Sunday, March 27, 2016

Terror Reminds Us of What's At Stake

Just when it looked like we were going to spend the spring being subjected to the GOP food fight about wives and Supreme Court blockades and keeping swarthy people out of the country, along comes a cold sweat, fear-inducing, terror-in-the-night event in Belgium to focus us on what's really at stake in this election.

So let me be clear: Hillary Clinton is far and away the best, most knowledgeable, temperamentally suited candidate to lead this country through our foreign policy challenges. The Republicans will talk about Benghazi and e-mails, but when push comes to shove, and it already has, Clinton has the smarts and the cold-eyed sense of reality that befits a Commander in Chief.

To prove the point, Donald Trump revealed the members of his foreign policy advice team prior to the attacks, and the response was overwhelmingly negative, to the extent that many in the Republican Party are genuinely afraid at what advice Trump is receiving. Even if he shifts to more established experts in the fall, how can he change his positions and make them stick, given the nature of what he's said so far? Further, Trump also said that he would be in favor of having the United States pare back its influence and footprint in Japan and South Korea at a time when China is making aggressive moves in what it considers to be its back yard. He is clearly a man who has not thought through many of his policies to the consequences stage and he continues to act as though the world will tremble and submit to his will should he (shudder) ever become president.

I'm not sure if Ted Cruz's policies are worse, but they certainly aren't better than Trump's. Cruz's default strategy is to carpet bomb a group that has embedded itself into the fabric of a community that is at once devoted to it and terrified of its rule. This would result in a huge number of civilian casualties and the deaths of thousands of innocent people. He now wants to add a totalitarian element to his policy that would enable law enforcement officials to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods in the United States.

I understand patrol, as bad as that is, but what does secure mean? Since most Americans who are radicalized are done so over the Internet, does that mean an extra layer of surveillance? Wiretapping? Issuing subpoenas to service providers to give up Internet browsing histories? Other chillingly McCarthyistic ideas?

The world is a very dangerous place and it's made more dangerous by people who talk tough with little thought behind their words. Defeating ISIS and other radicals will take time and it will require that the United States have a clear, sober, realistic strategy to carry out. Neither of the GOP front-runners has such a strategy.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Countdown to the GOP Explosion

I'm at the point now where I don't care about the process by which the Republican Party is committing Hara-Kiri. I just want it to be over.

In its boldest move yest, the party has committed itself to making sure that Donald Trump is not its nominee come July, and the strategy looks like this: Let's get the most unpopular Senator we've got, Ted Cruz (but you knew that) and make sure not that he has a majority of delegates after all of the primaries, but that he denies Trump the majority. We'll also keep John Kasich around to show that we actually have a moderate wing, even if we don't want to say it too loud because moderate just means you'll let women have an abortion before 22 weeks as opposed to the 6 that the far right is pushing for. Then, once Trump is denied the nomination, we'll cart out a retread like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan to rescue the party.

Wait! I have an even better idea! Let's have Romney and Ryan run as a ticket! That would be a winner! Oh, wait...

Honestly, I can't really see this working out well. Any party has a difficult road to 270 when it's unified and has a fairly popular nominee. A divided party that's actively working against its own front-runner is giving itself an impossible task. The Democrats found this out in the 1970s, but then Watergate came along and convinced them, falsely, that the tide had turned. It hadn't. Then came 1984. Is that what you want, GOP? I didn't think so.

It's gotten so bad that FOX News is even fighting with Trump over his treatment of Megyn Kelly. Why even get into it with them? If Trump wants to show that he can reach out to women, he's going about it the wrong way. And he'll pay for it if he does become the nominee. Likewise with the Mormon vote, if this story is true. Even Glenn Beck is against him. How the world has changed.

Now that the GOP has gone public with its concerns about Trump, it will be almost impossible for them to walk back comments and make nice-nice with him because he doesn't buy into a good part of the conservative platform. Their frantic attempt to deny him delegates with flawed candidates will only make things worse.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Denying the Climate of Fear

It was certainly bound to happen. After all, one of Donald Trump's earliest backers hosted the same crowd when she was running for national office. This is what happens when a politician plays into the anger with more anger and blame and bluster and racism and Islamophobia and, above all, ignorance.

Look, Bernie Sanders has some angry Democrats at his rallies, but Sanders is a responsible, thinking adult who knows that the way you channel anger is to turn it into positive energy and constructive policies.

But the Republican Party has been denying climate change for so long that they didn't see the political climate shifting underneath their Gucci loafers. And now that both the planet and the right wing are heating up to the point that there's no turning back, we have our first political super storm. And it's ugly. Trump has been feeding the storm for years with his claim that President Obama was not a citizen and that Ted Cruz should be barred from the GOP race. He's also claimed his own reality when it comes to his finances, his bankruptcies and, in the aftermath of his canceled Chicago rally, the claim that if he he hadn't brought up immigration, it wouldn't have been an issue in this campaign. Of course it would have: the difference is that maybe we could have had an adult conversation about it, not a white-hot ethnic slurfest that's resulting in more Hispanics applying for citizenship so they can vote against Trump (shudder) in November.

The motley crew that's endorsed Trump, from the Klan to the Illinois Nazi Party to Chris Christie to Ben Carson makes it quite clear that his message is dangerous and that he needs to be careful about stoking emotional outbursts. Trump needs to rebuke all of this in a national statement, but I'm not holding my breath. 

In the meantime, the deniers will ensure that the atmosphere just gets hotter.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Voters Scratch the 35 Year Itch

I think I understand why more than a third of Republican voters are fed up with the Republican Party and are supporting Donald Trump for president (including this list of august personalities who have endorsed the man). The GOP has been paying lip service to the small government, socially conservative crowd for decades without really committing serious national resources to break the grip that the wealthy have on the party. These voters want someone who won't compromise and who will follow through on the time-tested xenophobia and intolerance that's a hallmark of this country's past. What a message.

And now they have their man. Perhaps. Saturday's caucus and primary results saw a slowing of the Trump train at the hands of none other than the candidate the party regulars despise only less so than the Donald. That would be Ted Cruz.

Be very careful what you wish for Mitt.

It's been 35 years since Ronald Reagan's election ushered in the great conservative reaction to almost 50 years of Democratic-liberal rule. As the country, and certainly the GOP, moved harder to the right and the tax cuts moved more swiftly into the hands of the already wealthy, social conservatives wanted more action.

What they got was the old country club Republican brushoff. Now the guy that built all of the country clubs wants to be president. The irony is ironic.

But the nomination is not Trump's yet. Ted Cruz is running a solid campaign and is now most likely the candidate best positioned to challenge him. The latest polls in Florida show that Marco Rubio's best presidential opportunities lie in 2020 or beyond. Once he loses his home state next week, I expect him to drop out. Likewise John Kasich, who will get a taste of backyard defeat in Michigan and follow Rubio out the door by March 16. At that point, Trump will have 165 more delegates from those winner-take-all states, but his lead will not be insurmountable if Republicans rally around Cruz. The party wants Rubio and sees both Trump and Cruz as losers in November. So the question will come down to which guy you dislike least.

Again, quite a choice.

Of course, the Democrats are feeling similarly frisky after enduring 35 years of right-leaning government programs, which is why Bernie's take-down-the-banks rhetoric is so powerful. Hillary looks downright boring by comparison, but she'll still be the nominee. I'm sure she'll add some of Sanders' best lines to her campaign repertoire to appeal to the new, young voters that are now part of the political landscape.

We might have reached a crisis point in the campaign last week, what with the seventh grade debate and Chris Christie cannonballing into the race, then looking miserable about it, but despite the backlash against Romney's jeremiad, there might be enough GOPers willing to search their souls and questions whether they really want Trump as their nominee.

The next 10 days will tell.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The GOP Creates a False Reality

I don't know why people are so concerned about Donald Trump's foreign policy experience. He's currently fighting a war right here in the United States, and he seems to be winning.

The past couple of days have shown, in vivid monochromatic white, that the Republican Party is in full-blown Three Mile Island meltdown mode, what with talk about a brokered convention and establishment plots to deny Donald Trump the nomination and vast amounts of money to stop his campaign that should have come in November when, perhaps, and I mean perhaps, it could have made a difference. What's clear is that the party wants to stop him, but in the absence of any one candidate that has been identified as the anti-Donald, this is not going to happen.

Carting out Mitt Romney, of all people, to tell the world that Trump is a fraud is in itself a fraud of momentous proportions, but it is emblematic of how far the GOP has fallen and how they have, in Karl Rove's famous words, created their own reality. Remember that it was Republican fuzzy math that gave them the false idea that Romney was going to defeat Obama until FOX News called Ohio for the president and Rove went into mini-meltdown mode on national television.

Then they thought that simply by winning some House seats that they were going to force the president to give up his signature accomplishment because, well, the base demanded that he do that. Then there's the Cruz shutdown gambit  and the proposed Planned Parenthood shutdown gambit and the climate denial gambit and now the Supreme Court shutdown denial gambit that just got a whole lot more interesting.

But they're saving the biggest reality denial for the fall, and that's the idea that a political party that loathes its potential nominee and is publicly and loudly looking for an alternative that includes forcing a brokered convention and inviting talk about a third-party challenge can actually win a presidential election in November. Moderate Republicans, and I mean real moderates, not right wingers like John Kasich or Marco Rubio, will flee the GOP in the fall. Senators will run from Trump and try to create their own local reality in a news environment that will force them to take sides. And if the GOP does give in and support Trump, it will lose Hispanic voters and ensure that more women, young people and African-Americans will go to the polls. It's difficult enough to win national elections when the party is helping its nominee; it's almost impossible to win with a party that is spilt along three or four fronts.

I said repeatedly that Trump would not be the nominee because I assumed that the Republican Party would do anything to ensure its viability. That clearly is happening too late and I will admit that I am wrong as soon as Trump crosses the delegate math finish line. But if the party is still this fractured at the convention, then they will find it extraordinarily difficult to win in the fall.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest