Archive for the ‘The Freak Show’ Category

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post reports on the last gasps of the Trump campaign in North Carolina.

FLETCHER, N.C. — As he took the stage here in this mountain town Friday afternoon, Donald Trump was as subdued as the modest crowd that turned out to see him. He complained about the usual things — the dishonest media, his “corrupt” rival Hillary Clinton — but his voice was hoarse and his heart didn’t seem in it.

He also promised to do all that he could to win, but he explained why he might lose.

“What a waste of time if we don’t pull this off,” Trump said. “You know, these guys have said: ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. There’s never been a movement like this in the history of this country.’ I say, it matters to me if we win or lose. So I’ll have over $100 million of my own money in this campaign.”

“So, if I lose,” Trump continued as the crowd remained unusually quiet, “if I lose, I will consider this —”

Trump didn’t finish his sentence, but he didn’t really need to. After weeks of controversy and declining poll numbers, Trump and his campaign have settled into a dark funk. Even as he vows to prevail in the race, the GOP nominee’s mood has soured with less than three weeks to go until Election Day.

His final debate performance this week was a bust, with him snarling that Clinton was “such a nasty woman” and gritting his teeth as he angrily ripped pages off a notepad when it was over. He is under fire from all quarters for refusing to say he will honor the election results if he loses, while 10 women have now come forward accusing him of groping or kissing them without consent. The capper to Trump’s bad stretch came Thursday night, when a ballroom full of New York City’s glitterati booed him as he gave remarks attacking Clinton at a charity roast.

The gloomy mood has extended to his signature rallies, which Trump used to find fun. During the primaries, he would bound onto rally stages bursting with energy and a sense of excitement that intensified as the crowds chanted his name and cheered his every word. He would regularly schedule news conferences, call into news shows and chat with reporters, eager to spar with them. He would say politically incorrect things and then watch his polling numbers soar. He used to be the winner.

But no more. In recent days, Trump has tried to explain away his slide in the polls as a conspiracy carried out by the media, Democrats and Republicans. If he loses, it will be because he was cheated, Trump has repeatedly told his supporters, urging them to go to polling places in neighborhoods other than their own and “watch.”

Of course, it must all be lies, given that Johnson works for the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, North Carolinians are so anxious to vote that they are waiting hours in lines in order to vote early. Of course, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled government has done its best to curtail early voting. You wouldn’t want people to vote, you know! Well, you wouldn’t if you’re a Republican. That’s conservatism for ya! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never spent more than five or ten minutes waiting to vote.

By the way, I took a gander at B4V. Where’s Rusty? Has he tapped out already? No shame in that, I guess.

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Yup. He won second place in the Nevada caucus last night. Which is like winning first place in Rubio-land. He said on the TV this morning that he feels “good about our second-place finish.” Congratulations!

Meanwhile, in the real world, Trump won again. The inevitability of his nomination is beginning to seem, well, inevitable. But a glimmer of hope for sane Americans can be found in the 1992 presidential campaign, where Bill Clinton lost the first four primaries, and nine of the first ten. Bob Dole lost four out of the first five on the Republican side in 1996. So I guess Rubio isn’t out of this thing entirely.

How about Ted Cruz? Hard to see a path for him.

John Kasich today: “Of course I’m staying in. Why would I drop out when I’ve got the best chance to be the nominee outside of Trump?” Memo to John: You’re gonna need to win at some point. Or at least come in second so that you can claim you won.

And we can’t forget Ben Carson, another card carrying member of the deep bench. Apparently he’s finally come to the realization that his campaign is nothing but a scam. “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances,” a laughing Carson told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN Newsroom,” adding, “or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”

And lastly: Whomever is the Democratic nominee had better not take Trump lightly, assuming he is the Republican nominee. Paul Waldman outlines Trump’s potential strengths in the general election.

So Dr. Ben Carson is a winner, too! Never mind his last place finish in South Carolina.

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From Noam Scheiber in the New Republic, March 5, 2013 (on the occasion of yet another budget “negotiation”):

I have a confession to 
make: I’m a big fan of John Boehner. One of his very few, it turns out. The White House complains that Boehner’s near-total ignorance of policy makes him impossible to negotiate with, and that it’s pointless to deal with him anyway, since he exerts zero control over his members. Pundits deride him as strategically inept, constantly backing himself into corners from which there’s no obvious escape. Even conservatives have lost their patience at times: Washington Examiner columnist Byron York recently called Boehner’s message on sequestration—the $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that kicked in Friday—”astonishingly bad.”

To which I say: Yes! Boehner is goofy, poorly informed, and frequently incoherent. He often sows confusion among the very people he’s supposed to be leading. But despite this—or perhaps because of it—he has been remarkably effective at saving the Republican Party from complete self-destruction. Through heroic improvisation, he’s avoided the global economic apocalypse House Republicans are so intent on provoking.

Under the circumstances, Boehner has, in fact, been a raging success. I hesitate to call him “sophisticated” because that would imply a level of self-awareness and reflection I’m not sure he’s capable of. But the man’s instincts are damn-near impeccable.

The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi attended the anti-Iran deal rally yesterday on the Capital lawn. A few hundred people showed up to hear Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Phil Robertson and Mark Levin. They are the true believers of the Tea Party.

An excerpt from her article, in which she reported on the people she met there:

J.D. Braun did not like what he heard.

Braun is large and bald and wears a long white Dumbledore beard and has tattoos on his forearms. His day job is manufacturing motorcycle parts for Harley-Davidson. He was trying to protest the Iran deal and listen to what he called the “common sense” speakers, like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who were about to appear on a nearby stage and whom Braun supported with several buttons on his T-shirt.

But those goddamn hippies singing John and Yoko were making it hard to hear. Braun edged closer to the music, took a deep breath, and unleashed a powerful baritone.

“Aaaaaaaall weee are sayyyyyying… is shhhhhhut the fuck up!” he screamed. “Everybody! Aaaaaall weeeee are saaaayyyyying… is shut the fuck up!”

Braun’s taunt encouraged some of his fellow Trump/Cruz supporters, who soon chimed in. “Shame on you foolish pink-shirts,” one man said. “All you are saying is give bombs a chance to murder innocent people!”

What’s infuriating for someone like Braun is that the hippies are actually winning. The tragedy of being a right-wing activist in the age of Obama is that, despite the Tea Party successes of 2010 and 2014, you keep losing. Wednesday’s rally was scheduled the day after the fate of the Iran deal was sealed, meaning that in order to avoid embarrassment, perhaps the only thing left to do for the Tea Party is yell “shut the fuck up.”

It’s an entertaining read (with pictures, too!).

Speaking of Palin, I caught a bit of her speech. What the heck has happened to her? I remember her “coming out party,” as it were–the 2008 Republican Convention. Her speech there electrified the audience and sent shivers of panic down the backs of Democrats. Now? Her present day speeches are excellent examples of the importance of a good speech writer. But it isn’t just her words, it’s also they way that she delivers them. All I can say is, she must have had a lot of coaching before the 2008 convention. Too bad (for her) that none of it stuck.

*Update*

Even Glenn Beck has grown disenchanted with Palin.

“I’m going to say it,” he said on his radio program. I don’t care what Sarah Palin says any more. Sarah Palin has become a clown. I’m embarrassed that I was once for Sarah Palin. Honestly, I’m embarrassed. … I don’t know who she is any more, I don’t know what she stands for. I saw a clip of her talking to Donald Trump. What the hell is that? I don’t even know who she is any more.”

Well, they’re all clowns, but Palin is as good a place to start as any.

Give his guys some brown shirts already.

According to the news report above, “the fights came as the Republican frontrunner attempts to broadcast a more tolerant side.” While he’s saying that, his thugs are outside stealing and ripping up the banners of protesters, and cold cocking them in the face. There have been plenty of articles of late comparing Trump to fascists. I guess they were right. This is getting ugly.

Of course, Trump will be pressing charges against the guy who got smacked in the face. It’s just the way The Donald works. Brownshirts, indeed.

