On Donald Trump, kayfabe fascist: `The wink is what tells you he probably isn’t Hitler’

Good morning Austin.

On Sunday, the New York Times had a Page 1 story by Peter Baker: Rise of Donald Trump Tracks Growing Debate Over Global Fascism

WASHINGTON — The comparison was inflammatory, to say the least. Former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts equated Donald J. Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, the night of horror in 1938 when rampaging Nazis smashed Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and killed scores of Jews.

But if it was a provocative analogy, it was not a lonely one. Mr. Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Mr. Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.

But the discussion comes as questions are surfacing around the globe about a revival of fascism, generally defined as a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism. In places like Russia and Turkey, leaders like Vladimir V. Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan employ strongman tactics. In Austria, a nationalist candidate came within three-tenths of a percentage point of becoming the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since World War II.

Mr. Trump dismisses the labels used by those like Mr. Weld, a longtime Republican now mounting a quixotic campaign for vice president as a Libertarian. “I don’t talk about his alcoholism,” Mr. Trump said through a spokeswoman, “so why would he talk about my foolishly perceived fascism? There is nobody less of a fascist than Donald Trump.” (Mr. Weld, who in the 1990s reportedly appeared in public a few times having had too much to drink, declined to respond: “I’ll let that ride.”)

Americans are used to the idea that other countries may be vulnerable to such movements, but while figures like Father Charles Coughlin, the demagogic radio broadcaster, enjoyed wide followings in the 1930s, neither major party has ever nominated anyone quite like Mr. Trump.

“This could be one of those moments that’s quite dangerous and we’ll look back and wonder why we treated it as ho-hum at a time when we could have stopped it,” said Robert Kagan, a scholar at the Brookings Institution known for hawkish internationalism.

Mr. Kagan sounded the alarm this month with a Washington Post op-ed article, “This Is How Fascism Comes to America,” that gained wide attention. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from conservative Republicans,” he said. “There are a lot of people who agree with this.”

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That the question of whether Donald Trump is a fascist/proto-fascist/quasi-fascist is on the front page of the New York Times on Memorial Day Weekend seven weeks before he is to claim the Republican nomination for president of the United States, is sobering, startling, and raises difficult questions for reporters.

Per Kagan’s warning, I would hate to spend my last days in a labor camp – or perhaps a downscale Trump Last Resort Re-Education Hotel and Casino – ruing my “ho hum” response to the threat he posed to American democracy.

From the Kagan piece:

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

And yet, at the same time, it is difficult to cover a presidential race if one genuinely views the Republican nominee as an incipient fascist. Oh my. Oh my God. OH MY GOD!

And, certainly, the fact that Bill Weld may or may not be, or ever been, a drunk does not entirely dispose of the question.

However, I have been skeptical about previous efforts by news organizations to identify and isolate the Trump candidacy as a singular and unique threat.

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I thought the Huffington Post decision, early on, to cover Trump in its Entertainment section, and, then later, when that didn’t work out, to append a disclaimer at the bottom of every Trump story, as kind of silly.

From Politico:

The Huffington Post has started appending an editor’s note to the bottom of posts about Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, calling him a “racist,” a “liar” and a “xenophobe,” and reminding readers of his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

“Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.,” reads the note, which was added to an article about Trump’s feud with Fox News published last night. The note also includes links to prior coverage of Trump’s comments.

A Huffington Post spokesperson told POLITICO that the note will be added to all future stories about Trump.

“Yes, we’re planning to add this note to all future stories about Trump,” the spokesperson said. “No other candidate has called for banning 1.6 billion people from the country! If any other candidate makes such a proposal, we’ll append a note under pieces about them.”

The Huffington Post has struggled with how to cover Trump’s presidential campaign. Last summer, it announced that it would publish stories about Trump in its “Entertainment” section rather than its “Politics” section. This arrangement became increasingly untenable as Trump became the Republican front-runner. In December, The Huffington Post was forced to reverse course and begin covering Trump as a serious presidential candidate.

Likewise, I didn’t think the Boston Globe’s mock front page, back in April, of what America would be like under President Trump, was a great idea, journalistically.

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Donald J. Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American.

It is easy to find historical antecedents. The rise of demagogic strongmen is an all too common phenomenon on our small planet. And what marks each of those dark episodes is a failure to fathom where a leader’s vision leads, to carry rhetoric to its logical conclusion. The satirical front page of this section attempts to do just that, to envision what America looks like with Trump in the White House.

But if I am not as panicked by Trump as the Globe and the Huffington Post and Kagan, why not?

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Who do I look to for reassurance?

Well, how about Mitch McConnell and Dilbert?

From McConnell on CBS Sunday Morning this weekend on Trump.
“Does it cause you pause when you think about how divided this country is, and how he is causing such division? I mean, Republicans, in your party, are burning their voter registration cards. They’re saying, ‘Never Trump.'”

“Well, one thing I’m pretty calm about is that this is nowhere near the most divisive period in American history,” McConnell said. “But what protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions.

“No matter how unusual a personality may be who gets elected to office, there are constraints in this country. You don’t get to do anything you want to. So I’m very optimistic about America. I’m not depressed about the nature of the debate.”

“Madison divided the power,” McConnell, who is backing Trump, said on Morning Joe. “Nobody can do everything they want.”
Trump is a “phenomenon,” McConnell said. But not the end of the Republic, or even the Republican Party.
Not enough to reassure you?
Then read this March 15 post from Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ blog, one of an extraordinary series of posts about Trump by Adams.
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Donald Trump is a con man. He’s also a fraud, a liar, a snake-oil salesman, and a carnival barker. Clearly he is running a scam on the country.

Trump calls himself a “deal-maker.”

I call Trump a Master Persuader.

It’s all the same thing. Trump says and does whatever he needs to do in order to get the results he wants. And apparently he does it well. Given the facts, you can either see Trump as highly skilled or morally flawed. Maybe both. I suppose it depends which side you are on.

Last autumn, when Trump was looking like a serious contender, I told you he would change more than politics. I said Trump would change how you see the human condition. I couldn’t say more about that until it played out. You needed some more evidence before I could make that case. Now you have it.

The evidence is that Trump completely ignores reality and rational thinking in favor of emotional appeal. Sure, much of what Trump says makes sense to his supporters, but I assure you that is coincidence. Trump says whatever gets him the result he wants. He understands humans as 90% irrational and acts accordingly.

Rand Paul, on the other hand, treated voters as if they were intelligent creatures who make decisions based on the facts. His campaign didn’t last long with that message. Rand Paul knows about a lot of stuff. He’s a smart guy. But apparently psychology is not on the list of things he knows. And psychology is the only necessary skill for running for president.

Trump knows psychology. He knows facts don’t matter. He knows people are irrational. So while his opponents are losing sleep trying to memorize the names of foreign leaders – in case someone asks – Trump knows that is a waste of time. No one ever voted for a president based on his or her ability to name heads of state. People vote based on emotion. Period.

You used to think Trump ignored facts because he doesn’t know them. That’s partly true. There are plenty of important facts Trump does not know. But the reason he doesn’t know those facts is – in part – because he knows facts don’t matter. They never have and they never will. So he ignores them.

Right in front of you.

And he doesn’t apologize or correct himself. If you are not trained in persuasion, Trump looks stupid, evil, and maybe crazy. If you understand persuasion, Trump is pitch-perfect most of the time. He ignores unnecessary rational thought and objective data and incessantly hammers on what matters (emotions).

Did Trump’s involvement in the birther thing confuse you? Were you wondering how Trump could believe Obama was not a citizen? The answer is that Trump never believed anything about Obama’s place of birth. The facts were irrelevant, so he ignored them while finding a place in the hearts of conservatives. For later.

This is later. He plans ahead.

Do you remember a year ago when you thought humans were rational most of the time – let’s say 90% of the time – and irrational the rest of the time? That was how most people saw the world, and still do. But Trump is teaching you that you had it backwards. The truth is that humans are irrational 90% of the time.

Hypnosis students learn on the first day of classes that humans are irrational. If you believe people are rational it interferes with the technique. Likewise, if you see voters as rational you’ll be a terrible politician. People are not wired to be rational. Our brains simply evolved to keep us alive. Brains did not evolve to give us truth. Brains merely give us movies in our minds that keeps us sane and motivated. But none of it is rational or true, except maybe sometimes by coincidence.

You can validate my low opinion of human rationality by asking yourself why Trump supporters don’t care that nothing he says is true. Trump literally makes up facts on the fly. Do you think his supporters have not noticed this awkward situation?

They noticed. They don’t care. And at this point they understand he’s just saying what he needs to say to get elected. Democrats will call that evil. Republicans will call it effective.

We all understand that a president has to be the leader of dumb people as well as smart people – and there are far more dumb people. So how does one kind of message get through to two totally different types of voters? Trump’s solution, so far, is to influence the dumb people via emotion while winking to the smart people so we know he is smart and not crazy. The wink is what tells you he probably isn’t Hitler. The wink says he is doing what he needs to do to get elected.

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I saw the wink sooner than most of you because I study persuasion. So none of his crazy behavior looked crazy to me. It looked skillful to the extreme. So skillful, in fact, that he got to the point where he can literally say any damned thing and his supporters don’t care how true it is. They care that he is on their side and doing whatever it takes to tear down the money-puppets in Washington.

If you don’t see Trump’s wink, you can be forgiven for thinking he is Hitler. He probably knew the risks. Reagan had the same experience. Trump is following the Reagan game plan so he had to expect what is happening now.

But is Trump dangerous? The only thing we know for sure is that he’s a huge racist. I can say that with confidence because of all the dog-whistles and other clues.

For example, Trump asked his supporters to give the Nazi salute and pledge their support to him. You might think that raising your hand is the same sort of oath people take to serve on an American jury trial or to become citizens. But when you see it in context, it is totally Hitler.

Some of the context is that Trump did not disavow the KKK as quickly as we expected in that one interview. He did disavow the KKK and David Duke before that interview and lots of times after. He says he didn’t hear the question that one time. That sounds totally reasonable until you consider it in context. And some of that context includes asking his people to give the Nazi salute.

And obviously Trump is a racist for suggesting a temporary ban on Muslim immigration until we figure out what the problem is. You might be tempted to say Muslims are comprised of all sorts of ethnicities, and all he is doing is favoring legal citizens over non-citizens, which is the job description of the President of the United States. But again, you have to see it in context. This is the same man who doesn’t disavow the KKK when he can’t hear the question and who makes his supporters do Nazi-looking stuff with their arms. You have to see the whole picture.

Trump also wants to build a wall on the Mexican border and deport all of the illegal Mexicans in this country. That is clearly Hitler behavior because those people are brown and Trump has the same mouth shape as Mussolini. Trump’s supporters might point out that the job of the President is to secure borders and favor citizens over non-citizens, but again, you have to see it in context. This is the man who didn’t disavow the KKK when he didn’t hear the question, makes his supporters do Nazi arm things, and discriminates against the Muslim race that is actually a belief system and not a race. When you put it all together, that’s too much smoke to say there is no fire, right? I mean rationally-speaking.

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Adams thinks that Trump is going to win the general election, and win big.

I think it will be one of the biggest margins of victory in history.

I have written before about Trump’s wink.

From the First Reading I wrote the day he announced.

        First there was Andy Kaufman, wrestling women.

Then there was Joaquin Phoenix, pretending to abandon acting for hip hop.

As with Kaufman and Phoenix, it is impossible, as it is happening, to know for sure whether what he is doing is for real or performance art.

That’s the whole point. That’s central to the art form.

Indeed, we may not know until well into his second term as president whether Trump is putting us on.

But the performance is so broad, so over-the-top, that one has to assume Trump is winking at us all, that we all are, in essence, in on the joke.

In December, I wrote a First ReadingFrom WrestleMania to the White House, is Donald Trump the kayfabe candidate for president? – and returned to topic in a March First Reading:

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.

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.)

Last year, political scientist William Stodden of North Dakota State College of Science and Concordia College, and John Henson of the Hennepin County Library, wrote a paper: Politics by Kayfabe: Professional Wrestling and the Creation of Public Opinion.
The authors did not refer to Trump in the paper.
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But in an interview earlier this month with Dan Patterson of TechRepublic, Stodden did.

Message control—spin—is a common political, and professional wrestling, tactic. Your paper is titled Professional Wrestling and the Creation of Public Opinion. Explain how wrestling Kayfabe is a metaphor for politics, business, and other forms of competition?

In professional wrestling, Kayfabe is kept religiously. If a member of the talent breaks the agreed fantasy, they are often sanctioned, formally, by the company, because denying that the spectacle is real costs the company money and costs the fans enjoyment. In politics, Kayfabe is kept because it is important to politicians to gin up support among a crowd of folks whose lives may not be directly affected by the policy proposals of the politicians. If, for example, Donald Trump is talking about building a wall between the US and Mexico, he appeals to a segment of the population for whom immigration is important, though their lives may never interact directly with an immigrant on any level. It is important for Trump to never let on that he himself doesn’t actually believe that a wall is financially or even physically possible. And it is in the interests of his supporters that he also never breaks this Kayfabe, because then they would have no reason to pay attention to the contest anymore. Further, it is important for the media who Trump’s supporters pay attention to, to inform the population that what Trump is saying is straight out of the aether fiction, or to refuse to cover Trump, or to push him too hard to explain HOW he would build the wall, because then the supporters would have no reason to tune in to the channel and would select other media. So in this particular case, Kayfabe is kept by everyone from Trump, through the media, and down to his fans.

What is important then, and what is different from pro wrestling, is that the candidate-media-supporter axis functions to create reality for at least the supporters. When a trusted news outlet is playing along, it becomes easy for supporters who are, themselves, barely informed on various topics, to buy in to the point where the Kayfabe is subsumed beneath subjective interpretation. For the public, it really doesn’t matter whether Trump will build a wall. Most of his supporters believe he will, and so for them, he REALLY will build the wall. And they begin to act as if the Kayfabe is real, and so it becomes real. This then turns into a mutually reinforcing feedback loop where supporters reward the spectacle, and the candidate continues to give them more spectacle, and all the while, for the news media, it no longer is a case of whether they will cover the spectacle. They will always cover the spectacle, because that is what the viewers want. And so on and so forth. Whether Trump is actually able to make good on his proposals really doesn’t matter after a while. The actors in this scene have all forgotten that it was never real, by acting as if it were real all along.

Candidates benefit by generating votes, media benefits by generating eyeball revenue, and the supporters benefit by getting to feel as if they have some input into the race. Especially during this year’s nominating contest, the spectacle and the Kayfabe are in the driver’s seat. For those who can see beyond the curtain and keep their head about the entire process, the Kayfabe is as clear as if it were written on a wall. But for most voters, they buy into the spectacle because they want to.

You see echoes of this in business as well. Everyone knows that advertisement always oversells some aspects of a product and undersells other aspects. For decades, tobacco sellers produced advertisements that suggested that tobacco was at least not harmful for you. Even after the truth about the product became known, advertisers continued to market their product. Products that are high in sugar continue to hire lobbyists who continue to work for low amounts of regulation and freedom to sell their products, even though the connection between sugar and obesity and diabetes is firmly established in science. The government, whose job it is to regulate these poisons, willingly ignores the negative health benefits in return for contributions, the industries benefit by continuing to sell their products, and consumers who enjoy indulging in these poisons benefit because they can satisfy their addictions. And we all buy into the fantasy that everything is okay, though we all know that it is not.

The 2016 political cycle has often been compared to a reality show. It seems as though Donald Trump is both using Kayfabe and running against Kayfabe. Is he the best professional wrestler of all time?

He may be. In fact, it is well known that he made a cameo at Wrestlemania, where he smacked down the owner of the WWE, Vince McMahon. Except for Kayfabe, it is likely that this stunt may never have occurred. One thing is for sure, though, he certainly does know about keeping Kayfabe. You could say his entire candidacy is one big Kayfabe.

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So, Trump, with a complicit media, is, at worst, a kayfabe fascist, but even that, of course, carries some peril.
From the March First Reading:
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 (Marco) 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.

