The End of It

Cleveland is over, but not really. Their basketball team, the Cavaliers, finally won it all, and their baseball team, the Indians, leads its division this year. They’re pretty good. The football team, the Browns, is once again hopeless – but two out of three ain’t bad. The city itself is fine too – the river no longer catches fire and they have that Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame thing going for them. Cleveland isn’t over, the Republican National Convention is finally over – everyone has gone home – and maybe the Republican Party is over too. It may have died in Cleveland. There was a bit of a firestorm there. The party couldn’t keep on message. The first day it was the plagiarism scandal, not keeping America safe. The second day it was Hillary-bashing that got a bit out of hand, not getting America back to work with good jobs for everyone. The third day – the Meet Mike Pence Day – had little to do with Trump’s somewhat obscure running mate. Ted Cruz told everyone to vote their conscience, and not for Donald Trump. He was booed off stage and escorted from the room, but the damage was done. The final night, Donald Trump had to save the day, and the week. He shouted out one of the longest acceptance speeches ever, about how the world was awful, and how America was falling apart, and how every nation on earth was laughing at us, and how our laws and traditions were useless, and only he could save us. Just give him the power to bypass everything and he’d fix everything. That would take no more than a day.

The crowd roared. Others were a bit worried – this was pretty high up there on the Nuremburg Scale. We’d seen the movies of the rallies there, long ago. Others wondered what happened to their Republican Party, but at least they could turn to Fox News. Bill or Sean or Megyn would explain it all, but suddenly things were different there too. In the middle of the convention, Roger Ailes, the man who created and built Fox News, and who made all the editorial decisions, for all of its twenty years, suddenly resigned. The sexual harassment claims had piled up. He quit before they had to ask him to leave.

This was a bad week on the conservative side of things. In fact, Richard Wolffe – the Brit who was a senior executive at MSNBC for ten years (Ailes started that when it was first called “America’s Talking”) – writes in the Guardian that Roger Ailes built Fox News and the Republican Party and now both are crumbling in plain sight:

This is a radical time in American politics: a time the pundits and elected politicians thought would never come. After two decades of populist anger, the elderly rebels of Pat Buchanan’s pitchfork army finally stormed the barricades of the establishment and hoisted an orange leader atop the smoking rubble.

So there was clearly no better way to capture the sense of occasion than to hand the stage – and the primetime TV cameras – to a true statesman and model citizen, who could testify to Trump’s business acumen and personal ethics: Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship – because nothing truly captures the state of Trump’s Republican Party than a multimillion-dollar TV spectacle that revolves around a blood-soaked cage fight.

This has been an ugly week for American conservatives…

This is as ugly as it gets:

We are witnessing the Great Unravelling of the Republican Party. Its ideological intellectuals openly disdain and plot against the party’s nominee. Its elected officials are too busy to show up to their own party’s convention.

And now the conservative echo chamber itself is collapsing across the mainstream media it surely dominates.

The rapid demise of Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel is as seismic an event as Trump’s nomination. For Ailes ruled over a conservative media and political empire that stretched far beyond cable television.

Nixon’s former image-maker could make or break presidential campaigns, elected officials, TV anchors, talk radio and the pundit class. When Candidate Obama tried personally to woo Murdoch and Ailes in 2008, he found Murdoch far more reasonable than Ailes, who was convinced the young senator represented a mortal threat to the republic.

Ailes could single-handedly turn the Washington conversation from one concocted conspiracy to another: from the New Black Panther Party and death panels to Benghazi, destroying careers, the possibility of political compromise, and the mainstream Republican Party along the way. He left other news organizations in his wake, struggling to copy his commercial success with artificial news and freak show formats.

And now he’s gone:

Ailes has lost control of the empire he built at the same moment he lost control of the party he in effect controlled. Ailes was known to be close to John Kasich, the Ohio governor who lost badly to Trump and snubbed his home state convention this week. Somehow Ailes found himself outplayed by Trump: he clashed with Trump over Megyn Kelly, but ultimately needed him to drive Fox’s ratings ever higher.

That left no anchor, which was fitting:

If you watched Fox News on Tuesday morning, you would have no idea how the party Ailes built was tearing itself apart at the same time as his own network.

There was no extended discussion of the plagiarism scandal that had engulfed Melania Trump and her husband’s campaign. There was no explanation of how the Trumps lifted lines from the 2008 convention speech of the woman they had all spent eight years trashing on TV: Michelle Obama.

Plagiarism is, at its heart, about honesty. And the Trump campaign, constructed on trash talk passed off as straight talk, found it impossibly hard to tell the truth on Tuesday.

And the rest of the week was like that. Something was lost in the next three days, ending with Trump’s Only-One-Man Speech. The New York Times’ pleasant and thoughtful conservative, David Brooks, senses that is where the Republican Party actually ended:

Welcome to a world without rules. (I want you to read this paragraph in your super-scary movie trailer voice.) Welcome to a world in which families are mowed down by illegal immigrants, in which cops die in the streets, in which Muslims rampage the innocents and threaten our very way of life, in which the fear of violent death lurks in every human heart.

Sometimes in that blood-drenched world a dark knight arises. You don’t have to admire or like this knight. But you need this knight. He is your muscle and your voice in a dark, corrupt and malevolent world.

Such has been the argument of nearly every demagogue since the dawn of time. Aaron Burr claimed Spain threatened the US in 1806. A. Mitchell Palmer exaggerated the Red Scare in 1919 and Joe McCarthy did it in 1950.

And such was Donald Trump’s law-and-order argument in Cleveland on Thursday night. This was a compelling text that turned into more than an hour of humorless shouting. It was a dystopian message that found an audience and then pummeled them to exhaustion.

But it wasn’t an outlier:

This fear builds on the sense of loss that was the prevailing theme of this convention. We heard from a number of mothers who lost sons and siblings who lost brothers.

The argument takes the pervasive collection of anxieties that plague America and it concentrates them on the most visceral one: fear of violence and crime. Historically, this sort of elemental fear has proved to be contagious and it does move populations.

Finally, a law-and-order campaign calls upon the authoritarian personality traits that Donald Trump undoubtedly possesses.

Brooks knows he has lost his party:

The GOP used to be a party that aspired to a biblical ethic of private charity, graciousness, humility and faithfulness. Mitt Romney’s convention was lifted by stories of his kindness and personal mentorship.

Trump has replaced biblical commitments with a gladiator ethos. Everything is oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination. This was the Lock Her Up convention. A law-and-order campaign doesn’t ask voters to like Trump and the Republicans any more than they liked Richard Nixon in 1968.

On the other hand, Trump may have the wrong strategy:

In the first place, it’s based on a falsehood. Crime rates have been falling almost without fail for 25 years. Murder rates have been rising just recently among gangs in certain cities, but America is much safer than it was a decade ago. In the first half of 2015, for example, the number of shootings in New York and Washington hit historic lows.

Trump dwells on illegal aliens killing our children. Between 2010 and 2014, only 121 people released from immigration custody later committed murder; that’s about 25 a year. Every death is a horror, but the number of police officers killed each year as a result of a crime is about 55, in a nation of over 320 million people. The number of police deaths decreased by 24 percent between 2005 and 2015.

The main anxieties in this country are economic and social, not about crime. Trump surged to the nomination on the back of his supposed business acumen, not because he’s a sheriff. By focusing so much on law and order, he leaves a hole a mile wide for Hillary Clinton. She’ll undoubtedly fixate at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on economic pain. Trump could end up seeming strangely detached.

But he’s also detached from his own party, which Brooks finds odd:

A normal party has an apparatus of professionals, who have been around for a while and who can get things done. But those people might as well not exist. This was the most shambolically mis-run convention in memory.

A normal party is united by a consistent belief system. For decades, the Republican Party has stood for a forward-looking American-led international order abroad and small-government democratic capitalism at home.

Trump is decimating that, too, along with the things Republicans stood for: NATO, entitlement reform, compassionate conservatism and the relatively open movement of ideas, people and trade.

There’s no actual agenda being put in its place, just nostalgic spasms that, as David Frum has put it, are part George Wallace and part Henry Wallace. Trump’s policy agenda, such as it is, is mostly a series of vague and defensive recoils: build a wall, ban Muslims, withdraw from the world.

This is less a party than a personality cult.

David Brooks is sad, but Matthew Yglesias thinks Republicans like Brooks have it backwards:

A national convention isn’t just about a single candidate. It’s about an entire political party coming together.

And the truly striking thing about the Republican Mistake by the Lake in Cleveland this summer isn’t the nonsense coming from Trump, his kids, his favorite soap opera actors, and that one avocado farmer – it’s the nonsense coming from the Republican Party’s “establishment.”

A broad range of perfectly mainstream Republican Party politicians – Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida, and so forth – revealed a political party that, completely apart from Trump, is utterly debauched.

Republicans like Brooks need to wake up to that:

Not everything in American conservatism is toxic, but the convention has revealed a profound and genuinely unusual intellectual and moral rot in the Republican Party: a weakness for outlandish conspiracies and a preference for talk-radio antics over the necessarily-somewhat-dull work of practical politics. Trump is not so much the cause of this rot as the man who simply has the daring to punch the tree and send it tumbling down. The run-of-the-mill elected officials and the rank-and-file delegates who cheered them on did the damage.

Lost in the debate over the propriety of the convention’s loud and lusty “lock her up” chants, for example, has been insufficient focus on the basic ridiculousness of the argument.

Hillary Clinton’s email server, after all, has already been extensively investigated by a team of FBI agents and federal prosecutors. She’s not going to be locked up because she’s not going to be put on trial because James Comey, a Republican and George W. Bush administration veteran, determined that, given the facts, “no reasonable prosecutor would file charges.”

Under the circumstances, why on earth should she be locked up? Are Comey and the whole FBI in on the cover-up? Why?

They don’t know and they don’t care to ask. Or they do know and they just don’t care that they’re wrong. Or something.

That, however, is a minor matter:

Nothing circulating in mainstream Republican Party foreign policy is as outright dangerous as their nominee’s views on NATO and the Baltic states. But the common denominator across Trumpkins and establishmentarians is phenomenally stupid.

Speaker after speaker after speaker has proclaimed – to uproarious applause – that we need a leader who isn’t “afraid” to “call the enemy by its name: radical Islamic terrorism.”

This is fine for the peanut gallery. But knowledgeable experts broadly agree that using this phrase would be counterproductive in terms of America’s relationship with governments in majority-Muslim countries and in terms of the propaganda war in the Islamic world. It’s very understandable that Joe Republican back home doesn’t know this. It’s not really all that understandable that Donald Trump doesn’t get it, but the GOP chose to nominate an uncommonly lazy and ignorant person, so it is what it is.

But what’s Chris Christie’s excuse? What’s Pence’s excuse? Walker’s?

Did any of them ever actually ask anyone, “Hey, what is the reason Obama doesn’t say that?”

They don’t know and they don’t care to ask. Or they do know and they just don’t care that they’re wrong. Or something.

The problem is, then, more than Trump:

There is a palpable discomfort with Trump among many of the establishment politicians who are supporting his presidential campaign.

Ryan’s speech introducing Pence lavished praise on his character and commitment to conservative ideas that were entirely absent from his main address to the convention. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a rote statement that said electing Trump would be good because it would let senate Republicans govern. Even loopier speeches from elected officials like Christie or Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t dwell on making Mexico pay for a wall, banning Muslim immigration, opening up libel laws, abrogating NATO and NAFTA, or other signature Trump themes.

But these establishment speeches were, on their own terms, fairly bonkers.

Their slams on Clinton veered, repeatedly, into tinfoil hat territory. They were completely out of touch with the state of the economic recovery. They relied heavily on the idea that President Obama could defeat ISIS through rote incantation of magic words. And while they avoided most of Trump’s big crazy policy ideas, they did so mostly by avoiding speaking about any policy ideas at all.

And then there are the delegates themselves:

Rank and file activists reared on a generation’s worth of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News sat through a pathetic conclave in which governors and senators stooped to talk-radio antics in a desperate quest for applause, only to be trounced by Laura Ingraham – a real-deal talk radio host who, even more than Trump himself, perfectly captured the mood of a party that’s become completely indifferent to the work of governance.

Too much Roger Ailes will do that to you. Laura Ingraham subs for Bill O’Reilly when O’Reilly’s on vacation. The work of governance was never an issue there, and Heather Parton adds this:

It’s clear that the Trump phenomenon is not simply a matter of a charismatic con man dazzling a large number of Republicans into believing that he’s going to magically turn back the clock to a time that only existed in the imaginations of Hollywood screenwriters. It’s about the collapse of an ideological movement and a political party. The bottom has fallen out of an entire belief system. That’s where the darkness is coming from.

She takes the long view:

The last two decades have been disastrous for the conservative movement and not just because it “ran its course” or “matured.” The three pillars of conservatism, traditional values, free market economics and a strong national defense all failed and failed in rather spectacular fashion.

Social conservatism has been reduced from what was once a dominant political and cultural force to a rear guard action fighting to roll back abortion rights in the states and tilting at windmills to ban birth control. The gay rights movement has successfully left them reeling, so much so that even Donald Trump gave an awkward shout out to the LGBTQ community in his speech last night promising to protect them from Muslim terrorists. The culture warriors are still toiling away, particularly on their new “religious liberty” legal line of attack but the fact that the large evangelical base is ardent in their support for a New York libertine with children from three different wives has exposed their heretofore unseen flexible virtue. They will no longer be able to credibly attack the Democrats for their allegedly loose morals.

The failure of the conservative national security philosophy was laid bare by the Bush administration’s Iraq war debacle. The vast majority of the people in that hall in Cleveland undoubtedly cheered George Bush’s disastrous policies at the time assuming that all wars would be glorious antiseptic (for America) successes like the first Gulf War. Their Vietnam propaganda had led them to misunderstand the practical restraints that exist around US military power and they believed that the war machine in the hands of a Republican could only bring victory. They learned otherwise and today they are supporting a man whose national security policy is completely incoherent but who promises to make the world “respect” us again.

Finally the financial crisis exposed the risk inherent in free-market economics and the idea that all you have to do is keep interest rates low, cut taxes and let the brilliant masters of the universe do their magic. It turned out that without some restraints these financial geniuses could not help but turn into degenerate gamblers and the low tax dogma resulted in dangerous income inequality. The instability of the middle class and the stalling out of traditional social and economic mobility created the environment for a flim flam artist like Trump to exploit the resultant insecurity.

And that leaves only racism, nativism and xenophobia:

That’s what Trump is running on. And it’s also failing. As you can see by the words of Ana Navarro or Ted Cruz, John Kasich or Jeb Bush or the whole staff of National Review, the party is splitting over that issue as well. The conservative movement as we’ve known it is disintegrating.

It’s possible that Trump will win the election in November in which case we will all have bigger problems and the GOP will have already morphed into something very new and very scary. But assuming that he doesn’t pull it off, it’s going to be interesting to see how the remains of Reagan’s Republican Party deals with the smoldering remains of their party. At this point there are no leaders who are untainted by hypocrisy and past mistakes, no new ideas, no “young guns.” The dark, dystopian vision we saw this week in Cleveland is all they have left. For the conservative movement it’s midnight in America.

That’s what died in Cleveland. The Indians may win the World Series again one day. The Browns may win the Super Bowl one day. But the Republican Party went to Cleveland to die, and did.

In fact, they held a wake back in Washington:

A smaller, somber affair took place just blocks from the halls of power at Dubliner’s, an Irish pub and Capitol Hill mainstay.

Past politicos, many dressed in black, gathered for an “Irish wake.” They were there to mourn the death of the Republican Party.

A memorial wreath with “RIP GOP” written on it and a guestbook welcomed attendees.

A black-draped coffin at the back of the bar serves at the display for photographs of past presidents: Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan. The Guinness on tap flows for those drowning their sorrows.

Andrew Weinstein, wake co-host and former spokesman for ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the 1996 Dole/Kemp presidential campaign, said the idea grew out of conversations with friends commiserating over the direction the GOP is taking with Donald Trump at the helm.

“There’s a consensus that this election cycle has brought an end for the Republican Party that we knew and worked for,” Weinstein said. “A lot of people who signed up for the party in the era of Reagan and Gingrich believe they can no longer move ahead.”

And so they have gathered tonight to mourn the “unnatural and premature passing of the Grand Old Party,” as described in the Facebook invite. Cause of death: the nomination of Donald J. Trump.

Cleveland is over, and so are they – and Roger Ailes is no longer around to spin that any other way.

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The One Man

It was a dark and stormy night, but Donald Trump had to do something to save the Republican National Convention. The first night there was Melania Trump giving a speech about how wonderful her husband was, much of which was lifted word-for-word from the 2008 convention speech Michelle Obama gave, about how wonderful her husband was. Oops. That’s all anyone talked about for two days, not about keeping America safe and how Trump was the man to do that, the stated theme of the evening. The second night, which was supposed to be about jobs and trade, about getting America back to work, somehow turned into an evening of Hillary bashing, an evening of the crowd chanting Lock Her Up! Some suggested she should just be taken out back and shot. The FBI is now chatting with those people, and again, the message was lost. The third evening was Mike Pence’s evening – Trump’s calm and sensible running mate would introduce himself to America, and he did, but no one noticed. Ted Cruz spoke and told the crowd to vote their conscience in November, if they still had one, and vote for anyone (except Hillary Clinton) other than the totally unknowing and incompetent Trump. Cruz was booed offstage, but the damage was done. Mike Pence was ignored. This wasn’t going well.

There was one night left to save the convention and Trump, all by himself, had to save it. He did, perhaps in the only way possible. As Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin report, he did that by going very dark:

Donald John Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday night with an unusually vehement appeal to Americans who feel that their country is spiraling out of control and yearn for a leader who will take aggressive, even extreme, actions to protect them.

Mr. Trump, 70, a New York real estate developer and reality television star who leveraged his fame and forceful persona to become the rare political outsider to lead the ticket of a major party, drew exuberant cheers from Republican convention delegates as he strode onto the stage of the Quicken Loans Arena and delivered a speech as fiery as his candidacy.

With dark imagery and an almost angry tone, Mr. Trump portrayed the United States as a diminished and even humiliated nation, and offered himself as an all-powerful savior who could resurrect the country’s standing in the eyes of both enemies and law-abiding Americans.

The world is falling apart, as everyone knows, and only one man, Donald Trump, can save us now, as everyone knows. That was it. That was all. The rest was supporting detail and theatrics:

“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” an ominous-sounding Mr. Trump said, standing against a backdrop of American flags. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.”

Mr. Trump nearly shouted the names of states where police officers had been killed recently, as the crowd erupted in applause, and returned repeatedly to the major theme of the speech: “Law and order,” he said four times, each time drawing out the syllables.

Only he can provide that, and all the other Republican stuff is bullshit:

Mr. Trump challenged Republican orthodoxy as he promised to end multilateral trade deals and limit American intervention in global crises. He denounced “15 years of wars in the Middle East” – a rebuke of his party’s last president, George W. Bush – and pledged to help union members, coal miners and other low-wage Americans who have historically supported Democrats.

“These are the forgotten men and women of our country,” said Mr. Trump, a billionaire with a mixed record of job creation and layoffs. “People who work hard but no longer have a voice – I am your voice.”

He even vowed “to do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” As the audience applauded, Mr. Trump made a deviation from his prepared text, observing: “I have to say, that as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”

It was a bit of that Huey Long “every man a king” thing from long ago, and gay-friendly too! But still it was very dark:

Mr. Trump dwelled at length on illegal immigrants and lawless Americans, saying they are as dangerous for the nation’s security as the Islamic State and Syrian refugees. In doing so, Trump advisers said, he sought to win over undecided voters who are sickened by the recent violence against police officers and worried about safety yet are unsure if Mr. Trump has the temperament and abilities to be commander in chief.

“I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.”

There will be no crime and violence in America starting the day he takes office – all gone – but it was more than that:

“It is time to show the whole world that America is back – bigger, and better and stronger than ever before,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump said Americans had “lived through one international humiliation after another” under President Obama: the Navy sailors “being forced to their knees” by Iranian captors in January; the destruction of the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya; and Mr. Obama’s decision not to defend his “red line” on Syria.

There’ll no more of that. We’ll be the ones doing the humiliation, sneering and rubbing it in. And don’t you, as an individual, feel humiliated all the time? We’ll fix that too. You won’t have to serve gay people at you restaurant, making Jesus hate you, or something. The details were unclear.

The party is still trying to deal with all that:

Many of the elected officials who spoke extolled a traditional conservative platform that bears little relation to the nationalist agenda on which Mr. Trump is basing his campaign.

For example, just hours before Mr. Pence, a committed internationalist, assured delegates and millions of voters that America would defend its allies, Mr. Trump gave an interview in which he balked at defending NATO countries, a policy that has been the cornerstone of the alliance for 70 years.

Even as Republicans prepared to leave Cleveland, they were still straining to come to terms with the views and personality of their newly minted nominee.

“I’m going to vote for Mike Pence,” said Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, pausing for effect: “And Donald Trump comes along with the package.”

That hardly matters. The ticket will win. It’s a plan. E. J. Dionne calls it seeking victory by scaring the country to death:

Perhaps you thought, or hoped, that Donald Trump would use his acceptance speech to offer a softer tone, to sketch a more compassionate vision of the nation, or to reach out to skeptics and former opponents.

Trump chose a different path – or, more precisely, the same path he has taken from the outset of the campaign. Trump will be running as Trump, the candidate of the angriest wing of the Republican Party and the most disaffected members of the American electorate.

He will run as a hard man, a tough, nationalist authoritarian for whom order is paramount. And he will advance his case by offering a dismal and profoundly gloomy account of what he called “a moment of crisis for our nation.”

And he’ll do it his way:

He cherry-picked statistics to suggest that the nation is in the midst of a wave of criminality at a moment of historically low crime numbers. He manipulated the facts on immigration, suggesting huge flows of illegal entrants after a long period of low or even negative immigration. If reality does not conform to what Trump needs reality to be to support his case, he will invent a new reality.

As they say, whatever works, and this works:

His core strategy is rooted not only in exploiting the fears of Americans but in heightening them. He will repeat his calls for “law and order” again and again. A man who has spent his life among the country’s wealthiest and most influential people will make the “elites” his whipping boy. He will paint a dark picture of his foes as serving interests other than those of their fellow citizens: “Americanism not globalism will be our credo.”

And he will play racial politics by accusing President Obama, as he did Thursday, of using “the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color” and making “America a more dangerous environment for everyone.”

We are thus about to have the ugliest and most divisive presidential campaign in our history. Trump is an effective demagogue. Republicans have allowed him to take over their party. It falls to the rest of the country to resist being seduced by anger, resentment and fear.

Andrew Sullivan, reading the advance-copy of the speech, says it’s a bit more than that:

It’s a remarkable piece of oratory, cannily crafted, framed by massive lies and distortions, crammed with incoherence, and yet, I’m afraid to say, scarily potent. It invents a reality that the U.S. is in a state of chaos, lawlessness and soaring crime, that the world is careening toward catastrophe – and then makes a classic argument for a strongman to set things straight.

