Many of GOP’s wealthiest donors don’t like Trump

The New York Times reports: A powerful array of the Republican Party’s largest financial backers remains deeply resistant to Donald J. Trump’s presidential candidacy, forming a wall of opposition that could make it exceedingly difficult for him to meet his goal of raising $1 billion before the November election.

Interviews and emails with more than 50 of the Republican Party’s largest donors, or their representatives, revealed a measure of contempt and distrust toward their own party’s nominee that is unheard of in modern presidential politics.

More than a dozen of the party’s most reliable individual contributors and wealthy families indicated that they would not give to or raise money for Mr. Trump. This group has contributed a combined $90 million to conservative candidates and causes in the last three federal elections, mainly to “super PACs” dedicated to electing Republican candidates.

Up to this point, Mr. Trump has embraced the hostility of the Republican establishment, goading the party’s angry base with diatribes against wealthy donors who he claimed controlled politicians. And he has succeeded while defying conventions of presidential campaigning, relying on media attention and large rallies to fire up supporters, and funding his operation with a mix of his own money and small-dollar contributions.

But that formula will be tested as he presents himself to a far larger audience of voters. Mr. Trump has turned to the task of winning over elites he once attacked, with some initial success. And he has said he hopes to raise $1 billion, an enormous task given that he named a finance chairman and started scheduling fund-raisers only this month. [Continue reading…]


America feels like it’s in decline again — and Trump is just a symptom

By Liam Kennedy, University College Dublin

A visceral sense of domestic decline is coursing through contemporary American culture and politics – and it’s become one of the central themes of this year’s presidential campaign. Donald Trump in particular has used it to stoke the inchoate anger of his supporters, telling them: “Our country is falling apart. Our infrastructure is falling apart … Our airports are, like, third world.”

And paradoxically, even as Trump laments the US’s decline, leading pundits are pointing to his remarkably successful insurgency as evidence of the same phenomenon. Andrew Sullivan, describing the election campaign as “dystopian”, argued that “America has never been so ripe for tyranny.“ He concluded: “In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event.”

But while they certainly have a deep resonance today, dramatic lamentations of American decline have a long history. Ever since the founding of the nation, Americans have gone through bouts of self-doubt, struggling to come to terms with national and global crises both real and perceived. American political culture is shot through with the theme of decline followed by regeneration, a distinctive pattern that helps frame the idea of American exceptionalism.

Political leaders frequently invoke this dynamic in their rhetoric, although usually to paint a picture of regeneration. Pessimism is not often rewarded. Jimmy Carter’s notorious “crisis of confidence” speech in 1979 may have been meant as a bold admonition to the nation to pick up its spirits, but its dour attempt at straight talk was no match for Carter’s sunnier successor, Ronald Reagan, who was re-elected by a landslide in 1984 as he declared it “morning again in America”.

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This is how fascism comes to America

Robert Kagan writes: We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as it has everyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

Republican politicians marvel at how he has “tapped into” a hitherto unknown swath of the voting public. But what he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.” Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people. [Continue reading…]

Unfortunately, some people, lacking the confidence to think for themselves, are instead inclined to mirror the opinions of their ideological mentors, in which case it often seems to matter more who is speaking than what they are saying.

In this case, for those for whom the label neocon provokes disgust, the warnings from a leading neoconservative (Robert Kagan) might easily be dismissed — even though they are well-grounded. My advice: Ignore the byline and simply consider what he is saying. And remember that tyrants aren’t born — they emerge in a suitable set of conditions and those conditions themselves give birth to tyranny.


Austria’s election is a warning to the West

Sylvie Kauffmann writes: On Monday, the Western world may well wake up to the news that, for the first time since the defeat of Nazism, a European country has democratically elected a far-right head of state. Norbert Hofer, of the Austrian Freedom Party, claimed 35 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election on April 24. Now he is heading into the second round on Sunday with the two mainstream parties having been eliminated from the runoff and the Social Democratic chancellor, Werner Faymann, having resigned.

One month later, Europeans may wake up to the news that British voters have decided, in their June 23 referendum, that their country should become the first member state to leave the European Union. Many observers fear that would be fatal to the European project itself.

And on April 24, 2017, exactly a year after Mr. Hofer’s first-round victory, the French may well wake up to the news that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, has come out on top in the first round of France’s presidential election. That is what polls say we could expect if the election were held today.

In the meantime, it is not impossible that Donald J. Trump, however low his odds seem now, will have moved into the White House.

