Sunday, November 20, 2016

How Low Will The Donald Go? Low Enough To Hire Ted Cruz?


Tuesday, Trump very publicly humiliated arrogant Ivy League smarty pants Ted Cruz again. Aside from the shaken but ever self-confident Cruz-- maybe-- did anyone think the vengeful, vindictive Trump was going to make Cruz Attorney General? Not even Trump hates America that much-- although he does hate Cruz. So he summoned him the The Tower and dangled the plum just out of reach of the Texas sucker's twitchy jaws. Trump sees Cruz as a nasty, dishonorable and untrustworthy buffoon, the guy who tried implying him on "New York values," allowing Trump a moment one of his one moments of glory in the circles Trump has always looked for social acceptance from.

Tuesday Cruz met first with Trump and Pence-- Cruz and Pence never served together-- and then, separately, with Bannon. Cruz privately told his people that he wanted the Attorney General job. Two far right loons, Penny Nance, head of Concerned Women for America, and Brent Bozell, were both lobbying the Trumpists on Cruz's behalf.

The buzz got so strong that civil libertarians began to get very concerned. On Wednesday The Nation ran a piece by George Zornick warning that an Attorney General Cruz would pose a great danger to the country.
As he crisscrossed the country, Cruz would often begin his stump speech by outlining his first day as president. After promising first to rip up all of President Obama’s executive orders, Cruz would pledge that “The second thing I intend to do on the first day in office is instruct the US Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and these horrible videos.”

Taken at his word, it is fair to conclude that Cruz would do the same thing as head of the Department of Justice. He is referring to the videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, a radical anti-choice group, which purported to show Planned Parenthood officials making deals to sell fetal tissue for profit. The videos were deceptively edited and widely discredited. It’s legal and commonplace for entities to sell human tissue for research purposes, and it only becomes illegal if they turn a profit-- which Planned Parenthood didn’t do. The unedited version of the tapes repeatedly captured Planned Parenthood officials saying they did not intend to make any extra money from the sales.

But evidently Cruz would begin an investigation anyhow. Even the presence of a federal investigation would sap Planned Parenthood’s resources at a time when Congress is likely to defund the group. Moreover, it would put the Department of Justice in the dangerous territory of launching investigations with clear political motives.

Attorney General Cruz would also be a fundamentally dangerous development for the American Muslim community. Within hours of the attacks in Brussels earlier this year, then-candidate Cruz released a statement proclaiming that “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

As the top law-enforcement officer in the land, with the FBI under his jurisdiction, Cruz would have the ability to make this happen.

At the time, civil-liberties groups were highly alarmed. “Profiling people based on their religion or race is blatantly unconstitutional and violates the guarantee of religious protection and religious freedom,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national-security project. “One way to look at it is to replace the word ‘Muslim’ with ‘Jewish,’ ‘Christian,’ ‘African American,’ or ‘Latino.’ What’s wrong in one context is wrong in others.”

...Elections have consequences, and a conservative legal thinker as attorney general is a given at this point. Cruz is certainly that, as his career as solicitor general of Texas shows. He was a rigid proponent of the death penalty, and he successfully convinced the Supreme Court that Texas had the right to execute a Mexican national. He also argued, unsuccessfully, that states should be able to execute child rapists. Cruz also successfully argued that the 10 Commandments could be placed outside the state capitol, and played a key role in the Heller case that expanded gun rights nationwide.

But Cruz’s rhetoric while running for president is a different matter, and would certainly spark an explosive confirmation battle.

Civil libertarians may be breathing a sigh of relief that Trump was just toying with Cruz and humiliating him further, but no one is excited about Klansman Jefferson Beauregard Sessions getting the gig instead. There were people who thought Trump might even give Cruz the job so that he'd give up his Senate seat and then quickly look for an excuse to fire him. It should be an interesting 4 years.

If there's no love lost between Cruz and Trump, someone who was once genuinely close with Trump, Chris Christie, has been dumped and banished. Alex Isenstadt went through the chicken bones for Politico readers Saturday. At one point Christie was the most likely elected officials the whole country to become part of the Trump administration, even though, at the time, is was just a fantasy administration. Now that Trump managed to win a couple of counties in Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania to give him the presidency, even if over 2 million fewer people voted for him than Hillary, Christie finds himself out in the cold and hoping Trump will pardon will if he's convicted in the on-going Bridgegate scandals. According to Isenstadt Trump actually called Christie last week and told him that "he had become a political liability," not just because of Bridgegate but also because he loaded the transition team up with sleazy lobbyists and crooked Jersey insiders, causing the media to laugh at Trump's promises to "drain the swamp." So he drained Christie and his allies.
In their phone call, which was relayed by three sources, Trump expressed his worry about the recent conviction of two of the governor’s former top aides, who had accused him of knowing more about the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge than he let on. Was more damaging information to come, Trump wondered?

After that discussion, the axe fell swiftly on Christie and his inner circle.

On Friday, Nov. 11, the transition team announced that Vice President-elect Mike Pence would be taking over Christie’s duties. A purge of Christie loyalists soon followed, along with a promise to cleanse the transition of lobbyists the governor had brought in to steer the new administration.

The switchover came with little warning. Richard Bagger, a former chief of staff to the New Jersey governor who had been the transition team’s executive director, found himself without access to the Trump offices where he’d been working, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Rick Dearborn, a top aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions, was brought in to replace him.

...Once the dust settled from their surprise win, the Trump team noticed that Christie had done little to vet potential administration picks or to dig into potential conflicts of interests. With Democrats eager to pounce on any early mistake, it was an oversight they simply couldn’t afford.

By Thursday of last week, Trump was telling aides that he was ready to make a change.

To some degree, Christie’s problems weren’t entirely of his making. In Trump, he was dealing with a political newcomer who didn’t understand the importance of laying the groundwork for a future administration. After being tapped to head the transition this summer, the governor met with Trump. Why, the candidate wanted to know, did he have to spend time and resources on a transition when he hadn’t yet won the election?

But Christie fumbled, failing to understand the family-driven dynamic of the Trump presidential bid. Early on, Paul Manafort, Trump’s then-campaign chairman, urged the governor to get Trump’s children and his influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, invested in the hires he was making. It was advice Christie didn’t seem to take.

In the months to come, Kushner, a 35-year-old New York City real estate mogul who grew up in New Jersey, would become a bigger problem for Christie, arguing forcefully against Trump making the governor his running mate. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, became convinced that Kushner was retaliating over his 2004 prosecution of Kushner’s father, Charles.

Still, while they never became close, Kushner and Christie agreed to work together. At several points, according to two sources, Trump took steps to forge a warmer relationship between them-- apparently without success.

Kushner’s allies say the idea that he’s out for personal vengeance, promoted in several recent stories, is simplistic and overblown. Rather, they argue, the Trump son-in-law has more substantive concerns-- viewing the governor as badly damaged following the Bridgegate affair. And in the days following the election, Kushner told others in Trump Tower that Christie oversaw a messy, lobbyist-filled transition operation that simply needed to be cleaned up.

Over the last week, a number of Christie hires have been replaced. In an indication of just how intense the backlash to Christie has been within the campaign, some New Jersey Republicans have been dissuaded from applying for administration jobs out of fear that they’ll be seen as close to the governor.

Within Christie’s world, the question has turned to what’s next for the embattled governor-- and whether he’ll get anything at all from Trump. At this week’s Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando, Fla., a number of the party’s governors and top donors, in private huddles, wondered aloud about Christie’s future. Christie attended the conference for part of the week, along with Pence, his transition successor, who briefed fellow governors on the incoming administration’s plans in a private session.

It’s not out of the question that the governor, who remains in touch with Trump, will eventually win a post. Yet some senior Trump aides, including Kushner, have begun to question whether, following the Bridgegate trial, the governor is so radioactive that it will be possible for him to win Senate confirmation to a Cabinet post.

Christie’s advisers, meanwhile, speculate that the governor might exit politics entirely when his term expires in January 2018. Some of them suggest that Christie, an avid sports fan, could take a job as a sports radio host. He is an occasional guest caller to WFAN, the popular New York City-based sports talk station.

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