Category Archives: Republicans

Trump’s huge, but not ‘massive,’ problem with Catholics

Catholics were the first to feel nativist hostility: Bill 'the Butcher' and his Know-Nothing pals in 'Gangs of New York'

Catholics were the first to feel nativist nastiness: Bill ‘the Butcher’ and his Know-Nothing pals in ‘Gangs of New York’

First, a bit of pedantry.

My first boss in the newspaper business after college, Reid Ashe, was an MIT-trained engineer, which affected his approach to newspaper editing. A pet peeve for him was the improper use of the word “massive.” Something could be big, and imposing, and extensive, and impressive, but if it did not have actual mass, it was not massive.

I’m sure he would have hated this hed in The Washington Post this morning: “Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem.” Well, no, he doesn’t, Reid would say. It may be “yuge,” but it is lacking entirely in mass.

So. Moving on…

After that bad start, it’s a pretty interesting story. Obviously, I’m far from the only Catholic who can’t imagine how anyone can morally justify backing Trump. As far as I knew before reading this, it was just me and the Pope. And some friends and family members, of course. But if I’d thought about it, I’d have assumed there were a lot of us.

Which there are. An excerpt:

Yes, the man who once feuded with the pope (how soon we forget that actually happened) is cratering among Catholics.

Back in 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost the Catholic vote by just 2 points, 50 percent to 48 percent. And the GOP has actually won the Catholic vote as recently as 2004 and in 5 of the last 11 presidential elections.

But Trump trails among Catholics by a huge margin. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released this week shows him down 23 points, 55-32.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month painted an even worse picture for Trump’s Catholic support. He was down by 27 points, 61-34.

If you compare the difference between Romney’s margin among Catholics in 2012 and Trump’s margin among Catholics this year, the 25-point difference is tied for the biggest shift of any demographic group in the Post-ABC poll….

This is significant because Catholics make up a quarter of the electorate.

A number of reasons are offered for this, including the Donald’s tiff with the Pope. But the most convincing is the most obvious: Catholics — particularly Irish and Italians — were the very first targets of the nasty nativism that forms the core of Trump’s appeal. And they (I use “they” instead of “we” because I’m a convert, so this narrative forms no part of my personal heritage) haven’t forgotten.

These lads are unlikely to back you, Donald.

These people’s descendants are unlikely to back you, Donald.

Did Trump just head-fake us into looking the wrong way?

The main narrative the last couple of days is that Donald Trump has essentially delivered the coup de grâce to his moribund campaign.

By demoting Paul Manafort — the guy who was trying to get him to run a serious political campaign and reach beyond his base of Trumpkins — and elevating the man from Bretbart, Trump was “doubling down,” betting it all that the loudmouthed nativist, populist approach that won the primaries for him was the way to go from now to Election Day.

And that, says conventional wisdom, means it’s all over for Donald J. Trump. His campaign is finished. Liberal pundits are celebrating the inevitable.

But what if he’s faking them — all of us — out? What if he’s getting us all to look in one direction — at the disarray in his campaign, underlined this morning with Manafort’s resignation — while he moves in a wholly new direction, one that could lead to victory?

After all, while everyone’s focusing in horror on Breitbart’s Stephen K. Bannon, the new campaign manager is in fact GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, who is more someone you might characterize as the pro from Dover — someone who can read the numbers and knows how to speak to women, which Trump could use help with, to say the least.

Look away, for a moment, from the apparent train wreck of the Trump campaign, and see what he’s actually doing out there on the campaign trail.

Look at what happened Thursday night: “At a rally in North Carolina, Trump gave a speech that was the sort of speech that presidential candidates give, not the sort that Donald Trump gives.” It involved a teleprompter. It involved sticking to script. It involved doing those things that Manafort had been trying to get him to do, and which supposedly, he just decided to utterly reject.

And this was not just a one-time thing: “Thursday marked Trump’s third teleprompter speech since Monday, a departure from his typically free-wheeling campaign rallies.”

So he has head-faked in one direction — “Let Trump be Trump” — while his body has moved in the direction that offers his only chance of winning the election.

Perhaps most telling of all, in that speech Thursday night just up the road in Charlotte, he did the unthinkable, by Trumpian standards:

CHARLOTTE — Donald Trump on Thursday expressed regret over causing “personal pain” through ill-chosen words he has used “in the heat of debate,” an unexpected and uncharacteristic declaration of remorse for a candidate whose public persona is defined by his combative and bombastic style…

Don’t believe it? See the video above.

This shift has not gone unnoticed by every player on the court. Philip Bump of The Washington Post has picked up on it. To quote more fully from a piece I quoted partially above:

On Thursday night, 106 days since his last opponent dropped out of the Republican primaries, 28 days since he accepted the nomination and 82 days until Election Day, Donald Trump started running for president.

This is sort of an exaggeration, but only sort of. At a rally in North Carolina, Trump gave a speech that was the sort of speech that presidential candidates give, not the sort that Donald Trump gives. Speeches are one of the three ways that Trump gets himself into trouble (the other two being interviews and Twitter) so let’s not get too crazy assuming that Thursday-night-Trump is here to stay. But just in case he is, it’s worth planting a flag on where the race was when this change (however fleeting!) was made….