This is a very new departure for politics in a liberal democracy. We’ve never heard an appeal from a major party platform to junk traditional democratic norms, and cede power to a new tyrant, whose magical powers will somehow cause almost every problem in the country to disappear. In this election, the very basis of liberal democracy is on the ballot. The fears I expressed last May about the popularity of tyranny in a late-democracy have, I’m afraid, only been fanned by events since.

The speech is entirely about fear, fear to be somehow vanquished by a single man’s will to power. Its core message is what America was founded to resist. Its success would be an abolition of the core promise of this country for two centuries that self-government is incompatible with the rule by the whims and prejudices and impulses of a man on a white horse.

It can happen here. It is happening here.

This may be hard to resist:

No one should under-estimate the power of fear. But surely this fear-mongering leaves an opening for Clinton. She can surely respond to Trump with FDR. We are, in fact, in a kind of 1930s moment. It is fear vs hope. Fear is winning. I wish I had more confidence in the Clintons to pull off the ethos of FDR. We simply have to hope they can.

But there are the basics:

We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry, has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive, which is why it is now on life-support.

In between, moderate Christianity, once a unifying cultural fabric creating a fragile civil discourse, has evaporated into disparate spirituality on one side and fundamentalist dogma on the other, leaving us with little in the center to hold us morally together.

Sullivan sees little hope:

Why will the speech work? Because it manages to frame the narrative – using false or misleading data – by making this a change election. He somehow spins every disconcerting piece of news at home and abroad into a compelling social imaginary of chaos, decline and frustration. He blames Obama for everything bad and gives no credit for anything good. If you know nothing but feel insecure, the picture he paints will be electrifyingly persuasive.

On the other hand, if you have that nagging sense that you know nothing, and always feel insecure, you’re human. That’s life for most people, and that’s also a perfect set-up for someone like Trump:

The thing about strongmen is that they are prepared to tell lies democratic politicians shrink from; they show no respect for the constitutional order or for enduring institutions; they lie purely to advance the most hyperbolic version of the truth and then cast themselves as magical solution-artists. The speech is a master-class in channeling resentment and anxiety.

If you wonder what it was like in the 1930s for ordinary people to flock to demagogues…

America has thrown up an extremely talented one. I fear that Hillary Clinton has no idea what is about to hit her.

And this makes no sense:

After seven straight years of job growth, record stock prices, extraordinary technological innovation, and 4.9 percent unemployment, this is how Trump will describe the economy tonight: “our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.” This is summed up as “domestic disaster.”

I do not want to imply that I believe the economy is doing fine in terms of distribution. Globalization has hurt the working classes, while rewarding so many others, not least around the world. This real question needs a serious answer. But what Trump is offering is straight out of the worst part of the 1930s: protectionism, ethno-nationalism, scapegoating, and big (if chronically insolvent) government. What feasibly can be done to help? Whoever answers that question most persuasively will own the future of politics in this country. But if Clinton doesn’t have an honest answer, Trump will offer a fantasy one.

The Germans went for the fantasy answer in the thirties, didn’t they? Sullivan will mention no names, but one of his readers does try to calm him down:

Please, be patient and have a little more respect for American voters. We love entertainment. But please remember that, when we last confronted the choices in front of us, we voted (again) for a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama.

Another writes this:

I think you are a tad overestimating the power of, “Oh my God, everything’s a disaster! And I, alone, will fix everything!” There is a portion of the American electorate ripe for that but I think it’s smaller than your fear. President Obama’s approval rating today was 53%.

Sullivan:

Yes, the disconnect between this president’s approval rating and the allegedly disastrous state of the US right now is striking, isn’t it? Each of these narratives speaks to a constituency – but Obama’s is surely larger.

Then again, Obama is not up for re-election, is he?

So Sullivan worries:

Have you noticed how Trump thinks all these deep problems can be solved quickly? Always fast. Always obvious. As if everyone else in government in both parties is either stupid or malevolent. …

Shorter Trump: “Everything is terrible. I alone can solve. Just don’t ask me how.”

But then he watched the speech:

I have to say I’m relieved. This was a terrible presentation of what read like a powerful speech. It seems screechy, unmodulated, and yet also plodding. Mussolini never had a Teleprompter.

Ezra Klein has a different take, saying that Donald Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid:

Donald Trump is not a man who should be president. This is not an ideological judgment. This is not something I would say about Mitt Romney or Marco Rubio. This is not a disagreement over Donald Trump’s tax plan or his climate policies. This is about Trump’s character, his temperament, his impulsiveness, his basic decency.

Back in February, I wrote that Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

He has had plenty of time to prove me, and everyone else, wrong. But he hasn’t. He has not become more responsible or more sober, more decent or more generous, more considered or more informed, more careful or more kind. He has continued to retweet white supremacists, make racist comments, pick unnecessary fights, contradict himself on the stump, and show an almost gleeful disinterest in building a real campaign or learning about policy.

Then there are the specifics:

Trump is vindictive. So far, the unifying theme of Trump’s convention is that the leader of the opposition party should be thrown in jail. Trump didn’t like the Washington Post’s coverage of his campaign, so he barred its reporters from his rallies and threatened to use the power of the presidency to bring an antitrust suit against the Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos.

He was upset that Ohio didn’t vote for him, so he sat its delegation in the cheap seats, even though the state is hosting the convention. He was angry about an interview his ex-ghostwriter gave to the New Yorker, so he sent his lawyers after him. He hates the protesters who interrupt his campaigns, so he said he would look into paying the legal fees of a supporter who sucker-punched one of them.

Imagine Donald Trump with the powers of the presidency. Imagine what he could do – what he would do – to those who crossed him.

Now add this:

Trump is a bigot. Donald Trump kicked off his campaign calling Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists. He responded to Ted Cruz’s surge in Iowa by calling for a ban on Muslim travel. He sought to discredit a US-born judge by saying his rulings were suspect because of his “Mexican heritage.” Trump’s campaign is certainly the first time in my memory that a sitting speaker of the House has had to describe something his party’s nominee said as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

This is not a man who should be put in charge of an increasingly diverse country that needs to find allies in an increasingly diverse world.

Then add this:

Trump is a sexist. Stories of Trump’s casual sexism abound, but during the campaign, it was women who questioned him who felt the full force of his misogyny. The first Republican debate, for instance, was hosted by Fox News and moderated by Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace. Kelly wasn’t obviously tougher on Trump than her colleagues, but she was the antagonist he focused on, retweeting a follower who said she was “a bimbo” and saying she had “blood coming out of her … wherever.”

After Carly Fiorina challenged him in a debate, Trump said to Rolling Stone, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” After Hillary Clinton needed to take a bathroom break during a debate, Trump told the crowd, “It’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.”

It’s not just during political campaigns that this side of Trump emerges. Trump once told his friend Philip Johnson that the secret to women was “you have to treat ’em like shit.”

The list goes on. Trump is a liar. Trump is a narcissist. But now this is immediately relevant:

Trump admires authoritarian dictators for their authoritarianism. When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

But it’s not just Putin. Trump has praised Saddam Hussein because “he killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights.” He said “you’ve got to give [Kim Jong Un] credit. He goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible.” It’s not just that Trump admires these authoritarians; it’s that the thing he admires about them is their authoritarianism – their ability to dispense with niceties like a free press, due process, and political opposition.

That’s what this speech was about. But there’s more:

Trump has proven too lazy to learn about policy. Trump didn’t know much about policy when the campaign started, and as far as anyone can tell, he hasn’t made any obvious effort to rectify that.

The latest and most damaging example is his interview with the New York Times, in which he said he would not automatically defend NATO countries against attack from Russia. It’s not obvious Trump meant to say that, or even knew what saying that meant, as [Campaign Director Paul] Manafort immediately began denying Trump had ever said it. (The Times subsequently released a transcript showing that, yes, Trump had said it.)

But this is a pattern for Trump, who doesn’t bother to come up with convincing answers even to obvious questions, and definitely has not put in the time to develop a deep understanding of the issues he might face as president. As Matt Yglesias wrote, this is very much a choice Trump has made. “Trump is now the GOP nominee, and there are hundreds of professional Republican Party politicians and operatives around the country who would gladly help him become a sharper, better-informed candidate. It doesn’t happen because he can’t be bothered.”

And then there’s this:

Trump is a bully. Trump won the Republican nomination by proving that even adults can be bullied with schoolyard taunts. There was “low-energy Jeb,” and “Little Marco,” and “Lyin’ Ted,” and now we’ve got “Crooked Hillary.” Trump made fun of Rand Paul’s looks and Chris Christie’s weight and Carly Fiorina’s face and a New York Times reporter’s physical disability.

It seems like this shouldn’t have to be said, but it’s better to be kind than cruel, and there’s a deep, instinctual cruelty in Trump – he finds people’s weak spots, their insecurities, and he exposes them in front of crowds.

And this:

Trump has regularly incited or justified violence among his supporters. At a rally in St. Louis, Donald Trump lamented that “nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

Yes, lamented.

The topic was protesters, and Trump’s frustration was clear. “They’re being politically correct the way they take them out,” he sighed. “Protesters, they realize there are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences. There are none anymore.”

It is the thirties again, and Klein doesn’t want it to be:

The simple fact of it is that Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. That is not because he is too conservative, as some Democrats would have it, or because he is not conservative enough, as many Republicans would have it. It’s because the presidency is a powerful job where mistakes can kill millions, and whoever holds it needs to take that power seriously and wield it responsibly. Trump has had ample opportunity to demonstrate his sense of seriousness and responsibility. He has failed.

It is said that the benefit of America’s long presidential campaigns is they offer the candidates time to show us who they really are. Trump has shown us who he really is. He is a person who should not be president. That he is being brought this close to the presidency – that he is one major mistake by Hillary Clinton away from winning it – should scare us all. It certainly scares me.

Well, Donald Trump did want to scare the crap out of America, so America would take a chance and vote for him as the one man, the only man, who could make all their fears disappear in a day or two, next January. And now he has scared the crap out of America, but perhaps not in the way he intended. He is that one man on a dark and stormy night. Don’t let him in.

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cruz Missile

Well, that was interesting. How many times can you say that? The announced theme of the first night of the Republican (Trump) National Convention was Make America Safe Again, but that will be no more than a bit of political trivia one day. No one will remember anything from that first night other than Melania Trump giving a speech about how wonderful her husband was, much of which was lifted word-for-word from the 2008 convention speech Michelle Obama gave, about how wonderful her husband was. That was interesting, and that led to two days of the Trump people saying this wasn’t plagiarism at all – just Hillary Clinton out to destroy a rival strong woman, as she always does, even if Hillary Clinton wisely said no word about Melania Trump’s speech. She didn’t have to. Everyone saw the side-by-side texts and heard the side-by-side clips. Everyone was laughing. Then, after two days – Monday evening to Wednesday afternoon – a Trump staffer finally admitted it was her fault. She rewrote the speech. She did the plagiarizing, and she was really sorry, and she had offered to resign, but Donald Trump would’t hear of it. He then gleefully tweeted out that all publicity is good publicity (“all press is good press”) and that was that. That also ate up two days of news cycles. Make America Safe Again? What?

The announced theme for the second night was Make America Work Again – but there was no talk of the jobs and the economy. After Rudy Giuliani foamed at the mouth for a bit – it seems we’re all going to die if America elects Hillary – Chris Christie launched into his call-and-response indictment of everything Hilary Clinton had ever done wrong. With each item he’d asked if she was guilty. They’d shout out GUILTY! The crowd would then chant LOCK HER UP! This went on for what seemed like an hour, getting more intense with each call and response. Christie really had them whipped up.