In other words, as Rod Stewart put it, a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse.

When the New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman tweeted Kagan’s column, he was soon the victim of an onslaught of viciously anti-semitic tweets by Trump supporters. As Weisman wrote in Sunday’s Times.

The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters, hasn’t stopped since. Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew. I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words “Arbeit Macht Frei” replaced without irony with “Machen Amerika Great.” Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial. The Jew as leftist puppet master from @DonaldTrumpLA was joined by the Jew as conservative fifth columnist, orchestrating war for Israel. That one came from someone who tagged himself a proud future member of the Trump Deportation Squad.


I understand Mr. Trump has a son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew, and a daughter who converted to her husband’s religion. Mr. Trump has bragged about his Jewish grandchildren. Yet I also see tweets from Mr. Trump like the 2013 missive that re-emerged Monday promising “that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz — I mean Jon Stewart,” and I cannot help seeing another belled cat.

Weisman cited a May 20 piece by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker – The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump.

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.


If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate.


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At the beginning of May, Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece – Democracies end when they are too democratic. And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny – suggesting that Plato had worried about, and warned against, the inevitable triumph of the likes of Trump.

He is usually of the elite but has a nature in tune with the time — given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracy’s civil religion. He makes his move by “taking over a particularly obedient mob” and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. It’s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracy’s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excess—“too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery” — and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself.

And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw, looming above our heads, the pulsating, angry televised face of Donald Trump on Fox News, I couldn’t help but feel a little nausea permeate my stomach. And as I watched frenzied Trump rallies on C-SPAN in the spring, and saw him lay waste to far more qualified political peers in the debates by simply calling them names, the nausea turned to dread. And when he seemed to condone physical violence as a response to political disagreement, alarm bells started to ring in my head. Plato had planted a gnawing worry in my mind a few decades ago about the intrinsic danger of late-democratic life. It was increasingly hard not to see in Plato’s vision a murky reflection of our own hyperdemocratic times and in Trump a demagogic, tyrannical character plucked directly out of one of the first books about politics ever written.

Could it be that the Donald has emerged from the populist circuses of pro wrestling and New York City tabloids, via reality television and Twitter, to prove not just Plato but also James Madison right, that democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention … and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths”? Is he testing democracy’s singular weakness — its susceptibility to the demagogue — by blasting through the firewalls we once had in place to prevent such a person from seizing power? Or am I overreacting?

Perhaps. The nausea comes and goes, and there have been days when the news algorithm has actually reassured me that “peak Trump” has arrived. But it hasn’t gone away, and neither has Trump. In the wake of his most recent primary triumphs, at a time when he is perilously close to winning enough delegates to grab the Republican nomination outright, I think we must confront this dread and be clear about what this election has already revealed about the fragility of our way of life and the threat late-stage democracy is beginning to pose to itself.

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Trump, we now know, had been considering running for president for decades. Those who didn’t see him coming — or kept treating him as a joke — had not yet absorbed the precedents of Obama and Palin or the power of the new wide-open system to change the rules of the political game. Trump was as underrated for all of 2015 as Obama was in 2007 — and for the same reasons. He intuitively grasped the vanishing authority of American political and media elites, and he had long fashioned a public persona perfectly attuned to blast past them.

Despite his immense wealth and inherited privilege, Trump had always cultivated a common touch. He did not hide his wealth in the late-20th century — he flaunted it in a way that connected with the masses. He lived the rich man’s life most working men dreamed of — endless glamour and women, for example — without sacrificing a way of talking about the world that would not be out of place on the construction sites he regularly toured. His was a cult of democratic aspiration. His 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, promised its readers a path to instant success; his appearances on “The Howard Stern Show” cemented his appeal. His friendship with Vince McMahon offered him an early entrée into the world of professional wrestling, with its fusion of sports and fantasy. He was a macho media superstar.

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But the most powerful engine for such a movement — the thing that gets it off the ground, shapes and solidifies and entrenches it — is always the evocation of hatred. It is, as Hoffer put it, “the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying elements.” And so Trump launched his campaign by calling undocumented Mexican immigrants a population largely of rapists and murderers. He moved on to Muslims, both at home and abroad. He has now added to these enemies — with sly brilliance — the Republican Establishment itself. And what makes Trump uniquely dangerous in the history of American politics — with far broader national appeal than, say, Huey Long or George Wallace — is his response to all three enemies. It’s the threat of blunt coercion and dominance.

And so after demonizing most undocumented Mexican immigrants, he then vowed to round up and deport all 11 million of them by force. “They have to go” was the typically blunt phrase he used — and somehow people didn’t immediately recognize the monstrous historical echoes. The sheer scale of the police and military operation that this policy would entail boggles the mind. Worse, he emphasized, after the mass murder in San Bernardino, that even the Muslim-Americans you know intimately may turn around and massacre you at any juncture. “There’s something going on,” he declaimed ominously, giving legitimacy to the most hysterical and ugly of human impulses.

To call this fascism doesn’t do justice to fascism. Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks. But his movement is clearly fascistic in its demonization of foreigners, its hyping of a threat by a domestic minority (Muslims and Mexicans are the new Jews), its focus on a single supreme leader of what can only be called a cult, and its deep belief in violence and coercion in a democracy that has heretofore relied on debate and persuasion. This is the Weimar aspect of our current moment. Just as the English Civil War ended with a dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell, and the French Revolution gave us Napoleon Bonaparte, and the unstable chaos of Russian democracy yielded to Vladimir Putin, and the most recent burst of Egyptian democracy set the conditions for General el-Sisi’s coup, so our paralyzed, emotional hyperdemocracy leads the stumbling, frustrated, angry voter toward the chimerical panacea of Trump.

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Those who believe that Trump’s ugly, thuggish populism has no chance of ever making it to the White House seem to me to be missing this dynamic. Neo-fascist movements do not advance gradually by persuasion; they first transform the terms of the debate, create a new movement based on untrammeled emotion, take over existing institutions, and then ruthlessly exploit events. And so current poll numbers are only reassuring if you ignore the potential impact of sudden, external events — an economic downturn or a terror attack in a major city in the months before November. I have no doubt, for example, that Trump is sincere in his desire to “cut the head off” ISIS, whatever that can possibly mean. But it remains a fact that the interests of ISIS and the Trump campaign are now perfectly aligned. Fear is always the would-be tyrant’s greatest ally.

And though Trump’s unfavorables are extraordinarily high (around 65 percent), he is already showing signs of changing his tune, pivoting (fitfully) to the more presidential mode he envisages deploying in the general election. I suspect this will, to some fools on the fence, come as a kind of relief, and may open their minds to him once more. Tyrants, like mob bosses, know the value of a smile: Precisely because of the fear he’s already generated, you desperately want to believe in his new warmth. It’s part of the good-cop-bad-cop routine that will be familiar to anyone who has studied the presidency of Vladimir Putin.

With his appeal to his own base locked up, Trump may well also shift to more moderate stances on social issues like abortion (he already wants to amend the GOP platform to a less draconian position) or gay and even transgender rights. He is consistent in his inconsistency, because, for him, winning is what counts. He has had a real case against Ted Cruz — that the senator has no base outside ideological-conservative quarters and is even less likely to win a general election. More potently, Trump has a worryingly strong argument against Clinton herself — or “crooked Hillary,” as he now dubs her.

His proposition is a simple one. Remember James Carville’s core question in the 1992 election: Change versus more of the same? That sentiment once elected Clinton’s husband; it could also elect her opponent this fall. If you like America as it is, vote Clinton. After all, she has been a member of the American political elite for a quarter-century. Clinton, moreover, has shown no ability to inspire or rally anyone but her longtime loyalists. She is lost in the new media and has struggled to put away a 74-year-old socialist who is barely a member of her party. Her own unfavorables are only 11 points lower than Trump’s (far higher than Obama’s, John Kerry’s, or Al Gore’s were at this point in the race), and the more she campaigns, the higher her unfavorables go (including in her own party). She has a Gore problem. The idea of welcoming her into your living room for the next four years can seem, at times, positively masochistic.

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For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.j


The Sullivan piece is much more detailed and deserves a thorough reading. But I am still not persuaded that Trump is an extinction-level event.

I suppose, there could come a moment when Trump breaks kayfabe, when the wink is gone. But, I think America would recoil, and that the system would hold.

In the meantime, here from a Conor Friedersdorf  email interview at the Atlantic,  with A.J. Benza, who knows Trump as well as anyone -.How an Old-School Gossip Columnist Explains Donald Trump – which is also well worth a read.

Friedersdorf: Whatever happens next, Donald Trump has shown the world a new way to interact with the media while winning a presidential primary. Is this an approach only he could pull off, by virtue of his unusual celebrity, biography, or personality? Or are aspects of what he’s done that future politicians will exploit?

Benza: I don’t see many politicians adopting his skill acquiring media coverage.

You can say he possesses “unusual” celebrity, but the adjective isn’t necessary. It’s celebrity, period. But at its core, celebrity isn’t enough. Timing is also important, especially in politics.

Never before has the political world resembled a circus.

All Trump has done is put a face on The Strongman. And with everyone talking and gawking at The Strongman (or the anomaly), the circus gets a ton of attention, sells out every town, and rolls on without a hitch. I can’t see any other pol pulling this off or trying to adopt or whip up comparable anger. I don’t see anyone else with the same ego. And that’s saying a lot since everyone else who’s ever run for president have huge egos. But his is the size of Everest. There are experienced sherpas who wouldn’t dare climb Trump’s ego. But seriously, do you see anyone else channeling people’s id the way he has? He and Hillary can’t be more opposite in the noise they make. She’s Crosby, Stills & Nash and he’s Twisted Sister. The country is screaming “We’re not gonna take it,” not “Our House.”

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Gays, God and grammar: On the 2016 Texas GOP platform

Good morning Austin:

Just as it appeared Donald Trump had slain political correctness, along comes its condescending cousin – grammatical correctness.


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The story on the popular liberal web site continues:

Due to a grammatical error in the section condemning homosexuality in the 2016 Texas Republican platform, the state party has actually suggested that the “majority of Texans” are gay and that the behavior of LGBT people is “ordained by God.”

The section reads:

Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

The copy editors at NPR noted that by using the singular “has” instead of “have,” the rest of the sentence refers to “behavior” instead of “truths.” NPR noted that the 2014 Texas Republican platform does not contain the same errors.

Here is the 2014 version:

Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

Yes indeed. Two years ago, the same sentiment was expressed more correctly, using the word “have” instead of “has,” and, unnoticed or unmentioned by the punctuation police, who may be a whole different constabulary from the grammar gendarmes, with an apostrophe that made an honest possessive of nation’s founders.

The story was picked up far and wide – a light and easy way to characterize Texas Republicans as not just homophobic bigots but also grammatical dunces.

TPM cited NPR. NPR cited Texas Monthly. Texas Monthly cited a web site, The New Civil Rights Movement, where John Wright,  under the headline, Grammar Fail: Texas GOP Platform May Actually Imply That Most Texans Are Gay; Plank Also Suggests Founding Fathers Supported Homosexuality, wrote:

Some members of the Texas Republican Party are questioning the wording of an anti-gay plank in the party’s platform, saying it mistakenly implies that the majority of the state’s residents are gay. 

“There’s a grammatical argument going on,” said Rudy Oeftering, vice president of the LGBT Republican group Metroplex Republicans, who brought the issue to my attention. “Some are insisting the use of commas in the ‘Homosexuality’ plank in the platform could be interpreted as saying that the founders and the majority of Texans are gay.” 

OK. I will resist the temptation to speculate on which of the founders were gay.

But, it seems the fuss about the platform’s language is a bit puerile – as if to say, “Ha, ha, you said most Texans are gay.”

Regrettably, I missed the state convention, and particularly missed the platform deliberations, a personal favorite. Last week I called, Stephen Broden, a member of the Platform and Resolutions Committee, to catch up on what I missed.

First, it was a pleasure talking to Broden, pastor  of Fair Park Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas. As a pastor, it is not surprising that he is extraordinarily well-spoken. But he is an ideal interview. He speaks deliberately, allowing me time to keep up taking notes, and he speaks in complete and coherent thoughts, the punctuation present even in the spoken word.

The homosexuality plank has been a source of controversy at the Republican convention, in 2014 and 2016.

The sentences following the one in question reads as follows:

Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We oppose the granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.


Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 2.16.39 AMThe first, contested sentence, about the Biblical underpinnings for this plank, had been dropped by the platform subcommittee that brought it to the full committee.

“It’s very rare that any plank in the platform gives you a why. If we’re not going to say why on everything else, why are we adding it to this one,” said Jeff Davis, head of the Texas Log Cabin Republicans, who wants to see the whole plank go, and considers every bit of chipping away at it progress.

But, when it came before the full committee, Broden moved to have the opening sentence restored.

Said Broden:

The first sentence is an explanation. It is the context of why it is we believe that way. Without that sentence, it presents an opinion without any justifiable reason. The why behind that is in the first sentence.

Broden’s motion was to restore the language – with its correct grammar and punctuation – to the platform.
Somewhere, in the retyping, mistakes were made – have became has, an apostrophe was lost. But, as someone who writes for a living – and, even in this day and age (and not day in age – “a nonsensical eggcorn derived from a mishearing of day and age’) that means typing – I am sympathetic to how easy it is to simply screw up.
And, for that, Broden said, “We’re being called troglodytes again.”
Pastor Stephen Broden
Pastor Stephen Broden
In an interview last week with Jay Leeson, co-host of West Texas Drive on KRFE AM 580 in  Lubbock, Texas GOP Chairman Tom  Mechler said he found the grammar controversy “humorous.”
“It’s a typo. We all know it’s a typo,” said Mechler, who did yeoman work as chair of the Platform Committee in 2014, referring to the “total chaos” of pulling the final platform language together on the fly. “It’s being corrected.”
Mechler was elected at the state convention to his first full term as Texas Republican chairman in a contested race in which a brightly-colored mailer, sans typos, supporting his further-right opponent, declared, “it’s time to end Tom Mechler’s disgusting homosexual agenda.”
Meanwhile Mechler told Leeson:
The media picks through our platform every two years with a fine-tooth comb.  They go out there and they’re always looking for something and I never hear them doing that to the Democratic platform, and I’m sure they have typos on their side as well. The media never does that. It would be nice if that scrutiny was both ways.

Attention  Celia Israel, the Austin representative, who is chairing the Democratic Party Platform Committee: Mind your p’s and q’s, apostrophes, commas and subject-verb agreement.

But, Mechler undersells the news value of his party’s platform.

It does not require a fine-tooth comb, even if, as Sean Collins Walsh reported from Dallas, the convention defeated an effort on the floor to add a Texas secession plank to the platform that would have earned Texas Republicans national, even international headlines, though, “t

Charles Pierce’s piece on the platform in Esquire was headlined, Texas Republicans Accidentally Called the Majority of Texans Homosexuals: As part of an amazingly batsh*t party platform.

Connoisseurs of American wingnuttery wait with great anticipation every four years for the release of the Texas Republican state platform. It is like Christmas morning. We wait for it the way America waited for that first cold beer on the evening of December 4, 1933. This is the real deal, the pure uncut hallucinogen of all American political ideology, the ultimate monster from the conservative Id. And this is not produced from some compound in Idaho. It is not stapled to a lamp post in downtown Coeur d’Alene. It is the official adopted philosophy of the Republican party in one of the most important states in the Union.


Read the whole thing. Gaze in awe. I swear, every time the Texas GOP produces one of these documents, it’s like somebody cleaned out every bad idea in the attic of American history and decided to throw a yard sale.

One small correction – connoisseurs have their appetite sated every two years, not every four.

But Pierce’s point is that the Texas Republican Party Platform is an interesting and provocative and ultimately important document.

Indeed, the approval of the Texas Republican Party Platform in Dallas may have been worthy of the Guinness Book of Records. With some 8,000 registered delegates, the Texas Republican State Convention is renowned for being larger than any other convention in the United States, including the national nominating conventions.