As Mr. Bump notes, if this is the start of a Trump comeback, he has a long, long way to climb.

But still. Must give us pause. And maybe we should stop focusing so much on the inside-baseball stuff, obsessing about what’s happening in the front office, and notice what’s actually happening out there in the game

regret

The really shocking part of PPP’s poll of South Carolina

A face in the crowd: Who knew, when she appeared here in May 2015, she'd be so close here now?

A face in the crowd: Who knew, when she appeared here in May 2015, she’d be so close here now?

Yes, it’s startling to see Public Policy Polling — an outfit that Nate Silver says skews slightly toward Republicans — showing South Carolina as in play in the presidential election. (See “Clinton/Trump Race Tight in South Carolina,” Aug. 10.)

Seeing Hillary Clinton only 2 percent behind Donald Trump — just within the 2.7 percent margin of error, making this a dead heat — is something most of us doubted we would see again in our lifetimes. (Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to win here, in 1976.)

But what’s truly shocking, to me, is how much support Trump does have:

The closeness is a function of Democrats being a lot happier with their party’s candidate than Republicans are with theirs. Clinton is winning 84% of the Democratic vote, compared to Trump’s 77% of the Republican vote. Although neither candidate is well liked by voters in the state Trump’s favorability, at 38% positive and 56% negative, comes in slightly worse than Clinton’s at 38/55…

That’s right, 77 percent — an overwhelming supermajority — of Republicans are willing to vote for Trump. Only 4 percent of them — less than the percentage ready to throw away their vote on Gary Johnson — is willing to back Hillary.

Perhaps that doesn’t surprise you. If it doesn’t, I think that’s because you’re making the mistake of thinking of this as a normal election, just another standard-issue contest of Democrats vs. Republicans, in which Republicans should be expected to back their nominee as a matter of course.

To that I say, stop trying to normalize this election! There is nothing normal about it! There hasn’t been since a year ago, when Trump started outpolling actual, normal Republicans!

If an actual, sane Republican were the nominee — Bush, or Kasich, or maybe Christie before he sold out and backed Trump — then fine. I wouldn’t like that mindless, reflexive vote for the party any more than I usually do (regardless of the party), but at least it would be something we’ve come to expect as normal.

This is not. This is inexcusable, unthinkable. It is an abomination.

But you know what is worse? That Trump has a bigger lead over Hillary among those who are “independent or identifying with another party” than he does among the overall electorate!

I’m sure that doesn’t include any of you loyal UnPartisans, but still. It’s shocking…

PPP

Pundits execute pincer movement on Trump & GOP

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

They’re closing in from the left and right.

E.J. Dionne went further than he has to date in a piece headlined, “The Republican Party has lost its soul.” An excerpt:

Let’s focus on the most revealing aspect of this week’s turmoil within a party now aghast over the unstable egotist at the top of its ticket.

Trump could falsely claim that Obama was born abroad, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could lie repeatedly — about, for example, whether he had met Vladimir Putin and whether he had opposedthe Iraq War — but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could make degrading comments about women and mock people with disabilities, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him.

No, it seems, all this and more were sufficiently within the bounds of acceptability for House Speaker Paul Ryan to tell delegates to the Republican National Convention that “only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way.”

So what really set off the crisis in the Republican Party this week? Trump suddenly became unacceptable because, in an interview with Philip Rucker of The Post, he refused to endorse Ryan and John McCain in their Republican primaries.

No matter what Trump said, Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman, was willing to bow and scrape before Trump for months in trying to pull the party together behind him. Now, and only now, is Priebus reported to be “furious” and “apoplectic” at Trump. The message: Trump can say anything he wants about women, the disabled, Mexicans and Muslims, but how dare The Donald cause any trouble for Priebus’s friend Paul Ryan?

The corruption of a once-great political party is now complete….

Attacking simultaneously from the right, George Will wrote that “Trump’s shallowness runs deep.” An excerpt from that:

His speeches are, of course, syntactical train wrecks, but there might be method to his madness. He rarely finishes a sentence (“Believe me!” does not count), but perhaps he is not the scatterbrain he has so successfully contrived to appear. Maybe he actually is a sly rascal, cunningly in pursuit of immunity through profusion.

George Will

George F. Will

He seems to understand that if you produce a steady stream of sufficiently stupefying statements, there will be no time to dwell on any one of them, and the net effect on the public will be numbness and ennui. So, for example, while the nation has been considering his interesting decision to try to expand his appeal by attacking Gold Star parents, little attention has been paid to this: Vladimir Putin’s occupation of Crimea has escaped Trump’s notice.

It is, surely, somewhat noteworthy that someone aspiring to be this nation’s commander in chief has somehow not noticed the fact that for two years now a sovereign European nation has been being dismembered. But a thoroughly jaded American public, bemused by the depths of Trump’s shallowness, might have missed the following from Trump’sappearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

When host George Stephanopoulos asked, “Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?” — removing the call for providing lethal weapons for Ukraine to defend itself — Trump said: “[Putin’s] not going into Ukraine, okay? Just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.”

