Should Have Seen This Coming

Yeah, she said this:

You guys are sounding angry is we’re hearing from the establishment. They stomp on our neck and tell us to chill. Just relax. Well, look, we are mad and we’ve been had. They need to get used to it. This election is more than just your basic ABCs: Anybody but Clinton. It’s more than that this go around. When we’re talking about a nation without borders, and bankruptcies and our federal government, debt our children and grandchildren will never be able to pay off.

When we’re talking about the power that comes from strength, power through strength, well then we’re talking about our very existence. No, we’re not going to chill. It’s time to drill, baby, drill down and hold these folks accountable and we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect a candidate that represents that and America first, finally. Pro-Constitution. Common-sense solutions he brings to the table. Yes, the status quo has got to go. With their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged, it must be savaged and Donald Trump is the one to do that. Are you ready for new and are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again? It’s going to take a whole team.

That was Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump – make of it what you will, or can – and of course, the following Saturday night, on Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey was back and, in the exact same flashy outfit that Sarah Palin wore, brought back her amazing Sarah Palin impression – but this time much of it was direct quotes. What do they say? You can’t make this stuff up? There was no need to. As Sharan Shetty says at the link – “Palin is somewhat parody-proof: There’s virtually no difference between Fey’s caricature and the politician’s actual persona. Like Trump, the former governor is always one step ahead of the satire.”

Well, she’s back – they’re both back. Tina Fey does a wonderful Sarah Palin, but Julianne Moore did a far better Sarah Palin in the 2012 HBO movie Game Change – a Palin that was surprisingly nuanced and sympathetic. There was no question of the woman’s good intentions or her sincerity, just her capabilities. Moore won every acting award available that year, for humanizing Palin, for moving beyond easy parody, but there were others. Woody Harrelson played Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s senior campaign strategist – he was really at the center of things – it was his story of dealing with a mistake as best he could. Harrelson captured the agony of that, and Sarah Paulson played Nicolle Wallace, the campaign’s director of communications, assigned by Schmidt to help Palin navigate the interviews and public appearances. What Palin said and did were supposed to reinforce McCain’s efforts, but that wasn’t possible. Palin was a bit of a wild-child. She likes to wing it, to be authentic – that had, after all, gotten her far. Nicolle Wallace did what she could – but then there was that Katy Couric interview. Palin thought Nicolle Wallace had set her up to fail. Wallace told Palin she never listened to anyone – Couric had been fair. Wallace told Schmidt to find someone else – she never wanted to work with that woman again, and so on and so forth. It was very dramatic. It was also what actually happened. The movie was based on the 2010 book of the same name by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. They’re careful reporters. They verify by multiple sources. They don’t report what didn’t happen. All this happened.

And now Nicolle Wallace is back. Some stories never end, and now Wallace offers this:

Donald J. Trump has made a shrewd bet. For the first time since he descended an escalator in Trump Tower last June to announce that this time, he really was running for president, he ceded control of his campaign message. He handed the Trump-bedecked podium over to Sarah Palin.

Mr. Trump’s bet: When the politician most fluent in American rage roars, the movement she gave voice to in the fall of 2008 will roar back today.

In fact, some stories never end:

With his call to deport illegal immigrants, especially because Mexico sends us its “bad ones,” his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country, his emphasis on the threats to lawful gun ownership and his promise to protect American goods and workers from China, Mr. Trump is riding the wave of anxiety that Ms. Palin first gave voice to as Senator John McCain’s running mate. Mr. Trump has now usurped and vastly expanded upon Ms. Palin’s constituency, but the connection between the two movements is undeniable.

Trump is, then, only doing what John McCain did, but McCain didn’t quite get it:

Despite her shortcomings, she brought out the largest crowds that we’d seen since the campaign started. Voters stood for hours on the rope line to meet her. Her legacy lies in her innate ability to wrap herself in the anger that those voters felt. While Senator McCain seemed slightly unnerved by the intensity of their discontent, Ms. Palin basked in it.

I stood backstage at a rally in Minnesota in October 2008 where Senator McCain took the microphone from a woman in the crowd who spoke about her fears, including that Barack Obama was “an Arab.” Senator McCain said, “No, ma’am,” and explained that Mr. Obama was a good and decent family man and an American with whom he simply disagreed on policy matters. This interaction will go down as one of the finest moments from one of the country’s finest men. But it was also an early warning that the Republican base was profoundly agitated.