These are not Orwellian scenarios. Signs of defiance toward the old democratic order are so numerous that the news of Mr. Hofer’s first-round victory hardly reached the front pages of European newspapers. Remember when the election of President Kurt Waldheim in the 1980s, or the antics by the Freedom Party leader Jörg Haider in the 1990s were considered deeply disturbing? That was last century. Today, Austria’s weird politics are no longer isolated. They are part of a solid trend across Europe.

And not just Europe. The trend reaches across the Atlantic, too, with Trumpism threatening to split or take over the Republican Party. [Continue reading…]


Dying GOP senator apologizes to Muslims for Donald Trump

The Daily Beast reports: Former GOP senator Bob Bennett lay partially paralyzed in his bed on the fourth floor of the George Washington University Hospital. He was dying.

Not 48 hours had passed since a stroke had complicated his yearlong fight against pancreatic cancer. The cancer had begun to spread again, necessitating further chemotherapy. The stroke had dealt a further blow that threatened to finish him off.

Between the hectic helter-skelter of nurses, doctors, and well wishes from a long-cultivated community of friends and former aides, Bennett faced a quiet moment with his son Jim and his wife Joyce.
It was not a moment for self-pity.

Instead, with a slight slurring in his words, Bennett drew them close to express a dying wish: “Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump’s war on the media threatens fundamental American principles

Peter Beinart writes: On Saturday, Donald Trump ally and confidante Roger Stone declared that CNN “is not a news organization but an advocacy group” and that “when Donald Trump is president, he should turn off their FCC license.” (Full disclosure: I’m a CNN contributor.)

In any other election year, that would be news. But this cycle, Trump and his campaign have threatened the press in so many unprecedented ways that they’ve overloaded the system. The press itself can’t keep up. The day before Stone’s comments, Trump implied that he’d retaliate against The Washington Post’s critical coverage of him by going after its owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has been “getting away with murder, tax-wise” and has a “huge antitrust problem.” In March, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested on misdemeanor battery charges for grabbing Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a campaign rally. (The charges were later dropped.) In February, Trump declared, “If I win … I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they [journalists] write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In January, the Trump campaign barred New York Times reporters from covering campaign events after the Times published an unflattering story about his ground operation. (At various times, Team Trump has also barred reporters from National Review, The Des Moines Register, Univision, BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, Fusion, The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, and Politico, sometimes in explicit retaliation for negative coverage.)

There’s more. Trump has publicly called the journalists who cover him “scum” on at least two occasions. Last July, when The Daily Beast ran a piece about sexual-assault accusations by Trump’s ex-wife, Michael Cohen — executive vice-president at the Trump Organization — told the reporters who wrote it that “what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting … I’m going to mess your life up.” As Vice’s Olivia Becker has noted, “Trump is the only presidential candidate whose rallies feature a specific area in the back where journalists are corralled and not permitted to leave. Other candidates have areas designated for the media, but reporters are free to mingle in the crowd to interview people. Leaving the press pen at a Trump rally [by contrast] comes with its own risk.” In February, when a Time magazine journalist tried to leave the pen to photograph protesters being ejected, a secret-service agent grabbed him by the neck and slammed him to the ground. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump is about to start getting intelligence briefings — ‘it could be a disaster’

NPR reports: Harry Truman had been vice president for only 82 days when Franklin Roosevelt died, so there was quite a lot he needed to learn when he became president in 1945.

“He didn’t even know the atomic bomb existed,” historian David Priess said. “He didn’t know about the Manhattan Project.”

Priess, a former CIA officer and author of The President’s Book of Secrets, a history of the president’s daily brief, said that experience made Truman resolve that no future president should come into office unprepared.

So in 1952, as the world grew accustomed to nuclear peril and other threats in the unfolding Cold War, Truman offered classified briefings about the global security situation to each of the major-party nominees running to replace him. That tradition has held up ever since.

Traditionally, the White House waits until Republicans and Democrats have formally nominated their candidates at their party conventions, Priess said, but not always. Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter had no experience with foreign intelligence, so he asked President Gerald Ford for his briefings before he was nominated — and got them.

“Ultimately, it’s the president’s call,” Priess said, about who is briefed and when.

Although presidents typically try to accommodate candidates, even ones in the opposite party, they do not share everything. So, as the White House prepares to arrange briefings by the intelligence community, officials will likely hold back sensitive details about covert operations, secret nuclear and other defense programs, and other such details.

In fact, intelligence briefers this year may need to be more careful than ever, said former CIA analyst Aki Peritz. The de facto Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is “a man famously with no filter,” Peritz said of Trump, who has built his campaign upon what he calls straight talk.

