By Mark Green
Trump begins the week with the WSJ urging the RNC to cut him loose if he can't turn around his floundering campaign by Labor Day...and ends it with the Bannon-Manafort shuffle. Cooke & Lamarche laugh off the chance he can stop scratching his attention-getting-disorder itch. GOP prospects Nov. 9?
Trump's policy & personnel. We listen to his anti-ISIS speech explaining how he'd utilize joint operations with allies, cyber-tech, intelligence-gathering -- and "extreme, extreme extreme vetting" -- to defeat ISIS. Charles Cooke is not against ideological screening per se "so long as it's not religious screening" since the First Amendment doesn't apply to non-citizens applying to get into US. Gara Lamarche notes that his policy prescriptions are precisely what the Obama administration is now doing...and his version of "extreme vetting" sounds beyond the pale.
The Host asks Cooke to tell our listeners what Breitbart News is and who its recent head, Steven Bannon, the new campaign CEO, is. "Bannon turned an insurgent libertarian right-wing site into a home for right-wing white nationalists. That is not pleasant to read or be. It's a disgrace that a major party nominee associates with Breitbart." He adds the the hire of Kelly Anne Conway as campaign manager is different because "she's a good person with some talents." (Host agrees on Conway, who was a BSN regular for a couple of years...except that her on-message assertions (Trump has "humilty") and denunciations (HRC corrupt liar) renders her a Trumpian version of Baghdad Bob, albeit with a smile.)
Also, says Charles: "While fear-mongering often works and is done by both sides, it's unlikely to succeed in 2016. While there are problems with the economy and crime, it's nothing like the riots, assassinations and crime of 1968 that Nixon exploited."
Net-net on the personnel changes? Gara argues that the Bannon appointment shows Trump wants not to win but just solidify his reactionary white-high-school male base for later commercialization. We're reminded of the metaphor of Charles Sykes, a conservative talk show host in Wisconsin, who saw the move as an indication that Trump has entered his political hospice stage where he wants to be comforted by admirers at the end.
Can Trump's expressed "regrets" for his name-calling and insults help warm up his bellicose persona? Maybe says Cooke, "if he can keep it up or the next three months but, even though the media wants a new story, that's extraordinarily unlikely." Gara: " it's not in his nature. " Host: a person who's gained fame and fortune by living like Andrew Dice Clay for 70 years isn't very likely to turn into Ellen. Indeed, the next day he mockingly tweeted about Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner. Very presidential. And since we don't accept declarations of innocence by defendants at face value, it would be, er, credulous to believe the self-serving words of a proven serial liar who changes his views daily.
Ok, assume polls and trends are right and she wins by eight points + -- who's likely to win the battle for the soul of the Republican Party starting Nov. 9: the Trump/Fox/Cruz crowd or the Ryan/National Review/Reformocons team? Charles has a dog in this fight and argues for the latter because "Trump is sui generis -- there aren't any Trump-like Republicans, for example, running for the Senate. And he benefited from an unusual 17 person field [where he stood out]. Successful parties after a defeat can tamp down the excesses and absorb the best of both sides. Democrats too after the election will be split -- so let's see who can best absorb its rebels."
Gara, however, thinks that the Breitbart crowd more likely to prevail and that "Cruz could then be well positioned."
The Host dissents from Cooke: The problem is not so much Trump but the angry reactionary base that elevated him -- and presumably they'll be as furiously anti-Hillary as they've been anti-Barack. Unless they're chastised by the 6th popular vote loss in seven presidential elections, they'll continue to self-marginalize in a country where older Fox viewers are dying off to be replaced by rising and more liberal millennials and minorities. And there's little reason to believe that, with a Democratic president, the Democrats will be anywhere as divided as the GOP. For one example, Sanders will campaign for Clinton but Cruz won't for Trump.
Remember Hillary? Trump is not the only nominee to try pre-Fall to fix a this week. Gara applauds the news that Bill Clinton will resign from the Clinton Foundation if his wife becomes president and it will no longer accept foreign or corporate contributions to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. Charles isn't impressed. arguing that it's largely been a place for Clintonites to be employed and generate profits for them. "Do you really think that they're grifters out to make more by raising a couple of billion to help advance health and the environment for millions of poor people in 3d world countries? Charles says, "'it's both." Gara insists, "it's public service."
Analyze this! Is it fair for Democrats to assume that Trump is a narcissistic sociopath and for Republicans to assume that Clinton, in Trump's words, lacks the "stability and stamina" to be president, while Hannity on Fox runs many segments asking "doctors" whether she's suffering seizures from a fall a couple of years ago?
Gara and Charles think both are wrong to use psychiatric terms to analyze public people not under medical care -- which is now called the "Goldwater Rule" after 1000+psychiatrists and psychologists said the '64 GOP nominee was mentally unfit to serve. Lamarche, however, notes that the Clinton's diagnosis is especially pernicious since a woman who served four years as a traveling Secretary of State and a vigorous candidate now for 16 months is in any way incapacitated, except as some WebMD docs assert on a partisan network.
*Will Trump's Collapse sink GOP boats? Four more Democratic senators will make Chuck Schumer not Mitch McConnell the Majority Leader, which the panel agrees is likely. Cooke thinks that three seats are all but gone -- Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois -- while several others are iffy, like PA and NH, perhaps NC and Arizona as well. Gara wonders "how can a Republican senator can survive if s/he has to run 8-10 points ahead of the top of the ticket? They have a very delicate dance here" because they can't live with Trump, who's so unpopular, but can't live without him since they need his "low-education" voters.
A Clinton-Schumer-Pelos/or weakened-Ryan D.C. is very different from a Clinton-McConnell-strong Ryan one. While the Clinton agenda won't be able to run the table due to the filibuster and likely House GOP majority, Ryan will have to deal more with her if his margin of 59 shrinks to say 25, which now appears to be likely.
*Conservative Books. The top three NYT non-fiction best-sellers last Sunday (and top four this Sunday) were all right-wing screeds denouncing Hillary, liberals etc. How come their books sell more than comparable liberal books? Charles -- author of the serious non-screed The Conservatarian Manifesto -- has some ideas: Readers with money and time are older, more likely to buy books, and skew Republican, while younger voters are less likely to pick up a book than go on-line. Adds Gara: "conservatives are more isolated, angry and aggrieved and more likely to buy a book to see their viewpoints validated." Adds the Host: unlike MSNBC which rarely promotes an author and has fewer viewers, a show like Hannity puts on any eccentric wight-winger, plugs the book, and it jumps on Amazon."