Trump gets what no one else got:

To some in the news media, voter anger seems like a new phenomenon. But they attended the same Palin rallies I did – we all should have seen this coming. The Alaska governor whipped the crowds into a frenzy with her fiery attacks on the media and the establishment politicians that she had gleefully upended in the Alaska statehouse. When her rally-goers shouted crude comments from the stands, as the woman at the Minnesota rally had done, there was no confrontation between Ms. Palin and the offender. When the press started to report on the angry rhetoric coming from those Palin crowds, I remember Senator McCain’s concern. The growing furor in the Republican Party was something that we, as a campaign, failed to address, but to the crowds, Sarah Palin proved the more satisfying politician on the ticket because of it.

Trump certainly gets that, and gets her importance:

Ms. Palin owned the resentment voters in the Republican Party. They became her cause. And when the campaign concluded, she became the poster politician for the Tea Party movement. She was its first star, and hers became a coveted endorsement. Ms. Palin typically picks candidates who are trying to unseat incumbents and more experienced politicians, an ironic development considering that she was selected as a running mate to reinforce Mr. McCain’s brand as a “maverick” – but a maverick who worked within the Senate and the Republican Party.

She has now turned the institutions in which he has proudly served into liabilities for the candidates running against her mama-grizzly-approved outsiders. The party bears some responsibility for her success. Our base has grown increasingly exasperated with Washington Republicans who, despite historic victories in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014, seem incapable of reversing President Obama’s legislative agenda or asserting themselves in the country’s foreign policy debates.

Mr. Trump improves upon Ms. Palin’s jagged attempts at a post-2008 message with a vision for reclaiming American greatness by promising better trade deals, improved care for veterans, a more successful foreign policy based on his personal strength and immigration reform that is based mostly on building a wall. His proposals are, at best, vague and of questionable legal soundness, but they’ve propelled his candidacy by inflaming voter concern that America has lost ground.

That’s obvious, but also dangerous:

That he would refine and recalibrate his proclamations in a general election or as president is a widely held assumption among the Republican establishment. It’s possible that this is the kind of false comfort that people on a sinking ship murmur to one another about how death by drowning really isn’t a bad way to go.

Nicolle Wallace now realizes what had actually been going on back in 2008, and it scares her, because Donald Trump is even better at this sort of thing.

Others are looking back too, and being a bit upset. One of them is David Axelrod, the former senior strategist for Barack Obama, who offers this:

It was so obvious. I’m embarrassed I missed it. Like most of the other talking heads on TV, I was haughtily dismissive of Donald Trump’s candidacy. “It’s apparently open mike day in the Republican campaign for president,” I tweeted last June, after Mr. Trump barged into a relatively placid Republican race with a rambling, riotous speech.

Even as he climbed to the top of polls, I confidently predicted that the outrageous Mr. Trump, as transfixing and ubiquitous as he was, was merely a summer fling. He would fade in the fall, when Republican voters got serious about making a long-term commitment.

Seven months later, Mr. Trump has broken just about every rule of conventional campaigning. Short on policy prescriptions and long on provocation, he has serially – and joyfully – insulted Mexicans, women, Muslims, POWs, people with disabilities and virtually all of his opponents. Yet a week before caucusing begins in Iowa, he still reigns supreme atop the Republican field.

Axelrod, too, made a mistake:

The galling thing is, if I had only reread my own words, written nine years ago to another aspiring candidate, I would have taken the Trump candidacy more seriously from the start. In late 2006, when Barack Obama was a first-term senator pondering a long-shot race for the presidency, he asked me to write a strategic memo exploring his prospects. My bullish analysis was predicated on several factors, but rooted in a theory I had developed over decades as a political writer and campaign consultant.

Here’s the gist. Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive.

The examples are obvious:

A young, energetic John F. Kennedy succeeded the grandfatherly, somnolent Dwight D. Eisenhower, promising “a new generation of leadership.” In a slight variation, a puritanical Jimmy Carter, offering “a government as good as its people,” defeated the unelected incumbent Gerald R. Ford, who bore the burden of the morally bankrupt Nixon era.

