Category Archives: Parties

Sorry, SC Democrats! I see no point in voting in your primary — a matter of geography, you see

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Got the above via email over the weekend.

Nice of you to think of me, SC Democrats, but I see no point in voting in your primary.

If I lived in Richland County, it would be different, as Cindi Scoppe noted in her recent column, aptly headlined “SC voters have one chance to make a difference, and it’s not in November“:

Unless you are so partisan that you can’t bring yourself to vote in a primary for the best or at least the least bad candidate in the other party, you should go where the elections are being decided. I always vote in the Republican primary when we have statewide contests, because those races are decided in the primary. This year I’m voting in the Democratic primary, because there are no statewide races and I live in Richland County, where all but one of the legislative and local contests are among Democrats. If I lived in Lexington County, I would vote in the Republican primary, for similar reasons.

Exactly.

Cindi and I agree politically about as much as any two people you’re likely to know, which means that she doesn’t care which party wins in November any more than I do. But she cares about having her vote count, which is why she votes in the Democratic primary where she lives, and I vote in the Republican over in Lexington County.

So that we get a voice in the actual election. Because where I live, the Republican primary is the election.

Apparently, Hillary is more ‘with it’ than I am

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I saw the reporting on this Tweet from Hillary Clinton, in reply to Donald Trump:

… and I was like, “Yeah, OK. So?” To me, it seemed to be an extremely unimaginative response, smacking slightly of authoritarianism (as though Hillary had, along with winning the nomination, just been named Hall Monitor of Twitter).

Apparently, it’s a thing, and the kids loved it:

Can we get you some ice for that burn, Donald?

Hillary Clinton shut down presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday with a simple, three-word tweet to end all beefs.

Clinton’s tweet — repurposing a well-known and beloved Internet meme — was in response to Trump’s reaction that President Barack Obama had endorsed Clinton (his former Secretary of State) for the 2016 election. …

Well, the fact that that lame response was “a well-known and beloved internet meme” was entirely news to me, so I followed the link to the alleged best uses of the meme ever.

And you know what? Each of those struck me as just as flat and uninteresting and blah as when Hillary used it. To much-younger Twitter-users, though, it is the distilled essence of wit, or so I’m told.

Huh. They don’t ask for much, do they?

But even if the first thousand or so uses of the line were just high-larious (which I doubt, but let’s just say they were), it still shows a lack of imagination for Hillary to use it instead of coming up with something original.

And as “burns” go, it seems decidedly tepid.

But as I say, apparently the kids loved it, and isn’t that the point when you’re Hillary, and desperate for some of that juice that Bernie has with the young?

The reaction she’s gotten probably has the Democrat just hugging herself, saying, “I’m with it. I’m groovy. I’m fab. I’m a hepcat. 23 skidoo…”

Video: An upbeat Fred Sheheen, back in 2013

Fred Sheheen from Matthew Warthen on Vimeo.

My son shot this clip at a fund-raiser for Vincent Sheheen at James Smith’s law office on April 16, 2013, when he was just starting to gear up for his unsuccessful second run for governor.

This was moments before some Democratic Party operatives asked us to stop shooting video, which was a disappointment. (I’ve found that while lots of campaigns don’t mind if I slip into one of these friends-and-family affairs and mingle, they hate it if I shoot video — and with my son Matt’s big, professional camera, we were doing so ostentatiously on this occasion. The people I interviewed, such as Fred, didn’t mind a bit. It was the hired hands who didn’t like it.)

As it happened, we never used any of the footage until now. I’d like to team up with my son more for video for the blog — so much better than what I shoot with my phone — but I hate to ask him to take time away from his family. When he did the video on the flag rally last year — which I think came out wonderfully — he had to spend most of the night editing it. That was a special occasion.

Anyway, I share this now with Fred’s friends and family, as a little postscript on Vincent’s moving eulogy yesterday. It shows Fred with characteristic confidence and commitment, eager to roll up his sleeves and help his boy get elected. We know now that it didn’t work out, but Fred had good reason to think it was doable, as he explains.

Enjoy, and remember…

By comparison, Bernie is practically a moderate

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight - https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/26392896430/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48525044

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight – https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/26392896430/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48525044

Writing about George Will’s column about Paul Ryan and Donald Trump earlier this week reminded me of a recent piece he did while in England writing about Brexit. The column I have in mind consisted mostly of marveling at what a total flake Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the Labour Party, is.

An excerpt:

That year, Corbyn was elected to the House of Commons. He spent his next 32 years opposing the monarchy; writing columns for a communist newspaper; expressing admiration for Hugo Chávez, whose socialism propelled Venezuela toward today’s chaos; proposing that taxpayers should be permitted to opt out of paying for Britain’s army; advocating that Britain leave NATO and unilaterally scrap its nuclear deterrent; blaming NATO, meaning the United States, for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine; calling the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”; appearing with and funding Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites; criticizing China’s Communist regime for deviationism in accepting some free markets; demanding that Tony Blair, the only Labour leader since 1976 to win a general election (three of them), be tried as a war criminal (for supporting the Iraq War); praising Iraqi insurgents killing Americans; and calling the killing of Osama bin Laden a “tragedy.” Along the way, Corbyn got divorced because his wife insisted on sending their eldest son to a selective school whose admissions policy recognized merit.