Nicholas Kristof has a bit of a problem with that:

There has been lots of venom here at the Republican National Convention, and today it came down to this: A Trump delegate and adviser publicly urged that Hillary Clinton should be put in front of a firing squad and executed for treason.

Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative from New Hampshire who spoke up as a veteran for Trump earlier in the campaign, suggested that Clinton should be shot for telling lies about Benghazi and mishandling emails.

That was interesting, but Kristof has spent decades as a foreign correspondent and knows that one thing does lead to another:

In democracies, it’s natural to denounce opponents. But it’s in tin-pot dictatorships that opponents are locked up. When you’ve covered autocracies in countries where politicians are actually locked up after losing power struggles, you really don’t aspire for that in your own country.

This trend toward demonizing the opposition reached its apotheosis with Carson tying Clinton to the devil and Baldasaro saying that she should be executed.

“I’m a veteran that went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm,” he said on The Kuhner Report, a talk radio show based in Boston. “I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton to me is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam. She is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi. She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back up security. Something’s wrong there.”

“This whole thing disgusts me,” he said. “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

Baldasaro later stood by his remarks when journalists reached out to him. On Twitter, he wrote, “As an American, I believe in the Constitution, freedom of speech and the rule of law: No one is above the law, not even Clinton.”

And thus she should die, or maybe not:

The Secret Service said it was investigating the comments, and the Trump campaign disavowed them, if not the man who made them. Hope Hicks, the Trump campaign’s spokeswoman, told NH1 News in New Hampshire that Baldasaro “doesn’t speak for the campaign,” and then added, “We’re incredibly grateful for his support, but we don’t agree with his comments.”

When a presidential campaign has to clarify that it does not favor executing its opponent, maybe that reflects a larger problem.

Perhaps it does. As for good jobs for everyone and a red-hot economy… well, it seems that discussion of that will have to wait.

That was two lost nights, where the announced theme magically disappeared. Perhaps Trump isn’t a masterful manager of everything – but that couldn’t happen three nights in a row. The third night was Mike Pence’s night. Trump’s running mate would introduce himself to America – a calm and pleasant and level-headed person to balance out the ticket. What could go wrong?

That’s where things got interesting again. Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin report on the unexpected Cruz missile:

Republican leaders tried to pivot to the general election on Wednesday night but instead watched their convention erupt into a bitter replay of the presidential nomination fight as Senator Ted Cruz pointedly refused to endorse his former rival, Donald J. Trump, and was shouted down by furious delegates.

In the most electric moment of the convention, a growing chorus of delegates chanted “Vote for Trump!” and “Keep Your Pledge” as Mr. Cruz neared the end of his 20-minute speech and it became clear that he was going to snub Mr. Trump.

“I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” Mr. Cruz said dryly about Mr. Trump’s home-state supporters – only to have Mr. Trump himself, stone-faced and clearly angry, appear suddenly in the convention hall and flash a thumbs-up at the delegates.

As they say, oh shit, and then it got really interesting:

Mr. Cruz was all but drowned out as he asked for God’s blessing on the country and left the stage, while security personnel escorted his wife, Heidi, out of the hall. One delegate yelled “Goldman Sachs!” at her – a reference to the company that has employed her, a job that Mr. Trump attacked during the primaries.

And it started out so well:

Mr. Cruz, who initially received an extended standing ovation from the delegates, took shots at Mrs. Clinton and highlighted conservative policy goals…

“Hillary Clinton believes government should make virtually every choice in your life,” Mr. Cruz said. “Education, health care, marriage, speech – all dictated out of Washington.”

That’s red meat to these folks, and may get Cruz the nomination the next time around, and others had the same idea:

Another onetime rival of Mr. Trump, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, also sounded like a future candidate as he highlighted his record in his home state and went after Mrs. Clinton with more gusto, focusing minimally on Mr. Trump.

“Hillary Clinton is the ultimate liberal Washington insider,” Mr. Walker said. “If she were any more on the inside, she’d be in prison” – a line met with resounding cheers and a chant popular with the delegates this week, “Lock her up!”

Yeah, but there was the other guy – Mike Pence was forgotten even if that wasn’t the plan:

Mr. Trump, in an effort to seize command of the convention, tried to create a presidential tableau as he arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday.

After his Trump-branded jet landed midafternoon, Mr. Trump flew in a Trump helicopter to a grassy patch near the convention arena – a theatrical projection of high status captured by cable news cameras. Then, to the theme music from “Air Force One” – a film about a gutsy president who kills a terrorist with his bare hands – Mr. Trump alighted from the chopper to give Mr. Pence a handshake and kissed his daughters.

And then Ted Cruz ruined everything. Frank Bruni explains that this way:

Cruz used a prime-time speech on Wednesday night not to endorse Trump or to say anything positive about him but to play a mischievous, misanthropic game of subverted expectations.

And it was clearly a game to Cruz, who constructed his remarks in a manner designed to leave the audience guessing for as long as possible about whether he’d ever work his way around to even the tiniest, most tentative pitch for the party’s nominee.

There was a flickering promise of it at the start. “I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said. “And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”

But while he detailed those principles, he never did connect them to Trump. “Congratulate” was the sum of his good will – and the end of it. It didn’t foretell anything more specific. It didn’t build to anything grander.

When Trump supporters finally realized that it wouldn’t and that Cruz was just running out the clock, they booed him, loudly enough to drown out some of his final sentences. It was stunning to behold.

And it wasn’t the last surprise. Just then, Trump decided to make his entrance into the arena, pulling the attention – and the cameras – away from Cruz. The boos turned into applause. The cameras didn’t even bother with Cruz’s exit from the stage.

But Cruz had made his point and done his damage, providing the latest (and most vivid) illustration of how little control Trump has been able to exert over his own coronation, how much rancor he has failed to exorcise, how few bridges he has succeeded in repairing, how far short he has fallen in making these four days in Cleveland as dazzling and exciting as he’d long promised they would be.

In this case, Trump ran into an ego almost as big as his:

Cruz had been invited to speak because, well, he had to be, given how much support and how many delegates he’d amassed during the Republican primaries. He’d earned the right, and there were people in the arena eager to hear from him.

But he had no obligation to accept that invitation, not to a convention that was being skipped by so many of Trump’s other vanquished rivals, including John Kasich, the Ohio governor, whose own state was playing host to the event.

By saying yes, Cruz was suggesting that he’d play nice and play along, or at least that’s what he should have been telegraphing. If his convictions precluded such obedience, he could have stayed home. He could have stayed mum. That would have spoken plenty loudly.

But Cruz isn’t much for mum. It violates his very nature to resist an audience of millions of television viewers and the chance to make an elaborate show of principle, even if it’s a much greater exhibit of self-regard.

And thus we got what we got:

Bygones were not bygones. He didn’t update his onetime description of Trump as “utterly amoral” with anything newer and gentler. He talked of himself, of America and of Election Day, saying: “We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love.”

He clearly wasn’t evoking Trump, and he seemed not to realize that he was listing virtues that he was ignoring at the very moment, with those very words.

“Please,” he said, “don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience.” It was then that his smile was naughtiest, because he’d put “your conscience” where he could so easily have tucked “for Trump.”

“Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution,” he continued. Candidates plural. Not the singular candidate whom the evening was supposed to exalt.

Pence didn’t stand a chance:

Later, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, made his big convention speech, but it was doomed before it started, because there was no way it could garner the attention that Cruz’s did. Cruz had to know that. It didn’t throw him off his revenge, and it threw this mess of a convention ever further off the rails.

Trump does have trouble putting on a show, but Josh Marshall argues it’s more than that:

As you know, I believe in my heart that Ted Cruz is an odious weasel. I base this on observing him for years now and on the accounts and traumas of many close friends who’ve known him for far longer. But that was a singular moment. Convention managers don’t let unexpected things happen. If Ted Cruz had simply not mentioned Trump, it would have been a mild deal but not a huge thing. He did much more than that. He affirmatively not only refused to endorse Trump but exhorted fellow Republicans not to vote for Trump. Yes, he used the coded phrasing “vote your conscience.” But in context that meant with crystal clarity: Your Republican identity in no way obligates you to vote for Donald Trump. Rather ‘vote your conscience’ and do not vote for Donald Trump. Because a conservative true to his conscience cannot do so.

The first thing to say about this is that there is simply no way Trump’s and Priebus’s convention managers okayed that speech. No way. The fact that they allowed him on stage to give that speech will go down as one of the greatest organizational pratfalls in convention history. Whether Cruz got them to agree not to review the speech or whether he substituted another speech, I don’t know. But something very wrong went down there.

The second goes to the heart of Trump’s campaign. As I’ve noted on so many fronts over recent months, Trump’s brand is dominance. Trump acts; others comply. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter. That’s the story he’s sold his supporters. It’s the essence of his political message. Trump dominates; his enemies are humiliated. Even ‘friends’ like Christie and Pence are relegated to a golden cage of perpetual dignity loss.

That’s what makes this interesting:

In this interaction, Cruz came into Trump’s house, Trump’s party and humiliated him. There’s no other way to put it. The crowd booed; Trump literally came out into the hall to pull the cameras off Cruz and according to reporters on the scene security escorted Cruz’s wife out of the hall for her own safety.

Cruz just made himself dead to the institutional Republican Party for the next four months. But he imbued himself with an image of courage, valor and general badassery for basically every Republican opposing Trump from the ideological right.

Cruz somehow managed to get on that stage without giving a promise or simply broke his promise. But the upshot is that he came into Trump’s house and stomped him hard. That is not how it’s supposed to work on Trump’s turf. But Cruz just turned the tables on him.

The rest was just awkward:

After a non-endorsement from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) drew persistent boos Wednesday night from an irritable Republican National Committee crowd, Newt Gingrich made an off-the-cuff effort to get the evening back on track.

Cruz inflamed attendees by not explicitly endorsing his former 2016 rival. Even though Gingrich took the stage amid residual boos, the former House speaker praised all the ex-2016 contenders for their role in the convention.

“With no requirement for endorsement, [Trump] encouraged his competitors to speak once again,” he said. “Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz have all responded to Donald comes generosity.”

Gingrich continued: “So, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”

That was an ad-lib:

None of those statements were included in Gingrich’s prepared remarks supplied to reporters by the convention committee, giving the appearance that they were added last-minute as a response to Cruz.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza captured a shot of Gingrich’s TelePrompTer which suggested the former lawmaker was expecting Cruz to more forcefully back Trump.

“Senator Ted Cruz in particular made the key point that we need to elect the Trump-Pence Republican ticket,” the monitor read.

Well, he couldn’t read that line now, and there was this:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) slammed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “self-absorbed” after Cruz did not explicitly endorse Donald Trump in his speech to the Republican convention Wednesday.

“The question was whether Cruz would make his speech about HIS future or the future of the country,” Huckabee said in a Facebook post. “That question was answered when Ted Cruz chose to not keep his word that he (along with me and every other GOP candidate) gave one year ago in that very arena where tonight he put his own ambitions above country.”

Huckabee did his best:

“Trump trusted Ted and was rewarded with a betrayal, but the delegates in that arena booed Cruz off the stage and out of Cleveland,” Huckabee said. “When a person is treated with generosity to give a speech, he should either respond with respect or graciously decline. And when a person loses, he should accept the will of the voters and then offer support to the victor of the primary to defeat the anti-gun, pro-abortion, incompetent, dishonest, and dishonorable nominee of the Democrat party.”

“I didn’t see a statesman step forth for the country’s future,” he concluded. “I saw a self-absorbed politician grab the microphone and try to line up his own future. Ted walked in tall and walked out small.”