But, in an innovation this year, every delegate voted in a paper ballot that looked like a standardized test on each of 262 platform planks – from the preamble to the five action items for the next legislative session – with only those that passed being included in the platform that was brought to the floor for an up or down vote. (All 262 planks passed by large, though varying, margins.)

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Perhaps never before had so many delegates at any American political convention voted on so many individual platform items.

If anything, it seems the platform did not get its due in terms of the publicity it generated.

I think that If Sen. Ted Cruz had still been in the presidential race, still trying to stop the candidate of New York values from claiming the Republican nomination, the platform would have received much more national attention. Cruz would have faced relentless questioning about whether the Texas Republican Party platform accurately described his values.

There is, for example, a Texas Republican platform chestnut –  what the John Birch Society describes as its signature issue – getting the U.S. out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the U.S.

Then there is the even more retro campaign to repeal the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which I wrote about back in 2013.

On May 31, 1913, the 17th Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution providing for the popular election of U.S. senators and doing away with the Founding Fathers’ design, which vested that power with state legislatures. It was, at the height of the Progressive Era, an overwhelmingly popular move toward purer democracy.

One hundred years later, it has become an article of faith among many tea party activists that the 17th Amendment was a terrible mistake that undermined the federal system, reducing state power in relation to the federal government, and ought to be repealed.

For most Americans it remains an arcane issue, with a radically retro sound to it, a throwback, perhaps, to an age when generally only white, male property owners could vote. But nowhere has repealing the 17th Amendment gained more traction from political heavyweights than in Texas.

This one puzzle me, coming from the tea party. Under that system, there is no question that David Dewhurst, or perhaps Joe Straus, would be the junior senator from Texas, and definitely not Ted Cruz.

The border wall plank would, if Cruz were still contesting Trump, have sounded oddly tepid:

Border Wall – We support building a high wall with a wide gate in order to prevent illicit border crossings without preventing legal border crossings as one part of a complete border security plan. The wall will only be built where it is deemed effective and cost-efficient.

If cooler heads prevailed on secession/independence, the platform did include a strong state sovereignty plank. After all, why secede when you can nullify.

State Sovereignty: Pursuant to Article 1 Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, the federal government has impaired our right of local self-government. Therefore, Federally mandated legislation, which infringes upon the 10th Amendment rights of Texas, should be ignored, opposed, refused, and nullified. Regulation of Commerce in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution has exceeded the original intent. All attempts by the federal judiciary to rule in areas not expressly enumerated by the United States Constitution should be likewise nullified. Any federal enforcement activities that do occur in Texas should be conducted under the authority of the county sheriff.

And then there’s this.

Unelected Bureaucrats: We oppose the appointment of unelected bureaucrats and we support defunding and abolishing the departments or agencies of the Internal Revenue Service, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Interior (specifically, the Bureau of Land Management), Transportation Security Administration, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and National Labor Relations Board. In the interim, executive decisions by departments or agencies must be reviewed and approved by Congress before taking effect.

I know Cruz made abolishing the IRS a signature issue, and has called for eliminating the Education Department. But, from reading this, it sounds like members of Congress are going to be extremely busy micro-managing virtually every federal function, or what’s left of them.

And, what about that most nefarious federal agency of them all – the EPA?

Oh, that comes under Environmental Protection, or rather:

Protection from Extreme Environmentalists: We oppose environmentalism that obstructs legitimate business interests and private property use, including the regulatory taking of property by governmental agencies. We oppose the abuse of the Endangered Species Act to confiscate and limit the use of personal property and infringement on property owner’s livelihood. “Climate Change” is a political agenda promoted to control every aspect of our lives. We support the defunding of “climate justice” initiatives and the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency and repeal of the Endangered Species Act.

For the first time, the convention platform also set five priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature:

1. Pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.

No more need for those stinkin’ licenses.

2. Abolish abortion by enacting legislation to stop the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.

This is very interesting. Instead of calling for new restrictions on abortion that might test the limits of Roe v. Wade, this says, just ignore Roe v. Wade and let the Notorious RBG come to Texas and make something of it.

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3. Prioritize the allocation of funds to effectively secure the border through whatever means necessary, including but not limited to barriers, personnel, and technology over land, sea, and air, because the federal government refuses to secure the southern border of Texas.
 4. Call for a limited Article V convention of states for the specific purpose of restricting the power of the federal government, including the implementation of term limits, and balanced budget amendment. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by ¾ of the states.

This is Gov. Abbott’s big cause and the centerpiece of his new book, Broken But Unbowed.

5. And to replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden. We request the Republican State Chair and the State Republican Executive Committee to utilize reasonable Party resources necessary to promote and support passage. It should be understood that these five priorities are not meant to diminish the requirement for the legislature to address the full platform of planks.

And the crown jewel of the platform – at the current moment in time:

Gender Identity:  We urge the enactment of legislation addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex.

Bathroom politics was the last straw Cruz grasped in his bid to stop Trump in Indiana.

With the Cruz campaign ended, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick became the point man at the convention on the issue, called out and dissed by White House press secretary Josh Earnest as a radio talk show host – for Patrick, manna from heaven.


He also appeared with Megyn Kelly on Fox, who didn’t seem impressed.

We are at a moment in time when the Big Three of Texas politics – Cruz, Abbott and Patrick – place their conservative Christian faith at the center of their politics.

Cruz frequently predicted 2016 would be a religious liberty election.

From the state platform.

Safeguarding Religious Liberties: We affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity, and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the 1st Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state. Tax deductions for charitable contributions are not government subsidies and give no authority for government oversight. Americans should be free to express their religious beliefs, including prayer in public places. We urge the legislature to increase the ability of faith based institutions and other organizations to assist the needy and to reduce regulation of such organizations. We also support vigorously protecting the rights of commercial establishments to refuse to provide any service or product that would infringe upon freedom of conscience of religious expression of the commercial establishments as stated in the 1st Amendment.

We are at an interesting, perhaps even historic moment.

For a half century after the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee – until the rise of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, evangelical Christians retreated from the public square. The Texas Republican Party – and in particular Cruz’s 2016 campaign – may have represented the high-water mark of its resurgence.

From H.L. Mencken’s coverage of the Scopes Trial

The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. Any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to all the rest of us.

I do not know how many Americans entertain the ideas defended so ineptly by poor (William Jennings) Bryan, but probably the number is very large. They are preached once a week in at least a hundred thousand rural churches, and they are heard too in the meaner quarters of the great cities. Nevertheless, though they are thus held to be sound by millions, these ideas remain mere rubbish. Not only are they not supported by the known facts; they are in direct contravention of the known facts. No man whose information is sound and whose mind functions normally can conceivably credit them. They are the products of ignorance and stupidity, either or both.

In terms of the public debate, not much seems to have changed. Mencken today would no doubt have been at the Republican State Convention describing the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a “meaner quarter” – a Scopes Trial with air conditioning.

But what would Mencken make of Donald Trump, who may put the religious politics practiced by Cruz, Patrick, Abbott – and add to that list Rick Perry – to its severest, trickiest test.

Cruz’s lock on the support of key evangelical leaders won him a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses, but little else. Trump – despite being Donald Trump and all that entails – somehow, won the evangelical voters (though Cruz won those who attended church most regularly), and won the backing of Jerry Falwell Jr.

And, while Cruz is holding back, Abbott and Patrick and Perry, quickly endorsed Trump.

From Sean Collins Walsh’s story at the Republican Convention:

In the wake of the Obama administration’s directive to school districts across the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday called the issue a “modern day ‘come and take it’ moment” that will propel Donald Trump to the White House and fuel the school-choice movement.

“We’re not going to be blackmailed by the president, and we’re not going to sell out our school children for 30 pieces of silver,” Patrick told reporters at the Republican Party of Texas convention in Dallas.

Patrick, who has come to the forefront of the issue this week after calling for the resignation of the Fort Worth school district’s superintendent for a policy accommodating transgender students, said he has been in contact with Trump’s campaign about how to handle the bathroom debate.

In the wake of the Obama administration’s directive to school districts across the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday called the issue a “modern day ‘come and take it’ moment” that will propel Donald Trump to the White House and fuel the school-choice movement.

“We’re not going to be blackmailed by the president, and we’re not going to sell out our school children for 30 pieces of silver,” Patrick told reporters at the Republican Party of Texas convention in Dallas.

Patrick, who has come to the forefront of the issue this week after calling for the resignation of the Fort Worth school district’s superintendent for a policy accommodating transgender students, said he has been in contact with Trump’s campaign about how to handle the bathroom debate.

Trump, however, initially sided with Patrick’s opponents when the issue first arose following a North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. Patrick indicated Friday that the presumptive GOP nominee will be changing his position and said the issue could help Trump defeat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

And Perry?

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Donald Trump wasn’t my first choice. I was my first choice.

Donald Trump wasn’t my second choice. That was Ted Cruz.

But from Bloomberg’s recap of  Perry’a CNN appearance.

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But, Pastor Broden isn’t there yet.

Personally, I’m not a Trump fan. I think that he’s the wrong candidate to lead us forward but, things are as they are, so the choice is – and the choice that I have not made a concrete decision on – is to support the Republican nominee or to allow Hillary Clinton to win, so that’s an ugly choice.

We’re facing a schism in the party. Donald Trump is an interesting person. I have yet to put a finger on what he’s all about. If anything he has been able to read the public better than the other candidates and has played to the public, the fears …. the anger.

The question is will he listen, is he teachable, can he take instruction because he’s going to need a whole lot of help.

And, can Texas Republicans reconcile their party’s state platform with their party’s presidential nominee?

“What you’re seeing in the platform is what conservative, Bible-believing constitutionalists want for the state of Texas,” said Broden.


Robert Draper had a fantastic cover story in the New York Times Magazine Sunday –Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: Down the homestretch with the impossible nominee.

It’s a great read from start to finish.

There is this nugget.

On the TV, the Fox News pundits were speaking consolingly of the soon-to-be-vanquished Cruz’s political future. Standing in front of the oversize screen, Trump scoffed: “I don’t think he has much of a future.” He returned to his seat and proceeded to scratch out a few notes for what would be his final speech as a Republican competing for the nomination.

And this:

At the golf resort, I brought up the more strategic criticism that had been leveled at the campaign, that Trump needed to turn his guerrilla squad into something resembling a more conventional operation, and asked (Corey) Lewandowski and (Hope) Hicks how that might happen. “Ever since we won Nevada, all these guys have been calling us and saying we had to build out the team,” Hicks said. The campaign’s core staffers had received this advice with eye-rolls, recognizing it as a worldview at odds with their own — and from time to time would draw up imitation organizational charts imagining what an expanded Trump World would look like:


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America atwitter as @realDonaldTrump eyes @JusticeWillett for #SupremeCourt

Good morning Austin. Good morning Justice Willett.



It was just another Happy Wednesday.


So, the official Tweeter Laureate of the State of Texas apparently arrived at Gov. Greg Abbott’s book signing at the Texas Public Policy Foundation yesterday in a good frame of mind and well sated, if perhaps in a bit of a post-BBQ glow/stupor when he learned, through Twitter no doubt, that he was on what the Trump

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campaign described as “the much-anticipated list of people he would consider as potential replacements for Justice Scalia at the United States Supreme Court.”

Much anticipated, perhaps, but, for Willett, it seems, wholly unexpected.

During his briefs remarks, Gov. Abbott, probably at that point unaware of what was unfolding, gave Willett a shout-out.

When he finished speaking and began signing his book, Broken But Unbowed, reporters gathered around Willett, who, sweetly flustered, couldn’t even muster 140 characters in spoken response before beating a


hasty retreat, promising only to “circle back” later, which he did, that evening, with a brief statement, and better yet, an appropriately clever tweet.

Here was his statement:

I respect all, and personally know several, of the judges listed. Being named alongside them for any purpose is a rich honor. They are exceptional jurists, and importantly, over half have served or are serving in the state judiciary, where most American justice is dispensed. 

I’m not sure that Trump’s mention of Willett in particular owes to anything especially strategic, apart from the fact that Willett is a favorite of conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, who Trump looked to for advice on a list that would please and reassure them and theirs. I don’t know if Trump was aware of the George Will column last summer favorably comparing Willett to Chief Justice John Roberts, and recommending that whoever the next Republican president is, “To his first (Supreme Court) nominee … this president should simply say, `Welcome to Washington, Justice Willett’.”

Will, of course, has said that all decent Republicans should do everything in their power to ruin Trump’s chances of being elected president, even as the party’s nominee, and Trump has described Will as a “major loser.”

Nobody watches him. Very few people listen to him. It’s over for him, and I never want his support.

But, intentional or not, Trump’s mention of Willett is strategically smart.
In quickly endorsing Trump after Ted Cruz’s withdrawal from the race, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired Cruz’s campaign in Texas, recommended that Trump choose Cruz – who has not yet endorsed Trump – for the Supreme Court. Trump kind of kicked that idea to the curb, and Cruz said he wasn’t interested. But the choice of Willett, friend and ideological soul mate of Cruz, makes it easier for Cruz to find a way to endorse Trump, if there is a will to find a way, and a little harder not to. It  also provides more cover for Patrick and Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry, who named Willett to the court, jumping aboard the Trump train.
Willett yesterday quickly became the headliner among the Trump Eleven, almost entirely because of his Twitter exploits, and in particular his collection of Trump tweets.
From Rich Shapiro at the New York Daily News:
One of the judges named on Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees thinks the GOP presidential contender is a joke.

Before his name appeared on Trump’s Supreme Court short-list, Texas justice Don Willett relentlessly mocked the billionaire businessman on Twitter.

Well, joke, relentlessly mocked?

How bad could it be?

I didn’t know what it meant.
From the Urban Dictionary:
Acronym for ‘shake my head’ or ‘shaking my head.’ Usually used when someone finds something so stupid, no words can do it justice. Sometimes it’s modified to ‘smfh’ or ‘smmfh’ by those that prefer profanity in their internet acronyms.
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OK. So maybe there’s been a hint of mockery in Willett’s treatment of Trump. But, the Twitter oeuvre of Justice Willett is mostly a happy, gentle place, more bemused than mocking.


And, one would assume, that Trump, who, if elected president, would owe his election to Twitter, would have to admire the Twitter skills of the tweetingest judge in America.

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Trump has about 20 times as many Twitter followers, but only half again as many tweets at Willett.

Willett likes a lot. Trump likes little.

Willett follows nearly 1000 others (including Mr. Never Trump, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse), and a suspicious number of Texas journalists. Trump follows almost no one without Trump in their name or title, plus wrestling mogul Vince McMahon, and the hosts of Morning Joe.

Trump often uses Twitter as a bludgeon, but Willett is more inclined to the Twitter cuddle than the cudgel.

From Chuck Lindell’s story in today’s Statesman:

Willett’s prolific use of Twitter sets him apart from many other judges who avoid social media or are uncomfortable with sharing their thoughts in such a public forum. More than 37,000 Twitter followers get frequent posts about his three children, known as the “wee Willetts,” and his love of Chick-fil-A, as well as encouragement for would-be lawyers taking the bar exam and humorous forays into political news.

Willett has served as an adviser to George W. Bush while he was Texas governor and then president, and Willett was the chief legal adviser to Abbott when he was attorney general.

Frequently seen wearing his trademark bow tie, Willett had no judicial experience when then-Gov. Rick Perry named him to fill a Texas Supreme Court vacancy in 2005, but he quickly became known as one of the most conservative members of the all-Republican court.

Willett was the author of last week’s opinion that upheld the Texas public school finance system as constitutional if outdated and archaic — an emphatic victory for state Republican leaders who argued that education problems couldn’t be fixed simply by directing more money to schools.

He also dissented from a 2015 decision that declined to overturn a Travis County divorce for two women who had married in Massachusetts, and last month he wrote an opinion chastising a Travis County judge for issuing an order allowing two women to marry in Austin four months before the state’s ban on gay marriage was struck down.

In other words, Willett is no shrinking violet as a jurist, but his tweets, which appear to be an extension of his personality, are remarkable because they seem more interested in defusing tensions than provoking them.

