There were all those years as a corporate “road warrior” getting home every other week on a Friday night, before the flight out Sunday evening for another two weeks on the other side of the continent. That was perpetually disorienting, but there were those comforting Friday-night words – “Folks, we are beginning our final descent into Los Angeles.” Yes, airline pilots are required to announce everything in a laconic folksy drawl, to keep passengers from worrying about anything at all, but there they were, the city’s lights that stretched out to forever and the ribbons of freeway lights, white one way and red the other. Downtown slipped by on the right. There were the Hollywood Hills and the roads up to the Sunset Strip – home. This felt good. Everything was where it was supposed to be. This final descent was a good thing.
That’s not true of all final descents. Coming home to find everything where it is supposed to be can be distressing. That can be a final descent into inevitable nastiness that was entirely predictable, and the Republican Party just started its final descent into what now seems their inevitable home. It’s not a nice place and the Washington Post’s David Weigel and Katie Zezima chronicle that Friday final descent:
Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday vehemently denied a story in the National Enquirer that accused him of extramarital affairs and blamed rival Donald Trump for planting “complete and utter lies” in the tabloid.
Cruz accused Trump and his associates of hawking a false story that the married Texas senator had sexual relationships with five unidentified women. The allegations come amid a nasty feud between the two candidates over their wives that has dominated the Republican presidential race this week.
“Let me be clear, this National Enquirer story is garbage,” Cruz told reporters after a rally at a parking-cone factory here [Oshkosh, Wisconsin] bringing up the subject himself. “It is complete and utter lies. It is a tabloid smear, and it is a smear that has come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.”
That prompted this response and its counter-response:
Trump, in a statement, said he had “no idea” whether the story was true and said he had nothing to do with it.
“Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” Trump wrote.
Cruz, in turn, labeled the front-runner for the Republican nomination “Sleazy Donald.”
So that’s where the two Republican frontrunners ended up. The plane landed – at home in the land of implied but not certain sex and sleaze:
The National Enquirer did not name the women allegedly involved but published photos of five women with their faces blurred out. The Washington Post has not confirmed any of the allegations made by the Enquirer.
No one can confirm any of it, but that hardly matters:
The saga comes amid the foul and strikingly personal atmosphere of the 2016 Republican presidential race, which has seen attacks leveled on spouses, jokes about the size of genitalia and rivals labeled “con artist,” “sleazy” and “liar.”
That’s home for these folks now:
On CNN on Friday, a Trump supporter, Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen, accused former Cruz staffer Amanda Carpenter on live television of being one of the women cited in the Enquirer story.
Carpenter vigorously denied the allegation. “What’s out there is tabloid trash. If someone wants to comment on it, they can talk to my lawyer. It is categorically false. You should be ashamed for spreading this kind of smut,” she said. “I will not be intimidated. I will continue to make my thoughts known about Donald Trump, and I’m not backing down.”
Yeah, on national television, Adriana accused Amanda of being one of the sluts who slept with Ted. That made for some lively television, but the facts are unclear:
Cruz, who has been married to his wife, Heidi, for 15 years, pinned the National Enquirer story on Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to Trump and former aide to Richard Nixon. Trump said he cut ties with Stone in August. Cruz said Stone has “50 years of dirty tricks behind him” and is the only person quoted on the record in the story.
“It is attacking my family. And what is striking is Donald’s henchman, Roger Stone, had for months been foreshadowing that this attack was coming,” Cruz said.
Cruz also pointed to ties between Trump and the Enquirer, which endorsed him earlier this month. New York Magazine has reported that Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of the company that publishes the tabloid, are longtime friends.
Yes, the guy who runs the National Enquirer is named David Pecker. He’s Trump’s Pecker here. You can’t make this stuff up, but there were the denials:
In an interview with The Post, Stone accused Cruz of dirty tricks, bringing up accusations that, just before Iowa’s caucuses, the senator’s campaign misled the state’s voters about whether then-candidate Ben Carson would remain in the race.
Trump said the Enquirer story didn’t come from him.
“I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week’s issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it. I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer,” Trump said in his statement.
He used to write a column for the National Enquirer. That Pecker is one of his best friends. He’s smiling about all this, but someone had to bring this up:
Cruz was asked Friday whether the tone of the presidential campaign had become childish.
“One person has been childish, and that’s been Donald Trump,” he said. “And one question Americans are wondering, all over this country, is how low will Donald go? Is there any level to which he is unwilling to stoop?”
And then there was the posturing:
Cruz in recent weeks has accused Trump of underhanded tactics, inciting violence at his campaign rallies and disrespecting voters. But Cruz has said he will stick with a loyalty pledge he and other candidates took early in the race to support whomever becomes the nominee.
On Friday, however, Cruz went the furthest he has so far in suggesting he might be reconsidering the pledge.
“I don’t make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family. And Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee,” Cruz said.
