So, who is going to stand with Donald Trump? That is, which Republicans are going to campaign with him or at least campaign for him, telling America that he’s a fine fellow? There have been no volunteers so far, which is a bit awkward. He impulsively says whatever crosses his mind, and a lot of that has been both misogynistic and lately, overtly racist. He’ll go off on anyone who he thinks might have just disrespected him. He’ll call them names and sneer at them, and that gets pretty ugly. That seems to have impressed the party’s base, and he won the nomination, but Republican politicians know that there’s a price to pay for mocking Hispanics and the disabled and proposing banning a major world religion from ever setting foot on our shores again.
Republican politicians seem to be trying to figure out how to claim all of that ugliness is awful, but that he’s still a fine fellow. Give them time. They’re still working on that, but the hits keep coming:
Several of the 3,500 lawsuits presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has been involved in over the years involved him shortchanging workers on thousands of dollars, according to an extensive analysis by USA Today published Thursday.
There were 60 lawsuits, USA Today found, where workers alleged Trump and his companies shortchanged them. Those included lawsuits from a dishwasher, a plumber, a painter and various other workers who were once employed by his businesses.
At least one business, the Edward J. Friel Co., declared bankruptcy and chalked up at least some of its downward spiral to the $83,600 Trump owed it for building slot machine bases and doing other carpentry work at Harrah’s at Trump Plaza in 1984.
The report also noted that since 2005, Trump’s companies have been cited for at least 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act due to unpaid wages.
But the unflappable Trump brushed off any claims of shortchanging workers.
“Let’s say that they do a job that’s not good, or a job that they didn’t finish, or a job that was way late. I’ll deduct from their contract, absolutely,” Trump told the newspaper. “That’s what the country should be doing.”
That simple explanation may not be the case. New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal looks into Steve Reilly’s USA Today item and notes this:
The striking thing about Reilly’s article is that there’s no standard script for why a given person or company didn’t get paid in full by Trump – he seemed to withhold payment rather capriciously. While Trump would often claim shoddy work as his reason for not ponying up, Reilly presents pretty overwhelming evidence that in many, if not most, of the cases, this was not a credible claim.
Singal offers example after example, although that’s not quite the point here:
Politically, the obvious takeaway here is that these stories will make it much harder for Trump to present himself as a defender of the everyman. That act was always going to be an uphill battle for Trump in the general election given his pedigree, his wealth, and his affection for the gold-plated. But Trump had, to his credit, managed to overwhelmingly convince the GOP base that he was the guy to stand up for their interests at a time when economic insecurity is roiling countless Americans.
That’s gone now:
The problem is that many of the alleged victims of Trump’s underpayments look a lot like the folks whose votes he desperately needs for him to have any chance in November. Yes, the USA Today stories include instances in which Trump allegedly withheld money from waiters and high-powered attorneys – from working-class and upper-class folks – but many of the worst stories have to do with skilled laborers and contractors, with the sorts of people who are middle-class in theory but who have experienced increasing financial pressure and desperation in recent decades. These people – the white ones, at least – are supposed to comprise Trump’s core bloc of voters. And now the next five months will feature countless tales of Trump appearing to screw them over, as journalists and opposition researchers dig deeply into the stories Reilly exposed. More stuff will come out, and some of it will likely be gruesome.
So what? Trump has ridden out this sort of thing before, and ended up even more popular, but Singal thinks this bill-paying stuff is different:
It suggests a guy who views just about any interaction he has with anyone – even folks who haven’t wronged him, who are small-business people – as a chance to get one over on them, to get the better of the deal, to seize an unearned advantage (except to Trump, surely it felt earned because he was the one who seized it).
Trump talks constantly about his skill as a negotiator – he’s going to negotiate his way to Mexico paying for that wall; out of the trade deals that have, in his view, kneecapped the American worker; and to a more America-friendly NATO. It could be the case, though, that “negotiating” is just socially and politically acceptable Trump-speak for what really sits at the core of the Donald’s personality and his many ideas about how American policy should look: a deep, primal desire to dominate others in any conceivable way possible.
