Trumpism Corrupts, Christie Edition
February 29th, 2016


Of all the guys running for the GOP nomination, Chris Christie is the last one you expected to see getting told to go get his shinebox. And yet, here’s the video of Trump dismissively telling Christie to “get on the plane and go home” half a second after the fat man stood in front of a crowd and humiliated himself by endorsing Trump.

And that wasn’t even the most humiliating moment of Christie’s weekend. You have to watch the full, excruciating eleven minutes of Christie’s ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos. There’s tons of video with Christie crushing Trump and then, asked how he could endorse the guy, Christie having literally no answer except that he thinks Trump could maybe create jobs.

It’s the most embarrassing interview I’ve ever seen. Way, way worse than the Sarah Palin 60 Minutes interview in 2008. Especially odd is how Christie refers to Trump–100 percent of the time–as “Mr. Trump.” This isn’t mere formal courtesy. Christie says he’s known Trump for more than a decade. Says he’s a friend. All through the primaries as a candidate, Christie called him “Donald.” And suddenly everything is “Mr. Trump” this and “Mr. Trump” that. Obviously this is a directive from Trump HQ. It’s the only possible explanation.

And now, Christie is holding a press conference to talk about judges in New Jersey and he strictly forbids any questions about the man he endorsed for president 48 hours ago. Literally forbids it: Asked a question about his endorsement, Christie responds, “Permission denied.” This from the guy who was the ask-me-anything, tell-it-like-it-is straight talker of 2016.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, after being pretty sympathetic for several months, it’s now become clear that Trumpism corrupts.

It’s now clear that embracing Trumpism requires total abasement and complicity with the entire Trump program–the conspiracy theories, the lies, the egomania, and the bad policy ideas, too. You can’t just be for the wall or for America firstism. You can’t just do it to flip off the asshat GOP donor class. You have to kneel before Zod.

It’s possible that there will never be a reckoning for Quisling conservatives such as Christie. But it’s also possible that there will.

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Trump squeals like a pig
February 26th, 2016


How about that debate?

I have some thoughts about it over at TWS. My big take-away is that last night Cruz and Rubio laid out the blueprint for destroying Trump: He’s a liar and a con artist who does not tell it like it is but rather has spent 50 years playing people for chumps. Also, he’s an orange-tinted, stubby-fingered old man with a dye-job. He’s ridiculous. And a wussy.

So that’s the blueprint. All the lines of attack are clear: The Trump tax returns—which I suspect he will never release, because they (a) contain all sorts of fishy stuff and (b) confirm his biggest no-go zone, which is his less-than-advertized wealth. The Trump University case—which is pending litigation for fraud. His extensive use of illegal labor. All of this cuts directly against his persona and—just as important—all of these are live stories with reporting to be done. With Cruz and Rubio making them an issue, the media will finally start to dig on Trump. And as the real media find things, the broadcast media will be forced to ask Trump about the findings. Which will, in turn, cause him to cut back on his free-media appearances.

But here’s the big caution: Trump cannot be destroyed in a day. Or a week. It will require a disciplined, prolonged counter-offensive from the Cruz and Rubio campaigns as well as outside money from conservative donors. This isn’t rocket science: Cruz basically laid out scripts for Super PAC attack ads from behind the podium. But disassembling Trump will take time and resources.

I think Cruz and Rubio understand this now. The big danger is that when Trump romps on March 1—and he’s probably going to run the table—he and his media enablers will try to argue that none of the attacks worked, the race is over, etc.

And this will be a smokescreen. Taking apart Trump’s structural supports will take more than 120 hours. He will win big on March 1 but that will not—will not—be indicative of a failure of the broader anti-Trump strategy and Cruz, Rubio, and outside conservative groups will have to buck the media narrative and push on.

The window here is not March 1. It’s March 29.

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The Worm Turns on Trump
February 19th, 2016


After spending months being anti-anti-Trump–or more accurately, anti-anti-Trumpism–I’ve finally come around this week. And oddly enough, it was because of Trump’s debate performance on Saturday when he insisted that George W. Bush lied America into the Iraq war. What’s odd about this, of course, is that I’ve always been pretty anti-Bush and skeptical (at best) of Iraq. So my rooting interest on this isn’t in defending the Bush administration, which I regard as a large-scale failure.

It also isn’t that I’ve suddenly realized Trump is a stubby-fingered vulgarian–that’s been clear since the start, too.

What got me was the way Trump’s supporters went into full-scale denial and rally-round-the-Trump over this insane charge. If Trumpism causes people to turn into zombie idiots, then nuts to that.

Back during the NFL players strike, Steve Czaban had a great riff about what it was like signing up to the defend the players union. It’s like joining a motorcycle gang, he said. You might just be joining because you like the jackets or because you enjoy riding your Harley with like-minded enthusiasts on Saturdays. And both of those aspects are part of the gang. But you’re also signing up with a bunch of criminals.

And it strikes me that it turns out that it’s basically the same with Trumpism. You might come for the border security and anti-PC sentiments and America-firstism. But that also means joining arms with know-nothings like Scott Brown and Sara Palin, who willingly subsume their own critical faculties for the sake of being on Team Donald.

