Friday, March 4, 2016

Will Mitt's Anti-Trump Broadsides "Shake Some Sense" Into Trump Supporters?

"Here's what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. He's playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.....the bullying, the misogyny, the absurd third grade not the temperament of the stable, thoughtful person we need as leader." - Mitt Romney yesterday at Hinckley Institute

Former Reep Presidential candidate Mitt Romney  tore into The Donald yesterday morning leaving no insult unmentioned and indirectly calling down Trump supporters to halt their addiction to the guy. But will it work?  Will the Trumpy addicts be swayed by Mitt's 17 minute diatribe? Somehow, given nothing else has phased them, I doubt it.

Addressing a Republican National Committee (RNC) meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, Romney opened his speech by drawing on Ronald Reagan’s framing of the 1964 election as “a time for choosing”. The 2016 election, he argued, posed a similar crossroads for the American people. The Mittster conceded:

I’m no Ronald Reagan, and this is a different moment in time, but I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time of choosing – one that will have profound consequences for the Republican party and, more importantly, for our country,”

Make no mistake Romney’s speech lived up to all the hype, including lacerating almost every Trump invention, idea or speculation - from Trump University to closed (bankrupt)Trump casinos and everything in between.. Portions of it had already been released to stations (e.g. MSNBC) hours before he delivered it. On 'Morning Joe' it was noted that the purpose was to "shake up Trump supporters and get some sense into them".  

The speech itself marked an unprecedented moment in American politics, with a growing number of prominent Republicans now desperately seeking to stop in his tracks a candidate who increasingly resembles the presumptive nominee. Romney laid out a case that was in equal parts scathing and urgent, while stating that “the prospects for a safe and a prosperous future are greatly diminished” if Republicans were to nominate Trump.

Indeed, Trump's Tuesday victories even have the Europeans going ballistic and dredging up memories of another charismatic, bombastic demagogue from 80 years ago.

The alarm has even made its way to the front pages of Der Spiegel, with the red-lettered word ('Wahnsinn' or 'Crazy Man' ) at the bottom.

Although Romney did not offer an endorsement, he praised candidates Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz and essentially suggested voters should support each of the three and pave the way for a brokered convention. Countering the rabid enthusiasm of Trumpies, Romney declared:

One of these men should be our nominee,”

Noting the real estate mogul would precipitate another economic recession and weaken America’s standing overseas. Then adding as evidence for Trump's disqualification:

 “He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Thursday’s speech was the first time Romney has delivered such comprehensive put down remarks on the state of the 2016 race. Romney weighed in on almost every would be pratfall from Trump’s debunked claim that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the September 11 terrorist attacks to his mocking of Senator John McCain for being captured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, to the mockery of a NY Times disabled reporter,  e.g.

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics,” Romney said.

Romney’s appeal to reject Trump arrived less than 48 hours after the splenetic front runner picked up overwhelming victories on Super Tuesday, as Republicans in 11 states went to the polls. But this was not before other conservative media "powerhouses" -  including The Wall Street Journal  - had weighed in, e.g. with Trump-skewering columns by Brett Stephens and Holman Jenkins, Jr..

Brett Stephens in his 'Staring At The Conservative Gutter', wrote (after the KKK misstep):

"It would be terrible to think that the Left was right about the Right all these years. Nativist bigotries must not be allowed to become the animating spirit of the Republican Party. If Donald Trump becomes the candidate he will not win the Presidency but he will help vindicate the Left's ugly indictment. It will be left to decent conservatives to pick up the pieces".

Thereby implying anyone who votes for Trump is not a "decent conservative".

Holman Jenkins Jr. was even more blunt about Trump followers in his WSJ piece ('Trump Voters Need a Mirror', March 2, p. A15):

"To be honest and impolitic, the Trump voter smacks of a child who unleashes recriminations against mommy and daddy because the world is imperfect"


"Until Trump and his fans show otherwise, he seems but the latest vessel of denial for voters who don't want responsibility. They want mommy and daddy"

Ouch! But columns like these two helped set the stage for Mitt Romney's lashing of Trump Thursday morning as well as the subtext  for his supporters to wake up from their agitated stupor. Which, let's face it, could also be fed by the desire for an emotional opposite to Obama's "no drama", Spockian, highly nuanced reactions and demeanor. (See: 'President Obama Created Donald Trump', WSJ, p. A13, today). This was an effect even moderate hack Joe Klein warned about in a TIME essay several years ago.

With the probability of a Trump nomination on the rise, the GOP establishment and its media have clearly been desperately in search of an alternative but left without a clear consensus candidate. At the same time, their columnists and spokespersons are incredulous people could actually be taking Trump seriously to run the country. The unspoken, unwritten subtext is 'What the hell are they drinking or smoking?'.  Even moderate media spokesperson(former anchor for NBC)  Tom Brokaw wondered Tuesday night if these supporters had lost touch with reality and didn't understand our checks and balances in the federal system.

"What if Trump can't deliver?" he asked. "What if our dispersed system of power prevents him from getting any of his promises done, like building the wall? What will they do?"

Good question! What indeed? Will they riot in the streets and screech how they were betrayed? Will they express severe buyer's remorse and never vote for anyone again - establishment or other?  But the fact is, Brokaw is correct, and they are all being set up for a massive letdown because the universe in which Trump could carry out his phantasmagorias is not the one that exists. The one we inhabit. . Because short of a takeover of government by Trump there is no way any of his claims to action can be manifest.

Romney didn't hesitate to tell the Hinckley site crowd of 500 that the party’s focus should be on defeating Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton,  “but a Trump nomination enables her victory”. (Well, not quite! At least one rep from Emily's List two weeks ago (on 'All In')  expressed fear and trepidation she would confront a "mad monkey with a gun" and one never knows what such a creature might do.)

Meanwhile, Romney himself, anticipating the Donald's reaction,  asked:

Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low-road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability, and his suitability to be president.”

In fact, Trump referred in a speech to his endorsement of Mitt back in 2012 claiming "If I ordered Mitt to drop to his knees he would have".

So much for vindicating what Romney projected.

Sadly, none of these efforts is likely to have any effect at halting Trump's momentum. So long as his many followers want the macho "tough guy" or strong man to take all the bad guys down. So long as so many are addicted to this sort of brash approach Trump will continue on his road to the magic number of 1237 delegates - which if reached will commit those delegates to stick with him and not to bolt - say for Cruz or Kasich.

As Der Spiegel put it:

"Trump takes every opportunity in this campaign to portray his country as a down-and-out weakling. According to his strategy, when a nation's feeling of self-worth has hit rock bottom, it experiences a growing desire to overcome the "status quo" -- and for a strong man at the top."

SO long as so many believe the Trump narrative that the nation is a weakling, his coalition will continue to build on itself - and may even overturn Hillary's plans to make history. The only way to prevent that would be for every youthful Sanders' voter-supporter to throw his or lot in for HRC if and when Bernie departs.

Whether they actually will is another question.
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