Washington Merry-Go-Round

Terrorists win when the world plays defense

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IMMEDIATE RELEASE 22 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Terrorists win when the world plays defense

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – When the 9/11 attacks occurred the United States went on offense, striking al-Qaeda where it had found a safe-haven: Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Through the use of air power, the CIA, and Special Operations forces, the U.S. backed the 20,000-strong Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban and sent al-Qaeda scrambling. The U.S. response was quick and effective. Such cannot be said of the U.S. or the world’s response to ISIS.

The ISIS-sponsored attacks in Brussels following upon and tied to the November attacks in Paris, are once again proving the inability of civilized nations to fight with a defensive strategy. ISIS controls large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, including Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. And ISIS is expanding in Libya and elsewhere. As a result, that terrorist organization has revenue, recruits, and a nefarious legitimacy.

The Obama administration’s aversion to boots on the ground has signaled our allies that the U.S. is more interested in following than leading, and absent that leadership few other countries are going to go.

It should be remembered that armies were required to defeat Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 and 2003, but no such force is necessary to defeat ISIS. And sooner or later ISIS will be defeated, but each month they remain viable is a month that is likely to witness additional deadly terrorist attacks. In addition to the horrible loss of innocent lives, the economies of the nations attacked are going to face problems as commerce is interrupted and people are frightened away.

In short, playing defense is not working. President Obama must face this reality and weigh his options. The quick solution is to send in one armored brigade of around 5,000 soldiers, backed by air and logistical support units. Faced with such power, ISIS as an organized polity and military force in Iraq and Syria would vanish, and such a force would certainly steel our allies to the fight.

The second option is to opt for a reliable ally to do the job. To date, the only allies proving to be both willing and capable are the Kurds. But NATO-partner Turkey is fighting PKK Kurdish communists/terrorists in their country and is wary of PKK-related Kurds in Syria as well as moderate Kurds in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has had no choice but to acknowledge Kurdish autonomy, but it refuses to recognize a Kurdish state. These facts should undermine the Kurds’ willingness to fight ISIS, but the opposite has occurred, which is why the U.S. must carve a Kurdish state out of northern Iraq and Syria and present it as a fait accomplish to the nations of the region. Then, as with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the U.S. can provide the means and the Kurds can provide the troops to eliminate ISIS.

There are other options such as supporting Iranian and Iraqi Shiites to go into Sunni regions controlled by ISIS, but this would only set up an internecine religious war that could spread to neighboring countries. There is also the possibility of creating an Arab army drawn from nations of the region, but this has been an ongoing plan that has yet to prove successful, and even if it does begin to develop, how much time will be expended before ISIS can be brought to heel?

The options are available, and the responsible government leaders here and abroad need to quit talking about what should be done and start concentrating on what must be done.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

Hatch the key to the Garland nomination

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 16 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Hatch the key to the Garland nomination

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – By nominating Merrick Garland, a qualified centrist, to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama improved the odds his candidate will win confirmation from near zero to a bit better. How much better, we should have some idea after lawmakers return from their two week spring recess, which begins next week.

The Republican-controlled Senate declared it wouldn’t take up the nomination of anyone Obama nominated. But Garland is someone Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called a “consensus nominee” when the judge was the runner up to Elena Kagan in 2010. Obama chose Kagan, who was easily confirmed, but Hatch said there would have been “no question” Garland too could have won confirmation.

That occurred six years ago, and Republicans argue a lot has changed since then. But just a few days ago, on March 16, Hatch told the conservative news outlet, NewsMax, “The president told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him. [Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man. He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

Now that Obama has kept his word by nominating a moderate, will Senator Hatch own his comments about Garland being a fine man and a consensus nominee who could win nomination? Or will Hatch toe the line drawn by Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky? Does it matter?

Every time Republican senators stray from the party line, McConnell reins them back. Polls show that two-thirds of the American people think that a nominee for the Supreme Court should receive due consideration by the Senate. Obama in his remarks in the Rose Garden said he was doing his job by nominating someone to fill the Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Scalia, and all he is asking is that the U.S. Senate does its job.

If the Republican leadership refuses to give Garland a hearing and a vote, the GOP may pay a political price. The argument that the next president should make this appointment doesn’t make sense from a conservative or a Republican perspective when considering the next president is likely to be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Hatch is the Judiciary Committee’s longest serving current member, and he was chairman or ranking member from 1993 to 2005. He was among the committee’s 11 Republicans who signed a letter to McConnell pledging not to hold hearings for anyone Obama nominates. But his initial statement on Garland’s nomination portrays the obstruction as a high-minded effort to “keep what should be a serious confirmation discussion from becoming denigrated by the toxic politics of this election season, and it will give the American people a voice in the direction of our nation’s highest court.”