Stephanopoulos: “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?”…

I deeply appreciate Will’s efforts recently to try to focus our attention on international affairs, and Trump’s utter and complete lack of preparedness or inclination to properly address them.

Sure, you can dismiss my friend E.J. as a consummate liberal, and wave away Will as a supercilious snob who doesn’t think Trump’s supporters are of the right sort.

So how about something closer to home? Check out this piece by a South Carolinian who has long admired Pat Buchanan, which is as conservative — as down-home, no-frills, paleoconservative — as anyone can get. Jeff Quinton writes:

Trump is wholly unqualified for the job of president. On top of that, his character is so fundamentally flawed that he cannot be trusted. On the character issue, I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton so I will not be voting for her either.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton

As a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the military, I will not vote for Trump based on national security and foreign policy issues. As a former soldier, Trump’s assurances that the troops will follow his orders, even if they are illegal ones to target civilians just because he says so are troubling. Trump’s vow to violate our treaty obligations to NATO are a major problem as well. I have concerns about Trump and his campaign manager’s connections to the Russian government—whether it was the Republican platform plank that hangs Ukraine out to dry or the Russian connections to Trump corporate finances. That doesn’t include the investigation of the DNC email leaks and where that might lead. Another foreign policy issue that bothers me relates to immigration and religious intolerance.

Trump’s immigration policies play to the basest fears in society. Whether it is his proposed Muslim ban or his criticisms of Pope Francis, it brings out the worst in his supporters online. From Ann Coulter tweeting that the Founding Fathers were right to distrust Catholics to Trump’s own proposal to keep a registry of Muslims in the country, it reminds me of one of the worst parts of American history for religious freedom—the Know Nothing era.

Trump’s appeals to the “alt-right” are nothing but a dog whistle for the fringes of the Republican Party. I have seen them get caught up in questionable conspiracy theories. They post about “false flag” theories after mass shootings that were supposedly were arranged in support of gun control. Jewish critics of Trump have been threatened and ridiculed for daring to question anything the man says. Polls show self-identifying evangelical Christians largely support him—a fact that leaves many observers scratching their heads.

As a faithful Catholic, I have also been active in the pro-life movement both locally and nationally. I do not trust Donald Trump’s pandering on pro-life issues. Being around the conservative movement in Washington for the past few years, I should not have been surprised to see so many conservatives and pro-lifers in the capital who were dead set against Trump in the primaries roll over for him as soon as he became the presumptive nominee. It is about nothing but being team players for access, power, and fundraising purposes….

And so forth. Go read the whole thing at The Daily Beast.

As a lagniappe, I’ll close with this, the first in a series of seven Tweets from Bill Kristol yesterday:

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans

Khan

OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

Today, I’ll just cheat and post my Tweets from the RNC last night

Sorry, I just don’t have time to write a separate post.

Here are some Tweets from last night. You may find some worth responding to. Otherwise, treat this as an Open Thread…

While Ted Cruz was talking:

I think this is during Eric Trump’s speech:

This was Callista Gingrich:

Finally, Mike Pence:

A postscript from Bryan:

Khris Khristie’s Kangaroo Kourt

CHRISTIE TWO

I didn’t watch a whole lot of last night’s RNC festivities, because… Well, I can only take so much of any party’s convention these days, with all the morally and intellectually offensive blackguarding of the opposition, which tends to lower my opinion of the human race.

And I got a headache.

The last straw, for me, was Chris Christie saying, essentially, Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we play lynch mob, and I whip y’all up to condemn Hillary Clinton?

His excuse was that he’s a former federal prosecutor, so this ostensibly would be an appropriate format for a speech from him. But the fact that he has been an officer of the court is what makes what he did so shameful. As though this were a proper way of finding someone guilty of something. On national television.

The call-and-response in which the mob had the role of roaring “GUILTY!” on cue was… wearying… to watch.

Alexandra Petri tried to have fun with it, and bless her for attempting to lighten things up:

Then Chris Christie took the stage. Christie had honed his speaking style in Salem, 1692, and he opened by announcing that he had seen Goody Clinton with the Devil. (Well, to be fair, he did not literally say that Clinton was in league with Satan, but this restraint on his part was unnecessary, as a few minutes later Ben Carson did.) “Let’s do something fun tonight,” Christie suggested: specifically, hold a mock trial of Clinton. The crowd loved this idea and began chanting “Guilty!” when prompted. Given that much of the convention so far has been dedicated to blaming her for the deaths of Americans (“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” said Pat Smith) and intentionally sabotaging our prestige in the world, this felt like the logical, fun next step. “How do you live with your own conscience when you reward a domestic terrorist with continued safety and betray the family of [a] fallen police officer waiting for decades for justice for his murder?” Christie asked, to give you a sample. “Hillary Clinton, as coddler of the brutal Castro brothers and betrayer of the family of fallen Trooper Werner Foerster: guilty or not guilty?” “GUILTY!” the crowd shouted.

If the speech had gone on any longer, Christie would have brought out an effigy of Clinton to see if it weighed the same as a duck, then handed out torches on which you could still see the “TRUMP­CHRISTIE” logo that had been hastily scratched out and replaced with “TRUMP­PENCE.”