Even George H. W. Bush, running to succeed the popular and larger-than-life Ronald Reagan, subtly made a virtue of his own lack of charisma and edge.

The pattern followed in 2008, as Mr. Bush’s son completed his final term in office.

“The most influential politician in 2008 won’t be on the ballot,” I wrote to Senator Obama in 2006. “His name is George W. Bush.”

As the 2008 campaign began, many Americans and most Democrats saw Mr. Bush as rash, bellicose, divisive – oblivious to the demands and opportunities of a rapidly changing world. His presidency had come to be defined by the momentous decision to invade Iraq, which became a quagmire.

Senator Obama had publicly opposed the war from the start, which separated him from most of the Democratic field. But more than that, his profile, temperament and approach offered the sharpest departure from those of the embattled, retiring president he would ultimately replace. For those who found President Bush wanting, Senator Obama was the most obvious remedy.

Ah, so now Axelrod realizes his mistake:

The Republican base is infuriated by Mr. Obama’s activist view of government and progressive initiatives, from health care reform to immigration, gay rights to climate change.

Beyond specific issues, however, many Republicans view dimly the very qualities that played so well for Mr. Obama in 2008. Deliberation is seen as hesitancy; patience as weakness. His call for tolerance and passionate embrace of America’s growing diversity inflame many in the Republican base, who view with suspicion and anger the rapidly changing demographics of America. The president’s emphasis on diplomacy is viewed as appeasement.

So who among the Republicans is more the antithesis of Mr. Obama than the trash-talking, authoritarian, give-no-quarter Mr. Trump?

His bombast allows no room for nuance or complexity. He proudly extols his intolerance as an assault against “political correctness,” and he vows to bring the world to heel, from Mexico to China to Syria and Iraq.

Mr. Trump has found an audience with Americans disgruntled by the rapid, disorderly change they associate with national decline and their own uncertain prospects. Policies be damned, who better to set things right than the defiant strong man who promises by sheer force of will to make America great again?

Trump is simply not “like” Obama and that’s enough, or actually, the whole game here:

The robust condemnations Mr. Trump has received from media and political elites have only intensified the enthusiasm of his supporters, many of whom feel disdained and forgotten by the very same people who regularly mock and chide their man for his boorishness. To his base, he’s a truth-teller, thumbing his nose at conventional politicians, whether they are liberal or conservative. Rebukes from fact checkers and purveyors of civil discourse? They’re just so much establishment claptrap.

Relentlessly edgy, confrontational and contemptuous of the niceties of governance and policy making, Mr. Trump is the perfect counterpoint to a president whose preternatural cool and deliberate nature drive his critics mad.

That is, however, not to say Trump has this wrapped up, for some obvious reasons:

Unlike in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s appeal reached a majority of independents and even some Republicans, polling suggests that if he were nominated, Mr. Trump would face a steep uphill battle in a general election. As of today, he has the lowest standing, by far, of any major Republican candidate among Democrats and independent voters. His nativist rants have walled him off from the growing Hispanic vote, which could hold the key to several important swing states this fall.

But one never knows. Axelrod is rethinking all this, but if he’s right, Ted Cruz should be a shoe-in. He’s a nasty fellow, and Kevin Drum has a quiz about him. Some of these statements are true:

  1. Did one of Ted’s former pastors say that “he pretty much memorized the Bible, but I think he did it mostly so that he could humiliate kids who got quotes wrong”?
  2. Did a veteran of the 2000 George Bush campaign say that “the quickest way for a meeting to end would be for Ted to come in”?
  3. Did Ted’s wife once admit that Ted “can be a bit of a jackass sometimes, but at least you know where he’s coming from”?
  4. Did Bob Dole say that Ted “doesn’t have any friends in Congress”?
  5. Did Mitch McConnell respond that “I’m pretty sure Dole is wrong, but I can’t figure out who his one friend is”?
  6. Did a John McCain advisor say that his boss “fucking hates Cruz”?
  7. Did President Obama once get overheard asking Joe Biden “what in God’s name is that asshole’s problem, anyway”?
  8. Did Rep. Peter King say about a possible Ted Cruz nomination, “I hope that day never comes; I will jump off that bridge when we come to it”?
  9. Did John Boehner quip that Ted was “a great American resource; when we threatened to deport him back to Canada, they suddenly agreed to drop their softwood lumber subsidies”?
  10. Did Lindsey Graham say the choice between Trump and Cruz was like having to choose between “death by being shot or poisoning”?
  11. Did a former high school teacher just shake his head and close his door when a reporter knocked and asked what he remembered about Ted?
  12. Did a former law school acquaintance say that when she agreed to carpool with Ted, “We hadn’t left Manhattan before he asked my IQ”?
  13. Did Ted’s torts professor remark that “I don’t think there was a single question I asked the entire year where Ted didn’t instantly raise his hand and practically wet his pants pleading to be called on”?
  14. Did his Princeton freshman roommate call Ted “a nightmare of a human being” and claim he would get invited to parties hosted by seniors because the upperclassmen pitied him?
  15. Did a college girlfriend of Ted’s say “he was pretty smart, but sex with him once was enough – if you can call it sex”?
  16. Is it true that in interviews with four of Ted’s college acquaintances, “four independently offered the word ‘creepy'”?

Drum offers this – “All statements whose ordinal number takes the integer form 2n+1 or 2n-1 have been invented. The rest are real.” Yeah, well, many of them are true. Drum suggests you read Tim Murphy and David Corn making the case that Ted Cruz “is really one of the all-time huge pricks” here – it’s thorough and definitive – or if you like irony there’s this:

GOP front-runner Donald Trump says establishment Republicans are warming up to his presidential bid because they’re terrified of Ted Cruz being the party’s nominee.

“I think the establishment actually is against me but really coming on line because they see me as opposed to Cruz, who is a nasty guy who can’t get along with anybody,” Trump said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday.

“Look, at a certain point, we got to make deals,” Trump continued. “We can’t have a guy who stands in the middle of the Senate floor and every other senator thinks he’s a whack job. You have to make deals, you have to get along, that’s the purpose of what our founders created, and Ted cannot get along with anybody. He’s a nasty person.”

Breaking news! Pot calls kettle black! Saturday Night Live will surely cover this, but like Sarah Palin, Donald Trump is always one step ahead of the satire. You can’t make this stuff up, but maybe that’s the problem. Both Nicolle Wallace and David Axelrod realize now they should have seen this coming – but if so, now what?

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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2 Responses to Should Have Seen This Coming

  1. Rick says:

    It occurs to me, now that we’re seeing a return to the old days — the return of Sarah Palin, which in turn prompted the reappearance of not only Tina Fey, but Palin’s exasperated 2008 handler, Nicolle Wallace — maybe what this campaign really needs right now is the return of CBS’s Katie Couric!

    Not that Palin had not already been exposed as comically useless to her campaign by September of 2008, which is when she sat down to talk with Couric, but those TV interviews really zeroed in on whatever would have to pass for her aptitude for running the most powerful nation on earth:

    COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign-policy experience. What did you mean by that?

    PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land—boundary that we have with—Canada. It, it’s funny that a comment like that was—kind of made to cari—I don’t know. You know. Reporters—

    COURIC: Mocked?

    PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.

    COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

    PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our — our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia —

    COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

    PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We — we do — it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is — from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to — to our state.

    Really brings you back, doesn’t it? Reminds us of those halcyon days when having a handle on foreign policy, and an ability to communicate it, was not just a plus for a candidate but a prerequisite for being elected.

    That’s all gone now. As Obama pal David Axelrod tells us, the pendulum seems to swing with every new president:

    For those who found President Bush wanting, Senator Obama was the most obvious remedy. … So who among the Republicans is more the antithesis of Mr. Obama than the trash-talking, authoritarian, give-no-quarter Mr. Trump?

    But what Axelrod misses here is “smart” versus “not-so-much.”

    To me, Barack Obama’s main appeal was always his being the smartest person in the room, and that included candidate Hillary Clinton, who not only had voted for Iraq but vowed not to talk with, much less negotiate with, Iran. Obama, like Hillary’s Bill, could — and often dideloquently expound on just about any issue facing the country, on the drop of a hat.

    Yes, Hillary wouldn’t be too shabby at that, and to a certain extent, John McCain was at least in the ballpark, but doing that sort of thing was never in Sarah Palin’s wheelhouse.

