting brother of the duck blind, Phil Robertson.

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Meanwhile, Trump could go with his campaign manager – brawling Corey Lewandowski – or with this weaselly apparatchik who appeared on his behalf, defending the attack on Heidi Cruz as fair and balanced.

Meanwhile, in another land, far, far away.

 

 

 

 

Cruz wins Utah and Jeb! Loses Arizona and NYPD

Good morning Austin:

Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz in a statement released before the sun was up this morning.

“Today, I am endorsing Ted Cruz for President,” said Bush. “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests. Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential.”

Bush continued, “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies. To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”

“I’m truly honored to earn Governor Jeb Bush’s support,” said Cruz. “Governor Bush was an extraordinary governor of Florida, and his record of job creation and education innovation left a lasting legacy for millions of Floridians. His endorsement today is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, take back the White House, and ensure a freer and more prosperous America for future generations.”

From at CNN:

The former Florida governor’s endorsement follows that of his brother, Neil, who joined Cruz’s finance team earlier this month.

“We need a candidate that can unify the party, work with (House Speaker) Paul Ryan, move a reform-minded agenda forward,” Neil Bush said in a March 16 interview on CNN’s “New Day.” “And Ted Cruz is the only guy in the race to do that.”

Several members of the Bush family have been clear about their distaste of Trump, who has been critical of President George W. Bush’s stewardship of the nation and Jeb Bush’s low-key personality.

In February, the matriarch of the Bush family, former first lady Barbara Bush, told CNN that she’s “sick of him” and that Trump had said “terrible things about women, terrible things about the military.”

And last week, former first lady Laura Bush, George W. Bush’s wife, declined to answer a question from USA Today about whether she would vote for Trump if he were the Republican nominee. She added that it was important for Americans to not be “isolationist and xenophobic,” an apparent reference to Trump’s rhetoric and positions.

It also follows, by five months and a political lifetime ago, what is probably a more genuine Bush Family take on Cruz.

From Politico in October

Inside a sleek Denver condominium, George W. Bush let a hundred donors to his brother’s campaign in on a secret. Of all the rival Republican candidates, there is one who gets under the former president’s skin, whom he views as perhaps Jeb Bush’s most serious rival for the party’s nomination.

It isn’t Donald Trump, whose withering insults have sought to make Jeb pay a political price for his brother’s presidency. It isn’t Marco Rubio, Jeb’s former understudy who now poses a serious threat to his establishment support.

It’s George W. Bush’s former employee — Ted Cruz.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said Sunday night, according to conversations with more than half a dozen donors who attended the event.

But that was then. Now, it appears, Cruz is all that stands between the Republican nomination and the short-fingered vulgarian at the gate and the choice is clear.

Cruz crushed Trump in Utah yesterday, exceeding the 50-percent threshold and winning all 40 delegates.

Apparently Mormons don’t like vulgar.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 6.44.07 AM

But Trump thumped Cruz in winner-take-all Arizona, taking all 58 delegates.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the also-ran in both states and, between the results and the Jeb! endorsement, Tuesday was good for Cruz because it put an exclamation mark on his efforts to marginalize Kasich as an irrelevancy, a distraction and a spoiler who ought to get out of the way.

The race slows down now.

Next up is the Wisconsin primary on April 5.

Gov. Scott Walker, like Jeb! an early potential front-runner, said, when he got out of the presidential race in September that he was setting an example of clearing the field in the hopes of stopping Trump. It now seems almost certain to me that he will end bestowing a crucial endorsement on Cruz.

After Wisconsin, it’s a two-week build to the April 19 New York primary, where Trump now has a truly huge Trumpian  lead. And then, a week later, on April 26, it’s Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

So April 26 has the potential to be a good day for Kasich. He seems way better suited to those states than Cruz. But, if Kasich doesn’t win – or at least surpass Cruz – in Wisconsin, how does he get there.

Here was Kasich’s campaign fundraising in February.

 

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And here was Cruz’s.

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If anyone knows about throwing away money, it’s Jeb Bush, and his endorsement of Cruz suggests Kasich is not a good investment.

So, all in all, while Trump is still the front-runner and favorite, yesterday was a good day for Cruz. Right? Right. And wrong.

Because it also marked a low point in Cruz’s audition to be Trump’s demagogic Mini-Me. From my story.

 

Sen. Ted Cruz called for law enforcement authorities to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Cruz, whose hometown of Houston has the largest Muslim population in Texas, didn’t specify what constituted a Muslim neighborhood or what the new law enforcement powers he is calling for would entail — just that “we need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

He was quickly assailed for engaging in political demagoguery that could inflame passions and endanger the constitutional liberties of innocent Muslim-Americans.

From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

Cruz spokesperson Alice Stewart issued the following statement clarifying Cruz’s initial comments:

We know what is happening with these isolated Muslim neighborhoods in Europe. If we want to prevent it from happening here, it is going to require an empowered, visible law enforcement presence that will both identify problem spots and partner with non-radical Americans who want to protect their homes.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies all have divisions that target threats like drugs, gangs, human trafficking, and organized crime. Radical Islamic terrorism is a significant and growing threat in this country, but this administration refuses to recognize it because they are afraid of being labeled “politically incorrect.” In New York City, Mayor de Blasio succumbed to unfounded criticisms and eliminated the efforts of law enforcement to work with Muslim communities to stop radical Islamic terrorism.
Ted Cruz will never allow political correctness to drive decisions about our security. Innocent, peaceful Americans, no matter their faith, deserve to live in safe neighborhoods;  that is what law enforcement exists to do, and that includes preventing radical Islamic terror cells from taking root in them. The police should have every tool available to follow leads and take action against those who would do us harm. That is what Cruz is calling for and it is the basic responsibility of our elected leaders — to prioritize the safety of our citizens.

Trump seconded Cruz’s call, but Cruz was denounced by New York City Mayor de Blasio, and, especially, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton.

From Laura Nahmias at Politico New York

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s remarks in response to the terror attacks in Brussels Tuesday, calling for increased law enforcement patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, are the reason why he won’t be the next president, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton said at a press conference in Times Square.

Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio took turns at the conference criticizing Cruz, who earlier in the day called for “empower[ing] law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” and through a spokeswoman criticized de Blasio specifically for “succumb[ing] to unfounded criticisms and eliminat[ing] the efforts of law enforcement to work with Muslim communities to stop radical Islamic terrorism.”

“I just have to say it’s reprehensible. His comments are not about safety and security. It’s demagoguery,” de Blasio said Tuesday, noting that the city’s Police Department includes 900 Muslim-American officers, and saying there are “peace-loving, law-abiding Muslim Americans in neighborhoods all over New York City” who “should be respected like all other members of our community.”

De Blasio called Cruz’s comments “immoral” and “counterproductive,” because they could “alienate thousands and thousands of people and make them feel like they don’t belong in this country, and that’s no good for anyone.”

But the harshest criticism came from Bratton.

“The statements he made today is why he’s not going to become president of this country,” Bratton said. “We don’t need a president that doesn’t respect the values that form the foundation of this country,” he said. “As the mayor mentioned, I have over 900 very dedicated officers in this department, many of whom do double duty, and they serve as active duty members of the U.S. Military in combat, something the senator has never seen,” he said, referring to Cruz’s lack of experience in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“So before he starts denigrating any population, he should take a close look at who he’s denigrating,” Bratton said, adding that “I take great offense” at his characterization of Muslims.

“The senator basically is really out of line with his comments,” Bratton said;

As outrageous as it was, at least Trump’s Muslim ban, was directed at keeping foreign Muslims out of the United States, while Cruz’s comments suggested we must now cast an eye of suspicion on Muslim-Americans as the enemy within, which seemed wrong and  counterproductive and to make a hash of the Constitution that Cruz calls, along with the Bible, his Bible.

From Joe Scarborough at MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning.

What Ted Cruz said yesterday is the exact opposite of what we need to do. It makes us less safe. I won’t even talk about American values. Let’s not talk about American values. Let’s talk about American safety. If we are going to win the war against Islamic terrorism in the United States, if we’re going to make sure we don’t end up looking like Europe, we do that by continuing to do what Americans have done for over 200 years – acccept immigrants into this country and integrate.

Muslim Americans have successfully integrated into this country better than any non-Muslim country in the world. They have pursued the American dream. One percent of Americans are Muslim. Two percent of doctors, I have read, are Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans are entrepreneurs. They are leaders in this country. Ted Cruz could not have it more wrong. I’m not talking about values. I’m not talking about reaching out and touching someone. I’m not talking about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’m talking bbout beating ISIS. You beat ISIS by having Muslim Americans embrace the American dream.

 Gen. MIchael Hayden, former CIA director, added:

We don’t have radicalized communities in the United States. We have some radicalized individuals, but we have it within our ability to create radicalized communities and we have to take every step not to do that.

This was Cruz on Morning Joe back when he opposed Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

in a recent  First Reading, I looked at Cruz’s neocon national security nexus: Neoconservatives and neoconspiracy-theorists

It appears from yesterday’s call for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods that he is taking the advice of some of the edgier members of his security circle.

One of those members of Cruz’s national security team I didn’t get to his is Clare Lopez, who was the focus this week of People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch.

Clare Lopez, a member of Sen. Ted Cruz’s recently announced national security advisory team, declared in a recent radio interview that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was “spot-on” in his investigation of communists infiltrating the U.S. government, implying that a similar effort should be made to root out Muslim Brotherhood associates in “the top levels of national security in our government.”

Lopez joined South Carolina radio host Vince Coakley on March 1 to discuss efforts in Congress — led in part by Cruz — to urge the Obama administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, which Lopez said misses the point because the real threat from the group is “the subversion, the infiltration, the influence operations.”

“Brotherhood affiliates and associates and those connected to it are the go-to advisers, if not appointees, for the top levels of national security in our government, in this administration for sure, but going back many decades, really, is the program of this Brotherhood,” she claimed.

She compared the situation to the influence of communists before the House Un-American Activities Committee and Sen. McCarthy got involved in rooting out subversives, calling McCarthy’s efforts “spot-on.”

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels,” she said. “And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration. So we have precedent for this where we were not fully aware of the infiltration occurring at the time.”

Another top Cruz adviser, Frank Gaffney — Lopez’s boss at the Center for Security Policy —  has called for the reinstatement of HUAC.

Then, last night, there was this.

 

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Well, I think pretty clearly, these are the beans, per friend-of-Trump Roger Stone, and they have already been spilled.

https://twitter.com/RogerJStoneJr/status/710094169830727681

Stone’s piece in the Daily Caller, begins:

As the nation says “Goodbye” to Nancy Reagan – a woman widely admired as the quintessential political wife – we pause to ask: Who is Heidi Nelson Cruz?

Watching any Ted Cruz political advertisement featuring his wife and two young daughters, we could easily get the impression that Heidi Nelson Cruz, like Nancy Reagan, is a devoted wife dedicated to making sure she and her husband occupy the White House.

The New York Times in an article published on Jan. 18, described Heidi Cruz as “a political wife,” who had become a force in her husband’s presidential contest, “an all-purpose surrogate and strategist to be deployed as often as possible.”

Heidi is herself a high-powered Bush insider, who served as deputy to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice before signing on as a Deputy to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, neocon stalwart and former Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. Zoellick wired a cushy job for Heidi when she landed at Goldman Sachs as a partner. Goldman would, of course, go on to make a secret $1 million loan to fund Ted’s U.S. Senate campaign while both Cruzes lied about the source of funds being Heidi’s retirement savings.

Yet, investigating more deeply, Ted and Heidi Cruz have had a sometimes troubled relationship punctuated by bouts of physical separation that began when two young Christians on the fringe of protestant evangelicalism met while working on the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

Cruz stakes his claim to the Mormons; Trump kvells for the Jews

Good morning Austin:

It’s primary day in Arizona and Utah.

Donald Trump is heavily favored to win all 58 delegates in winner-take-all Arizona.

Trump won Arizonan’s hearts with his stridency on the border.

Ted Cruz is heavily favored to cross the 50-percent threshold and win all 40 delegates in Utah.

Apparently, Mormons are immune to Trump’s charms.

I think Trump was clearly kidding when he questioned whether Mitt Romney was really a Mormon.

But maybe the Utah ear is not tuned to New York humor.

Or New York values.

For example, Utah is state where this Facebook ad from the anti-Trump super PAC, Make America Awesome (America is Already Great), apparently works as a negative ad.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.16.50 AM

Meanwhile, in Washington, some of the Jews and other supporters of Israel gathered 18,000-strong for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gathering in Washington, laughed at Trump when he told them yesterday that he is the world’s leading authority on the Iran nuclear deal.

But Trump rebounded.

From National Review”

For the first time this cycle, Trump delivered a scripted speech with at least some foreign-policy specifics. Some of his off-script deviations got him into trouble: He said a peace deal was “something that we impose on Israel and Palestine,” a statement that both questioned Israel’s sovereignty and elevated the Palestinian territories to nation status. But most of his improvisations elicited laughter from the audience. He received raucous applause and several standing ovations from a crowd that had cheered Clinton less than eight hours before. He even outshone Ted Cruz, his chief rival for the Republican nomination, whose own speech received a rather tepid response. It was, in short, a pretty good night at AIPAC for Donald Trump.
“I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel,” Trump began, before proceeding to do just that for the thousands of attendees packed into the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The New York billionaire bragged about his participation as grand marshal in a 2004 pro-Israel parade. “It was a dangerous time for Israel and frankly for anyone supporting Israel,” he said. “Many people turned down the honor. I did not. I took the risk.” Trump warned the audience about the dangers of the Iran deal, adding that he was uniquely qualified to discuss the topic. “I’ve studied this issue in great detail — I would say actually greater, by far, than anybody else,” he said, sparking peals of laughter throughout the audience. Trump smiled and took it all in stride. “Believe me, that is a baad deal,” he said.
And then Trump delivered a most terrific pander:
I’ve received some of my greatest honors from Israel. My father before me. Incredible. My daughter Ivanka is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby. In fact, it could be happening right now which would be very nice as far as I’m concerned.
Why didn’t he just use that line when he was asked to disavow David Duke? The nomination would be a lock by now.

If Cruz slows the Trump train in Utah and it ultimately costs Trump the few precious delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, Trump may regret that Ivanka married a Jew and not a Mormon

Trump had a very busy in day in Washington.
From Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump came to Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday and offered a freewheeling, circuslike glimpse of what the nation’s capital might look like if he is successful in his quest to occupy that big, white house on the 1600 block of the street.

Mr. Trump’s whirlwind day in Washington — part of his effort to demonstrate that he is running a serious presidential campaign — took him from an imposing law firm to a news conference at a hotel he is building here to a much-anticipated policy speech before a pro-Israel group, all with the Manhattan businessman’s characteristic mix of panache, policy and showmanship.

His first stop was at The Washington Post, for an editorial board meeting where he unveiled five members of his foreign policy team: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz. Though Mr. Trump has been promising for months to release the names of his foreign policy advisers, those he presented on Monday have come under fire in the past. But the team will be led by Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In addition to introducing his foreign policy hands, Trump also offered a renewed defense of his hands – as in those things at the end of his arms -in his conversation with the Post editorial board.

HIATT: Just back to the campaign. You are smart and you went to a good school. Yet you are up there and talking about your hands and the size of private …

TRUMP: No …

HIATT: … your private parts.

TRUMP: No, no. No, no. I am not doing that.

HIATT: Do you regret having engaged in that?

TRUMP: No, I had to do it. Look, this guy. Here’s my hands. Now I have my hands, I hear, on the New Yorker, a picture of my hands.

MARCUS: You’re on the cover.

TRUMP: A hand with little fingers coming out of a stem. Like, little. Look at my hands. They’re fine. Nobody other than Graydon Carter years ago used to use that. My hands are normal hands. During a debate, he was losing, and he said, “Oh, he has small hands and therefore, you know what that means.” This was not me. This was Rubio that said, “He has small hands and you know what that means.” Okay? So, he started it. So, what I said a couple of days later … and what happened is I was on line shaking hands with supporters, and one of supporters got up and he said, “Mr. Trump, you have strong hands. You have good-sized hands.” And then another one would say, “You have great hands, Mr. Trump, I had no idea.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I thought you were like deformed, and I thought you had small hands.” I had fifty people … Is that a correct statement? I mean people were writing, “How are Mr. Trump’s hands?” My hands are fine. You know, my hands are normal. Slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, okay? No, but I did this because everybody was saying to me, “Oh, your hands are very nice. They are normal.” So Rubio, in a debate, said, because he had nothing else to say … now I was hitting him pretty hard. He wanted to do his Don Rickles stuff and it didn’t work out. Obviously, it didn’t work too well. But one of the things he said was “He has small hands and therefore, you know what that means, he has small something else.” You can look it up. I didn’t say it.

MARCUS: You chose to raise it …

TRUMP: No, I chose to respond.

MARUS: You chose to respond.

TRUMP: I had no choice.

MARCUS: You chose to raise it during a debate. Can you explain why you had no choice?

TRUMP: I don’t want people to go around thinking that I have a problem. I’m telling you, Ruth, I had so many people. I would say 25, 30 people would tell me … every time I’d shake people’s hand, “Oh, you have nice hands.” Why shouldn’t I? And, by the way, by saying that I solved the problem. Nobody questions … I even held up my hands, and said, “Look, take a look at that hand.”

MARCUS: You told us in the debate ….

TRUMP: And by saying that, I solved the problem. Nobody questions. Everyone held my hand. I said look. Take a look at that hand.

MARCUS: You told us in the debate that you guaranteed there was not another problem. Was that presidential? And why did you decide to do that?

TRUMP: I don’t know if it was presidential, honestly, whether it is or not. He said, ‘Donald Trump has small hands and therefore he has small something else.’ I didn’t say that. And all I did is when he failed, when he was failing, when he was, when Christie made him look bad, I gave him the– a little recap and I said,  and I said, and I had this big strong powerful hand ready to grab him, because I thought he was going to faint. And everybody took it fine. Whether it was presidential or not I can’t tell you. I can just say that what he said was a lie. And everybody, they wanted to do stories on my hands; after I said that, they never did. And then I held up the hand, I showed people the hand. You know, when I’ve got a big audience. So yeah, I think it’s not a question of presidential …

MARCUS: He said he regrets …

HIATT: Okay, let’s move on here. Let’s move on.

 

All five remaining presidential candidates also appeared on CNN last night.

Cruz was asked about Frank Gaffney, who was among the members of Cruz’s national security team announced last week.

 

WOLF BLITZER (HOST): Let’s talk about your national security advisers. Last week, you released a list of your foreign policy advisers. Frank Gaffney was on that list, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration. Mr. Gaffney has said that President Obama is a Muslim, that the Muslim Brotherhood placed operatives throughout the federal government, that Saddam Hussein probably was behind the Oklahoma City bombing, that Chris Christie may have been complicit in treason by appointing a Muslim-American to New Jersey’s state judiciary. Is this someone whose views you agree with? 

TED CRUZ (R-TX): Wolf, look I recognize that folks in the media get really nervous when you actually call out radical Islamic terrorism. Frank Gaffney is someone I respect. Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker who has been focused on fighting jihadism, fighting jihadism across the globe. And he’s endured attacks from the left, from the media, because he speaks out against radical Islamic terrorism, because he speaks out against, for example, the political correctness of the Obama administration that effectively gets in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. 

BLITZER: Let’s be precise. When he said back in 2009, “Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America’s first Muslim president.” Do you agree with him on that? 

CRUZ: Listen, I don’t know what he said in 2009. 

BLITZER: I just read to you the quote. 

CRUZ: I don’t have the full context. I’m not interested in playing the media “gotcha” game of here’s every quote, every person who’s supporting you has said at any point, do you agree with every statement. That’s silliness. Here’s my view. We need a Commander-in-Chief that defends America, and defending America means defeating radical Islamic terrorism and defeating ISIS. What is completely unreasonable is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s consistent pattern of refusing even to say the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” When we see a terror attack, but let me finish this point, Wolf. When we see a terror attack in Paris and San Bernardino and President Obama says, gosh, I didn’t realize people were upset, I guess I wasn’t watching the cable news. And then he gives a national TV conference where he doesn’t call out radical Islamic terrorists, but instead he lectures Americans on Islamophobia. We need a Commander-in-Chief keeping us safe, and one of the reasons why we’re going to win in November is people are fed up with this silliness.

BLITZER: Would he be considered your national security adviser if you were president? 

CRUZ: Look, Frank is one of a number of people who is part of the team who are advising me, and I appreciate his good counsel. For example, Frank —

BLITZER: And so these statements —

CRUZ: Frank has been leading the effort to focus on the threat of an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse which would be a nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere that would take down our electrical grid. It could kill tens of millions of Americans. And all Iran would have to do is fire one nuke into the atmosphere. They don’t need to hit anything. They just need to get it above the Eastern seaboard, and they could kill tens of millions. That is valuable work focusing on national security. And I’m curious, Wolf, you know when does the media focus on threats like an EMP? 

BLITZER: I think we focus on a lot of those things. But let me just read one other thing, he says there’s some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq being involved with the people who perpetrated the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and even the Oklahoma City bombing. Now you’re a smart guy, have you seen any circumstantial evidence to back that up? 

CRUZ: You know I told you a minute ago I’m not going to play the gotcha game of every quote every adviser may have given 20 years ago. You are welcome to throw them out. 

BLITZER: That was in 2009. 

CRUZ: But I’m actually interested in talking about the problems in this country, and not — This is silliness. Let’s focus on real problems facing America. 

For Cruz to be complaining about the “gotcha game” with Gaffney, is no better than Trump feigning ignorance when asked about David Duke. Are we supposed to believe that Cruz chose Gaffney for his security circle without being aware of his many, many stunning claims? If so, that would be even more disqualifying.

Anywhere, here’s the latest on Gaffney’s creeping influence.

From Bryan Schatz at Mother Jones:

The National Rifle Association’s annual board election is typically a drama-free affair. But this year, things are getting ugly. A faction within the NRA is seeking to oust anti-tax crusader and celebrated Republican strategist Grover Norquist from the gun lobby’s board of directors, where he has served since 2000.

The reasons behind the recall campaign have little to do with the Second Amendment, NRA policy, or Norquist’s position on gun rights. The effort is the latest move in an ongoing crusade to convince conservatives that the founder of Americans for Tax Reform is secretly in cahoots with anti-American Islamists. 

The instigator of the Norquist recall is Stu Weber, a former Green Beret and pastor from Oregon. Last August, a recall petition sponsored by Weber was posted on the website RecallGrover.com. In it, Weber wrote that Norquist “has become a confusing distraction to the NRA’s mission” and that he was “aware of NRA members who are considering leaving the NRA because they have done some serious homework in regard to Mr. Norquist.” While speaking with Glenn Beck last August, Weber described himself as “just a member” of the NRA. He declined to be interviewed for this story. The recall site has been taken down.

While this is the first NRA board recall measure in at least 15 years, it is not necessarily a sign of a major split within the organization. Just 450 signatures from voting members were required to get it on the ballot. Members have until May 1 to cast their votes via ballots that were mailed out in American Rifleman, the NRA’s magazine.

To bolster his case, Weber’s petition linked to Agent of Influence: Grover Norquist and the Assault on the Right, a 100-page dossier that lays out a litany of conspiratorial claims about Norquist and his supposed role “as an agent of influence for assorted Islamic supremacists.” Now in its fourth edition, subtitled “Targeting the NRA,” the booklet questions Norquist’s “fitness to serve in a leadership position of such an important organization” and aims to “encourage and enable the National Rifle Association to end the presence among its leadership of an individual who has long engaged in insidious Islamist influence operations.”

Agent of Influence is published by the Center for Security Policy, an organization headed by Frank Gaffney, a former Pentagon official in the Reagan Administration whom Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz recently named to his national security team. Among the prominent conservatives who have backed Gaffney’s allegations against Norquist are former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Army Lt. General Jerry Boykin, with whom Weber wrote The Warrior Soul: Five Powerful Principles to Make You a Stronger Man of God. Last September, Gaffney joined Cruz, Beck, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin at an anti-Iran rally co-sponsored by the Center for Security Policy. Gaffney could not be reached for comment.

As noted, Beck, perhaps Cruz’s most fervent supporter, is a part of the campaign to remove Norquist from the NRA board.

Beck, a Mormon convert, has also been making the case in Utah that Cruz’s election would be the fulfillment of The White Horse Prophecy:

From Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch:

Back in 1843, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, supposedly delivered a message known as “The White Horse Prophecy” that declared that one day, when the U.S. Constitution was hanging by a thread, the Mormon people would rise up and save this nation.

This is how Young reportedly explained it in 1854:

Will the Constitution be destroyed? No; it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.”

In 2010, the LDS church issued an official statement that “the so-called ‘White Horse Prophecy’ is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine,” but that didn’t stop Glenn Beck from repeatedly invoking it as he campaigned for Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee in Utah over the weekend.

Beck spent all last week declaring that God has spent the last 10 years preparing and sanctifying his audience to rise up at this very moment and save the republic by electing Ted Cruz as president. But when he went to Utah, Beck made it unmistakably clear to his fellow Mormons that God is using them to save America because evangelical Christians “are not listening to their God,” a reference to southern evangelical Republicans who have voted for Donald Trump.

When Beck spoke at a rally for Sen. Lee’s re-election in Draper on Saturday, he explicitly invoked the language of the White Horse Prophecy.

“It’s something that Utah needs to hear,” he said. “The body of the Priesthood is known to stand up when the Constitution hangs by a thread. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 2000. What attracted me was not only the truth of the message, but also the people like President [Harold] Lee and President [Ezra Taft] Benson, who knew exactly who we were, knew who we were as a country. Many times, what held me through was the prophecy that the Constitution will hang by a thread and this people would remember what our founders did. It is our responsibility to stand for the Constitution!”

Beck echoed that message while campaigning for Cruz in Provo, telling the audience that he had a “special message for the people of Utah.”
“I believe the Book of Mormon,” he said. “I believe it to be true. I believe every word of it … That book spells out in great detail what things look like before the Lord comes back. And He gave us that book so we can protect freedom here. He also gave us that book so we would know what to do at the time. Now you either believe that or you don’t. You either believe that to be true, it’s not just a book; then let the Priesthood lead! Priesthood holders, stand up and take your staff! You are the guardian at the gate.”

 

 

While speaking at another Cruz rally in Salt Lake City, Beck said that it was up to the Mormons to save this nation because “the evangelicals are not listening to their God.”

“Let me testify to you now,” he stated. “The Book of Mormon is a book that was given to us for this time in this land and it explains exactly what it’s going to look like when trouble comes … You know what time it is, the Priesthood is supposed to rise up and restore the Constitution. Now is that time!”

“Utah has an incredible opportunity,” he continued. “So many Christians have been standing up, but all throughout the South, the evangelicals are not listening to their God. Let us raise a standard in Utah. Let us do this one thing perfectly right.”

 

Cruz also denounced in the strongest possible terms President Obama’s trip to Havana, though, the same criticism could have been directed at his mentor, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for his trade mission to Cuba late last year, about which he remained silent.

From Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia:

The fact is Cuban-American, Canadian-born Ted Cruz will lie, do, and say anything to gain power.

Months ago, Gov. Abbott capitalized on President Obama’s actions to open Cuban markets to American companies. Cruz was suddenly mum. After all, Cruz needed Abbott’s endorsement to hold off the Trump train in Texas.

On Cuba, Abbott is more in sync with Trump.

Blitzer: Would you open up a Trump Hotel in Havana?

Trump: I would, I would, at the right time. When we’re allowed to do it. We aren’t right now. I think Cuba has a lot of potential. I think it’s OK to bring Cuba into the fold.

 

Meanwhile, last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is chairing the  Cruz campaign in Texas, warned that any backroom machinations to deliver the Republican nomination to anyone other than Trump or Cruz would be illegitimate and would destroy the Republican Party.

 

Writing about this last week, I noted the following”

In Texas, Republicans at Senate District Conventions on Saturday will elect delegates to the state convention in Dallas in May, which will elect the delegates to the national convention. While Cruz won 104 delegates in the March 1 primary, to 48 for Trump and three for Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race this week, former Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said he would be “shocked” if all 155 Texas delegates to the national convention weren’t Cruz loyalists, including the 48 delegates who would be bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot, but free to vote for Cruz thereafter.

Those “Trump delegates,” would also be free to vote against Trump’s interest on what could be decisive procedural votes that might ultimately determine the outcome.

Here from friend of Trump Roger Stone.

Trump Must Beware The Trojan Horse Delegates

By Roger Stone

A state party staffer from a large Northeastern state passed the entry codes for a conference call of five Republican Chairmen from significant states this past Saturday. The topic on the table? Stopping Trump. I had to listen in.

These hard-boiled pols know the nomination will be decided not on the first ballot but in a series of procedural votes by the entire convention to adopt the rules of the convention as recommended by the Rules committee and the seating of the delegates as recommended by the Credentials Committee. Those key committees are made up by two members from each state. The bosses have been quietly planting establishment regulars in these spots.

The Trump camp has been inattentive to this process. The party Kingmakers may have the votes to knee-cap Trump in the rules and credentials Committees as they did Congressman Ron Paul in 2012.

Here is what the kingmakers have planned: http://www.infowars.com/how-the-gop-elite-plan-to-rob-donald-trump/

Now they party insiders want to make sure they have a working majority on the floor for the passage of their “liscense to steal”. Republican State Chairs are planting Trojan Horse delegates into slots won by Trump on the first ballot to vote with them on procedural votes to pass the Rules and Credentials Reports that will seal the Big Steal. This is going on in Texas, New York, Michigan, Connecticut and North Dakota and other states.

Though these “Trump” delegates will be bound by national and state rules to support Trump through the first ballot at the convention they are free to vote against Trump’s interests on the adoption of Rules and the seating of delegates. It’s entirely plausible that a state could seat delegates pledged to support Donald Trump who have open affiliations with other candidates. In California Cruz and Paulistas are signing up online via CA’s GOP website as Trump delegates.

The RNC’s rules committee tightened the rules governing the allocation of pledged delegates: The proportion of pledged delegates actually sent to the convention must align with the proportion actually won by a candidate in states that don’t give their winners all of their delegates. Republican operatives are secretly working to stack the delegate selection process. They want as many reliable stooges as possible to identify as pledged “Trump” delegates. That way, those men and women can vote to break Trump’s back with hostile rules and by unseating Trump delegates if necessary.

The power-brokers short term game is clear; stall Trump just short of the magic number of delegates needed to be nominated on the first ballot with the knowledge that many delegates bound on the first ballot by Trump primary and caucus victories are ringers who would be unbound on a second ballot. Much in the way the RNC stacked the galleries with anti-Trump partisans in the last two debates, anti-Trump quislings are be planted in various delegations that will be free to betray Trump on procedural matters and subsequent ballots. Kidnapping is real possibility. What happens if a pledged delegate decides not to show up for the first ballot? The alternate replacing them may not be for Trump.

Get ready for Armageddon.

Practically speaking, if Trump arrive in Cleveland shy of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination, and is denied the nomination, it will most likely be the consequence of maneuvering by the Cruz campaign taking advantage of faithless Trump delegates from Texas and elsewhere across the country.

From Roll Call columnist Patricia Murpy.

Improbably, Ted Cruz is now Mitch McConnell’s best hope for remaining majority leader. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, the chances of Republicans losing the Senate rise exponentially. But with Trump’s commanding delegate lead, Cruz’s only path to victory is likely a contested convention, complete with all of the cronyism and horse trading that McConnell excels at and that Cruz has said is so awful for so long.

New willingness by Republicans to rally around Cruz is either enlightened self-interest, naked hypocrisy or the shared opinion that a man like Donald Trump would not only be bad for business, he would be truly dangerous as a leader of the country.  Despite all of my cynicism, I’m leaning toward the latter as their motivation, which means we’re all Cruzians now.

Which raises an interesting question – ought Dan Patrick exhort Texas Republicans at their convention in Dallas to send bona fide, though-and-through Trump delegates to the national convention to fill the Trump slots in order to guard against chicanery in Cleveland?

In the meantime, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin wrote in Sunday’s New York Times:

Republican leaders adamantly opposed to Donald J. Trump’s candidacy are preparing a 100-day campaign to deny him the presidential nomination, starting with an aggressive battle in Wisconsin’s April 5 primary and extending into the summer, with a delegate-by-delegate lobbying effort that would cast Mr. Trump as a calamitous choice for the general election.

Recognizing that Mr. Trump has seized a formidable advantage in the race, they say that an effort to block him would rely on an array of desperation measures, the political equivalent of guerrilla fighting.

There is no longer room for error or delay, the anti-Trump forces say, and without a flawlessly executed plan of attack, he could well become unstoppable.

But should that effort falter, leading conservatives are prepared to field an independent candidate in the general election, to defend Republican principles and offer traditional conservatives an alternative to Mr. Trump’s hard-edged populism. They described their plans in interviews after Mr. Trump’s victories last Tuesday in Florida and three other states.

The names of a few well-known conservatives have been offered up in recent days as potential third-party standard-bearers, and William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, has circulated a memo to a small number of conservative allies detailing the process by which an independent candidate could get on general-election ballots across the country.

Among the recruits under discussion are Tom Coburn, a former Oklahoma senator who has told associates that he would be open to running, and Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who was suggested as a possible third-party candidate at a meeting of conservative activists on Thursday in Washington.

https://twitter.com/JeffMillerCA2TX/status/711574064662315012

 

Kristol was not doing Perry any favors by invoking his name.

It simply invited ridicule that Perry had done nothing to provoke.

From Anderw Rosenthal in the New York Times:

You know things are going badly when Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and failed presidential candidate, sounds more sensible than anyone else in the Republican Party.

Mr. Perry responded today through his spokesman, Jeff Miller, to an article in The Times on Sunday that said Mr. Perry had been mentioned as a possible third-party candidate at a recent meeting of so-called conservatives in Washington.

Mr. Miller said on Twitter that Mr. Perry “has no interest in running as a 3rd party candidate.” That’s a good thing, because Mr. Perry also has no interest in being a serious person. He is the one, you will remember, who said in 2011 that he was going to close three cabinet agencies but could not name the third one.

And, from Josh Marshall at Talking Points MemoLetting go of the Rick Perry Unicorn.

The #NeverTrump non-movement has taken a blow, as Rick Perry has apparently taken himself out of contention as the standard bearer of a #NeverTrump third party conservative ticket. A deeper issue is that, remember, Rick Perry was basically drummed out to the 2012 and 2016 elections as something close to a laughing stock. In 2016, he barely rose to the level of a laughingstock since no one was even paying attention. This isn’t meant as ridicule. It was a more a matter of expectations: the million term governor of the biggest red state in the country, couldn’t even make a respectable showing in a run for president. #NeverTrump looks very much like a vehicle with which DC power brokers take the guys they wanted in the first place but couldn’t get through primary process and nominate them by acclamation through what amounts to a GOP in exile.

it should be noted that for lifelong achievement in being consistently wrong in his political instincts, Kristol is unrivaled.

Here he was July 7, 2015, at Newmax:

Republicans should respect, not trash, Donald Trump, despite the billionaire developer’s controversial remarks on Mexican immigrants and his patented lack of political correctness, Bill Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, tells Newsmax TV.

“I’m not a Trump fan, I don’t think he should be the Republican nominee, but it’s ridiculous,” Kristol said Tuesday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

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Kristol believes Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is more of a problem for the Democrats than Trump is for the Republicans.

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“It’s very, very foolish if the Republican establishment or the Republican candidates treat him with disdain instead of saying, you know what, good to have more voices, good to have some unconventional voices in the race.”

Of course, if Trump arrives in Cleveland a little short, he could make a deal with Cruz and make him his running-mate. Asked about that Monday,  Trump said “crazier things happen in politics.”

But, Munisteri notes, if Trump needs Cruz’s delegates, it would probably mean that Cruz was in a position to strike his own deal to win the nomination.

However, if all Trump needs is just a small handful of delegates, there is always Dr. Ben Carson, who has nine pledged delegates.

 

CNN

Here is the email I received yesterday from John Philip Sousa IV of the Carson super PAC.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.12.48 PM

Jonathan —

I asked you recently if you wanted The 2016 Committee to push for Ben Carson to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate if he wins the Republican presidential nomination or if anyone else is the nominee.

Your response was overwhelming!

92% of the responses we received from volunteers and donors alike said yes, launch a national effort to make Ben Carson the vice presidential nominee of the GOP in 2016.

And, I didn’t just hear from a few of you, thousands and thousands of you responded immediately and emphatically.

Something else happened that I did not expect.

Many of you sent in a contribution to make it happen, even though I did not ask for any support of the effort.

Clearly you are enthusiastically in favor of supporting Ben Carson for Vice President.

You were probably as surprised as I was when Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump for president.

I didn’t see that coming.

But, because I have so much confidence in the wisdom and intelligence of Dr. Carson I listened to every word he said at the news conference endorsing Donald Trump.

I closely watched the interaction between Donald Trump and Ben Carson and quite frankly I was delighted by the rapport and the admiration between them; two men who have both put their lives on hold to serve our country.

Dr. Carson was as always, honest, forthright, and wise.  He was also very persuasive.

Now that Dr. Carson has endorsed Donald Trump, and Trump won Florida, it’s probably the last nail in the coffin for Cruz and Kasich.

All political prognosticators seem to agree that, barring an unforeseen event, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

Probably not what many of us would have guessed as the outcome nine or even six months ago.

Donald Trump made it clear that Ben Carson will play a very important policy role in the campaign and very possibly beyond.

And, Ben Carson has also made it clear that he is open to being on the ticket with Donald Trump as his vice presidential nominee.

Don’t you agree that Donald Trump will need the wise counsel and moral compass of Dr. Ben Carson if he is elected president?

Clearly, Donald Trump has great respect for Dr. Carson and it appears that if elected he will lean heavily on the good doctor for advice and counsel on key issues like tax reform, education and health care.

With Donald Trump’s nomination looming as inevitable, it was very wise of Dr. Carson to endorse Mr. Trump so that he can exert a positive influence upon him, his campaign and hopefully his Administration.

And, let’s face reality, whoever the Republican nominee is, he must win the White House.

Can you imagine all the damage the U.S. Supreme Court will do to the Constitution and to the Bill of Rights if Hillary or any other Democrat is elected president?

If we have a Supreme Court with five or more liberal judges it will be open season on the Second Amendment.  Your right to own a firearm will all but disappear.

If you are a Christian, expect your rights to be dramatically circumscribed.

Moral corruption will accelerate and freedom of speech will only be for those espousing liberal viewpoints.

Political correctness and continued appeasement will almost certainly bring more strife around the world.

And, how can we possibly avoid a total financial collapse if Hillary Clinton is elected and the Democrats regain control of Congress and the liberals run amuck at the U.S. Supreme Court?

Here is my big question for you…

Will you join us to continue to help Dr. Ben Carson spread the words of Christ, The Constitution and common sense in Washington, D.C. by joining our effort to strongly encourage Donald Trump to choose Ben Carson as his running mate?

We know exactly how to proceed to maximize the chance that Ben Carson will be selected as the GOP vice presidential choice in 2016 because one of our close advisors was intimately involved in the National Draft Jack Kemp for Vice President effort in 1980 that nearly succeeded.

I’ll explain more in a moment, but let me first ask you…

Who would be a better vice president than Ben Carson?

There are three sound reasons for Dr. Carson to be Donald Trump’s running mate.

1.     Republican Unity.  Ben Carson is key to bringing unity to the GOP and unity is essential for victory.  Dr. Carson is the one man who is universally admired and respected for his wisdom and good judgement.

2.    Republican Victory.  The Republicans have no chance of victory unless they make big inroads into Black and Hispanic voters.  Ben Carson has proven that he can win a substantial percentage of the Black vote and a very large share of the Hispanic vote.

3.    American Harmony.  It’s not enough to just win the election, we must restore harmony and unity to our nation.  Without a nation where all Americans are united, our future will be as bleak as the past seven and a half years have been at home and around the world.

For those three reasons alone, not to mention the wise counsel and advice that Dr. Carson will bring to the ticket, I believe that Ben Carson is the best choice as our vice presidential nominee.

Do you agree, Jonathan?

If you do, you are in agreement with 92% of Ben Carson supporters according to a recent survey we conducted.

Please Clamor Today!

 

 

 

 

Cruz’s neocon national security nexus: Neoconservatives and neoconspiracy-theorists

Good morning Austin:

Yesterday, a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC put out an ad mocking Donald Trump’s statement on Morning Joe Wednesday that when it comes to foreign policy advice, he talks to himself.

But then Ted Cruz unveiled his national security advisory team – a kind of all-star NEOCON blend, with neocon here referring to both neoconservatives who held sway with George W. Bush, and neoconspiracy-theorists, who believe that Barack Obama is a secret Marxist and jihadist bent on destroying America, imposing Sharia law and creating, through Obamacare, his own militia of American Brownshirts.

From Eric Levitz at New York Magazine

On Wednesday, Donald Trump was asked whom he consults with on matters of foreign policy. “I’m speaking with myself, No. 1, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” Trump replied.

So, Trump’s top national-security adviser — his own reflection shouting back at him from a mirror — doesn’t inspire much confidence. Ted Cruz’s top national-security adviser inspires even less.

On Thursday, Cruz revealed his national-security advisory team. The first name on the list? Frank “Obama is a Muslim” Gaffney, Bloomberg reports. Gaffney is the Joe McCarthy of Islamophobia. His think tank, the Center for Security Policy, is dedicated to raising awareness about the jihadist infiltration of the American government. For Gaffney, Barack Hussein Obama is but the tip of the iceberg — in truth, the Muslim Brotherhood has placed operatives throughout the federal government. Among their top agents: Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist. In conservative circles, it’s one thing to accuse liberals with foreign-sounding names of “stealth jihad.” It’s quite another to say the same of a white male libertarian who has devoted his life to the noble cause of widening the income gap. After Gaffney wrote a full book on Norquist’s alleged sharia schemes, he was banned from the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. (The strongest verifiable evidence of Norquist’s jihadist sympathies appears to be that his wife is a Muslim-American).

From Eli Lake at Bloomberg:

The first name on the advisory list that stands out is Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration Pentagon official who has emerged as a lightning rod in the Obama era, accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center of being one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes.

 When Trump proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, he quoted from a 2015 survey of American Muslims commissioned by the think tank Gaffney founded, the Center for Security Policy. It concluded that a quarter of U.S. Muslims supported violent jihad against the U.S. This led to speculation in the Washington press that Gaffney was advising Trump.

But Gaffney is a Cruz man. In an interview, he said that he met Cruz when he was running for Senate in 2012, and that he has briefed him on the FBI’s investigation into a Muslim Brotherhood-linked charity known as the Holy Land Foundation and on how Sharia law is a threat to America. “I hope that some of that went into his decision to introduce legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization,” Gaffney said.

Until this year, these views were considered radioactive by the Republican establishment. George W. Bush, after Sept. 11, famously appeared at a Washington mosque and declared that Islam was a religion of peace. Senator John McCain, when he was his party’s presidential nominee in 2008, famously rebuked a talk-radio host for calling his challenger “Barack Hussein Obama,” a dog whistle to the president’s Arabic middle name. In 2012, the campaign of Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, spurned Gaffney and other conservatives who warned that Sharia was a domestic threat.  

This time around it’s a little different. As Cruz makes the case that he is the last, best chance to prevent Trump from winning his party’s nomination, his foreign-policy advisers include not only Gaffney, but also three others who work for Gaffney’s think tank: former CIA officers Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez and former Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Jim Hanson. Also on the list is Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing. McCarthy has been outspoken in his view that adherents at least to political Islam are seeking to impose Sharia law in the U.S.

At the same time, Cruz’s team includes former officials who reject Gaffney’s broad view that any Muslim who believes in Sharia law by definition believes in a totalitarian and violent ideology at war with America.

Here, from October 2008, is Gaffney in the Washington Times, just before Obama’s election in 2004, in which,  years before the King of the Birthers Trump, he takes up the birther cause, and also suggests that a significant portion of Obama’s small donor base were foreign Islamists:

— A Federal Election Commission (FEC) employee has reportedly been warning for months about evidence that the Obama campaign has received as much as $200 million almost half of his total donations, in amounts less than $200. That is below the threshold for donor information Mr. Obama has chose to report to the FEC – unlike the Clinton and McCain campaigns which have reported all donor information.

Of the $200 million, between $30 million and $100 million are from the Mideast, Africa and other places Islamists adre active. It is unclear whether – as seems likely – these funds come not only from Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood types and jihadists of other stripes but from non-U.S. citizens. Such contributions would be not only worrying but illegal.

Although the FEC has studiously ignored the problem to date, the matter finally appears to be the subject of a formal complaint by the Republican National Committee. Unfortunately, even if the commission finally bestirs itself to investigate the facts, it seems unlikely to render a finding before the jihadists’ and others’ votes are counted.

— Another question yet to be resolved is whether Mr. Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States, a prerequisite pursuant to the U.S. Constitution. There is evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya rather than, as he claims, Hawaii. There is also a registration document for a school in Indonesia where the would-be president studied for four years, on which he was identified not only as a Muslim but as an Indonesian. If correct, the latter could give rise to another potential problem with respect to his eligibility to be president.

Curiously, Mr. Obama has, to date, failed to provide an authentic birth certificate which could clear up the matter.

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The next three weeks afford the American people – and the media, the courts and the FEC – an opportunity to get to the bottom of Barack Obama’s ties to and affinity for jihadists who have their own reasons for relishing his promise of “change” for this country. Unfortunately, the change his Islamists supporters have in mind is for global theocratic rule under Shariah, and the end of our constitutional, democratic government.

And here he was, in February 2010, writing at Breitbart

Now, thanks to an astute observation by Christopher Logan of the Logans Warning blog, we have another possible explanation for behavior that — in the face of rapidly growing threats posed by North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and others’ ballistic missiles — can only be described as treacherous and malfeasant: Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.

What could be code-breaking evidence of the latter explanation is to be found in the newly-disclosed redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo (above). As Logan helpfully shows, the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 6.46.54 AM

Even as the administration has lately made a show of rushing less capable sea- and land-based short-range (theater) missile defenses into the Persian Gulf in the face of rising panic there about Iran’s actual/incipient ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities, Team Obama is behaving in a way that — as the new MDA logo suggests — is all about accommodating that “Islamic Republic” and its ever-more aggressive stance.

Watch this space as we identify and consider various, ominous and far more clear-cut acts of submission to Shariah by President Obama and his team. Readers are encouraged to offer examples of their own to info@securefreedom.org.

Then there was Gaffney’s claim that Saddam Hussein might be implicated in the Oklahoma City bombing.

From Haaretz:

In 2009, Gaffney told his incredulous hosts on MSNC’s Hardball that there was some “pretty compelling circumstantial evidence” that Iraq under late dictator Hussein had a hand in the 1995 attack.

“He [Saddam] kept saying he was going to try to get even against us for Desert Storm, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable for people to conclude maybe that that’s what he was doing,” Gaffney said, adding in the same breath that the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center may also have been Iraq’s handiwork.

There’s more.

Then there’s  Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin

From Right Wing Watch:

Last year, Retired General Jerry Boykin recorded a video for Rick Joyner’s Oak Initiative in which he claimed that President Obama was using healthcare reform legislation as cover to establish a private Brownshirt army loyal only to him.

We have incrementally moved towards Marxism and now I think it’s at an accelerated pace. There are lots of indicators as to exactly how we’re moving along the lines of the Marxist model – if you look back historically at how societies, what they’ve done as they’ve moved toward Marxism, we’re doing all of those things.

One of which is, you look at Hitler – and one of the most disgusting things I hear is people who call Hitler “the extreme right.” The absolute opposite was true – it was the National Socialist Party, he was an extraordinarily off-the-scale leftist. But many Jews in America, for example, can’t identify with the Republican Party because they’re called the party of the right and they equate that to Hitler when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. So, that’s just a data point.

One of the things that Hitler did was he established the Brownshirts. The Brownshirts where his constabulary force to control the population because, as you’re making these radical changes, there has to be some entity that stands by you with the strength and the muscle to allow you to make these over the opposition and the protest of the sovereign, the people. So Hitler had the Brownshirts.

Well, in the lead-up to the election, during the campaigns, our current president said very openly, and you can find it on YouTube, if I am elected President , I will have a national civilian security force that is as large as and as powerful as the US military.

For what? Why do you need a national civilian security force?

Now most people say, well we haven’t seen any signs of the administration doing that. Until you go back and read what nobody in Washington read, and that’s the health care legislation that lays out a provision for the commissioning of officers to work directly for the President in time of a national emergency.

Now what would bring about a national emergency? An economic collapse, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster – we talked about all those things here – which would then allow for martial law. The foundation has been laid.

And here, from the Los Angeles Times in 2003, is Boykin talking about Islam and Satan:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has assigned the task of tracking down and eliminating Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and other high-profile targets to an Army general who sees the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, is a much-decorated and twice-wounded veteran of covert military operations. From the bloody 1993 clash with Muslim warlords in Somalia chronicled in “Black Hawk Down” and the hunt for Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar to the ill-fated attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, Boykin was in the thick of things.

Yet the former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army’s top-secret Delta Force is also an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared in dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”

Discussing the battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told another audience, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

So, one would expect that this should cement Cruz’s standing with the Jade Helm set.

Right?

Well, not really, because whatever good will he may gain with the addition of the neo-conspiracy-theorists to his inner circle is spoiled by the presence of all those old-fashioned neocons.

https://twitter.com/JacobEngels/status/708035995652984832

And Stone has been a frequent guest of late on Alex Jones’ Infowars, with Jones concluding that Cruz is one of them, not one of us.

Jones to Cruz: “You’re an operatives, just as sure as the sun came up, and we’re coming after you.”

Much better Trump, who has said that President George W. Bush misled the nation into a terrible mistake in Iraq, than Cruz who,  with the exit of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, is now surrounding himself with many of the neocon architects of that war.

From Derek Davison at the progressive Common Dreams.

Cruz has assembled a collection of some of the most prominent Islamophobes in American right-wing circles and balanced them with a group of neoconservatives who only want to go to war against part of the Islamic world, not all of it.

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To be fair to Cruz, his team also includes less conspiratorially minded neocons like Elliott Abrams, who has opposed diplomacy with Iran (he’d prefer a war, thank you very much) and supports stronger intervention in Syria. But Abrams does not believe that America is at war with Islam or that nefarious Muslim agents have infiltrated the federal government at all levels. It also includes former Reagan administration official Michael Ledeen, who told Lake that “We’re at war with a coalition of radical Islamists and radical secularists. It’s not all one thing, nor is Islam all one thing.” Ledeen is perhaps best known for devising the “Ledeen Doctrine,” which, as related by National Review’s Jonah Goldberg in 2002, goes like this:

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.

I doubt Ledeen would say that the 2011 Libyan intervention qualifies, so that means the United States is long overdue for throwing “some small crappy little country” against the wall. One can only imagine which country a President Cruz, with Ledeen at his side, would pick.

Ledeen, who served for many years as the “Freedom Scholar” at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute before taking the same position at the neocon Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is at least as toxic as Gaffney. He was involved in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration and was a key advisor to Karl Rove during the George W. Bush years, advocating for the invasion of Iraq and for war with Iran. Ledeen even brings his own conspiratorial baggage. In the 1980s, he was known for pushing the “Bulgarian Connection,” the theory that the KGB was behind Mehmet Ali Agca’s attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. In 2003, Ledeen speculated that French and German opposition to the Iraq War was all part of a deal they’d struck with “radical Islam” to weaken the United States.

Not that long ago, this might have all seemed an unlikely turn of events.

From Jonah Goldberg at National Review way back in January.

In interviews and on the stump, Senator Ted Cruz likes to attack President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and “some of the more aggressive Washington neocons” for their support of regime change in the Middle East.

Every time we topple a dictator, Cruz argues, we end up helping terrorists or extremists. He has a point. But what interests me is his use of the word “neocon.”

What does he really mean? Some see dark intentions.

“He knows that the term in the usual far-left and far-right parlance means warmonger, if not warmongering Jewish advisers, so it is not something he should’ve done,” former George W. Bush advisor Elliott Abrams told National Review.

Another former Bush adviser calls the term “a dog whistle.”

I think that’s all a bit overblown. Cruz is just trying to criticize his opponent Marco Rubio, who supported regime change in Libya. There’s little daylight between the two presidential contenders on foreign policy, and this gives Cruz an opening for attack.

But Abrams is right — and Cruz surely knows — that for many people “neocon” has become code for suspiciously Hebraic super-hawk. It’s an absurd distortion.

At first, neocons weren’t particularly associated with foreign policy. They were intellectuals disillusioned by the folly of the Great Society.

As Irving Kristol famously put it, a “neoconservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality and wants to press charges.” The Public Interest, the first neoconservative publication, co-edited by Kristol, was a wonkish domestic-policy journal. Kristol later argued that neoconservatism was not an ideology but a “persuasion.”

William F. Buckley, the avatar of supposedly authentic traditional conservatism, agreed. The neocons, he explained, brought the new language of sociology to an intellectual tradition that had been grounded more in Aristotelian thinking.

The neocon belief in democracy promotion grew out of disgust with Richard Nixon’s détente and Jimmy Carter’s fecklessness, but it hardly amounted to knee-jerk interventionism. When Jeane Kirkpatrick articulated a theory of neoconservative foreign policy in Commentary magazine in 1979, she cautioned that it was unwise to demand rapid liberalization in autocratic countries, and that gradual change was a more realistic goal than immediate transformation.

During the Cold War, neocons weren’t any more hawkish than anyone else on the right. They were advocating containment of the Soviet Union while National Review conservatives were demanding “rollback” and Barry Goldwater was talking about nuking the Kremlin.

 Even through the late 1990s, neocons were far from outliers in their belief that the United States should use its military power to support democracies abroad. Many members of both parties held that view. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who in 1998 signed the Iraq Liberation Act calling for regime change. After 9/11, some neoconservative intellectuals had off-the-shelf foreign policy ready for George W. Bush — which, yes, was hawkish in nature, but other Republicans and even Democrats supported their prescriptions, at least at first.

As the Iraq War went south, the neocons were the only ones left defending it, and so got all of the blame.

Well, that was then.

Now, as Cruz and Trump prepared to appear before AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – next week, Elliot Abrams is whispering in Cruz’s ear.

From Nicole Hemmer at U.S. News

One of the most confounding political developments of the past decade has been neoconservatism’s grip on the Republican Party. The catastrophic Iraq War should have driven its architects into the wilderness. But the party’s blanket opposition to the Obama administration gave them a way back in. Since Obama governed as a pragmatic realist, Republicans granted the neocons a reprieve.

Which is not to say neoconservatives had an iron-lock on the GOP. For a brief period after the 2012 election, the party experienced a libertarian moment, one that extended to foreign policy. Two 2016 candidates, Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, capitalized on the shift in public opinion to push hard for Republican non-intervention. When Paul launched his 13-hour filibuster of American drone policy in 2013, Cruz was there by his side – a partnership that caused Sen. John McCain to dismiss them as “wacko birds.”

But with the rise of the Islamic State group, the Republican affection for nonintervention dissolved overnight. The neocon consensus came roaring back: boots on the ground in Syria, the silent treatment in Tehran, sanctions against Russia. Better reckless than feckless.

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Enter Donald Trump.

Now, Trump is not what anyone would call a foreign-policy savant. He hews to no consistent ideology. (Consistency is not his strong point.) But he does have preferences. Thomas Wright sifted through decades of Trump’s statements for Politico to try to suss out a set of policies, arguing the Republican front-runner does in fact have “a remarkably coherent and consistent worldview.” While I wouldn’t go that far, it is clear that Trump offers a challenge to both noninterventionism and neoconservatism. It may not be an -ism, but it is an alternative.

Trump is all about bluster and strength, but has no real attachments to intervention or democracy. He readily labels the war in Iraq a “mistake” and attacks the foreign-policy establishment for its error-laden intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. He wants a strong military, but wants NATO allies to pay for it. He promises to bully adversaries, bill allies and buddy up with dictators.

And his supporters love him for it.

Here was the Cruz campaign announcement:

HOUSTON, Texas – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced today a high-profile national security coalition that will advise Cruz on foreign policy issues. The group includes such leaders as former Senator Jim Talent, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy and former Asst. Secretary of State Elliott Abrams.
 
“I am honored and humbled to have a range of respected voices willing to offer their best advice,” Cruz said. “These are trusted friends who will form a core of our broader national security team. After two terms of a failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy, our allies are confused and frightened, and our enemies are looking for opportunities. This is the moment for all those who believe in a strong America that is secure at home and respected abroad to come together and craft a new path forward.”
 
“Senator Cruz has staked out new ground in terms of a conservative foreign policy during his years in the Senate,” said Victoria Coates, who serves as Senator Cruz’s senior advisor for foreign policy. “He’s rejected the failed policies of the past and gotten back to a truly principled, Reagan-esque approach to America’s dposition in the world.”
 
“Senator Cruz has consistently demonstrated his deep commitment to Reagan’s national security philosophy, underpinned by the foundational principle of ‘peace through strength’,” said Chad Sweet, former DHS and CIA official and Chairman of the Ted Cruz for President Campaign. “The national security experts who are endorsing him today are all highly respected professionals who share Senator Cruz’s vision of how we will restore America’s leadership in the world.”

 
“Ted Cruz is a serious candidate who has grappled with national defense issues during his time in the Senate. His comprehensive plan to rebuild our military after the disastrous Obama administration Defense budget cuts demonstrates that he’s ready to be Commander in Chief on day one,” said former Senator Jim Talent. “The Obama-Clinton foreign policy has left our world a far more dangerous place, and I look forward to working with Senator Cruz on policies that will keep our nation safe.”
 
“Not since the days before 9/11 has our threat environment been more perilous, with jihadists on the rise, rogue states emboldened, and allies alarmed by over seven years of American weakness,” said former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy. “As President, Ted Cruz will restore a foreign policy that prioritizes our national interests, unleashes our armed forces to prevail when called upon, distinguishes vital security measures from naïve adventurism, and tells other nations it is once again a boon to be America’s friend and a serious mistake to be America’s enemy. President Cruz will lead from in front, with strength and clarity.”
 
“Senator Cruz has a perfect record of support for Israel in the Senate, and he has made it clear that he believes a strong Israel is America’s key ally and asset in the Middle East,” said former assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams. “He understands the power relationships in that region and he will put an end to the tensions of the Obama years that have weakened the US-Israel alliance. He is very clearly the most pro-Israel candidate in the race today.” 
 
The following are members of Ted Cruz’s national security coalition:
 
Elliott Abrams was an assistant secretary of State in the Reagan administration and a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration; he is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
 
Stewart Baker served as assistant secretary for policy at DHS, as general counsel of the National Security Agency, and as general counsel of the bipartisan commission that investigated intelligence failures involving WMD and Iraq.
 
Ilan Berman is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, and an expert on Iran, Russia and radical Islam. 
 
Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin is a retired US Army Delta Force and Green Beret commander and the Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council.
 
Fred Fleitz is senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy and a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst.
 
Randy Fort has served in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations in senior positions in the intelligence community, and is currently an executive with the Raytheon Company.
 
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.  He acted as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy under President Reagan.
 
Nile Gardiner is a former aide to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
 
Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a former speechwriter for the Bush Administration and editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal.
 
Katharine C. Gorka is the president of the Council on Global Security.
 
Steven Groves is a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation where he concentrates on the protection of American sovereignty, treaties, and international law.
 
Mary Habeck is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies al-Qa’ida, ISIS, and jihadi-salafism, and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
 
Kristofer L. Harrison is a co-founder of the China Beige Book and was an official in both the Departments of Defense and State in the George W. Bush administration.
 
Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain, is the principal director of the Stoneridge Group, a national security consultancy.
 
Michael Ledeen is freedom scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, holds a Ph.D. in Modern European History, and is the author of more than 35 books, including the forthcoming The Field of Fight.
 
Clare M. Lopez is vice president for research & analysis at the Center for Security Policy.
 
Andy McCarthy is former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, led the prosecution of the “Blind Sheikh” and 11 other jihadists for waging a terrorist war against the United States that included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
 
Robert C. O’Brien is a partner at Larson O’Brien LLP; he was a senior foreign policy advisor to Gov. Scott Walker and Governor Mitt Romney, and was a US Representative to the UN General Assembly. 
 
Michael Pillsbury was a Reagan campaign advisor in 1980, served as assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning under President Reagan, and is the author of three books on China.
 
Charles “Cully” Stimson is the senior legal fellow and manager of National Security Law Program at The Heritage Foundation; he is a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs.
 
Jim Talent was a U.S. senator from Missouri and served on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees for twelve years; he is currently a senior fellow specializing in military preparedness at the American Enterprise Institute.
 
Daniel P. Vajdich is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and was Governor Scott Walker’s deputy foreign policy director and lead staffer for Europe and Eurasia on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
 
Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor and deputy special envoy during the George W. Bush administration; he is the author of Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War, and is a principal at DC International Advisory.

From Jacob Heilbrunn, author of “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.” writing at The National Interest:

Frank Gaffney, who has been toiling in the far right anti-Muslim vineyards for over a decade, likes to refer to “creeping Sharia.” He himself is plain creepy. Now he and his staff at the Center for Security Policy appear to have crept into the Ted Cruz campaign, along with a passel of neoconservatives such as Elliott Abrams and Michael Ledeen who should know better but apparently don’t care that they are cheek by jowl with a febrile conspiracy theorist. How much lower can the neocons sink?

Only a few months ago Cruz was making derisory noises about the neocons:

“some of the more aggressive Washington neocons have consistently misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefitting radical Islamic terrorists.”

That was then. Now he’s turning to them and Gaffney. The result is the rise of the conspiracons.

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The neocons bray about Obama, but their real target is Donald Trump. Trump himself attracted criticism and mockery for bragging about his great brain when queried about whom he would turn to for foreign policy advice. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” he said. The Republican front-runner added:

“I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

One thing seems clear: Trump’s foreign policy team—himself—is a step up from Cruz’s.

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New Cruz ad in Arizona.

Spoiler alert: Why won’t sore winner John Kasich quit the race?

Good day Austin:

The word coming from the Ted Cruz campaign is that John Kasich is a spoiler.

The word coming from Sean Hannity on Fox last night is that John Kasich is a spoiler.

Selfish. Establishment tool. Deluded.

https://twitter.com/seanhannity/status/709954328312815620

https://twitter.com/seanhannity/status/710292132834095108

https://twitter.com/seanhannity/status/708438816730783744

https://twitter.com/WolfNorse/status/710437980977160192

https://twitter.com/amandacarpenter/status/710247335129821185

https://twitter.com/amandacarpenter/status/710248080717688832

https://twitter.com/amandacarpenter/status/710442731617722368

OK.

First, watch Glenn Beck, who loves Cruz and hates Trump, and see why he is so much better than Sean Hannity.

Second, on a personal note, I am worried about Sean Hannity.

It’s not the way his hair sits on his head, which remains, as it has always been, unsettling.

It’s that he loves Donald Trump but he also loves Ted Cruz. He wants them both to be president, but, of course that can’t happen. Never mind that Cruz now fashions himself as the only person who can save the Republican Party and the nation from the disaster of Donald Trump. Never mind that the reason Cruz feels Kasich is obliged to get out of the race is so he can have the one-on-one with Trump in order to take the New York huckster out.

 

 

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What Hannity doesn’t like is not that Kasich is messing up Cruz’s chances of bringing down Trump but that Kasich’s candidacy invites thoughts, the mere possibility, that the Republican Party could nominate someone other than Trump or Cruz. And, in Hannity’s view, and in the view of the Cruz campaign, it is illegitimate for a candidate to persist who does not have a mathematical possibility of clinching the nomination before the Cleveland convention, where, in Hannity’s view, anything that occurs that does not simply hand the nomination to whoever has the most delegates coming in, no matter how shy of the 1,237 delegate that candidate might be, would be a terrible  injustice, or as Trump put it yesterday, a reason to riot in the streets of Cleveland, not that he would condone that.

That construct works for Hannity because he’s fine if Trump is the nominee.

But for someone who loves Cruz but doesn’t also love Trump, that is a dangerous line of reasoning, because if Kasich’s chance of securing the delegates needed to win the nomination before Cleveland are none, Cruz’s chances are slim – very, very slim and within spitting distance of none.

If Ted Cruz is going to be nominated in Cleveland, it is much more likely to happen on a second or third ballot than on the first ballot. And, right now, there is a lot more chance that Cruz would be Trump’s running mate than that he would win the top spot.

Would Trump pick Lyin’ Ted as his running mate?

Sure. Why not? It appears, he has already promised Dr. Ben pathological-like-a-child-molester Carson some role in his administration in exchange for his endorsement.

Would Cruz go for it?

Well, of course Cruz would prefer an appointment to the Supreme Court by President Trump that would enable the 45-year-old brilliant legal mind to shape American society well into the End Times. But, if Trump doesn’t go for that, vice president in a Trump administration could be a really plum job –  even more important than being vice president in the George W. Bush administration. And how sweet would it be for Cruz to return to Washington in 2017 as President of the Senate.

And, for what it’s worth, a Trump-Cruz ticket would be Sean Hannity’s dream come true.

So feh on Kasich, the spoiler whose only real claim to the nomination is that he might actually prove electable in the fall.

What a loser.

From Matt Bai at Yahoo! Politics caught up with Kasich yesterday in Pennsylvania.

“I have a unique opportunity, because we’re now gaining momentum,” Kasich told me, shrugging off the obstacles. “What would you rather have, momentum in the first quarter or momentum in the fourth? Cruz didn’t win anything last night. I did.

“And you know what? People across the country are celebrating that victory in Ohio. Because they believe it sends a message that somebody who has a record, somebody who can bring us together — that there’s hope for that yet.

“I don’t see that anybody is going to have enough delegates,” Kasich told me. “And then you have a convention. I mean, why are people hyperventilating about that?”

Kasich’s plan, in other words, is to keep Trump from amassing the 1,237 delegates he needs, and then to effectively declare a reset at the convention. His campaign added a team of serious party insiders this week — among them the superlobbyist Vin Weber and the longtime strategist Charlie Black — to begin preparing for a delegate war.

But as Kasich well knows, the “hyperventilation” in some circles comes from imagining what will happen if Republican operatives try to overturn the will of their own voters. And this is why Kasich needs to do more than simply keep Trump under the magic number; he also needs to win a bunch of states that aren’t his own between now and early June.

In the end, an establishment-led challenge will be viable — or at least something less than suicidal — only if the leaders of various delegations can plausibly make the case that Kasich was the party’s strongest candidate by the time the primaries ended.

If nothing else, there’s little question that he’s now the most electable of the bunch. I asked him if it felt odd, despite his sharply conservative record and evangelical fervor, to have become the Republican Democrats like best.

“I have always been able to attract the independent and conservative Democrats,” Kasich told me as the car came to a stop. “When their party’s turned hard left and they feel left behind, we’ve always had an ability to get those votes.”

Aside from electability, Kasich’s calling card is his governing experience, in Washington and Ohio, which dwarfs that of either Cruz or Trump. But, at least so far this year, that preparation is tallied on the negative side of the ledger.

Also, unlike Cruz, Kasich was never an apologist for Trump.

So, what would get Kasich out of the race?

Money, or lack thereof. That’s the surest path, accompanied by doing a lot of losing.

Or, a devastating nickname.

So far, Trump has a not bestowed one on Kasich that perfectly encapsulates his  essential weakness, his fatal flaw.

But, I’m sure his time will come.

In the meantime, Kasich needs to finish ahead of Cruz in places like Wisconsin and New York and Pennsylvania  and Connecticut, to demonstrate that it is not he who is spoiling things.

Cruz wasn’t out campaigning yesterday, but his campaign did release an illuminating statement “regarding President Obama’s decision to nominate Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Merrick Garland is exactly the type of Supreme Court nominee you get when you make deals in Washington D.C. A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make – someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS. We cannot afford to lose the Supreme Court for generations to come by nominating or confirming someone that a dealmaker like Donald Trump would support. Washington dealmakers cannot be trusted with such crucial lifetime appointments. 

I proudly stand with my Republican colleagues in our shared belief – our advice and consent – that we should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office. The People will decide. I commend Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley for holding the line and ensuring that We the People get to exercise our authority to decide the direction of the Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights.

I must admit that my paramount fear about a Trump presidency is not that he would recklessly name a widely-respected centrist jurist to the Supreme Court. But it cuts to the core of Cruz’s critique of Trump, which is first and foremost that the intemperate Trump is too moderate.

Meanwhile, according to this week’s Gallup Insiders’ Briefing, through all the tumult since Trump announced last June, his high standing with Republican voters is undisturbed, but, among the broader public, he is even more unpopular than Hillary Clinton.

Some excerpts:

Trump is not well-liked by Americans, and has become less so over time. He is less well-liked than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.
 
His national image started out as 32% favorable/56% unfavorable in July.  As his familiarity has inched up, all of this increased recognition has gone to the negative side of the ledger.  From July to present, his favorable is down by 3 points, his unfavorable up by 8 points. He is now at a -35 net favorable (29%/64%).
 
Trump was best liked in late August and early September, when his favorable was slightly above average at 38%. Trump’s most negative image came for the week ending March 5, with 28% favorable, roughly where he is today. On average since July, 33% of Americans have held a favorable opinion of Trump while 58% have been unfavorable. 
 
In contrast to what national adults think about Trump, rank and file Republicans generally like him.  
 
Trump’s image has averaged 57% favorable/36% unfavorable among Republicans since July. After Trump’s image dipped earlier this month, it has improved and is now remarkably close to his overall average, with 59% of Republicans holding a favorable view of him and 36% an unfavorable view.  Republicans’ net favorable views of Trump have ranged from a low of +5 in late February/early March to as high as +33 in September.
 
  Among the “Non-Trump” Candidates, Kasich Now Best Liked
 
Of the two Republican candidates who remain standing in Trump’s considerable shadow, John Kasich now enjoys the highest net favorable rating among Republicans and Republican leaners nationwide. His +33 net favorable rating as of Tuesday compares with +17 for Ted Cruz (and +23 for Trump). Before suspending his campaign Tuesday night, Marco Rubio had plunged to an all-time low of zero in net favorability with Republicans nationally. Kasich has also demonstrated impressive momentum, managing a fairly steady three month climb from his all-time low of +2 in late December. Kasich has also become better known, with his familiarity among Republicans climbing about 20 percentage points.
 
Over the same period Cruz’s favorability rating nosedived, similar to Rubio’s. However, before the March 15 primaries Cruz managed a slight recovery from his recent nadir.  Where Kasich and Cruz go from here remains to be seen, but, combined with the results of the March 15 elections, their images suggest that they may have enough GOP goodwill to continue in the hopes of achieving something at a possible brokered convention.
 
I spoke yesterday with Frank Newport, Gallup editor-in-chief, who talked about their findings.
Right now, among Republicans, Trump has a better image than Cruz, but by just a few points. Both candidates have liabilities with Republicans, more than third of Republicans are unfavorable about both.
Neither one of them has an image advantage at the moment.

Kasich’s a little better liked than either of them, but even a lot of Republicans don’t know a lot about Kasich.  About 30 percent of Republicans really don’t know who  he is.

This is the first time in our data (for the favorable/unfavorable question, beginning in 1992)  we’ve had two candidates, possible front-runners, who among the general population have over 50 percent unfavorable ratings – that would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – and of those two, Trump is more unpopular than Hillary.

He clearly has major image problems with the electorate as whole. This is unusual to have a candidate at this stage who is this deeply disliked.

Hillary Clinton – you know we’ve been tracking her for 25 years, she is very labile. When she’s not running for president, she is in the favorable, plus side. She has the potential to spring back.

But for now, Newport said of the prospect of a Clinton-Trump race, “it raises the specter – kind of a James Bond term – of a third-party candidate.”

 

For Ted Cruz, it’s one step forward and two steps back

Good morning Austin:

Ted Cruz’s election night routine is to come on stage with a big grin and say, “God bless” whichever state he just won or surpassed expectations in.

Last night, at his campaign watch event at Houston’s Hyatt Regency, there was no state for Cruz to invoke God’s blessing on.

For a candidate who has been promoted by key supporters as God’s anointed candidate, the question today is why God has forsaken him, especially just as he would assume the mantle as the only man who can fulfill the holy mission of standing in the gap and stopping the Republican Party from nominating Donald Trump – Donald Trump ! –  for president of the United States.

Cruz came very close in Missouri, which ended in a virtual dead heat, but it appears he lost to Trump though a recount is possible. But, if that loss stands, Cruz went winless in five states Tuesday, undermining his momentum heading into what now promises to be a long slog to try to deprive Trump of the 1,234 delegates he needs to secure the nomination in Cleveland in July.

 

New York Times
New York Times

Without a Missouri win, it appears that Cruz picked up only 34 delegates last night, increasing his total from 376 to 420. He went from trailing Trump by fewer than 100 delegates to lagging nearly 250 delegates behind.

According to an AP analysis, Cruz would need to win 75 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.

NBC put the new delegate tally  at 656 delegates for Trump, 408 for Cruz, 172 for Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race last night, and 138 for Kasich, and calculated that Trump could get to the requisite 1,237 delegates without having to crack 50 percent in any of the remaining contests.

The stark reality for Cruz is that, with yesterday’s primaries in Florida and North Carolina, every state of the Old Confederacy has now voted and Ted Cruz – who was depending on the South to be the cornerstone of his strategy – has won exactly one of those states, his home state of Texas.

Cruz has done better in the South of late. He finished a strong second in North Carolina, just as he had in Louisiana. According to the CNN exit poll, Cruz fought Trump to a draw with the 68 percent of the North Carolina GOP electorate who identify as evangelical Christians, but his strategy depended on evangelical voters being his go-to constituency.

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Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said last night that, one-on-one, Cruz can thrash Trump the rest of the way, especially in the 18 of 22 upcoming contests where Democratic crossover voting is not allowed, and clinch the nomination before Cleveland, or short of that, triumph in a contested convention.

But, in a bit of whack-a-mole, even as Trump helped Cruz by knocking Rubio out of the race – albeit at the huge cost to Cruz of Trump picking up Florida’s 99 delegates – up pops Kasich who defeated Trump in his home state.

While Roe contends that that’s it for Kasich – he just peaked and has nowhere to go – Kasich’s victory continues to deprive Cruz of his clean shot at Trump and gives Republicans who despair at the prospect of a Trump nomination but disdain or even despise Cruz, with an alternative.

On Wednesday on MSBC’s Morning Joe, Carly Fiorina, who has emerged in recent days as Cruz’s top surrogate, said that Kasich, fresh off his victory, doesn’t have a path to the nomination and ought to quit the race and leave it to Cruz.

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“Every day John Kasich remains in the race, it benefits Donald Trump,” said Cruz, saying that a candidate without a path to victory ought to make way for a candidate with one.

Not gonna happen.

It will be up to Kasich in the next few days to put some meat on the bones of his game plan, and up to the Cruz campaign  to effectively make the case that Kasich’s best day is behind him, and to better establish that Cruz is truly the sole locus of anti-Trump sentiment.

But Trump is heavy favorite to win Arizona’s winner-take-all primary on Tuesday, which would more than offset a loss in Utah, which also votes Tuesday.

Trump said he won’t be participating at Monday’s Fox debate in Salt Lake City, and Kasich consultant John Weaver tweeted, “No debate in SLC Monday due to Trump backing out.” Which leaves Cruz, but I’m not sure an evening alone on stage is what he needs or desires or Fox wants.

The big thing going for Cruz -and Kasich – remains Trump, and the enormous doubts that swirl around his candidacy. But, increasingly, their fate depends on Trump doing himself in, and, try as Trump might, week after week, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

But it appears that Trump will keep trying.

Tuesday night, it was Trump, petulant and ungracious in victory, and on Wednesday on Morning Joe, breathtakingly imperious.

Asked who he consults with to be sure he is prepared to be president on Day One, Trump, on the phone, said, “I am speaking with myself because I have a very good brain. I know what I’m doing.”

“My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

Alrighty then.

 

 

 

 

Beware the Ides of March. America’s Caesar may widen his delegate lead.

Good day Austin:

It is March 15. The Ides of March. Bad day for Julius Caesar back in 44 BC.

From The Telegraph today:

Julius Caesar suffered 23 stab wounds on the Ides of March but only one of them, the second stab wound he received to the breast, was fatal to the 55-year-old. In his book, military historian Barry Strauss, says that the problem was that many of the estimated 60 conspirators were amateurs at murder. “Very few soldiers, even good ones, have what it takes to stab a man to death,” Strauss writes. “It takes sheer physical strength and a certain brutality to drive a dagger through a man’s flesh.” Some of the stab wounds hit rib cage bone. Excruciatingly painful but not fatal.

And who were those conspirators?

The Establishment. Senators. Romans.

Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief for Real Clear Politics, carries this line of thought far deeper than I am able to in his RCP Morning Note:

Does Donald Trump recognize himself as Julius Caesar? Your guess is as good as mine. But The Donald’s vainglory has nothing on Caesar’s, who in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” speaks of himself in the third person when he makes his initial appearance on stage.

The play’s opening, like the 2016 primary season, features a conversation between the elites and the working man. That discussion is really a debate between “tribunes” (our version is the Republican establishment) and the commoners (Trump voters) who see what Caesar already knows: to rule Rome you need the working people with you, not the patrician tribunes.

It doesn’t take much to see U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as Roman senators Brutus and Cassius. Appalled that a man so flawed has become so powerful, they hatch a plot to stop him.

Caesar doesn’t worry overmuch about Brutus-Rubio, but has his eye on Cassius-Cruz.

“Let me have men about me that are fat,” says Caesar-Trump. “Yond’ Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

But the senators believe that Caesar-Trump and the cult worship he engenders are the real threat to the Republic. Sound familiar now?

Casca, another one of the conspirators (John Kasich?) is astonished at how the crowd responds to Caesar’s bluster, which he compares to a circus. Presaging the real Donald Trump’s own line about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing any voters, Casca says the working stiffs are sheep who would forgive Caesar if he stabbed their own mothers.

Two thousand sixty years later the question is whether the long knives can take down the man who would be an American Caesar before it is too late.

 

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Probably not.

For starters, if polls are remotely accurate, it would appear that Marco Rubio in Florida is armed with a rubber dagger. In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich seems likely to prevail, if narrowly, over Trump, he was backed up yesterday on the campaign trail by Mitt Romney, who just doesn’t seem to know a shiv from Shinola.

And it is unlikely that Trump will take the stage tonight at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, and deliver the line et tu, Lyin’ Ted.

Cruz is still not quite prepared to go in for the final, brutal kill. While describing the prospect of a Trump nomination as a disaster for the party and the country, Cruz said Monday that there were only very limited circumstances under which he would not stick to his commitment to support Trump if he were the Republican nominee.

“I can give you one example where I wouldn’t support Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “If, for example, he were to go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, I would not be willing to support Donald Trump.”

Well, there’s a line in the sand,

Back in January at a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, Trump boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose vote.”

But Cruz said yesterday, were Trump to act on that impulse, he would lose at least one vote.

In fact, Cruz wants Trump to triumph in Florida and Ohio, so he can get his one-on-one race with Trump, even as he wants to beat or wound Trump in Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina. He wants the story Wednesday to be that Republicans must confront a clear, practical choice between Trump and Cruz, and quickly come to terms with that.

It will be a nifty trick, if he can pull it off.

But more likely, Cruz will find himself with Trump expanding his delegate lead over him, though perhaps not over the combined strength of the anti-Trumps; Rubio doing what it takes to keep his existing cache of delegates in place so he can control them in Cleveland, and Kasich emerging as a third alternative, who could either become Cruz’s primal enemy or de facto partner in trying to stop Trump.

Cruz will be in Houston tonight, and it will be very interesting to see how he frames the race when he takes the stage at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom.

As I watched speeches last night by Trump, Cruz, Kasich and Rubio, I think the problem facing Cruz is that, of the four, he is the least fun, or even comforting, to watch.

Maybe it was the soft blue light of twilight, but Donald Trump’s rally at the airport outside Youngstown, Ohio, yesterday was – even after a week in which Trump managed to nurture the anxiety that maybe he is the prototype of a new populist-nationalist American fascism  – strangely calming.

Or, I suppose, maybe that is the real, relax-and-enjoy-it, seductive appeal of fascism, which is not all jackboots and goose-stepping, but also the warm glow of knowing that everything’s gonna be all right because Big Pappa spins beautiful stories that says it’s going to be.

Having said that, I should note that I do not fit the authoritarian mindset that would predispose me to Trump.

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog,

One of the reasons that Donald Trump has flummoxed pollsters and political analysts is that his supporters seem to have nothing in common. He appeals to evangelical and secular voters, conservative and moderate Republicans, independents and even some Democrats. Many of his supporters are white and don’t have a college degree, but he also does well with some highly educated voters, too.

What’s bringing all these different people together, new research shows, is a shared type of personality — a personality that in many ways has nothing to do with politics. Indeed, it turns out that your views on raising children better predict whether you support Trump than just about anything else about you.

Matthew MacWilliams, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conducted a poll in which Republicans were asked four questions about child-rearing. With each question, respondents were asked which of two traits were more important in children:

  • independence or respect for their elders;
  • curiosity or good manners;
  • self-reliance or obedience;
  • being considerate or being well-behaved.

Psychologists use these questions to identify people who are disposed to favor hierarchy, loyalty and strong leadership — those who picked the second trait in each set — what experts call “authoritarianism.” That many of Trump’s supporters share this trait helps explain the success of his unconventional candidacy and suggests that his rivals will have a hard time winning over his adherents.

When it comes to politics, authoritarians tend to prefer clarity and unity to ambiguity and difference. They’re amenable to restricting the rights of foreigners, members of a political party in the minority and anyone whose culture or lifestyle deviates from their own community’s.

“For authoritarians, things are black and white,” MacWilliams said. “Authoritarians obey.”

So, stipulating that I’m decidedly not of the respect/good manners/obedience/well-behaved school of parenting, or even  dog-owning, there is something very reassuring about Trump’s narrative.

Sure he is pandering to prejudices, narrow-mindedness and every bully instinct of the junior high schoolyard. But, when he’s not musing about paying the legal bills for what would appear to be a stone-cold racist supporter who sucker-punched a black protester in North Carolina, his us vs. them is, if you’re an American citizen, fairly inclusive.

Sure he wants to beat the stuffing out of old pal Hillary Clinton; sure he led the charge in the shameless Birther effort to deligitimize President Obama, but, unlike Cruz, he doesn’t seem to have a pent-up carte blanche animus against liberals, Democrats and blue America that Cruz embodies.

Of course there is also, on the wee bit negative side of the ledger, the fact that most everything Trump says is either made up out of whole cloth or just simply  wrong.

From Politico:

Donald Trump says he is a truthful man. “Maybe truthful to a fault,” he boasted last week at a North Carolina rally where one of his supporters sucker punched a protester.

But truthful he is not.

With the GOP front-runner scooping up delegates in a march toward the Republican nomination, POLITICO subjected a week’s worth of his words to our magazine’s fact-checking process. We chronicled 4.6 hours of stump speeches and press conferences, from a rally in Concord, N.C., on Monday to a rally on Friday in St. Louis.

The result: more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false – the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.

From warning of the death of Christianity in America to claiming that he is taking no money from donors, the Manhattan billionaire and reality-show celebrity said something far from truthful many times over to the thousands of people packed into his raucous rallies. His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources.

But, you get past all of that, and Trump is mesmerizing, entertaining, and, if you’re going to have to live with a ubiquitous presence for the next however many year, good company.
And so, I found myself lighting up when, toward the end of his Youngstown appearance yesterday, he did a reprise of his bizarre dramatic reading of the Al Wilson 1969 Northern Soul classic, The Snake.
This is great, I thought.
Would it be so terrible to give Trump a whirl, for four years, maybe eight? As long as he didn’t end the world before then, or announce, a la Michael Bloomberg in New York, that circumstances really require in 2024 that he serve a third term to keep America great, or that maybe elections really were an inhibition on achieving ultimate American greatness.
In the meantime, it’s kind of compelling watching the Republican Party, conservatism, Brietbart, Fox and the component parts of  Sean Hannity himself being  torn asunder by one guy with a very big ego, his gut instincts and a staff of about three.
What snapped me out of my Trump reverie, though, was watching Kasich’s speech Monday before a hometown crowd in Westerville, Ohio, though it might as well have been Winesburg, Ohio, so evocative it was of wholesome American small-town values. With Kasich, there is no “us” and “them.’ It’s all “we.”
And, anger be damned, he says,, American has been through far tougher times before and done just fine.
I defy you to watch this without tearing up as he describes the long line of mourners at the funeral of his parents, who died in a car accident, and how his father, the mailman, had been part of the lives and ups and downs of every family, every home, he delivered mail to.
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Kasich even survived being introduced by Mitt Romney, the Damper Dan of American politics.

“Wow, what a welcome,” Romney said, kicking off the festivities. “John, this is your hometown, right?”

Romney watched with affection as Kasich worked the kind of simple rhetorical magic that could have elected Romney president.

Here’s Rubio yesterday.

I won’t dwell on him.

He talks too fast. He still appears two-cycles-too-soon, but his message is also one of uplift.

Then there’s Cruz.

Cruz finds himself in a remarkably strong position.

He and his campaign deserve a lot of credit.

But, as I noted earlier, his message is very hard-edged, and, more than Trump or Kasich or Rubio promises an America in which the pitched battle between Red and Blue America only intensifies.

Also, I would offer this piece of constructive criticism:

GET A NEW SPEECH!

I know that candidates tend to use the same stump speech ad infinitum, but I think Cruz is carrying this to a ridiculous extreme, and a self-defeating one now that his higher exposure means that viewers are increasingly going to see him speak multiple times.

Trump’s extraordinary gift is keeping the Trump Show alive and interesting, and Kasich’s gift is appearing to be speaking directly to his audience.

One other critique of Cruz.

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In his remarks yesterday, Cruz says:

You know a couple of debates ago, Hugh Hewitt asked all of us about religious liberty and the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump turned to me and he said, `I’ve known a lot more politicians than you have.’ Now, in that, he’s right. Donald has been supporting liberal Democratic politicians for 40 years. I have no experience doing that. But Donald went on to say, `Ted, When it comes to Supreme Court justices, you have got to be prepared compromise. You have got to negotiate with the Democrats and go along to get along.” Well, let me be very clear to the men and women of Illinois, I will not compromise away your religious liberty.

