Category Archives: Republicans

Graham and his ilk have lost all faith in their own party

He's their best candidate, and would win the election. But top Republicans see no way he can get the nomination.

He’s their best candidate, and would win the election. But top Republicans see no way he can get the nomination.


I think I’m starting to get it now.

Up to now, I couldn’t figure out why Lindsey Graham and other mainstreamers such as Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney were backing Ted Cruz, when we know:

I couldn’t figure it out until I read this observation in a couple of places over the last day or two:

Graham admits that Ohio Governor John Kasich “would be the best nominee, but he doesn’t have a chance.” So he tries to talk up Cruz as the one candidate who might be able to slow Trump’s march to the nomination…

Let’s unpack that statement that Kasich “would be the best nominee, but he doesn’t have a chance.”

He doesn’t mean Kasich doesn’t have a chance in the fall. He’s the one Republican still running who does consistently win a matchup with Hillary. In fact, if Republicans actually want to do what parties are supposed to exist to do — win elections — no one would waste a second talking about doing anything but nominating Kasich.

But while Graham knows he can count on the American people (sorry, Barton) to choose Kasich, he’s convinced that his own party will never do so.

Are you following me? Here we have a situation in which one of the smartest Republicans holding elective office has made the calculation that the best candidate, and the one who would lead the party to victory, has no chance of being nominated by his party.

That’s what “he doesn’t have a chance” means. Not that Kasich wouldn’t win the election in a walk, but that the Republican Party is so royally fouled up that it won’t nominate him, under any circumstances. No matter how urgently or fervently Graham and other rational people might advocate for him.

It’s so hopeless that they won’t even TRY. They’re resigned to failure because of their lack of confidence in their fellow Republicans. Defeat in November is a given. In fact, they’re counting on it, to save the country. They just believe the defeat will be less ignominious if Cruz is their nominee rather than Trump. They think there will be some pieces left to pick up this way.

They think that with Cruz, there’ll be something still to preserve from this Götterdämmerung.

I believe that is the saddest commentary on the Republican Party I’ve ever read in my life.

Are Graham, Bush and Romney just resigned to Hillary now?

So are the erstwhile voices of GOP reason utterly resigned to a President Hillary Clinton?

So are the erstwhile voices of GOP reason now utterly resigned to a President Hillary Clinton?

I can see no other reasonable explanation for Lindsey Graham raising money for Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush endorsing him.

As recently as Feb. 25 — that’s less than a month, people — our senior senator was saying “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” That’s how utterly unthinkable supporting Ted Cruz was.

That was in the same speech in which he said “My party’s gone bats— crazy,” since it was narrowing its presidential choices to Cruz and Donald Trump. There was plenty of evidence to support his assertion.

But it must be catching, because Sen. Graham is now supporting and raising funds for the unthinkable Cruz, apparently operating on the principle that Trump is even less thinkable.

Now we have this:

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz for president on Wednesday, the latest sign that the Texas senator is eagerly seeking to unite Republican Party leaders behind his campaign in an attempt to stop Donald Trump.

Securing the Bush endorsement is a coup for Cruz, who may not be well-liked by many GOP colleagues in Washington, but can now boast the support of a key political family and its vast, unrivaled donor network….

 

And that follows on this even greater outrage, offering clear evidence that Mitt Romney may have gone the most “bats___” of all:

First Romney recorded robocalls for Marco Rubio, then he hit the campaign trail with John Kasich. Now just a week later, he’s urging voters in Utah and Arizonanot to vote for the Ohio governor in a Cruz campaign robocall. “This is a time for Republicans across the spectrum to unite behind Ted. He is the only Republican candidate who can defeat Donald Trump,” Romney says in the message, according to Politico. “And at this point, a vote for John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump.”

Romney said last week that he intends to vote for Cruz in Utah’s caucuses on Tuesday, but his allies stressed that he wasn’t endorsing the Texas senator. On Facebook, Romney explained that he likes Kasich and would have voted for him in Ohio, “but a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.” There was a time when saying you intend to vote for a particular candidate and urging others not to vote for anyone else would be called an endorsement, but that’s not how things work in 2016….

Gentlemen, it is clear that you have but one honorable choice at this point, given that Trump and Cruz are still what Graham accurately said they were back in January — a choice between “being shot or poisoned:” Get behind John Kasich with all your might. Work your networks to try to get friendly delegates to the convention, to support him on the ballots after Trump fails on the first.

So what if he’s coming in third in most states? That’s a whole lot better than you supposed exemplars of the party, Lindsey and Jeb, managed to do when you were running. Do you really, truly, not stand for anything?

Have some self-respect. Get behind an honorable candidate who doesn’t make you retch when you think of him being president. At the very least, strengthen his hand so that even if he can’t get nominated, there’s a rational person in better position to help determine who does.

Other sincere, mainstream Republicans — ones with less high profiles — have had no trouble doing this. What’s your problem?

Perhaps you should just come out and acknowledge that you are resigned to Hillary Clinton being elected. Because that seems the logical outcome of the courses you’re pursuing, supporting a candidate you cannot stand for the nomination.

This Beck person has it both right, and 100 percent wrong

Since I don’t watch all that cable “news” nonsense, the only “Beck” I’m familiar with is the one who sings the above song. So I include it, for what it’s worth.

I was really taken aback when I saw what this other Beck had to say:

After winning the Republican primary in his home state of Ohio Tuesday night, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich announced that he plans to stay the course. Glenn Beck had a few choice words for him.

“Kasich, I mean, excuse my language, but, you son of a bitch, the republic is at stake,” Beck said Wednesday on The Glenn Beck Radio Program. “This is not like a normal race. The republic is at stake.”

Continuing his criticism of Kasich, Beck, a top surrogate for Republican candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, argued that the Ohio governor is “delusional” if he thinks he can win….

Well, uh, yeah… the republic is at stake, which is why it’s wonderful that Kasich won decisively in Ohio (a state Republicans have to win to win the White House), so that he can continue all the way to the convention.

Even if you’re, um, delusional enough to be for Cruz, you should be able to understand that, since Kasich pulls a different sort of voter from what Cruz does, there’s a greater chance of stopping Trump from getting 1,237 delegates before the convention if both Cruz and Kasich stay in.

And that has to happen before either Cruz or Kasich has a chance to emerge triumphant from a contested convention. With the states remaining, it’s unlikely that Cruz could get to 1,237 himself, so the convention is all he has to hope for.

Otherwise, he’s a loser, baby…

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There’s ONE rational grownup left in GOP contest: Kasich!

Yes! YES! You know it! (As Frank the Tank would say.):

This. Is. Awesome.

This is the best outcome we could have had.

Kasich comes out of Ohio as the one rational option left. No, he won’t go into the convention with enough delegates to win, not by a long shot. He’ll likely come in third.

But he’s got enough mo now to stay in the race all the way, maybe pick up another state here or there with Rubio out of it. And with both him and Cruz pulling from Trump, there’s a good chance Trump won’t have the magic 1,237 for that first ballot.

And then… we’re gonna see how we do things in a republic, baby!

I love it…

One way in which I’m like Trump supporters

The other day, Karen brought my attention to this piece by Tom Friedman, trying to explain Trump supporters.

I was struck by the opening:

Donald Trump is a walking political science course. His meteoric rise is lesson
No. 1 on leadership: Most voters do not listen through their ears. They listen
through their stomachs. If a leader can connect with them on a gut level, their
response is: “Don’t bother me with the details. I trust your instincts.” If a
leader can’t connect on a gut level, he or she can’t show them enough
particulars. They’ll just keep asking, “Can you show me the details one more
time?”

Trump’s Republican rivals keep thinking that if they just point out a few
more details about him, voters will drop The Donald and turn to one of them
instead. But you can’t talk voters out of something that they haven’t been
talked into…

Huh. So, in a way, I’m a lot like Trump supporters, according to Friedman.

Not in the “listen through their stomachs” bit. I’m more likely to use my head. But I’m definitely less about the details.

George_HW_Bush_saying_-Read_My_Lips-_(screenshot)Over the years, I’ve come to look for someone I trust to make good decisions, whatever comes up. I’m less about what specific proposals the candidate makes. What a candidate actually encounters in office often has little to do with the concerns expressed during the campaign. In fact, the fewer promises, the better — promises can back an officeholder into corners and commit him to courses that are unwise under the circumstances. See “Read my lips; no new taxes.” Bush made the right decision, but the unwise promise not to do so got him into trouble.

I care more about how a candidate’s mind works, along with experience and a good history of having made sound decisions while accumulating that experience.

Since I do that, I still can’t imagine how anyone arrives at thinking Trump is the guy to trust. But I’m with them on caring less about details of proposals…

 

Which would you prefer as president: Trump or Underwood?

PrezHouseOfCardsAriailW

Robert Ariail has proposed it in a cartoon, as a joke.

But as an alternative to, say, Donald Trump, would you accept the devious scoundrel Frank Underwood as president?

Robert also posed the question with regard to Hillary Clinton, and go ahead and address that if you choose.

But I’m more interested with the conundrum on the GOP side, where the dynamic is entirely different. Whatever you think of her, Hillary is pretty middle-of-the-road among Democrats — members of that party won’t have an identity crisis if she is their nominee. “Anybody but Hillary” isn’t really a thing on that side.

It’s over on the Republican side that we see serious people considering deals with the devil.

We’ve already seen Lindsey Graham, who like everyone else in the Senate utterly despises Ted Cruz, say that it might be necessary to embrace the Texan in a last-ditch effort to stop the disaster of Trump. Even though he has described Cruz, accurately, as “toxic.”

So why not Underwood? Think about it: Does he advocate any horrible policies? Not so I can recall (although y’all might remind me of some dealbreakers.) Basically, he’s a thoroughly rotten, ruthless individual when it comes to seizing and keeping power. But as long as the policies were relatively benign, would that not make him preferable to someone who is both personally and in policy terms unthinkable?

Saying that runs against my own inclinations. Over the years I’ve increasingly come to care less about people’s specific policy proposals and more about their character. That’s because no one can predict what will really arise once the person’s in office — the candidate’s promises may become impractical, or ill-advised, based on unforeseen circumstances. I look for someone who I trust to make good decisions in the face of the unanticipated.

And it occurs to me that maybe, maybe we could expect ol’ F.U. — who is a pretty smart guy, aside from all his character defects — to act wisely and responsibly, if only because he does love power so much, and therefore would not want to screw up and lose political support.

Whereas we know that Donald Trump doesn’t know wise policy from a hole in the ground. Even if he were trying to do the right thing just to look good, he wouldn’t know how.

Thoughts?

Frank Underwood

Want to be MORE worried about Trump? Listen to the world

This morning on NPR, I heard a Republican — a supporter of Marco Rubio, I believe (I missed his introduction) — state the obvious: Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination would be bad for the party — and, far more importantly, for the country.

But that’s thinking small. I get most concerned when I think about the effect on the world. That, of course, is the way I think of the presidency — not someone who’s going to “fight for me” (possibly my least fave political locution) on domestic issues, but someone who will skillfully handle our relations with the rest of the globe.

And when it comes to that… Well, speaking of public radio, I recommend that you listen to this discussion from The Takeaway last week, which looks at reactions from around the world, from PM David Cameron’s statement that things Trump has said are “divisive, stupid and wrong” (which doesn’t bode well for the Special Relationship were Trump elected) to a Chinese view that the alleged Republican is an “April Fool’s joke” (although the same speaker likes him better than Hillary Clinton).

Then of course, there’s the apocalyptic view of Trump from south of the border.

What struck me the most was the comments of Edward Lucas, a senior editor from The Economist (I get deeply embarrassed for my country when I think of such smart people as senior editors at The Economist actually paying attention to this election), who among other things said:

We really need U.S. presidents who are deeply engaged in European security…. And I think what really worries me about Trump is not his off-the-wall comments and his rudeness and vulgarity and so on — it’s the isolationism, it’s the idea that he just really isn’t interested in shouldering burdens with other countries. And we here in Europe really need America as our partner in all sorts of ways…

Of course, he goes on to say that the isolationism of some of the other GOP candidates and of Bernie Sanders worry him as well. But I get the impression that Trump stands out.

Edward Lucas

Edward Lucas

And this is a sharp departure from the norm. Lucas notes that all recent presidents — Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama have taken a proper, healthy interest in Europe and the world.

But Trump, and some of the other candidates, do not. And that rightly worries our allies.

Of course, I’ll confess that being the Anglophile that I am, hearing these concerns expressed in a posh English accent make them all the more alarming…

Heil Trump! — no, really; watch the video…

We’ve spoken before about the undertones of fascism in the appeal of Donald Trump. (Or maybe I just Tweeted about it; I’m not immediately finding the previous reference.)

Now there’s this, which somehow I missed over the weekend and didn’t see until today.

From the latest column by Dana Milbank:

So it has come to this: The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at a campaign rally Saturday in Orlando, leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute.

“Can I have a pledge? A swearing?” Trump asked, raising his right hand and directing his followers to do the same. He then led them in pledging allegiance — not to the flag but to Trump, for which they stand and for whom they vowed to vote.

Benito Mussolini (1883 - 1945) the Italian dictator in 1934. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) the Italian dictator in 1934. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Trump supporters raised their arms en masse — unfortunately evoking the sort of scene associated with grainy newsreels from Italy and Germany.

Among those not engaging in such ominous imagery were the demonstrators, who, by my colleague Jenna Johnson’s account, interrupted Trump’s event more than a dozen times. The candidate watched a supporter grab and attempt to tackle protesters, at least one of them black, near the stage. “You know, we have a divided country, folks,” Trump said. “We have a terrible president who happens to be African American.”

Loaded imagery, violence against dissenters and a racial attack on the president: It’s all in a day’s work for Trump….

If you watch that video and let it go on to autoplay the next one, you’ll hear the bit that goes, “We have a terrible president who happens to be African American.” You don’t want to miss that one, either.

Yeah, he’s a buffoon. But so was Mussolini. Hitler, too, but I think the Mussolini comparison is more apt. All that comic-opera strutting and mugging…

The man who was once Chris Christie stares out from the heart of darkness. The horror… the horror…

Christie 3

On the day after Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved huge strides toward victory, those who beheld the scene seem transfixed by the eloquence of Chris Christie’s eyes as he contemplated what had come to pass.Christie 1

In various forms, the image of Christie standing, horror-struck, behind Trump in his moment of victory appeared with no fewer than five separate stories about Super Tuesday in my Washington Post app this morning. Two Post writers — Janell Ross and Alexandra Petri — devoted entire columns to the sight.

The Ross piece, actually, was less a column and more a recitation of ways that Twitter reacted to Christie’s silent performance.Christie 5

Ms. Petri, as is her wont, got more creative, employing a battalion of pop-culture references to explain the look on the New Jersey governor’s face. I definitely recommend you go read it:

Chris Christie spent the entire speech screaming wordlessly. I have never seen someone scream so loudly without using his mouth before. It would have been remarkable if it had not been so terrifying.Christie 2

Sometimes, at night, do you still hear them, Clarice? The screaming of the Christies?

His were the eyes of a man who has gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back, and then he endorsed the abyss.

It was not a thousand-yard stare. That would understate the vast and impenetrable distance it encompassed.

He looked as if he had seen a ghost and the ghost had made him watch Mufasa die again….

“When are they coming to airlift me out?” Chris Christie’s eyes are pleading. “Please tell me that they are coming and that it is soon.” But then his expression hardens. Chris Christie knows that they are not coming back for him.

This is his life now.

Soon he must return to the plane onto which Trump humiliatingly sent him before. Soon he must return to the small cupboard under the stairs where he is kept and occasionally thrown small slivers of metaphorical raw meat. When he asked to be part of Trump’s cabinet he never thought to specify “presidential cabinet, of course, not a literal cabinet underground where the ventilation is poor and there is no light.” It just did not occur to him. Why would it?…

And so forth. As I said, go read the whole thing — I’ve probably exceeded the fuzzy bounds of Fair Use already. And I hope I’ll be forgiven for the image screengrabs. I just wanted to illustrate my point about how many times the image was repeated — all five came from the WashPost app this morning.

Somehow, she managed to avoid Heart of Darkness. Perhaps that’s because she wasn’t born yet when “Apocalypse Now” came out — in fact, it preceded her by about nine years. I had to look up “watch Mufasa die” to realize it was from “The Lion King,” whereas it came out when she was about 6, and therefore made a big impression.Christie 4

Looking at him, I was reminded of something I learned from my spotty career as an amateur actor — that the hardest thing for an actor is figuring out what to do on stage when someone else is speaking lines. What do you do with your hands? What should your face be doing? You need to keep acting, but not upstage the person speaking. It’s hard.

But you know what? It was worse than that. In the video below, you see and hear what Christie said to the crowd before Trump came out. And it’s incredible. Here he is speaking the lines, but doing so like a man with a gun to his head, like a POW blinking Morse code in the video, imploring the folks on the homefront to realize he doesn’t mean a word of what he’s saying.

He doesn’t even try to look happy. Which, of course, he isn’t…

Newspaper admits how wrong it was to endorse Christie

You may or may not recall that I Tweeted this Friday, when the N.J. governor abased himself before The Donald:

Well, I was not alone with the mea culpas. Of course, others had more to atone for:

Newspaper that endorsed Christie: ‘Boy, were we wrong’

The New Hampshire Union Leader backed the wrong presidential candidate, the paper said in an editorial posted online Monday evening.

The influential newspaper endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last November, but his endorsement of Donald Trump is apparently a bridge too far.

“Despite his baggage, we thought that as a Republican governor in a Democratic-leading state he had the skills and experience the presidency needs (and hasn’t had of late),” publisher Joseph McQuaid wrote. “We also thought he had the best chance to take on and face down Donald Trump.”

“Boy, were we wrong,” McQuaid added….

I mean, at least I never endorsed the guy, unlike those pathetic losers in New Hampshire…

Strassel: ‘Trump Is the Ultimate Insider’

From the WSJ’s Kimberley A. Strassel, in Friday’s paper:

The Nevada entrance polls show the billionaire won voters who are angry with the federal government, who want an “outsider” in the office and who want “change.” They don’t care about policies. They want someone to “stick it to the man.”

And therein lies Mr. Trump’s vulnerability. Because, you see, Donald Trump is the man. An outsider to the elite society that Washington inhabits? An avenging angel of a faltering working class? Laugh. Out. Loud. This is the man who was born to a silver spoon, who self-selected a life strictly in the company of the rich and powerful, and who built a fortune by using his connections and sticking it to the little guy.

Of all the Republicans on the stage, he is the only insider. Ted Cruz is not to be seen regularly in the company of hotel and casino magnates, movie producers, celebrity athletes and others with privileged access to Washington brokers. Marco Rubio did not have Bill and Hillary Clinton at his wedding. John Kasich would have to beg for an audience with people who jump to return Mr. Trump’s calls.

It was amusing in the CBS debate on Feb. 13 to hear the titan complain that the audience was stacked with “special interest” donors. He’d know. He likely recognized them from lunches at his golf clubs. This is a guy so disconnected from and uninterested in the average American that he refers to his voters in generic stereotypes. “I love the poorly educated,” he gushed after the Nevada caucuses. You can almost picture him, like Felonius Gru in “Despicable Me,” surveying his crowds of identical Minions. Though at least Gru knew that one is named Kevin….

Marco’s ‘media maestro,’ our own Wesley Donehue

Meet Marco’s digital media maestro: Wesley Donehue

You may have thought Wesley Donehue had already had his one and only brush with fame when he had yours truly on his show, Pub Politics, nine times.

You could be forgiven for thinking so.

But these days, he’s going great guns acting as Marco Rubio’s digital maestro, as CNN puts it. This is evidently a wild ride, and Wesley seems to be thoroughly enjoying it — as would I, in his place.

Watch the video above…

Wesley

Sound advice from fellow South Carolinian Kathleen Parker

This is from her Facebook feed, not a column:

I wish I could tell you all everything I know about the Republican candidates. I can’t in a public forum, but you’d do well to focus on governors.12190791_10205363608186377_7591590836823279115_n

Governance isn’t easy and it’s crucial to have experience. Be wary of those who run for the Senate only to immediately start running for president and who will do anything to get there, even shut down the government, which ultimately hurts the party. Watch out for anyone waving a Bible. Some live as Christians; others proclaim their Christianity. Re-read “Elmer Gantry.” En fin, experience really does matter, folks. Most important, ask yourself, whom would our military troops most admire and respect because that person may well ask them to march into horror and possible death. Also, think hard about the Supreme Court and what the candidates say about what they’d seek. Speaking for myself, I prefer non-ideological justices who honor the text and original intent but ALSO context, which means attentive to the present as well. Wisdom, restraint, intelligence, courage, strength, a disciplined mind, a light heart – and humiliity. These are the qualities we seek even in our friends, isn’t it?

Amen to all that.

Yes, go for those who have governed and taken it seriously. Such as… And always, at all times, vote for the Grownup.

Any of y’all pumped about voting tomorrow? (Trump people, I’m not talking to you…)

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When I saw the above headline this morning, I thought, “Really?

Because the way I (and from what I can tell, millions of others) feel about this election so far, it’s difficult to imagine mustering any enthusiasm for engaging in the process.

Yeah, I think I’ve found someone I can vote for without holding my nose, and that’s good, but all the other stuff going on out there has really cast a pall. Add that to the fact that all the polls assure me that my guy will come in behind the very worst of the lot, and it gets to be a major drag.

Of course, this is when the tough get going, and I will vote, and emphatically encourage every reasonable person I know to do likewise.

But I know that lots of people get easily discouraged from voting by the slightest things — rain, for instance. And this election has been so awful so far — easily the most appalling I’ve ever seen — that you would think only the most dedicated voters would be able to uncurl from a fetal position and drag themselves to the polling place.

Otherwise, you know who WILL show up to vote, and they must not be unopposed.

So, unless you’re planning to vote in the Democratic primary the following week, drop your c___s and grab your socks; off your dead a__es and on yer dyin’ feet. Go do your duty tomorrow…

Jeb! What happened to the excitement?

Jeb

I did a double-take driving into town this morning — I could have sworn I saw something odd about some Jeb Bush signs along the side of the road.

Sure enough, I was right — no exclamation mark!

A relic of happier, more exciting times?

A relic of happier, if not more exciting, times?

Apparently, for Jeb, the excitement is over. (Perhaps punctuation has been gone for some time and I’ve just noticed, but they’re still pushing it at his website.)

Come to think of it — was there ever a greater mismatch between a brand and the product? Even if things had gone as expected, and Jeb had cruised to an easy coronation, there was never going to be any excitement attaching to his candidacy.

It didn’t fit him personally, or the role he expected to play. Exclamation points are for insurgents. Trump! works, either because you’re excited about him or because you’re alarmed by him, as most normal folks are. A case could be made for Cruz!, along the same lines.

Viva Zapata!” made sense, both because he was a figure in a revolution — mean, the dude wore bandoliers of bullets across his chest — and because the Viva! antecedent demanded it.

But Jeb!? No way, at any time.

So they’ve come down to Earth and gotten more realistic with the message: “JEB: Tough. Tested. Ready.”

Will there be a third stage before he drops out (or is he out of time)?

Will we see signs that say, “Jeb: It’s time to settle.”?

SC upside-down: Haley for Rubio, McMaster for Trump

Haley back in 2010, with Sarah Palin

Haley back in 2010, with Sarah Palin. She’s definitely grown in office.

Nikki Haley got off the fence today and backed Marco Rubio (and not poor ol’ Jeb!) in Saturday’s primary, which goes to show how weird and volatile the Republican Party is in South Carolina these days.

Let’s step back a bit…

In 2010, Henry McMaster was the perfect Establishment candidate for governor: A Reagan man through-and-through, former party chairman, loyal backer of John McCain in 2008. But he was running in the year of the Tea Party, and he got swept aside by an inconsequential junior House member who suddenly (I had not seen these tendencies in her before) seemed to speak Tea Party as her native language.

Now, we have Henry standing beside Donald Trump and praising him in Orwellian Ministry of Truth terms (up is down; black is white; Trump is not a “bomb-thrower” or “impulsive;” and we have always been at war with Eastasia).

And Nikki Haley, who rode anti-Establishment sentiment to power, is swooping in to help the Great Establishment Hope, Marco Rubio. Yeah, back in the day Rubio was nearly as Tea Party as she was, but that is not who he is this year.

And, of course, that’s the key to why Nikki is backing him. She’s not that wide-eyed insurgent, either — to her everlasting credit. She has grown in office, and governs more and more like someone who knows what she is about. Which is why you’ll see me saying more and more good things about her, and especially about her leadership last summer.

In an earlier time, an increasingly Establishment Republican governor in South Carolina would have been backing the guy whose last name is Bush.

Carroll Campbell jumped in early for George H.W. Bush in 1988, and played a huge role in Bush winning the S.C. primary, the nomination, and the White House. I called his former chief of staff, Bob McAlister, to check my memory on that. Bob noted that the Campbell-Bush connection continues to be strong: “Iris and the boys endorsed Jeb” just the other day.

But that was then and this is now, and Rubio seems a more attractive brand for a governor asserting her Establishment bona fides.

So given who Nikki Haley is now, the direction in which she has grown, this endorsement makes perfect sense.

But don’t ask me about the McMaster/Trump thing. That doesn’t begin to make any sense…

Donald Trump embraces the left’s ‘Bush lied’ lie. How is this going to play here in South Carolina?

My last post arose from Marco Rubio’s response to what Donald Trump said over the weekend, at that debate I had to stop watching.

Basically, Trump repeated the left’s “Bush lied” lie:

“You call it whatever you want. I wanna tell you. They lied…They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

It’s fascinating how starkly that belief continues to divide us, in terms of our perceptions of reality. The Post‘s Richard Cohen wrote:

Of all the surprises, of all the unexpected ironies, of all the unanticipated turns in the Republican presidential race, it’s possible that Donald Trump has been hurt by telling the truth. Trump himself must be reeling from such a development and has probably by now vowed to return to lying and bluster seasoned with personal insult — “You’re a loser” — but the fact remains that when he called the war in Iraq “a big, fat mistake,” he was exactly right. Jeb Bush, the very good brother of a very bad president, has now turned legitimate criticism of George W. Bush into an attack on his family. His family survived the war. Countless others did not.

Hey, at least he called Jeb a “very good brother,” right?

But it fell to The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board to state what really happened, and what did not. As to Trump’s “They lied” assertion:

Despite years of investigation and countless memoirs, there is no evidence for this claim. None. The CIA director at the time, George Tenet, famously called evidence of WMD in Iraq a “slam dunk.” Other intelligence services, including the British, also believed Saddam Hussein had such programs. After the first Gulf War in 1991 the CIA had been surprised to learn that Saddam had far more WMD capability than it had thought. So it wasn’t crazy to suspect that Saddam would attempt to rebuild it after he had expelled United Nations arms inspectors in the late 1990s.

President Bush empowered a commission, led by former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb and federal Judge Laurence Silberman, to dig into the WMD question with access to intelligence and officials across the government. The panel included Patricia Wald, a former chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals appointed by Jimmy Carter, and Richard Levin, president of Yale University at the time.

Their report of more than 600 pages concludes that it was the CIA’s “own independent judgments—flawed though they were—that led them to conclude Iraq had active WMD programs.” The report adds that “the Commission found no evidence of political pressure” to alter intelligence findings: “Analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter their analytical judgments.”…

The Journal‘s headline for that editorial was “Donald Trump’s MoveOn.org Moment.” Indeed. Once again, the extremes meet.

The big question this week is, as W. comes to South Carolina — which has been solid Bush country since 1988 (although not so much in 1980) — to help his brother out, how is Trump’s rant going to play here on Saturday?

Everyone’s asking that question.

In a rational world, it would sink Trump’s chances completely. But when in the past year have you seen the phenomenon of Trump fandom respond to anything resembling reason? Actual Republicans would likely react to this latest by saying Trump’s gone too far. But do you think “Trump supporters” and “Republicans” are the same set of people?

Add to that the fact that the GOP electorate in South Carolina hasn’t entirely been itself since it caught the Tea Party fever in 2010, and the effect of this particular rant may turn out to be a wash. Things are so messed up this year, I’m not going to try to make a prediction…

Um… Folks, choosing a president was already a weighty thing. The death of a justice did not make it more so…

Paul Krugman has it half right here:

Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos.

In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.

In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.

He’s absolutely right that there’s something seriously wrong when the whole political system goes ape over a vacancy on the Supreme Court. He is absurdly wrong in suggesting that this is somehow completely the fault of the Republicans. See “Bork as a verb” and “Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Nomination.” While the Republicans are definitely outrageously dysfunctional, and their assertion that the president shouldn’t nominate in this situation is sheer lunacy, they did not invent making a circus of the nomination process. At least, they didn’t do it alone; they had very enthusiastic help from the Democrats.

Krugman, like Bud, utterly rejects this truth: “Second, it’s really important not to engage in false symmetry: only one of our two major political parties has gone off the deep end.”

But let’s talk about the half of what Krugman said that is right.

Ever since Saturday, I’ve been seeing and hearing something… eccentric… in coverage of the death of Scalia and its aftermath.

There is this suggestion out there that now that there’s a Supreme Court vacancy, suddenly this election is serious. Now we’re going to see more money given, more heightened rhetoric, a sense on both sides that the stakes have gone up…

Say what? Um… the election of the president of the United States, in whose hands all executive authority is concentrated, is and always was a bigger deal than filling a vacancy of one-ninth of the Supreme Court.

In fact, if both parties respected the rule of law (as Mr. Krugman seems to think Democrats do), the selection of justices should not be an electoral issue at all. If presidents and senators simply looked at qualifications (as some, such as our own Lindsey Graham, still do), it would be insane to talk about the kinds of nominees a presidential candidate would put forward in partisan terms. Actually, it is insane to frame something so secularly sacrosanct in such terms. But that’s what we do now, every time…