That’s not so, or unlikely, but who cares at this point? There are crises all around the world. They’re talking about this crap, perhaps because they’ve finally come home, but the Post’s Kathleen Parker asks a rather obvious question:
Is this what Trump means when he says he can be “presidential” when the time comes? Would it be impolite to ask when that might be?
She’s also changed her mind about something:
Once upon a time, I protested the Democratic trope that the GOP was waging war on women. Since the accusation was based primarily on the Republican Party’s continuing defense of the not-yet-born, amid absurd and offensive comments by a handful of GOP males whose tongues and brains have never met, I rejected the notion as little more than a political strategy.
Sue me if you must, but I’ve changed my mind.
Trump’s success is troublesome as a matter of common decency. He seems to recognize what decency sounds like when it involves his wife, but he’s coyly oblivious when he makes derogatory remarks about other women, including Megyn Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell and Carly Fiorina, to name a few.
Yes, he’s an equal-opportunity offender, a philosophy I respect, but his insults to women are of a particular sort, typically focused on looks and/or physiology. If this is presidential, we need a new definition. And if Republican men (and women) can’t bring themselves to condemn Trump for his disrespect toward women, then they are by their silence complicit in what feels a lot like a war on women by the Republican front-runner.
This also has implications:
Should Trump become president, he likely will have defeated the only woman left in the race, Hillary Clinton, who is recognized globally for her work in raising the status of women. In that case, other nations may reasonably conclude that the United States doesn’t care much for women. Worse, they can congratulate themselves for keeping their own women in their swaddled places, deserving neither respect nor protection.
There is that, and Josh Marshall makes two other points:
The first is how this relates to the on-going issue of violence at Trump rallies. These aren’t just stern reactions to hippie-loser protesters. These have evolved into campaign rituals where Trump and his followers play out the centerpieces of his campaign: authority, domination and violence – and Trump’s ability to reassert the proper hierarchies his followers crave.
Second, this tells us why many evangelicals and other traditionalist, right-wing Christians are so supportive of Trump, notwithstanding his fairly open life as a sexual braggart and libertine: because he stands – quite convincingly – for authority, hierarchy and patriarchy.
For many of his supporters, whether they use the phrase or not, he stands for white supremacy.
This really is about coming home in that final descent:
Trump hasn’t been able to maintain this stranglehold over half the electorate in spite of this stuff but precisely because of it. It is the essence of his popularity, albeit it one that is locked down into perhaps 25% of the voting electorate.
I keep hearing people saying, let’s face it. No rules apply to Trump. He breaks every rule of politics, decency, everything and yet he just keeps getting more popular. No. That’s not true. Outside of his constituency, which is broadly but not entirely coterminous with the base of the Republican Party, he in fact is unpopular and continues to be more and more unpopular.
But inside his constituency folks feel they’ve finally come home, which Marshall says sets up an epic battle:
It now seems very likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and that he will face Hillary Clinton, the first woman ever to be the presidential nominee of a major US political party. If Trump is driven by contempt and anger at female power at his core that is a pretty big thing in itself. Of course, Hillary Clinton since the early 90s has been a focus of, a symbol of empowered women not just for her many political supporters but even more for her political enemies. This is, to put it mildly, a highly combustible situation. I’ve said before that I don’t think Trump can just etch-a-sketch it and become a totally different candidate for the general election. The primaries will come with him and because the psychodrama and resentment operating within his supporters is operating within him. In this case, the need to dominate or knock down powerful women is clearly something that transcends political calculation for Trump.
So, yes, there’s going to be racial and religious bigotry but it will be a woman battling Trump and standing between him and the presidency. That will bring out in him something of a different order entirely. That means the general election will be very ugly but in all likelihood lead to Trump’s devastating defeat.
But that is inevitable. These guys came home, and Salon’s Gary Legum argues that they had to drop some silly assumptions about this election:
The first is the influence of super PACs. Remember when the unlimited amounts of money that donors could pour into them was going to essentially allow millionaires and billionaires to buy the election for a chosen candidate? Bernie Sanders has already partly knocked that assumption down with his campaign of small donors and his public renunciations of super PAC money. Jeb Bush’s super PAC spent over $100 million on his behalf and his run for the nomination fell off a cliff six months before he finally put it out of its misery.
To these two points, add this: Forget about how much money they raise, because super PACs are only as good as the people who run them. The PAC behind the Melania Trump hit, Make America Awesome Again, is run by Liz Mair, who has taken credit for the ad. It was aimed specifically at Utah, where the assumption seems to have been that all those Mormon wives would be offended by the fact that Trump is married to a former model who in a past life posed in the nude. Mair is a well-respected Republican operative for reasons that, after reading her Twitter bio, escape me.