In that context, his Trump barbs are pretty pointed, but Trump, more than anyone, knows how this goes.

From Jesse Wegman at the New York Times in 2014.

His tweets are a mix of family outings (“Daddy-Daughter breakfast dates are THE BEST!”), oblique political commentary (“When it comes to legislating from the bench — I literally can’t even”), savvy cultural references and good-natured sports talk. His humor is sometimes corny and often funny. A tweet on Sept. 8 included a photo of two federal judges enduring oral argument, one half-asleep and the other apparently picking his nose, with the caption: “This is why some judges (not me) resist cameras in the courtroom.”

Of course, no one who uses Twitter needs to be reminded of the perils of a misguided tweet. In a phone interview, Justice Willett acknowledged the risks of high-speed, low-character-count dispatches. While on Twitter and Facebook, where he also maintains a public profile, he said he avoids partisan commentary and any legal issues that might come before him. “My political consultant said I’m the only client of his that he does not worry about,” he said.

The main reason for his online presence, he said, is a practical one: staying connected to voters. Texas state judges are elected, and State Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms. Justice Willett, who was first appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Perry in 2005, has won two elections since and will be on the ballot again in 2018. He calls it “political malpractice” not to make use of social media.

From Shosana Weissman at the Weekly Standard

Taking on the judicial norm requires not only courage, but intellectual vigor, which Willett has in spades. He flourishes both within the confines of 140 characters, but he will also soon earn his fourth degree (an LLM in Judicial Studies from Duke Law School), and next year will be editor in chief of the revered scholarly journal for judges, Judicature.

Naturally, I was curious if Willett has received backlash for either his tweeting or judicial philosophy. “Twitter-wise, the response is overwhelmingly positive,” adding, “It’s uncommon for a Supreme Court justice to step out from behind the bench, and folks are astonished that fuddy-duddy judges can be authentic and engaging.” On the bench, he’s doing just fine, too. “Not every opinion I write is 9-0, but I’ve been elected statewide twice.” The latter point is an understatement, as Willett garnered the largest vote total in Texas history in his most recent election.

The Twitterverse is elated to see a judge who understands Twitter, while proponents of judicial engagement—like George Will—are elated to see a judge who heeds the Constitution’s limits on government power. Will recently hinted—and not subtly—that he wants Willett to fill the next vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. George Leef made the same point in a Forbes column. I asked Willett if he would prefer SCOTUS over SCOTX. “I don’t do demotions,” Willett cracked, “Plus, my wife and I call our prior stint in D.C. ‘the greatest thing we’ll never do again.’”

SCOTUS aside, Willett is widely seen as the leading candidate to replace Texas’s recently indicted attorney general. Willett politely declined to address the subject, calling it “highly unfitting” to discuss pending legal matters.

Willett is even influencing the 2016 race. Last night’s CNN debate moderator Hugh Hewitt tweeted that his Constitution Day reference in the debate was “courtesy of @JusticeWillett.” When nominations to the Supreme Court were mentioned in the debate, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted, “I’d recommend to whichever candidate wins to appoint @JusticeWillett to #SCOTUS. A proven conservative who won’t rewrite law. #txlege.”

Willett’s personal hero is his mother, who was “widowed at a young age and without a high school diploma.” He timed his formal Court swearing-in to fall on his mom’s 75th birthday.

“After dad died, mom hunkered down and waited tables at the local truck stop to support my sister and me,” Willett recounts, “In 55 years of waitressing, mom walked roughly from the earth to the moon—about 75 times around the perimeter of Texas. And every step she took brought a grateful son one step closer to the unfathomable privilege I have of serving 27 million Texans,” he said.

Embodying his mom’s ethic, Willett now protects the Lone Star State from unconstitutional abuses of government power. And case by case—and tweet by tweet—he brings the Constitution and the Supreme Court of Texas closer to Texans.



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On Guy Clark: ‘To me he’s one of the heroes of this country, so why’s he all dressed up like them old men?’

Good morning Austin:

I missed the Republican State Convention last weekend in Dallas. I was in Massachusetts with my wife’s family for a wonderful wedding. As usual, family and friends of the family would ask, “How’s Texas?” or “How’s Austin,” and I’d say, “Good,” and my wife would say, “He always liked Texas.”

It was a line she first delivered in the late fall of 2012, when I decided, after losing my job in D.C., to move to Texas to take a job with the Statesman, and she delivered it as an accusation, a revelation of betrayal – “You always liked Texas.”

It is true. I did always like Texas.

It was mostly because of my attraction to the music – beginning in high school in New York and then blossoming in college in Massachusetts. It was Bob Wills, Asleep at the Wheel, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, Uncle Walt’s Band,Townes Van Zandt, and Guy Clark, probably the saddest, sweetest songwriter of them all.

Which is why yesterday, after work, on the sun-warmed day that Guy Clark died, I found myself at the bar at the Texas Chili Parlor ordering a Mad Dog Margarita and a bowl of chili.

Well I wished I was in Austin, hmm, in the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are
Here I sit in Dublin, hmm, just rollin’ cigarettes
Holdin’ back and chokin’ back, the shakes with every breath

So forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish steps, the day you said goodbye

I am just a poor boy, hmm, work’s my middle name
If money was a reason, well I would not be the same
I’ll stand up and be counted, hmm, I’ll face up to the truth
I’ll walk away from trouble, but I can’t walk away from you

So forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die<
I loved you on the Spanish steps, the day you said goodbye

I have been to Fort Worth, hmm, and I have been to Spain
And I have been too proud to come in out of the rain
And I have seen the David, hmm, I’ve seen Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson play Columbus Stockade Blues

Forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish steps, the day you said goodbye

Well I wished I was in Austin, hmm, in the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are

The place was packed.

I was alone, sitting on the last stool at the bar closet to the front door, alongside another guy with a pony tail, named Eric, who had been drawn there for the same reason I had. When he heard the news he felt a punch in his gut and tears in his eyes.

Each time the door would open the still-bright sun would stream into the dark parlor and I’d squint to see the latest pilgrims, mourners arriving to put their name on the list for the next available table, all there, it seemed, for the same reason.

Guy Clark was dead, gone. Guy Clark, whose debut album, Old No. 1, is among the best I’ve ever listened to.

Desperadoes Waiting for a Train



I played the Red River Valley
He’d sit in the kitchen and cry
Run his fingers through seventy years of livin’
“I wonder, Lord, has every well I’ve drilled gone dry?”
We were friends, me and this old man

Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Desperados waitin’ for a train

Well, he’s a drifter an’ a driller of oil wells
And an old school man of the world
He taught me how to drive his car when he w’s too drunk to
Oh, and he’d wink and give me money for the girls

An’ our lives were like, some old Western movie
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

An’ from the time that I could walk, he’d take me with him
To a bar called the Green Frog Cafe
An’ there was old men with beer guts and dominos
Oh, an they’re lying ’bout their lives while they played

An’ I was just a kid, that they all called his sidekick
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

One day I looked up and he’s pushin’ eighty
An’ he’s brown tobacco stains all down his chin
Well, to me he’s one of the heroes of this country
So why’s he all dressed up like them old men?

He’s drinkin’ beer and playin’ Moon and Forty-two
Like a desperado waitin’ for a train
Like a desperado waitin’ for a train

An’ then the day before he died, I went to see him
I was grown and he was almost gone
So we just closed our eyes and dreamed us up a kitchen
And sang another verse to that old song

Come on, Jack, that son-of-a-bitch is comin’
We’re like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

LA Freeway

Pack up all your dishes.
Make note of all good wishes.
Say goodbye to the landlord for me.
That son of a bitch has always bored me.
Throw out them LA papers
And that moldy box of vanilla wafers.
Adios to all this concrete.
Gonna get me some dirt road back street.

If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought

Here’s to you old skinny Dennis
Only one I think I will miss
I can hear that old bass singing
Sweet and low like a gift you’re bringing
Play it for me just one more time now
Got to give it all we can now
I believe everything your saying
Just keep on, keep on playing

If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought
And you put the pink card in the mailbox
Leave the key in the old front door lock
They will find it likely as not

I’m sure there’s something we have forgot
Oh Susanna, don’t you cry, babe
Love’s a gift that’s surely handmade
We’ve got something to believe in
Don’t you think it’s time we’re leaving

If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought.

Pack up all your dishes.
Make note of all good wishes.
Say goodbye to the landlord for me.
That son of a bitch has always bored me.

 That Old Time Feeling

And that old time feeling goes sneakin’ down the hall
Like an old gray cat in winter, keepin’ close to the wall
And that old time feeling comes stumblin’ up the street
Like an old salesman kickin’ the papers from his feet

And that old time feeling draws circles around the block
Like old women with no children, holdin’ hands with the clock
And that old time feeling falls on its face in the park
Like an old wino prayin’ he can make it till it’s dark

And that old time feeling comes and goes in the rain
Like an old man with his checkers, dyin’ to find a game
And that old time feeling plays for beer in bars
Like an old blues-time picker who don’t recall who you are

And that old time feeling limps through the night on a crutch
Like an old soldier wonderin’ if he’s paid too much
And that old time feeling rocks and spits and cries
Like an old lover rememberin’ the girl with the clear blue eyes

And that old time feeling goes sneakin’ down the hall
Like an old gray cat in winter, keepin’ close to the wall

Not all his songs made you cry. But even Texas 1947, from that debut album, an ecstatic song about a six-year-old Guy Clark’s thrilled witness with the rest of his little West Texas town of Monahans of a train screamin’ straight through Texas like a mad dog cyclone, is freighted with a wistful sense of loss.

Texas 1947


Now bein’ six years old
I had seen some trains before
So it’s hard to figure out
What I’m at the depot for

Trains are big and black and smokin’
Steam screamin’ at the wheels
And bigger than anything they is
At least that’s the way she feels

Trains are big and black and smokin’
Louder in July four
But everybody’s actin’ like
this might be somethin’ more

Than just pickin’ up the mail
Or the soldiers from the war
This is somethin’ that even old man
Wileman never seen before

And it’s late afternoon
On a hot Texas day
Somethin’ strange is goin’ on
And we’s all in the way

Well there’s fifty or sixty people
Just sittin’ on their cars
And the old men left their dominos
And they come down from the bars

And everybody’s checkin’
Old Jack Kittrel check his watch
And us kids put our ears
To the rails to hear ’em pop

So we already knowed it
When I finally said, “Train time”
You’d a-thought that Jesus Christ
His-self was rollin’ down the line

‘Cause things got real quiet
Momma jerked me back
But not before I’d got the chance
to lay a nickel on the track

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Big, red, and silver
She don’t make no smoke
She’s a fast-rollin’ streamline
Come to show the folks

I said, Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Lord, she never even stopped
But She left fifty or sixty people
Still sittin’ on their cars
They’re wonderin’ what it’s comin’ to
And how it got this far

Oh, but me I got a nickel
Smashed flatter than a dime
By a mad dog, runaway
Red-silver streamline

Train look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Big, red, and silver
She don’t make no smoke
She’s a fast-rollin’ streamline
Come to show the folks

I said, Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

At one point yesterday, a rumor spread among the folks waiting outside for a table at the Chili Parlor that they had run out of the makings of Mad Dog margaritas. It wasn’t true, at least by the time I left.

They didn’t play any Guy Clark music while I was there. The playlist was more Stones’ Start Me Up, which, with all due respect, you can hear at a Donald Trump rally.

The closest I came to hearing any Guy Clark on the campaign trail this year was at Ted Cruz’s March 1 Super Tuesday election night party at the Red Neck Country Club in Stafford, where, early in the evening, the band played Townes Van Zandt’s Pancho and Lefty

More remarkably, that was followed by Angel from Montgomery, which was written by John Prine, who is not a Texan, but could be, and is Guy Clark quality in its heart-wrenching poetry.

I was surprised and delighted to hear Pancho and Lefty and Angel from Montgomery at the Red Neck Country Club. But I didn’t read too much into it.

Right after he announced for president last year, Cruz described himself as a country music fan, but said his conversion to country was political.

From Politico:

In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” the Texas senator told his TV hosts that he “grew up listening to classic rock” but that that soon changed.

“My music taste changed on 9/11,” Cruz said.

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me.”


Cruz did not mention any specific country music that resonated with him or which rock artists did not respond well to the terror attacks.

“I had an emotional reaction that said, ‘These are my people,’” Cruz said. “So ever since 2001, I listen to country music.”


Cruz: I’m an odd country music fan because I didn’t listen to it prior to 2000.

Well, I’m not sure what Cruz is referring to about rock’s reaction to 9/11. I think he might be confusing 9/11 with Vietnam.

Either way, in his moment of melancholy, he might want to try listening to Guy Clark.

Here is a gorgeous rendition of Desperadoes, from, of all places, the David Letterman show.

Will God punish America for rejecting Ted Cruz, and if not, what’s up with that?

Good morning Austin:

Saturday Night Live opened with Dana Carvey reprising his role as Church Lady, hosting Taran Killam’s Ted Cruz and Darrell Hammond’s Donald Trump on Church Chat.

Church Lady recalled that John Boehner had called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.”

And now you’ve quit the race entirely. Why did you think it never worked out?

Well, Church Lady, I suppose the American people weren’t ready for a candidate with strong Christian values, someone like me who follows the righteous path and lives his faith every blessed moment.


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 CL: Has anyone ever told you that you’re just a little preachy. Just a little bit. We like ourselves , don’t we love  ourselves. There’s that happy, superior face because we love Jesus more than anybody else.
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TC: Yes I do pray to God often and I think everything that happens was part of God’s plan

CL: Was it? Was it God’s plan for you to get humiliated by an orange mannequin? That’s kind of an odd plan for God to have for you.

Cruz leaves but returns during Trump’s segment of Church Chat as Satan. But when Trump belittles him, a hurt Satan Cruz says, “You’re such a jerk, Donald. I’m going back to Hell. They’re nicer there.”


Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 9.26.34 PM

As you may recall, Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign ended with a big bang last Tuesday

On Tuesday morning, as the polls were opening in Indiana, Trump was on a telephone interview with Fox News when he had this to say about Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father:

You know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this? Right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.

As I wrote last week:

What had apparently set Trump off was a video clip Fox aired of the elder Cruz, a pastor and frequent surrogate for his son, in Indiana.

“I implore, I exhort every member of the body of Christ to vote according to the word of God and vote for the candidate that stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America,” Rafael Cruz said. “And I am convinced that man is my son, Ted Cruz. The alternative could be the destruction of America.”

“I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there,” said Trump, whose ability to out-poll Ted Cruz with conservative evangelical voters in many primary states has proved critical to his success.

Other Cruz surrogates and supporters have also identified the Texan as God’s chosen candidate.

“Make no mistake, we are being watched,” broadcaster Glenn Beck said at a Cruz rally Sunday in La Porte, Ind. “We’re being watched by our maker. … Every single state is being required, and I believe — and they’re going to rake me over the coals for saying it, so be it — I believe that’s the Almighty God saying, ‘Each one of you, I want you to stand and you choose: good or evil?’ Which way will we go?”

Katrina Pierson, national spokeswoman for Trump, said it was precisely that kind of apocalyptic, good-and-evil religious language — suggesting that God would wreak vengeance on America if Trump were elected — that galls Trump.

“Mr. Trump is just pointing out all these ridiculous things that we’ve heard that have just been hovering over the Cruz campaign,” Pierson said.

On the heels of Trump’s comments on Fox, Cruz held an impromptu press conference in Indiana at which he proceeded to describe Trump, in vivid detail, as something like Lucifer in the flesh – an amoral, pathological liar, serial philanderer, and narcissist.

Of this last assessment, Cruz said, Trump is  “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.  Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and says, “Dude, what’s your problem?”

I thought when he delivered that line that it was the weakest in his otherwise persuasive tirade, because it was a cheap partisan shot and feeble attempt at humor that undermined his essential point that Trump is sui generis in his awfulness. But also, I thought,  gazing into the pond of self-regard this campaign, Cruz might also have seen his own reflection. After all, in  a large and pretty religious Republican field, Cruz was the only candidate who was routinely introduced and presented by surrogates – especially including his father – as God’s anointed candidate.