Wait. Rethink that. That’s what so many people love about the guy. That’s exactly what they want America to do in the world, dominate others in any conceivable way possible. If Donald Trump screws over people just like them, well, that really shouldn’t change their view of him. They’d do the same, even to their own friends and family, if they could – or if they were somehow as amazing as him. Only those Republican politicians might have a problem with Trump’s long history of stiffing people. He doesn’t pay his bills. They go bankrupt. That’s their problem. Those Republican politicians, who as yet won’t stand with Trump, are just too chicken-shit to admit how awesome that is.
That’s one way of looking at it. In the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Berzon offers Donald Trump’s Business Plan Left a Trail of Unpaid Bills – a values-neutral assessment of all this. It’s just a business plan. Stiff small vendors – they’ll sue – countersue for defamation and tie them up in court for years. They’ll look at their skyrocketing legal costs and give up. You get goods and services for ten cents on the dollar, or for free. Then promise you won’t do it again. They’ll come back. Rinse and repeat. This is entirely rational.
This may be entirely rational but this sort of thing makes those with something to offer a bit wary:
The man who vehemently eschewed donor dollars during the GOP primary is now looking to ramp up his fundraising for the general election.
Donald Trump, who for much of the primary bragged about “self-funding,” met on Thursday with more than 60 leading Republicans in Midtown Manhattan to discuss his fundraising operations going into the general. Joining Trump at the meeting was RNC Chair Reince Priebus and top-surrogate and advisor New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
This didn’t go particularly well:
A source in the room for the meetings at New York’s Four Seasons Hotel told NBC that Trump spoke to the room “about how he did [in the primaries] and what he thinks of the general, thus far.” The source, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity in order to talk more freely about the meeting, added that Trump made a general election pitch based on broadening the electoral map come November.
Paraphrasing what Trump told the room, the source says Trump listed California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey (calling out, “Right, Chris?!” to hammer the point home), and “maybe even Maryland” as states that he could put in play. On the trail, Trump has made this point before, saying that he plans to target and play hard in traditionally blue states, like New York and California, though polling in those states shows an uphill battle for Trump.
They’re smart rich guys and they suspect Trump is blowing smoke:
Billionaire John Catsimatidis spoke to Trump’s “love” of America in a brief interview with reporters after the meeting, but did acknowledge the candidate’s past missteps, specifically regarding his comments about Trump University Judge Curiel’s “Mexican” heritage.
“He’s made a few mistakes,” the former New York mayoral candidate told reporters. Catsimatidis said he “would not have criticized the judge,” but understood that the issue was an “emotional” one for Trump. He chalked it up to Trump still “learning how to be a candidate.”
According to Catsimatidis, Gov. Christie brought up Trump’s controversy with Judge Curiel during the closed press lunch, saying that “people make mistakes and they take it back.” Christie did not take questions from the press when he entered or exited the meeting, nor has Trump taken back or expressed regret over his racially charged comments about the judge.
Catsimatidis reminded reporters that he’s also “good friends with the Clintons, too” and noted that his attendance here today does not mean an endorsement of Donald Trump. “Let’s see how things sort themselves out,” he said.
Catsimatidis just said he might put his massive money on Hillary. That matches this – Republican Senator Susan Collins Says She Might Support Hillary Clinton – and she’s not alone:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thursday he still isn’t ready to endorse presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“Why would I feel compelled to support someone whose positions I kind of fundamentally disagree with?” he told Fox News.
Kasich suspended his own run for the White House a little more than a month ago and has since declined from endorsing Trump, decrying the divisiveness and “name-calling” he says has been a part of the campaign.
“Mr. Trump called me and said, ‘What are you going to do to support me?’ and I said, ‘We’re like two companies. We have a difference vision, a different value system, and a different objective’ – so it’s pretty hard to put that together,” Kasich told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer, referencing a conversation that occurred a couple weeks ago.
He’s not standing with Trump:
Kasich said he would not endorse Trump’s main rival, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But when asked about the choice between Clinton and Trump, Kasich said: “It’s not that simple.”
It seems that Trump is the certain Republican nominee, and at the same time, the odd man out. No one seems to know what comes next.
That’s not the situation on the other side. As Trump was struggling in Manhattan, the opposite was happening in Washington:
President Obama offered his formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton with a video Thursday and plans to campaign with the former secretary of state in Wisconsin next week, efforts aimed at speeding the Democratic Party’s unification around its presumed presidential nominee.
“I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it,” Obama says in the video. “In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get this job done.”
The swift endorsement came after the president met with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the White House on Thursday and the senator from Vermont indicated that he is preparing to exit the Democratic nominating battle.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) offered her own endorsement Thursday evening on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” And at a speech before the American Constitution Society, she called presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump a “thin-skinned, racist bully.” The only Democratic woman in the Senate who had not yet endorsed Clinton, Warren is expected to help bring Sanders supporters – and the left generally – in line behind the presumptive nominee.
Everyone will stand with Hillary:
The short video provides a preview of the central theme Obama is likely to hammer away at for months to come: that Clinton’s experience, toughness and values make her more qualified to lead the country than a real estate magnate who has never held public office.
“And from the decision we made in the Situation Room to get bin Laden, to our pursuit of diplomacy in capitals around the world, I have seen her judgment, I’ve seen her toughness,” the president said. “I’ve seen her commitment to our values up close.”
Clinton and Obama will campaign together soon in Green Bay, Wis., aides to both politicians confirmed. The president plans to campaign in industrial states like Wisconsin, where Trump has actively wooed Democrats, as well as do outreach targeted at young voters, Latinos and African Americans.
Bernie’s cool with that too:
Sanders told reporters after his White House meeting that he is looking forward to working with Clinton to defeat Trump in the fall.
“Needless to say, I’m going to do everything in my power, and I’m going to work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” he told reporters as his wife, Jane, stood behind him.
And Trump stood alone:
Trump, meanwhile, offered his thoughts in a tweet: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama – but nobody else does!”
That may not be true either:
Sanders said he still plans to compete in Tuesday’s final Democratic primary in the District, but he added that “in the near future” he hopes to meet with Clinton to talk about ways they can work together. …
“Donald Trump would clearly, to my mind and to, I think, the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States,” he said. “It is unbelievable to me, and I say this with all sincerity, that the Republican Party would have a candidate for president who in the year 2016 makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign.”
And then, an hour or two later, the coordinated attack began:
Vice President Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a one-two punch Thursday to Donald Trump in speeches that signaled the increasingly coordinated effort by Democrats to push the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his restive GOP allies on Capitol Hill.
Speaking before the American Constitution Society, a liberal legal group, Warren delivered the latest in a series of derisive anti-Trump speeches, adopting the mogul’s own mocking tone to call him “thin-skinned, racist bully” and “a guy who inherited a fortune and kept it rolling along by cheating people.” When the applause died down, she went further, focused on Trump’s recent “race-baiting” of Gonzalo P. Curiel, a Mexican-American federal judge overseeing a lawsuit against him.
“Donald – what you are doing is a total disgrace,” said Warren. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Ashamed for using the megaphone of a presidential campaign to attack a judge’s character and integrity simply because you think you have some God-given right to steal people’s money and get away with it. You shame yourself and you shame this great country.”
Then it was Uncle Joe’s turn:
While Warren spoke from a prepared text, Biden was quiet and discursive, talking about everything from the “steel-trap mind” of his former chief of staff Ron Klain to the Civil War history of Delaware to his days as a young lawyer who declined to eat at a segregated club. He criticized the Republican majority’s decision to refuse holding hearings for President Obama’s selection for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland – “a judge of unquestionable credentials” – until the next president takes office, asking how they consider giving that duty to Trump.
“I don’t think the framers envisioned a candidate accusing a federal judge being incapable of reaching a fair decision because of his ethnic descent,” said Biden. “It’s my view that when a presidential candidate attacks a federal judge, he cannot be trusted to respect the independent of the judiciary as president.” Not long after that, Biden subtly endorsed Clinton by describing the challenges facing “whoever the next president is, and in my view, God willing, it’ll be Secretary Clinton.”
But this wasn’t all about Trump:
“Trump isn’t a different kind of candidate: He’s a Mitch McConnell kind of candidate,” said Warren. “Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want Donald Trump to appoint the next generation of judges. They want those judges to tilt the law to favor big business and billionaires like Trump. They just want Donald to quit being so vulgar and obvious about it.”
Actually, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and all the rest wish that Donald Trump would just go away. They also probably wish that their party had had superdelegates too, but it’s too late for that, and Michael Gerson, who was George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001 through June 2006, and a senior policy adviser from 2000 through June 2006, and a member of the White House Iraq Group, decides to call them out:
Why such vehemence among Republican leaders in their condemnations of Donald Trump for questioning the objectivity of a federal judge based on his “Mexican heritage”?
This is, in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s words, “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” But it is not materially more bigoted than the central premise of Trump’s campaign: that foreigners and outsiders are exploiting, infiltrating and adulterating the real America. How is attacking the impartiality of a judge worse than characterizing undocumented Mexicans as invading predators intent on raping American women? Or pledging to keep all Muslim migrants out of the country? Or citing the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II as positive precedent?
They should know better:
Is Trump himself a racist? Who the bloody hell cares? There is no difference in public influence between a politician who is a racist and one who appeals to racist sentiments with racist arguments. The harm to the country – measured in division and fear – is the same, whatever the inner workings of Trump’s heart.
No, Trump’s attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel was not different in kind. But for Republican leaders, this much was new: Since Trump now owns them, they now own his prejudice. Sure, Trump has gone nativist before, but this time it followed their overall stamp of approval, given in the cause of Republican unity. Trump must have known his attack on Curiel would humiliate the GOP leaders who have endorsed him, and he did it anyway. Trump is taking away the option of wishful thinking. Republicans have clung to the hope that Trump might find unsuspected resources of leadership; lacking that, to the hope that he might be co-opted; and lacking that, to the hope of laying low and avoiding the Trump taint – all delusions. Having tied themselves to Trump’s anchor, the protests of GOP leaders are merely the last string of bubbles escaping from their lungs.
They can’t have this both ways:
It is one of those rare times – like the repudiation of Joe McCarthy, or consideration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the Watergate crisis – when the spotlight of history stops on a single decision, and a whole political career is remembered in a single pose. The test here: Can you support, for pragmatic reasons, a presidential candidate who purposely and consistently appeals to racism?
When the choice came, only a handful of Republicans at the national level answered with a firm “no.” A handful. It was not shocking to me that the plurality of an angry Republican primary electorate – grown distrustful of establishment leaders – might choose a populist who appeals to racial prejudice. It is shocking to me – and depressing and infuriating – that almost no elected Republicans of national standing would stand up to it.
By this standard, Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) is the moral leader of the GOP. But given the thinness of his company, many of us will never be able to think about the Republican Party in quite the same way again. It still carries many of the ideological convictions I share. Collectively, however, it has failed one of the most basic tests of public justice: Don’t support racists – or candidates who appeal to racism – for public office. If this commitment is not a primary, non-negotiable element of Republican identity, then the party of Lincoln is dead.
Without a passion for universal human dignity and worth – the commitment to a common good in which the powerless are valued – politics is a spoils system for the winners. It degenerates into a way for one group to gain advantage over another. And for Trump in particular, politics seems to be a way for white voters to take back social power following the age of Obama.
It’s good that Gerson finally got that off his chest. He probably feels better now – but these guys aren’t really “for” Trump. They hate what he’s been up to. They say so over and over. They only want to get him elected. They won’t campaign for or with him. They only want to get him elected. They’ll vote for him but they certainly won’t endorse him.
Got that? Don’t worry about it. No one else gets it either. It’s enough to say that we’re heading into an election where, on one side, everyone now stands with Hillary, gladly, and on the other side, no one stands with Donald.
To be fair, however, that’s not entirely true:
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is once again interjecting himself into Donald Trump’s campaign amid an onslaught of criticism over the candidate’s treatment of the judge presiding over a class action lawsuit against Trump University.
Trump, according to Duke, is actually in the crosshairs of a much more powerful faction in the United States: Jews.
“The Jewish establishment is absolutely zeroing in now on Donald Trump,” Duke said on his radio show on Tuesday. “The viciousness of these Jews is unbelievable.”
“I think this whole Trump University case really, if we exploit it, can really expose the entire Jewish manipulation of the American media the American political process, the American control of politics in America, and truly how that they are the dominant and dangerous power that exists in the United States of America today,” he said.
Well, someone’s happy with Trump. Each party got the candidate it deserved.