Political Hay

Political Hay

The Trump Dynamic

By 1.29.16

Call it the “Trump Dynamic.”

When used as a noun, the dictionary defines “dynamic” this way:

A force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process.

Over at CNN, one of my fellow commentators, Mel Robbins, understands what I call the Trump Dynamic exactly, and she expresses it in business terms.

Robbins headlines the point this way:

Why Trump is beating Fox News — and GOP rivals

She writes in part, this:

If you understand nothing else about Donald Trump, understand this:

He has a particular mindset we see all the time in business — he’s “the disrupter.”

The disrupter is someone whose entire “brand” is to break the mold, to turn the way we do things on its head. Amazon did this with retail, Uber did it with taxi services, Airbnb did it with travel, Tinder did it with dating, Slack is doing it with email, Spotify is doing it with music, peer-to-peer lending is changing banking.

And Trump is disrupting politics.

Political Hay

Better to Be Governed by an Honest Socialist Than a Dishonest Conservative?

By 1.27.16

It’s the season of the political pander. It seems worst on the right. Just vote for me for president, and I will make your dreams come true. Lots of benefits, low taxes, large military, many services, little government. It’s magic!

It probably comes as no surprise that a Democrat like Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to talk about how she’s going to pay for all the goodies she says she wants Americans to have. After all, she claims to be a friend of the middle class, and her Wall Street friends probably wouldn’t like new levies on their earnings.

Yet the Republicans are no more courageous. Donald Trump says he represents the disenfranchised masses. So he has defended programs like Social Security without explaining how he would sustain the underfunded system. His more mainstream opponents laud smaller government and criticize high taxes, while advocating ever higher military outlays without detailing what domestic spending programs they would cut. No wonder America faces some $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Political Hay

What Ailes Trump?

By 1.27.16

A long time ago I met Roger Ailes. It was Monday November 2, 1970. The next day my candidate — conservative James L. Buckley — would be elected United States Senator from New York. More than a week before the end of Jim’s campaign, I had helped raise $300,000 (in 1970 dollars) from Jack Mulcahy, a wealthy confidante of Richard Nixon and Nixon’s “funding solution” to help Jim. As revealed on the “secret” 1972 Watergate tapes — Nixon would call Mulcahy “the most amazing lovable Irishman.”

After using the money to buy availabilities for 30-second television spots, we still had unspent funds. So at the last minute we bought a 30-minute bloc of time for a live election-eve telethon in New York City, also broadcast simultaneously in other New York media markets — notably Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse-Utica, and Albany.

Political Hay

Can Kibitzers Stop Trump?

By 1.22.16

National Review editor Rich Lowry is now leading an effort urging conservatives to speak out against Donald Trump and oppose his candidacy. The “Against Trump” issue of National Review concludes: “Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.”

That statement may be true, but for many conservative voters it may be unintelligible, if not irrelevant. For them, Trump could still be the party nominee, and he might even be elected president. Fox News, Talk Radio, and the panoply of self-promoting conservative websites are not bastions of deep thought, and they have profoundly more impact than, say, National Review. Let me be bold. If NR editor Bill Buckley, more into ideas, and NR publisher Bill Rusher, more into power, were alive today, and I knew both men, WFB Jr. would argue against Trump and maybe tilt Rubio as acceptable and plausible, and Rusher would argue for Trump and maybe tilt Cruz as the preeminent conservative. Who knows what the magazine cover would look like?

Political Hay

Do Emotions Trump Facts?

By 1.21.16

Those of us who like to believe that human beings are rational can sometimes have a hard time trying to explain what is going on in politics. It is still a puzzle to me how millions of patriotic Americans could have voted in 2008 for a man who for 20 years — TWENTY YEARS — was a follower of a preacher who poured out his hatred for America in the most gross gutter terms.

Today’s big puzzle is how so many otherwise rational people have become enamored of Donald Trump, projecting onto him virtues and principles that he clearly does not have, and ignoring gross defects that are all too blatant.

There was a time when someone who publicly mocked a handicapped man would have told us all we needed to know about his character, and his political fling would have been over. But that was before we became a society where common decency is optional.

Yet there are even a few people with strong conservative principles who have lined up with this man, whose history has demonstrated no principles at all, other than an ability to make self-serving deals, and who has shown what Thorstein Veblen once called “a versatility of convictions.”

Political Hay

Oh, Please

By 1.21.16

At some point in the recent political past, it became acceptable or even desirable to stamp one’s feet and whine like a child as a public pronouncement of opinion.

Clearly this is so. Otherwise we wouldn’t be hearing Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and syndicated columnist George Will both talking about drumming up a third party to oppose a Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

Don’t take this piece as an endorsement of Trump; as previous offerings in this space have made clear, your author has a great affinity for Ted Cruz and struggles to understand why any self-respecting conservative would prefer a man of Trump’s spotty (at best) record of supporting the cause to that of Cruz. I’ve searched far and wide for conservative reasons to back Trump over Cruz and come away with the conclusion that there are none. Hopefully the Trump phenomenon is a pre-election fancy that will dissipate when actual elections take place and the Republican base will seek the more reliable and committed avatar of its philosophy.

Political Hay

No Bailout for Uncle Louie

By 1.21.16

If your Uncle Louie can’t handle his money, giving him more money is probably not a good idea. A better idea would be to help Louie learn how to handle his money.

Same goes for Puerto Rico.

The prospective 51st state is headed toward skid row on an epic scale: $72 billion in debt — and an unemployment rate pushing 15 percent —the direct result of decades of big government spending programs that continue unabated.

A default appears imminent.

Clearly, the government needs help.

But more money is what Puerto Rico wants. Unlimited, no strings attached.

And President Obama is itching to oblige — probably not coincidentally because of Puerto Rico’s politics, which are predominantly Democrat-leaning. Even though Puerto Rico’s not yet a state, its citizens can vote. And while Obama may be a lame duck and not up for re-election, he is still the titular head of the Democratic Party and very much invested in the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.

One hand washes the other.

Political Hay

So You Want a Revolution

By 1.20.16

Sanders Says He Wants a Revolution

Jeb Bush must be watching the Democratic primary with unadulterated envy. The Democratic debates have been comparatively civil — and conveniently scheduled to reduce viewership and impact. Bush has to contend with Donald Trump — and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. The establishment Democrat, Hillary Clinton, has only one serious challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She doesn’t have to calculate which rival — or rivals — to attack. In a small field, the more seasoned candidate has the advantage.

And even though Clinton showed a more realistic understanding of what is doable in Washington during Sunday’s NBC Democratic debate, the former first lady and former secretary of state is fighting to prevail in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders is not Trump, but he is as angry as The Donald. The Vermonter’s first scalp would be a “corrupt campaign finance system” — Supreme Court rulings, you see, are sacrosanct only when they uphold Obamacare.

Political Hay

When Ronald Reagan Had Liberal Values

By 1.19.16

Much is being made of an old — seventeen years old to be precise — appearance by Donald Trump on Meet the Press with Tim Russert. In which the Trump of 1999 is seen saying among other things that “I grew up in New York, and worked and everything else, in New York City.” He goes on to say that he is “pro-choice.” The clip has been seized on by Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign to illustrate what Cruz is calling Trump’s “New York values.” As if someone can’t have a different world view seventeen years later in life, which Trump decidedly does.

Political Hay

New York Values Aftermath

By 1.18.16

Ted Cruz could have had a spectacular night on Thursday in Charleston, South Carolina. His destruction of Donald Trump’s latest “birther” controversy showed Cruz’s mastery of a debate stage.

Indeed, Cruz should master the debate stage: He’s a cum laude graduate of Princeton University and earned magna cum laude honors at Harvard Law School. In college he was named national Speaker of the Year and was one half of the debating Team of the Year. An accomplished constitutional lawyer, Cruz has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court, winning five of them.

And yet after a strong opening invoking “ten American sailors…with their hands on their heads” and later the brilliant dismantling of Donald Trump’s desperate “there’s doubt about Ted’s eligibility” gambit, Thursday’s debate will likely be remembered for Senator Cruz’s unforced error — or was it? — on the subject of “New York values.”