Last September, in a Labour Party process in which an intense fraction of 1 percent of the British electorate participated — a cohort intensely interested in things other than winning the next election — Corbyn was elected party leader with 59.5 percent of the vote in a four-way contest. He promptly named as shadow chancellor of the exchequer a former union official who lists in “Who’s Who” his hobby as “fomenting the overthrow of capitalism,” who says he was joking when he said that if he could relive the 1980s he would have assassinated Thatcher but who was serious when he praised IRA terrorist bombers. Corbyn’s shadow farming minister, a vegan, says, “Meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.” Corbyn, appearing with unmatched jacket and trousers and with his tie loosened at a St. Paul’s Cathedral service commemorating the Royal Air Force’s heroism in the Battle of Britain, refused to sing the national anthem.

Wow. Practically makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate member of the Establishment — and a natty dresser to boot.

Actually, Will saw more of a comparison to Trump, as noted in his lede:

Misery loves company, so refugees from America’s Republican Party should understand that theirs is not the only party that has chosen a leader who confirms caricatures of it while repudiating its purposes.Jeremy Corbyn, the silliest leader in the British Labour Party’s 116-year history, might kill satire as well as whatever remains of socialism….

But what he writes about Corbyn highlights how far into extremism Labour has fallen since my man Tony Blair’s day.

Which brings me to an editorial today in The Wall Street Journal, “The Clinton Restoration.” The editors stress how far away from her husband’s and Blair’s Third Way politics Hillary Clinton has moved.

Some of that is true, and I blame Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and their admirers in the party. But aside from all the Identity Politics stuff (it’s been less than two days, and I’m already tired of hearing how “historic” her nomination is), I still think Hillary’s heart is more centrist than that — and she can be downright hawkish when it comes to national and collective security.

The WSJ editors sort of acknowledge that when they grudgingly grant that “We have some hope that she would come around to support the Pacific trade deal.” I hope so, too; and if they think it’s possible, I’m even more encouraged.

This is going to be a tough few months for that editorial board. To their minds, Hillary Clinton presents such a huge, inviting target. And yet they know what a disaster Donald Trump is, and would be…

McMaster is really standing up to Nikki Haley now

You don’t find a more dutiful soldier in the South Carolina Republican Party than Henry McMaster.Henry McMaster

Even when he went suddenly from being the most logical GOP choice for governor to losing to Tea Party upstart Nikki Haley in 2010 (basically, he was Jeb Bush to her Trump), he didn’t brood — he became her right-hand man in helping her win the general election.

That’s Henry, every time (although he made me wonder whether he’s losing it when he became the first establishment figure in South Carolina to back The Donald).

Ever since Nikki was elected, he’s gone around with a salute stapled to his forehead, faithful and true to his party’s governor.

But now, it looks like his party loyalty is broader and deeper than loyalty to her. He’s stepping up and defending the party stalwarts whom the governor is trying to take out:

S.C. Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is endorsing state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, in his re-election bid, putting him on the opposite side of another race from GOP Gov. Nikki Haley.

Republican McMaster, who presides over the Senate, also is backing two other Senate incumbents who face contentious re-election battles against GOP primary challengers who Haley has endorsed.

In a statement from Hayes’ campaign, McMaster said Hayes is “one of the finest men I’ve ever known. He is a man of character, honor and trust. Time and time again, when Republican senators go into battle, they seek Wes Hayes’ leadership on huge issues like ethics, fixing our roads and education.”…

Earlier, he had stood up for Hugh Leatherman and Luke Rankin. (With regard to Leatherman at least, McMaster is joined by Supt. Molly Spearman and Speaker Jay Lucas.)

This is a very interesting development, and from what I’m seeing so far, my hat’s off to Henry. The governor’s taken a wrong course in this primary, especially with regard to Hayes. It’s good to see Henry step up like this…

WSJ still fantasizes about stopping Trump at convention

WSJ

Every morning, I read three newspapers (or rather, their associated apps), just for starters. That is, I read the portions that interest me (mostly politics and opinion) in the three papers I subscribe to — The State, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Beyond that, I’ll check out individual items from other sources as they are brought to my attention by Twitter.

I know that makes me seem like the least sociable member of the Capital City Club, sitting there alone at my table with my nose in my iPad (someone remarked on it just today). But it’s the only way I can keep up. That’s my main reading time.

Anyway, yesterday I had on my mind several things I’d read in the Post. Today, the Journal made more of an impression.

For awhile there, you may recall, I was frequently praising the editorial board of the WSJ because they were trying so hard to get the GOP to wake up and back John Kasich.

Lately, since Kasich dropped out, I’ve been more and more disturbed by what I’ve read there. In keeping with the general partisan tendency toward acting like this is just another election in which it matters which party wins, I’ve actually seen the editors start offering Trump advice, saying such things as If he wants to improve his chances in November, he needs to do thus-and-so…

As though improving his chances were desirable. Which makes me want to retch, particularly because I know they know better.

There was even some of that today

The polls show the economy is Mr. Trump’s chief advantage over Hillary Clinton, but he was too busy claiming Hispanics can’t be fair judges to showcase Friday’s dispiriting jobs report. He also allowed the State Department investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s private email practices to tumble down the memory hole, and he made little effort to counterpunch her speech on his temperament and foreign policy—aside from tweets about her appearance. Unanswered attacks usually succeed….

But what stood out to me, in that editorial and in a couple of other places, was the repeated mention of the possibility, however slim, of still stopping Trump at the convention. I was at first startled by it, then increasingly intrigued by the way they kept mentioning it.