That’s a matter of opinion, and Andrew Sullivan dryly adds this:

What interested me about Pence’s speech is what he did not say: no mention of the mass deportation of 11 million people; no mention of the ban on Muslim immigration; no mention of Trump’s belief in the obsolescence of NATO or his support for Vladimir Putin; no mention of a new protectionism. No mention of any of the core policy proposals, in other words, that won Trump the nomination.

A serviceable speech; but not a great one – and everything overshadowed by the Cruz moment.

One of Sullivan’s readers gets to the heart of the matter

You know, everyone hates Ted Cruz. Everyone who comes into contact with him talks about what a miserable SOB he is. But that speech was BRILLIANT. I’m a Democrat but I can admit that he played that beautifully. We will all be talking about that third degree burn he laid on the Trump campaign in the news cycle tomorrow. Cruz knew that. Trump knows that. Checkmate, motherfucker.

Sullivan adds this:

I have to say that, despite Cruz’s shrillness, I find his disquisition on freedom to be reassuring. It feels like the old GOP, not the authoritarian creeps who have now taken over. Yes, Trump can make you miss Cruz.

Yeah, but a tweet from The Onion references the original plan for these three evenings – “Trump Threatens To Keep Trotting Out Children Until Country Agrees To Unite Behind Him” – as two more of his kids spoke, as if anyone will remember that now.

The queen of conservative talk radio, Laura Ingraham, also spoke, and Sullivan summarizes – “Ingraham calls Cruz and Rubio ‘boys’ with ‘wounded feelings.’ She demands their endorsement of Trump. Will they be paraded in front of the mob and forced to bow the knee? This is rhetorical intimidation.”

There is that, but if everyone somehow forgets Cruz, there’s now an iconic photo of her giving the Nazi salute to Trump’s face on a giant video screen – which is also interesting. That’s going to make the rounds.

Something is going on here. Make America Safe Again? Make America Work Again? Meet Mike Pence? Can we stay on message here, folks? It seems that Donald Trump and his family and small inner circle cannot, and they really should have seen that Cruz missile coming. By the way, a president should see the missiles coming. Case closed.

Posted in Republican National Convention, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Closing the Deal

Donald Trump wrote “The Art of the Deal” – but not really. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently interviewed Tony Schwartz, the fellow who wrote the actual words that were then packaged as the Donald Trump book. Now he’s sorry he ever did – he regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as beyond alarming. But it’s more than that. He knows Trump better than anyone, as a serial liar with no attention span who doesn’t care about other people and has no interests other than his own self-glorification – but he hid that. Now he’s sorry he did.

It’s a bit late for that, because Trump just closed the deal:

Donald Trump was formally nominated for the presidency by Republican delegates here on Tuesday night, a landmark moment in American political history that capped the business mogul’s surprising conquest of the GOP.

Trump formally reached the threshold of 1,237 delegates at 7:12 p.m. Eastern time, with votes cast by delegates from his home state of New York.

But the rest of the evening demonstrated that Trump has seized his party’s nomination – but not yet won the battle for its heart and its ideas. The speakers seemed to largely avoid the policy proposals that brought Trump so much success: building a wall on the southern U.S. border, barring foreign-born Muslims from entering the country, tearing up trade deals and deporting undocumented immigrants en masse.

Some also often avoided mentions of Trump himself. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) spoke at length about his own vision for the country – but rarely mentioned the nominee, who opposes some of Ryan’s signature ideas about reform of spending programs.

Ryan was received with quiet politeness. He’s the party’s nerd, a total policy wonk, perhaps necessary but boring, and he’s called Trump a racist – but a useful racist. Trump would allow him to implement his Ayn Rand policy ideas – no more social safety net of any kind, making Americans free and autonomous, individuals who rely on no one else and certainly not the government, at any level, for anything. Hillary Clinton would not allow that to happen. Trump would shrug – whatever, Paul. He’ll go with the authoritarian racist, for selfish reasons. He has his agenda.

Ryan was tolerated by the crowd – he is who he is – but the Bully of New Jersey brought down the house:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the one speaker who seemed to electrify the convention-hall crowd. He did it by talking not about Trump, but about the presumptive opponent: former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Christie, a former federal prosecutor, ticked off examples of what he said were Clinton’s bad judgments on foreign affairs, and her use of a private email server to handle government business. After each example, Christie turned the audience into an ad hoc jury: “Guilty or not guilty?”

“Guilty!” the audience roared. They repeatedly broke into chants of “Lock her up!”

They don’t want an election, they want her in jail, and then there was this:

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson used a biblical reference: He noted that Clinton had written about Saul Alinsky, a community organizer for liberal causes. Carson said that Alinsky had used the biblical story of Lucifer as a model, the fallen angel cast out of heaven, with ambitions to rule the world. “The original radical,” Carson said, citing Alinsky’s book, “Rules for Radicals.”

Carson seemed to conclude that Clinton had some sympathy for the devil.

“Somebody who acknowledges Lucifer,” he called Clinton. If the country followed her path, he said, “God will remove himself from us. We will not be blessed, and our nation will go down the tubes.”

Clinton acknowledges Lucifer? Who knew? And then Carson went after Lutherans. Anyone who worships Lex Luthor, after all the evil things he did to Superman, must be stopped!

Just kidding – Ben Carson isn’t there, yet – but this was all about Hillary:

Michael Mukasey – the former attorney general during the George W. Bush Administration – condemned Clinton for her use of a private email server to conduct government business. Clinton’s use of that email led to an FBI inquiry, which ended with FBI Director James Comey declaring her behavior “extremely careless,” because it might have endangered classified material.

“Hillary Clinton is asking the people of this country to make her the first president in history to take the constitutional oath of office, after already having violated it,” Mukasey said, meaning that Clinton had failed to uphold the law as secretary of state. “The message from this convention, to everyone watching this convention – No way, Hillary! No way on Earth!”

This may have been all about Hillary, but someone didn’t get the message:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) appeared onstage – one of the Republicans with the most power in Washington now, and someone who pioneered the hardline approach to battling President Obama that opened the door for Trump. McConnell was booed, by delegates who believe he is not hardline enough.

But he recovered:

The crowd did cheer when McConnell said Trump would sign bills that the Senate’s Republicans approved of, and appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice, to replace the late Antonin Scalia. “Obama will not fill this seat. That honor will go to Donald Trump next year,” said McConnell, whose GOP is blocking Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

Mitch McConnell is still trying to figure out how he got left behind this year. Two of Trump’s children spoke. They like their father. Yawn. And that was that.

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers was not impressed:

It seems like we’re officially hanging out at the bottom of the pool when we can look at the speeches and “be impressed.” I work in communications, and what I find shocking is the complete chutzpah and lack of logic. Last night, even before we got into the plagiarized parts of Melania’s speech, I was pretty struck that they picked his 3rd wife to espouse that one of Trump’s greatest attributes is that “he never quits” and “once he starts something, he always finishes it.”

And then tonight, we had Donald Jr. talking about how Trump doesn’t need to listen to “Wharton MBAs,” even though Trump himself has a Wharton MBA. And then the whopper of all whoppers – that “my dad promotes on skill, not based on cronies” – this coming from his SON who is the Executive Vice President of Trump Companies?! Yes, I’m sure he was only promoted based on his skill and great hair!

I get this is basically just political theater, but to extend the metaphor, this wouldn’t even be Broadway, or off-Broadway. This would be more like Hyde Park Community Theater’s reproduction of Cats.

It was actually just another night in Cleveland, but Sullivan himself says this:

Today was a rather remarkable one in the degeneration of the conservative movement. The Trump convention has gotten off to a scary, shambolic, near-comic start. And Roger Ailes – whose foul propaganda helped create the toxic atmosphere in which this vulgar thug of a nominee could thrive – is about to be defenestrated, because of sexual abuse.

Imagine if Fox News changes from being a poisonous propaganda entity into a more conventional right-of-center news organization. Imagine if this neo-fascist experiment we’re now witnessing in Cleveland goes down in flames this November. Over eight long, brutal years, Obama played it on the ropes, waiting, waiting. And the over-reach now seems tangible and potentially transformative.

Something good will come of this? The previous evening Sullivan had said this:

I didn’t hear any specific policy proposals to tackle clearly stated public problems. It is almost as if governing, for the Republican right, is fundamentally about an attitude, rather than about experience or practicality or reasoning. The degeneracy of conservatism – its descent into literally mindless appeals to tribalism and fear and hatred – was on full display. You might also say the same about the religious right, the members of whom have eagerly embraced a racist, a nativist, a believer in war crimes, and a lover of the tyrants that conservatism once defined itself against. Their movement long lost any claim to a serious Christian conscience. But that they would so readily embrace such an unreconstructed pagan is indeed a revelation.

If you think of the conservative movement as beginning in 1964 and climaxing in the 1990s, then the era we are now in is suffering from a cancer of the mind and the soul. That the GOP has finally found a creature that can personify these urges to purge, a man for whom the word “shameless” could have been invented, a bully and a creep, a liar and cheat, a con man and wannabe tyrant, a dedicated loather of individual liberty, and an opponent of the pricelessly important conventions of liberal democracy is perhaps a fitting end.

This is the gutter, ladies and gentlemen, and it runs into a sewer. May what’s left of conservatism be carried out to sea.

That’s the good, and Josh Marshall, also on the previous evening, said the issue wasn’t the plagiarized speech that Trump’s third trophy-wife read rather well:

In substantive terms, the much bigger story from last night was a hastily thrown together program focused on violence, bloodshed and betrayal by political enemies. We’ve become so inured to Trump’s brand of incitement that it’s barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain these parents experience is unfathomable.

But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there’s no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people whose children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn’t illustration; it’s incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it’s normal.

And other things are normal now:

Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two – and I think more – actually led the crowd in chants of “lock her up!” There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton’s part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against her for anything connected to her private email server.

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance, re-watch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more Ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don’t fool yourself: worse can happen.

And worse will happen:

The Trump campaign has always been about revenge and reclamation. Trump is a catalyst not a cause. It is all borne from the social and cultural transformation that is currently changing the country. Hillary Clinton has plenty of flaws. But they have no necessary or clear connection to the venom and increasingly violent anger directed against her. She’s simply the symbol and target. “Lock her up!” “Lock her up!” This is an American political convention. She’s the opposing party nominee. This is not normal. Not normal at all.

It is no exaggeration to say the driving themes of last night’s program – with a brief interlude of uplift from Melania Trump – were a pervasive vision of insecurity, violence and bloodshed, committed by national outsiders and abetted by the betrayals of political enemies. We debate the definition of fascism and just what governmental structures it involves. But setting that largely academic and mostly unhelpful debate aside, this is precisely the kind of febrile victimology and demands for aggression and revenge against enemies that gives rise to it. ‘Fascism’ is a distraction that is more a cudgel than an explanatory device. What Trump is, however, is a would-be authoritarian ruler. And authoritarian rulers require violence and disorder because it is their justification for rule.

The fact that the current First Lady’s speech from eight years ago showed up in Melania Trump’s speech is largely irrelevant in comparison to these developments. It is simply another example of the amateur grifterism and slapdash Potemkin village that is everything Trump. He is a dangerous man for a dangerous moment.

And Marshall is not even considering this:

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

The idea is to change the civil service laws. Career civil servants appointed in the Obama years would lose their jobs. This is parallel to what Paul Bremmer did in our first year in Iraq – all members of the Baath Party were purged from the government, even low-level paper-pushers. Suddenly there were a hundred thousand or more Sunni clerks and whatnot without jobs, without an income, and without hope. And they were angry. And they were desperate. Erdogan is doing the same thing in Turkey now, purging the government of people who may or maybe could disagree with his policies. The coup failed. It’s his country now. A hundred thousand or more bewildered low-level functionaries will now be wandering around without jobs or hope – and probably pretty angry. What could go wrong with that? What could go wrong with Trump’s plan?