    Now picture Donald Trump, sitting down to an interview with either Katie Couric, or maybe even Charlie Gibson of ABC, who got to interview Palin earlier in that same month, before Katie did:

    GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

    PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

    GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?

    PALIN: His world view.

    GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war. … The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

    PALIN: I agree that a president’s job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.

    I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

    GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?

    PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

    GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

    PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we’re going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

    GIBSON: But, Governor, I’m asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

    PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

    GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes?

    I imagine Trump would have handled Gibson better than Palin did, but not by showing a better familiarity with foreign policy issues, such as the Bush Doctrine, but by being better at bullshitting his way out of not knowing it.

    I’m sure Trump knows about as much as Palin about foreign policy, but he’d just be more more adept at convincing voters that what he knows or doesn’t know about anything isn’t very important: “Charlie, take my word for it, when the time comes, I can hire people — and I mean incredibly smart people! — smart people who know about all that stuff.”

    (Yes, but doesn’t he have to be smart enough to hire smart advisers? Does he even know enough to know when to go against their advice? And by the way, does he have any foreign policy experts on his campaign?)

    After all, there’s this:

    “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” Trump said, according to video from NBC News.

    Except for the guy you shot, maybe, and maybe his loved ones? I mean, nowadays, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some stupid Trump voter.

    But I agree with him! I myself wrote roughly the same thing sometime last year, that Donald Trump being seen live on one of the morning TV shows, having sex with a toddler, would send his Iowa polls numbers even higher.

    But just because having high poll numbers seems to be the most important thing to some random candidate doesn’t mean it should mean he’s the best man for the job.

    “It’s, like, incredible. … I have the most loyal people,” he said after citing his wide lead in the polls.

    Of course you do! That’s because you’ve picked stupid people as your target market, Donald, and stupid people are the most loyal people you can find because they don’t listen to reason. After all, they’re not backing you because you’re smarter than Obama (or Jeb or Hillary or Bernie); in fact, they’re backing you because you’re not!

    But this 2016 election really illustrates that we, as a nation, need to revisit the way we choose our leaders. In fact, I think that, assuming we come out of this year in one piece, we should consider a literacy test for presidential (and also vice-presidential) primary candidates.

    It could be a test devised by a panel of experts from various fields — including World and American History, Economics, Government, Science, and maybe even some Math of some kind. It should, I think, be broadcast live some night, just like a debate, with all the candidates taking the test simultaneously.

    And no, the one with the highest grade does not automatically get the nomination — those who pass the test still have to be voted on — but there should be a rule that anyone who fails the test (that is, makes less than a “C”) be disqualified from the race.

    Bad idea?

    Rick

  2. Gerald says:

    This is a really looooong article …the long and short of it is this …. these white folks have lost their GD minds with the ELECTION by WE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE of an African-AMERICAN to the White House as POTUS, Leader of the Free world, Commander in Chief of the mightiest Military in human history!

    And his name is BARRACK H. OBAMA!

    Oh my …
    And when WE THE PEOPLE re-ELECTED him … well …they are just too through … they really really want their country back!

    They want to re-fight the Civil War, repeal 20th Century America ..in its entirety and just forget about the first 16 years of 21st Century America!

    Yes … even forget G W Bush … squandered surplus, allowed largest attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, the poor response to Hurricane Katrina that endangered 10’s of thousands of American citizens, the start of America’s longest running War, the invasion of another country based on a LIE, the torture of enemy combatants, destabilization of the Middle East, incompetent handling of the US economy with 800,00 job losses per month, explode the deficit ….and near collapse of the US and world economies causing a Recession nearly as bad as the Great Depression!

    AND then …. the BLACK guy beat TWO white men (a war hero and a multi-millionaire) and a white woman to be POTUS!

    THEN …THAT BLACK guy saves the Nation from the Recession, saves the Auto Industry( sold more cars than ever in its history 2015), Stock Market fully recovered and highest in its history, cut deficit by 75%, cut unemployment to 5%, more new jobs than since 1990’s, ended wars, enacted Health Care(lowest level of uninsured …ever), Iran (No nukes!), Cuba, world wide climate agreement, ….approval rating 50% …will go down as one of America’s greatest most accomplished Presidents in the modern ear DESPITE the most obstructionist Congress since 1860’s.

    These folks ARE pissed!

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