Tuesday, April 16, 2024

April 15, 2024
The Trump enigma

The support for Donald Trump always has been a mystery to me.  His grasp of issues never was firm and he seems to be going downhill, making repeated mistakes or odd statements.[14]  The explanations, or theories, are different for different groups. Much of his support by ordinary voters seems to be based on fear and resentment, reenforced and exaggerated. A  column by Jennifer Rubin described how that can be manipulated: “Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on reactionary strongmen, explains, ‘To get people to embrace violence, fill them with existential dread- the fear that it’s the Leader or the abyss.’ “[15]

Recently I have seen several theories for the support by Republican politicians.  One is, in effecr, “He is our candidate, and we don’t want Biden.”  Even many of those Truimp has attacked support him[16]  This is a familiar form of blind partisanship, remarkable only in being applied to someone so thouroughly unworthy.  Some just are afraid of him: they want to stay active in GOP politics and he controls the Party.  

Liz Cheney, in her recent book, describes several reasons or excuses for support by her fellow Republicans: fear that crossing Trump would lead to a primary challenge, even fear that crossing him would put them and their families in danger.  Early on, some didn’t actively oppose him because they thought he would fade away.[17]    

There is some movement away from Trump.  Explanations by those who oppose him also vary. Here is Mike Pence’s reasoning:

Donald Trump is pursuing and articulating an agenda that is at odds with the conservative agenda that we governed on during our four years. . . .  As I have watched his candidacy unfold, I’ve seen him walking away from our commitment to confronting the national debt. I’ve seen him starting to shy away from a commitment to the sanctity of human life. And this last week, his reversal on getting tough on China and supporting our administration’s efforts to force a sale of ByteDance’s TikTok,[18]  

As to the first issue, the record of their administration is nothing to boast about.[19]  However, Pence’s defection is significant, whatever the reason.

The notion that Trump was a conservative appeared in an extreme form in a column by by Mark Thiessen, a Washington Post columnist, who wrote recently: “Based on his record in office, Trump should be considered one of the greatest conservative presidents we’ve had.”  Thiessen would like to support Trump, but his reported attitude toward Ukraine, Russia and dictators is a problem:

After meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Trump assured him he ‘will not give a penny’ to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression. If true, that’s not the Trump I want to vote for. . . .I can’t vote for a candidate who would abandon Ukraine to Vladimir Putin.[20]

Thiessen also referred to “Trump’s recent flip-flop on forcing the sale of TikTok in the United States.”

Although most Republican oficeholders remain in the MAGA camp, there have been notable defections.  When Trump was impeached over his January 6 behavior, 10  House Republicanns voted to impeach and 7 Republican Senators voted to convict, both record numbers for those of the same party as the accused.[21]

There has been some defection by members of Trump’s inner crcle in addition to  Pence:

Several of Trump’s former top advisers and allies have refused to endorse their former boss’s campaign, including . . . former attorney general William P. Barr and former White House chief of staff John Kelly.
    * * *     
    Former defense secretary Mark T. Esper told HBO host Bill Maher that “there’s no way” he’ll support Trump in November because he believes his former boss “is a threat to democracy.”[22]

 Some are considering the next step:

    Esper: “Every day that Trump does something crazy, the door to voting for Biden opens a little bit more, and that’s where I’m at,”
    Sarah Matthews, a former deputy White House press secretary, supported Nikki Haley in the Republican primaries. She told The Post, however, that if her choice is between Trump and Biden on Election Day, she’ll support Biden.
    Ty Cobb, who was once a Trump loyalist and as White House counsel defended the former president during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, has repeatedly said that the country cannot elect Trump again. . . . “If the time comes and a vote for Joe is required to stop Trump, then I’d grudgingly vote for Biden,” Cobb said.
Cassidy Hutchinson succinctly stated why that move should be taken: “everybody should vote for Joe Biden if they want our democracy to survive.”[23]

14.  https://greensboro.com/dana-milbank-donald-trump-is-very-confused/article_ 872646de-bba4-11ee-911a-6f4c6a1dddfc.html
15.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/03/22/trump-ground-shift-rhetoric/
16. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/03/14/kemp-sununu-mcconnell-thune- back-trump/
17. Oath. and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, Little, Brown & Co.(2023). See pp. 59-60, 131, 190-91. As to threats, also see https://www.huffpost.com/entry/anthony-scaramucci-trump- death-threats_n_660676c4e4b0c13128d023d9
18. https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/15/politics/pence-will-not-endorse-trump/index.html
19. ttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/01/25/trump-national-debt/
20. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/03/14/marc-thiessen-vote-trump- national-security/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_opinions&utm_campaign=wp_ opinions
21. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/14/956621191/these-are-the-10-republicans-who-voted- to-impeach-trump    and
https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-trial-live-updates/2021/02/15/967878039/7- gop-senators-voted-to-convict-trump-only-1-faces-voters-next-year
22.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/04/02/trump-aides-wont-vote-for-him/? utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F3d456b5%2F660c2988c2b6150e259e7579%2F5b65de00ade4e2779564ed94%2F17%2F53%2F660c2988c2b6150e259e7579
23. Ibid

Thursday, March 14, 2024

March 13, 2024
Is Trump fading?  (episode four)

I have suggested several times[1] that Trump’s appeal to voters might be fading.  I may  have been too optimistic; he has won most of the primary contests and his opponents have dropped out.. However, his legal troubles, while they may establish him as a martyr to some, should be a net negative.

The stunning verdicts in the E. Jean Carroll cases, finding “sexual abuse” and defamation[2], (and awarding huge damages)[3] should give any supporter pause.  In addition he faces serious criminal charges.

Also, Trump’s apparent popularity may be in part illusory.  He had little positive influence on the 2022 midterm election and observers have pointed out that Trump’s vote totals in the early primaries were not impressive and that not all Republican voters are ready to support him.[4]

Trump has shown lapses that may raise concerns about his mental ability.  He attacked Nancy Pelosi for an imagined failure on January 6, but referred to her repeatedly as “Nikki Haley.” Often he seems confused, making mistakes.[5]   Niece Mary Trump pointed to this gaffe by Trump at a Fox News town hall: ’”Were going to take over Washington, D.C. We’re going to federalize. We’re going to have very powerful crime, and you’re going to be proud of it again,”[6]

Unfortunately. President Biden has shown lapses as well, and his seem to show declining mental acuity, whereas Trump’s are buried in shouted blather, so he can seem strong even while revealing confusion. The special counsel’s comment on Biden’s memory has made matters still worse.  Biden’s performance at the State of the Union address should help to dispel fears: he fumbled at times but gave a vigorous, combative speech.  On policy, he took the initiative on the border issue and proposed a project to get more aid to Gaza.  He should go farther and take a harder line with Israel on its attacks

Trump at times seems to be self-destructive. After winning the New Hampshire primary, instead of trying to maintain Party solidarity, he attacked Governor Haley.  Driving away potential Republican voters doesn’t seem bright, but Trump did that while showing a vindictive streak, referring to  “Birdbrain” Nikki Haley and threatening her supporters: “Anybody that makes a ‘Contribution’ to Birdbrain, from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don’t want them, and will not accept them.”[7]

Haley returned the favor, exposing Trump’s weakness while again potentially driving away Republican votes.  One of her ads said, of Trump, “He just can’t help himself, the ranting and raving. . . .  Chaos follows him, and he’s getting older.”  Trump is only “running to settle old scores” because “it’s about him, not you,” the voter.[8]  She referred to him as “unhinged.”[9]

Another Haley ad raised the issue of Trump’s deference to Putin.  “Every time he was in the same room with him, he got weak in the knees,” Haley told a Fox News town hall in South Carolina. “We can’t have a president that gets weak in the knees with Putin. We have to have a president that’s going to be strong with Putin in every sense of the word.”[10]

Trump has underscored the issue of weakness toward Russia by suggesting that he would encourage it to attack a NATO member. He recently recalled (or imagined) a conversation during his presidency.  Referring to financial contributions toward military preparedness by NATO members, he said:
    One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, “Well sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” I said, “You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?” He said, “Yes, let’s say that happened.” “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”[11] .   

All of this may persuade enough voters that Trump is a risky bet.  As Jennifer
Rubin put it, past presidential candidates “did not have the extra hurdle to prove they were sane, law-abiding and pro-democracy. Trump does, and he reinforces those concerns whenever he opens his mouth.”[12]

In addition to Trump’s weaknesses, the GOP is in disarray, as demonstrated by the antics, divisions and general uselessness of the House Republicans; that may drag its presidential candidate down.  Goaded by Trump, who wants border troubles as a campaign issue, they have lost interest in border enforcement after claiming that action there was critical.  Those voters who backed Trump because he vowed to close the border should be offended by his maneuvering to keep it open so he can complain about it.  

 Trunp’s cruise to the nomination is not necessarily bad news; in the two previous campaigns he lost the popular vote. Despite all of Biden’s troubles, including too-critical news media, I think (hope?) that voters will see that they must back him. As Robert Reich put it,  "When Americans actually focus on the presidential election and the stark reality of choosing between Biden and Trump, I expect they will once again choose Biden.”[13]

1.  See notes of 1/26/22, 11/26/22, 8/20/23
2.  https://www.npr.org/2023/05/09/1174975870/trump-carroll-verdict
3. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/26/nyregion/trump-defamation-trial-carroll- verdict.html
4.  https://www.alternet.org/trump-2024-campaign/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium= email&utm_campaign=Feb.26.2024_1.59pm
and    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jeff-timmer-trump-weak_n_65dee6cde4b005b858323206
5.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/01/23/new-hampshire-primary-2024- scene-trump-phillips-haley/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source= newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most
6. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-freudian-slip-powerful-crime_n_65d863a7e4b0e 4346d51f8b3
7. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-nikki-haley-donor-threat_n_65b2198ee4b 0166fc 770d5e2
8. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nikki-haley-new-ad-donald-trump-2024_n_65c1db10e 4b093b2e780cda7
9. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nikki-haley-calls-donald-trump-unhinged-and-more- diminished_n_65cd017ce4b0087d43c8bcec
10. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nikki-haley-donald-trump-putin_n_65d30b8de4b043f1 c0abc5a7 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nikki-haley-donald-trump-putin_n_65d30b8de4b043f1 c0abc5a7
11. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-russia-attack-nato-allies_n_65c7e443e4b 069b665dfb762
12. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/01/26/trump-overrated-2024-biden- newsletter
13. https://www.alternet.org/nikki-haley-trump-2667064331/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_ medium=email&utm_campaign=Jan.23.2024_1.57pm

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

December 31, 2023
A dangerous situation
    Republicans refuse to support gun-control laws, pretending with the confused and doctrinaire Supreme Court that the Second Amendment is a blanket license to be armed and arguing that letting everyone carry a gun somehow improves safety.  One evasive response to mass shootings is that the problem is mental health, not guns.  An example is the comment by newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).
    In an interview
[46] a day after eighteen people were killed in a mass shooting in Maine, he said guns aren’t the problem: “At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart. It’s not guns. It’s not the weapons. At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment, and that’s why our party stands so strongly for that . . . This is not the time to be talking about legislation.“  That time never seems to come, even at the end of the day.
    Johnson said the House should focus on mental health legislation. “I believe we have to address the root problems of these things. And mental health, obviously, as in this case, is a big issue, and we have got to seriously address that as a society and as a government.”
    That, it seems to me, is an excuse for inaction rather than a practical solution to the problem of gun-related violence.  However, In one sense, Johnson is right: violent, antisocial behavior is so common that it is appropriate to say that there is a behavioral issue.  However, the problem is only in small part one of the mental health of some individuals; there is a widespread condition of alienation, tribalism and the rejection of authority and of standards of behavior.  The cause and the cure are not medical but political, not the need for mental health counseling but for a new and responsible public attitude.  The tendency of some on the right to fabricate issues, stir resentment, encourage divisiveness, claim that the government is the enemy, and that liberals want to destroy the American way of life encourages antisocial behavior.  Arming the angry and disaffected completes the destructive circle.

46.  https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/mike-johnson-gives-first-interview-after -being-elected-house-speaker-transcript;

Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day