Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Coward, But More

Donald Trump gave it all up at a rally in Fresno, California on Friday, arguing

So Obama gets on television. First of all, he's not supposed to be talking when he's in Japan about politics in our nation, OK? He's not supposed to. I think I got him rattled. He's the one that's rattled (if) you want to know the truth.

The truth, if you want to know it, is that Barack Obama is aware that, come hell or high water (neither a good option, though the latter preferable) he will leave office in January. He wasn't rattled by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or ISIL, to which he has responded both seriously and calmly. He is not "rattled" over thoughts of who will succeed him.

Someone is rattled, however, and if words mean anything, that someone's initials are DT.  A man who is concerned about what an individual says about him in the Far East, then finds it necessary to accuse that individual of being "rattled," is himself scared.

Admittedly, that's an easy call after Trump backed out of a debate with Bernie Sanders.  In a statement released late Friday, Trump wrote

Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher.

"The Democratic process is rigged,"  so I won't debate the individual who should have been nominated. Makes a lot of sense to those who believe up is down, right is left, summer is winter.

"Likewise," Trump continued, "the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues."  Originally, the candidate had proposed "a nice sum to charity."  Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks said his online network would give to the charity of the candidates' choice $1 million, a nice sum.  ABC would donate "any profits to a charity of their choice" and moments before Trump's announcement, chairman and CEO Richard  Hecker of technology company Traction and Scale offered a $10 million charitable donation to host the event. (And that wasn't all.)

That, too, is "a nice sum." Perhaps, though, Trump meant something quite different when he said "charity."  He concluded by saying- or typing- "Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders -  and it would be an easy payday - I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be."

As much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders- and it would be an easy payday. The juxtaposition of "I" and "payday" makes it clear: Donald Trump expected to be paid to participate in the debate.  He was The Apprentice. He was the big draw in the GOP debates, and was convinced he was the reason they drew big audiences. He accepted Sanders' challenge but when networks started talking about charity, he knew he personally was going to be cut out of it.. When Trump claimed the networks "want to keep the money for themselves," he meant "what they won't give to charity, they want to keep for themselves rather than give to me."

Trump slithered out of the debate because he is a coward (photo from @brendanfillmore). But he accepted the initial offer because he thought he could make a killing.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Not A Cruz-Trump Situation

Hillary Clinton scoffed at the idea of a Trump-Sanders debate. "I don't think it's going to happen," she said. "You know, I know they've gone back and forth on this,and they seem to be saying it's some kind of joke. Trump doesn't sound very serious."

Neither side believes it's a joke, though it's unlikely to occur given that the Republican has little to gain and a lot to lose. Still, Clinton was taken aback by the proposal, unsurprising because three weeks ago in Los Angeles

Clinton appeared to come just shy of flat-out telling the Vermont senator -- who has vowed to stay in the race through the convention in July -- it’s time for him to bow out. (If not that, though, she at the very least made the argument for why she believes he should strongly consider it.)

“I am three million plus votes ahead of Sen. Sanders, right? I am nearly 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sen. Sanders. When I was running against then-Sen. Obama, he and I were neck and neck in the popular vote. Depending on how you counted it, I was a little ahead or he was a little ahead. He was about 60 or so pledged delegates ahead. A much, much smaller margin than what we see in this race," Clinton told a group of black community leaders this morning, just one day after it became clear Donald Trump will be the likely Republican presidential nominee.

It wouldn't be surprising if Clinton were a little envious of Donald Trump, who was fortunate to have had an opponent as accomodating as Senator Ted Cruz.  The relevant comparison here is 49 and 68 vs. 77.

When Senator Clinton ran against Senator Obama in 2008, whe was a mere 60 years old and knew, if she bowed out gracefully, she would be able to run in 2016, when she would be 68 years old. Appointment to a major foreign policy position in an Obama Administration would pave the way, help smooth the path to the nomination in 2016, for which she would be the odds-on favorite.    Ted Cruz is now only 45 years old and in four years will be merely 49 years old. And it is likely, if the Democrat wins the presidency this year or a President Trump has a rocky four years, Cruz will be back in 2020.

The Texan dropped out of the Republican race promptly after losing the Indiana primary but while his organization, far superior to that of Trump, was routing the demagogue in the tough slog for delegates at state and national conventions. Nonetheless, having earlier been intimidated by Trump's recklessness, he withdrew from the race. In his statement

Cruz repeatedly referenced his idol Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, ending by promising: “There is no substitute for the America we will restore as the shining city on the hill for generations to come,” a reference to Reagan’s farewell address.

Reagan, facing facing difficult odds trying to wrest the nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976, broke the mold by naming a vice-presidential running mate, Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania.  That didn't help him but he returned in 1980 to win the nomination and go on to victory in the general election.  Think of Carly Fiorina as a (far) more nasty version of Schweiker and, as he would like, Ted Cruz as Ronald Reagan.

Although the Texas senator is dedicated to far-right principles and motivated by his conception of "constitutionalism," he also is highly ambitious. Two or three years after serving on the Bush presidential campaign in 2000, Cruz left his wife behind in Washington to return to Austin to become Texas' solicitor general.  The Washington Post in March reported

Cruz, now 45, looks back on that decision 13 years ago to leave Washington as an essential part of his rise as a top-tier Republican presidential candidate. The choice bore the Cruz hallmarks: ambition, a willingness to take major risks and confidence that he could pull it off.

Less ambitious, with an unusual focus on policy and principle, and at age 64, Bernie Sanders knows this is his last rodeo.  And he's not going to ride off until he is convinced he has lost.   That, unfairly or not, is Hillary Clinton's burden.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

No-Lose And No-Win

In one of the many metaphors for the Donald Trump campaign, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee exceeded even his own expectations when discussing the concept of armed teachers in classrooms. He regularly changes his mind on issues but it was particularly impressive when on May 22 he told a GOP News audience "I don't want to have guns in classrooms, athough in some cases teachers should have guns in classrooms, frankly." As if to assure viewers he really is confused (or deceptive), he added  "I’m not advocating guns in classrooms but remember in some cases — a lot of people made this case — teachers should have guns, trained teachers should have guns in classrooms."

Both reversals took place within one sentence and within seconds. It will take Trump a little longer to reverse himself on a proposal he made talking to Jimmy Kimmel Wednesday evening. "So here's the question from Bernie," Kimmel starts, "He asks 'Hilllary Clinton backed out of an agreement, Hillary Clinton backed out of an agreement (wherein Kimmel imitates the voice of Sanders, as well as you or I would of someone we'd never heard) to debate me in California before the June 7th primary. Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest stae and the country before the California primary? Yes or no.'"

Trump replied "yes, I am- how much is he going to pay me." Kimmel followed up and the candidate stated that he would debate "if he paid a nice sum toward a charity." Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley comments

it's hard to immediately say who this would help. On the one hand, Sanders would likely be ruthless in criticizing Trump's business activities and worldview, reducing the chances that Sanders-leaning independents would move to Trump in the general; on the other hand, an effective performance might help him win California, which would be another party-unification-delaying pain in the neck for Hillary.

Yes- it would help either help (probable) nominee Hillary Clinton in the general election or Sanders himself win in California and maybe, just maybe, snatch the nomination.

It's a  win-win for Sanders, who at age 74/75 would not want his legacy to be that he did not do what he could to barricade Donald Trump from the Oval Office. But it takes two to tango (as it was first worded in 1952 and popularized by President Reagan)  and it's hard to imagine how it could possibly help the all-but-certain GOP nominee.

Trump could win the debate, in which his case he would have bested the guy who is not even going to be a nominee (especially if he gets shown up by Trump).     Alternatively, Trump could lose the debate, even get exposed for the kind of guy he is.   Trump never has gone one-on-one with anyone, a confrontation yearned for by Ted Cruz and prevented by John Kasich. (The first paragraph of John Kasich's autobiography should, but won't, include "the governor who remained in the 2016 Republican presidential race well beyond his de facto elimination and thereby virtually assured the nomination of  Donald Trump.")

Trump has nothing to gain by such a confrontation- and he has quite a bit to lose. He might get shown up by a guy who is an underdog for his party's nomination and who many Republicans view as an old, wild-eyed socialist.  That was part of the reason it took Sanders less than an hour to tweet "Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary."

But that might not have been the only reason.  "If he paid a nice sum toward charity," Trump challenged, and Sanders should accept that challenge.  Opportunities abound. They include relatively little-known charites such as FairTest ("The National Center for Fair and Open Testing). Better-known charities could include The Brady Campaign (To Prevent Gun Violence);; Move To Amend (the Constitution to clarify that money is not speech and corporations are not people); and many others.  Maybe the Vermont Senator should pledge to send a little money to each of several worthy groups.

Imagine the consternation in the Republican Party if its nominee were aiding, however, indirectly, an effort to prevent public school teachers from being undermined; to cut down on gun violence; to promote constructive ways to combat climate change; or to advance reproductive freedom for women.  The "Never Trump" movement is predicated on the notion that Donald Trump is not a true conservative.  The leaders would not be pleased were their Party's candidate to bolster the bottom line of organizations which chip away at corporate control of the government and/or the culture.

By the time this is posted, Trump probably already will have modified his offer or even reversed his position. It's what he does- and otherwise, a mine field awaits.

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