When Dorothy meets the Wizard of Oz, there is a revelation.
The Wizard, it turns out, is from Kansas (actually New Britain, Connecticut). He even helped secure the nomination for Bob Dole in 1996. Dole was an awful nominee, but it’s not about excellence, or even winning. It’s about process, the chase, the ritual of capturing the nomination, even if nothing good comes of it; and, of course, churning massive amounts of campaign cash to achieve nothing more than enshrine the Democrat opponent, meaning that year the reelection of Bill Clinton. Bob Dole’s general election campaign was miserable, but it enriched the Beltway Consultant Class, a metric that matters in Washington.
In my focus group that year, I asked panelists why they felt Dole was old. It wasn’t his age, they said: “It’s just the way he is.” And for decades, mediocrity is just the way it is for the Establishment.
In December, just a few months ago that now seem an eternity, Dole endorsed Jeb Bush. This nostalgic accolade hardly sent shock waves among the body politic. It is true Dole was a hero in World War II who has served honorably for decades. And Jeb is a man of substance and accomplishment whose candidacy, however, was a fool’s errand apparent to every simpleton, except those brilliant and savvy (and gullible) super-wealthy visionaries, who contributed the bulk of $150 million that went down the toilet.
Some of the donors were billionaires, thus a prima facie case for Bernie Sanders, but not that these people have too much influence in politics (they showed themselves to be duds), but that they obviously have money to burn.
Sadly, Jeb proved to be a prop for the insurgent Donald Trump. If Jeb were not around, Trump would have had to invent him. As for Dole, his endorsement of Jeb had the unintended consequence of losing votes for Jeb. That’s because it telegraphed conclusively that Jeb, who had been out of public office and public life for eight years before he announced for president, was mired even deeper in the past.
When the Wizard revealed himself to Dorothy, he further explained that he came to Oz in a hot-air balloon. And hot air is what brings us to the developing battle for the heart and soul of delegates en route to the momentous convention, the gathering of Republicans in Cleveland.
“My job,” the Delegate Wizard says, “is to secure and protect Mr. Trump’s nomination and that is what we will do.” And this high profile Delegate Wizard is Paul Manafort, a competent and able insider, better suited to the Stop Trump coalition, for which he might have been a match. Manafort’s first convention experience was in 1976 against the insurgent candidacy of a man named Ronald Reagan. Manafort’s background includes Washington lobbying, against which reformer Donald Trump rails.
Manafort realizes that his unique qualifications notwithstanding, his job for frontrunner Trump is, paradoxically, no cakewalk. Trump waited too long to learn that he needed Manafort, or someone like him. Manafort’s name in Italian means “strong hand.” And, per Trump folklore, we do not know the size of Manafort’s hands. But Manafort made it a point to write and edit the news release announcing his appointment as Mr. Trump’s consigliere. And he then made himself widely available to the news media, to announce that he reported directly to the candidate, though he would work collaboratively, we are supposed to believe, with the discredited campaign manager, whose public exposure has seemingly concluded, concurrently with a retroactively defined Phase One of the campaign.
That manager — Corey Lewandowski — regularly interpreted his managerial portfolio to include being the campaign’s bouncer. This was only natural because in his Walter Mitty mode, the political activist once aspired to a career in law enforcement. He is now charged not with assuming other responsibilities, but with… battery.
As for Mr. Manafort, he is sharp enough to know this: If Mr. Trump does not make it on the first ballot or come very close, it will be tough for him to win on the second ballot. And he realizes that unless Trump stops his litany of widely reported self-destructive personal attacks and offensive tweets and weird policy pronouncements, it will be hard to prevent delegate hemorrhage, let alone get converts. It is a trivial matter, but campaign operatives are not supposed to be in the news, and surely not negatively.
And speaking of news, consider the context for the Wizard, now part of the story.
When Ted Cruz spoke despairingly of “New York values,” some liberals (now called progressives) suggested that Cruz, who is known for his respect for Judaism and affection for the Jewish people, and his love of Israel and support for the Jewish state, was somehow using code words to inflame anti-Semitism. Falsely accusing Ted Cruz or anyone else of racial or religious bigotry or prejudice is reprehensible.
For months the opponents of Donald Trump have recklessly defamed him as a “fascist” or a “Hitler.” Trump may be many things, but nothing in his life’s history or his policy pronouncements suggest that his nationalism is akin to fascism, or his legitimate, though politically incorrect, concern about, say, Muslim immigrants, makes him anything remotely resembling the incarnation of pure evil that ruled the Third Reich. Even if Trump were not once Grand Marshal of New York’s Israel parade, the politically correct Anti-Defamation League should have come to his rescue.
But no one except Trump can rescue himself from his recurring incivility, questionable judgment, and imprudent outbursts. Last week Manafort sequestered his candidate, hopefully for needed R&R and policy briefings. For Trump to win the nomination, and if so, for him to have any chance to win the presidency, Trump would have to enroll in WA, Wounds Anonymous, to stop his recycled self-inflicted wounds.
Yet, in order to establish rapport with his client, Mr. Manafort seemingly has self-inflicted his own deep wound, for which he may need Urgent Care. After Ted Cruz and his team this weekend took all the Colorado delegates up for grabs, Manafort for good measure went berserk. He accused his competitors of “Gestapo tactics.”
Kayleigh McEnany is an intelligent and thoughtful advocate for Trump on CNN. She enhanced her credibility when she deplored Trump’s tweet-photo on Heidi Cruz. Days later Trump finally, if belatedly, admitted his folly. But McEnany is the exception that proves the rule. For the most part, Trump has a chattering class of flacks who never walk back any Trumpism, no matter how egregious, or apologize for any of the candidate’s behavior, no matter how offensive. Thus, it was hardly surprising that the predictable and shrill Katrina Pierson eagerly defended Manafort’s words.
In Corey Lewandowski, Trump had an agitator. Now, it was thought that with Manafort, Trump had found stability. But then, this.
Perhaps Manafort did not spend enough time with his client of yesteryear, Bob Dole of WWII vintage. Dole would have explained that the Geheime Statspolizei, known more commonly as the Gestapo, were the Nazi secret police created by Hermann Goering. The Gestapo played a major role in Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate Jews. If you want the gruesome details of what constitute Gestapo tactics, do a Google search.
In short, Manafort is not merely engaging in hyperbole.
He is off the charts.