“He’s never held public office before,” Peritz said. “He’s a business developer and a reality TV star. So if the United States starts giving Donald Trump classified briefings” with certain kinds of sensitive information, “it could be a disaster.” [Continue reading…]


GOP leaders: ‘People don’t care’ about Trump’s woman problem

The Guardian reports: After a week of make-up meetings with Donald Trump, Republican party leaders have arrived at a new strategy to accommodate their presumptive presidential nominee: ignore his problematic attitude to women, his tax issues and his fluctuating positions on trade, immigration, foreign relations and a host of other topics, and instead embrace the will of Republican voters.

The switch was illuminated on Sunday, a day after the New York Times published a lengthy investigation into Trump’s alleged mistreatment and objectification of women in his personal life.

Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, told Fox News Sunday that if voters have shown they are prepared to ride over issues surrounding the nominee’s behavior, so should the party.

“We’ve been working on this primary for over a year,” he said. “People don’t care. The question is, who is going to bring an earthquake to Washington DC?”

Trump, Priebus added, “represents something much different from the analysis of traditional candidates. Donald Trump is going to have to answer the question, but we’re in a year where nothing applies.

“It’s down to the bigger question: Who is going to blow up the system? That’s what this election is coming down to.” [Continue reading…]


Sheldon Adelson is poised to give Donald Trump a $100 million donation boost

The New York Times reports: The casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson told Donald J. Trump in a private meeting last week that he was willing to contribute more to help elect him than he has to any previous campaign, a sum that could exceed $100 million, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge of Mr. Adelson’s commitment.

As significant, Mr. Adelson, a billionaire based in Las Vegas, has decided that he will significantly scale back his giving to congressional Republicans and direct most of his contributions to groups dedicated to Mr. Trump’s campaign. The two Republicans familiar with Mr. Adelson’s plans spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Mr. Adelson’s pledge to Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, comes at an opportune time. Mr. Trump has relied on a mix of his own wealth and small-dollar contributions to finance his primary effort and lacks the sort of major donor network needed to sustain him in the general election. Mr. Trump has said that he may need $1 billion for the campaign but has only recently begun scheduling fund-raisers and hiring finance staff members. Many of the Republican Party’s wealthiest contributors, including the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, have indicated they are unlikely to give to his candidacy. [Continue reading…]

Chas Danner writes: Trump has often boasted about how he was self-funding his campaign and thus wasn’t beholden to special interest groups or wealthy donors like, well, Sheldon Adelson:

[Continue reading…]


No, Donald Trump has not softened his stance on banning Muslims

The Washington Post reports: As headlines popped up this week declaring that Donald Trump had softened his position on banning most foreign Muslims from entering the United States, some Republicans celebrated the news.

“Glad he’s walking it back,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tweeted on Thursday.

Except that Trump has not actually walked anything back. The presumptive Republican nominee still wants to ban nearly all members of the world’s fastest-growing religion from entering the United States in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. [Continue reading…]


Why many of Iran’s ‘moderates’ say they prefer Trump to Clinton

Jeremy Shapiro and Ellie Geranmayeh write: Much of the world seems fairly put off by Donald Trump. Europeans are annoyed that he has threatened to withdraw from NATO. The Japanese and South Koreans seem upset about his intention to withdraw US troops from their shores. Mexicans dislike him so much they are selling Donald Trump piñatas like hotcakes. Even the Chinese seem worried about his idea to slap them with a 45 percent tariff and his support for a nuclear-armed Japan.

So does anyone outside of America like Trump? Many people point to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He and Trump have expressed admiration for each other’s leadership qualities. But beyond Putin, there is (unsurprisingly) little foreign support for Trump’s trademark blend of American nationalism and xenophobia.

Recent conversations, however, have led us to suspect that there might be another country of potential Trump supporters out there: Iran. [Continue reading…]


Trump’s empty administration


Politico reports: Top Republican political leaders aren’t the only ones shunning their party’s presidential nominee — a vast number of highly skilled managers and policy experts, veterans of recent GOP administrations who would normally be expected to fill key positions for a new White House, are also vowing to sit out a Donald Trump presidency.

And while the failure of the two Presidents Bush or House Speaker Paul Ryan to endorse the presumptive nominee carries political consequences, the absence of policy veterans in a new administration would have a substantive effect on the running of government.

POLITICO interviewed nearly five dozen Republicans over the past two weeks — people with experience working in government and who understand how Congress can enact, or shred, a new president’s agenda — and heard the same sentiment expressed repeatedly. If Trump doesn’t change his tune or extend much longer olive branches, many of these government veterans say they intend to cede highly coveted administration posts to less-experienced competitors.