Good one. Except that that really doesn’t accurately characterize that exchange, and is more a reflection of words that Cruz attempted to put in Trump’s mouth at the debate than the words that actually came out of Trump’s mouth. One would think that with a candidate like Trump, who provides such ample fodder with virtually everything he says, that would not be necessary.

Here is the transcript of that exchange from the debate in Houston just before Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, thank you.

I want to turn our attention now to another critically important issue for the American people, the United States Supreme Court, where filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia has become a major campaign issue. I want to bring in Salem Radio Network host, Hugh Hewitt.

Hugh?

HEWITT: Thank you, Wolf.

To me, it’s the most important issue. I’ll start with you, Senator Cruz. Do you trust Mr. Trump to nominate conservative justices?

CRUZ: Well, Hugh, I agree with you that it — Justice Scalia’s passing underscores the enormous gravity of this election. Justice Scalia was someone I knew personally for 20 years; was privileged to be at his funeral this weekend. And with his passing, the court is now hanging in the balance. We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice radical leftist majority that would undermine our religious liberty; that would undermine the right to life; and that would fundamentally erase the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms from the Constitution.

Now, I think the voters of Texas, the voters across Super Tuesday are assessing everyone standing on this — this stage. In the past, Republican presidents always promise to nominate strict constitutionalists. So I’m certain if you took a survey, everyone would say they would do that.

But the reality is, Democrats bat about 1,000. Just about everyone they put on the court votes exactly as they want. Republicans have batted worse than 500, more than half of the people we put on the court have been a disaster.

I’ve spent my whole life fighting to defend the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I can tell you, for voters that care about life or marriage or religious liberty or the Second Amendment, they’re asking the question: Who do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who do you know will nominate principled constitutionalists to the court? I give you my word, every justice I nominate will vigorously defend the Bill of Rights for my children and for yours.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Mr. Trump, Senator Cruz mentioned the issue that keeps me up at night, which is religious liberty. Churches, Catholic and Christian colleges, Catholic adoption agencies — all sorts of religious institutions fear that Hobby Lobby, if it’s repealed, it was a five-four decision, they’re going to have to bend their knee and provide morning-after pills. They fear that if Bob Jones is expanded, they will lose their tax exemption.

Will you commit to voters tonight that religious liberty will be an absolute litmus test for anyone you appoint, not just to the Supreme Court, but to all courts?

TRUMP: Yes, I would. And I’ve been there. And I’ve been there very strongly. I do have to say something, and this is interesting and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not Ted’s fault. Justice Roberts was strongly recommended and pushed by Ted. Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts-care. Two times of the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts approved something that he should have never raised his hand to approve. And we ended up with Obamacare.

That is a rough thing. And I know Ted feels badly about it. And I think he probably still respects the judge. But that judge has been a disaster in terms of everything we stand for because there is no way — no way that he should have approved Obamacare.

Now, with that being said, these are the things that happen. But Ted very, very strongly pushed Judge Roberts, and Justice Roberts gave us something that we don’t want.

HEWITT: Ted Cruz, Senator, the chief justice got Hobby Lobby right, but what do you make of Mr. Cruz’s criticism?

CRUZ: Well, listen — Donald knows that it was George W. Bush who appointed John Roberts. Yes, it’s true, I supported the Republican nominee once he was made.

But I would not have nominated John Roberts. I would have nominated my former boss, Mike Luttig, who was the strongest proven conservative on the court of appeals. And I’ll tell you, Hugh…

(APPLAUSE)

… you know, it’s interesting now that Donald promises that he will appoint justices who — who will defend religious liberty, but this is a man who, for 40 years, has given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.

Nobody who supports far-left liberal Democrats who are fighting for judicial activists can possibly care about having principled constitutionalists on the court.

And what Donald has told us is he will go to Washington…

(BELL RINGS)

… and cut a deal.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump…

CRUZ: So that means on Supreme Court…

HEWITT: … can I…

CRUZ: … he’s going to look to cut a deal, rather than fight for someone who won’t cut a deal on the Constitution, but will defend it faithfully.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Can I trust you on religious liberty?

TRUMP: Well, let — let me — let me just say — let me just say this. Look, I watched Ted — and I respected it, but he gets nowhere — stand on the Senate floor for a day or two days, and talk and talk and talk.

I watched the other senators laughing and smiling. And when Ted was totally exhausted, he left the Senate floor, and they went back to work. OK? We have to have somebody that’s going to make deals.

It’s wonderful to stand up for two days and do that. Now, Ted’s been very critical — I have a sister who’s a brilliant…

HEWITT: Mr. Cruz, will you make a deal about religious liberty?

TRUMP: … excuse me. She’s a brilliant judge. He’s been criticizing — he’s been criticizing my sister for signing a certain bill. You know who else signed that bill? Justice Samuel Alito, a very conservative member of the Supreme Court, with my sister, signed that bill.

So I think that maybe we should get a little bit of an apology from Ted. What do you think?

HEWITT: Let me — Senator.

CRUZ: Let me tell you right now, Donald, I will not apologize for a minute for defending the Constitution. I will not apologize for defending the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

And I find it amazing that your answer to Hugh and to the American people is, on religious liberty, you can’t have one of the these crazy zealots that actually believes in it. You’ve got to be willing to cut a deal.

And you know, there is a reason why, when Harry Reid was asked, of all the people on this stage, who does he want the most, who does he like the most, Harry Reid said Donald — Donald Trump.

Why? Because Donald has supported him in the past, and he knows he can cut a deal with him.

(BELL RINGS)

You know what, Donald…

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: Senator Rubio.

CRUZ: … I don’t want a Supreme Court justice that you cut a deal with Harry Reid to undermine religious liberty, because that same justice will also erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: When you say crazy zealot, are you talking about you? Crazy zealot — give me a break.

HEWITT: Senator Rubio, you’ve heard this exchange on religious liberty. You have said that religious liberty will trump even the ability of people to stay away from same-sex marriages, not provide flowers, not provide baked goods, et cetera. Are you satisfied with this exchange on religious liberty?

RUBIO: Well, I think you ask a very important question, because the issue here — the next president of the United States has to fill this vacancy.

Justice Scalia — in the history of the republic, there has never been anyone better than him at standing for the principle that the Constitution is not a living and breathing document — it is supposed to be applied as originally meant.

And the next president of the United States has to be someone that you can trust and believe in to appoint someone just as good as Scalia — plus there may be at least two other vacancies.

So you ask Mr. Trump to respond and say that he would, and he says that he would. But the bottom line is, if you look at his record over the last 25 or 30 years, on issue after issue, he has not been on our side.

Now, if he’s changed, we’re always looking for converts into the conservative movement. But the bottom line is that, if (ph) you don’t have a record there to look at and say, “I feel at peace that when Donald Trump is president of the United States, he’s going to be firmly on our side on these issues.”

In fact, very recently, he was still defending Planned Parenthood. He says he’s not going to take sides in the Palestinians versus Israel. These are concerning things.

And so, yes, I have a doubt about whether Donald Trump, if he becomes president, will replace Justice Scalia with someone just like Justice Scalia.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Well, let — let me just say — let me just say, first of all, I have great respect for Justice Scalia. I thought he was terrific. And if you talk about evolving, Ronald Reagan was a somewhat liberal Democrat. Ronald Reagan evolved into a somewhat strong conservative — more importantly, he was a great president. A great president.

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.

So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn’t fund it.

I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.

(APPLAUSE)

Finally, per President Obama’s visit to Texas last week, I thought the president had one unfortunate line as he mocked Trump – and his product line of steaks, wines and such – at a Democratic fundraiser Saturday in Dallas.

You know that’s like some $5 wine.’They slap a label on it. They charge you $50 and say it’s the greatest wine ever.

Has anybody tried that wine. How good can that wine be?

OK, I get it that Obama is saying that Trump is ripping folks off. But he also comes across as a bit of a wine snob, and that has a whiff of the condescension he displayed most notoriously at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 in which he attempted to explain to his wine-and-cheese crowd what makes folks tick in what might now be called Trump Country.

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Based on his remark in Dallas, it seems he might now amend that analysis to suggest that those Trump Americans are clinging to their guns, their religion, their nativism and their Two  Buck Chuck.

 

Trump: `You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

Good day Austin:

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The 2016 Republican presidential campaign continues to defy imagination. The script is simply too outlandish to be credible. I am not complaining. Just noting.

The campaign vaulted into a new, perilous orbit Friday with the Trump rally-cum-melee in Chicago, which seemed like a dress rehearsal for a revival of Chicago 1968 in Cleveland 2016. As I recall, Lake Cuyahoga is, or was, flammable.

What was missing from the Chicago rally was Trump himself, because he canceled the show when, he said, it became apparent that a considerable portion of the huge crowd in Chicago were people who had come to protest his candidacy, not to celebrate it, and that it had the makings of a very bad scene.

But, Trump being Trump, he phoned in to MSNBC  to chime in on Chris Matthews’ dumbstruck, literally blow-by-blow account of the menacing post-rally street scene. (Trump called the other cable networks as well, but I was fixated on MSBNC”s obsessive coverage.)

And so we had the spectacle of Trump – even before his election with, it seems, Big Brother’s ability to be the ubiquitous, inescapable voice in  our national head – providing color commentary on a scene very much of his own making, explaining to Matthews how much credit he – Trump – was getting for the prudence of his decision to cancel the rally, and, this being MSNBC, offering something like a sympathetic take on some of the protesters, suggesting, for example, that some black folks angry with him might be angry because of high unemployment in their community, and, thus, might be brothers-in-despair with his angry flock.

But, after a good night’s sleep, Trump thought better of that note of conciliation.

Or perhaps the man charging the stage at his first appearance Saturday in Dayton, leading to a dramatic Secret Service response, knocked him into a different frame of mind.

Or maybe, even more probably, this was simply, all in the script.

I have thought for some time that the best way to view Trump and his candidacy is through the lens of his membership in the WWE Hall of Fame.

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He is the kayfabe candidate. (From Wikipedia: In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature.)

And Chicago 2016 was a kayfabe Chicago 1968.

Trump, guided by his gut and his showman’s touch, has, every step of the way, made bold plays of his most outrageous rhetoric and actions when he needs them, to great effect. Running behind John Kasich in Ohio, and not all that far ahead of Cruz and Kasich in Illinois, it appears to me he staged the battle of Chicago to give his campaign a timely jolt.

“It was all a made for TV protest,” said Joe Scarborough on Morning joe this morning.

As Scarborough wrote in the Washington Post today:

Friday’s freak show was as prepackaged as an rerun of “Celebrity Apprentice.” The only difference was that Donald Trump delivered his lines on the phone from a hotel room in the Windy City instead of on the set of his made-for-TV boardroom.

It was all a scam.

Has anyone noticed that Trump’s campaign now regularly stages media events designed to eclipse any negative coverage that predictably follows Republican debates?

The February 25th debate in Houston where Marco Rubio delivered the campaign’s most withering critique of Trump was followed the next morning with Chris Christie’s headline-grabbing endorsement. That Friday press conference consumed all political coverage throughout the weekend and limited any fallout from the Fox debate to a hardy band of Trump deniers on Twitter.

Then last Thursday, Rubio delivered the debate performance of his life in Miami. But with Florida and Ohio five days away, the Trump campaign took no chances. They leaked the news of Ben Carson’s coming endorsement before the debate even began and held another Friday morning press conference to showcase it. But Carson was just the warm-up act.

When news broke early Friday night that the Chicago rally had been cancelled because of safety fears, you didn’t need to be a programming genius to predict what would be jamming America’s airwaves for the rest of the night. And for the next four hours, the candidate who is promising to weaken libel laws spoke on cable news channels about how his First Amendment rights were being violated. He was doing all of this while reaching a far larger audience than he could have ever done while actually speaking at a rally.

As has been the case throughout the entire 2016 cycle, Trump thrives on the political chaos that he helps creates. If it is true that opportunity and chaos are the same word in Mandarin, Trump should stamp that word on a poster and sell it at his next scheduled event. For the Manhattan billionaire, manufactured chaos is just as profitable for his brand as Paris Hilton’s sex tape was for hers.

 But now important voices warn us that America is on the brink of chaos despite the fact that Friday’s spectacle in Chicago was more reality show than political revolt.The rally was cancelled, we were told, because law enforcement officials consulted with the campaign and concluded that scrubbing the event was in the best interest of public safety. One problem: The Chicago Police Department said that never actually happened.

And if you find that curious, perhaps you will find it even more interesting that a political campaign whose security has been so stifling as to draw angry comparisons to fascist regimes would plan a key rally for Trump in the middle of a racially diverse urban campus. The fact that that campus sits in the middle of a city that is so Democratic that it has not elected a Republican mayor since before Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in as president makes the venue’s selection even more bizarre.

Following the rally’s cancellation, Trump supporters expressed surprise at the number of protesters that were filling the lines and streaming into the event on a campus that is 25 percent Hispanic, 25 percent Asian and 8 percent black. William Daley, the son of former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, did not share that surprise. “Whoever picked that location knew what they were doing as far as poking that sleeping dog there,” Daley suggested to the New York Times that the venue was staged for the purpose of provoking protests that would energize Trump’s own supporters.

From Daley in the New York Times:

William M. Daley, a scion of the storied Daley political clan of Illinois, said he was not surprised that protests against Donald J. Trump before his Chicago rally got so out of hand that Mr. Trump canceled it before even taking the stage.

And Mr. Daley wondered why the venue was selected in the first place.

Mr. Daley, a former chief of staff to President Obama and a son of the late Richard J. Daley, the longtime mayor of Chicago, pointed out in an interview on Saturday that the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the rally was to be held, has one of the most diverse student bodies of any university in the country.

It has 17,000 undergraduate students, many of whom come from low-income families. Roughly a quarter are Hispanic, 8 percent are black and 25 percent are Asian. Mr. Daley’s father, who was mayor during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago that was marred by violence, had championed the creation of the campus.

Mr. Daley wondered aloud whether the Trump campaign had picked the site to provoke a reaction. “Whoever picked that location knew what they were doing as far as poking that sleeping dog there,” Mr. Daley said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump did not respond to questions about Mr. Daley’s thoughts on the location. It was not the first school that Mr. Trump has chosen for a rally; he has held others at colleges and universities over many months.

But Chicago has a history of racial clashes and protests, Mr. Daley pointed out. There has been deep distrust between black residents and the police after a video released last year showed Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, being shot 16 times by a police officer.

If anything, Mr. Daley said, it should have occurred to Mr. Trump’s campaign that the venue could be a crucible for problems.

But, as Scarborough argues persuasively, Trump’s campaign chose the venue precisely because “it could be a crucible for problems” that would rev up his base on the eve a critical series of primaries:

It would also land Trump on cable news channels throughout the night, talking nonstop over endless loops of skirmishes that paled in comparison to rowdy celebrations that often explode in American cities after sports championships. Yet everyone got sucked into the political sideshow. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio’s brief appearances on TV during the rolling cable news coverage only made their own candidacies seem smaller under the glare of Donald’s Big Tent Show.

New York Times

(chart from the New York Times)
And so, at rallies in Dayton, Cleveland and Kansas City Saturday, Trump doubled-down on presenting his campaign and his rallies as having been victimized by an aggressive assault of professional agitators from Move On, the Bernie Sanders campaign, and maybe even ISIS, and that they needed to fight back.
(Note that in Cleveland, Trump was introduced by a black minister from Cleveland Heights.)
But like a comic book super villain, Trump has a tendency to talk a little too much, and to tease his antagonists in mischievous and revealing ways.
So here he was at the Kansas City rally in what to me was the most bizarre moment of all, reading aloud the lyrics to to the 1969 Al Wilson hit, The Snake – number 4 on the all-time Top 500 Northern Soul hits.
Here’s Trump in all his enigmatic glory, setting it up.
So here’s something, a friend of mine who’s very rich, and I’ve done it one time before, and I read it and I think it’s incredible, done by Al Wilson, years ago, and think in terms of terror and terrorism, because we’ve got to do something to stop the problem folks.
We’re going to build up our military, and we are going to be strong, so powerful, that nobody’s going to mess with us folks. Nobody. Nobody.
So here’s a little poem, I guess it was put in the form of a song, but a friend of mine who’s really successful, said,”you’ve got to read it, you’ve got to read it to the folks in Kansas City, you’ve got to read it,” and I said “I’ll do it, I’ll do it.”
I did it once or twice, but I’ll do it, I love it, but think of this in terms of terror and terrorists, because we negotiate, we bargain, sometimes you can’t bargain so well, you have to show strength, you have to show strength.
So this is called The Snake.
On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
“Poor thing,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”
“Take me in tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake
She wrapped him up all cozy in a comforter of silk
And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she’d taken to had been revived
“Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake
She clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried
“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight
Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite
“Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake
“I saved you,” cried the woman
“And you’ve bitten me, but why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”
“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
“Take me in, tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake
(Writer: ROBERT S. KELLY, DARIAN MORGAN Copyright: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group)

Yeah. Terrorism.  Right.

But, of course, it was hard to hear Trump delivering The Snake in the midst of what was going on all around him without thinking that he’s winking at us, that that the silly woman is  the Republican Party, and that he is the wily, poisonous snake.

Here was Trump Sunday on Meet the Press, in which he 1) says his campaign is considering paying the legal expenses of the 78-year-old man who sucker punched a black protester as he was being led out by police at a rally last Wednesday in Fayetteville, and afterward said that next time, he might have to kill him, and 2) says that the man who charged the stage may have been associated with ISIS, an assertion based on an Internet hoax, but, well, he read it on the Internet, so there you have it.

It’s long, but very revealing. Skim as you please.

CHUCK TODD

I’ve got to start with what’s been happening over the last 48 to 72 hours. Do you accept any responsibility whatsoever for the escalated tension that takes place at your rallies?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I think if anything, a lot of people have praised me for canceling the one rally. We had 25,000 people coming; we got a lot of them not to come through notice. And the rest of them, we canceled because we had disrupters out there, that they weren’t really protesters, they were disrupters. They were like professionals.

They had Bernie Sanders signs all over the place, and they were made by Bernie Sanders people. I mean, these were professionally-made signs. And rather than going, which I could’ve done pretty easily, I would have gone, I would have made a speech, you would have had an awfully big riot, and a lot of people would have been hurt. And I’ve been given a lot of credit for not going. And everybody dispersed, and nobody was injured or hurt or beyond that.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But, you know, earlier in the week, and look, earlier in the week, there was an incident between a supporter of yours and a protester. And I want to play a piece of sound from a couple weeks ago from you and ask you about it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Here’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump, 17 days later, that actually happened. One of your supporters decided to sucker punch a protester. Do you accept any responsibility for creating this atmosphere?

DONALD TRUMP:

I don’t accept responsibility, I do not condone violence in any shape. And I will tell you from what I saw, the young man stuck his finger up in the air, and the other man sort of just had it. But I still, I don’t condone violence. As far as my previous statement, we had somebody that was punching and vicious and gone crazy, a disrupter, they’re not protesters. I’m telling you, they’re disrupters, they’re professionals.

And he went absolutely wild punching, and frankly, when they punch, it’s okay. When my people punch back because they have to out of self defense, everybody says, “Oh, isn’t that terrible?” The fact is, that we have very peaceful rallies. I’ve had many, many rallies. I have 25,000, 30,000 people coming to rallies.

And out of that, we have very, very little problem. We haven’t had a real injury or anything. And then Chicago I canceled, and I did a great thing by canceling it, because who needs the problems, who needs people getting hurt? I didn’t want that.

CHUCK TODD:

But when you say–

DONALD TRUMP:

So instead of getting–

CHUCK TODD:

But Mr. Trump, when you say, you know, “If you see somebody getting to ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Seriously, just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I’ll pay for their legal fees.” How is that not condoning what this older gentleman did to this protester?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, let me explain what happened. We were told just as I was going up on the stage, I was told by the secret service, “Sir, there’s a person or two people in the audience that have tomatoes. They are going to throw them at you, we think. If they do throw them, you have to be prepared.”

Now, if you get hit in the face with a tomato, let me tell you, with somebody with a strong arm, at least, let me tell you, it can be very damaging. Not good. So I was told people were in the audience, two people, with tomatoes, and they’re going to throw them at me. What I did is I said, “By the way, if you see anybody with tomatoes, right at the beginning, you’ve got to stop them. Do whatever you want to do.” I have no objection to what I said. I would say it again. People are there doing harm, you have to go and you have to use equal force.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you plan – I’m just curious–

DONALD TRUMP:

It’s not fair. It’s a one-way street.

CHUCK TODD:

I’m just curious, do you plan on paying for the legal fees of this older gentleman in North Carolina who sucker punched the protester?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I’m not aware. I will say this. I do want to see what that young man was doing. Because he was very taunting. He was very loud, very disruptive. And from what I understand, he was sticking a certain finger up in the air. And that is a terrible thing to do in front of somebody that frankly wants to see America made great again. And so we’ll see.

CHUCK TODD:

And that condones —

DONALD TRUMP:

I’m going to take a look at it. But I want to see what that man was doing.

CHUCK TODD:

And that condones a sucker punch though?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, as I told you before, nothing condones. But I want to see. The man got carried away, he was 78 years old, he obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn’t like seeing what’s happening to the country. I want to see the full tape. But I don’t condone violence.

CHUCK TODD:

So you might pay for his legal fees?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I’m going to look at it. I’m going to see, you know, what was behind this because it was a strange event. But from what I heard, there was a lot of taunting and a certain finger was placed in the air. Not nice. Again, I don’t condone the violence. I don’t condone what he did. But you know what, not nice for the other side either.

CHUCK TODD:

It’s possible you could help him with legal fees, if this man needs it?

DONALD TRUMP:

sI’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. I want to ask you about the moment yesterday in Dayton. Looked like a scary moment, being rushed the stage. I want to ask you. You said it was — you praised the secret service, but then you said the man had ties to ISIS, that turned out to be a hoax. Did you go over the top there on that? Where did you get that–

DONALD TRUMP:

No, no, no, no. He was, if you look on the internet, if you look at clips —

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it turned out to be a hoax.

DONALD TRUMP:

–He was waving an American flag.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it turned out to be a hoax. Somebody made that up, sir.

DONALD TRUMP:

Excuse me. He had talk. Well, I don’t know what they made up. All I can do is play what’s there. He was walking, dragging the American flag on the ground. Is that a correct statement? Was that a hoax too? Was he dragging the flag on the ground?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that I don’t–

DONALD TRUMP:

And just dragging it along?

CHUCK TODD:

I’m talking about the ISIS tweet.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, you didn’t see the clip.

CHUCK TODD:

We’re playing the clip right now.

DONALD TRUMP:

No, excuse me, you didn’t see the clip. He was playing Arabic music, he was dragging the flag along the ground, and he had internet chatter with ISIS and about ISIS. So I don’t know if he was or not. But all we did was put out what he had on his internet. He’s dragging the flag, the American flag, which I respect obviously more than you.

He was dragging the American flag on the ground like it was a piece of garbage, okay? I don’t like that. And a lot of people don’t like that. And he also had chatter about ISIS, or with ISIS. And you take a look at it. I mean, people are looking at it very seriously now. But you have to check it before you ask the question.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I– no, we have checked it. That’s my point, sir. There’s no ties to ISIS for this man. No law enforcement official. And this video that you linked to appear to be a hoax.

DONALD TRUMP:

Okay, look, well, was it a hoax that he’s dragging the flag? Was that him? It looked like the same man to me. He was dragging a flag along the ground and he was playing a certain type of music. And supposedly, there was chatter about ISIS. Now, I don’t know. What do I know about it? All I know is what’s on the internet. And I don’t like to see a man dragging the American flag along the ground in a mocking fashion.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, Marco Rubio said some pretty tough things about you yesterday, I want you to play it and get you to react to it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARCO RUBIO:

He doesn’t want to say anything to his supporters, because he doesn’t want to turn them off. Because he understands that the reason why they’re voting for him is because he has tapped into this anger. When the person you’re supporting for president is going around saying things like, “Go ahead and slap them around, I’ll pay your legal fees,” what do you think is going to happen next? Someone’s going to actually literally believe it and take it upon themselves.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Is Marco Rubio right? Are you afraid to tell your supporters to back off?

DONALD TRUMP:

Look, first of all, Marco Rubio has the worst voting record in the United States Senate in many, many years. He doesn’t even show up to vote. He’s defrauded the people of Florida. He won’t even show up to vote. And I want to tell you, for him to be talking like that is absolutely a shame.

I have great support, I have great supporters, far greater than you understand. The fact is, if you look at the polls going into the primaries, if you look, and the caucuses, we’re up 65 and 70 percent. Some are up 102 percent.. Millions and millions of people are energized. They’re going in and voting. And by the way, that’s not for Marco Rubio and it’s not for lying Ted Cruz. That’s for Trump. I mean, they’re there, they’re voting for Trump because they want to see America made great again.

CHUCK TODD:

But I want–

DONALD TRUMP:

Ted Cruz is big trouble.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But I want to button this up a little bit, because this violence on the campaign trail, it’s got a lot of people concerned. And I guess why won’t you go up on stage and ratchet it back? I mean, you’ve used rhetoric about Islam hates us, surveillance of certain mosques, calling Mexican immigrants racists. What did you expect? A lot of people say you’re reaping what you sow here, that the reason there’s so much tension at your rallies is you’ve used such divisive rhetoric. Do you have any regrets?

DONALD TRUMP:

The reason there’s tension at my rallies is that these people are sick and tired of this country being run by incompetent people that don’t know what they’re doing on trade deals, where our jobs are being ripped out of our country, Chuck. They’re being ripped out. On ISIS, where we can’t even beat ISIS with our military. Our military’s not being taken care of, we can’t even beat ISIS.

On our vets, who are being treated horribly. Frankly, they’re being treated worse than illegal immigrants. The people are angry at that. They’re not angry about something I’m saying. I’m just a messenger. The people are angry about the fact that for 12 years, the workers in this country haven’t had a pay increase, Chuck. In 12 years, they haven’t had an effective pay increase.

CHUCK TODD:

So you will not–

DONALD TRUMP:

And that’s what they’re angry about.

CHUCK TODD:

You will not call for ratcheting back the rhetoric? You will not call for it?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I haven’t said anything that– I’m just expressing my opinion. What have I said that’s wrong? I mean, I talk about illegal immigration, I talk about building a wall, I say Mexico’s going to pay for the wall, which they will. And all of these things. I mean, what have I said that’s wrong? You tell me. The fact is, they’re really upset with the way our country is being run. It’s a disgrace.

CHUCK TODD:

I will leave it there. Mr. Trump, stay safe on the trail, and we’ll watch you Tuesday.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, sir.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you.

So what are Trump’s rivals to do?

Here was a clearly shaken Marco Rubio, explaining what a dangerous game he thinks Trump is playing, and how it’s “getting harder every day” to stick to his pledge to support Trump if he is the nominee.

And here was Rubio on ABC This Week Sunday. Again, it’s long, but very instructive.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, we looked at those clips of you yesterday. You seemed honestly shaken by what you’ve seen this weekend. How did we get this far?

RUBIO: I think we all need to look at ourselves for a moment and ask ourselves — I think that includes the media, George, to be honest. I mean if you think about Donald Trump says these outrageous and offensive things, his speeches get covered live by cable network, wall to wall. I mean, and I know it’s good for ratings to have him on people’s show, I know he’s good for ratings to cover these speeches because of what he might say, but I think the media’s responsible for some of this.

But I think ultimately the responsibility bears on — look, those protesters in Chicago? A lot of them I believe were paid and organized; that wasn’t some organic thing. Put that aside —

STEPHANOPOULOS: By whom?

RUBIO: — for a moment. You have a — you know, I think you saw MoveOn.org, I think you saw all these different elements involved. There’s a professional industry of protest in Chicago, OK? That doesn’t — and they don’t have the right to disrupt an event and threaten violence so it doesn’t occur.

But put that aside for a moment. It’s not just the thing in Chicago. Donald Trump on a regular basis incites his crowd. He tells them oh, beat the guy up and I’ll pay your legal fees. You have a guy who sucker punches a man at one of his events, is arrested, and upon release says the next time we’re going to kill him. No condemnation.

You have his campaign manager is accused here in Florida of assaulting a female reporter. Again, no condemnation or sense of responsibility.

Last night he repeats this ridiculous story about an American general that dipped bullets in pig’s blood and shot a bunch of prisoners who were Muslim. Again, it’s like — goes off people’s backs because it’s just, we’ve become out to this outrage.

There are people out there that are unbalanced. There are people out there that listen to this stuff and we don’t know how they’re going to react. And he keeps putting this stuff out there. We’re going to have an ugly scene here; we already have seen these ugly scenes.

And I think the other point I would make is how we’ve now reached the point in this country where our political discourse looks like the comments section of a blog where people can just say whatever they want about anyone without any rules of civility, no norms that govern how we interact with one another. If we’ve reached the point where we can’t debate the proper tax rate or health care policy, our differences on foreign policy, what the government’s role should be in education, without resorting to “you’re a bad person”, “you’re an evil person”, you know, “I can say or do anything I want because I’m angry”, we’re going to our lose our republic. And we’re most certainly going to lose our ability to solve problems.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are strong words, “lose our republic”. If that is indeed the case, isn’t it more important to stand p to this violence than to stand by your pledge to support the nominee even if it’s Donald Trump?

RUBIO: More important to do so?

STEPHANOPOULOS: To stand up to that violence?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Look, I mean, I think — well, absolutely we’ve got to stand up to it. My point is — I don’t know if your question is do I stick by the pledge or not stick by the pledge. What I said yesterday is, look, I’ll be honest with you, it’s getting harder every day. It really is. Because while I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, I do not, I want her to be defeated, I think we’re having a battle to define conservatism in the Republican Party. I do not want the Republican Party or the conservative movement to be defined by what I’m seeing out of Donald Trump’s campaign.

I know people are angry. I know people are frustrated. But leadership is not about making people even angrier and even more frustrated and asking them to give you power so you can go after another group that you want to blame for people’s anger and frustration.

Real leadership is recognizing people are angry, recognizing people are frustrated, and then showing them a way forward that gives them hope and a belief that we can make things better. That’s real leadership.

That’s not what we’re getting from the frontrunner. This is a — I don’t know how else to describe this election at this point but, you know, other than it’s an important one from a generational perspective, and yet it’s turned into a real circus. And now it’s turned into something even worse.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you hope to be the nominee but the latest polls show you pretty far behind in Florida right now. Can you really imagine campaigning for Donald Trump this fall if he’s the nominee?

RUBIO: Well, first, let me just tell you, on Wednesday morning, some pollsters somewhere are going to have explain why they’re so wrong, not just about Florida but multiple different places. I mean —

STEPHANOPOULOS: Been wrong before, that’s for sure.

RUBIO: — these polls, and everybody — what?

STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve been wrong before, that’s for sure.

RUBIO: They’ve been wrong before. Well, I mean, I’m just telling you, someone’s wrong here because — and some — and again these polls do reflect how voters vote because they see them and they wake up and say oh, well, he has no chance. But I can just tell you, they’ve been really wrong and I think in Florida especially, which is a closed primary. I think — but that being said, we’re going to win in Florida. You’re asking me about that. I think that’s a question beyond — I’m one vote in the state of Florida. I think the more important question is how about the millions and millions of other people around the country who have already said if Donald Trump is the nominee, they’re just not voting? They just won’t vote? No Republican can win with that many people locked in saying I’m not going to vote for our nominee.

He will lose. If Donald Trump is our nominee, he will lose. He will lose to Hillary Clinton. She will be elected. We’ll have four more years like the last eight. That will be the consequence of him being the nomin — if we nominate him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you campaign for him?

RUBIO: Well, again, as I said, I’m not going to change my position today about supporting the nominee because I still believe that Donald Trump will not be the nominee. Despite all this noise that’s out there, he needs 60 percent of the delegates from this point forward in order to be the nominee. Ted Cruz by the way needs 75 percent of the remaining delegates to be the nominee. That’s the real math. I at the end of the day do not believe that Donald Trump will be our nominee and I’m going to do everything possible to keep that from happening and to give the party a choice in me, someone that people aren’t going to have to be asked that question about.

If I’m our nominee, no one’s going to be asked will you support the nominee as the president? We’ll unite the party, we’ll grow it, and we’ll win.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sounds like you’re saying we’re going to see you in Cleveland. OK, Senator, thanks for joining us this morning.

RUBIO: Thanks, George.

Here was, I think, the critical line:

There are people out there that are unbalanced. There are people out there that listen to this stuff and we don’t know how they’re going to react. And he keeps putting this stuff out there. We’re going to have an ugly scene here; we already have seen these ugly scenes.

On Sunday, Trump, at a rally in Bloomington, Ill., said, “You know how many people have been injured at our shows? Nobody.”
I wrote a story in Sunday’s paper about how Trump was akin to a familiar figure in Southern politics — a populist demagogue in the tradition of Louisiana’s Huey Long, Alabama’s George Wallace and Texas’ W. Lee “Pass the Biscuits Pappy” O’Daniel, ideologically flexible strongmen with the common touch and the flair of a showman.
The truly sobering cautionary note here is that Huey Long was assassinated and Wallace was crippled by an attempted assassination.
The very real danger, is, as Rubio suggested, that there are a lot of Arthur Bremers, and John Hinckleys and Travis Bickles out there who may not be getting the winking kayfabe of it all.

And what was Ted Cruz’s take on all this?

Here he was on Meet the Press:

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the tone of the campaign. And you have addressed this a couple of times in specifically having to do with Donald Trump’s rallies.. Let me play two different explanations you’ve given to this, one from the debate and one from Friday. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ:

We’ve seen for seven years a president who believes he’s above the law, who behaves like an emperor. And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Is Donald Trump the one that’s responsible for the tone of his rallies and Donald Trump alone?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Well, let’s be clear. Listen, the protesters have no right to engage in violence. They have no right to threaten violence. And these protesters, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or Bernie Sanders protestors who are coming in just trying to shout down any speaker, that’s not free speech. The First Amendment gives you a right to speak, but it doesn’t give you a right to silence others.

So the protestors are behaving abusively and wrong. But, at the end of the day in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. And it is not beneficial when you have a presidential candidate like Donald Trump telling his supporters, “Punch that guy in the face.”

CHUCK TODD:

What would you advise Donald Trump to do because this is reflecting on the Republican party as a whole, or it could, considering he’s currently the frontrunner?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Listen, I think every candidate ought to aspire towards civility, towards decency, towards bringing us together. I don’t think we should be using angry and hateful rhetoric. I don’t think we should be cursing at people. And I’ll tell you, listen, I’ve been troubled. I mentioned at the debate this week. I’m troubled by the rallies that Donald holds, where he asks all the people there to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.

This is America. We don’t pledge allegiance to a man. We pledge allegiance to a flag. We pledge our support for the Constitution. But that is something that you see kings and queens doing of their subjects. And all of this is part and parcel of the same thing. We need a president who understands he works for the people. Listen, I am running to pledge my support to you, not the other way around. And I hope that all of the candidates reflect that understanding.

CHUCK TODD:

I want you to react to something here that President Obama said at a fundraiser, responding to the tone of Donald Trump rallies. Here it is, sir.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

And what’s been happening in our politics lately is not an accident. For years, we’ve been told we should be angry about America and that the economy’s a disaster. And that we’re weak. And that compromise is weakness. And that you can ignore science and you could ignore facts and say whatever you want about the president. And feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people and people who aren’t like us.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That’s the president essentially saying, “This has been happening for years,” before most of his term.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

You know, Chuck, Barack Obama’s a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us. No, Mr. President, we’re not angry at that. We’re angry at politicians in Washington, including you, who ignore the men and women who elected you. Who have been presiding over our jobs going overseas for seven years.

Who have been cutting deals that are enriching the rich and powerful, the special interests and the big corporations, while working men and women are seeing their wages stagnating. And he talks about immigrants and Muslims. Mr. President, we’re mad at a president who wants to bring in Syrian refugees who may be infiltrated by ISIS. And you’re unwilling to be commander in chief and keep us safe. So don’t engage in attacking the people, like the president did. I’ll tell you, that language is the kind of self-righteous–

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

–moralizing from the President that makes people angry.

CHUCK TODD:

You think that’s worse than what Donald Trump’s been doing?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

To be honest, I think it’s very much the same. They’re both engaging in demagoguery. We need instead a president who wakes up every day working for the hardworking taxpayers. If I’m president, Chuck, my focus is going to be the hardworking taxpayers, bringing back jobs and economic growth.

We’re going to do that by repealing Obamacare, by passing a simple flat tax. By abolishing the IRS, by pulling back the regulations that are killing small businesses.

 

You know, Chuck, Barack Obama’s a world class demagogue.

Here was Obama at a DNC reception at Gilley’s in  Dallas on Saturday, following his visit to Austin Friday.

But the truth of the matter is America is pretty darn great right now.  (Applause.)  America is making strides right now.  America is better off than it was right now.  The American people should be proud about what we’ve achieved together over the last eight years since the recession hit.  We’re great right now!  (Applause.)   

 

And what the folks who are running for office should be focused on is how we can make it even better.  Not insults and schoolyard taunts, and manufacturing facts.  (Applause.)  Not divisiveness along the lines of race or faith.  Certainly not violence against other Americans or excluding them.  We’re a better country than that. 

 

And what’s been happening in our politics lately is not an accident.  For years, we’ve been told we should be angry about America, and that the economy is a disaster, and that we’re weak and that compromise is weakness, and that you can ignore science and you can ignore facts, and say whatever you want about the President, and feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people, and people who aren’t like “us,” and say that the reason that America is in decline is because of “those” people.

 

That didn’t just happen last week.  That narrative has been promoted now for years.  It didn’t just spring out of nowhere.  And of course, none of it has been true.  It just ignores reality — the reality that America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  The reality that our economy is not only stronger than it was eight years ago, that it’s, right now, the bright spot in the world.  That our diversity is a strength — a great gift — that makes us the envy of every other nation.  (Applause.) 

 

So the narrative that’s been pushed is false.  Demonstrably false.  And we shouldn’t be surprised then when, in the heat of political season, it starts getting carried away.  But we’ve got to say no to that.  We can have political debates without turning on one another.  We can have political debates without thinking that the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.  We can support candidates without treating their opponents as unpatriotic, or treasonous, or somehow deliberately trying to weaken America.  That’s not just one candidate who’s been saying that; some of the so-called more responsible candidates, including a gentleman from this state — no, no, you read what he says, it’s not — it’s no more rooted in reality than some of these other statements.  We can point out bad policies without describing them as a “government takeover” or “an assault on freedom.” 

 

And by the way, when I say this, this is not about “political correctness.”  It’s about not having to explain to our kids why our politics sounds like a schoolyard fight.  We shouldn’t be afraid to take them to rallies, or let them watch debates.  They watch the way we conduct ourselves.  They learn from us.  And we should be teaching them something about this democracy is a vibrant and precious thing.  It’s going to be theirs someday, and we should be teaching them how to disagree without being disagreeable, and how to engage, and how to analyze facts, and how to be honest and truthful, and admit if you make a mistake, and teach them that politics at its best is about a battle of ideas, and resolving our differences without encouraging or resorting to violence. 

 

And our leaders, those who aspire to be our leaders should be trying to bring us together, and not turning us against one another — (applause) — and speak out against violence, and reject efforts to spread fear or turn us against one another.  (Applause.)  And if they refuse to do that, they don’t deserve our support.  (Applause.)  The best leaders, the leaders who are worthy of our votes, remind us that even in a country as big and diverse and inclusive as ours, what we’ve got in common is far more important than what divides any of us. 

 

Well, I guess that is some world class demagoguery. But, maybe I haven’t been in Texas long enough, but I still can distinguish that from what Trump’s up to, and has been up to for a long time.

Trump, after all, was the lead birther, denying that Obama was American-born (something that you might think Cruz would be sensitive to), denying that he was legitimately president.

All the other Republican candidates knew that going in, and, from the day Trump announced, promising to build a wall to protect America from Mexican rapists and other criminals, the nature of Trump’s campaign was apparent.

Some candidates – Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, even Carly Fiorina – objected and paid a price. But Cruz was the candidate who defended Trump, who said how much he liked him and how glad he was that he was in the race.

It was a practical tack, but a cynical one. Maybe Cruz, more than the others, appreciated the kayfabe of it all.

https://twitter.com/DraperRobert/status/708819939860176896

https://twitter.com/DraperRobert/status/708823282393288704

Last night, Roger Stone was featured on the excellent Showtime real time documentary of the 2016 race, The Circus, co-created and co-produced by Austin’s own Mark McKinnon.

Stone was introduced as a master of the dark political arts. He was probably Trump’s oldest and closest adviser until the summer, when it was explained, he ran afoul of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and was either cast out of the formal campaign or quit, though, he continues to regularly consult with Trump and look out for his interests.

Stone is also the co-author with Austin’s own Robert Morrow of The Clintons’ War on Women, and the man Morrow credits with his successful strategy to get elected chair of the Travis Country Republican Party, which apparently consisted of keeping his mouth shut.

“If Caligula can elect his horse to the Roman Senate to mock them, I can elect Morrow Chairman of the Travis GOP,” Stone said in a subsequent email.

But I bring up Stone because, while Cruz aspires to be the next Ronald Reagan, and often invokes Reagan’s famous 1964 speech A Time for Choosing, in which he endorsed the lost-cause of Barry Goldwater in the name of higher principle, Cruz’s tactical approach to Trump is way more Nixon than Reagan.

As Stone, who notes on the Circus that he had dinner with Nixon two days before his death, told me over a recent lunch in Austin, “Ted Cruz wants to be Reagan, but he’s Nixon, the poor bastard, he’s Nixon.”

 

The deft demagogue: Q -`Do you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?’ Trump – `I mean a lot of them.’

Good morning Austin:

Welcome to Austin, Mr. President.

Have a great day here.

Meanwhile …

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.43.03 PM

“And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said about a third the way through Thursday’s 12th Republican presidential debate.

And afterward, Trump spun the event as “elegant,” as if he were Fred Astaire to Ted Cruz’s Ginger Rogers.

And yes, it seemed, so low was the bar, that everyone seemed to buying into last night’s debate as some kind of high-tone, high-brow affair.

And yet this followed a day in which Trump rallies – and Trump’s campaign manager – were in the news, for acts, or, in the latter case, an alleged act, of real physical menace. And this was said of a debate in which Trump managed one of his most deft acts of sheer demagoguery yet.

Here it is:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, “Islam hates us?” Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?

TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

Watch this. It is genius. Donald Trump doubles down on an outrageous statement – the kind, countless by now, that he routinely makes, any of which would have felled a lesser candidate – but delivers it as an affable laugh line that re-enforces to a tee what people like about him the most – his refusal to be politically correct.

And, truth be told, my guess is that while most Americans know that what he said was inappropriate and not what you want a president to be saying, if said Americans were attached to some Frank Luntz meter, their pulses would quicken, and, if they were filing out a survey with a guarantee of anonymity, and were asked whether a) very few, b) a lot, or c) all Muslims hate us, “b” would do very well, followed by “c” and then “a.”

Back to the debate.

DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ve been watching the debate today. And they’re talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There’s something going on that maybe you don’t know about, maybe a lot of other people don’t know about, but there’s tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.

(APPLAUSE)

DINAN: Senator Rubio, your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comment last night, I’m sorry — Senator Jeff Flake, I apologize. Your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said in response to that comment, Republicans are better than this. Do you agree?

RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It’s a very tough place to be a missionary. It’s Muslim.

And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn’t like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There’s no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.

I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you’re going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you’re going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.

DINAN: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we’ve had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.

Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don’t want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.

(BELL RINGS)

Now I will say this, there is tremendous hatred. The question was asked, what do you think? I said, there is hatred. Now it would be very easy for me to say something differently. And everybody would say, oh, isn’t that wonderful.

DINAN: Mr. Trump, thank you.

TRUMP: We better solve the problem before it’s too late.

DINAN: Senator Rubio?

(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: Well, here we go. See, I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct.

Not bad for a ho-hum, feel-good debate.

Then there was this at a Trump rally Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 4.44.09 AM

 

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, I want to start with you in this block. Earlier today, a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker- punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayettville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies.

Today, Hillary Clinton, your potential general election opponent, clearly indicated she sees this as an issue for the campaign. She said, quote, “this kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns, we should encourage respect, not violence.” Do you believe that you’ve done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?

TRUMP: I hope not. I truly hope not. I will say this. We have 25 (thousand), 30,000 people — you’ve seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest — in some cases — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it, which I don’t like. But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger.

They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know — I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.

TAPPER: Some of your critics point to quotes you’ve made at these debates — at these rallies including February 23rd, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” referring to a protesters. February 27th, “in the good ol’ days, they’d have ripped him out of that seat so fast.” February 1st, “knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don’t mind. But doing serious damage. And if they’ve got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something.

And it’s not me. It’s usually the municipal government, the police because I don’t have guards all over these stadiums. I mean, we fill up stadiums. It’s usually the police — and, by the way, speaking of the police, we should pay our respects to the police because they are taking tremendous abuse in this country and they do a phenomenal job.

(APPLAUSE)

So we should pay — we should truly give our police. They’re incredible people, we should give them a great deal more respect than they receive.

(APPLAUSE)

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 4.46.16 AM

OK. So, yes, let’s hear it for the police, who, in the best tradition of the Dallas Police Department, 1963, lead someone in their custody into harm’s way.

Only, as I recall, the Dallas police actually arrested Jack Ruby on the spot, unlike the Fayetteville police, who let Old Man Racist be so he could enjoy the rest of the rally, and tell Inside Edition how much he enjoyed sucker-punching the black guy, and threatening, with a certain KKK panache, to kill him next time he encounters him.

The scene, however, was captured on video by Ronnie Rouse, a friend of the victim, Rakeem Jones,  and, alas, the next day, the Fayetteville police  had the sad duty of arresting OMR.

Back to debate, one would expect that even if Trump didn’t want to be very forthright in his condemnation of the violence, his rivals would seize the moment to set a higher standard, and score some points off Trump along the way.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz, are you concerned at all that these kind of scenes potentially hurt the Republican party for the general election?

CRUZ: Listen, I think for every one of us, we need to show respect to the people. We need to remember who it is we’re working for. You know, we’ve seen for seven years a president who believes he’s above the law, who behaves like an emperor, who it is all about him and he forgot that he’s working for the American people.

And let me — let me ask, turn the camera our here. How many of y’all feel disrespected by Washington?​

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Washington isn’t listening to the people. And that’s the frustration that is boiling over. And we need to nominate and elects a president who remembers, he works for the people. You know, at Donald’s rallies recently, he’s taken to asking people in the crowd to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.

Now, I got to say to me, I think that’s exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And the only hand raising I’m interested in doing is on January 20, 2017 raising my hand with my left hand on the…

(BELL RINGS)

… bible and pledging to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of United States.

TAPPER: Thank you senator.

Yes, some 78=year-old racist clocks a young black man and Ted Cruz cuts to the chase – it’s Obama’s fault.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, if you’d like to respond.

TRUMP: It shows the total dishonesty of the press. We were having — on a few occasions, again massive crowds. And we’re talking and I’m saying who is going to vote on Tuesday? Who is going to vote? The place goes crazy. Then I say, hey, do me a favor. Raise your right hand. Do you swear you’re going to vote for Donald Trump?

Everyone’s laughing, we’re all having a good time. That’s why I have much bigger crowds than Ted, because we have a good time at mine.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But we’re all having a good time and the next day, on the Today Show and a couple of other place, not too many. Because when you look at it, everyone’s smiling, laughing. Their arms are raised like this. They had pictures, still pictures of people and they tried to equate it to Nazi Germany.

(BELL RINGS)

It is a disgrace. It was a total disgrace. And I’ve had reporters, people that you know, come up to me and said that — what they did on the Today Show was a disgrace.

(APPLAUSE)

And then, on the day of unassailable civility, there was this:

 

Ay yi yi.

So who won last night’s debate?

How does it change the race?

Who knows.

I think both Marco “on the ropes” Rubio and John Kasich did well enough to materially improve their prospects of winning their home-state winner-take-all  primaries in Ohio and Florida Tuesday. If they both win, Trump may not be on his way to a first ballot win in Cleveland in July and it will be a free-for-all with Cruz very much in the mix.

If Trump wins both, it may knock both Rubio and Kasich out of the race and give Cruz a clean shot at Trump, but a Trump that will be hard to catch. And, if Trump wins one and loses the other, Cruz will not be as far behind, but he’ll still have to knock another candidate out before he gets the one-on-one race he craves.

 

From  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on Cruz’s performance last night:

He knocked Trump a few times here and there. But that wasn’t his main goal. Most of what he was trying to do he could have done even if Trump wasn’t on the stage. Cruz’s main goal was to talk to the audience, to engage in a soliloquy of conservative purity and drive. There is a big basket of anti-Trump votes out there. And Cruz’s goal was to scoop them up. So attacking Trump, except to set up his own perorations, was basically irrelevant. He was trying to swoop up the existing anti-Trump vote, not pull Trump’s supporters away from him.

He was also looking for ways to drive home the point that there are only two candidates left who can be the nominee. In that goal he had Trump as an ally. Cruz is a consummate bullshit artist. But on his hand-raising gyre, shifting from Trump’s heil-hand-raising rallies to raising his own hand at his inauguration next January, that was some quality bullshit. No question. There’s a certain earnest, unironic and treacly sentimentality that is like mother’s milk for traditionalist American conservatives – think Ronald Reagan, embodying an American eagle, on a flag background, on a blue sky. Cruz was deep in that groove tonight and I think he helped himself.

xxxxxxxx

Everything I saw tonight made me think that Trump is well on his way to becoming the GOP nominee. I see no big obstacle stands in his way. Just as important, if for whatever reason Donald Trump isn’t the nominee, it is now extremely difficult to see how the nomination won’t go to Ted Cruz. Maybe you can steal the nomination from one factional, plurality winner. You can’t steal it from the guy who came in a close second too. That just won’t fly.

And from Scott Bland and Steven Shepard at Politico:

Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate with a realistic chance of winning the 1,237 delegates necessary to claim the party’s presidential nomination, according to a POLITICO analysis.

A close examination of demographics, polling, and delegate allocation rules in the remaining states suggests there is a path for Trump to win a majority of delegates, but it is a tightrope walk that leaves the businessman with little margin for error.

The outlook for his rivals is grim – there is almost no way they can get to the magic number.

Barring major upsets in Florida and Ohio next week, Ted Cruz will need to win approximately 70 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination outright. That essentially makes Cruz’s path to 1,237 as unlikely as Marco Rubio’s route.

Meanwhile:

And, from David Brady at the Christian Broadcasting Network:

 

Ted Cruz: “Donald has done well in the southeastern states. He has had a good base of support. We’ve done well as well, we’ve been typically second in each of those states, and we’ve racked up delegates. Now Donald has a harder problem in the west, it’s interesting, his location he does well in the southeast. He does well with a certain demographic of voter. Donald gave a press conference where he said, to quote him, ‘I love the poorly educated.’ Listen, part of it is I think Donald is taking advantage of his voters because I understand what they’re angry about, but Donald if you’re angry at the corruption of Washington, you don’t solve it by supporting someone who has been enmeshed in the Washington corruption for forty years.”

Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network
Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network

 
Ted Cruz: “Listen, Donald does well with voters who have relatively low information, who are not that engaged and who are angry and they see him as an angry voice. Where we are beating him is when voters’ get more engaged and they get more informed. When they inform themselves, they realize his record. He’s what they’re angry at. He is the corruption, and if you want someone to stand up to Washington, the only one who has been doing so in this race is me.”

Ted Cruz with the Duck Ayatollah
Ted Cruz with the Duck Commander