Cruz didn’t have to say God said vote for me, because other people, again especially including his father, said it for him. And, if it made him the least bit uncomfortable to be so described, he could have pulled Papa Cruz aside at some point and whispered in his ear, “Dad, love ya, but ixnay on the annointedyay.”

But, not having done that, and having been introduced time and again as God’s chosen, well, as Jeff Foxworthy might put it, “You might be a narcissist if you think you are God’s choice to be president and that, if you are not elected, God just might smite America.”

Now, we know, thanks to PolitiFact (a source the Cruz disparages as “a new, particularly noxious species of yellow journalism that is beginning to infect what passes for modern political discourse”), that Trump’s maligning of father Cruz was without foundation, earning a Pants on Fire rating.

Trump’s charge appears to be based on a National Enquirer report alleging that Rafael Cruz is the man standing next to Oswald in a photo from 1963. But technical experts told PolitiFact that no such firm conclusion is possible given the quality of the photograph, and several historians of the period told us they’ve never seen Cruz’s name come up in connection with Oswald.

But, as far as I know, PolitiFact has not checked out the claim that Cruz was God’s anointed candidate for president, and that God might visit destruction upon the land if Cruz were not elected.

Presumably, we will find out in due time, but, either way, this presents a dilemma for us and for Cruz.

If, in the coming months and years, America is destroyed, it will prove Rafael Cruz et al. right, and will make his son a shoo-in in 2020 as the ultimate, I-told-you-so candidate. Only, for that to happen, America will have been destroyed so it will be very much a Pyrrhic victory.

Alternatively, if America proceeds on its merry way under President Trump or President Clinton, Rafael Cruz and Co. will appear to be just so many doomsday cultists who made the mistake of setting a date for the end of times near enough to be disproven.

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Cruz himself was forever talking about America being on the edge of the abyss, and if, four years hence, his rhetoric still suggests we are teetering on that same abyss he will be in danger of being seen as, well, the man who cried abyss. (Though, perhaps in such cases, abyss is as good as a mile – yes I did attend the O.Henry Pun-Off Saturday.)

It seems to me there needs to be some accountability here.

And so I put the question to John Fea, chair and professor of history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and also writer of the very interesting blog the way of improvement leads home: reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life.

My Q:

My question is that, per Rafael Cruz and others, God will now wreak his vengeance on America for not electing Ted, but how will we know? Could that just mean the election of Trump or does there need to be some more tangible wreckage – earthquake, floods, plague, nuclear annihilation? Is there any accountability? Or can Rafael use the same line again in four years with impunity? Is he just another end-of-days guy who pushes the date back as needed?

Fea’s reply:


Good question.  In this view of the world just about anything can be viewed as divine judgement.  Every “anti-Christian” move that Trump makes will be a sign of this judgement.  (Especially if he gets elected and does not appoint a religious conservative to the Supreme Court). If Trump loses, a Hillary presidency will be interpreted as judgement.  Of course if something catastrophic happens this will also be seen as a sign of judgment.  Think Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell blaming 9-11 on gays.

There is a long history of these kinds of prophetic jeremiads in American evangelicalism/Christianity going all the way back to the Puritans in the 17th century. The idea is that God is in a special covenant with the United States much in the same way that God was in a covenant with Israel in the Old Testament.  When the nation conforms to the teachings of the Bible (and elects someone like Ted Cruz) God will bless the nation.  If the culture does not conform to biblical teachings then God will punish.  Think of Cruz’s use of Chronicles 7:14.
(“If My people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.)
So yes, Rafael can use this line of argument (if you can call it an argument) over and over again.  He is not the first to use it, and he will not be the last.
On a somewhat related matter, I thought it was interesting when Cruz said in his post-Indiana speech that he was “optimistic” about the future of liberty in the United States when earlier in the morning, during his attack on Trump (and throughout the entire campaign), he said that we were “at the edge of the abyss.”
It’s all politics.
Maybe, but it seems to me that if Cruz in 2020 is going to re-stake his claim to being the anointed, it would be nice if he could point to a plague or two that was unambiguously visited upon the land in divine retribution for his defeat. Say a national infestation of head lice that forced the closing of all public and private schools and left home-schooling as the only alternative. Or perhaps a failure of the power grid that left only those states that Cruz did not win in darkness. Or a rain of hail that riddles Manhattan. Or a contagion of boils that only afflicts Hoosiers. Or the death of the first-born of all those evangelical voters who somehow chose Trump over Cruz in the primaries.
Fea is right that Cruz’s often apocalyptic rhetoric was an uneasy fit with his simultaneous effort to strike a sunny Reaganesque optimism.
As he said in ending his candidacy:
Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got, but the voters chose another path. With a heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the future of our nation we are suspending our campaign.

In the aftermath of his defeat, Glenn Beck made it clear last week that we are all in for a heaping helping of God’s wrath.

When we say we don’t know what the Lord has in store for us, oh, I do – our reaping of what we have sown. So I really think was the last reckoning for us. This was like, `please, guys.’


We just continue to make the wrong choice. So I would look for the things that we’re were supposed to learn as individuals, but I think the country, and all of us as individuals, are going to reap what we have sown and there is nothing that’s going to get us out of that.

His consequences are eternal and they are not judgments, they are promises. You do this, and this is what happens. You do this, and this is what happens. We did that, so we are going to get that. Now we can still turn to Him, which all of us have done, and can say, `Help us make it easier, help us learn from  it, help us help other people through it.’ But I don’t think there’s a savior coming in on a white horse.

Because, quite honestly, we are a petulant child. We’re the child that we have talked to, we have reasoned with, we have put in time out, we have grounded, we have spanked, and the behavior is getting worse. The last thing you do is right before the punishment come in and say, `Hey, you know what, I’m going to take that all away.’ That would be a bad. That would be a very bad dad and the one thing I know about God, he ain’t a bad dad.


Meanwhile, Cruz was the last man standing against Trump, and if Trump implodes and is buried in a landslide, there would be a logic to Cruz emerging as the front-runner for 2020. But, as he said, he “left it all on the field in Indiana.” His 2016 campaign capped a meteoric political rise in which Cruz ran against his colleagues in the Senate and against the Republican leadership in both houses, while playing the God card to the hilt.

But what does he do now?

If he returns to the Senate as the same old Ted Cruz, his colleagues will still hate him but they will be even less likely to cut him any slack and more likely to do everything they can to make sure he is not a viable candidate in 2020. But if he returns to Washington as a new Cruz with a mind toward building relationships and getting something done, he risks becoming one of them and a mark for whatever All About Eve understudy sizes him up as past his prime and seeks to take his place.

And what does he do about endorsing or not endorsing Trump.

From Jennifer Steinhauer in The New York Times, Ted Cruz at a Crossroads as He Returns to the Senate

WASHINGTON — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is expected to return to the Capitol this week, the last of four Republican senators battered and beaten by Donald J. Trump to trudge back to the world of meetings over cafeteria cod and roll call votes to name the national mammal.

But Mr. Cruz’s return is more fraught with curiosity than those of the other three, Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida. He made it the furthest, winning 10 states and coming tantalizingly close to pushing Mr. Trump to a contested convention, only to drop out on the same day the billionaire developer suggested that Mr. Cruz’s father had conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald.

The party’s presumptive nominee had also insulted Mr. Cruz’s wife, baselessly alluded to extramarital affairs and labeled him “Lyin’ Ted.”

Now the man who helped create an outsider movement in national politics, only to have it eat him alive by the co-opter of that idea, must decide which group among his fellow lawmakers to join. Will he stand with the hold-your-nose set, as Mr. Paul has done, and support Mr. Trump? Or join forces with “Never Trump,” as Senator Graham did on Friday, and publicly decline to get on board?

Or will he take the route of Mr. Rubio, in effect giving a non-endorsement endorsement, saying he will support any Republican nominee, but not explicitly name Mr. Trump?

“I think all of us will be interested to see what position Senator Cruz takes,” said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who is more or less in the same place as Mr. Graham. “After he pretty much excoriated Trump on the final day of his campaign, it would be quite a turnabout if he were to support him now.”

Millions of voters are watching, but for now, he won’t say. Mr. Cruz “is currently scheduled to be back in D.C. next week, and that’s as much detail as we’re sharing right now,” his spokesman Phil Novack said on Friday.

But, in the meantime, no one, even in Texas, seemed to be waiting on a signal from Cruz before deciding what to do.

I think it was notable how quickly and easily his mentor, Gov. Greg Abbott, and his Texas chairman, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and former Gov. Rick Perry – who had campaign passionately for Cruz after his own campaign flamed out, and offered a thoroughgoing critique of Trump back when Cruz wouldn’t – all indicated they would be with Trump. They didn’t defer to Cruz and they were apparently not sufficiently repelled by Trump’s attacks on Cruz, or Trump’s threat to conservatism, to withhold their support even for a little while.

From Ross Douthat in Sunday’s New York Times – The Conservative Case Against Trump.

THERE are many lessons that conservatives need to learn from the rise of Donald Trump. There are elements of his message that the party should embrace. There are grievances among his voters that the Republican Party must address.

But for conservatives to support Trump himself, to assist in his election as president of the United States, would be a terrible mistake.

It would be a particularly stark mistake for conservatives who feel that the basic Reaganite vision that’s dominated their party for decades — a fusion of social conservatism, free-market economics, and a hawkish internationalism — still gets things mostly right.

In large ways and small, Trump has consistently arrayed himself against this vision. True, he paid lip service to certain Reaganite ideas during the primaries — claiming to be pro-life, promising a supply-side tax cut, pledging to appoint conservative judges. But the core of his message was protectionist and nativist, comfortable with an expansive welfare state, bored with religious conservatism, and dismissive of the commitments that constitute the post-Cold War Pax Americana. And Trump’s policy forays since clinching the nomination have only confirmed his post-Reagan orientation.

Reaganite conservatives who help elevate Trump to the presidency, then, would be sleepwalking toward a kind of ideological suicide.


In sum: It would be possible to justify support for Trump if he merely promised a period of chaos for conservatism. But to support Trump for the presidency is to invite chaos upon the republic and the world. No policy goal, no court appointment, can justify such recklessness.

To Trumpism’s appeal, to Trump’s constituents, conservatives should listen and answer “yes,” or “maybe,” or “not that, but how about…”

But to Trump himself, there is no patriotic answer except “no.”

If Cruz says “yes” to Trump, he will be hard-pressed to maintain his self-description as a courageous conservative. If he doesn’t endorse Trump, it will stand as a rebuke of all those Republicans – including his allies in Texas – who so easily fell in line behind Trump.

And, if somehow Trump should win?

In another skit on Saturday Night Live – Quiz Whiz 2018 – “Contestants (Taran Killam, Brie Larson) struggle to name the candidate who came in second to Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential race.”

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(Spoiler alert: The contestant, played by Brie Larson, is Heidi Cruz.)

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When they unveil Perry’s portrait will he be wearing a Trump-Perry button?

Good morning Austin:

A ceremony unveiling the official portrait of Rick Perry, the 47th and longest-serving governor of Texas, will be held this morning in the Capitol Rotunda.

James Tennison, a Fort Worth artist who also painted the portrait of Ann Richards that hangs in the rotunda, finished the Perry portrait a year ago. It has been under wraps in Austin ever since. Only a handful of people have seen it.

“Mystery surrounds this portrait,” Tennison said – the big mystery being whether Perry will be pictured wearing the hipster intellectual glasses with which he rebranded himself before making his second run for president.

There were skeptics about the glasses.

Like Donald Trump.

He put glasses on so people will think that he’s smart and it just doesn’t work. You know people can see through the glasses.

Trump had already made fun of Perry for sweating when he announced his candidacy in a sweltering airplane hangar.

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“I’ll let the Donald do what the Donald does,” Perry said of Trump’s critique.

While it is true that Perry’s second run wasn’t ultimately any more successful than his first, he did redeem himself to some degree, especially in delivering two very good speeches, both in Washington, D.C.

One, delivered on July 2 at the National Press Club, was about Republicans and race. The other, delivered July 22 at the Willard Hotel, was about Donald Trump, describing him and his candidacy as a “cancer on conservatism.”

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The full text is at the end of today’s First Reading, but here’s the nut graph.

In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach and sowers of discord.

The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises. He is without substance when one scratches below the surface.

He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.

Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.

It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world – the cause of conservatism


And, a little further down:

We will be no better off with a Republican divider in the White House than the current Democrat divider in the White House.

Donald Trump, the reality television star, is a great generator of ratings. But Donald Trump the candidate is a sower of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport.

It is wrong to paint with a broad brush Hispanic men and women in this country who have fought and died for freedom from the Alamo to Afghanistan. He scapegoats Hispanics to appeal to our worst instincts, when we need a president who appeals to our best.

This is not new in America.

In the 1840’s the “Know Nothings” emerged as a political movement, scapegoating Irish and German immigrants for the problems of the nation.

They were obsessively anti-Catholic, so much so that when the Pope sent marble for the building of the Washington Monument, they smashed it to pieces and helped delay its construction for 35 years.

These people built nothing, created nothing. They existed to cast blame and tear down certain institutions. To give outlet to anger.

Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement.

He espouses nativism, not conservatism. He is negative when conservatism is inherently optimistic.

He would divide us along bloodlines, when conservatives believe our policies will work for people of all backgrounds.

He has piqued the interest of some Republican voters who have legitimate concerns about a porous border and broken immigration system. But instead of offering those voters leadership or solutions, he has offered fear and soundbites. This cannot stand.

Conservatism doesn’t foment agitation through identity politics. That’s what Democrats do. But as a supporter of socialized medicine, the stimulus package and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump is quite suited to follow the Democrats’ example.

I, for one, will not be silent when a candidate for the high office of president runs under the Republican banner by targeting millions of Hispanics, and our veterans, with mean-spirited vitriol.

I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.



To this day, Perry’s speech back in July is probably the most concise, coherent and powerful conservative critique of Donald Trump. And it was delivered only five weeks after Trump announced his candidacy for president on June 16, and at a time when Sen. Ted Cruz was Trump’s leading fan and toady among the 16 candidates competing with Trump for their party’s nomination.


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Perry paid a price for tangling with Trump. Among Trump’s rivals, he was Trump’s first, belittled victim.

On Sept. 11, in a speech before the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Perry became the first of the big field of candidates to fold his tent.

Two days earlier, Cruz, once against sidling as close to Trump as humanly possible, had maneuvered to have Trump join him at a rally outside the Capitol against the Iran nuclear deal.

In his remarks in Missouri, Perry issued two warnings. Without naming names, the first warning was directed at Cruz. The second warning was directed at Trump.

Here’s an excerpt:

As Americans we have the power to make the world new again.

But let me issue a couple warnings. First, the answer to a president nominated for soaring rhetoric and no record is not to nominate a candidate whose rhetoric speaks louder than his record. It is not to replicate the Democrat model of selecting a president, falling for the cult of personality over durable life qualities.

Only in Washington do they define fighting as filibustering, leading as debating.

Where I come from, talk is cheap. And leadership is not what you say, but what you do.

Missouri is the “show me state”, and this must be a “show me, don’t tell me” election, where we get beyond the rhetoric to the record to see who has been tested, who has led and who can be expected to stand in the face of fire.

And for the record, if a candidate can’t take tough questions from a reporter, how will they deal with the president of Russia, the leaders of China or the fanatics in Iran?

My second warning is this: we cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further. The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief.

Conservatism is inherently optimistic. It celebrates the power of the individual, it believes in free markets over state-controlled solutions. It knows free individuals can govern their own lives better than centralized government.

Progressives think we need to protect the people from themselves. Conservatives think we need to protect the people from government.

We have had too much government – too many government answers, too much government meddling – all at the expense of individual freedom.