“I would never serve in a Trump administration,” said James Capretta, a former Office of Management and Budget official under George W. Bush. “The person at the top is unfit for the presidency. He’s made that very clear with his behavior.” [Continue reading…]


Sadiq Khan vs. Donald Trump

Roger Cohen writes: The most important political event of recent weeks was not the emergence of Donald J. Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party but the election of Sadiq Khan, the Muslim son of a London bus driver, as mayor of London.

Trump has not won any kind of political office yet, but Khan, the Labour Party candidate, crushed Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, to take charge of one of the world’s great cities, a vibrant metropolis where every tongue is heard. In his victory, a triumph over the slurs that tried to tie him to Islamist extremism, Khan stood up for openness against isolationism, integration against confrontation, opportunity for all against racism and misogyny. He was the anti-Trump.

Before the election, Khan told my colleague Stephen Castle, “I’m a Londoner, I’m a European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.”

The world of the 21st century is going to be shaped by such elided, many-faceted identities and by the booming cities that celebrate diversity, not by some bullying, brash, bigoted, “America first” white dude who wants to build walls. [Continue reading…]

Time interviewed Khan and asked:

You’re the first Muslim mayor of a major western city. Do you feel an extra responsibility to tackle religious extremism?

One of the things that’s important to me as a Londoner is making sure my family, people I care about, are safe. But clearly, being someone who is a Muslim brings with it experiences that I can use in relation to dealing with extremists and those who want to blow us up. And so it’s really important that I use my experiences to defeat radicalization and extremism. What I think the election showed was that actually there is no clash of civilization between Islam and the West. I am the West, I am a Londoner, I’m British, I’m of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistan heritage, so whether it’s [ISIS] or these others who want to destroy our way of life and talk about the West, they’re talking about me. What better antidote to the hatred they spew than someone like me being in this position? [Continue reading…]

The Independent reports: Sadiq Khan has criticised Donald Trump for suggesting he would exempt him from his proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the US, adding his comments play “into the hands of extremists”.

It comes after Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, said he was happy to see London’s new Muslim mayor elected, saying it could be “very, very good”.

The billionaire property mogul caused international outrage when he called for the temporary ban after the November 2015 Paris attacks. David Cameron labelled the idea “stupid” and calls to ban Mr Trump from entering Britain were raised in Parliament after a petition attracted nearly 600,000 signatures.

“This isn’t just about me – it’s about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world,” Mr Khan said.

“Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe – it risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists.

“Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam – London has proved him wrong.” [Continue reading…]


The rise of militias: Patriot candidates are now getting elected in Oregon

The Guardian reports: Joseph Rice’s manner is a long way from militia stereotypes. The Patriot Movement leader does not present as a crazed gun nut, nor as a blowhard white supremacist. He’s genial, folksy, and matter-of-fact in laying out his views. But talk to him for long enough, and time and again the Patriot Movement leader returns to what really drives him: land.

Rice is running for Josephine county commissioner in south-west Oregon, and believes that the federal government’s current role in land management is illegitimate and even tyrannical.

His campaign is well-advertised around the county and appears well-organised. His growing experience in organising Patriot groups and community watch organisations has polished his skills in retail politics. He’s clearly done a lot of work to make himself politically palatable to conservative rural voters.

He has positions on education (kids should finish high school), legalised marijuana (it presents an economic opportunity) and Donald Trump (“people are tired of career politicians, and they know the country’s in trouble”).

But county supremacy is what really drives him.

It’s this notion that is once again becoming central to local politics in the Pacific north-west. Throughout the region, people whose ideas about land management broadly align with Rice and the now infamous Bundy clan are aiming for elected office in cities, counties and even the state houses.

Taking notice of the trend, progressive watchdog group Political Research Associates even pointed to “a wave of Patriot-affiliated candidates in Oregon”. [Continue reading…]


Trumpism meets its first defeat … in London


Pankaj Mishra writes: Donald Trump became last week the presumptive Republican nominee in the U.S. presidential elections. But those condemned to agonizing suspense and anxiety until November should note that Trumpism, or the politics of hate and fear, also suffered a major defeat last week.

I refer to the election of former human rights lawyer Sadiq Khan as London’s mayor. That the son of a Pakistani bus driver, whose campaign team included gay men and Jewish women, should become the mayor of a great European city would at any time have signaled hope for our irrevocably mixed societies. Its significance in this era of politically expedient bigotry cannot be overestimated.

For, as Khan said a day after his remarkable victory, his Conservative opponents set out “to divide London’s communities in an attempt to win votes,” using “fear and innuendo to try and turn different ethnic and religious groups against each other — something straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.” [Continue reading…]