And it didn’t really work:
While Ted Cruz still won the state handily – apparently, Mormons dislike Trump for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with his wife – it also backfired in a couple of different ways. One, it goaded Trump into attacking Cruz’s wife in a way that appeared to rattle Cruz, a man who seemed fairly unflappable up to this point. Two, with the GOP establishment consolidating (grudgingly) around Cruz, the ad ties him to the party as its choice for the nomination. This only reminds Trump supporters of how much the establishment hates their candidate and is desperate to stop him. It’s basically tossing gas on a fire, giving Trump a momentum boost. Oops.
In short, spending big bucks doesn’t matter anymore – sexual dominance does, when you come home and everything is in its proper place:
It is possible that the GOP’s ultimate goal of denying Trump the 1,237 delegates he needs to claim the nomination outright will work, and the party will spend three days in Cleveland choosing a compromise candidate. (If that happens, look for all these new Ted Cruz supporters to drop him like a hot rock.) But no matter how much of an asshole Trump made himself look like this week with his nasty shots at Heidi Cruz, the GOP hurt its cause by opening up this can of worms.
But that is where they are comfortable, which leads to this odd story:
The National Rifle Association has taken some heat this week after attempting what it saw as a family-friendly approach to gun rights: inserting guns into classic fairy tale stories.
As part of its new family-oriented website, NRA Family, the organization reimagined popular fairy tales by arming the main characters with guns. The stories, which the NRA posted on its site and in the site’s newsletter, feature illustrations and stories by Amelia Hamilton, a conservative blogger and author.
The first, published on March 17, is called Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns), a new spin on the classic Brothers Grimm story. Instead of being nearly eaten by the witch, the brother and sister duo rescue another boy with guns loaded. They then to return to their village and tell their parents, who storm back guns-a-blazing to capture the witch.
And then there’s Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun) of course:
It follows a similar narrative, with both granny and Little Red packing heat and using their guns to scare the wolf so he can be tied up and carried away.
“As they slowly began to feel calm, Red got her grandmother chicken soup and a cup of tea,” the NRA version of the tale reads. “They sat in companionable silence, happy in the security that comes with knowing they could defend themselves.”
That’s as homey as it gets, but not for everyone:
Not everyone is thrilled with these reimagined tales. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called the series a “depraved marketing campaign” and called the stories “pathetic.” “Make no mistake, this is a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign,” he said in a statement. “The NRA continues to stoop to new lows in the hopes of shoving guns into America’s youngest hands.”
That’s a matter of opinion, as home is where the gun is. Home, or anywhere else:
Having weapons at a hotly contested and potentially violent political event may sound like the mother of all bad ideas, but that hasn’t stopped some gun enthusiasts for starting a petition to do just that, Ohio.com reports.
Americans for Responsible Open Carry filed the petition with Change.org this week, and as of Friday morning it had garnered nearly 12,000 signatures.
According to the GOP’s policy on their website, “firearms and other weapons of any kind are strictly forbidden on the premises of Quicken Loans Arena,” where the convention will be held.
The petition claims that “Cleveland, Ohio is consistently ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous cities in America.”
But, “This doesn’t even begin to factor in the possibility of an ISIS terrorist attack on the arena during the convention. Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life.”
The petition also notes, “All three remaining Republican candidates have spoken out on the issue and are unified in their opposition to Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s ‘gun-free zones.'”
This item also mentions what Donald Trump has said:
“I think we will win before getting to the convention,” he said. “But I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 because we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically, I think you would have riots. I think you would have riots.”
Riots are always better when everyone has guns. This may be the final descent. The petition asks the arena to suspend its policy, and John Kasich to use his executive authority as governor, and the Republican National Committee to explain “how a venue so unfriendly to Second Amendment rights was chosen for the Republican Convention” in the first place.
The Republican National Committee isn’t happy about any of this, but Heather Parton adds this:
I’ve been joking about this for a while now, but seriously, if these people want the rest of us to be subjected to a bunch of loons and crackpots armed to the teeth everywhere we go, they ought to be forced to do it too.
What are they so afraid of? If everyone has a gun, they’ll all be ready to fire into the crowd if someone loses their cool, right? Isn’t that what they always say will keep everyone safe?
Folks, we are on our final descent, but then everyone has seen this video:
Were they hollering for Bernie, or the birdie?
Bernie Sanders was speaking at a Portland rally Friday when a tiny bird landed on his lectern, sending the crowd a-flutter.
“Now this little bird doesn’t know it,” the Vermont senator began as the bird hopped around him before alighting on a sign in front of him that read “A future to believe in.”
Sanders laughed as the crowd jumped to its feet and cheered.
“I think that maybe there may be some symbolism here. I know it doesn’t look like it but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace,” the Democratic candidate said. “No more wars.”
He smiled at the bird who sat there, looking up at him, for a few moments. The bird cocked its head, as if listening, and here’s the now iconic video of a bald eagle viciously attacking Donald Trump at a photo shoot – not that symbolism matters all that much. It’s just that where you eventually land really does matter, and we are on our final descent.