And there are these two ideas:

Christie also told the gathering that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.

Trump has previously vowed to eliminate the EPA and roll back some of America’s most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he says would revive the U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Christie added that the Trump team wants to let businesspeople serve in government part time without having to give up their jobs in the private sector. Trump frequently says he is better equipped to be president because of his business experience.

What could go wrong with that? Let the oil and coal companies go big, and let the bankers keep their job as bankers as they simultaneously regulate the banks, including their own.

That’s curious, but so is this:

The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has been dismissive of calls for supporting the Ukraine government as it fights an ongoing Russian-led intervention. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.

Still, Republican delegates at last week’s national security committee platform meeting in Cleveland were surprised when the Trump campaign orchestrated a set of events to make sure that the GOP would not pledge to give Ukraine the weapons it has been asking for from the United States.

Paul Manafort is still working for the exiled (in Russia) Viktor Yanukovych:

Inside the meeting, Diana Denman, a platform committee member from Texas who was a Ted Cruz supporter, proposed a platform amendment that would call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.

“Today, the post-Cold War ideal of a ‘Europe whole and free’ is being severely tested by Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine,” the amendment read. “The Ukrainian people deserve our admiration and support in their struggle.”

Trump staffers in the room, who are not delegates but are there to oversee the process, intervened. By working with pro-Trump delegates, they were able to get the issue tabled while they devised a method to roll back the language.

On the sideline, Denman tried to persuade the Trump staffers not to change the language, but failed. “I was troubled when they put aside my amendment and then watered it down,” Denman told me. “I said, ‘What is your problem with a country that wants to remain free?’ It seems like a simple thing.”

Finally, Trump staffers wrote an amendment to Denman’s amendment that stripped out the platform’s call for “providing lethal defensive weapons” and replaced it with softer language calling for “appropriate assistance.”

That amendment was voted on and passed.

And that’s that. Putin will be happy:

Trump’s view of Russia has always been friendlier than most Republicans. He’s said he would “get along very well” with Vladimir Putin and called it a “great honor” when Putin praised him. Trump has done a lot of business in Russia and has been traveling there since 1987. Last August, he said of Ukraine joining NATO, “I wouldn’t care.” He traveled there in September, and he told Ukrainians their war is “really a problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us.”

In short, he doesn’t give a shit – so you can imagine, in early 2017, President Trump and President Putin sitting down together, perhaps sipping Trump Vodka, and divvying up the world – all of Ukraine goes back to Russia and whatnot – while swapping manly stories.

The folks in Cleveland, the new Republicans, wanted a strong leader, and Trump closed the deal. They got one. Of course they don’t have the final say.

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Another Opening, Another Show

It’s a quiet evening here in Hollywood – no police helicopters overhead at the moment – and in the other room, on the television, the opening night of the Republican National Convention is unspooling – in silence. Some things are better without sound, like disaster movies – that’s the best way to understand how the special effects actually work. Late in the evening, when it’s a wrap, the pundits on Fox and CNN and MSNBC will talk about who said what, and why, and what it might mean – with clips. No one has to watch this stuff in real time. Few want to. The clips will do, and in the morning there will be extended assessments online in the Washington Post and New York Times, and at every political website and blog. If this were the opening night of a Broadway show, the cast would be sitting around at Sardi’s waiting for some assistant to an assistant to run in with the first morning newspapers, and someone would read the reviews, aloud to the exhausted cast, to see what the “very important” critics said of the show. It would be heartbreak or triumph, depending on which old black-and-white movie from the thirties this happened to be – but everyone would love Ruby Keeler. A star is born.

Politics isn’t like that, except that this year Donald Trump promised a convention that would be show-business, not boring political nonsense. Perhaps he sees himself as Ruby Keeler, the unlikely understudy who surprises the world, through sheer charm, and steals the show, and everyone’s heart. It has been said that politics is show business for ugly people, and this may be the year for that. On the other hand, as a backstage story of how the show gets put together, things have been a bit strange:

Donald Trump reportedly had a hard time understanding that Republican officials didn’t view a boxing promoter convicted of manslaughter and a woman who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault as suitable speaker choices for the Republican National Convention.

A New York Times report published Sunday shed some light on some of Trump’s speaker picks that were shot down by Republican officials, as well as the difficulties those officials had getting Trump to understand why those picks would be disastrous.

Trump said earlier this month that he’d told notorious boxing promoter Don King that he’d like him to speak at the convention. The real estate mogul had bragged about receiving King’s endorsement, although King denied giving one.

It turns out Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus had to explain that a man convicted of a felony could not speak at the convention, three anonymous GOP strategists familiar with those conversations told the Times. He reportedly reminded Trump that King had stomped a man to death, and Trump eventually conceded.

Oh, that, and the woman who was going to explain to America how Bill Clinton seduced and abandoned her, many years ago, was nixed too. What was the point?

Putting a hit show together is tricky and hard work. There’s that opening number of Cole Porter’s 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate – “Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse, / Three weeks and it couldn’t be worse, / One week, will it ever be right? / Then out o’ the hat, it’s that big first night! / The overture is about to start. / You cross your fingers and hold your heart. / It’s curtain time and away we go!”

It’s another opening of another show:

After getting off to a chaotic start because of a procedural skirmish, Republicans opened their national convention here Monday night with savage attacks on Hillary Clinton, blaming the former secretary of state for tragedies at home and abroad.

Nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump’s supporters took to the stage to prosecute the case against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and convince Americans that he has the strength and judgment to be a credible commander-in-chief in the face of terrorist attacks on the homeland and around the world.

“What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America,” said Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who steered his city through the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Rudy, however, was the warm-up act:

Trump made a splashy debut on the convention stage about 10:20 p.m., walking out in silhouette to Queen’s anthem, “We Are the Champions.”

“We’re going to win so big,” the candidate vowed, as he introduced his wife, Melania, for her keynote address.

Melania Trump, a former fashion model born in Slovenia, who has shied away from public speaking, testified to Trump’s heart and love of country in a well-received speech.

“I have been with Donald for 18 years, and I have been aware of his love for this country since we first met,” she said. “He never had a hidden agenda when it comes to his patriotism because, like me, he loves his country very much.”

Melania Trump also praised her husband’s vision.

“Donald thinks big, which is especially important when considering the presidency of the United States. No room for small thinking. No room for small results. Donald gets things done.”

She sought to broaden her husband’s appeal to the general population, including groups that have been outright hostile to his candidacy, saying that love binds their family and that together they would bring compassion to the White House.

“Donald intends to represent all the people, not just some of the people,” Melania Trump said. “That includes Christians and Jews and Muslims. It includes Hispanics and African Americans and Asians and the poor and the middle class.”

That’s news to most Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians, not to mention the disabled, who he’s mocked, and a whole lot of women he’s called ugly pigs, but that’s not the point:

Afterward, Donald Trump returned to the stage, kissed his wife and pointed at her with his signature gesture, as if to show her off to the roaring crowd.

As he likes to say, or used to say, that’s a nice piece of ass on his arm. He has a trophy wife and you don’t – and that’s his third. He’s a winner. You’re not.

Ah well, that aside, it was back to business:

A trio of speakers railed against undocumented immigrants – whom they repeatedly called “illegal aliens” – for killing their loved ones and argued that only Trump could keep the country safe.

“My son’s life was stolen at the hands of an illegal alien,” said Mary Ann Mendoza, mother of fallen police Sgt. Brandon Mendoza. “It’s time we had an administration that cares more about Americans than about illegals. A vote for Hillary is putting all our children’s lives at risk.”

Patricia Smith, whose son Sean died in the 2012 terrorist attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, reduced convention delegates to tears with an emotional address about her son’s death – which she said she blames on Clinton, the-then secretary of state.

“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” Smith said. She pointed out a delegate holding up a “Hillary for Prison” sign and said, “That’s right – Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.”

Smith served as the moving opening act in a series of presentations about Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attacks, the subject of many congressional and other investigations. Giuliani accused her of “dereliction of duty” in Benghazi.

“She loves her pantsuits,” said Darryl Glenn, a GOP Senate candidate in Colorado. “But we should send her an e-mail and tell her that she deserves a bright orange jumpsuit.”

And meanwhile:

United Airlines has suspended a pilot who charged that Hillary Clinton should be “hung” for her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

In a tweet sent Sunday, the airline said it was “appalled” by the comments from Michael Folk, who also serves as a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates…

United has also launched an investigation into Folk’s comments, which he made Friday on Twitter. In a tweet that has since been deleted, Folk said that Clinton should be tried for “treason, murder, and crimes against the US Constitution and then hung on the mall in Washington, D.C.,” according to the Associated Press.

Folk told the AP in a Sunday interview that he was being hyperbolic and could have stated his point “a little bit better.”

No doubt, and back at the convention:

Willie Robertson, the long-bearded star of “Duck Dynasty,” took the podium wearing an American flag bandana around his head and vowed repeatedly that Trump would “have your back.”

It was quite a show, but Chris Cillizza covered the earlier show:

For weeks, rumors that rump Republicans dissatisfied with the idea of Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee would stage a protest vote swirled. On Monday, those disgruntled Republicans made good on their pledge – sort of.

The fight happened just after 4 p.m. eastern – three hours after the convention was gaveled in on its first day. At issue was the approval of the rules package that sets the parameters for the four-day convention. Pro-Trump forces tried to push through the package on a voice vote.

That didn’t go well:

“Roll call vote” was the chant of the anti-Trump forces, a desire to have each state, one by one, announce their support or opposition not only for the rules package but, more broadly, for Trump.

Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack was – unfortunately for him – tasked with overseeing this chaos. The first time he tried to declare that the “ayes” (pro-Trump) votes had it, he was shouted down and left the stage. Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a leading voice of the anti-Trump movement, called that decision to flee “surreal” and admitted that he had no idea what would come next.

What came next was a return by Womack to the stage and a repetition of the voice vote. After declaring that the “ayes” had it (again), Womack noted that only six of the nine states demanding a roll call vote had stood firm. Seven states were needed. …

The Iowa and Colorado delegations walked off the floor. Boos cascaded down. But it was over.

The Cillizza early-edition review:

For Republicans desperately hoping that unity would be the word of the day and the week here in Cleveland, the damage was done. The images of unhappy Republicans shouting for a chance to show their dissatisfaction with Trump and then walking out makes for just the sort of images out of this week that Republicans were hoping to avoid.

It showed, powerfully and with the eyes of the national media watching, that the idea that the GOP was rapidly uniting behind Trump is a pipe dream. And that divisions – real and serious ones – remain, no matter the rhetorical attempts to paper them over.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, once a potential Trump VP, took the stage soon after the eruption. She spent her time touting the party’s unity and the inclusive process of building the party platform. But no one was listening.

Earlier in the day, Greg Sargent noted that it’s more than that:

Three national polls released over the weekend showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump: A CNN poll putting Clinton up by 49-42; an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll putting her up by 46-41; and a Washington Post/ABC News poll putting her up by 47-43.

But buried beneath the top-lines is evidence of another dynamic that gets at something important about the state of this race: While both Clinton and Trump are very unpopular, large majorities in two of these polls believe that only one of them is qualified for the presidency, and equally large majorities believe that the other one is not.

The new WaPo poll finds, for instance, that Americans say by 59-39 that Clinton is “qualified to serve as president,” but they also say by 60-37 that Trump is “not qualified to serve as president.”

The WaPo poll also finds that 59 percent of Americans say that Clinton has the “better personality and temperament to serve effectively as president,” while only 28 percent of Americans say that about Trump.

Meanwhile, the new CNN poll finds that Americans say by 64-36 that Clinton “has the right experience to be president.” But they say by 67-32 that Trump does not have “the right experience to be president.”

Trump might not be the unlikely “sudden star” after all:

This is the story that lurks underneath the widespread lament that Americans are unhappy with the two candidates. It’s true that both are disliked: These polls show, variously, that Clinton and Trump are both viewed very negatively; that neither is seen as more trustworthy than the other; that majorities would not be proud to have either as president; and that majorities think both are out of touch with everyday Americans’ problems. They also show vulnerabilities for Clinton in certain areas: For instance, Trump is favored more on the economy, and the email story has raised serious concerns for many voters about Clinton’s judgment. But regardless, only one of the two candidates is seen –  by large margins – to be qualified for the job, while the other one is seen as unqualified by margins that are at least as large.

Trump might want to worry about this a bit:

Nate Silver recently suggested a useful framework for thinking about this campaign: One way Trump might be able to win is if Americans “come to view the race as one between two equally terrible choices, instead of Trump being uniquely unacceptable.” One way that might not come to pass is if majorities of Americans – while disliking and mistrusting both – continue believing that Trump, unlike Clinton, is simply unfit for the job on a very fundamental level.

Trump, however, doesn’t seem to worry about such things:

As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday.

He has no time to read, he said: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.

Presidents have different ways of preparing to make decisions. Some read deeply, some prefer to review short memos that condense difficult issues into bite-size summaries, ideally with check-boxes at the bottom of the page. But Trump, poised to become the first major-party presidential nominee since Dwight Eisenhower who had not previously held elected office, appears to have an unusually light appetite for reading.

But he does have his reasons:

He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.’

Who says that to him, a lot of people? He does have a habit of making stuff up of course, so no one may have said that, and that’s a worry here:

Trump’s approach goes beyond the chief executive manner of Reagan or the younger Bush. “We’ve had presidents who have reveled in their lack of erudition,” said Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, citing Warren Harding and Lyndon Johnson as leaders who scoffed at academics and other experts. “But Trump is really something of an outlier with this idea that knowing things is almost a distraction. He doesn’t have a historical anchor, so you see his gut changing on issues from moment to moment.”

Still, if knowing things is a useless distraction, we have an explanation of the opening night of the Trump (sort of Republican) convention. And that also explains this:

Although he’s almost a decade shy of the voting age, Micah St. George has a message he’s anxious to deliver to the Republican National Committee: Please don’t nominate Donald Trump for president.

A soon-to-be fourth grader in Newton, Massachusetts, Micah is the co-founder of Kids Against Trump, a group that started with a paper petition passed around the playground at Angier Elementary, a K-6 school in a bucolic suburb just west of Boston.

The idea for the petition started in February after some of Trump’s speeches. The candidate’s words troubled Micah on two levels. First of all, there were Trump’s disparaging comments about women, Muslims, and immigrants. Micah was adopted from Guatemala as an infant, and he has two moms. So it felt to Micah like Trump was attacking his family and friends.

But another thought stuck with Micah: I can understand everything he’s saying.

“He’s talking on my level – I’m 9 years old,” Micah says. “That’s not okay.”

Micah’s friend and classmate Alexis Fridman – who started the original recess petition with him and is the other co-founder of Kids Against Trump – put it another way: “If I talked like Donald Trump, I’d get sent to the principal’s office immediately.”

And now lots of people are signing their petition, there’s a Facebook page, and Trump has one more worry – the nine-year-olds of America are telling him to grow up.

That will spoil your opening night, and earlier in the day it was the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who interviewed Tony Schwartz, the author of The Art of the Deal. He wrote the actual words that were then packaged as a Donald Trump book, which was a HUGE success. That’s okay. He got half the advance and continues to get half the royalties, but the whole thing was a bit odd:

“If I were you,” Schwartz recalls telling [Trump], “I’d write a book called ‘The Art of the Deal.’ That’s something people would be interested in.”

“You’re right,” Trump agreed. “Do you want to write it?”

Schwartz thought it over for several weeks… Being a ghostwriter was hackwork. In the end, though, Schwartz had his price. He told Trump that if he would give him half the advance and half the book’s royalties he’d take the job.

Such terms are unusually generous for a ghostwriter. Trump – despite having a reputation as a tough negotiator – agreed on the spot.

That was it? Kevin Drum finds that amusing:

This is pretty typical Trump. As near as I can tell, he’s actually a lousy negotiator. There are exceptions here and there, but he routinely overpays for properties he wants and routinely ends up in litigation with the people he does deals with. That’s not the sign of a great negotiator. It’s the sign of someone who can’t get the deal right the first time – and then goes to court in hopes that his partners will cave in because it’s just not worth the money to fight him. This is also why Trump has a hard time getting loans these days and doesn’t do many deals outside of licensing and branding.

But the real “reveal” here is that Schwartz never really liked Trump and now feels guilty for his part in selling him to the American public:

Schwartz thought that “The Art of the Deal” would be an easy project… For research, he planned to interview Trump on a series of Saturday mornings… But the discussion was soon hobbled by what Schwartz regards as one of Trump’s most essential characteristics: “He has no attention span.”…

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit – or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then…” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said. …

So he came up with another plan. He would propose eavesdropping on Trump’s life by following him around on the job and, more important, by listening in on his office phone calls… There was not a single call that Trump deemed too private for Schwartz to hear. “He loved the attention,” Schwartz recalls. “If he could have had three hundred thousand people listening in, he would have been even happier.”

This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.”…

He then tried to amplify the material he got from Trump by calling others involved in the deals. But their accounts often directly conflicted with Trump’s. “Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”… Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”…

Rhetorically, Schwartz’s aim in “The Art of the Deal” was to present Trump as the hero of every chapter, but, after looking into some of his supposedly brilliant deals, Schwartz concluded that there were cases in which there was no way to make Trump look good. So he sidestepped unflattering incidents and details. “I didn’t consider it my job to investigate,” he says. …

As far as Schwartz could tell, Trump spent very little time with his family and had no close friends… “He’d like people when they were helpful, and turn on them when they weren’t. It wasn’t personal. He’s a transactional man – it was all about what you could do for him.”

Drum:

Just the kind of guy you want in the Oval Office: a serial liar with no attention span who doesn’t care about other people and has no interests other than his own self-glorification. Oh, and he’s a mediocre dealmaker too.

That sort of thing appearing in the media in the morning can ruin your opening night. Ghostwriters can be dangerous, and that was an issue on opening night in a quite different way:

Melania Trump earned praise for her speech on Monday at the opening night of the Republican National Convention, but her remarks almost immediately came under scrutiny when striking similarities were discovered between her speech and one delivered by Michelle Obama at the Democratic convention in 2008.

The phrases in question came when Ms. Trump – who told NBC News earlier Monday that she had written her speech herself – was discussing her upbringing in Slovenia and her parents.

Fine, but phrases, and whole sentences, and one whole paragraph were word-for-word from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in spite of this:

Ms. Trump said in an interview taped with NBC’s Matt Lauer before her speech that she went over it just once in advance. “I wrote it with as little help as possible,” she said.

Yeah, but you can’t get good help these days:

Mr. Trump’s aides declined to identify who, if anyone, on the campaign helped in writing the speech. Mr. Trump’s main speechwriter is Stephen Miller, and the convention program and speakers have been managed by the campaign’s chief strategist, Paul Manafort.

Mr. Trump’s campaign aides stayed quiet early Tuesday. Privately, one Trump aide said the campaign was going over the passages from the two speeches, while another blamed the news media and Democrats, suggesting they were fanning flames. …

Some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders had trouble explaining the overlapping language. On CNN, Jeffrey Lord, a commentator and Trump supporter, called it “a serious thing” and recalled the plagiarism scandal that helped sink Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 1988 presidential bid. Mr. Lord speculated that a staff member on Mr. Trump’s campaign was responsible and added that whoever it was should be let go.

Somebody’s head should roll, or Donald should divorce Melania, because this ruined everything:

As it happened, the thrust of Monday night’s speaker lineup was what Republicans called the inauthenticity and incompetence of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Oops. But it had to happen:

Mr. Trump’s reed-thin campaign staff, which served him well in the Republican primary contests, has started to grow in recent weeks. But he has struggled to professionalize his operation to adapt to a general election.

Someone really does need to check these things. She spoke the exact words of the wife of the Kenyan Muslim, who is the secret head of both ISIS and al-Qaeda, and a Black Nationalist who wants to kill cops, to describe her own husband. That’s the worst possible thing that could have happened, but you need staff, and time, to check these things – especially if you’re going to put on a show with big production numbers. Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse. Three weeks and it couldn’t be worse. One week, will it ever be right?

The answer was no.

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Nope

There’s no Sunday evening column – out of town for a family picnic far south of Hollywood. Expect a Monday evening (Tuesday morning) column. Sorry about that.

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Now Turkey

The breaking news was breaking Donald Trump. All eyes were supposed to be on him Thursday evening. Who would he choose as his running mate – the somewhat spherical New Jersey bully, Chris Christie, or the eccentric former House speaker with a checkered past, New Gingrich, or the hard-right but essentially boring Mike Pence, with his years in congressional leadership and his lackluster years as Indiana’s governor? It was the ultimate episode of Celebrity Apprentice – but that show was preempted by the third major terror attack in France in eighteen months – the guy with the big truck in Nice, on Bastille Day. He killed eight-four people and left over two-hundred near death in hospitals from Nice to Arles. Trump cancelled his announcement, out of respect, he said, but no one was buying that. He had been upstaged by an ISIS terrorist – or by an unhinged murderous psychotic who was using ISIS as an excuse. It didn’t matter. Talk shifted to what we are going to do about terrorists. No one has a clue – although Newt Gingrich said “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.”

That wasn’t well received. Some of those are American citizens. There’s no way to send them back to where they came from, which might be Altoona, and interviews about specific religious beliefs won’t solve much – and it also might help if Newt understood Sharia better, or at all – but such talk was in the air. Newt also wants to make it a felony for anyone to visit certain websites, which might make it hard for our counterterrorism folks to keep up with just who is planning just what. Maybe he’ll exempt those folks.

Who knows? There was a lot of talk in the air, and it wasn’t about Donald Trump. At midnight, Trump called all his advisers and asked if he really had to go with Mike Pence – he seemed to have sensed that choosing the boring guy made him look like a coward – but they told him it was too late for that. In the morning, presumably out of respect for the French dead, he sent out a simple tweet – Mike Pence was the guy.

That was it. There was no big event with the two of them on stage, hands clasped in the air as people cheered. There were no speeches about sticking it to Hillary and making America great again. Trump said that would happen on Saturday morning. The whole nation would watch. They’d be in awe, they always are, and what the hell else would they watch on Saturday morning? Nothing happens on Saturday morning. The coast would be clear. The Mediterranean coast would be clear.

Then the breaking news broke Donald Trump again. Late Friday, Turkey fell apart. A key ally in all we do in the Middle East, a full member of NATO and the only Muslim nation in NATO, had a military coup on its hands, one that seems to be extending into Trump’s Saturday:

Turkey’s government said it was restoring order Saturday after renegade army soldiers staged an attempted coup, wreaking havoc in several Turkish cities and plunging the already troubled country into a new era of uncertainty.

Addressing a big crowd of supporters gathered in Istanbul shortly after dawn, President Recep Tayyep Erdogan said his government was now fully in control following a night of bloodshed that saw Turkey, a major NATO member and key U.S. ally, spin briefly out of control.

“This government, brought to power by the people, is in charge,” he said, as the crowd roared: “Turkey is proud of you.”

“I am here, I am with you and I want you to know this,” Erdogan said.

Hours earlier, branches of the police and army had fought pitched battles for control of major government buildings in the capital, Ankara, as protesters swarmed onto the streets to confront the tanks rumbling into their cities. Helicopters flown by coup supporters fired on government buildings and into the crowds gathering to challenge the attempt to overthrow Turkey’s government, in the most significant challenge to the country’s stability in decades.

This is not supposed to happen in NATO nations:

At least 42 people were killed in the violence in Ankara, including a lawmaker who died when the parliament was bombed by a helicopter, Turkish officials said.

Gruesome video footage posted on social media showed tanks crushing protesters who tried to block their path, bloodied bodies strewn on the streets of Ankara and helicopters firing into civilian crowds, raising fears that the toll could be higher.

By the early hours of Saturday morning, Turkish officials said the government had managed to claw back control from the coup plotters, whose identity and profile remained unclear. A Turkish warplane shot down a helicopter carrying some of the coup leaders, the officials said, and the state broadcaster, which had been silent for several hours after it was overrun by soldiers, was back on the air.

But it did happen:

“A minority group within the armed forces targeted the integrity of our country,” Erdogan told reporters at a news conference broadcast live on state television. “This latest action is an action of treason, and they will have to pay heavily for that. This is a government that has been elected by the people.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim issued orders early Saturday to the military aircraft pilots still loyal to the government to take to the skies to shoot down any remaining planes flying on behalf of the coup plotters, who appeared to include a sizable proportion of the air force.

“The situation is largely in control,” Yildirim told Turkey’s NTV television channel. “All commanders are in charge. The people have taken steps to address this threat.”

Control is a relative term here:

With the main opposition parties making statements condemning the coup attempt, and most of the important branches of the military and security services rallying to the government’s side, it did not appear that the renegades had widespread support.

The upheaval began Friday evening when tanks and other armored vehicles appeared on bridges across the Bosporus in Istanbul and F-16s began streaking through the skies.

Shortly afterward, an anchor with the state television broadcaster read a statement purportedly from the Turkish military saying it had taken control of the country, citing concerns about the increasingly autocratic behavior of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party.

“The Turkish Armed Forces, in accordance with the constitution, have seized management of the country to reinstate democracy, human rights, and freedom, and to ensure public order, which has deteriorated,” the statement said.

In accordance with the constitution, the military can seize management of the country? What? That’s one hell of system of government, but that’s Kemalism:

Kemalism, also known as Atatürkism, or the Six Arrows, is the founding ideology of the Republic of Turkey. Kemalism, as it was implemented by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was defined by sweeping political, social, cultural and religious reforms designed to separate the new Turkish state from its Ottoman predecessor and embrace a Westernized way of living, including the establishment of democracy, civil and political equality for women, secularism, state support of the sciences and free education, many of which were first introduced to Turkey during Atatürk’s presidency in his reforms.

If the leader is moving the nation back to its old Ottoman ways, well, someone’s got to do something. Josh Marshal notes that this has been the military’s job:

There have been a series of military coups in Turkey since the post-World War II transition to multi-party democracy. Indeed, the Turkish military was deemed for decades to have a special role in the state as the protector and guarantor of the state ideology of Kemalism. Those coups could be bloody – once resulting in the hanging of a Prime Minister or ‘soft’ as in the most recent one in 1997 which ousted Erdogan’s mentor without any actual force being applied. But that history of military intervention comes before the rule of now-President Erdogan.

But somehow he couldn’t escape this one:

It has been widely understood – a general consensus among Turkey-watchers – that around half way through his current tenure in power – Erdogan effectively broke the political power of the military. He did this in a series of ways, but most notably through a series of high profile trials of top military brass over attempted coup plots that may have been real or trumped up for political purposes.

The key point is it was widely assumed that the days of military coups in Turkey were over, certainly the old version, which was often coups against government’s operating outside the bright lines of the military’s interpretation of Kemalism or simply unable to maintain civil order. So despite Turkey’s history of coups, this is neither expected nor normal. Obviously any state can have a military insurrection or coup. But most thought the old de facto system in Turkey was through. Adding to the mystery is that immediately clear what the aims of this coup would be or what the precipitating event would be. Turkey has been wracking by a series of horrific terrorist attacks. It has mass disorder on its southeastern flank in Syria and the whole cauldron of the Arab Middle East. And Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian style of government has raised the temperature within Turkish society considerably. But it’s not immediately clear which of those factors would have inspired a coup, whether it is all of them or none of them.

It is important to note that Erdogan, who came to power pledging to fully democratize Turkey and in his early years took real and concrete steps in that direction has been increasingly autocratic in his rule. In some key respects the recent years of his rule have validated the predictions of those who warned against letting an Islamist party run the state. The military in its statement has said it has taken control to preserve democracy and human rights. They both definitely need protecting under Erdogan. But coup plotters almost always say some version of that.

Jenny White, a professor at Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, suggests it’s not quite that simple:

The generals are Kemalists. They are not secularists. Neither side is secularist. Secularism means that there is a differentiation between church and state. In Turkey it is laicist but gets translated as secularist, which muddies the issue. Kemalists controlled religion in society and preferred Sunnis. I hate using secular because it makes it sounds like they are the good guys and everyone else is bad.

The first real election was in 1950, and the moment that happened all the parties, including [first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk’s, had to start pandering to religion to get people to vote for them. They started opening preacher-training schools. They did those sorts of things because otherwise no one would vote for you other than the elites in the cities. The population is primarily conservative. The army, because of this, has always been its own world. It has its own living quarters and schools. It is a universe devoted to Kemalism, and the army doesn’t like governments doing anything with religion that isn’t under Kemalist control. As soon as they saw too much pandering, they stepped in. The first party that came into power in 1950, the Democrat Party, was not a religious party. It was only vaguely conservative, but there was a coup because the army thought the party had become too autocratic. It was very similar to now. They hanged the prime minister.

They think of it as recalibrating democracy, but they can’t get rid of pandering to religion because people are conservative. And Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) managed to pull that off to such an extent that they now have half the population, in part because that part of the population has been constantly pushed back and disrespected.

That does muddy the waters, as does this:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the most significant ruler in the republic’s history since its founder Mustapha Kemal Ataturk – is obsessed with Egypt. Three years ago, a military coup there ousted the democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, arrested him and his allies, ruthlessly cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood, and installed a regime that remains in place to this day.

Morsi, an Islamist, seemed something of a kindred spirit to Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a center-right party built on an ideology of Sunni Muslim religious nationalism. Erdogan fumed at Morsi’s removal and the brutal quashing of a government that, while unpopular, had won an electoral mandate. Many Egyptian Islamists who weren’t rounded up by the state fled to Istanbul to take sanctuary.

Last year, when the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, the main architect of the coup, sentenced Morsi to death, Erdogan raged at both the powers-that-be in Cairo as well as the West, which had looked on at this extinguishing of Arab democracy with seeming indifference, perhaps even tacit relief.

In short, when Sunni Muslim religious nationalism is chosen by the people that should be that:

During two election campaigns last year, Erdogan spoke gloomily of dark forces working against democracy and his government – foreign conspirators, even a “crusader alliance.”

That sounds noble, but for this:

After a decade as prime minister, he won election for the presidency – technically a ceremonial and apolitical role – and set about refashioning the Turkish republic in his image. He sought an executive presidency with expanded powers; in Ankara, he built a vast 10,000-room palace for himself.

As myriad rights groups and opposition parties allege, Erdogan’s authoritarian style grew apace. Major opposition newspapers and TV stations were shuttered or taken over; journalists and dissenters have been arrested on various charges. Even his one-time closest political ally was sidelined.

Meanwhile, the disaster in Syria – and Turkey’s own bungled policies in the region – fueled unrest within the country. The Kurdish insurgency flared up. The Islamic State, which critics say gained ground through Turkish negligence, started attacking targets within Turkey. The assault on Istanbul airport last month, it seemed, marked a new dangerous moment of open conflict between the jihadists and the Turkish state.

That last conflict is between his structured Sunni Muslim religious nationalism and the kill-them-all Sunni jihad of ISIS. Saddam Hussein had the same problem with al-Qaeda. They hated the guy. Some Sunni leaders just aren’t Sunni enough.

This, of course, puts the United States in an awkward position:

President Barack Obama called on all parties to “support the democratically elected government of Turkey” on Friday after an attempted military coup in the country, a strategically located but fickle NATO ally whose cooperation is crucial to defeating the Islamic State terrorist network. …

Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement of his own, said he had spoken to Turkey’s foreign minister “and emphasized the United States’ absolute support for Turkey’s democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic institutions.” NATO took a similar line, with the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg calling for “full respect” for Turkey’s democratic institutions.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a carefully calibrated statement that called for “calm and respect for laws, institutions, and basic human rights and freedoms,” while urging “support for the democratically elected civilian government.” Her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, remained silent…

Do we support Sunni Muslim religious nationalism? We do, if we support democracy, but that isn’t easy:

Obama’s swift decision to back Erdogan against the coup plotters comes despite his concern at the Islamist leader’s growing intolerance for dissent. In April, the U.S. president pointedly snubbed Erdogan during his five-day trip to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit, and described his escalating crackdown on the Turkish media as “troubling.”

“He came into office with a promise of democracy and Turkey has historically been a country in which deep Islamic faith has lived side-by-side with modernity and an increasing openness, and that’s the legacy he should pursue,” Obama said at the time, warning his Turkish counterpart against “repression of information and shutting down democratic debate.”

Erdogan fired back in a gaggle with Turkish reporters. “I was saddened to hear that statement made behind my back. During my talk with Obama, those issues did not come up,” he said, referring to a brief meeting the two leaders held on the sidelines of the summit.

“You cannot consider insults and threats press freedom or criticism,” Erdogan said.

Curiously, Donald Trump often says the same thing, but there’s a history here:

In 2013, the Egyptian military threw out the highly unpopular but democratically elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. The Obama administration, believing Egypt to be a critical partner in an unstable region, declined to even say whether the events constituted a coup or not. Had it called the takeover a coup, the administration would have had to cut off aid to the country under U.S. law.

Turkey receives little to no direct U.S. military aid, experts noted. However, it is the only Muslim country in NATO and has been a staunch military ally of the United States since it joined the Western alliance in 1952.

A key NATO base is located at Incirlik in southern Turkey, which is now being used to launch attacks against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria. …

There are also more than a dozen installations large and small spread across the country that house U.S. or NATO personnel – from Istanbul in the northwest to Diyarbakir in the southeast. Turkey also has more than 500 soldiers serving as part of the NATO force in Afghanistan.

The country’s strategic importance – position as it is on the fault line between two continents, Europe and Asia – has increased over the years as U.S. involvement in the broader Middle East has deepened, and as new sources of natural gas have emerged in Central Asia.

Turkey also controls access to and from the Black Sea. It also remains one of the largest customers for American weapons, including as a partner in the new F-35 fighter jet.

It seems we’re stuck with this guy’s Sunni Muslim religious nationalism. Geopolitics is funny that way, but anyone can see what’s next. It might be somethings like this. “Barack Obama released a statement in support of the Islamist government instead of the moderate secular opposition attempting the coup!”

Donald Trump hasn’t shouted that yet, but he will. He’ll be shouting that the military should remove the democratically elected government and simply take over, if the issue is Islam – but he’s been silent so far, probably that sounds pretty stupid from someone who says we should elect him to office, as the voters should have the final word. Perhaps he won’t say that, but what else is he going to say? Look! Mike Pence!

That’s sad. The breaking news broke this man.

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