The people have already had a voice in electing Obama not once but twice, and he is president until January 20, 2017, when the new president takes the oath of office. Politics is kinetic and politicians can change when the situation demands. Hatch, now in the twilight of his career, has prided himself on working across the aisle. His friendship with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was much remarked upon because they were such ideological opposites, the liberal lion and the strait-laced Mormon.

What they had in common was respect for each other, and for their colleagues, and for the then-collegial institution in which they served.  In thinking about his legacy, Hatch might consider the impact of the Senate’s action, and whether it’s time to take the long view of history, and think less about short-term political gain. In the end, Hatch’s opinion will indeed matter.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

Rubio the Irrelevant

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Rubio the Irrelevant

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – The political career of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is on the line. If he stays in the presidential race and loses his home state in next Tuesday’s Florida primary, it could mean career-over. If he drops out before then, he might hold on to a political future. Either way, the polls indicate he will not affect the race. But maybe the polls are wrong like they were in Michigan last week when they showed Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., far behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Sanders pulled off an upset win. But if the polls are right, Rubio is about to get crushed by Donald Trump.

He’s not the first. The Donald likes to remind everyone that there were once 14 Republican candidates, and now the field is down to four. If Trump wins Florida and Ohio too, which also votes on Tuesday, he will be well on his way to locking up the GOP nomination.

Rubio is poised to become Trump’s next conquest, or victim, depending on which term you prefer. His fortunes cratered after he went after Trump in the most juvenile, sandbox language. Trump swatted him away, cutting Rubio down to size. When the results came in from the next round of states, all Rubio could muster was a win in Minnesota caucus voting, and in Puerto Rico.

Rubio vigorously denied rumors that he might drop out of the race before Tuesday’s vote in Florida, but it doesn’t matter. Unless he manages to pull off a Bernie-style last-minute upset that defies all the prediction, he can’t stop Trump by staying in the race, or by getting out of the race.

Republicans once thought they could stop Trump if the field against him coalesced, and they could get a one-on-one race with the billionaire New Yorker. That’s still the path to the nomination that Ted Cruz dreams about, and he has some claim to believing it might be true since he has actually won six states compared to Rubio’s two and John Kasich’s zero.

But earth to Ted, even if Rubio drops out, there’s no guarantee his votes would go to you. They might move to Trump. Everybody loves a winner, and there’s a bandwagon effect that begins to kick in if Trump continues to confound his critics by racking up more votes than his competitors.

The campaign so far has been soul crushing for the candidates. Every one of them with the possible exception of Ohio Governor Kasich has been taken apart and ridiculed. While Trump has been the instigator much of the time, he’s also taken lots of hits. As he pointed out in his victory speech Tuesday night in Florida, anti-Trump forces spent $38 million dollars in the previous week on negative ads saying “horrible, horrible things about me.”

Trump has high negatives, but then so does his likely opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton. History tells us that when candidates have high negatives, more people stay home because they can’t stomach voting for either contender.

Democrats are confident that the stakes are so high in November, with the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court all up for grabs, that voters who don’t like Clinton will still show up for her at the polls. And Republicans may in the end overcome their resistance to Trump if he’s their guy because that’s how tribal politics works.

How Rubio fares in Florida on Tuesday is a test case of where the voters are, and whether they believe Rubio’s spiel that he is their vehicle to stop Trump. There are lots of reasons for Rubio’s failure to connect. One of them might be his dismissive attitude toward the Senate seat he won six years ago.

He was a Tea Party darling then, and he disappointed that wing of the party when he supported comprehensive immigration reform. Then he ran away from it, and that didn’t make anybody happy. The only thing we really knew about Rubio was his ambition. He was a man in a hurry. But after hitting one speed bump after another, he may be at the end of the road, at least for now.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

The reign of anarchy

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

The reign of anarchy

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Who is really at fault for the low-grade tenor of the current debates between people seeking the Republican and Democratic nominations for the presidency? A hint. It’s not the candidates.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “moderator” as: “Someone who leads a discussion in a group and tells each person when to speak.” Quite simply, moderators are the referees and umpires in this game of political discourse, and they are not doing their job.

For people old enough to remember television’s “This Week with David Brinkley,” now is a time for them to yearn for the good old days because Brinkley was the model no one followed. A literate gentleman who asked and encouraged substantive questions, he ruled his show with an iron gesture, though this is surmise because no one ever saw his gestures. But we know they were there because he never allowed two people to speak at once. Interrupting, to him, was not only bad manners, but bad television, it being a fact that when two or more people simultaneously speak none of them can fully be understood.

So, when Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., said to an interrupting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in their Flint, Michigan debate, “Excuse me, I’m speaking,” he was wrong, but not for the reason generally given. Pundits claimed he was being chauvinistic. Quite the contrary, he was doing what the moderator should have done.

He should have directed his complaint to the moderator: “Excuse me. This game has rules, and you are the referee. If you are not going to enforce those rules, you are going to let anarchy reign, and we may as well call this game right now.”

This, of course, was mild when compared to the Republican reality shows aka debates. They could not be more disgusting if the candidates came out in clown suits and threw cream pies at one another. And certainly they could because there are hardly any referees on the field. Megyn Kelly was an exception, insisting that her questions be heard and answered without interruption, but most of the moderators not only failed to moderate, they seemed to encourage disarray. After all, ratings for the Republican debates have gone through the roof.

But news organizations are expected to have journalistic integrity, and in a presidential campaign, this means providing the public with elucidation on the issues. Further, television executives might discover that direct, substantive questions might just offer more than enough entertainment. People do not watch football in hopes that the referees will head to the sidelines and let the players engage in fist fights. They watch because they like the game and the skills with which it is played, and that is more than enough entertainment for them. Should our game of selecting the leader of the free world be anything less? Let us end this reign of anarchy.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

Plan C

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Plan C

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – This is the year of firewalls. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s firewall to slow the surging Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., campaign was the South Carolina primary, followed by Super Tuesday because she correctly counted on the African-American vote in those regions.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., looked upon conservative voters in those same states to be his firewall against the seemingly unstoppable Donald Trump, but his wall failed him.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is counting on the March 15 primary in his home state as the critical firewall to not only slow Trump but also to keep his own candidacy alive. The polls indicate otherwise.

Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, is looking to do likewise in his home state on that same critical date.

Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich together are hoping to deny Trump a majority of Republican delegates, thereby throwing the nomination into the convention. But the math is against them because so many states from March 15 forward are winner-take-all contests that Trump can take with a plurality as low as 30 percent.

All of the above make up Plan A in the stop-Trump gambit, and they are going to fail. That brings us to Plan B.

Republican leaders are desperately raising money to stop Trump, but they have not yet coalesced around a unified idea. There are those who would mount a conservative third-party campaign and those who would do likewise with a centrist who is more likely to attract Independents. And, of course, there are diehards who believe they can haul out their 2012 candidate Mitt Romney and their 2008 candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others to denounce Trump. Perhaps they haven’t noticed that establishment denunciations only make Trump more popular with anti-Washington voters. Even Pope Francis took a turn, condemning Trump’s plan for a border wall, and he, too, failed.

This conflict between conservatives, moderates, and jaw-boners is going to doom Plan B. This brings us to Plan C.

This plan is actually a variation of Plan B without the jawboning. By mounting a third party campaign, the anti-Trumps might just prevent either Trump or the Democratic candidate – presumably Hillary Clinton if she survives the FBI investigation – from winning a majority of the electoral votes in the general election. This would throw the decision into the House of Representatives where each state is allowed one vote. That body would then have choice between Trump, the Democrat, or a third party candidate. Assuming the large majority of Republican representatives will side with the rest of the anti-Trump Republican establishment, the Republican-dominated House will elect the third party candidate.

But it must be remembered that to most Republican members of the House both a moderate Republican and a tea party conservative are considered extremists. What they will want is a mainstream conservative, and Plan C is predicated upon the idea that their third party nominee will be such a person. Good luck on that.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

Disarrayed GOP options

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Disarrayed GOP options

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Time is growing short to stop Donald Trump, and Republicans are divided among themselves about what course to follow. Primary elections on Tuesday, March 15 will show whether Marco Rubio and John Kasich can do what Ted Cruz did in Texas and beat Trump in their home states of Florida and Ohio. Right now Kasich is tied with Trump, and Rubio is behind.

A new stop-Trump PAC, Our Principles, is airing attack ads against Trump for what it calls his “scam” to make millions with a fake university that awarded no real degrees. There’s more coming to assail Trump on a number of fronts where any conventional candidate would be vulnerable, like his refusal to release his tax returns, his companies’ multiple bankruptcies, and his racially infused rhetoric.