That’s exactly what’s happened with Trump’s “Bush lied” line:

(1) Success in the 2016 Republican party no longer requires candidates to support the Iraq war, specifically, or the Bush 43 Freedom Agenda generally, as a price of entry. There is plenty of room for candidates who think that the Iraq war was a mistake. Or a poor judgment call. Or even a fifty-fifty proposition that ended badly.

(Conversely, there’s also plenty of room for candidates who defend the Iraq war and argue that, for all his faults, Bush had the situation basically under control by 2008-and that it was President Obama who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.)

But what you can’t do is take the MoveOn.org, Code Pink, Michael Moore, maximalist position that President Bush knowingly “lied” to the world in order to foment the war.

(2) Why not? Well, for one thing, the charge is incorrect.

(3) For another, it suggests you’re unhinged. Look: As far as national security goes, it would actually be comforting to think that Bush “lied” America into war. It would suggest that we have a massively competent intelligence agency capable of conducting an enormous operation, in broad daylight, with total and impermeable compartmentalization and secrecy. It would mean that our CIA was run by a bunch of hyper-competent Jason Bourne clones.

As it is, the truth is much more worrisome: That we had two massive intelligence failures-the 9/11 attacks and Iraq WMDs-within a year of one another. And this was either or the result of a not-Jason-Bourne levels of competence, or the practical limits of what intelligence can know. Neither of those options is especially comforting in contemplating our future.

So people who buy into “Bush lied” aren’t even worst-case-scenario pessimists. They’re partisan zealots and conspiracy-theorist cranks.

(4) Now, every political movement has partisan zealots and conspiracy-theorist cranks. And sometimes a politician has to pander to them. But on Saturday, Trump was pandering to the guys on the other side. In the Republican primaries there are no votes-not even Rand Paul votes-to be had from Trump’s position. (And don’t try selling me the Limbaugh, reverse “Operation Chaos” line. Even he doesn’t actually believe that.)

(5) If this was an isolated incident, maybe Trump could move past it. But the problem is that “Bush lied” fits with a pattern: Support of Planned Parenthood;eager acceptance of Obergefell;a “great relationship” with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.Now he’s being applauded by Code Pink?

At some point voters are going to start to wonder whether Trump is really a Reaganite late-convert bent on bringing populist nationalism to a corrupt Republican establishment-or just Alan Grayson with more money and a hard-line immigration fetish.

(6) Taking the “Bush lied” position puts Trump’s surrogates and talk-radio supporters in a tight spot. Are they supposed to defend him? Agree with him? Plead the Fifth? That’s what Scott Brown tried to do over the weekend. I very much doubt he’ll be volunteering to go on TV and face questions about this in order to support Trump at any point in the future.

How about Sarah Palin? Does she believe that George W. Bush knowingly lied to America? I wonder if she’ll be eager to answer this question publicly.

The people on talk radio who’ve been playing footsy with Trump don’t have the luxury of keeping quiet. They’re going to have to figure out how to square this circle pretty quickly. (Which is what Limbaugh was trying to sell with his ridiculous theory.)

(7) But those are the people already on the hook for supporting Trump. How about all of the prospective Trump endorsers? Allahpundit argued last week that Chris Christie’s smartest play would be to come out for Trump, be an effective surrogate, and then hope for the AG slot.

That’s probably impossible now. Christie can’t sign up with a “Bush lied” guy. And anyone who currently holds elective office and has to face voters again would be crazy to hop on the Trump train now. It’s just too big a risk. Why put your career on the line?

(8) Some version of this probably holds for prospective Trump voters. It’s possible that people who are already supporting Trump will find some way to rationalize/accept/downplay his statements. (I’m skeptical of that myself; I actually think he’s likely to start bleeding support.) Even if they stand fast, this makes it much harder for Trump to consolidate other candidate’s supporters as the race goes on. With negatives already at 1-to-1, he just lowered his ceiling.

Anyway, that was the first movement of my face-turn. Here’s part two, on the corruptions of Trumpism. And here’s me calling for the power-bomb.

16 comments


Chris Christie Goes in the Backdoor
February 9th, 2016


One last bit of reporting from New Hampshire, where Christie has gone full-kamikaze. If Donald Trump or Jeb Bush wind up as the nominee (both unlikely, in my view) Christie will get the credit. That said, if Rubio was the Great Hope, then he’d figure out a way beat this thing. If he can’t, then he isn’t.

Also, someone was going to hit Rubio with that attack. Better sooner than later; better another Republican than a Democrat.

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From the Snows of New Hampshire
February 8th, 2016


I (kind of) fall in love with Bernie Sanders.

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Rubio on the Morning After
February 8th, 2016


A quick report from Rubio World yesterday, with the optimistic and pessimistic cases for what the debate means for him in New Hampshire.

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Reasons Twitter is Awesome
February 7th, 2016


Yesterday I was a shill for Rubio. Today I’m a shill for Trump.

Can’t wait until everyone moves on to Snapchat.

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Jeb!
February 6th, 2016


Went to see Jeb! this morning. Ugh.

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