What brought this on was the widespread consternation among Republicans about Trump’s unprovoked comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Personally, I’m still trying to figure out why this abomination is so much more shocking than all his previous ones. Maybe the GOP really had hypnotized itself into thinking there was a “new Trump,” as unlikely as that seems. Whatever.

From the above-referenced editorial, headlined “High Trump Anxiety,” ended with these words:

If Mr. Trump doesn’t start to act like a political leader, and his poll numbers collapse between now and the July convention, he may start to hear rumblings that delegates are looking for someone else to nominate. As traumatic as that would be, the Republican desire to avoid a landslide defeat that costs the House and Senate might be stronger.

Another editorial above it, which I enjoyed for the headline alone (“Saving Speaker Ryan“), ended with this:

The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.

The “(see below)” referred to other editorial, “High Trump Anxiety.” Again, the possibility of stopping him at the convention was only mentioned at the very end, but it’s interesting that the editors chose to conclude two editorials that way, and to call our attention to the fact.

Then there was the column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr., which said in part:

Happily, there’s still time for Republicans, at their convention, to replace Mr. Trump with someone else, though this will require continued help from Mr. Trump. But he’s working on it. On Monday, he ordered his staff to double-down on vilifying Judge Curiel. He said on TV that a hypothetical Muslim judge might also be unfit to preside. And when and if the Trump U cases proceed to trial before a jury, whole voting blocs (women) will be on the edge of their seats to find out if they’re disqualified because Mr. Trump previously insulted them.

All this offers a second chance for those prominent Republicans who, from party loyalty, misborn hopes for Mr. Trump’s transformation or a mistaken idea of their own populist bona fides, clambered aboard the Trump express….

Echoing the two editorials, he returned to that theme at the very end:

The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.

Note that the Journal isn’t going out on a limb and trying to predict that something so unlikely might actually happen. But they keep mentioning it, just in case there’s someone out there (actually, it would take quite a few someones) with the guts to take the idea and act upon it…

Paul Ryan’s capitulation has eroded his ability to reason

screengrab

I like this screengrab from a video put out by the Speaker’s office because it looks like the lady is thinking, “Wait! What did he just say?”

Reading The Washington Post this morning, I saw that some of the nation’s top Lippmans (to borrow a term from Heinlein) were really pounding House Speaker Paul Ryan, which was fine by me because I can hardly think of anyone who more richly deserves it after his abject surrender to Donald Trump last week.

Richard Cohen’s column was headlined “Paul Ryan’s profile in cowardice,” and the body text reflected the hed. An excerpt:

What I know about Ryan is that he could not be proud of endorsing Trump. He shouldn’t be. Trump will not respect him for his acquiescence (he’ll call him a loser), and neither will anyone else. Ryan puts his legislative agenda above his own principles and the good name of the country so someday he could say, yes, Trump got us into a ruinous trade war but I trimmed a bit off the Affordable Care Act….

But that was hugs and kisses compared to the way George F. Will crushed the subject. It began like this:

The Caligulan malice with which Donald Trump administered Paul Ryan’s degradation is an object lesson in the price of abject capitulation to power. This episode should be studied as a clinical case of a particular Washington myopia — the ability of career politicians to convince themselves that they and their agendas are of supreme importance.

The pornographic politics of Trump’s presidential campaign, which was preceded by decades of ignorant bile (about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and much else), have not exhausted Trump’s eagerness to plumb new depths of destructiveness. Herewith the remarkably brief timeline of the breaking of Ryan to Trump’s saddle….

And continued in the same strong vein. While his purpose is to chop up Ryan into little pieces, he manages to eviscerate Trump on his backswing. Caligulan malice… pornographic politics…

Nicely done, sir.

Then he further grinds Ryan down with contempt for the magic beans he sold his integrity for, ending with a final, slashing description of Trump:

All supposedly will be redeemed by the House agenda. So, assume, fancifully, that in 2017 this agenda emerges intact from a House not yet proved able to pass 12 appropriations bills. Assume, too, that Republicans still control the Senate and can persuade enough Democrats to push the House agenda over the 60-vote threshold. Now, for some really strenuous assuming: Assume that whatever semblance of the House agenda that reaches President Trump’s desk is more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk….

Tell it, Brother George!

But then, I had no sooner finished reading these pieces and sharing them via Twitter than this came to my attention:

So, I thought: The man has a spine after all.

I read on to see that he had also said that what Trump had said about the judge fit “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

All right, then, I thought — the man has awakened from his zombie-like state. He is repudiating last week’s contemptible capitulation.

But no. Turns out that he still manages a complicated backflip and says he’s still supporting the racist who says indefensible things.

About what Trump said, Ryan said:

“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “But do I think Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

Who, pray tell, aside from aging members of the Democratic establishment and the Identity Politics warriors who think it’s highly meaningful that she is a woman, thinks Hillary Clinton is “the answer,” in the sense that Neo was “the One?”

She’s not “the answer.” But the fact is, she’s all we’ve got between us and Trump, and as Will suggested, there is no mere political consideration “more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk.”

Also, Mr. Ryan, examine your words. If Trump is, indeed, “absolutely unacceptable” — and he is — then you have no choice! You have to do all you can that is lawful and moral, even things that might be deeply distasteful to you, to stop him. Because the unacceptability is absolute! (And don’t tell me he just meant the words and not Trump. A president who goes around saying things that are “absolutely unacceptable” is himself just as unthinkable.)

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase what the Godfather said to Sonny, I think your brain is going soft from all that comedy you’re playing with that buffoon. When Ryan threw aside the interests of the country to preserve his prerogatives in a job he didn’t want in the first place, his ability to reason abandoned him along with his honor.

Will Bernie Sanders have the grace to bow out?

fist 2

I doubt it. What we’ve seen up to now doesn’t point to that.

Sure, we’ve seen plenty of tough primary races in the past, followed by the losers lining up loyally behind the nominee for the general election. Hillary Clinton is the model for that. After hanging on, fighting Barack Obama every inch of the way for longer than seemed (to me, at the time) reasonable, she got with the program and followed him faithfully, with the proverbial salute stapled to her forehead.

That’s the norm.

But there is nothing normal about this situation, starting with Bernie himself.

For one thing, he isn’t a Democrat. Never has been, never will be. He’s not a guy to do the standard thing of lining up behind his party’s nominee for the simple reason that it’s not his party.

Next, do you seem him opting to back down to fight another day? Can you see Bernie, at his age, realistically having an opportunity to run again eight years from now — when he’s 82? No, of course not. And neither can he.

Also, he really, truly thinks he ought to be president, as unlikely as that seems to someone with my centrist perspective. He doesn’t think it’s an outlandish idea. In fact, he believes, he would be president, or at least the nominee, if the system weren’t “rigged” against him. He looks in the mirror and sees a POTUS. He really does.

Finally, there are his followers, whose expectations are at least as unrealistic as his own. They, egged on by him, had an absolute cow when The Washington Post (and others) reported the fact that Hillary had it wrapped up mathematically. (They are so furious about it that, if Sanders wins New Jersey and California today, it will likely be in part because his supporters’ ire toward the facts.) These folks will not be satisfied with, “Well, we gave it a good go and did better than anyone expected, and we got a hearing for our issues.”

Normally, at this point in a campaign (especially if he loses California today, although even winning there won’t get him the nomination), the candidate stands up and says he’s quitting and throws his support to the winner, and his supporters start to boo — we’ve seen this scene a thousand times — and he says no, no, his opponent is worthy and won fair and square and now it’s time for us to get behind her and win the election.

But this isn’t “normally.” There’s every indication that Bernie Sanders is in no way inclined to do something like that.

Why does this matter, especially to someone with an UnParty perspective? Well, to use that word again, normally it wouldn’t. Normally the Republicans would have nominated a normal human being, and the country wouldn’t be in danger from what George Will describes as an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man” who practices “pornographic politics” with “Caligulan malice.” (Will came back from England just full of beans — that was one of the best columns he’s written in years.)

All that matters now, for anyone who cares about this country and can see straight — regardless of such petty considerations as party — is stopping Trump.

But Bernie Sanders has indicated that he is unconcerned about that, and will do whatever he can to hobble Trump’s opponent for as long as possible.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Sanders loses tonight, and plays out the usual graceful loser scene, and calms and redirects his impassioned followers.

But I’m not very optimistic about it at the moment.

He's not going to play the loyal Democrat because he's never been a Democrat.

He’s not going to play the loyal Democrat because he’s never been a Democrat.

SC Dems’ email not quite up to the Daisy Ad standard

Trump nuclear

I got the above image in an email from the S.C. Democratic Party over the weekend, over the words:

Donald Trump…Nuclear Codes?
Stop Him.

… followed, of course, by a “Click to Contribute” button.

Sorry, folks, but your standards seem to be slipping. The same thing was done far, far more creatively by the Johnson campaign in 1964.

Come on, guys, step up your game. It’s like you’re hardly trying…

Response to Post series from James Flowers

I got this comment over the weekend from James Flowers, Leon Lott’s opponent for the Democratic nomination for Richland County sheriff:

Brad Warthen. You should have reached out to me before writing this article so that you would have actual facts instead of what is written in this article by the civil attorney. First of all, as a SLED agent we investigate CRIMINAL actions. This was a CIVIL deposition. My only purpose is to gather the facts and provide them to the James FlowersSolicitor. What you obviously don’t know is that the Solicitor’s office, the FBI, and the US Attorney’s office reviewed my report and had ZERO issues with the work. The Solicitor’s office made the determination that there was no criminal action on the part of the law enforcement officers not Me or SLED. Also, when 3 certified law enforcement officers that are serving 2 valid warrants have any sort of weapon pointed at them, they should by all means respond with deadly force. A real law enforcement leader stands behind and supports law enforcement officers 100% when they are right. Even if he has to be arrogant to do it. This article is nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by an overzealous civil attorney who has a different legal standard than law enforcement does in reviewing shootings. I also noticed that you didn’t mention the unflattering second article about your friend Lott. So please do some due diligence prior to your next blog. Thank you. James Flowers.

As it happens, the last person to get on my case for not having contacted him before posting something was… Leon Lott. And he kind of had a point, from his perspective, since the point of the post he called about was to wonder aloud why the sheriff hadn’t done a certain thing. Turns out that he had an answer to the question that he wanted to share.

I will always, always be on the defensive when people say I should have contacted them before posting something. But here’s the thing, folks: This is  a commentary blog, not a primary news source. I read things, and I react to them. And invite you to react to my reactions. On the rare occasions that I have time to go out and cover an event myself, I do so. Look back — you’ll see that’s my M.O. It’s not optimal; I wish I could afford to blog full-time. But WYSIWYG.

As it is, I don’t find time to comment on as many things as I’d like to — not even close to it. I’m very straightforward with you about the basis of my comments, so you can look at what I’m looking at and challenge my conclusions. And your comments, like Mr. Flowers’, get posted as well.

In this case, I spent way more time than I usually spend on a single post because it took so long for me to read that 7,000-word Washington Post article on which it was based. As I said, I’d read that one story and the fourth piece from the series by Radley Balko (more accurately, I skimmed the fourth piece). Now that Mr. Flowers has said Lott looks bad in the second installment of the series, I’ll go read that, and share what I find. I probably won’t have time to read the third piece today, but if you get there ahead of me, please share what you find.

Oh, and I don’t plan to call Leon before sharing what I find in that second installment. The story says what it says, and that’s what I’ll be reacting to — as per usual.

Although if I can find the time later, this subject is interesting enough that I might go above and beyond (in other words, take the kind of time I did back when I got paid to do this) and give both Lott and Flowers a call. But it remains to be seen whether that will be possible between now and next Tuesday’s primary.

Maybe some of my colleagues out there in the community who still get paid to do such reporting will get to it ahead of me. Let’s hope so.

Anyway, I welcome Mr. Flowers to the conversation.

GOP leaders say they can keep Trump on short leash

How desperate is the Republican Party’s situation? This desperate: Its leaders are reduced to telling the nation Don’t worry, if our nominee is elected, we can keep him in check.

Now would be the perfect time to go off on a tangent about Hindenburg thinking he could control Hitler if he became chancellor, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll share the WSJ story that inspired this post:

McConnell, Ryan Use Balance-of-Powers Argument to Reassure Voters

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan appear to be on opposite sides of the Donald Trump question, with the senator backing the party’s presumptive nominee for president and Mr. Ryan still holding out.Republicanlogo.svg

But in one aspect they are very much on the same page. When asked about Mr. Trump, his effect on the party, or his prospects this November, each responds by talking about the importance of the legislative branch. Congress, they say, will assert itself again after eight years of an administration they see as having severely skewed the balance of powers.

Implied in their message is the assumption that they will be able to protect the prerogatives of the institution because they’ll still be running it. And that’s part of their underlying point: Keep us in charge, and we’ll keep the president—whoever it is—in check….

So… you’re saying Trump would somehow be a less assertive executive than Obama? And that when you failed, by your own account, to control this president when your party hates him and opposes everything he tries to do, and your party also controlled Congress, you will nevertheless be able to lead your minions to stand in the way of a president of their own party?

Tell me another one, gentlemen.

Here’s another idea: Have a little self-respect, and get behind Bill Kristol’s effort to launch an electoral challenge by an actual conservative:

ICYMI: Mulvaney opposes Trump’s deportation plan

I’m cleaning up email, and just ran across this one from five days ago. Old as it is, I thought I’d give Mick Mulvaney credit for standing up against Trump on this:

Hello,

Wanted to make sure you saw this article from Talking Points Memo yesterday that highlights Republicans in Congress who oppose Trump’s awful and absurd “plans” for mass deportation. Conservative members such as Rep. Mick Mulvaney,  Rep. Renee Ellmers and Senator Rob Portman all reject the idea of rounding up and deporting 11 million people – as do a majority of Americans and Republican primary voters.

Here are some quotes from members who oppose this plan:

  • ‘”Logistically that is an impossibility,” Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who has endorsed Trump and is facing a primary challenge from her right in June, told TPM. “It would cost the taxpayers of America. We would never get there… It would be an endless pursuit.”’Mulvaney cropped

  • “[Rep. Mick] Mulvaney [R-SC] said he never “believed we were going to deport 11 million people.” “Don’t know how you would even go about doing it,” Mulvaney said. “I look forward to having that debate with our presumptive nominee once he comes to meet with us.”’

  • “Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) says he won’t be supporting Trump at all in part because of his immigration policy. “I called it a fraud from day one, from the day he announced it. It’s not a plan, alright, and it is unrealistic and it’s not a solution. It’s a good sound bite.”’

Here’s a link to the full piece.

Apparently, there ARE pro-life Democrats in South Carolina

They’re out there.

Despite our perception of the parties being monolithic on the issue of abortion, in South Carolina, that’s not quite the case.

It's not as monolithic as you might think.

It’s not as monolithic as you might think.

At least not among Democrats.

Remember when the S.C. House voted last week to ban abortion at 20 weeks or later, sending the bill to the governor?

Well, all 29 of the votes against came from Democrats. No shock there.

But it should be noted, at least in passing, that eight of the 79 votes for the bill came from Democrats.

To be specific, these Democrats:

  1. Rep. Mike Anthony from Union
  2. Rep. Bill Bowers from Hampton
  3. Rep. Grady Brown from Lee
  4. Rep. Laurie Funderburk from Kershaw
  5. Rep. Wayne George from Marion
  6. Rep. Jackie “Coach” Hayes from Dillon
  7. Rep. Russell Ott from Calhoun
  8. Rep. Robert Ridgeway III from Clarendon

You can find the vote breakdown in the House journal for that day.

Is there a commonality? Well, they’re all from smaller, more rural communities rather than any of the metropolitan centers of the state. Your big-city Democrats — such as Beth Bernstein, Chris Hart, Mia McLeod, Todd Rutherford and James Smith — all voted against.

Their reasoning for stepping out this way? I don’t know. If I had time, I’d interview all eight, but I don’t have the time right now. Maybe some of them would say they’re not pro-life, but have other reasons for their votes.

It’s just that I’ve noted this pattern on previous votes having to do with this issue, and I’ve never seen it get any media attention, so I thought that this time, I’d at least point out what the record shows.

And yeah, it could use some followup.

But in the meantime, I see it as positive. At least on the Democratic side, we have some representatives in South Carolina who think for themselves, even on an issue seen as the ultimate litmus test.

ICYMI: Graham tops list of GOP Trump-haters

Today I happened to stumble upon this piece from The Fix that I read when it was first published 12 days ago, and I can’t believe I didn’t bring it to y’all’s attention then.

Co-written by Chris Cillizza (see, normally I am a fan) and Aaron Blake, the piece counts down “The 10 Republicans who hate Donald Trump the most,” and in the No. 1 slot, just edging out Ben Sasse, is our own senior senator:

1. Lindsey Graham: Picking a first among equals when it comes to hating on Trump is no easy task, but the South Carolina senator stands out for two main reasons: His willingness to speak out publicly and how he does so with such flair. “You’ll never convince me that Donald Trump is the answer to the problem we have with Hispanics,” Graham said in March. “It will tear the party apart, it will divide conservatism, and we’re gonna lose to Hillary Clinton and have the third term of Barack Obama.” Back in January  Graham said that “if you nominate Trump and Cruz, I think you get the same outcome,” he told reporters. “Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning doesn’t really matter. I don’t think the outcome will be substantially different.” (He eventually endorsed Cruz.) On the day Trump won the Indiana primary effectively sealed the GOP nomination, Graham tweeted this:

I hope he’s proud of the distinction, and will continue to be. If not, I’ll just go ahead and be proud for him…

Aw, shucks, folks; I'm not one to brag...

Aw, shucks, folks; I’m not one to brag…

How much longer will Sanders campaign for Trump?

Sanders Twitter

 

Just wondering.

I keep seeing these stories about how there’s no sign of the Democrats coming together — something I wouldn’t care about if there were an option that could be rationally considered for even a second on the other side. But there isn’t. So I care.

At the point at which a normal grownup — instead of a self-styled “Democratic socialist” who encourages immature expectations in his followers — would say, Hey, we need to make sure there is no “President Trump,” Bernie Sanders intensifies the rhetoric in his hopeless bid against the person who is going to be the Democratic nominee.

The result is that the nation’s one realistic bulwark against Trump is weakened politically. And a candidate with negatives as high as Hillary Clinton’s does not need to be weakened politically.

And that’s all Sanders can do at this point — erode the eventual Democratic nominee’s chances for the fall.

I just keep wondering: How much longer, Bernie?

On the binary paradigm in U.S. politics, with a digression on ‘false equivalence’

Here’s another case in which I got carried away with a comment response, and decided to turn it into a separate post.

This morning, Phillip observed:

Also, important to remember that parties have been born, fragmented, and died during the course of American history. The fact that we’ve had “Democratic” and “Republican” parties as the two main parties (even as each one’s identity has changed radically over time in many ways) since 1856 has made us forget that a little bit. Perhaps we are seeing the real fragmentation of the Republican party, an upheaval in the two-party system unknown for a century and a half.

Some of this may be attributed to the unusual nature of Trump as a candidate himself, but the wave he sits astride will not vanish with his probable defeat this November. The GOP will not go all kumbaya after this election, whether Trump loses narrowly or loses by a “yuge” margin.

It was a trenchant, relevant comment of the sort we expect from Phillip, and it got me going along these lines…

We’ve had these two parties for so long not because of anything special about these two particular parties and their respective, shifting platforms.

It’s about having two parties, period.

It’s about the binary paradigm. It’s about the fact that we decided some time ago that we had to have a dichotomy. Left and right. Winner and loser. Up and down. Black and white. American League (boo!) and National League. You get two choices, and that’s it. There are only two teams on a football field — there are no players out there wearing a third uniform, or no uniform at all — so why should politics be any different? Isn’t football the perfect analogy for life? (I may never fully extricate my tongue from my cheek after typing that.)

We’ve decided there have to be two parties. It doesn’t much matter how those two parties define themselves, or what they are called. We’re used to Democrat and Republican, so we stick with that. It’s convenient. We don’t care enough about the particulars of parties to try to start new ones, and besides, starting new parties means you might temporarily have three or four before they are winnowed back to two, and that’s contrary to the whole idea of the game.

Worse — and this is particularly maddening to someone who engages in ideas in the public sphere and despises both options — if you reject one option, tout le monde automatically places you in the opposite category. Because you’re not allowed other options.yinyang

And to digress – yes, my horror of being accused of adhering to Option B when I criticize Option A leads me often to make a point of noting that the same problem, or a problem of equal magnitude, exists with Option B. Hence the “false equivalence” that drives some of you to distraction. Except that it’s not false. I really mean it. It’s just that bringing up the fact may seem forced or out of place to you, no matter how elegantly I try to put it. You Option B folks wish I’d just point out the oh-so-obvious faults of Option A without gratuitously picking on your team. Sorry, but I’ve been conditioned to making a particular point of placing myself outside both camps to avoid confusion.