We need to get back to the central constitutional principle that, in America it is the content of your character that matters, not the color of your skin – that it doesn’t matter where you come from, but where you are going. In an America blind to color, that champions the individual, that recognizes merit, there is no room for debate that denigrates certain people based on their heritage or origin.

We can secure the border and reform our immigration system without inflammatory rhetoric, without base appeals that divide us based on race, culture and creed.

Let me be crystal clear: for those of us in Christ, our citizenship is first and foremost in God’s kingdom, our brothers and sisters are those made in the image of God, and our obligation – after loving God with all our heart, mind and soul – is to love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of where they come from.

Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ. We can enforce our laws and our borders, and we can love all who live within our borders, without betraying our values.

It is time to elevate our debate from divisive name-calling, from soundbites without solutions, and start discussing how we will make the country better for all if a conservative is elected president.

Both warnings went unheeded, and all the way into December, Cruz resisted criticizing Trump head on.



Well, the cage match was not to be avoided, and it ended last week with Cruz’s defeat in Indiana and withdrawal from the race Tuesday, leaving Trump the presumptive nominee.

But, hours before bowing out, Cruz issued a memorable tirade directed at Trump, the most sustained attack on Trump since Perry’s, but way more personal.

But, even before he delivered that comprehensive takedown, Perry, who campaigned enthusiastically, passionately, for Cruz in Iowa, South Carolina and Texas, was on The ViewThe View! – saying that he was ready to back Trump if he were the nominee.

And yesterday, Perry went one step further, saying not only that he would be backing Trump, but that he was ready and willing to be his running mate.

If called to serve, he was rested, ready, and no longer under indictment.

From CNN:

Washington (CNN)Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry told CNN Thursday he will support Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee and will do everything he can do to help him get elected.

Perry, speaking by phone from his hometown of Round Top, Texas, acknowledged Trump is not his ideal choice. When Perry was a candidate for president earlier in the 2016 cycle, he was the first to come out and criticize Trump and question his conservative credentials, calling his candidacy a “cancer on conservatism.”
“He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them,” Perry said Thursday.
“He wasn’t my first choice, wasn’t my second choice, but he is the people’s choice,” Perry added.
After he ended his own bid for president, Perry eventually endorsed fellow Texan Ted Cruz, and campaigned hard for him.
“When Ted said he is done and suspending his campaign — that was the last individual who had a chance,” he said, speaking of beating Trump.
“I believe in the process, and the process has said Donald Trump will be our nominee and I’m going to support him and help him and do what I can,” Perry said.
“He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen,” he added, saying Trump knows how to market and brand like no one he has ever seen.
Perry, speaking on the same day House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN that he was “just not ready” to back Trump, urged the party to unite behind the presumptive nominee.
“We need to come together and heal the wounds,” he said.
Perry, who has been urged to run as a third-party candidate, dismissed that notion as “quixotic.”
“Anyone who is considering a third-party run does not understand what is going on in this country — does not understand the anger that the country has,” Perry said.
“I don’t think it accomplishes anything,” he added. “I ran to be the president of the United States, and when it became clear the electorate didn’t want me to be president, I stepped away.”
When asked if Perry would consider being Trump’s running mate, he left the door wide open.
“I am going to be open to any way I can help. I am not going to say no,” Perry said.
“We can’t afford the policies and the character of Hillary Clinton,” he added. But, Perry said, he has not spoken to Trump in at least six months.

So, as Gov. Perry’s portrait is unveiled this morning, let us observe that the man still aspires to be a player on the national scene, and marvel at how the political world turns.

Last summer, Rick Perry was denouncing Trump as a cancer on conservatism, who, if successful, would render the Republicans  a new Know Nothing Party, and Ted Cruz was still delighting in the Joys of Trump. Nine months later, Cruz has denounced Trump as a cancer on conservatism and a venereal disease on the body politics all rolled into one. (Yes, he did go there, quoting Trump describing to Howard Stern his battle with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam) And Perry is describing Trump as one of the most talented people who has ever run for president, and announcing that, were Trump to ask him to join him on his ticket, I am not going to say no.

The only question for Perry would be, if chosen, whether or not to don the glasses, and I guess that would be up to Mr. Trump.


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Here is the full text of Perry’s cancer on conservatism speech:

Thank you. The next president will face serious issues that demand serious leadership.

Because of the failed foreign policy of the Obama Administration, our 45th president will have to deal with an emboldened Iran that will have renewed access to hundreds of billions of dollars that even the Obama Administration acknowledges can be used to fund terrorism.

This, combined with an agreement that amounts to nuclear appeasement, promises a major realignment in the Middle East at the expense of our Arab allies and Israel. And it will surely lead to the development of a Sunni bomb.

The challenges in the Middle East extend beyond Iran.

Despite White House declarations, ISIS continues to expand its territory. The atrocities continue. They have become so normal they no longer make the front page. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the world.

Syria remains a complicated war zone, led by a brutal dictator that our president said must go several years ago. He is still there, after crossing a red line attacking his own people with chemical weapons.

And his nation is also a hotbed for jihadist recruitment.

The mistakes of a few years ago leave few good options for the next president.

Russian aggression has been met with strong words, but again feeble action. Putin has annexed Crimea, and invaded the mainland of Ukraine. And we have yet to even provide lethal weapons to those fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy.

Mr. Putin has become the greatest threat to peace and order in Europe and parts of Asia as the message has gotten out that the American Administration speaks loudly, but is loath to use a big stick.

China is threatening its neighbors, stealing our secrets, and violating trade agreements.

In the face of all these threats, we are now on course to have the smallest military since June of 1940. The hollowing out of our military forces is an invitation for our enemies to test us.

Gathering threats abroad are matched by storm clouds at home.

The recovery is anemic, leaving millions of workers uncounted in the unemployment rate. One in ten workers are unemployed, under-employed or too discouraged to search for a job. One in seven Americans live in poverty, including more than one quarter of our African-American population that has suffered for decades under Democratic policies that lead to failed schools, few opportunities, and lives lost to poverty or crime.

Our debt is at historic levels. President Obama is on course to racking up as much debt as his 43 predecessors combined.

Our border is under siege, our infrastructure is aging, our entitlement programs are in fiscal jeopardy.

These are, indeed, troubling times.

Yet America has faced worse. And America has been blessed for more than 200 years with magnanimous leadership in the presidency, individuals who were raised beyond their personal limitations to steer the nation through war, depression and disaster to a better future for all Americans.

Each one of these leaders have been repairers of the breach, such as Lincoln who – at the height of the Civil War – insisted on the completion of the Capitol Dome. He meant the world to know our Union endured. And showed it in acts small and large.

Here was a president who ordered hundreds of thousands of men to war, and ultimately, to their deaths.

And yet, once he had won the war and freed the slaves, after so much blood had been spilled, he set out to bind the wounds of the nation, declaring “malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Lincoln was a healing force who rose above great differences to preserve our union. He was a repairer of the breach.

When King George the 3rd inquired what George Washington would do upon winning the war, he was told he would return to his Virginia farm.

To which the king responded, “if he were to do so, he would be the greatest man of his age.”

Thousands of years of history had informed the world that to the victor go the spoils, that conquering heroes seize power, and reign with impunity. But George Washington reluctantly accepted the presidency, only after the Constitution had been written, guaranteeing power to the people.

And because of his humility – because he never wavered from his revolutionary principles – ours was the first nation to be founded on an idea: that all “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Even great antagonists, like Adams and Jefferson, in later life were able to put differences aside, exchanging letters until the day they both died.

It was Adams who wrote a prayer about the presidency to his wife Abigail, saying, “May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.”

Ulysses S. Grant – the head of the Union Army, our president from 1868 to 1876 who had led a great many into battle – would come to symbolize the healing of our nation campaigning under the banner, “let us have peace.”

At his funeral the pallbearers would include two Union generals, and two Confederate generals, Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph Johnston.

In more recent years we were blessed to have in the Oval Office the quiet strength of Harry Truman, the leadership of the Supreme Commander Dwight David Eisenhower, the inspiration of John F Kennedy, the vision and resolve of Ronald Reagan.

During the second World War, FDR sought the power of God to preserve the nation and protect our people.

These were all fallible men. But they were great men. And they all possessed a goodness and decency that allowed them to rise above the petty, the personal and the partisan for the good of the nation.

The White House has been occupied by giants. But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded – divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.

In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach and sowers of discord.

The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises. He is without substance when one scratches below the surface.

He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.

Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.

It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world – the cause of conservatism.

I feel so strongly about this because I believe conservatism is the only way forward for this country.

We have tried the policies of the progressive left for the last six and a half years. The Democratic candidates for president could offer them for the next eight.

Their failures are self-evident. We have never spent more money on welfare in the history of our nation, with few results to show for it.

One in five children now live in families on food stamps. This is not a success of the Obama recovery, but the evidence of its failure. Millions have stopped looking for work, and are uncounted in the unemployment rate. Over-regulation has frozen access to credit from community banks,harming small businesses. ObamaCare has decreased healthcare choices, and premiums have skyrocketed.

And for all the liberals’ talk about income inequality, the fact is their own policies of over-regulation make the cost of living exorbitant for single moms and small business owners in blue states like California and New York.

They have mastered the politics of grievance, when in reality Americans are the victim of their policies that caused the housing crash, that have produced the slowest recovery since the Great Depression, that have caused a precipitous increase in the cost of college tuition.

The Democrats see the problems of their own party’s making and offer to double down on them.

Now Senator Sanders says college tuition should be “free.” But as we know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Forcing taxpayers to hand more of their money over to colleges will only incentivize those colleges to raise their prices even further.

Secretary Clinton is now talking about profit-sharing. I believe in profit-sharing.

Many of America’s best companies, like Whole Foods and Apple to name just two, use profit sharing and stock options to reward their workers.

But history shows that when government gets involved, there are fewer profits to be shared.

Indeed, Mrs. Clinton would pay for her unwieldy, bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all plan by raising taxes on businesses, directly reducing their profits, leaving them with less ability to raise workers’ salaries and invest in the future.

American workers aren’t looking to get something for nothing. They want to make an honest wage. They want a shot at a good job. And big government won’t give it to them.

That fair shot can only come from free people, and free markets, and the free market incentive known as the profit motive.

Conservatism can lead us out of the Valley of Economic Ruin.

It places faith in individuals, not government.

It restores personal freedom instead of restricting it.

It lets business owners and families keep more of what they make, so they can invest it in the economy and create jobs.

I believe in a conservatism that empowers people to make the most of their lives rather than government that makes a mess of their lives.

We have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Lower it. This will bring jobs and investment back home from overseas.

Democrats want to punish businesses for making the rational choice to locate their offices and factories in countries with lower taxes. Instead, we should reform our tax code to attract those companies—and many others—to our shores.

We have had six and a half years of government growth. We need a policy of economic growth.

We need to realize the best welfare program is a job. That welfare benefits are a means to an end, not an end. That the best welfare programs give people the tools of self-sufficiency.

We need to stop pretending that we can throw money at our inner cities and hope it solves their problems.

Rather than providing people incentives to stay on welfare, we need to expand on ideas like the Earned Income Tax Credit to build a bridge to the high-paying jobs of the future.

We need to end regulations that lead to high-cost housing, that keep single moms living hand-to-mouth with no hope of getting ahead.

We need to bring regulatory relief to small businesses that are being punished by Dodd-Frank. Financial regulations are killing Main Street rather than cleaning up Wall Street.

We need to expand energy production to create jobs, and end the ban on foreign exports. Thanks to President Obama, Iran will soon have the ability to export its oil, while America is barred from doing the same.

Carter era policies didn’t work when he was president, they certainly won’t work now!

If we bring jobs and investment back home and invest in American energy, we will realize a manufacturing renaissance.

Common sense, conservative economics can lead to removing barriers to trade, job creation and opportunity. They can be implemented without harming our environment.

It is time we get about the business of unleashing growth in America again.

Under all this lies a main premise: I trust American workers, American entrepreneurs, to do what’s best for their lives and for the public interest more than I trust government.

I am an optimist. I have faith in our people.

Liberals don’t.

They profess faith in government because they look down upon the individual. But you can’t raise people up by talking down to them.

And if someone is not equipped to govern their own affairs, surely a colossal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., is no better positioned to do so.

We need to replace over-regulation with smart regulation. We need to overhaul the welfare state to create greater independence. We need to create incentives in the tax code for productivity and job creation, rather than for corruption and favoritism and the outsourcing of millions of jobs overseas.

I believe in America.

I believe in our people.

I believe we can out-compete, out-produce the workers of any nation.

I believe each of you can make better decisions for yourselves and your families than government.

I believe in personal freedom over bureaucratic fiat.

The era of the liberal nanny state must end.

But it cannot be replaced by reactionary politics founded on division.

We will be no better off with a Republican divider in the White House than the current Democrat divider in the White House.

Donald Trump the reality television star is a great generator of ratings. But Donald Trump the candidate is a sower of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport.

It is wrong to paint with a broad brush Hispanic men and women in this country who have fought and died for freedom from the Alamo to Afghanistan. He scapegoats Hispanics to appeal to our worst instincts, when we need a president who appeals to our best.

This is not new in America.

In the 1840’s the “Know Nothings” emerged as a political movement, scapegoating Irish and German immigrants for the problems of the nation.

They were obsessively anti-Catholic, so much so that when the Pope sent marble for the building of the Washington Monument, they smashed it to pieces and helped delay its construction for 35 years.

These people built nothing, created nothing. They existed to cast blame and tear down certain institutions. To give outlet to anger.

Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement.

He espouses nativism, not conservatism. He is negative when conservatism is inherently optimistic.

He would divide us along bloodlines, when conservatives believe our policies will work for people of all backgrounds.

He has piqued the interest of some Republican voters who have legitimate concerns about a porous border and broken immigration system. But instead of offering those voters leadership or solutions, he has offered fear and soundbites. This cannot stand.

Conservatism doesn’t foment agitation through identity politics. That’s what Democrats do. But as a supporter of socialized medicine, the stimulus package and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump is quite suited to follow the Democrats’ example.

I, for one, will not be silent when a candidate for the high office of president runs under the Republican banner by targeting millions of Hispanics, and our veterans, with mean-spirited vitriol.

I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.

As a veteran, I took offense to his attack on Senator McCain, and I found lacking his defense that he spent a lot of money on veterans’ parades.

Donald Trump was born into privilege. He received deferments to avoid service in Vietnam. He breathes the free air thousands of heroes died protecting. And he couldn’t have endured for five minutes what John McCain endured for five and a half years.

Think what you want about Senator McCain’s politics, but let no one question his service to our country.

Here was a man offered the chance to go home. He refused, knowing it could cost him his life. There was no way he would leave before any man captured before him. This is the embodiment of duty, honor, country. Mr. Trump does not know the meaning of those words.

But most telling to me is not Mr. Trump’s bombast, his refusal to show any remorse for his comments about Senator McCain, but his admission that there is not a single time in his life that he sought the forgiveness of God.

A man too arrogant, too self-absorbed, to seek God’s forgiveness is precisely the type of leader John Adams prayed would never occupy the White House.

Adams, Lincoln, FDR – they all went before God on bended knee. They all held this office of great power with humility.

When a candidate under the Republican banner would abandon the tradition of magnanimous leadership of the presidency, when he would seek to demonize millions of citizens, when he would stoop to attack POWs for being captured, I can only ask as Senator Welch did of Senator McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets. Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment.

Resentment is the poison we swallow that we hope harms another. My fellow Republicans, don’t take the poison.

Scripture tells us “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The candidate who wins the Republican nomination for president will articulate the best vision of “a house united.”

It will be based on a conservatism that works, that appeals to our better angels, that believes in the power of individuals, through hard work and thrift, to improve our lives.

We need a president who rises above personal grievances, petty differences, raw partisan politics. Who puts the nation first, who inspires Americans to believe again and produce again and dream again.

We must move past the empty calories of Trumpism, and return to conservatism.

Ronald Reagan put it best when discussing the stakes of the election in 1964. He said, “This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

We shall not abandon the Revolution.

We shall not give up on the animating idea of our Republic – a nation founded on the principle of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

There is nothing wrong in America that cannot be fixed with the right leadership.

We need leadership that repairs the breach in America, that brings the country together, that sets our sights on greatness after a long period of pettiness.

Let’s get on with the business of building that America. Thank you.





Dan Patrick: Trump should replace Scalia with Cruz, and other healing thoughts

Good morning Austin:

Well that was fast.

Not to be a party pooper, but for all the grace of Ted Cruz’s sudden exit from the race, he was outdistanced not just by Donald J. Trump, just hours after Cruz who – with some fresh and very personal experience had castigated Trump as perhaps the most loathsome figure in American public life – but also by Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old white-haired Lazarus of the Democratic Party, who managed to rebound against the odds in Indiana and, unlike Cruz, will likely take his campaign all the way to his party’s national convention in July.


This is a disappointment to those who had planned to be at the rally with Ted Cruz today at noon at the Embassy Suites in Lincoln,Nebraska, or the Rally with Ted Cruz at the Spokane Convention Center, not to mention the millions of California Republicans who have now gone from being kingmakers to afterthoughts, or the legion of political reporters who last night saw the glistening specter of a once-in-lifetime contested convention in Cleveland flicker and die, or, saddest of all, those unpledged Republican delegates, who have gone from masters of the universe awaiting their star turn, to dime-a-dozen extras.

*NOTE: The previously announced events below have been cancelled.

Wednesday, May 4
12:00 p.m. – Lincoln, NE
Rally with Ted Cruz
Embassy Suites Lincoln
1040 P Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
3:05 p.m. – Spokane, WA
Rally with Ted Cruz
Spokane Convention Center
334 West Spokane Falls Boulevard

Of course, there’s still John Kasich, who may be hanging in there simply because he has yet to have earned a belittling nickname from Trump.

Of course, there’s still John Kasich, who may be hanging in there simply because he has yet to have earned a belittling nickname from Trump.

At this point, Kasich has about as much chance of reversing the course of this election as a lost Japanese soldier emerging from the jungles of the South Pacific in the 1950s had of changing the outcome of the Second World War. He has to decide whether his ambition is to be vice president/prime minister in a Trump administration, or King of  #NeverNeverTrumpLand.

As for Cruz, it is always darkest before the dawn, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired the Cruz campaign in Texas, had an ingenious suggestion that he texted me last night.

I was honored to work for Ted. He ran a great race. Ted and Heidi gave it their all working 12,15, 18 hours a day for a year. I thought he did the patriotic thing tonight. I know it wasn’t easy but it was the right thing for our party. I’ve said for months I would support our nominee. I will support Trump because we must beat Hillary. I hope Ted and Trump mend their fences sooner than later. I also hope Trump names Cruz as the nominee to take Scalia’s place on the  Supreme Court.  Cruz would be a great Supreme Court Justice.

More on this – and what a clever idea this is = in a bit.

But first some perspectives on Cruz’s exit.

From Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Cruz’s decision to drop out is very pragmatic, strategic choice. Cruz’s expressed commitment to ideological principles might have led one to think that he would pursue the fight for the nomination to the bitter end in order to serve the conservative cause. Rather than destroying the village to save it, he’s now positioned as the inheritor of the most ideologically conservative bloc of the Republican Party.  This begs the question of what the GOP will look like after a Trump candidacy, but Cruz will undoubtedly be one of the most prominent candidates lingering to pick up the pieces in the lead up to the 2020 election.

It’s hard to ignore the irony that Cruz is now the best positioned to benefit from the hoariest of hoary insider dynamics: The candidate who fell just short in the preceding primary election is well-positioned in the next cycle.  This received wisdom proved seriously wrong this time around, but one exception may or may not mean a permanent break from the pattern.
Cruz is far from a shoo-in next time around; the post-mortem on 2016 is sure to reveal the electoral limits of the intense minority of support for Cruz.  But he’s relatively young, and whatever limitations this campaign has demonstrated, the effort been a net gain for his political career.
Trump’s rise, and the lack of consensus among Republican elites, worked out to Cruz’s advantage.  And he’ll certainly not face any serious challenges to his base of support in Texas in the interim between now and the next presidential election, meaning that he’ll still be able to use his position in the Senate to raise money and cultivate media coverage. 
All in all, given Cruz’s age and the arc of his political career, and the context of this election, the 2016 election has been a net positive for his political ambitions — even if he didn’t win the nomination. The country hasn’t heard the last of Ted Cruz.
From Rutgers University Political Scientist David Redlawsk:
That WAS fast.

Cruz started his 2020 campaign tonight based on his speech. He’s not going away nor do I expect him to change his existing (non) relationship with those “Washington insiders” he excoriated during the campaign.

Cruz lost because he was the wrong last man standing against Trump. If there was any candidate a large number of GOP voters were never going to rally around, it was Cruz. And he didn’t care since the campaign thought they could bring out new voters, those evangelicals they think don’t vote, but could be motivated by him. But outside of Iowa that didn’t really materialize. But still, they did a lot with what they had. Last August when I first started watching this on the ground I never imagined his run would go this long. The only thing that has surprised me more is Trump.

One reason he did as well as he did was he has a very smart, very data focused campaign, and they got as much out of the voters as they possibly could, especially given Trump.

His departure’s meaning for the party is simple – they can’t kid themselves anymore, Trump is their standard-bearer whether they like it or not.

And from University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus:
Cruz clawed for every vote at every contest and every delegate at every convention but it was all screaming into the hurricane.  
The Trump juggernaut was going to steamroll just about any traditional campaign that ran against it.  Even a well run campaigns like Cruz’s buckled under the weight of this crazy election cycle.  
Without a way to win, Cruz would hurt his chances in 2020 if he stayed in to make trouble.  The better part of valor in this case is to be humble and play the political long game.  Cruz gets credit for the good fight against Trump but warm feelings for dropping out to repair party unity.  
For comparison purposes, Ronald Reagan’s path to the nomination began in 1968, picked up steam in 1976, and cauterized in 1980.  Cruz’s ascendency may not be so fruitful but that trajectory is workable.  
Beyond the election, Cruz will play hard for a visible spot at the convention, like Ted Kennedy in 1980 or Pat Buchanan in 1992.  This will elevate his stock and showcase him for future rounds. 
The Party will survive but the Trump candidacy is a tough sell in a general.  We haven’t seen such a populist win their party’s nomination in five decades.  The general election turnout demographics, which normally favor a Democratic candidate anyway, cripple a Trump run.  All the traditional models are off kilter, but maybe that the Trump campaign is underestimated plays to his favor.  


As noted above, Cruz in some ways finds himself in an enviable position.

He is very young.

Just because he won’t have completed the full Obama, his political career from out-of-nowhere election to the Senate in 2012 to moments when it appeared he might actually close the deal in 2016 is extraordinary.

His campaign machine was a thing of beauty.

That he got as close as he did after losing the South is, even in retrospect, hard to fathom.

The Cruz crew was so successful at collecting delegates in the post-primary and caucus process that I still wonder if his suspension of his candidacy last night is really a feint intended to lull Trump into complacency, and that in Cleveland, the giant horse that Cruz sends to Trump as a gift of reconciliation will, at the appropriate moment, disgorge 1,237 Cruz stealth delegates.



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Also, Cruz wins even if – actually especially if – Trump loses in a landslide.

No one will be better positioned to say I-told-you-so, than Ted Cruz.

But there’s still the little matter of what to do about endorsing Trump.

As much as Cruz might be rooting for Trump to prove that Cruz was right that his candidacy would be a disaster that would deliver the election to Hillary Clinton, Cruz can’t be seen as contributing to his party’s failure in November, or, worse yet, not be on board if Trump sails on  to victory.

“I don’t know if he likes me or doesn’t like me,” Trump said at his mellow victory press conference last night where he killed Cruz with kindness.

The beauty – and horror – of Trump is that he may sincerely not know whether Cruz likes him or doesn’t because to him this was all sporting combat, a game. It’s all over. He won. Very nice. High five.

Well, hint. Cruz doesn’t like Trump.



From my story last night.

“If any of you have seen the movie, `Back to the Future II,’ the screenwriter says that he based the character of Biff Tannen on Donald Trump — a caricature of a braggadocios, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him wherever he looks. We are looking potentially at a Biff Tannen presidency,” Ted Cruz said.


For Cruz, Trump had crossed every line of decency in his campaign against him.




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For Cruz, insulting his wife, and insinuating that his dad was in on the Kennedy assassination, is beyond the pale.

But, on Morning Joe this morning, Trump said it would be nice to have Cruz’s backing, and that he has people calling him offering his support who had said worse things about him than Cruz did. Hmm.

But, of course, Trump doesn’t really think that Rafael Cruz was in on assassination because as Trump confidante Roger Stone has written, it was LBJ not Lee Harvey Oswald who killed JFK.

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Former Gov. Rick Perry, who back when Cruz was still playing political footsie with Trump, called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” has already made his peace with backing Trump if he is the nominee.

Last night, Gov. Greg Abbott climbed aboard.


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Which is why Patrick’s suggestion that President Trump name Ted Cruz to replace Antonin Scalia is so genius.

Trump has said that he may release a list of potential Supreme Court picks from which he would choose if he is elected president. Among Cruz’s central critiques of Trump – and critical concerns of Cruz supporters – is that Trump cannot be trusted to name constitutional conservatives, like himself, to the court.

A presidency lasts four or eight years, while a Supreme Court appointment can last a lifetime – which in Cruz’s case could have him on the bench into the late decades of the 21st Century.

If Trump were to huddle with Cruz and emerge with Cruz on his short list for the court and Cruz’s endorsement in his pocket, Cruz and his faithful would have a reason to back Trump with a clear objective and some genuine enthusiasm. If Trump loses, no harm, and if Trump wins he can send Cruz’s name to the Senate, which would have to choose whether to send someone they revile to a seat of enormous power on the Supreme Court, or keep him in their midst.

On Monday, in Indiana, the Daily Mail asked Trump if he would consider putting Trump on his Supreme Court short list to heal the party.

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I don’t know Id have to think about it.  That’s a big question. There’s a whole question of uniting and there’s a whole question of temperament. I’d have to think about it. He’s certainly a smart guy. But there’s also a temperament issue.

He’s got a tough temperament for what we’re talking about. You have to be a very, very smart, rational person, in my opinion to be a justice of any kind at a high level or low level. You need the proper temperament and that would be a question I would have.

Well, that was Monday. On Tuesday, Cruz said Trump was he worst person in the world, Trump crushed Cruz in the primary, and Trump praised Cruz as a helluva competitor with an amazing future.

And if Ted Cruz parlays his brazen presidential campaign into a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court that will be, in the words of Bernie Sanders doppelgänger Larry David, pretty, pretty good.



Hoosier boos Cruz: Of `You suck’ and `Indiana don’t want you’

Good day Austin:

Tough crowd those Hoosiers.

And what is a Hoosier?

The Word Hoosier


Jeffrey Graf
Reference Services Department
Herman B Wells Library
Indiana University – Bloomington

Like barnacles, a thick crust of speculation has gathered over the word “Hoosier” to explain the origin of Indiana’s nickname. Popular theories, diligently and often sincerely advanced, form a rich, often amusing body of folklore. Those theories include: “Who’s here?” as a question to unknown visitors or to the inhabitants of a country cabin; Hussar, from the fiery European mounted troops; “Huzzah!” proclaimed after victory in a fight; Husher, a brawny man, capable of stilling opponents; Hoosa, an Indian word for corn; Hoose, an English term for a disease of cattle which gives the animals a wild sort of look; and the evergreen “Who’s ear?” asked while toeing a torn-off ear lying on the bar room floor the morning after a brawl.

The best evidence, however, suggests that “Hoosier” was a term of contempt and opprobrium common in the upland South and used to denote a rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow. Although the word’s derogatory meaning has faded, it can still be heard in its original sense, albeit less frequently than its cousins “Cracker” and “Redneck.”

As today’s primary in Indiana has approached, Ted Cruz has sought to look to Hoosiers as fonts of wisdom and common sense who would see through Donald Trump and save the country from his menace.

But yesterday, as he was leaving an event in Marion, Cruz was drawn to a knot of Trump protesters shouting out, “Hey Cruz. Do the math. Do the math. Do the math. You asked Kasich to drop out. Now it’s your turn. Take your own words. It’s time to drop out.”

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Which led Ted Cruz, underdog and champion college debater, to approach the Trumpsters and engage in an eight-minute back-and-forth with a man wearing sunglasses (MWS).

It makes for gripping viewing.



Here are some highlights.

MWS: Donald’s definitely going to get to 1,237.

CRUZ: No he’s not.


CRUZ: What do you like about Donald?

MWS: Everything.

CRUZ: Give me one.

MWS: Everything.

CRUZ: Give me one thing.

MWS: The wall

CRUZ: OK. The wall.

MWS: That’s the main thing – the wall, immigration.

CRUZ: OK. Give me a second. Do you know that on the wall Donald Trump told the New York Times editorial board that he is not going to build  the wall  and he’s not going to deport anyone?

MWS: You’re lyin’ again. Once again, LYIN’ TED!


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CRUZ: Civilized people don’t just scream and yell at each other, I’m not yelling at you.

Do you know that Donald’s words were caught on tape. The New York Times recorded the whole thing. It’s publicly reported.

Sir, With all respect, Donald Trump is deceiving you. He is playing you for a chump

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That was an interesting exchange because, when you look at it, Cruz is bringing suspect debater’s tricks to a debate with a man with sunglasses.

The assertion that Trump has said he won’t build the wall and won’t deport anyone derives, as far as i can tell, from this single paragraph in a Gail Collins column in the New York Times.

From Gail Collins on Feb. 26:

The most optimistic analysis of Trump as a presidential candidate is that he just doesn’t believe in positions, except the ones you adopt for strategic purposes when you’re making a deal. So you obviously can’t explain how you’re going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, because it’s going to be the first bid in some future monster negotiation session.

This paragraph apparently was based on an off-the-record session that the Times editorial board had with Trump, in which he may have suggested that everything – including his immigration policy – was a negotiation. Cruz jumped on it as proof that Trump’s immigration policy was a bluff and fraud, and demanding that Trump give the Times permission to release the tape of the editorial board session that would reveal his deceit.

But that never happened, the tape was never released, and we really don’t know what Trump actually said.

So, when Cruz says that Trump. told the New York Times editorial board that he is not going to build  the wall  and he’s not going to deport anyone, that is purely speculative.

Cruz continued: Do you know that Donald’s words were caught on tape. The New York Times recorded the whole thing. It’s publicly reported.

Well, yes. the words were caught on tape. Yes, the Times recorded the whole thing. And so I suppose it has been publicly reported that it was caught on tape and the Times recorded the whole thing, but the implication is that means it has been reported that Trump said what Cruz said he said.

But it hasn’t. it remains Cruz’s speculation about what is on a tape that has never been released.

Score that round for Guy Wearing Sunglasses.

Talk turned to the Second Amendment. Cruz said he had argued for gun rights before the U.S. Supreme Court and that Trump, “said he is going to cut a deal with  Chuck Schumer” and “he’s gonna put a liberal on the Supreme Court who’s going to take away your Second Amendment rights.”

Again, Cruz is taking considerable liberties with the truth here in scoring a tenuous debater’s point.

Then we entered the lightning, zinger round where GWS injected insults in between Cruz lines.

GWS: You’ll find out tomorrow, Indiana don’t want you.

CRUZ:  America is a better country …

GWS:  Without you.

CRUZ:  Thank you for those kind sentiments. Let me point out I have treated you respectfully the entire time and a question everyone here should ask …

GWS: Are you Canadian?

CRUZ: Do you want your kids repeating the words of Donald Trump?

Then, as  further evidence of Trump being a liar, Cruz noted Trump’s response on Fox News Sunday to questions raised by Cruz about the appropriateness of Trump trumpeting the endorsement of Mike Tyson, who served time in Indiana for rape.

WALLACE:  It’s interesting.  The Cruz campaign is making an issue of your support for Mike Tyson back during the time of the rape conviction in 1992.  Your reaction to that?  

TRUMP:  It just shows what a liar he is.  So, Mike Tyson over the Internet endorsed me.  He said, “I endorse Mr. Trump.”  He said that.  

That was it.  No big deal, I didn’t have a meeting or anything, I haven’t seen Mike in years, but he said he endorsed me.  

So, Cruz is now saying, oh, he was a rapist.  This guy is a real liar.  That’s why we call him Lyin’ Ted Cruz.  I mean, the greatest liar that I’ve ever lived, except he gets caught every time.

“Facts matter, the truth matters,” Cruz gold GWS.

I didn’t see GWS’s response coming, a change of subject, but to unexpected terrain.

You want to carpet bomb women and children, huh?

CRUZ: Let me point out I have .. .

GWS: Those are your words. Carpet bomb. I added the women and children.

“What I said is we’re going to carpet bomb ISIS,” said Cruz, explaining that his version of carpet bombing would somehow manage to avoid civilian casualties, while, he said, Trump would require America’s soldier to commit war crimes.

Cruz: Nobody would target women and children except for a bully like Donald Trump.

GWS never identified himself by name.

He “climbs poles” for a living, presumably a utility worker.

And he is from Ohio.

He is not a Hoosier. He’s a Buckeye.

Anyway, I give Cruz credit for approaching the Trump protesters and engaging with GWS.

Especially after his experience Sunday night at a rally in La Porte

From Real Clear Politics:

A heckler at a Cruz campaign rally in La Porte, Indiana on Sunday yelled “you suck!” to the Republican presidential candidate.

“Thank you, son,” Cruz responded. “I appreciate you sharing your views.”

“One of the things that hopefully someone has told that children should actually speak with respect,” Cruz responded with cheers from the audience.

“Imagine what a different world it would be if someone told Donald Trump that years ago,” he said.

“You know, in my household if a child behaved that way, they get a spanking,” Cruz added.

Watch as the ten-year-old is escorted out by the cops.


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I don’t see any other adult with the child as he is led out.

So a ten-year-old of his own accord, shows up at a Ted Cruz rally and tells Cruz, for all to hear, “You suck.”


But that was not even the most stunning moment for the Cruz campaign Sunday.

From People

Oops! Carly Fiorina Falls Off Stage at Ted Cruz Rally

By Tierney McAfe

Carly Fiorina could not have predicted the dangers that lay ahead when she agreed to be Ted Cruz‘s vice presidential pick.

The former Hewlett Packard CEO took a big tumble on stage at a rally in Indiana Sunday, moments after introducing Cruz and his wife and kids as the next first family.

The Texas senator appeared not to notice Fiorina fall off the stage right before his eyes, while his wife, Heidi Cruz, quickly came to the former GOP hopeful’s rescue.

Cruz’s spokeswoman Catherine Frazier says Fiorina missed a step but was not injured in the fall, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile …



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(AFA of Indiana Facebook)

From Byron York at the Washington Examiner:

In a brief video conversation with Clark posted on the AFA Indiana Facebook page, Rafael Cruz made the case for Ted. “I implore, I exhort every member of the Body of Christ to vote according to the word of God, and vote for the candidate that stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America,” Cruz said. “And I am convinced that man is my son, Ted Cruz. The alternative could be the destruction of America.

Glenn Beck, (from Right-Wing Watch)

“Make no mistake, we are being watched,” Beck said. “We’re being watched by our maker … Every single state is being required and I believe — and they’re going to rake me over the coals for saying it; so be it — I believe that’s the Almighty God saying, ‘Each one of you, I want you to stand and you choose: good or evil? Which way will we go? Am I still your God and are you still my people? Choose who you serve.'”

“Before I walked out on stage, Ted and I got down on our knees and we prayed,” he continued. “And we didn’t pray for us, we prayed for the nation and for you. He is a servant at heart. He is a man who was raised for these times. People don’t believe that stuff any more, but I do. If God raised George Washington and Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, if He put that collection together,  He is the Almighty, I think He can send us one guy!”


On Cruz, Trump, Fiorina, Pence, Boehner, Indiana and what might-have-been

Good morning Austin:

Were it not for Donald Trump, had he never run for president, there is good reason to believe that Ted Cruz would right now be in Houston auditioning candidates for vice president, in between huddling with party heavyweights, picking a convention keynoter – maybe Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or better yet Glenn Beck – and preparing for the fall campaign against Hillary Clinton.

After his wins in Iowa and South Carolina and his sweep of the South, including winning all 155 delegates from the state of Texas on Super Tuesday, Cruz couldn’t be stopped, despite a briefly vigorous #NeverCruz movement, that warned that a nominating Cruz – `Goldwater without the charm’ – would lead to a catastrophic electoral defeat, loss of the Senate and maybe even the House.

But, alas, Trump, taunted for years by those who said he would always threaten to run but never run, put his mouth where his mouth is, and, the rest is on its way to being history.

Cruz could still pull of an upset win in the Indiana primary, disrupt Trump’s momentum, and revive the possibility that the Cleveland convention will be what every red-blooded reporter hopes it will – open, contested, nasty, brutish and long.

But, more likely, Cruz will lose on Tuesday,  and that, for all practical purposes, will be that.

Even if that happens, it will have been a stunning run by Cruz and his campaign, who survived and even thrived, sporadically, despite the wholesale loss of his home region, his base   – the South beyond Texas. That’s pretty amazing and testament to his and his campaign’s tactical skills, and his donors’ and grassroots activists’ passionate commitment.

And, in four years Cruz, not yet 50, will be the Republican best-positioned to say I-told-you-so if Trump wins the nomination and goes on to a landslide defeat – the obvious front-runner for the 2020 nomination.

All in all, not bad.

Not bad at all, except for the tantalizing fact that April opened with a stunning win for Cruz in the Wisconsin primary and for one brief shining moment, it appeared that Cruz might be able to outmaneuver an oafish Trump and seize the nomination.

But Trump righted his ship in New York and the Northeast and, embedded in what was ostensibly the good news for Cruz of last week – Cruz’s early-bird choice of a running mate in Carly Fiorina, his endorsement by Gov. Mike Pence and, best of all, his being denounced by former House Speaker John Boehner as “Lucifer in the flesh – were what may in retrospect be seen as the seeds of his own destruction.

The hurried announcement of Cruz’s choice of Fiorina still ranked her among the better Republican vice president choices of the last half century – better than Spiro Agnew for sure, not as good as Bob Dole or George H. W. Bush, but a notch above Dan Quayle, two notches above Sarah Palin, and of the guy in between – Dick Cheney – well, for better or worse, Carly Fiorina is no Dick Cheney.

As President Obama said of Joe Biden at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner, “I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel, for always giving it to me straight, for not shooting anybody in the face.”

But, Cruz’s choice of Fiorina was also a sign of weakness because it revealed that Cruz was unable to enlist someone of greater political heft. Fiorina merely reiterated Cruz’s strengths and weaknesses as a candidate both in terms of ideology and personality. Business experience sounds good, except her experience involved massive layoffs, shipping jobs overseas and getting sacked, making her little more than a Trump – or Clinton – pinata.

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The endorsement by Pence should have been a coup but, if it was, it was a bloodless one. If Pence isn’t for Cruz over Trump, then who is?

But Pence prefaced his announcement that he would be voting for Cruz – a Class C endorsement at best – by praising Trump.

I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington D.C.
And I’m also particularly grateful that Donald Trump has taken a strong stance for Hoosier jobs.

That’s the kind of claptrap encomium Cruz used to heap on Trump until he became his mortal enemy and a threat to all that is decent and right.

(From Cruz talking about Trump on Hannity last July -“He’s bold and brash, and he’s willing to speak the truth. And he’s taking on the Washington cartel … I appreciate Donald focusing on illegal immigration. I’ve been proud to defend him for focusing on illegal immigration.”)

Cruz defending Trump on Hannity 7/22/16
Cruz defending Trump on Hannity 7/22/16

And only after praising Trump did Pence cough up his Cruz endorsement:

I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary.

In other words, he’s voting for Cruz, but if Trump flattens Cruz and marches on to the nomination, it’s all good.

But, it’s the Boehner episode that is the richest and the most telling.

Last week, while speaking at Stanford University, the Stanford Record reported that Boehner, asked about Cruz, replied, “Lucifer in the flesh. I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

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Why would Boehner  say such awful things?

From Fred Barbash at the Washington Post: Bad blood: John Boehner and his tormentor Ted Cruz

The date was Oct. 14, 2013, two weeks into a government shutdown engineered by Republicans in the House of Representatives who were trying once again to kill Obamacare. Scheduled for the next day was a vote backed by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants that would have reopened the government and avoided the likely disaster of the U.S. government defaulting on its debt.

The setting was a low-budget eatery on Capitol Hill called the “Tortilla Coast,” not known for its ambiance, as The Washington Post’s Amy Argetsinger described it, but for its “utter lack of ambiance, its “windows bedecked with decals promising ‘MARGARITAS’ and ‘BBQ RIBS.’” It’s the kind of place you go, its manager said, “if you don’t want to look like you’re showing off.”

In a windowless basement garret called the Rio Room, 14 to 20 of the House’s most conservative Republicans gathered around a table presided over by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), still basking in the acclaim from the right for his all-night marathon of a speech weeks earlier designed to thwart any compromise. While Cruz’s exact words that day at Tortilla Coast were not reported, there was no doubt his mission was to stiffen the spine of the no-compromise bloc in the House just as he had galvanized the “hell no” caucus through the summer, traveling the country with an anti-Obamacare “town hall,” and in his faux-filibuster, so-called because it did not delay any vote.

And he did, with a lot of help from the conservative Heritage Foundation. The next day, realizing he didn’t have the votes, Boehner and the rest of the House Republican leadership withdrew their proposal.

It was a deep humiliation for Boehner and his leadership team and a final demonstration that he had become a leader without followers. It crippled an already wounded speaker.

There’s more to their bad blood, but that’s enough to get the idea.

And yet, here is Ted Cruz’s response to being called a satanic SOB by Boehner.

The truth of the matter is I don’t know the man. I’ve met John Boehner two or three times in my life. If I have said 50 words in my life to John Boehner, I would be surprised. And every one of them has consisted of pleasantries, ‘Good to see you Mr Speaker’. I’ve never had any substantive conversation with John Boehner in any respect.

And also:

This is something that’s not publicly known. During the government shutdown, I reached out to John Boehner, and I offered for [Utah Sen.] Mike Lee and me to come over and work with the speaker and actually get something done to stop the disaster that is Obamacare.

John Boehner’s response was, “I have no interest in talking to you. What could possibly be accomplished by talking. No I will not meet.”

So when he says I’m the worst guy he’s ever worked with, he’s never worked with me.


When John Boehner calls me Lucifer, he is directing it at you. What Boehner is angry at is me standing with the American people.

This is, I suspects, why colleagues don’t like Cruz.

Here is he being called out by Boehner, and in rapid succession he replies that he doesn’t even know Boehner, that he extended his hand and Boehner rebuffed him, and that Boehner hates him because he stands with the American people and Boehner doesn’t.

It all ignores the context that in a truly unprecedented fashion, Cruz was working from the Senate to subvert Boehner’s leadership in the House.

Meanwhile, only a couple of days after Cruz was praising Trump on Hannity last July for standing up to the Washington cartel, Cruz called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor.

From Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post. on July 24, 2015.

Firebrand Republican senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Friday rushed across a line rarely crossed on the Senate floor: He accused the leader of his party, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of lying to his colleagues.

“What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie,” Cruz said Friday morning. “We know now that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false. That has consequences for how this body operates.”

Cruz’s remarks laid bare, in the most august of settings, simmering tensions between the activist wing of the Republican Party and the mainstream party establishment.

Prompting Cruz’s outburst: McConnell’s move to set up amendment votes on a must-pass transportation bill. After senators voted to consider the bill, McConnell (R-Ky.) set up votes on two controversial measures — a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States — and did it in such a way that will make it difficult for other amendments to be considered.

There’s more, but nobody really remembers what the argument was about, only that Cruz breached a couple of hundred years of protocol, and that, it seemed, was the whole point. Trump had surged to the head of the pack as The Outsider, and Cruz wanted to embellish his Outsider Cred.

In what amounted to Cruz’s campaign book, A Time for Truth, the introduction, entitled Mendacity, is essentially a description of the way the Senate Republican Caucus operates, with Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee as the heroes. Lee is one of only three senators to have endorsed Cruz, along with Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who abhors Cruz but abhors Trump more, and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a more recent arrival than Cruz.

From Jack Shafer at Poltico – Why Ted Cruz Loves to Hated.

If not the first prick, what is Cruz? He’s the first American politician who strives to be despised. If waterboarded, Johnson, Nixon and Trump would confess that they prefer love to hatred. Not Cruz, whose premeditated rudeness, self-righteousness, backstabbing and name-calling have inspired a dozen recent pieces exploring the question of why Washington hates Ted Cruz (Atlantic, New Republic, Mother Jones, New York, Vanity Fair, Vice, The Week, et al.). He wants to be hated. He draws strength from the attention it delivers and he has sought the hatred of others since high school (“He was not well liked,” said former high school classmate Laura Calaway). His pursuit of other’s hatred continued through college (“Ted’s style was sneering, smirking, condescending, jabbing his finger in your face,” said former college classmate Geoffrey Cohen) and has extended into his political career, where last year he gained notoriety (and more hatred) calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor.

Search history for Cruz’s antecedent and you’ll come up empty. Scan the pages of literature. Scroll your Rolodex. Canvass the jails and prisons. Nothing. Perhaps only in the annals of psychiatry can you find anybody in possession of a masochistic narcissist profile like Cruz’s. But those people are crazy. Cruz is not crazy. He might actually be a member of an advanced but not yet recognized species that has determined that spending effort on getting people to like you is a mug’s game. From the view from inside Cruz’s skull, once you get people to like you, your job has only begun. Additional acts of kindness, consideration and fairness must be extended or your likability will fade into the background. But hatred is a much more efficient use of emotional energy. Often, a single dose of malice can seal the impression among most people that you’re a terminal prick. By acquiring as his enemies the Washington political establishment, Cruz figures he can inherit their enemies, and the 2016 campaign has proved him right. Nobody until Cruz had the stomach to build his political foundation on a bedrock of loathing.

This is essentially the view of the Atlantic’s Molly Ball, who in January wrote that Cruz deliberately offends and insults his Republican colleagues so as to appear to his tea party allies as the only authentic conservative in the arena. Politicians have long campaigned for the White House by running against Washington, D.C. George Wallace was the first, doing it in the 1960 and ’70s. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama followed the Wallace example, although each crafted his own technique. But these candidates were only play-acting their hatred of Washington, eager to join the governing class in the event they won the presidential derby. What makes Cruz’s jihad against Washington appear sincere is his willingness to fight a two-theater war—one against the Democrats and the other against his own party—to the death if necessary. His hatred is pure and honest.

Did Cruz decide to play the hateful political villain, or was it thrust upon him? I defy you to look at him and not associate his squinty-eyed, prehensile-nosed, whiny-mouthed demonic visage with the great villains of film noir history. If looks are destiny, perhaps the answer to why Cruz works so hard to be hated can be contained in a snapshot: It’s the path of least resistance. But even film noir villains have deep soul-searching stretches in which they question their own badness. If Cruz has submitted to even a soul-searching once-over, I’d be surprised. Instead, he wears the hatred of his peers like a badge of honor, the way Lucifer and his fallen angels wore their Lord’s scorn.

The point of all this is that if Trump had not run and Cruz had been able to sweep Iowa, South Carolina and the South, he might have been able to march o the nomination and no one would have been able to stop him.

But, this grittier trench warfare to stop Trump requires allies and Cruz’s path was built on trashing those potential allies as enemies to him and to the American people.

Today’s last day of barnstorming in Indiana will close with an American Rally in Indianapolis at 7:30 p.m. with special guests Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Glenn Beck and Heidi Cruz.



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