The problem for the anti-Trump forces, however, is that Trump so far has been able to brush aside the negative ads aimed at him. He re-directs voters’ attention to the billionaire donors and special interests behind the ads, and they are not credible in the eyes of Trump supporters.

Like the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The parade of figures denouncing Trump hasn’t stopped him either. Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the latest to take to the microphone and warn his party about the perils of nominating Trump, whom he called a “phony.”

Four years ago, Romney lavished Trump with praise as he accepted the billionaire’s sought after endorsement at a Trump hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Hard to tell who gets to call whom “phony.”

Trump is warning that if party officials try to deny him the nomination when he has won the bulk of the delegates his people would walk out of the Convention with him.

A Trump third party bid has always terrified the GOP, but now that he has such a commanding lead in the primaries, mainstream Republicans are seeing the virtue of a third-party bid as a vehicle for an anti-Trump Republican conservative to run.

Kasich’s name is often the first to come up in the context of a credible third-party bid. A two-term governor of Ohio who previously spent 17 years in Congress and headed the Budget Committee during the Bill Clinton years, Kasich has serious governing credentials and a temperament that is closer to presidential than any of his remaining rivals on the debate stage.

But mounting a third-party bid and gaining ballot access across the country is a monumental undertaking, and Kasich has said if he doesn’t win his home state on March 15, it’s game over for him.

Kasich or any third-party contender could join up with one of the existing minor parties, either the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was the Libertarians’ presidential candidate in 2012, and he is likely to carry the banner again in November. He may balk at stepping aside for a Johnny come-lately.

There’s the option of starting a whole new party and giving it some cool new name. That could happen if the Republican Party as we know it today implodes under the weight of a Trump nomination, or flies apart with competing contenders at the July GOP Convention in Cleveland.

If a new and reformed Republican Party emerges from the chaos of this election cycle, that would be a positive development. We’re watching in real time Republicans trying to come to grips with a party they no longer recognize and is trying to forge a new identity.

Can that happen in less than two weeks, by March 15? That’s the unofficial deadline for launching a serious third-party bid. So far it’s all talk and no action.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

Morphing from primary clown to gravitas candidate

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1 Mar. 2016

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Morphing from primary clown to gravitas candidate

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – The formula for GOP presidential success used to be: tilt right for the nomination; tilt center for the general election. That was yesterday. Today it is: clown for the nomination; be a statesman for the general election. And Donald Trump is leading the way.

Trump is on the verge of wrapping up the nomination, having been willing to say anything as long as it brought him free headlines, and one-third of the Republican electorate ate it up. Of course, they only amount to one-third of the 27 percent of the population that register as Republicans. In other words, less than 10 percent of the overall electorate is about to nominate Trump as the Republican standard-bearer.

This is giving the other two-thirds of the party and much of the rest of the country – and the world, for that matter – apoplexy. But they are about to witness act two.

Once Trump is certain of the nomination, he is going to suddenly become reasonable, rational, and statesmanlike. Just as suddenly, Republicans and more than a few Independents are going to rethink and rationalize all the way to the voting booths. And by the end of the primary season in June, they will coalesce around their candidate, forgiving or forgetting his past behavior. Trump, himself, will proclaim it was all an act, a trick played upon the system and the power brokers who run it.

Trump the centrist will emerge.

It will not be difficult. He was a Democrat before he became a Republican. He was pro-choice before he became pro-life. He favored legalization of drugs before he became a drug-law advocate. He praised Hillary Clinton and President Obama before he denounced them. He supported universal health care before he opposed it, claiming Obamacare is a disastrous program he would replace with some unspecified plan. The list goes on, including conflicting views on taxes, military spending, and foreign policy.

In fact, no presidential nominee has ever given himself such latitude to smoothly make the transition from primary politics to general election politics. And when he combines this with a new-found reasonable demeanor, much of the public is going to put their votes where their memory isn’t.

Missing in all this is the threshold question. Most people have views and positions, but most people are not qualified to be president. Remember Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin? What mattered more than her views was her lack of qualifications to be one step away from the presidency. She simply did not meet the threshold criteria, and neither does Donald Trump. True, most presidents were not qualified to be presidents, but almost all of them came closer to the mark than Donald Trump.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

TR vs. Trump: positive vs. negative populism

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 25 Feb. 2016                                                           10

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

TR vs. Trump: positive vs. negative populism

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Now that Donald Trump is the undisputed frontrunner for the Republican nomination, the search is on for historical analogies to explain his appeal and understand how he might behave and what he might do as president, for better or worse.

He is running on a brand of populism that is nationalistic and nativist, and that feeds off anger. Contrast that with the saying popularized by Teddy Roosevelt more than a hundred years ago, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  The two men would appear to have little in common except for the big stick.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a populist though his brand of populism, reining in the banks, going after the robber barons, and establishing the Food and Drug Administration to bring about much needed regulation, places him at the opposite end of the spectrum from where Trump is.

Roosevelt’s positive populism changed America for the better while Trump’s negative us versus them populism is changing America but not necessarily for the better.

Populism is a powerful tonic on the campaign trail, which is why from the time Trump announced his candidacy on June 16 it was folly to rule him out. Now that he has won three out of the first four primary contests, party leaders are torn between mounting a last ditch effort to stop him, or coalescing around him and embracing an uncertain future with an unpredictable nominee.

Some analysts have begun comparing Trump to Ronald Reagan, who was initially dismissed as a second-tier actor and a lightweight. Reagan went on to become one of the more consequential presidents of the twentieth century.

Let’s not forget Reagan was governor of California for two terms. Trump hasn’t been elected to anything, or governed anything.

He has tapped into a rich vein of negative populism, promising to forcibly deport twelve million people, belittling women and men, and boasting about how he’ll “punch people in the nose” when they disrupt his rallies. Those who have known him as a real-estate mogul in New York discount a lot of incendiary rhetoric as part of his shtick, and believe he’ll clean up his act once he locks down the nomination.

If we look to Theodore Roosevelt as a stylistic antecedent to Trump, we see someone as president in the early years of the last century who is brash, pompous, jingoistic – and socially liberal – characteristics that certainly apply to Trump.

Borrowing from a 1984 political ad, where’s the beef?  Roosevelt had plenty; Trump not so much.

Roosevelt was a war hero posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was governor of New York before being tapped as the vice-presidential running mate for William McKinley. He was also a prolific writer.

Yet the positive qualities that came to define him were dwarfed by the Republican establishment’s fear of his independent spirit.  Mark Hanna, the party boss in New York, called TR “that crazy cowboy,” and opposed McKinley putting him on the ticket.

It was a fateful appointment because soon after he was elected, McKinley was assassinated and TR assumed the office. He was then elected in 1904, and history records him as the first true populist president.

For the legions of Americans who hold TR in high esteem, it’s almost sacrilegious to compare him to Trump. Still, the historical parallels are there. Roosevelt upended five decades of politics as usual that had led to the robber barons. Trump’s electoral success is disrupting the GOP establishment and the cozy relationship between campaign donors and candidates. Trump’s claim that he owes nothing to anybody since he’s funding his own campaign is wildly popular among voters.

Trump is practicing a dangerously negative populism, pitting people and groups against each other, and winning a significant slice of the Republican electorate in the process.  Party leaders are aghast, and the public should be, but a plurality of Republican voters isn’t.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

Pope and president denounce Trump to no avail

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 18 Feb. 2016                                                           10

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Pope and president denounce Trump to no avail

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – President Obama couldn’t resist the temptation. Asked about the presidential race at a news conference following his meeting in California with Southeast Asian leaders, Obama unloaded on Donald Trump. The presidency is not a television reality show and Trump will not be president because the American people are too “sensible” to elect someone like Trump, the President said.

That sounds a lot like what the pundits have said since Trump first declared his candidacy on June 16th last year. More than a dozen contenders for the Republican nomination have said the same thing. Those who are left are still saying it. Jeb Bush spent the better part of an hour at a rally in South Carolina this week railing on Trump.

Obama made a mistake jumping into the middle of the GOP brawl for the nomination. Trump thrives on notoriety and when Obama takes him on, all it does is boost Trump’s standing with Republican voters in the primaries.

The President is just the latest high-profile entry into the Dump Trump movement, and what have all these critics gotten out of it? Not much. Most of the attacks come back to bite them. And, now, even Pope Francis has weighed in, and Trump responded: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” This is a first.

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Tex., appears to be the most likely next casualty. He was second to Trump in South Carolina before the billionaire real estate developer started lobbing insults his way and threatening lawsuits. Now Cruz has fallen in the polls and inadvertently made room for rival Marco Rubio to perhaps slip into second place.

This is a generalization but it’s true of many Republicans. They have a visceral dislike for Obama. It makes no sense, but it shapes their views and it has become a fact of political life.  Baiting Obama into even mentioning Trump’s name gives such a boost to Trump and his supporters that it’s like an infusion of a high-powered energy drink.

Pressed by a reporter as to whether he thinks Trump will win the GOP nomination, Obama refused to say, leaving us to assume his prediction that Trump will not be president does not exclude the New York developer from getting the nomination.

Obama makes the same presumption that several of the candidates are making, that the American public will come to their senses as the process grinds on and we get closer to picking a president. They theorize that Trump will eventually be overtaken by exactly whom, nobody is quite sure, but by one of the other candidates, maybe Cruz, maybe Rubio, probably not Bush.

Polling in the upcoming Super Tuesday states show Trump with sizeable leads, and it is well within the realm of possibility that he will be the Republican nominee. When GOP leaders first contemplated that outcome some months ago, they feared widespread losses – the presidency, the U.S. Senate, maybe even the House of Representatives if Trump led the ticket.

And look what’s happened. Trump has not gone away, and some party leaders prefer him to Cruz.

If Trump gets the nomination, he won’t be running like anything we’ve ever seen. Democrats will have to expect the unexpected. He’ll be suing people and denouncing people. There will be a blitz from him from every direction, television ads, social media, rallies full of bluster and shows of strength that cannot be ignored.

If Democrats are thinking Trump at the top of the Republican ticket would be easy to beat, they better beware. He has broken every rule the experts thought they knew about politics, and while it’s doubtful he could build the kind of coalition in a diverse country that would win the presidency, the potential that he might is enough to raise the prospect of a truly historical disaster.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

 

It’s in Kennedy’s hands

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 15 Feb. 2016                                                           10

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

It’s in Kennedy’s hands

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – When a case is heard in a local court, plaintiffs and defendants alike assume they are being heard by an impartial judge, but the likelihood of partiality increases with each court level right up to the Supreme Court, where impartiality is a rarity. This is so because so many of that court’s decisions are based upon the U.S. Constitution, a political document.

In such a politicized environment, the court’s liberal-conservative divide is transparent, which is why the passing of conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia is creating such a stir, even a constitutional crisis, coming as it has  in an election year when Republicans, who hold a 54-46 advantage over Democrats in the Senate, are openly hostile toward President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

This represents a continuation of national gridlock, with Republican Senate leaders informing the president, “You have a constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and we have a right to ignore the nomination.” But this stance is fraught with problems, starting with the reduction of the court from nine to eight members who are, in theory, evenly split. If they remain true partisans, votes on upcoming cases will come in at 4-4. And a tie vote means the case being appealed from a lower court will stand as decided by that lower court even though it would not be applicable nationwide.

There is a solution, and it is other than the following options being touted:

  1. The president nominates a partisan Democratic-leaning judge, who will not even receive a senatorial hearing let alone a confirmation.
  2. The president nominates a blank slate, someone whose history does not betray a bias, but once again, a Republican-controlled Senate will not take a chance on another Souter-like stealth justice. Retired Justice David Souter, who was appointed by Republican Pres. George H. W. Bush, proved to be other than an ally to conservative dogma.
  3. The president makes a recess appointment that will stand until the new Senate is sworn in next January. With the Senate in the midst of a President’s Day recess, this is doable, but the president said he will not do it, and with good reason. Such a justice will have almost a year to establish a track record. If it is conservative, Obama will regret it. If it is liberal, a Republican-controlled Senate will reject it come January, unless, of course, Democrats regain control in the November election. Too many “ifs.”

In the midst of the undemocratic din, one man holds the solution. The fact is there remain only three conservative justices on the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. They are often joined by one unreliable conservative, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. Often called a “swing justice,” Kennedy has most often swung right, but the opposite direction just enough to justify his label. In other words, Justice Kennedy behaves more like an impartial lower-court judge.

Now Kennedy cannot stand up and announce a bias favoring a political philosophy. But he can announce his independence. Such an announcement would be code for his willingness to side with the court’s liberals, and, as such, force Republican senators to reevaluate their “dead-on-arrival” stance toward an Obama nominee. And what type of nominee would that be? It most likely would be another Kennedy, a person committed to the law, not a party or an orthodoxy because that is the only type of nominee who could pass senatorial muster.

So it lies within Kennedy’s hands to defuse the crisis and bring good judgment and decorum back into the process.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND