Donald Trump’s Inexcusable Loyalists Deserve To Be Betrayed As He Chooses His Cabinet

donald-trump-loyalists-rudy-giuliani-newt-gingrich-sarah-palin

Donald Trump loyalists betrayed conservatism by supporting the president-elect during the campaign; if they are now betrayed by Trump and frozen out of his administration it will be sweet justice

As Donald Trump’s cabinet takes shape, some of those who sacrificed the most reputationally and ideologically to get on board the Trump train are angry that the president-elect is giving consideration to other people who refused to campaign with him, even those who may not have voted for him.

Sarah Palin (who, to be fair, didn’t have much of a reputation to sacrifice) has now belatedly rediscovered her commitment to small government after apparently finding out that there will be no place for her in the Trump administration. In response to this slight, Palin took to the newspapers accusing Donald Trump of promoting “crony capitalism” for offering incentives to business to keep production in the United States.

That’s not quite what she was saying a month ago when she was praising and supporting Trump, and it is slightly jarring to see her pivot effortlessly back to Tea Party talking points having previously embraced Trump so strongly.

But nothing has made the Trump loyalists as angry as the gnawing possibility that Donald Trump might pick Mitt Romney to be his Secretary of State over his dedicated henchman Rudy Giuliani, one of the only people to publicly defend Trump after the leaked ‘p*ssygate’ recordings made the news. Why should Rudy be overlooked, the thinking goes, when he did everything for Trump while Mitt Romney looked on distastefully from the sidelines?

The Trump loyalists deserve absolutely no sympathy in this regard – though Jonah Goldberg does an excellent job of summarising their predicament in this week’s G-file:

Consider the following thought experiment. A very rich guy makes you an offer: “If you eat this bowl of sh**, I will grant you a wish.” You think about it for a minute or two, and then you grab a wooden spoon and start to dig in, when the rich guy says, “Hold on. You’ve got to do it publicly.”

Well, you figure, “What’s the difference? Once I get my wish it will be worth it.” So, you head on over to a television studio with your plastic bib and your spoon, and you tuck into the steaming bowl like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials.

Then the rich guy says, “Sorry, one more thing: I can only give you a coupon for your wish. But, I promise to honor it once I get the job of genie. Just keep eating.”

What to do? You’ve already acquired a reputation for coprophagia and no one else is offering wish-coupons, so you stick it out. Besides, you’re not alone. A bunch of other folks have been promised similar coupons and you’ve formed a tightknit group. You spend a lot of time talking about how smart you are for agreeing to this arrangement. You fantasize about what you’ll do with your wishes and how sorry the naysayers will be.

Then, the rich guy gets the job of genie. Woo-hoo!

Naturally, you want to redeem your coupon. But all of a sudden, the rich guy starts playing coy. He’s honoring the coupon for some people, but not you. That would be fine — one coupon at a time and all. But then you learn that the genie-elect is giving out coupons to people who didn’t partake of the fecal feast. Uh oh.

And then you see news reports that the big man is not only giving out wishes to people who never earned a coupon, but he’s considering granting a wish to the foremost guy who criticized the big man and tried to keep him from being able to grant wishes at all!

Okay, this getting belabored. But you get the point. If Trump remains the loyalist, Gingrich, Huckabee et al. have golden tickets. The last thing they want is Willie Wonka Trump letting just anybody into the chocolate factory.

This blog finds it very hard to generate sympathy for those big-name American conservatives who so comprehensively sold out their own ideology and their own party to Donald Trump.

If the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin now find themselves betrayed and left out of the Trump administration they helped to inflict on America, it is still nothing compared to the betrayal of conservatism that they committed by throwing the principles of freedom and small government out the window to worship at the feet of a thin-skinned, constitutionally illiterate big government authoritarian.

May their time in the wilderness be long and full of regrets.

 

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Donald Trump: It Doesn’t Get Better

Donald Trump Obama ISIS

There is no second, deeper layer to Donald Trump. Contrary to what we were promised by Trump’s apologists, what you see is what you get.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that when it comes to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign there is no higher gear after all, and there will be no pivot towards a more serious, substantial candidacy.

As the New York Times reports, this is as good as it gets:

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party. In a visit to Capitol Hill in early July, Mr. Trump bickered with two Republican senators who had not endorsed him; he needled Representative Peter T. King of New York for having taken donations from him over the years only to criticize him on television now.

And Mr. Trump has begun to acknowledge to associates and even in public that he might lose. In an interview on CNBC on Thursday, he said he was prepared to face defeat.

“I’ll just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now,” he said. “And at the end, it’s either going to work, or I’m going to, you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice, long vacation.”

Already the excuses are being made – Trump roars to his supporters that the only way he can possibly lose the election is if Hillary Clinton cheats, thus helping to ensure that the stench of his candidacy will live on in bitterness and distrust even after November when he has flounced back to Mar-a-Lago.

Not that Trump’s advisers are brimming full of their own wisdom:

Charles R. Black Jr., an influential Republican lobbyist supporting Mr. Trump, said the campaign was in a continuing struggle to tame him.

“He has three or four good days and then makes another gaffe,” Mr. Black said. “Hopefully, he can have some more good days.” Of Mr. Trump’s advisers, Mr. Black said, “They think he is making progress in terms of being able to make set speeches and not take the bait on every attack somebody makes on him.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers now hope to steady him by pairing him on the trail with familiar, more seasoned figures — people he views as peers and enjoys spending time with, like former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

Oh good. So lots more pictures of Donald Trump being introduced by an increasingly doddery-looking Grandpa Simpson Rudolph Giuliani, with his frightened shouting about someone taking away his America, played to a soundtrack of Mike Huckabee’s Christian social conservatism. That’ll really persuade wavering Democrats and America’s undecided middle.

But it’s okay – Donald Trump’s family have a hand on the campaign tiller:

Mr. Trump’s reliance on his family has only grown more pronounced. Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, who has no background in politics, has expanded his role: He now has broad oversight over areas including the campaign’s budget, messaging and strategy, with the power to approve spending. Mr. Trump has also continued to seek advice from Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager whom Mr. Trump ousted in June at his children’s urging.

At this rate it is only a matter of time before Trump announces that Ivanka is his pick for Secretary of Defence. Why not, at this point?

And so the man who recently bragged that he could be “so presidential” that it would make us all bored is proving beyond all doubt that he can do no such thing. Donald Trump does not have a more serious side. The oafish blowhard who takes pride in being simultaneously ignorant and needlessly offensive wasn’t putting on a clever act specifically designed to capture the GOP nomination – that’s just who he is.

It’s not that Trump chooses not to surprise everyone and confound expectations by playing the policy wonk and actually taking the time to read up on issues before running his mouth off on live television – it’s that he is physically incapable of being a mature, intellectually curious potential leader, even if he wanted to be. And even when despairing aides hold their make-or-break “interventions” in an attempt to set him on the straight and narrow, Trump simply smiles and nods, and two days later he is off the Teleprompter again, picking another unwinnable fight or pursuing one of his many personal vendettas.

So more of the same then, from now until November. The Republicans had better hope that there is an entire army of low-information, first time voters willing to put on pants and leave the couch for the first time in 30 years to vote for their man, because otherwise Hillary Clinton will be taking the oath of office on January 20th.

 

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RNC 2016: Republican National Convention – Night 1 Summary

RNC - Republican National Convention - Cleveland - Quicken Loans Arena Floor

As the Republican National Convention gets underway in Cleveland, it is hard to recall a time when American conservatism has been in so parlous a condition

Andrew Sullivan (in a most welcome return to political live-blogging) captured the ugly essence of Night 1 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio:

Just mulling over the events tonight, there’s one obvious stand-out. I didn’t hear any specific policy proposals to tackle clearly stated public problems. It is almost as if governing, for the Republican right, is fundamentally about an attitude, rather than about experience or practicality or reasoning. The degeneracy of conservatism – its descent into literally mindless appeals to tribalism and fear and hatred – was on full display. You might also say the same about the religious right, the members of whom have eagerly embraced a racist, a nativist, a believer in war crimes, and a lover of the tyrants that conservatism once defined itself against. Their movement long lost any claim to a serious Christian conscience. But that they would so readily embrace such an unreconstructed pagan is indeed a revelation.

If you think of the conservative movement as beginning in 1964 and climaxing in the 1990s, then the era we are now in is suffering from a cancer of the mind and the soul. That the GOP has finally found a creature that can personify these urges to purge, a man for whom the word “shameless” could have been invented, a bully and a creep, a liar and cheat, a con man and wannabe tyrant, a dedicated loather of individual liberty, and an opponent of the pricelessly important conventions of liberal democracy is perhaps a fitting end.

Well, quite.

What struck me most from the first night of the Republican convention, as speaker after speaker stood and railed against President Obama, called for Hillary Clinton to be thrown in jail and led the delegates in endless chants of “USA! USA!”, was the fact that these people were all scared. Scared of the future, scared of their economic prospects, scared of Islamist terrorism, scared of national decline.

Rudy Giuliani, appearing a very shrunken figure since his glory days in the late 1990s and during 9/11, sounded like a fearful pensioner shouting at the television when he gave his barnstorming prime-time speech. Where had his America gone, he shouted, and who would keep them all safe in these dangerous times? The answer, of course, was always Donald Trump.

We know that some American conservatives have skipped the convention entirely in disgust – and who can blame them? But of those in the convention hall – or the Quicken Loans arena, to give its full title – the vast majority seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid, or have at least reluctantly reconciled themselves to the fact that Donald Trump is their presidential nominee.

Something has changed in the soul of the Republican Party. One can argue endlessly about the reasons why – this blog believes that the continued failure of Republican government to benefit the struggling middle classes, the failure of the Tea Party to make a positive difference despite its loud rhetoric together with the ill-fated adventurism of the neoconservatives, has done much to alienate working class Americans from a conservative political class who have little to offer them but shallow patriotism.

Of course, Donald Trump offers shallow patriotism too. But he is also a strongman. Where President Obama wrings his hands and attempts to explain the complexity of the world and the problems facing America – often to excess – Donald Trump offers clarity and bold, oversimplified solutions. ISIS can be defeated without putting American boots on the ground, just by America deciding to “lead” again. Semi-skilled manufacturing jobs can be repatriated to America simply by “standing up” to nefarious foreign countries like China and Mexico. And apparently, after having been ground down by two stalled wars and a financial crisis, American conservatism was sufficiently dejected and debased to pick up that message and run with it.

I came of age (and became aware of American politics) in the late 1990s, in the tail end of the Clinton presidency and into the George W. Bush era. And in that time, in books and speeches by prominent conservatives, American conservatism was clearly dedicated – in rhetoric, if not always in practice – to advancing freedom. Freedom for the individual in America, and (sometimes disastrously) freedom for people in other parts of the world.

But the Republican Party of 2016 barely talks about freedom at all. On the first night of the RNC in Cleveland, speakers and delegates gathered under a massive sign proclaiming “Make America Safe Again”. Freedom has apparently gone out the window completely – why else would Republicans nominate an authoritarian like Donald Trump, a man who expresses contempt for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and human rights? And in freedom’s place comes the soothing, reassuring, beguiling promise of safety.

The America I now see through the prism of the current Republican Party – thankfully quite a distorted prism – is one where the American Dream has died for millions of people, or is at best on life support. The Republican primary voters who overwhelmingly voted to make Donald Trump their presidential nominee, and who are now gathered in Cleveland for the quadrennial party convention, were motivated by not by a sense of opportunity but by fear. Fear for their physical safety from terrorism. Fear of economic instability. Fear of relative decline.

Tim Stanley agrees:

Note: preserve. Not build more, not expand, not create – but preserve. You might argue that Trump is conservatism in its purest sense, the sense of being about conserving the best of the past. You might also argue that this represents a break from Reaganism, which is optimistic and about growing the economy to the advantage of the individual.

I’ve been a US conservative convention goer for eight years and I can tell that a change has come over them. You used to hear a lot about defending the Constitution and shrinking the government. Not so much anymore.

The people who are interested in those things are here. On Monday afternoon, God bless them, they tried to kick Trump off the ticket with a rules challenge on the convention floor. They failed and stormed off. They never had the numbers necessary to do it and the Republican establishment has reconciled itself to Trump anyway – so no dice.

And that’s the most depressing thing of all – there is no longer a major political party in the United States remotely dedicated to expanding freedom for the individual and defending against the encroachment of the state.

Lord knows that the Democrats will not be championing liberty now that they are led by Hillary Clinton and nearly entirely captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. For small-c conservatives, libertarian and conservatarians, this election is very much a case of pick your poison.

Andrew Sullivan is quite right to highlight the lack of any serious policy discussion on Day 1 of the convention (and if you don’t get any on the traditionally less TV-worthy opening days then you won’t get any at all). Trumpian conservatism clearly is not interested in solutions. Like their strongman hero, the Republican Party of 2016 has decided that the difficult, intractable problems of Islamist terror, deindustrialisation, global competitiveness and social mobility can be solved simply by willing them away, by “standing up to America’s enemies” and being swept along by Trump’s strong leadership.

Maybe it will take defeat in the 2016 presidential election for the Republican Party to be shocked out of its current stupor and invigorated to find a way to appeal to Trump’s broad coalition of voters with a more optimistic, pro-liberty message.

The nightmare scenario, though, is a Trump victory, which would gild this fear-based, revanchist form of conservatism with the prestige that comes with winning (never mind posing a serious threat to the American republic) and has the potential to transform Donald Trump from an unfortunate blip on the political landscape to an early 21st century Ronald Reagan.

In short, it is hard to see any grounds for hope at all going into this Republican Party convention. But this blog will continue to watch and hope for the green shoots of a future conservative revival, something better to come once this Trumpian nightmare is over.

 

Donald Trump Hosts Nevada Caucus Night Watch Party In Las Vegas

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On Booty Calls and Morning Croissants

The BBC reports that French president Francois Hollande has been accused by a French magazine of having an affair with a 41-year-old actress, Julie Gayet. The article reveals:

The magazine’s print edition came out on Friday and shows pictures it claims support the rumours that the 59-year-old president routinely spends the night with Ms Gayet at a flat not far from the Elysee Palace.

The pictures show the pair arriving separately. Mr Hollande, wearing a helmet, is on a motorbike driven by a chauffeur.

The magazine claims the president’s bodyguard arrives the following morning to deliver croissants.

I like the detail of the morning croissants. Even if one is sneaking out of the Elysee Palace late at night to get some action, one still needs a decent continental breakfast so as to appear statesmanlike again the next morning.

Just as with the fictional American President Grant in the US drama “Scandal”, skulking around the capital city in the dark with limited protection, exposing oneself (and the  secure, uninterupted governance of one’s nation) to any risk of kidnapping, physical harm, blackmailing or worse in the pursuit of a booty call, is probably not behaviour that voters would wish to see in a serving head of state. Transgressions which take place before taking office, honestly explained, atoned for and forgiven by the electorate, are one thing. Actively committing further such acts whilst in office is another matter entirely.

The BBC article reports that though Hollande is making noises about potential legal action against the magazine Closer, he does not deny the specific allegations of the affair.

Although, if ever proven true, this would represent a severe lapse in acceptable personal standards of behaviour, and of presidential decorum on the part of Hollande, the solitary refreshing fact (if that term may be used) in the sordid allegation is that Francois Hollande does not continually preach to his people about the sanctity of traditional marriage in the way that some politicians in the UK, but particularly America, insist on doing.

In contrast to the likes of Newt Gingrich or Rudy Giuliani, both adulterers with serial failed marriages to their names, the French president does not devote his every waking hour to fretting about the potential impact of allowing gay people to wed on the institution of holy matrimony.

And for not adding his voice to the hypocritical cacophony of self-righteous moral preaching, we still owe Francois Hollande our thanks.

You don't want to know why Rudy Giuliani is smiling.
You don’t want to know why Rudy Giuliani is smiling.