Tuesday, May 10, 2016

And You Thought Romney Was A Serial Flip-Flopper? Meet The Donald


Anyone who's watched this season's dysfunctional Republican primary reality show-- Herr Trumpf vs the (Not Very) Deep Bench-- understands that Trump has, in the words of McCain top staffer Mark Salter, "an unstable personality." Once Trump sewed up the nomination Salter, a lifelong Republican, decided to support Hillary, although, when questioned, he said he could still change his mind if Trump gets "a brain transplant." Trump he explained "is just an asshole. I mean, you don't want a guy like that for a neighbor, for a friend, for a member of your church, for a colleague, for a boss. You wouldn’t want-- really, you wouldn’t-- you know, if he had a flat tire, you wouldn’t pull over and offer to help... Trump’s sort of breezy, which is galling, given his own lack of military service... He said he was waging his own personal Vietnam, you know, avoiding venereal disease. So yeah, it just shows you what a vainglorious, foolish, ignorant, low-character, bum of a guy Trump is."

And then there are the policies. Well, in truth, there are no policies-- there's just Herr Trumpf and his cult of personality. A spokesman told Politico yesterday that Trump "doesn't want to waste time on policy and thinks it would make him less effective on the stump. It won't be until after he is elected but before he's inaugurated that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do and who he is going to try to hire." A policy-- even one rooted in core values and principles going back decades-- is utterly meaningless once it makes a momentary, opportunistic point. What he says at 8AM is as likely as not to have completely changed by noon and could very well change again by the time he's up late at night getting into Twitter wars.

Monday Brody Mullins, explained for Wall Street Journal readers a basic trusim of American politics: markets fear and loath uncertainty.
Andrew Weinstein, a former Republican strategist and adviser at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that companies “hate uncertainty around tax, regulatory and trade policy” and so may steer clear of backing Mr. Trump.

“Business interests are generally not sold on the notion that Trump will be a more business-friendly candidate; there’s a lot about Trump they don’t know,” said Ed Rogers, a Republican lobbyist. “They know Hillary. And they know that she is not antibusiness.”

...Even some donors who previously backed Mr. Trump have since changed their minds. Ralph Herzka, CEO and founder of the investment advisory firm Meridian Capital Partners, is among the couple hundred donors who have donated the maximum to Mr. Trump’s campaign, giving $2,700 late last June. He appears to have since soured on the real-estate billionaire, donating twice that amount to Mrs. Clinton in January-- $2,700 for the primary, and another $2,700 for the general.
Sunday, on This Week, Trump told George Stephanopoulos that all that analysis of his tax plan that shows humongous and unsustainable tax breaks for the mega-rich is wrong and that taxes on the rich "will go up a little bit... In my plan they’re going down, but by the time it’s negotiated they’ll go up... In my opinion the taxes for the rich will go up somewhat." Yesterday he was singing a different tune-- one more in line with conservative orthodoxy-- on Chris Cuomo's CNN show:

"Everybody’s getting a tax cut, especially the middle class," he said. "I said I may have to increase it on the wealthy. If I increase it on the wealthy, that means they’re still going to be paying less than they’re paying now. I’m not talking about increasing from this point, I’m talking about increasing from my tax proposal. [The wealthy] will be getting a reduction."

There are virtually no policies he's discussed where he hasn't muddied the water. Sunday on Meet The Press in a discussion of the minimum wage, he said, "I would like to see an increase of some magnitude... I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour." Later he remembered he was supposed to stick to anti-right-wing sentiments about the minimum wage and she added that he'd "rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide." So does Trump want to abolish the minimum wage entirely in deep red, anti-union states or does he want it to go up? Who the hell knows? Probably not any of the people around him and probably not Trump himself. Before endorsing him yesterday, Bobby Jindal had told Republican primary voters that Trump is nothing bit an "unserious and unstable narcissist" with "no understanding of policy" who is "full of bluster but has no substance. He lacks the intellectual curiosity to even learn."

Trump, wrote Sahil Kapur "has been famously fickle when it comes to his proposals. In April he abruptly abandoned a three-week-old proposal to eliminate the national debt during his presidency. In March, he took three positions on abortion in the span of three hours. During his interview on ABC on Sunday, Trump also acknowledged softening his opposition to a higher minimum wage after saying U.S. wages were 'too high' during a November debate. 'I'm allowed to change. You need flexibility,' he said."
James Pethokoukis, a policy writer with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, described Trump's Sunday comments as “a big deal” for the Republican Party.

“Ronald Reagan's tax cuts were a generation ago. The economy boomed even with the Clinton tax increases and tanked after the Bush tax cuts. Whatever the accuracy of that causality, that sequence plus rising inequality has increased voter skepticism about tax cuts,” Pethokoukis said in an e-mail. “The public clearly sees the GOP as the ‘party of the rich,’ and it needs to re-establish trust with the middle and working class. Imagine a future Republican presidential primary where it isn't always 1980, where GOP candidates don't feel compelled to mimic Reagan and offer fantasy tax plans as the price of admission.” ... If sustained, they would mark a departure from Republican candidates dating back to Reagan, who embraced across-the-board tax breaks, a litmus-test plank for conservative activists and some major donors. Democrats, who defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 by painting him as a candidate interested in serving the rich at the expense of the middle class, have been gearing up to make a similar case against Trump in November.

“Trump offered a big tax cut in the primaries in what now looks like a transparent ruse to win over the supply-side wing of the party,” Pethokoukis said. “But seeing as those tax cuts aren't popular, he is shifting away from them.”

Norm Ornstein, a political scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, attributed Trump's Sunday shift to three factors. First, Ornstein argued, Trump has “no anchors” in conservative ideology and thus is “not wedded to that orthodoxy.” Second, he's sending a signal to House Speaker Paul Ryan about who's in charge, as Ryan withholds his endorsement of Trump. “If you were playing by normal politics, the Speaker would have some leverage here. And Trump is basically telling him ‘No you don't,’” Ornstein said. Third, he said, the end of the Republican primary contest gives Trump “more freedom to say” what he wants to.

... “This is a going to be a very significant ongoing struggle that is partly over ideology, and partly over power,” Ornstein said. “Who's going to control the party? There is an anti-leadership, populist, Trumpist wing that's not going away, even if he loses.”
Is the point of this post that the Republicans are about to nominate someone who doesn't know shit from shinola? Yes, that's exactly the point. Technically he's not changing his mind, not he doesn't have anything in his mind-- other than what Rand Paul-- before endorsing him-- correctly diagnosed as a frightening and insatiable lust for unfettered power. Let Willy describe Trump in a song (live in San Francisco, June, 1978), "Cabretta," from his debut album:

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