Fair and Unbalanced

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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Donald Trump

There are two kinds of Trump speeches. There’s the teleprompter, sort-of-on-message, actually-has-a-topic-line speech, and there’s the unscripted, off-topic, meandering, no-message-whatsoever, let-Trump-be-Trump speech.

If you watched — I’m out of town, so I had to watch the stream — you know that we got lucky.

Trump came to Colorado for the Western Conservative Summit in full-on Trump mode. If there had been a narcissism meter, it would have exploded. He said he wrote his speech on the plane ride into town. And so it began, with Trump complaining once again how the Colorado caucuses were rigged — by completely misstating how they worked. He came back to it — let’s just say it’s a sore point, even now — at least three more times. It was an exercise in the art of not knowing your crowd, many of whom surely participated in the Colorado caucuses.

And from there it went, well, where every other unscripted Trump speech goes, from the unreal to the surreal, concentrating less on the election ahead (since he can’t really talk about non-Rasmussen polls) and more on all the primaries he had won months before. He barely mentioned Clinton, who is, I’m pretty sure, his presumptive opponent.

Because it’s my job, I’ve seen many of Trump’s speeches in their entirety. But I’m guessing that most of the crowd at the Summit had not. The hall was not nearly full. The reception was, well, lukewarmish. This was no surprise: The Summit speaking roster includes a decent share of #NeverTrumpists like Ben Sasse and Erick Erickson.

Trump segued, in his style, from one topic to another, from (not necessarily in order; it was hard to keep up): getting jobbed in the Louisiana primary, to building the Mexican wall, to ISIS dreaming of a “weak” Hillary Clinton being president, to his secret plan to “knock the hell” out of ISIS, to ISIS laughing at us because they chop off heads and we won’t water-board them, to the trade deficit with China, to how the NRA is synonymous with Colorado, to promising a “tremendous victory” in Colorado, although admitting that the polls in Colorado were close but that we shouldn’t worry because Trump would be back campaigning in the state, a lot.

If you don’t count the protesters (who were outside) and the crazed Trumpistas (who apparently weren’t in the hall, either), it was a pretty normal Trump event.

Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t lucky enough to get a classic Trump ad-lib like the one Thursday in New Hampshire, where he suggested that a plane flying overhead was the Mexicans attacking. (Those Mexican planes, we should add, would never get over that wall, which will be a really, really high wall.)

Or someone asking from the crowd whether Trump would do something about those TSA employees wearing “heeby jobbies,” apparently referring to hijabs worn by some Muslim women working security at airports. Trump said it was something “we are looking at,” as if he’d get to it right after he finished banning Muslims from immigrating to America.

But the those looking for Trumpisms did get this: Someone — apparently a Turkish reporter sitting in the photographer’s gallery — interrupted a part of Trump’s speech where he was talking about America’s relation to other countries by asking him to say something about Turkey.

“Are you from Turkey, sir?” Trump asked. Trump then went on to say he has a “very nice job” working in Turkey because that is apparently the limit of what he knows about most countries.

Then Trump asked the reporter, “Friend or foe?” And to the crowd: “I think he’s friend.”

And so it goes.

Trump often asks the friend-or-foe line, and while asking someone from a majority-Muslim, strong-ally country is one thing, he certainly had to be wary of what he might find in Colorado, where Ted Cruz swept the “rigged” caucuses, and where some of the delegates are leading the fading anti-Trump fight at the convention.

All you had to do was check out the Republican candidates who weren’t there to greet Trump.  Mike Coffman made news this week by releasing a spot in which people in the most-diverse crowd ever seen in a GOP campaign ad said things like “he’s one of us” and “not like other politicians,” and, more to the point, “not like other Republicans.”

Clearly, the Republican being referenced was Donald Trump, who’s definitely not like many of us.

Meanwhile, a national Fox News poll reported that more than half of Republicans wished they had a candidate other than Trump.

And in the latest in a longish series of Republican anti-Trump op-eds, Marc Racicot, former Montana governor and RNC chair, wrote in The Washington Post that he couldn’t support Trump and that he offered his “prayer for a second miracle in Cleveland.”

It’s getting late for miracles, but it wasn’t too late for Sarah Palin to out-Trump the man himself in her own rambling warm up speech for Trump. She called Republicans against Trump a “RAT” and averred that no one was calling Trump a racist before he decided to run for president (perhaps forgetting that whole birther thing), capping it off with a stone-cold Palinism. She was on a panel the week before and she told them, she said, “You know, it’s really funny to me to see the splodey heads keep sploding over this movement.”

Splodey heads keep sploding. And if you want to know why, you can watch the entire Trump speech on YouTube.

glenn

OK, now that self-declared Christian conservative constitutionalist Darryl Glenn is officially the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate, it seems we can officially retire the Cory Gardner playbook on how Republicans win in Colorado.

I thought at the time, when Gardner became the first Republican top-of-the-ticket winner in Colorado in a decade, that it was a one-off. But, I’ll confess, I didn’t know just how off it would be.

As a candidate, Glenn is the ultimate anti-Gardner. He’s got the smile — the one that Gardner used so effectively to put a moderate face on a hard-right voting record — but that’s where it ends. Glenn doesn’t dance around the abortion issue. He’s a no-exceptions guy. He’s not coy about Supreme Court litmus tests. He says he’ll work to see that Ted Cruz (honest to God) gets the job. He doesn’t go for the I’m-not-a-scientist dodge on climate change. He plainly says he doesn’t believe human activity is responsible.

He’s not just out there. They ought to play “Rocket Man” at his campaign events.

In the minutes after the five-man race to take on Michael Bennet was called for Glenn, the argument on my Twitter feed was whether he’d be the most conservative Senate nominee in Colorado history, or just in recent memory.

In swing-state Colorado, you win from the middle. That’s the way it is in most states, but in Colorado, it’s kind of an obsession. We like to talk about the Colorado way, whatever that is. What I mean is, when The Denver Post endorsed Gardner over Mark Udall, it predicted, somewhat embarrassingly, that we should select Gardner because he would be a leader in ending Washington dysfunction.

Glenn, meanwhile, is actually for Washington dysfunction. Seriously. Maybe you’ve seen his quote that he’s tired of hearing that Republicans should work across the aisle. That was bad enough. But then I saw him in action in a post-election interview with 9News’ Brandon Rittiman.

Rittiman asked Glenn, the little-known El Paso County commissioner, what people should know about him. Sure, it wasn’t exactly the toughest question, but somehow the answer still went sideways.

After raising hardly any money at all for his primary run, Glenn said he was now looking for small donors who could trust him to do the right thing. So far, so good. But then: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, independent (and here he pauses, shakes his head and then proceeds), you know the one thing that matters is the fact that I’m going to represent you.”

You might have noticed that he didn’t say he would represent you if you were a Democrat. He tried. He did pause. It seemed as if he considered saying the word, but couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. Of course, he’s not even so sure about Republicans. He has already vowed he wouldn’t vote to re-elect Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, just in case anyone thought Washington-establishment Republicans were going to send any money Glenn’s way (for the record, they’re not).

Yeah, he’s that kind of Republican – the kind supported by Ted Cruz, who campaigned for him, by Sarah Palin, by the remnants of the Tea Party, by 37 percent of Colorado Republicans choosing among a field of also-rans, the kind who says he’d be happy to join Donald Trump on stage this week when Trump comes to town.

It was a strange race from the beginning. It is said, in virtually every reference, that Bennet is the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in this Senate cycle. That would have been meaningful if the GOP could have found a top-tier candidate to oppose him. Instead, the establishment was forced to get behind Jon Keyser. I don’t have to detail the disaster of his campaign except to say that his Great Dane, Duke, will be remembered long after Keyser is forgotten.

None of the Republicans ever got any traction, even within the Republican electorate, until the end when the far right decided to adopt Glenn, who was ready-made for them. And now Democrats are beside themselves. They don’t know which Glenn quote to use first in which attack ad.

I’ve said a few times that John Hickenlooper was the luckiest man since Ringo, but I’m thinking of pushing Bennet up to the front of the line. In his first election, he got to run against Ken Buck, whom he successfully painted, with not a little help from Buck himself, as a right-wing extremist. But you don’t need to do any embellishment with Glenn. As he says, he’s unapologetic. As The Washington Post said, in a story after his primary win, he’s also the Republican Party’s latest mistake in a national Senate campaign that can’t afford any mistakes.

Of course Glenn needed a few minor miracles just to win the Republican nomination. No one thought he could do it. He had no name ID. He had no money. But he did win, and you can’t blame him if he thinks he can win in the general election, even if no one else does. After all, maybe there’s a trend there. Or maybe the more important trend ended with the last page of the Cory Gardner playbook.

trump

If I read my Twitter feed correctly, the lesson that Americans should take from Brexit is not that the European project has been turned on its head — I mean, who cares about old Europe? — but that the American project could be next.

The message is at least twofold:

One: We should take Donald Trump’s anti-establishment, anti-globalization, anti-elite, anti-immigrant campaign very seriously. Xenophobia has clearly won the day in Britain, just as it did in the Republican presidential primary. Why not in November?

Two: It is impossible to take anything about Donald Trump seriously. And this, I fear, may be the more dangerous message.

Trump didn’t know what Brexit was a few weeks ago. Yet as the dawn breaks upon a new world, he is in Scotland, not to celebrate the movement to which he has attached himself, but to cut ribbons at two golf courses he has purchased. In the middle of a chaotic presidential campaign, Trump took time out for a business trip. And if that’s never happened before, get used to it. A lot of things are happening that have never happened before.

If you think Trump should put his business interests in some sort of trust, as presidential candidates tend to do, you might as well ask him to erase the name “Trump” emblazoned across his helicopter. Trump is his business interests.

“Basically, they took back their country,” Trump said of the Brexit vote from the ninth hole of venerable Turnberry golf course — that traditional news-conference destination — where there were several bagpipers there to greet him. “That’s a good thing.”

Asked why people voted for Brexit, he said, “People are angry. All over the world they’re angry … They are angry over borders, they are angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even noticing. They are angry about many, many things.”

When asked where the anger is greatest, he said, “U.K. U.S. There’s lots of other places. This will not be the last.”

He’s right, sort of. The anger is everywhere.

Working class people are getting the shaft in a globalized world, making the market just right for a politician/demagogue to come along selling anger and fear. Or rather, in the case of the Donald, selling a venerable golf course and its formerly run-down hotel — which, he explained, the Trump family has gone to great expense to restore to its former grandeur. Making Britain’s golf courses great again.

When asked about the pound’s plunge as the financial markets have really taken the Brexit vote seriously, Trump came right to the point: “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

Yes, he did.

He thus made the pivot from a brief statement about Brexit to a discourse on Turnberry’s new watering system and renovations. He didn’t mention that, though the watering system is improved, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the European Union and may now move toward another vote to leave the United Kingdom.

It wasn’t just Scotland that voted to stay. Northern Ireland voted to stay. Young people voted to stay. Londoners voted to stay. As the “remain” people had put it, Great Britain could go back to being Little England.

Nobody really knows what will come of Brexit. The move from the EU will go slowly and may not be nearly as dramatic as the vote itself. Members of Parliament are largely in the “stay” camp and are likely, if Europe goes along, to want to keep ties as close as possible. But it could also mean other EU countries line up to leave. What we know is that things are different now. The economists pretty much uniformly predicted economic disaster for Britain if it voted to leave. The majority of voters either didn’t believe the experts or didn’t care.

Voting against the experts — you know, like the ones who believe the sea levels might rise sufficiently to damage Trump’s Scottish investments — is Trump’s recommended course of action, no matter what impact it has, say, on your retirement account.

Trump’s campaign may be in disarray. His poll numbers may have plummeted. The risk that the British economy might tank could put the Trump project at risk. And yet he scoffed at the idea that he needed advisers to help him work through the ramifications of Brexit. When asked by reporters if members of his foreign policy team were traveling with him, he said, according to the Washington Post, that “there’s nothing to talk about.”

Of course, people can talk of little else. The Supreme Court non-decision on Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan ensured that immigration would be at the heart of the presidential campaign. The fact that Britain went all Tom Tancredo on immigration can hardly be ignored. It is more important even than the tanking of stock markets. The fact that the British “leave” campaign was based in racism is more important than Trump’s made-for-SNL-mockery business trip.

In a statement before his news conference, Trump wrote this: “Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by, and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.”

He hopes America is watching.

You should hope so, too.

Photo credit: Trump Documentary TV, Creative Commons, Google Images

Trump

For those keeping score at home, we are back to the Donald-Trump-is-doomed phase of the game.

It should be familiar to all of us by now. Trump says something so offensive — or several things so offensive — that he reveals himself, at last, as the dangerous demagogue/carnival barker that he surely is. Republican leaders either condemn him while still vowing their support (see: Ryan, Paul) or they slink away unheard and unseen (see: Gardner, Cory).

And in each case, just when you think that Trump’s campaign must implode, it doesn’t. Somehow, instead, he has marched triumphantly past 16 Republican challengers, and without benefit of anyone whispering sic transit gloria mundi into his ear, although Chris Christie does apparently whisper his offer to get the boss a Big Mac.

But this time is different, because it has to be. Because a general election is different from a primary. Because GOP donors are backing away from him. Because top Republicans won’t work for him. Because, come on. This is Donald Trump running for president.

And look at the polls. A Washington Post/ABC News poll says 7 in 10 Americans view the Donald negatively and 56 percent view him strongly negatively. He had pulled even in the polls with Hillary Clinton — whose negatives are very high, but not nearly that high — a few weeks ago but now trails her, according to the Real Clear Politics poll of polls, by around 5 percentage points.

As one who once predicted Trump would drop out before the first vote was cast in Iowa, I want to believe that this really is the end. But, as Paul Ryan once said, I’m not there yet. After all, we’ve been here before.

I mean, when John McCain, the intermittently noble and ignoble Arizona senator who is desperate again to get re-elected, says Obama is “directly responsible” for the Orlando attack, you see McCain and yet you hear Donald Trump. And even though McCain said he “misspoke” after the reaction to his comment was at least 56 percent strongly negative, he basically revised his statement to say Obama was indirectly responsible. Trump may be losing, but he’s still winning.

This past week tells us everything. When everyone should be focused on the victims and on why they were killed, we are still talking about Donald Trump, who turns every story into one about him.

It has been, of course, a time of unspeakable tragedy. It is a time in which normal people do sadly normal things in abnormal times — they mourn the dead in Orlando, they comfort the living, they search desperately for answers. They remind us that gay Americans, even in this time of advance in gay rights, are still being routinely targeted. They remind us of the dangers of a sick mind hardened by internet strains of a sick ideology who still has access to lethal weapons.

And then there’s Donald Trump. Coming off one of the low points of his low-point-ridden campaign, in which he had questioned the fairness of an Indiana-born “Mexican” judge, Trump went full McCarthy. He doubled down on his Muslim-ban approach to radical Islam, which is to keep them all out, even though Omar Mateen was born, like Trump, in Queens. He casually conflates refugees with terrorists and says, apocalyptically, that if Muslims keep coming, “everything will be gone.” Meanwhile, he blames American Muslims for shielding terrorists in their community. “They know what’s going on,” he says, without any evidence whatsoever. And he tops it all off by giving his later birther-offshoot, saying that Obama is the Manchurian Muslim who is either sympathetic to or in league with the terrorists. In other words, the one-time birther-in-chief now accuses Obama of treason.

“He doesn’t get it,” Trump says, “or he gets it better than anyone understands.” Yes, he says that. He says “something is going on,” and he’s right. Trump is the would-be leader who thinks empathy is a sucker’s game.

It’s fear-mongering at a historic level. You’ve seen and heard this stuff before, from back-bench Republicans, on Fox News or talk radio, on the conspiracy-infected internet fringes, but Trump has become Trump by saying these things aloud, with the presumption being that this is what Americans actually believe and were just waiting to hear from a leader with the nerve to speak the words.

And the presumption worked, to the point that he is now the presumptive Republican nominee. (Those who think Republicans are going to somehow still dump him in Cleveland are living in a dream world. Does anyone really believe Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are about to lead a revolution? They know the party regulars who voted for Trump would destroy them and the party if they tried — although you could argue that doing nothing may amount to the same thing.)

The conventional wisdom is that Trumpism is a violent strain of the Republican Party that its leaders have let loose. But the question now is whether Trumpism will spread. He won’t pivot. He won’t change. He’ll play the fear card until he’s used every card in the deck, and then he’ll just reshuffle. Fear has always sold well, and there’s never been a media platform so conducive to making the sale. In fact, this campaign is nothing so much as a cheap Hollywood thriller in which the world veers toward apocalypse, except that there’s no obvious hero to save the day.

Obama would play the part, but he is, of course, a lame duck.  George W. Bush, who has said he’s befuddled by Trump, has returned to work for vulnerable down-ticket Republicans, who fear Trump will take them all down. Gary Johnson is the third-party candidate a few libertarian-style Republicans (and Democrats) will support. George Will would lead the intellectual right and says that conservatives need to ensure that Trump loses all 50 states in order to save the movement. Elizabeth Warren is running a scorched-earth campaign against Trump, matching him taunt for taunt on Twitter. And Hillary Clinton is, of course, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who knows that her path to victory is to make this election a referendum on Trump.

It will be a referendum on Trump. He’ll make sure of that. At this point, predicting anything else means you haven’t been paying attention.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr

The predictability of Donald Trump’s reaction to the horror in Orlando does not make it any less shocking.

As you must have heard, and probably still can’t quite absorb, the man who would be (and, yes, could be) president took the opportunity to make the deaths of 50 people somehow all about him. No tragedy, it appears, is too horrible for Trump to personally exploit.

The offending tweet — just one of many by Trump — showed up soon after the news of the terror attack in Orlando. The attack proved, he said, that he was “right” about something, although it’s still not clear what, and that he appreciated “the congrats” on his wisdom. It would have been just another day hammering away on Twitter except that Trump wrote this in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in American history: the horrific attack on an LGBT nightclub.

Here’s the tweet in full: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

I’m not sure which is more troubling — the utter lack of empathy or the tone of self-congratulation as a nation mourned its dead. Or maybe it’s this: That in this moment of grief, we are forced to imagine a President Trump.

The shooter, Omar Mateen, was a New York-born son of Afghan immigrants. As Mateen began his night of terror, he called 911 to tell an operator that he was pledging his loyalty to ISIS. That, apparently, was all Trump had to hear. It’s unclear whether this was an ISIS operation or a so-called lone wolf operation or what exactly motivated Mateen, but the unclear parts didn’t seem to faze Trump. Nor did the fact that this was an assault aimed directly at the gay community. That gays were targeted, that ISIS has its own terrible record of homophobic atrocities, was clearly at the heart of this attack, which, as Barack Obama said, was an attack on American values.

In a short speech, Obama called the shootings an act of terror and an act of hate while lamenting, once again, a nation’s unwillingness to face up to the crisis of gun violence. We have seen this Obama before. We have seen it too many times. We have seen too many disturbed young men with easy access to assault-style guns and the carnage that follows.

And we have also seen this Trump before. He said that Obama’s unwillingness to say the words “radical Islam” meant he should resign and that a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean many “hundreds of thousands” of Middle Eastern migrants coming to our shores. He didn’t have to mention that these migrants/supposedly-would-be-terrorists could easily and legally arm themselves.

In a statement, Trump would explain: “If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”

Trump believes the tough, smart course is his proposal — or, as he sometimes calls it, his suggestion — to temporarily ban Muslims. As Trump noted in another tweet, “I called it and asked for the ban.”

Yes, he actually said he called it, as if he’d called that the next pitch was going to be a screwball. At the risk of being politically correct, I should note that a ban would have had exactly no impact on the Orlando attack since Mateen was born in America. As James Fallows points out in The Atlantic, in a series he calls the “Trump Time Capsule,” Trump’s ban could have worked only if it had retroactively banned Mateen’s parents from immigrating decades ago or if Trump meant to expel those American citizens who now happen to be Muslim.

You’d have thought universal Muslim bashing might be a harder sell in the days so soon after Muhammad Ali’s death, but, of course, this is the same Trump who has been reeling from his attack on a judge for being “Mexican,” even though the “Mexican” was born in Indiana. Faced with the “Indiana” problem, Trump said that wherever the judge was born, his “Mexican heritage” precluded him from judging Trump fairly.

Many Republican leaders were forced to concede that Trump’s attack on the judge was racist, even as they said they’d still vote for him. Many of those same leaders had previously hit Trump for his completely unenforceable, un-American, religious-test Muslim ban. What will they say now if Trump doubles down?

Whatever else we know about the terror in Orlando, we know that it changes the political narrative. We just don’t know how. Clinton followed Obama’s speech with a statement that also called the attack an act of terror and an act of hate. She told the LGBT community that they had “millions of allies” across America and that she was one of them. Trump, meanwhile, is scheduled to give a speech today that was originally previewed as an attack on all he finds wrong with the Clintons. But following the Orlando attacks, he now says he will also talk about national security, so the stakes for the speech could hardly be higher.

What Trump will say is anyone’s guess. But there can be little doubt that he will appreciate the congrats from the Trumpists after he says it.

Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue, Creative Commons, Flickr