Yes, this is the party of hope and fresh ideas, the one shouting, “GUILTY!” and “LOCK HER UP!” as it holds a mock trial of its opponent in absentia….

Yep, all that was missing was Christie saying, “She turned me into a Newt!

Anyway, I’ve been busy today, so I thought I’d put up something new for y’all to post comments on.

But I didn’t enjoy it.

Life will be more pleasant when both of these conventions are over. I hope.

I suppose I’ll have to watch the Cruz speech tonight. But I’d rather be watching another episode of “Vikings,” which I did after turning away from Christie last night.

The discussions are on a higher plane, and if someone gets tiresome, our hero bashes his head in or heaves a spear into him. It doesn’t go on and on…

And did I mention it has vikings in it?

Tears and flapdoodle: Thoughts on the convention last night

Trump entrance

You might think, “Wow, that Brad Warthen sure is slow on the uptake, just getting to the first night of the Republican National Convention now…”

Except… I wrote and wrote and wrote about it — 25 Tweets or so, plus side interactions here and there — in real time. And when I gave up on it at about 11, staying up to write a blog post saying all that stuff again just didn’t seem sensible to me. A guy can stand only much fun, you know.

But there needs to be a place for us to discuss it on the blog, so here…

Let’s start with this:

That phrase came from the chapter in which the low-rent professional frauds Huck knows as the King and the Duke have assumed the identities of the long-lost brothers of a man who has just died, leaving an estate that they hope to get their hands on. An excerpt:

Well, by and by the king he gets up and comes forward a little, and works himself up and slobbers out a speech, all full of tears and flapdoodle about its being a sore trial for him and his poor brother to lose the diseased, and to miss seeing diseased alive after the long journey of four thousand mile, but it’s a trial that’s sweetened and sanctified to us by this dear sympathy and these holy tears, and so he thanks them out of his heart and out of his brother’s heart, because out of their mouths they can’t, words being too weak and cold, and all that kind of rot and slush, till it was just sickening; and then he blubbers out a pious goody-goody Amen, and turns himself loose and goes to crying fit to bust….

Now here’s where you tell me how heartless I am for dismissing the grief of people who got up before the convention and poured out their hearts before the assemblage. But I’m not. I feel for them. I’m just asking, as I tend to do under such circumstances, what that has to do with public policy.

Take, if you will, the woman whose son died at Benghazi, who blames Hillary Clinton for it even though numerous exhaustive investigations have in no way supported such an accusation.

I’m going to digress now…

I was reminded of a panel I was once asked to participate in, the subject being the Iraq War. This was maybe a dozen years ago. I knew I’d be in a roomful of people who disagreed with me 100 percent, but that comes with the territory. I did NOT know that the organizers had arranged to ambush me with the mother of a soldier who had died in Iraq.

Which, although I was totally polite about it, ticked me off. These folks seemed to think that they had trumped everything I might say by having this poor lady stand up and speak of her grief. I don’t know what they expected me to do in response — toss my notes in the air and cry, I had no idea! Oh my God, obviously, I was wrong all along?

I’m not trying to have another debate about Iraq here. My point is this: If her son had died playing a critical role in a conflict everyone agreed was necessary — say, if he’d been the first guy to set foot on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 — then he’d still be dead, and she would still be, quite understandably, inconsolable. She would be every bit as deserving of our sympathy. On the other hand, let’s assume that Bud, Doug, Phillip and Brett Bursey were all right about Iraq and I was completely wrong — that would be still true even if her son had come home alive and whole and was thriving today. Her grief therefore was not proof of anything; it did not constitute an argument. It was just what it was, a horrible, excruciating void.

Back to last night… The terrible pain experienced by that woman, and by the man who said his son was killed by illegal immigrants (he was one of three, I believe), is a real and true thing that we must respect and stand in awe of — and to the extent we can ease their pain, we should do that.

But that pain should not be the basis for making policy decisions. Or deciding for whom to vote. Because the fact that this lady, in her grief, blames Hillary Clinton does not negate the fact that there’s no reason to think she’s right, despite the fervid efforts of Republicans to find such reasons. And the fact that at least one illegal immigrant — or three — was a killer in no way demonstrates that the rest are, or that a wall needs to be built. It seems silly to have to point these things out.

And yet those are the positions that these grieving people’s testimony was there to support. Their testimony was intended to prove the rightness of what Donald Trump says — something that works with people who only think with their emotions.

And that sort of exploitation of honest grief is obscene. It’s deeply wrong to use those people so, and it’s even worse to use such tawdry means to seize supreme executive power in the world’s greatest nation.

Oh, by the way, in case you’re confused — those honest, grieving people are not Huck’s “king” in my comparison. They are the Wilks girls, crying honest tears at the loss of their father. Trump is the “king.” And as Huck says of the scene, “I never see anything so disgusting.”

See, this is why I wasn’t up to elaborating on my Tweets last night. It took me almost 900 words to explain that one.