To digress from the digression: Interestingly, Option B in this analogy is pretty much always the Democrats. Y’all notice that? It’s usually, if not always, my more liberal interlocutors who complain of the “false equivalence.” A search for that phrase yields comments by Bud, Kathryn, PhillipSCL and Tim. Not a conservative in the bunch. OK, not all of those accusations of “false equivalence” are aimed at me, but usually they are. SCL provides a particularly good example:

Honestly, you are the king of false equivalence. Have you EVER written a piece, going back to your editor days, that you didn’t try to fit into that “both sides are at fault” template? I’m not a member of either party, but you’re wrong to say the blame for this one lies anywhere other than 100% with the SCGOP….

I wonder why that is — that it’s usually, if not always, liberals/Democrats. I have a couple of theories. The first is that, as holier-than-thou as the Republicans can be, it’s Democrats who are more fully convinced of their own virtue, and of the other sides’ failings. So they are outraged by observations that challenge that. Does that strike you as true? Perhaps not. Here’s my second theory: That Democrats/liberals agree with Republicans/conservatives in seeing the media as liberal, and it particularly irks Democrats when they see a media type going out of his way to lay Democrats’ sins alongside those of Republicans. They feel that he’s letting down the side, breaking an unspoken pact. No? Well, offer your own theory.

Or maybe it’s just that I seem to make more of a point of it when I’m describing Republicans’ failings and feel the need to stick in the Democrats’, as opposed to vice versa — being particularly sensitive to that “y’all are all liberals” meme. And therefore, the Democrats are more likely to notice it…

It was at this point that I decided to turn this into a separate post. Your thoughts?

Conservative insurgency would likely guarantee Clinton win — which might be only way to save the GOP

With Reince Priebus and other GOP “leaders” abasing themselves by lining up behind Donald Trump, a few brave, principled conservatives continue to plot a third-party run.

Or at least, they were three days ago when this story was posted; the way things are going this effort could have collapsed by now:

A band of exasperated Republicans — including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a handful of veteran consultants and members of the conservative intelligentsia — is actively plotting to draft an independent presidential candidate who could keep Donald Trump from the White House.

These GOP figures are commissioning private polling, lining up major funding sources­ and courting potential contenders, according to interviews with more than a dozen Republicans involved in the discussions. The effort has been sporadic all spring but has intensified significantly in the 10 days since Trump effectively locked up the Republican nomination.

Those involved concede that an independent campaign at this late stage is probably futile, and they think they have only a couple of weeks to launch a credible bid. But these Republicans — including commentators William Kristol and Erick Erickson and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson — are so repulsed by the prospect of Trump as commander in chief that they are desperate to take action….

All I can say is, you go, guys.

Sasse

Sasse

Ben Sasse and John Kasich were mentioned as possible standard-bearers for this effort. But since the story was posted, Kasich has told them to count him out. And the cattle-like rank and file of his state party have fired a shot across Sasse’s bow to help him get his mind right (hang on a sec… I’m trying to think whether I can plug any more metaphors into that sentence… No… OK, let’s move on…).

The story raises this as an objection:

Further tempering the current talks on the right are fears that an independent conservative candidate could forever be a pariah by splintering the Republican vote and ensuring victory for the Democratic nominee.

But why is that an objection? If you’re a real Republican, and want to save your party from the short-fingered vulgarian, don’t you want him to lose and lose decisively, so that maybe this sort of thing never happens again? (Not that his supporters are susceptible to logic, but they do hate a loser.) Backing a conservative insurgent would seem to be the best way of furthering that result without coming out and voting for She Who Must Not Be Named, which would cause most Republicans’ heads to explode.

That seems to me as good a reason as any to back a third option — if you can get anyone to be the candidate, which remains doubtful…

This is rank nihilism, up with which I will not put

I sent a link to this interesting editorial in The Washington Post this morning to Bryan:

The rank nihilism driving the GOP’s acceptance of Trump

THE PAST weekend brought yet more evidence of Donald Trump’s contempt for truth and essential political standards. Yet the reality-television star continued to consolidate GOP support, a fact punctuated by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’s tour on Sunday morning television, in which he argued that the “sort of traditional review and analysis of individual candidates has not applied to Donald Trump,” because Mr. Trump is a different kind of candidate — “a total outsider that’s going to cause an earthquake in Washington.”

Priebus

Priebus

In fact, it is all the more important that voters see Mr. Trump’s full business and financial record precisely because he lacks a history of public service on which to judge his suitability. How, then, can Mr. Priebus argue that basic standards, such as honesty and transparency, do not apply? Because, he explained, voters do not seem to care about them — at least not so far. And if voters don’t care, Mr. Priebus doesn’t care: “We want to win in November, and Donald Trump is someone who has been winning.”

This is not the first time that the chairman has exposed the rank nihilism that is driving Republican leaders’ acceptance of Mr. Trump, and Mr. Priebus is far from alone….

In truth, I just sent it to him because it employed the word “nihilism,” which he recently accused me of overusing:


Bryan apparently doesn’t remember when I used it to describe the anti-public education crowd. Hey, when it’s just the right word, it’s just the right word. But that aside, the editorial is a good piece that makes good points.

And Bryan responded to them thusly:

Yeah, the GOP accepting/supporting Trump simply because they want to “win” disgust me. First, they’re not going win. He’s going to get creamed. Second, they’re compromising their principles to do so. It reminds me of a quote from Churchill:

You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

Trump supporters are choosing dishonor and they’re still going to lose.

Yes, it’s true. One after another, Republicans are turning into undead “walkers,” staggering after Trump on the way to the party’s ultimate doom. There are only a few — Paul Ryan, Ben Sasse, Bill Kristol, Lindsey Graham — with some higher brain function left, fighting a rear-guard action against the Apocalypse like Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon and the other desperate survivors. (Can you tell that over the weekend I resumed trying to catch up on “The Walking Dead”? I just finished “Claimed,” the 11th episode of the fourth season, last night.)

Where was I? Oh, yes….

You might also want to read Richard Cohen’s column headlined, “Reince Priebus, fool:

I don’t know Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican Party (such as it is). He may be a very nice guy, what with a wife and kids and probably a car or two. Still, after watching him on the Sunday interview shows, I have concluded that the man has no pride, no shame and, almost certainly, no future. After Donald Trump loses the presidential election, the name Priebus will, like Quisling or even Boycott, take on a separate meaning: fool.

Priebus went from TV studio to TV studio, four in all, on a trudge of abasement, a ride of shame. He was asked about Trump’s womanizing, his attempts in the past to pass himself off as someone else (“John Miller,” “John Barron”), his misogyny and his plan to bar all Muslims from the country (details to follow). The Mexican wall, did that come up? His belittling of John McCain, was that mentioned? His mockery of a physically handicapped reporter, did someone mention that?

There is so much to offend, so much to defend: the king’s ransom of insults and moronic plans, the childish take on torture, the misunderstanding of the Constitution, the veritable conviction of all Mexicans on the charge of rape, the distrust of NATO, the off-the-cuff suggestion that Japan and South Korea get their own nuclear weapons, and, for a moment or two, the notion that women who seek abortions should be somehow punished.

And so poor Priebus bobbed and weaved….

Will the Republican Party survive this election? Oh, I doubt any of it adherents in South Carolina will renounce it soon, but will it remain a national force? Its “leaders” for the most part, lacking courage and imagination (all they can imagine doing is what they’ve always done, lining up slavishly behind any nominee thrust upon them), seem bent on leading it to an ignominious end…

The split between Los Dos amigos, Graham and McCain

Meant to post something on this this morning, but didn’t get to it, and Doug just posted something that reminded me…

Trump Civil War: Republican brothers John McCain and Lindsey Graham on different sides of battle

May 12 at 4:10 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham paused for five full seconds and stumbled over his words pondering the question: When is the last time he split with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain on a major issue?Graham mug

“I don’t know, let me think about it,” Graham (S.C.) finally said of his closest Senate friend. “There have been several. I just can’t recall right now, right off the top of my head.”

Yet that’s what has happened in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascendancy to presumptive Republican nominee for president. In the Republican civil war over Trump, this is perhaps the most glaring example of two “brothers” fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. It reflects a larger chasm in the Republican Party over whether to embrace the anti-establishment businessman that could end up costing the party the presidency in November…

Yeah, he probably overdid the “brother against brother” Civil War shtick, but try to look past that to the substance…

I remain proud of Lindsey on this, but I’m disappointed with McCain.

Disappointed, and confused.

The temptation of course is to say McCain is being a political opportunist to save his electoral bacon, like when he denied his own maverickness in 2010.

But that doesn’t add up. As the story says:

While the Arizona Republican is heavily favored to win his primary, his state’s GOP voters gave Trump nearly 50 percent in a blowout for the real estate mogul in the state’s March presidential contest.

Then, McCain faces a general election challenge that could be the “race of my life,” as he described it at a fundraiser that was taped by an attendeeand leaked to Politico. Despite the low profile of the likely Democratic candidate, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, McCain suggested that Trump’s divisive rhetoric and policies toward immigrants would make his race difficult because of his southwestern state’s heavy Latino bent….

OK, so… he’s poised to win his primary, which is the only place where backing Trump could help him. But he doesn’t need that help. On the other hand, he’s got a huge general election challenge in which backing Trump definitely HURTS him.

So this makes no sense as opportunism.

Guess I’ll just have to take the Arizonan at his word — that he’s backing the (presumptive) Republican nominee because he’s a Republican and that’s what he does.

That’s wrong-headed, and illustrates one of the worst aspects of partisanship, and this would be an EXCELLENT time for McCain to duck into a phone booth and change into his Maverick costume — but within the universe of partisans makes sense. Party member do that sort of thing. Wish they wouldn’t, and am glad when they don’t…

The Don, unlike The Donald, did not utter threats

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

Don’t you hate it when people use pop-culture analogies and get them wrong? Check out this one, from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

But the Republican Party is not one of his golf courses for which he can determine who has what tee times. A political party is an alliance of people who share enough principles to unite to win elections and run the government. They can’t be ordered around by Don Corleone-style threats. They have to be persuaded and mobilized. Are Mr. Trump and his campaign going to require loyalty oaths of every Republican officeholder who wants to attend the convention?…

No, no, no! It most assuredly was not the Don’s style to make threats! He was way too cool, too smart, too self-contained — and therefore dangerous — for that.

Sonny made threats. Neither the Don, nor Michael, ever would. Some screenshots from the book, in case your memory is flawed:

threat 1

threat 2

threat 3

See what I mean? Case closed. Be more careful in the future, WSJ.

Yeah, there was that time he was rumored to have threatened the bandleader on his godson’s behalf. But even if that was true and not just a story people told about him, it’s the exception that proves the rule.,,,

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.