Per the New York Daily News:

A top security guard for Donald Trump smacked a protester in the face after the man chased him for snatching a banner Thursday, video shows.

The guard grabbed the blue sign that said “Trump: Make America Racist Again” — a play on the billionaire’s campaign motto — outside a press conference on the Donald’s new pledge of loyalty to the Republican Party, NY1 Noticias video shows.

Demonstrator Efrain Galicia ran after Schiller and appeared to reach for the banner and grab the guard from behind. Within seconds, the guard turned around and whacked him in the face with an open hand as a scrum of reporters snapped photos.

Galicia stumbled as another guard tried to restrain him, appearing to briefly put him in a stranglehold. Galicia fought back, grabbing at the second guard’s arms before the two yelled at each other outside Trump Tower.

A source familiar with the Trump campaign identified the first guard as Keith Schiller, Trump’s director of security and longtime bodyguard.

After the 10-second tussle, Galicia told reporters the guards are “just acting like their boss.”

“This man thinks he can do whatever he wants in this country, and we’re going to stop him,” Galicia said in Spanish.

He compared the incident to the ejection of Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from an Iowa news conference last week for asking Trump questions without being called on.

The News source said Schiller is the same guard who removed Ramos from the Dubuque event.

Republican strategist and commentator Michael Caputo said Schiller is “the kindest, most gentle man I’ve ever worked with.”

“But attack him from behind and you’ll definitely regret it,” Caputo said on social media. “A little advice: DON’T ATTACK HIM FROM BEHIND, IDIOT.”

Schiller is a retired NYPD detective and a U.S. Navy veteran, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He’s been with Trump for 16 years and was photographed restraining Vince McMahon of the WWE when he tried to attack Trump at a match in 2007.

Trump’s campaign said the guard was “jumped from behind” and will “likely be pressing charges.”

How often have we heard from conservatives about the deep Republican “bench”? In their telling, there are literally a dozen or more highly qualified candidates just waiting in the wings to take back the White House. And that doesn’t even include such singular talents as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, who so far have chosen to sit this one out. Why, according to conservatives, any one of these candidates would be a brilliant choice as president.

Then came The Donald who, intentionally or not, exposed the entire field for what it really is. This point was put forth today by, of all people, Rich Lowry, in an article on Politico entitled, “The GOP Field That Failed.”

The rise of Donald Trump is, in part, a function of a vacuum.

He is thriving in a Republican field that is large, talented and, so far, underwhelming. There’s 17 candidates and nothing on. Except Donald Trump.

Now, this has much to do with the media, and with Trump’s unique qualities as a showman. He has the advantage of not caring, about anything apparently — the facts, his reputation, or, ultimately, winning the presidency. In consequence, he is a free man.

The Jorge Ramos incident was Trump in microcosm. He did what no other Republican politician could get away with (having a security guy manhandle a Latino reporter) and displayed a cavalier disregard for reality by denying he was having Ramos removed, even as he had him removed. But the episode was mesmerizing, and Trump — in his madcap way — was commanding in how he handled it.

If any other candidate had done that or something similar, it would have been a signature event of his campaign, but for Trump it was just another day on the trail, to be eclipsed by some other memorable event tomorrow.

Trump has at least half a dozen such indelible moments — his bizarre announcement, the John McCain diss, the Lindsey Graham cellphone, the Megyn Kelly fight (x2), the Mobile rally — when the rest of the field has almost none. No speech, no policy proposal, no argument, nothing from the other candidates has come close to capturing the imagination of voters, giving Trump the space to loom all the larger.

The weakness starts at the top, or what was supposed to be the top. In the normal course of things, the establishment front-runner provides coherence to the field. Hence, the expectation that the field would have Jeb Bush and a not-Bush, or maybe two. For the moment, this assumption has collapsed, as the current shape of the field is Trump and everyone else.

This is quite the comedown for Bush. His “shock and awe” has turned into getting sand kicked on him at the beach by a loudmouth and bully. It’s not just that Bush is trailing Trump badly in the polls; he has acceded to the terms of the debate being set by the mogul. It wasn’t long ago that Bush swore off talking about Trump, as basically beneath him. Now, he is sniping with him daily.

Before he got in the race, Bush spoke of only wanting to do it if he could run joyfully. Little did he know that he would be joyously grappling with an ill-informed blowhard who takes it as his daily obligation to insult Bush and trample on the pieties he holds dear.

In the argument with Trump over mass deportation, clearly Bush is right. But the split screen with Trump doesn’t necessarily do him any favors. Trump is such a forceful communicator that he comes off as some sort of throwback alpha male, whereas Bush is such an earnest wonk he looks and sounds like a sensitive dad from a contemporary sitcom. It’s like watching a WWE wrestler get a stern talking to from Ned Flanders.

Bush is not a natural performer to begin with (he struggles with set speeches), and he believes his contribution to the race is to be the nonthreatening Republican, which is often indistinguishable from the uninteresting Republican. So while Bush has methodically built the superstructure of an impressive campaign — with fundraising, organization and policy proposals — he has so far barely warmed up an ember among voters.

Scott Walker, in contrast, had a surge early in the campaign. It dissipated over time when his limited preparation on national issues didn’t match his outsized early press exposure. A so-so debate performance and the rise of Trump have continued his long fade to middle of the pack in the latest early state polling (tied for fourth in New Hampshire and tied for seventh in South Carolina).

Walker’s ability to appeal to both the establishment and activist wings of the party had looked like a strength, but now it seems a precarious balancing act, made all the more difficult by a panicky reaction to Trump.

No sooner had Walker pronounced himself “aggressively normal” in the debate than he seemed to opt for just “aggressive” in an attempt to play to the passions tapped by Trump. Who could have predicted that the Midwestern candidate who tells stories about buying shirts for $1 at Kohl’s would have to play populist catch-up with the New York billionaire who travels by eponymous helicopter?

Walker had already changed his mind about immigration, shifting from support for a “comprehensive” approach to strong opposition to amnesty. Trump has pushed him further, and Walker has gotten tangled up on the issue of birthright citizenship.

At the Iowa State Fair, he seemed at one point to say that he was opposed to it. Then, he told John Harwood of CNBC he wouldn’t take a position on it. Finally, on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” he danced around a question on the 14th Amendment before saying that anything that goes beyond simply enforcing our immigration laws is a red herring.

Earlier this week, Walker blasted President Barack Obama for hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping for a state visit, even though as governor he had been friendly to China and obligingly wore a Chinese-American flag pin in an appearance on Chinese state TV.
It’s one thing to play to the mood of voters; it’s another to give the appearance of not quite knowing who you are, which is much more deadly than an August dip in the polls.

As for Marco Rubio, for whom expectations have been so high, he has been the least reactive to Trump. His campaign is still betting on the long game. It believes his natural talent will tell over time, but he doesn’t have a natural geographic or ideological base, and his 21st-century economic agenda — although thoughtful — is not likely to stoke enthusiasm among primary voters.

Ted Cruz may be benefiting most from the Trump surge in his strategic positioning. He has a cogent theory of the case, which is that if he is nice to Trump — and the other outsider candidates — he eventually can inherent his supporters. This makes intuitive sense, although Cruz — exceedingly careful in crafting his words and in calculating his interest — is hardly a natural anti-politician.

It is still August, of course. The rules of gravity say Trump will come back down to earth. The media interest that is so intense now could burn out. His lack of seriousness should be a drag over time, and he will still have to weather more debates and presumably — should he stay strong — a barrage of negative ads.

Even if he fades, though, someone else will have to fill the screen. To this point, No one else has been big or vivid enough to do it.

So Donald Trump was Donald Trump at last night’s Republican debate–and after, too. Bombastic, defensive and aggressive at the same time, hurling insults, convinced he is perpetually being picked on, unapologetic, proud to have cynically use bankruptcy for personal gain regardless of the consequences to others, and on and on. Everyone else is stupid–except the Mexican government.

He treats running for office as a reality television show. In an interview this morning on Fox News, in which he complained about the shabby treatment he received at the hands of the debate moderators, he was proud of his response to Megyn Kelly’s “very, very hard question” about his comments belittling women. “I came up with the Rosie O’Donnell statement which really got a tremendous applause. I mean, that was the biggest applause of the evening, actually.” That’s his criteria for political success: Whatever garners the biggest applause of the evening.

Meanwhile, at the RedState watch party in Atlanta:

The crowd was captivated by his every move – there were wild hoots and shouts as he threatened to run as an independent if he didn’t like the nominee, mocked Rosie O’Donnell’s weight, and outright pandemonium broke out when he declared: “The big problem this country has is being politically correct.”

At one point in the second hour, a woman sitting near this reporter shrieked like it was the Beatles at Shea Stadium while Trump talked. It was hard to find a face in the crowd that wasn’t smiling as they waited to see what he would do next.

“I’m fascinated by Trump,” Joann Balfour, an activist from Oklahoma City, told msnbc afterwards.

“He brings out in bold colors what other people won’t talk about,” Ben Jackson, a Georgia businessman, gushed.

And our former blogging colleague, Cluster, gushed, “Can you imagine a Trump/Fiorina ticket? Speaking of Trump, if he can dial down his ego, add more details to his ideas, and act presidential – he just might run away with this.”

Trump is so the mouthpiece for today’s conservatives, who thrill to whatever happens to be the latest freak show to hit town.

After the debate, Trump went on a Twitter rant about that mean, mean Megyn Kelly. Judging by his response to her question about him habitually calling women names, I think his biggest issue with Kelly was that she’s a woman who dared to call him out.

A sampling:

Meanwhile, in the undercard, Bobby Jindal said this: “Planned Parenthood had better hope that Hillary Clinton wins this election because I guarantee you that under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the IRS and everybody else that we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”

Attaboy! Sic the government on any private organizations you personally don’t like. Gee, I seem to remember conservatives railing against supposed unfair treatment of Tea Party groups by the IRS. But that was all a charade. Wait until they get in office. They’ll use the IRS to go on the attack!

The hypocrisy is as breathtaking as it is routine.

Great article about The Donald by Andy Kroll in the National Journal. The setup:

A FEW WEEKS AGO, two of my editors ambushed me in the newsroom. Grinning mischievously, they said they had an urgent assignment for me: a story on Donald Trump. The magazine had planned to take the high road and ignore his presidential campaign, they explained, but the frenzy he had created and his strong standing in the polls were making the silent approach seem less noble than clueless. We had to say something fresh, something insightful about Trump—but what, and how?

Here at National Journal magazine, we chased several different ideas before eventually settling on arguably the craziest of them all: If Trump wants us to take him seriously as a potential next president of the United States, well, then, we would endeavor to do just that. My task was to find out—if humanly possible—what Trump actually had in mind for the presidency. Who did he plan to listen to on policy, for instance, and how would he work with Congress? What did he hope to leave as a legacy after a term or two in the White House, beyond sealing up the border as tight as Tupperware?

Kroll then tells the story of his attempt to get answers to even the most basic of campaign questions. The conclusion?

So this is my story, such as it is. I have zero to report about Trump’s plans for actually being president—except that, from all available evidence, he hasn’t given it a moment’s thought. My brief adventure in Trumping, in fact, left me convinced that the whole point of this campaign—the sum total of all the “there” that is there—is the spectacle itself, the loud, fast-motion visual feast provided by an insatiable yet boxed-in press corps tracking the man’s every odd move and unaccountable utterance.

It’s a fun read. Consider it a primer for the upcoming debate. 🙂

After years and years of claiming they were working on a plan to replace Obamacare–but never actually coming up with one–conservatives have finally come forth with their “plan.”

Actually, it took Donald Trump to finally articulated it. Leave it to Trump, the man who gets things done, to present a plan so concise that it embodies everything we love about the modern Republican party.

Yes, The Donald was on CNN today, where he declared, “It’s gotta go. Repeal and replace with something terrific.”

That’s the plan! Replace it with “something terrific”! It perfectly describes the Republican plan for, well, pretty much everything. No details, just an empty promise that it’ll be “something terrific.”

I can’t wait for the debate next week.