But let’s touch on some other highlights and lowlights from last night, before we go:

  • Rudy Giuliani was the highlight — an actual Made Man in the GOP, passionately singing Trump’s praises. That did Trump more good than anything, although how a Man of Respect could say such things about such a huckster left me amazed. Of course, as the official Establishment speaker of the night (OK, there was Sessions, too, but he was less impressive), he helped illustrate how far the Establishment has moved in my adult lifetime. Remember him tearing into the media for saying bad things about his boy Donald? Once, that sort of thing would have been left to an outlier like Spiro Agnew, nattering about the nabobs of negativity. Now, it’s mainstream.
  • Poor Melania Trump was so nervous that he had my sympathy, and I was relieved with her when it was over. She had had such a buildup — Corey Lewandowski had told us ahead of time that she was a really intelligent, capable person. After all, he said with a straight face, she had “had a career… as a model.” Others were less sympathetic. You know how those awful media people just ruin everything by citing facts? Nicholas Kristof noted that the assertion that Donald Trump “is intensely loyal… he will never let you down” came from, ahem, his third wife… I’m not even going to go into the plagiarism thing; I’ll leave that to y’all.
  • I missed what had to be the nadir of the night — the soap opera actor/underwear model who shared his expert opinions with the nation. And who later said he’s “absolutely sure” Barack Obama is a Muslim. Of course he is — why else would he be there?

That’s enough. There’s another whole night of this tonight. Tune in on Twitter

Who cares who Trump’s running mate is?

I got a bit irked at a Tweet from Lindsey Graham last night:

I should have said, “as the senator well knows.” Lindsey Graham, more than any other Republican with the possible exception of Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney, has eloquently articulated the reasons why Trump is unthinkable.

So why this ridiculous reaching for straws to make him feel better about the ticket? The most wonderful running mate in the history of the world wouldn’t change the fact that if elected, he or she would hold an office worth no more than a bucket of warm spit, while He Who Should Not be Named would be President of the United States.

Such an effort to find good things to say about the ticket on the part of Republicans who know better is unseemly in the extreme.

The identity of the running mate is a distraction, a digression, and no one who knows what a threat Donald Trump is to the nation should indulge in it for an instant.Mike Pence

By the way, Trump confirmed a few moments ago that the individual in question is Mike Pence, governor of Indiana.

Like I care.

OK, I’ll say one thing about him: I have a low opinion of anyone who would abandon the people of Indiana to help Donald Trump get elected. That cancels pretty much anything positive he might conceivably bring with him…

Donnie Myers makes list of America’s 5 ‘deadliest prosecutors’

And it’s getting lede treatment by The Guardian, in keeping with that newspaper’s fascination with us barbarous Americans with our guns and capital punishment.

Excerpts:

The five are profiled in a new report from Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project. Titled America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors, the report highlights the lion-sized role in the modern death penalty of just four men and one woman. Donnie Myers

They are: Joe Freeman Britt of Robeson County, North Carolina; Donnie Myers of Lexington, South Carolina; Bob Macy of Oklahoma County; Lynne Abraham of Philadelphia County; and Johnny Holmes of Harris County, Texas….

Myers is the only one of the five who is still in office, with plans to retire at the end of the year. The lawyer, the one with the electric chair paperweight on his desk, did not respond to the Guardian’s questions about his inclusion in the top five club of deadliest prosecutors.

He achieved 39 death sentences in the course of his 38 years in practice but labored under a 46% rate of misconduct that was later discovered. Six of his death sentences were overturned due to problems in the way he had secured a capital sentence – often involving discriminatory exclusions of jurors based on race.

The report notes that Myers once rolled a baby’s crib draped in black cloth in front of a capital jury and, crying profusely, told them that a failure to return a death sentence would be like declaring “open season on babies in Lexington County”. In another death penalty case, he referred to the black defendant as “King Kong”, a “monster”, “caveman” and “beast of burden”….

Myers, of course, will be replaced by former deputy Rick Hubbard, after Hubbard’s victory in Tuesday’s primary.

Here’s part of what Cindi wrote about Hubbard in The State‘s endorsement of him:

Mr. Hubbard doesn’t speak ill of his former boss, but he does acknowledge that there have been problems in the office. He does note that he does not share Mr. Myers’ “old-school style of doing things.” And he makes a convincing case that he would represent a clean break….

Mr. Hubbard also seems to have the deepest appreciation of the three of the moral duty of a prosecutor to seek justice regardless of public opinion, and to seek justice even when that means losing a case. As he put it, “A prosecutor’s job is to do the right thing and to do it for the right reason.” After 40 years of a win-at-any-cost solicitor, the people in Lexington, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties deserve a prosecutor who is deeply committed to putting justice first, always, and who has the experience and expertise to deliver that justice in a steady, reliable way….

Congratulations to Micah Caskey — now I’d like to see him adopt his opponent’s issue

A week ago today, I dropped by a gathering of supporters of Micah Caskey at The Whig. It was a small group, but diverse — the person who had invited me to it was Raia Hirsch, a Democrat previously seen working in Vincent Sheheen’s gubernatorial campaign. (She and Micah had been in Law School together.)Micah Caskey cropped

I chatted briefly with Micah at the event, and he seemed quite confident that he was going to win the runoff — even though his opponent, Tem Miles, had the public backing of their chief rival in the original primary on June 14, former Lexington County Councilman Bill Banning.

Well, he was right to be confident — he won walking away, with more than two-thirds of the vote (see below). This was no doubt due to hard work, a positive message, and of course the fact that he took out a campaign ad on bradwarthen.com — that’ll do it every time. :)

He was a strong candidate. I guess I should say is a strong candidate, since he has opposition in the fall. In this district, you’re usually pretty safe to bet on the Republican, although I haven’t met his opposition, which I need to do at some point. He faces Democrat Peggy Butler and Constitutional candidate Robert Lampley in November.

As I think I mentioned earlier, I thought the district would have been well-served by either of these young attorneys. And there’s one thing that would make me feel even better about the prospect of Micah Caskey being my representative…

The best thing that Tem had going for him was that he had notions of reform that seemed to come straight out of the Power Failure project I conceived and directed at The State 25 years ago even though he’s too young to remember it. I had meant to encourage him further in that direction by dropping off a reprint of the series at Mr. Miles’ law office (I still have a few yellowing copies in a closet somewhere). I neglected to do that. I’ll still do so, if he’s interested.

But I’m also going to give one to the winner, next time I see him. It would be great to see him adopt the best part of his erstwhile opponent’s platform…

District 89

Drawing a connection between Trump and Tillman

My old colleague and friend Jeff Miller brought this to my attention, as he had not seen anyone draw a direct connection between Donald Trump and Ben Tillman, although he was “Surprised it took this long.”

The relevant passage:

As the civil-rights movement burgeoned, Wallace repositioned himself to lead the white resistance and famously declared, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace, a political innovator of the first rank, pioneered the sublimation of racial rage into hatred of government, not just the federal imposition of black rights in a second Reconstruction, but government meddling generally. This anticipated the politics of Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and the Tea Party because it connected Southern racial resentment to the anti-government libertarian economics of the business right. The explicit racism became latent and coded—a dog whistle. The stars of today’s Republican right are all practitioners of this art. But Trump went them one better.

“Trump doesn’t tweet dog whistles, he blasts foghorns,” wrote Washington Post op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson. In this, Trump echoes an earlier band of 20th-century Southern demagogues. Southern politicians such as Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, South Carolina’s “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, and Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge were more blatant and direct than Wallace in demeaning blacks. And like Trump, they relished the fact that they were not about issues—for issues (other than race) mattered little in traditional Southern politics. Instead, they concentrated on providing a venomous, racist form of entertainment for the white working class—another parallel with Trump.

I have to disagree with the premise, though. I don’t think Trump is more overt than Wallace, or that he “blast foghorns” rather than “dog whistles.”

Mr. Articulate

Mr. Articulate?

The truth is that Trump is not articulate enough to blast any message clearly. He is well within the tradition of implying rather than directly stating, at least most of the time.

But that suggests to me one way in which Wallace was superior to Trump: He was far more articulate.

I watched a documentary recently about the annus horribilis 1968, and was struck by one thing: All of the candidates, including Wallace, had such a clear grasp of issues and expressed their views clearly as well.

Wallace was a hateful creep, but he was a hateful creep who could speak in complete sentences. He towers so far over Trump in that regard that it’s startling to go view those old clips, and compare them to the unintelligible mush that comes from Trump’s mouth.

Yeah, I know — you don’t think “erudition” when you hear “George Wallace.” But compared to Trump, he was the Algonquin Round Table

Members and associates of the Algonquin Round Table... Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott

Members and associates of the Algonquin Round Table… Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott

Wexit: George Will leaves Republican Party

Here’s how complicated the world is, how it resists pat explanations…

Every other pundit in the Anglosphere is writing about how Brexit is the result of the same political forces that gave us Trump. It’s widely accepted as axiomatic.

Meanwhile, George F. Will is writing about how wonderful, how salutary, Brexit is, calling it “Britain’s welcome revival of nationhood.”

And yet George Will has staged his own exit — from the Republican Party. Over Trump:

Conservative columnist George Will has left the Republican Party over its presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.George Will

Will, who writes a column for The Washington Post, spoke about his decision Friday at an event for the Federalist Society in Washington.

“This is not my party,” he told the audience, the news site PJ Media first reported.

Speaking with The Post, Will said that he changed his voter registration from “Republican” to “unaffiliated” several weeks ago, the day after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) endorsed Trump.

Will did not say which presidential candidate he will be supporting instead….

He added that it was too late for the GOP to nominate someone other than Trump. Instead, he said, Republican voters should just “make sure he loses,” then “grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

Tem Miles, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem Miles came in second in the GOP primary for S.C. House District 89 Tuesday. He got 25 percent of the vote to Micah Caskey’s 36 percent. (Those percentages are from a tiny turnout — Caskey got 1,026 actual votes, and Miles got 717.)

But he’s already gotten a boost in the runoff on June 28. Bill Banning, the former Lexington county councilman who came in third with 21 percent, has endorsed Miles, based on his belief that “experience matters.”

That’s a reference to the fact that between the two young attorneys, Miles is the only one to have held elective office previously. In fact, as a West Columbia city councilman, Miles is the veteran of some pretty unpleasant confrontations with former Mayor Joe Owens. He was re-elected last year.

Miles also cites other experience, serving in two of the state’s three branches of government. The Citadel grad formerly clerked for Appeals Court judge Paul. E. Short Jr., and served as attorney for the Office of Senate Research. Today, he’s in private practice with the McKay Firm.

His list of goals if elected, as listed on his website, are pretty similar to those cited by his opponent, and not appreciably more detailed:

Tem Goals

Since it was the item that interested me most (hey, you want something other than that, go to some other blog!), I asked him what he meant by “reforming state government,” noting that the few words he had about it on his website suggested he was mostly talking about ethics reform.Tem Miles

But his notion of “reform,” it turns out, is much broader and to the point than that. In fact, he defines it pretty much the way I do.

Turns out that, although he was probably in middle school when my “Power Failure” project ran in the paper in 1991, he seems to have absorbed its main lessons from somewhere.

So, like Arlo Guthrie and the other fellas on the Group W bench, we just had a high ol’ time talking about the Legislative State, special purpose districts, judicial selection, co-equal branches of government, and all kinds of groovy things that would probably make your eyes glaze over — but which are the very things a lawmaker should care about if he’s running on RE-form.

Some high points from that discussion:

  • He would turn more real power over “to our governor” — although he hastened to add that he didn’t specifically mean this governor, just governors in the future. Bottom line, the executive branch must be more empowered in other to be a co-equal branch with the dominant Legislature.
  • He would empower the judiciary in part by giving it a set percentage of the state budget to run on, rather than judges having to go begging to the Legislature for funding.
  • He would further free the judiciary from the legislative branch by changing the method of judicial selection, which now lies completely in the hands of lawmakers. Rather than say he would move to the federal system, he said he would select them like worker’s comp commissioners — the governor nominates, and the full Senate confirms. In other words, the federal system.
  • “We’d be so much further along as a state,” he said, if we fully implemented Home Rule — by which he meant local governments should be run by the folks elected locally to do that, instead of by county legislative delegations and their creatures, such as SPDs.

There was more, but you get the idea. Either that, or you zoned out. Anyway, the idea is RE-form.

So that’s what I know about Tem (short for “Temus“) Miles, who is facing Micah Caskey in the runoff on June 28.

Micah Caskey, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Micah Caskey

Micah Caskey

The Caskeys and the Warthens have some common history, although it’s from before my time. Remember when I mentioned that my mother was writing her childhood memories, and I was typing them and creating a blog for them? Well she made prominent mention of “Hop” Caskey, who was a teacher and coach at Bennettsville High School in the ’40s, and his wife, “Madam.” They were good friends of my mother’s family — they used to buy season tickets together for Tarheel football so they could go see Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice play.

"Madam" and "Hop" Caskey

“Madam” and “Hop” Caskey

Well, those were Micah Caskey’s great-grandparents. I was happy to be able to share with him recently a picture of them that he’d never seen before. By the way, the photographer in the foreground is Jimmy Covington, who’s been a fixture in Columbia media circles for decades. He was at BHS with my Mom.

Still, I’d never met him until back in March, when he filed to run for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. We had a wide-ranging conversation about values and policies. Unfortunately, if I took notes I can’t find them. At the time, my main aim was to find out whether this was a someone I wanted to run against, so I don’t think I took notes at all. I was looking for an overall impression.

And the overall impression was this: I was reluctant to run against him because dang it, not only is he a Marine combat veteran, but it was eerie how many things we agreed on. Of all the things we talked about, there was one thing we sharply differed on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was.

So for blogging purposes, that was a useless interview (aside from getting the photo above). But fortunately you can find out about him at his website. He lives in Springdale, and he’s an assistant solicitor in the 11th Circuit solicitor’s office (the one Rick Hubbard and Candice Lively are competing to run). I asked him why he didn’t just run for solicitor, and he said others seeking the office had more experience than he did.

The son of a locksmith, he’s the product of Lexington 2 schools and the University of Florida. He describes his military service thusly:

After college, Micah spent the next several years on active duty in the Marine Corps—rising to the rank of Captain. Micah commanded both company and platoon-sized units during his two combat tours of duty in Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. Later, in 2009, Micah left law school for a year to continue his service to the country. It was during that year that he commanded a small team of specialized Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He obtained his law degree from USC, plus a master’s in international business from the Darla Moore School. He worked as a management consultant in the oil and gas industry for awhile before joining the solicitor’s office.

Here are the issues he’s running on (which are pretty similar to the ones his runoff opponent, Tem Miles, cites):

  • I want to get government working for us. America is at its best when individuals and private businesses are pursuing life, liberty, and happiness — not when wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape.
  • I’ll fight to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges. I’ll work for meaningful reforms that innovate the way our state government functions. We need accountability and transparency.
  • I will be a voice for public safety. Last October, when the floods came, our first responders answered the call. I’ll help ensure we are ready for the unexpected.
  • I’ll fight to ensure that South Carolina continues to be a friendly place for our military to call home. As a veteran, I know what it means to serve. I want South Carolina to remain a magnet for our military, our servicemembers, and our veterans.

That’s all from his website. One thing you won’t find there (or on his opponent’s site, either) are a lot of details about how he would accomplish the above. He says he’s following political advice on that, which runs against the grain because “I want to just tell people what I think about everything.” But he realizes that unless he has an hour to get into the nuances and layers of each position with each voter, it’s easy to be misunderstood when you get into specifics.MicahCaskey_Logo_v02

(I nodded when he said that. As you know, I am no fan of campaign promises. Tell people who you are, describe your experience and your overall interests in running. But don’t say exactly what you’re going to do, because you don’t know what you’ll be dealing with into office, and you don’t want to trapped by promises into doing something that turns out to be dumb under the circumstances.)

“Taking absolutist positions isn’t useful” because “I’ve seen how layered and complicated things can be.” To take one buzzphrase, he mentions “limited government.”

“What does that mean?” he asks. He prefers to say he likes “smart government,” but even there, you have to do a lot of explaining. For an example, he says, he’d do away with having to go to “15 different offices to start a small business.”

Bottom line,”I think I’m a common-sense candidate, a pragmatist.” He notes that someone called him a “consensus candidate,” a guy who would work with anyone from anywhere on the political spectrum who would help pass sensible legislation.

He accepts service on that.

Being about the age of my kids, he has run on the slogan of “A New Generation of Leadership.” That seems to have served him well over the much-older Bill Banning and Billy Oswald.

Now, he’s up against a contemporary and fellow attorney, Tem Miles. On June 28, GOP runoff voters will decide which young man they want representing them in this relatively new century.

Thoughts on the primary results?

Ck_4xgEUUAIyaec

Our hero’s identity revealed!

Well, I finally got to vote last night. I picked up my wife on the way there, and we were almost the last voters at Quail Hollow (there was one after us). So we did our duty.

What do y’all think about the results? Here are some random thoughts that I’ve had:

  • Wes Hayes’ loss. Well, the best of the three senators opposed by Nikki Haley was unfortunately the only one to lose. No offense to Hugh Leatherman and Luke Rankin — they both won in spite of the governor’s allies’ $500,000 onslaught, so good for them — but Wes Hayes, a.k.a. “the Dean of Ethics,” was the one whose plight most demonstrated the hypocrisy of the governor’s own commitment to ethics. So I’m sorry to see it.
  • Runoff for Kenny Bingham’s seat. This is my House district. I felt like the two strongest candidates were newcomer Micah Caskey (any relation, Bryan?) and former county councilman Bill Banning. Micah (the scion of a Bennettsville family with close ties to my own, by way of disclosure) was the top vote-getter and is in a runoff. Bill, unfortunately, did not make it. But I say this with no knowledge of the other guy in the runoff, Tem Miles — whom I have not interviewed or even met. I need to remedy that.Ballentine - Warthen Ad
  • Midlands incumbents prevail. Wes Hayes said it was a bad year for incumbents, and in many cases across the country that’s true. But most Midlands legislative incumbents with opposition did just fine. I was happy for Katrina Shealy because she’s done a good job, and I was rooting for her after that awful thing Cindi Scoppe did to her several years back (tsk, tsk).  Nathan Ballentine deserved to win, of course, because he advertised here on the blog. You see the logic in that, right? Other winners included Rick Quinn (in spite of the slight cloud from Pascoe’s investigation), and in Richland County, John Scott and Darrell Jackson (despite the election commission, the Recreation Commission and so forth).
  • Solicitor runoff. Going by The State‘s endorsement, the strongest guy in the field to replace Donnie Myers got the most votes, but he’s in a runoff with Candice Lively, about whom I need to learn more, just as I do with Tem Miles. Stay tuned for more.
  • Dems divided over whom they will sacrifice to Joe Wilson. Well, we heard a lot about how Arik Bjorn was the only real Democrat in their 2nd District primary. The state party even endorsed him, in an extremely unusual move (they didn’t want another Alvin Greene). And he did prevail — but by a grand total of 49 votes in unofficial results — over alleged interloper Phil Black. This 50.1 to 49.9 triumph is particularly pathetic when you reflect that in Lexington County, the gravitational center of the district, only the most dedicated, partisan Democrats — the kind who wouldn’t be caught dead voting Republican — would even have selected a Democratic ballot, since this was the only thing on it. Bjorn can take comfort that proportionally, he did a little better in my precinct than he did elsewhere — 14 to 9. No, those aren’t percentages; that’s how many people voted.
  • As expected, Sanford prevailed. Jenny Horne’s tirade against the flag, wonderful as it was at that one moment last summer (and it may have been what turned the tide in the House and got the flag down), didn’t prove enough to send her to Congress. They love them some Mark Sanford in the 1st District. I suspect it’s something in their water. But in this case, since Jenny backed Trump and Sanford did not, perhaps justice was done.
  • Lott prevails, but his secret is out! Perhaps the most satisfying result of the night was Leon Lott’s overwhelming 3-to-1 win over James Flowers for a sixth term as Richland County sheriff. I would have been cheering my twin anyway, because he’s done a great job, but that WashPost series gave us good reason to be deeply concerned about his challenger. But I’m not sure I’m happy that he’s revealed his secret identity (see photo above, which I hope The State doesn’t object to my sharing). Doesn’t this grant an advantage to the supervillains out there? I suppose the secret was bound to come out. I thought it careless of him to win those statewide Toughest Cop competitions several years back…

Your thoughts?

Horne header

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.

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: