Blog No. 101. Trump: The Endorser, The Pretenders and The Opponent.

The Endorser.

Last week, Paul Ryan dropped the other shoe by issuing his expected endorsement of Donald Trump. It had been clear since Ryan and Trump met on Capitol Hill last month that an endorsement of some sort would be forthcoming, and the only real questions were how long it would take and how tepid it would be. As it turned out, the endorsement arrived in the form of a tweet and an Op-ed column in Ryan’s hometown newspaper. Short of writing the endorsement on the back of an envelope, stuffing it in a bottle, and casting the bottle into the Potomac, it could hardly have been more low key.

PIC Message in a bottle to the sea.

The Washington Post greeted Ryan’s announcement with a rather harsh assessment:

As Donald Trump was building a campaign on lies, bigotry, insults, fearmongering and unreason, a few Republican leaders of apparent principle offered some resistance. Foremost among them was House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). In March, Mr. Ryan insisted that “all of us as leaders can hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity and decency” and that “we shouldn’t accept ugliness as the norm.”


On Thursday Mr. Ryan capitulated to ugliness. It was a sad day for the speaker, for his party and for all Americans who hoped that some Republican leaders would have the fortitude to put principle over partisanship, job security or the forlorn fantasy that Mr. Trump will advance a traditional GOP agenda.

We agree with the Post that it was a sad day, but we do not share the paper’s criticism of Ryan for doing what he, and we, believed he simply could not avoid doing. As the Post saw it:

Following Mr. Ryan’s endorsement, some insisted that the speaker had little choice. This is false. “My dad used to say, ‘If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem,’ ” Mr. Ryan said in March. When he has a comparable conversation with his children, how will Mr. Ryan explain the decision he made in this campaign?

The Post, however, did not pause to explain its reasoning. For our part, we believe that the strength of Trump’s performance in the primaries (however depressing and mystifying that strength may have been) and his subsequent acceptance within Republican ranks would have made opposition futile. Indeed, the only concrete result of such a quixotic gesture would likely have been removal of Ryan from his position as Speaker. In a May 12 editorial, defending the incipient detente between Trump and Ryan, the Wall Street Journal, argued that critics needed to consider the situation if Trump should win:

Mr. Ryan would then be crucial to steering a Trump agenda in a constructive direction, as well as providing a check on the New Yorker’s worst instincts on trade or foreign policy. Would the never-Trumpers prefer a GOP House run by Mr. Ryan, or by one of the early Trump supporters like California’s Duncan Hunter?

Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the symbolic importance of Ryan’s grudging endorsement.  Kathleen Parker, a Republican columnist who writes in the Washington Post, could scarcely contain herself. Ms. Parker was perhaps a tad hyperbolic, but not much:

With the surrender of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) to the Trump crusade, it is fair to wonder what the Republican Party stands for.

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Of all the carefully examined flaws in Trump’s persona, the most concerning and potentially dangerous is his immaturity.

Like a child used to getting his way, he shouts, pokes, bullies, berates, pouts and parades. And thanks to him, the GOP’s big tent has become a tough-kid’s idea of a party — peopled with hot dames, swindlers, gamblers, bosses, bouncers and thugs — and some, I assume, are good people.

At least now, Ronald Reagan can finally get some rest. The Republican Party has left him.

The Pretenders.

When Donald Trump’s nomination had apparently become a fait accompli, it seemed to give new impetus to interest in finding a candidate to run on an independent ticket. The difficulty was that among the usual suspects no one was willing to step forward into that sacrificial role. It then appeared that there was an alternative readily at hand: Gary Johnson, nominee of the Libertarian party. Johnson is a former two-term Governor of New Mexico who was the Libertarian Party’s candidate in 2012 and has now been re-nominated for 2016.

In 2012, Johnson’s candidacy had no visible impact: he received 0.99% of the popular vote, a total of 1,275,971 votes. This year, however, has the potential to be quite different, with the nominees of the major parties, Trump and (presumably) Clinton having unfavorable ratings at unprecedented levels. Seeing an opportunity, Johnson recruited as a running mate the former Governor of Massachusetts, William Weld. Weld is a far more substantial candidate than Johnson’s choice for Vice-President in 2012 (a California Judge, James Gray). The initial challenge for Johnson will be to reach the 15% rating in polls that appears to be the entry level for participation in debates with Trump and Clinton. Both Johnson and Weld, it may be said, have far more solid credentials than Trump as a Republican, and obviously more experience in governing than either Trump or Clinton. Whether that is sufficient to gain them serious consideration remains to be seen.

In terms of positions, Johnson takes the traditional Republican approach of fiscal conservatism, but takes “liberal” positions on social issues (abortion, same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana), as well as immigration, that are an anathema to many in the GOP. On foreign policy, he appears to take something of the neo-isolationist view that appears to have gained surprising strength among Republicans. We will have more to say about Messrs. Johnson and Weld, and their positions on the issues if their campaign gains traction. In the meantime, we would join Jennifer Rubin in urging that the media, having over-dosed on Trump, should now take Johnson and Weld seriously and give them the coverage they deserve.

Finally, the desperation of the #NeverTrump movement was reflected when Bill Kristol, a leader of that movement, floated the name of David French, a lawyer and writer for National Review. To the extent that Mr. French’s name has elicited any response, it has been largely in the category of “Huh?” and “Who?”  Mr. French is in fact a substantial citizen who might be a plausible nominee for an appellate judgeship, but it is hard to imagine much beyond that. While French has no doubt been flattered by Kristol’s attentions, we suspect he is too intelligent to act on them

The Opponent.

The California primary on June 7 may settle definitively whether Hillary Clinton is The opponent for Donald Trump or whether more is to be heard from Bernie Sanders. Whatever the California results, there is still no reason to doubt that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. (If, of course the FBI’s investigation should come to a seriously negative conclusion, all bets are off, but we doubt that is going to happen.)

Clinton took time off from her California campaign against Sanders to deliver a blistering attack on Donald Trump and, in particular, Trump’s many glaring deficiencies in the area of foreign policy. Clinton’s attack on Trump has been well reported in the media, but readers who wish to read it in its entirety may find it here. We did read it and found that we were in total agreement with Ms. Clinton’s assessment and the language she employed to convey it. Trump is unfit to be Commander in Chief. Period.

The media gave far less attention to Clinton’s own thoughts on foreign policy, and perhaps understandably so. In rhetoric and substance they offered a centrist view that provided a reassuring contrast with Trump, but were otherwise brief and unconvincing. For example, Clinton on terrorism and ISIS:

[W]e need a real plan for confronting terrorists.

As we saw six months ago in San Bernardino, the threat is real and urgent. Over the past year, I’ve laid out my plans for defeating ISIS.

We need to take out their strongholds in Iraq and Syria by intensifying the air campaign and stepping up our support for Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground. We need to keep pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive. We need to lash up with our allies, and ensure our intelligence services are working hand-in-hand to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists. We need to win the battle in cyberspace.

And of course we need to strengthen our defenses here at home.

That – in a nutshell – is my plan for defeating ISIS.

The most interesting aspect of Clinton’s comments may be the implicit admission that at the present time we lack a “real plan.” But Clinton does not begin to fill that gap, suggesting that we continue to do what we are doing now, but do it better in some undefined ways. There is need for not only a critique of the Obama (and Clinton) record on foreign policy but,  even more  urgentyly. for a thoughtful debate as to plausible alternatives going forward. Unfortunately, the Trump candidacy has rendered such a debate, grounded in knowledge and nuance, all but impossible.

9 thoughts on “Blog No. 101. Trump: The Endorser, The Pretenders and The Opponent.

  • The man you seem to like so much spells his name T-R-U-M-P, not “Thrump” — even though Trump will be thrumped in the prez election. And deservedly so: he is an idiot.

  • Doug, after Ryan’s temporary flirtation with honor, what other Republicans will fail this “McCarthy Moment”?

  • Doug – Although not a Republican, I do enjoy your blogs and share many of your feelings re. Trump and what Conservatism has become. I do, however, disagree with one thought: that Ryan might have tossed his (bottled) endorsement in the Potomac. Better would have been the Dead Sea! No chance, then, of polluting the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic.
    By the way, can you recommend any recent works explaining the developments leading to our current Republican party?

  • I keep finding myself defending Thrump, I am not a Thrump supporter although I may vote for him depending upon how he acts between now and November, but there is so much garbage out there, both on the Democratic side and Republican that I find myself having to set the record straight or at least provide some logic to the arguments. Take, for example, that latest row against Thrump, they are saying that he is Racist because he called the Judge on his Thrump University case biased because he is of Mexican heritage. Now Thrump may or may not have a case (no pun intended) against the Judge, I don’t know, no one but the Judge knows for sure but Racist?, come-on. Mexico is not a Race, even if Thrump said Latino or Hispanic, which most Mexicans are, is not a Race, it is an ethnicity: one can be of any race and be Hispanic or Latino if one grew up in and accepts the culture. Mexico is a Nationality, and to call someone Racist because one has problems with illegal immigration and Mexico for that matter is ignorant, silly and says more about the person calling Trump Racist, than it does about Thrump being Racist. It harkens back to Liberals calling Republicans Racist if we disagrees with any of Obama’s policies. It is one way the Liberals control free-speech and we should not allow it.

    Full disclosure: I am second generation Mexican-American.

  • Thanks for this excellent post, Doug. I was very disappointed when Speaker Ryan backtracked by endorsing Donald Trump, who Ryan claimed would be a good president. Ryan knows that is ridiculous. And he did have a choice: Ryan could have stood on principle and showed courage by withhholding his endorsement. Now that the news media is beginning to tell the truth about Trump, i.e. that he is a blithering idiot and a buffoon, he has, Thank God, almost no chance of becoming president. Speaker Ryan will have to wear his endorsement like an albatross. RNC chair Priebus, another sellout, will also go down iin flames. The Republican Party must embark upon a new program to cleanse itself of the no-nothings who propelled Trump to the nomination — largely uneducated and angry white men who blame government for their failure to achieve anything — and return to its roots as a responsiible, progressive force in American politics. It would not be good for our country to have single party rule for an indefinite time. A third party campaign by Mr. Johnson is not going anywhere. Responsible Republicans will vote for Hillary Clinton who, at least, has the intelligence, experience and poise to lead our country. With luck, she will be an effective leader. If not, she will be a one-term president. Republicans must prepare for that possibility if they are to have any chance of electing a president in 2020.

    • I’ve got to disagree. The people who support Thrump, and Bearnie for that matter, have legitimate gripes against the elites who run this county. Their interests have been overlooked. Take for example the lower economic class with a high school or less education: U.S. trade policies have robbed them of work and what work that is left over, is usually of the low paid variety. Many do not have a chance to join the middle class and some do not even have the money to date much less have a family. College kids that support Bearnie are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year in Tuition fees whereas my generation paid hundreds e.g I went to UCSB in the 70s and paid $300 a quarter, $900 a year in tuition whereas now they pay 20K plus per year,. Both groups see no future or a future burdened with high debts. Both great reasons to support a change, almost any change from the status quo.

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