Kids can be mean. It’s usually not the parents. Kids pick up cultural cues, trying to figure out how most people get along in the world, and everything on-line and on television can overwhelm whatever the parents tell the kid is the right thing to do. Sooner or later the kid will call some other African-American kid a nigger, or call some Hispanic kid a beaner and say when the big wall is built they’ll be on the other side, or they call the shy effeminate kid a queer and slap him around, or they mock and spit on the disabled kid and call him a real loser. That’s when the parent says you’re going to apologize to that other kid, while they watch – and forces that very thing. A politically savvy kid might say that Donald Trump, the man who will be our next president, said it was okay to say and do such things. We have to stop being so nice to people. Political correctness will get us all killed. Why do you hate America, daddy?
Daddy then tells the kid to shut up and apologize. The kid mumbles through an apology. Daddy says now say that like you mean it. The kid apologizes again, clearly, but secretly smirks. There’s no winning this. That’s a good as you’re going to get. Have you learned your lesson? Yes, daddy – and you both know it’s a farce – but it has to be done.
That’s what happened with Donald Trump this Friday night. The Republican National Committee was the stern parent, and Donald Trump pretended to be a good boy:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday evening sought to end a high-stakes impasse with several members of his party’s leadership by delivering a formal endorsement of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s reelection after initially refusing to do so.
“We will have disagreements but we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory. And very importantly, toward real change,” Trump said during a campaign event in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Friday evening. “So in our shared mission to make America great again, I support and endorse our speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Trump also endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s reelection efforts during the event. He flashed two thumbs up and a smile as he made the formal endorsement.
“And we may disagree on a couple of things but mostly we agree and we’re going to get it done,” Trump added.
But he didn’t say it like he meant it. He read slowly and carefully from a prepared statement, prepared by someone else, because of the obvious:
Trump’s decision not to endorse angered many in the party’s establishment wing, and raised serious questions about whether Trump will be able to lead a unified party against his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Well, it was something, but Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker didn’t even bother to show up. They knew it was a farce:
Ryan’s team appeared unaware Friday afternoon about the imminent endorsement as early news reports that Trump was considering doing so began circulating. He dismissed questions about Trump withholding his endorsement during several radio interviews Friday morning.
“I see no purpose in doing this tit-for-tat petty back-and-forth with Donald Trump, because it serves no purpose in my mind,” Ryan said during a radio interview with conservative host Charlie Sykes.
But Trump was acknowledging that he would need a unified party in November and kind of had to call on Republicans to work together, so he threw them a bone:
“I need a Republican Senate and House to accomplish all of the changes that we have to make. We have to make them,” Trump said. “I understand and embrace the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s big tent within the party. Big, big tent, remember? Ronald Reagan. Great man. Great guy.”
Ronald Reagan – that should cover it for these fools – but the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips noted earlier how bad things had gotten:
Whenever Donald Trump or his VP pick, Mike Pence, have headed to a critical battleground state since being nominated last month, they’ve either been met with loud criticism from local Republicans – or by no Republicans at all. And that’s a troubling sign for the Trump campaign that their underlying infrastructure for the general election is weak.
Between Trump and Pence, the campaign will have hit up North Carolina, Wisconsin and Iowa by the time the week is over. All three are states where the race could be won and lost and will definitely be fought hard. And in all three states, most of the party’s leaders have stayed as far away as they could from the top of the ticket, while less senior Republicans have willingly bashed Trump.
Former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot, a Republican, called Trump “an idiot” on the day Pence was campaigning in his state. Vinroot told the Charlotte Observer: “He behaves like an idiot, and his judgment – it’s just despicable.” Trump’s fight with the Khan family “violates Politics 101 – leave that poor couple alone. It’s not just bad politics, it’s bad humanity.”
Meanwhile, neither the state’s U.S. senator up for reelection, Richard Burr, nor its governor up for reelection, Pat McCrory, showed up at Pence’s rally Thursday in Raleigh.
In Wisconsin, the top Republican in the state Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos, posted Friday on a conservative website ahead of Trump’s visit there Friday night that he’s “embarrassed that Trump is leading our ticket.”
The late and reluctant Friday night endorsements can’t cover that up, and there’s the guy who wants Paul Ryan’s job, who had been doing the Full Trump:
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary opponent, who has gotten support from Donald Trump, suggested Monday that the United States have a “discussion” about deporting all Muslims from the United States.
“The question is, why do we have Muslims in the country?” conservative businessman Paul Nehlen said in a Monday radio interview with Chicago’s AM 560 “The Answer.”
Trump said he loved this guy, and then did his almost smirking sing-song endorsement of Ryan. Paul Nehlen must be confused:
Referencing Newt Gingrich’s call for a religious test on all Muslims after the terror attacks on Nice, Nehlen also called for law enforcement to monitor “every mosque” in the United States.
Nehlen, who has attracted the support of Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, has endorsed Trump’s presidential campaign, and has similarly focused his campaign on trade and immigration.
Nehlen did everything right and was thrown under the bus anyway, and Fox News’ Sean Hannity had earlier gone ballistic:
The conservative pundit told listeners of his talk radio show on Wednesday that he was “sick and tired” of House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others who condemned Trump’s controversial criticism of the parents of a slain Muslim American soldier.
“If in 96 days Trump loses this election, I am pointing the finger directly at people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and John McCain,” Hannity said. “I have watched these Republicans be more harsh toward Donald Trump than they’ve ever been in standing up to Barack Obama and his radical agenda.
“They did nothing, nothing – all these phony votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, show votes so they can go back and keep their power and get reelected,” Hannity continued. “Sorry, you created Donald Trump, all of you – because of your ineffectiveness, because of your weakness, your spinelessness, your lack of vision, your inability to fight Obama.”
He added: “I’m getting a little sick and tired of all of you. I am, honestly, I am tempted to just say I don’t support any of you people ever.”
Who knows what Hannity now thinks of Trump’s rote endorsement of Ryan and the rest? That’s for next week, but Politico reports on what might have led to Trump’s concession:
Amid widespread chatter that Donald Trump could drop out of the presidential race before Election Day, Republican insiders in key battleground states have a message for The Donald: Get out.
That’s according to The POLITICO Caucus – a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in 11 swing states. The majority of GOP insiders, 70 percent, said they want Trump to drop out of the race and be replaced by another Republican candidate – with many citing Trump’s drag on Republicans in down-ballot races. But those insiders still think it’s a long-shot Trump would actually end his campaign and be replaced by another GOP candidate.
“I’d rather take our chances with nearly anyone else than continue with this certain loser who will likely cost the Senate and much more,” said a New Hampshire Republican – who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously.
“The effect Trump is having on down-ballot races has the potential to be devastating in November,” added a Florida Republican. “His negative image among Hispanics, women and independents is something that could be devastating to Republicans. Trump’s divisive rhetoric to the Hispanic community at large has the potential to be devastating for years to come.”
But they also know there’s not much they can do:
Insiders suggested a handful of replacement candidates: A Florida Republican said Ryan “is the only one who can unite the party,” while multiple others plugged Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
But just because GOP insiders want Trump out of the race doesn’t mean they think he will oblige them. Asked about the possibility, a 58 percent majority think it’s certain Trump will stay in through Election Day, including many who want him out of the race. Two insiders compared the odds of Trump dropping out to them winning the Powerball drawing – two extremely unlikely events with relative equal desirability.
“I also wish I could lose 20 pounds, cut 5 shots off my handicap and play the piano,” a New Hampshire Republican added. “None of those things will happen, and neither will Trump drop out.”
“Here is the quandary I find myself in,” an Ohio Republican said. “While I would love for Trump to drop out and anyone else to take the mantle, that kind of talk will only harden his supporters. We cannot let them think we stole this from them. There has never been a better example of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.'”
They’re stuck, but they know the problem:
“He is an egomaniac,” a Colorado Republican said. “There is no chance he would voluntarily exit the race.”
“He’s not going anywhere. His ego wouldn’t allow it,” a Virginia Republican added. “He’ll dominate the news for the next three months, each day more painful than the last, finally lose, say it was rigged and get a new [television] show.”
And on the other side:
Democrats mostly agreed Trump would see his campaign through to the end. A similar percentage, 55 percent, expressed confidence Trump would stay in the race, while 45 percent said it was possible he could drop out.
“Not for a second do I believe that to be a possibility,” said a New Hampshire Democrat. “His ego is way too big for that. It is also too big to entertain the possibility of a loss. Thus, we see this week the beginning of a very vocal narrative about the ‘rigged’ system that may cost him the election. If he loses, and I believe he will, God help us all, because Trump and his minions will foment an uprising of epic proportions.”
So there’s only one silver lining:
A handful of insiders said they wanted Trump to stay in, but not because they believe in his ability to win or capability to serve as president. If Trump stays in and loses, they said, it could help the party heal itself after the election.
People always say that sort of thing. It never happens, but Ed Kilgore reports on more bad news for Trump:
This week’s avalanche of not-so-good polling news for the polls-obsessed Donald Trump continues, with signs that maybe this is something more than a temporary post-convention bounce for Hillary Clinton. Two of the latest surveys, from Fox News and McClatchy/Marist, give Clinton double-digit leads. She now has a 6.7 percent advantage in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
But peering inside the polls reveals another finding that should trouble Trump and his campaign more than the top lines: He’s even losing steam in the red-hot core of his base of support, the white working class.
He’s still leading in this demographic, to be sure. But every recent Republican has won it, by ever-increasing margins. Mitt Romney won non-college-educated white voters by an estimated 62-36 in 2012. Given his problems with other segments of the electorate (e.g., nonwhite voters, young voters, college-educated women), Trump needs to do better than that. And until this week, it looked like he would. As the New York Times’ Nate Cohn noted on July 25, Trump was winning white working-class voters at better than a two-to-one clip in some surveys (66-29 in a July CNN poll, 65-29 in a July ABC/Washington Post poll).
That could be changing. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey showed his lead among non-college-educated white voters drooping to 49-36. Similarly, McClatchy/Marist pegs it at 46-31. These are not world-beating numbers. And you have to wonder: If Trump is losing his special appeal to the voting category that has long been his campaign’s signature “base,” where is he supposed to make that up?
Trump’s signature base has always been non-college-educated Christian white seniors, angry white men over sixty-five who dropped out of school in the eighth grade. After he won one primary he did say he loved the poorly educated. There were never enough of them to overwhelm all the other voters, and now he’s slowly losing them, and now there’s also this:
A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of Georgia shows Hillary Clinton leading Trump 44-40 (41-38-11-2 in a four-way race). This is a state that Republicans have carried in seven of the last eight presidential elections (HRC’s husband narrowly won it in 1992). There is no way Trump wins without it. Inside Trump Tower, alarm bells should be sounding.
Three conventional endorsements late on a Friday night are not going to fix that. These folks listen to Hannity. The three late off-hand endorsements could make things worse, but things had already gotten worse on Friday morning, as Slates Jeremy Stahl explains here:
Michael Morell worked in the CIA for 33 years, serving under Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. He was with President Bush on 9/11 when the second plane struck the South Tower and told him immediately that it had to be al-Qaida. He was a key adviser to President Obama ahead of the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. He was deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013 before retiring from the agency, and twice served as acting director of the CIA. Basically, he is one of the most knowledgeable current or former intelligence officials on the issue of national security in the entire country.
What does Michael Morell have to say about the potential for a Donald J. Trump presidency?
“Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.”
That was the gist of his op-ed in the New York Times published on Friday I Ran the CIA Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton:
In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has no experience on national security. Even more important, the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.
These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.
But that’s not even the main problem:
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.
Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests – endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.
In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.
Yes, the former head of the CIA said that, and Jeremy Stahl said this:
Basically, Morell argues, Trump is already giving succor to America’s worst enemies, and if he becomes president God only knows what will happen to you and everyone you love dear. Happy general election, everyone!
Then add this:
In early June, a little-known adviser to Donald Trump stunned a gathering of high-powered Washington foreign policy experts meeting with the visiting prime minister of India, going off topic with effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.
The adviser, Carter Page, hailed Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama, according to three people who were present at the closed-door meeting at Blair House – and then touted the positive effect a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations.
A month later, Page dumbfounded foreign policy experts again by giving another speech harshly critical of U.S. policy – this time in Moscow.
The United States and other western nations have “criticized these regions for continuing methods which were prevalent during the Cold War period,” Page said in a lecture at the New Economic School commencement. “Yet ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
This is not good for the Trump campaign:
Page is a little-known Trump adviser with an ambiguous role in his campaign. But since being named to the Republican nominee’s team in March, his stature within the foreign policy world has grown considerably, drawing alarm from more established foreign policy experts who view him as having little real understanding about U.S.-Russia relations. Many also say that Page’s views may be compromised by his investment in Russian energy giant, Gazprom.
Asked to comment on Page’s public statements and campaign role, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Page was an “informal foreign policy adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.” Trump first named Page as one of a handful of his foreign policy advisers during a meeting at The Post in March.
There’ not much wiggle-room on this one:
The open embrace of a controversial foreign leader is unusual for an adviser to a presidential candidate – and a break from a decades-old Republican tradition of tough stances toward Moscow.
Page, who worked in Moscow for Merrill Lynch a decade ago and who has said he is invested in Gazprom, joins other Trump advisers who have done business in Russia while advocating closer relations. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, for example, has wooed investments from oligarchs linked to Putin and advised the now-toppled pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
This story of Trump’s capture by Putin, if that’s what this is, has legs. Endorsing Paul Ryan doesn’t fix this one, but Olivia Nuzzi and Jackie Kucinich argue that Hillary Clinton might help out Trump:
Over the course of four days, almost the entire work-week beginning August 1, hardly an hour passed by without Trump saying something outrageous, saying something false, or publicly suffering the consequences for both.
Against all advice, he continued his impolite back and forth with the Khan family. He called Clinton “the devil.” He kicked an infant out of his rally for crying. He refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Republican nominee John McCain in their reelection bids. He claimed to have seen “secret” video footage of the U.S. giving Iran $400 million even though no such footage exists. He accepted a Purple Heart from a supporter and then, in true draft-dodger fashion, joked that it was easier to have received it as a gift than the traditional way.
“Insiders” of his campaign leaked news to the press that morale was at an all-time low and yet more insiders claimed an intervention, attended by Newt Gingrich, Reince Priebus and Rudy Giuliani, was underway to save Trump from himself. His allies, including Gingrich and Ed Rollins, took to the media to criticize him. Gingrich went as far as to say that Clinton was the more acceptable candidate – and he wasn’t the only Republican to feel that way. Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, New York Congressman Richard Hanna, and onetime senior Chris Christie aide Maria Comella all came out to pledge their votes to the Democrat. Whitman even promised to donate to and raise money for her campaign.
And that meant Clinton had to do nothing:
She sent a couple Tweets, none of them much to write home about. Her campaign informed reporters on Tuesday that in the month of July, she’d raised “about $90 million” for herself and the Democratic Party. She brought Warren Buffett with her to Omaha, his hometown, where he said he’d love to compare tax returns with Trump. And then she traveled to Las Vegas, where the only thing to draw much notice at her rally was the presence of a punchy animal-rights activist who tried to rush the stage, prompting a small cavalry of Secret Service agents to surround the candidate.
“Hillary has quietly and effectively abetted Trump’s self-destruction,” former Bill Clinton adviser, Paul Begala, told The Daily Beast.
“Perhaps her most important line at the convention was, ‘A man you can bait with a Tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,'” Begala said. “And then Trump rose to the bait. He is a largemouth bass, striking more out of aggression than self-interest. He hit the largest, shiniest thing in the water – in this case a Gold Star family. Hillary kept the heat on by rolling out endorsements from Republicans.”
Begala added, “I think she knows exactly what she’s doing. This is not the week to roll out a 12-point plan on child care. This is the week to toss Trump an anvil.”
And then Clinton blew it on Friday afternoon:
As she wrapped up her prepared remarks to the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Joint Conference in Washington, DC, Clinton stood in front of a room of reporters and encouraged them not to pull any punches on either side of the race.
“So I hope you’ll keep calling it like you see it,” she said, insincerely. “Keep holding all of us accountable.”
Perhaps she shouldn’t have said that:
“This week you told two separate news organizations that FBI Director James Comey said, quote, ‘My answers were truthful, and that what I said is consistent with what I have told the American people,'” NBC’s Kristen Welker began. “That assertion, as you know, has been debunked by multiple news organizations …so my question for you is, are you mischaracterizing Director Comey’s testimony? And is this not undercutting your efforts to rebuild trust with the American people?”
Clinton first repeated her acknowledgement that “using two e-mail accounts was a mistake” and then repeated the same lie she told Fox News’ Chris Wallace last week in a Fox News Sunday interview.
“And I have said on – during the interview and in many other occasions over the past months, that what I told the FBI – which he said was truthful – is consistent with what I have said publicly,” she said.
Welker was undeterred.
“Is the one inconsistency, though, that you said you never sent or received classified material, and he did say there were three e-mails, that were marked classified at the time,” she pressed. “Is that an inconsistency?”
Clinton then launched into a 337-word, rambling verbal Rubik Cube of an explanation that not only reiterated her false assertion that she didn’t tell the FBI a different story than the one she told the public, but in doing so she also reminded anyone watching why voters are having trouble trusting Hillary Clinton.
“But Director Comey said there was absolutely no intention, on my part, to either ignore or in any way dismiss the importance of those documents because they weren’t marked “classified,” so that would have hard to do and I will go back to where I started,” she finished. “I regret using one account, I’ve taken responsibility for that but I’m pleased to be able to clarify and explain what I think the bottom line is on this.”
What did she just say? No one knew, so it’s lucky she’s running against Trump:
In July, when Trump was handed an opportunity to let Clinton flail after FBI Director James Comey called her handling of classified information while Secretary of State “extremely careless,” he didn’t take it.
Instead, he obsessively defended his decision to send a Tweet with what was widely interpreted to be an anti-Semitic use of the Star of David, deflecting attention from Clinton’s considerable screw-up and prematurely ending what should have been at least a week of negative attention for her campaign.
Next to these kinds of antics, it’s easy for Clinton to appear politically sophisticated, of course.
She’s lucky she’s facing a mean little boy who only likes to pick on weaklings and never apologizes unless he’s forced to, and then doesn’t really mean it. But what if he suddenly grows up?
No, she’s safe.