It’s time to Break It Down!
The two major Party political conventions are now in the rear view mirror. Last week, Donald Trump received a 6-point bounce from the GOP Convention, which was held in Cleveland the previous week, and he surged ahead of Hillary Clinton according to a CNN/ORC Poll.
Whether in a head-to-head matchup between the two candidates, or in a four-way matchup that included the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, Trump led. One-on-one with Mrs. Clinton, Trump’s lead was 48% to 45%. When the other two candidates were entered into the equation, the lead was 44% to 39% in favor of Trump, with Johnson garnering 9% and Stein 3%.
This week, following the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Clinton received a similar bounce, 7 points to be exact, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll. As a result, this week she surged back ahead. Just as with Trump the previous week, Clinton leads in both a head-to-head matchup with Trump, as well as in the four-way scenario, including Stein and Johnson. When looking just at Clinton and Trump, she leads 52% to 43%. In a four-way scenario, it’s Clinton leading 45% to 37%, with Johnson and Stein at 9% and 5%, respectively.
Coming out of the conventions the tempo of election season will ratchet up, possibly sharply. If anything is clear about this election year, it’s not typical. To be fair, each Presidential campaign is unique in its own right. But this year…that is true on steroids. While both candidates approach November’s election with historic negatives, only 34% view Mrs. Clinton as honest and trustworthy, while Mr. Trump tops that with a whopping 35%, I think most observers, whether supporters or detractors, see Donald Trump as the most unusual candidate in our life time. I have not even heard anyone suggest anyone as a close second.
A key aspect of this point of view is both the folks who are for him, as well as those who oppose him agree this is true. It is the underlying foundation of why this is so that results in disagreement. His surrogates argue, and his supporters seem to concur, that Trump is bringing a robust sense of self, and a limitless confidence that though we are broken as a nation, he can and will fix us. In fact, he boasted at the GOP Convention that he is the only one capable of pulling off this amazing feat. Quite naturally, the candidate endorses this characterization of himself.
Alternately, his detractors view Trump as divisive, dangerous, and delusional, and many are effusive in saying that is the case. It is far from surprising that Democrats as a group take the latter view. One would anticipate that Republicans as a group embrace the former view, and many do, especially rank and file voters. However, that explicit factoid does not cloud an obvious caveat. There is a clear and possibly widening breach within the Grand Old Party. This is not a new development. A number of Trump’s 16 vanquished competitors tried to paint him as everything from not being a conservative to in more than a few instances, not even being a Republican.
For his part, Mr. Trump has repeatedly found ways to bring discomfort to and elicit disdain from members of his own Party. He debased most of his Primary competitors, he declared Senator John McCain was not a war hero…ostensibly, because he was captured, and, after the Democratic Convention, he took on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan. Captain Khan, an American citizen of Pakistani heritage was born in the United Arab Emirates. He moved to the United States with his parents when he was two years old, and was killed June 8, 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
By attacking honored members of the group known as American Gold Star families, Mr. Trump effectively abandoned his Build a Wall platform plank and instead channeled a version of Ronald Reagan when he uttered the phrase, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Trump crossed a line that some in the military consider sacrosanct, and that even many of his erstwhile GOP cronies consider, a bridge too far. In doing so, he tore down the wall of partisanship that usually delineates Republicans and Democrats during Presidential Campaigns. A number of Republicans issued statements supporting the Khans, and several went further and denounced Trump. My own observation is denunciation without rescinding endorsements is a vacuous endeavor, signifying they either didn’t really stand behind the verbal wrist slap they are giving Trump, and they still really fervently support him, or…they no longer support Trump, but do not find it politically tenable to say that in clear and unequivocal terms.
Gold Star families are families that have lost a loved one in a war. Mr. Khan, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, took exception to Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. He wondered aloud if Trump had ever read the Constitution, and offered to loan him his own copy. He opined that Trump has sacrificed nothing, nor anyone. In turn, Trump, who fancies himself a counter puncher took a day or two to respond, but Saturday he did, and he has barely stopped since then.
He questioned whether Mr. Khan wrote his own speech, or if the Clinton Campaign penned it, he argued that he has sacrificed…by creating thousands, actually tens of thousands of jobs, appearing to equate employing people with the Khan’s having lost a son. He also rhetorically asked if there was a reason Mrs. Khan didn’t speak, after which he suggested that perhaps she wasn’t allowed to do so. Most Americans outside Team Trump understood this to be a direct swipe at Mrs. Khan’s Muslim faith. Mr. Trump and everyone related to his campaign disavowed that view.
Republicans were already generally beside themselves because Democrats were able to usurp several of the GOP’s pet themes, including love of country and support for the military. Trump’s reflexive pushback against a Gold Star family escalated their concern to near hyperventilation. The depth to which key members of the Party could no longer restrain themselves was evident as Party luminaries, including John McCain, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell spoke out in support of the Khans, and some cases offered scathing rebuttals of Trump’s sentiments. By yesterday, a number of high-ranking Republicans declared they would be voting for Mrs. Clinton.
According to NPR, Senator McCain issued the most comprehensive statement, nearly 700 words, in which he drew a bright red line delineating Trump and his comments from the Republican Party. He said:
“I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
Senator McCain also called upon Trump to set a better example, warned that Arizona is watching, thanked the Khans for immigrating to America, and assured them their son’s service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Senator McConnell, according to Politico, offered a subtler, more tempered response. He said:
“Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans, I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services.”
Speaker Ryan, as reported by Reuters News Sunday, made a terse, but poignant statement on the situation. Speaking of Captain Khan, he said:
“His sacrifice – and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan – should always be honored. Period.”
Yesterday, Mr. Trump announced that he would not be endorsing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their pending Primary Election bids. Just a day earlier he gave a shout out to Ryan’s competitor in the upcoming Wisconsin Primary, Paul Nehlen. CNN reported that in Ryan’s case Mr. Trump said:
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet,”
The last sentence approximates a phrase Mr. Ryan used shortly after Trump had vanquished the field of 16, and was the last man standing among GOP candidates for President. He did not immediately endorse Trump. Ryan did eventually endorse the nominee.
In Senator McCain’s case, as referenced above, he and Trump have clashed dating back to early in the campaign. In explaining his position on not endorsing the Senator, Trump said:
“I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets.”
Fortunately for Senator McConnell, he is not up for re-election. As such, he does not have to spend any time contemplating a Trump endorsement, or lack thereof. It is worth noting, Ryan and McCain are expected to prevail in their primary races.
Yesterday, Trump created a bit of controversy as he accepted a Veteran’s Purple Heart and commented that he’d “always wanted one of those…this is much easier.” Not surprisingly, that created some pushback.
Last night one of Trump’s surrogates attempted to deflect (I think it’s called a pivot in campaign parlance) from the resultant raging firestorm by blaming the death of Captain Khan on decisions made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Katrina Pierson, who frequently appears on CNN to defend Candidate Trump made the following claim to Wolf Blitzer:
“It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life! So I don’t understand why it’s so hard to understand why Donald Trump was confused.”
There is a lot going on with those two sentences, so it is easy to understand why she was confused. That assertion is, in and of itself, an extraordinary claim. More importantly, in the final analysis, it is a clear sign of a surrogate, who like her candidate, spoke in an overhyped, underprepared manner.
Mr. Trump, Ms. Pierson, and a host of Trump acolytes have raised conspiracy theories to a near art form. This claim would require one incredibly otherworldly conspiracy. Why is that, you may ask? I’m glad you inquired!
As cited previously, Captain Khan was killed in Iraq, June 8, 2004. On that date, history reflects the Commander-in-Chief was George W. Bush, and the Secretary of State was Colin Powell. Fact check complete; bye Felicia…I mean Katrina.
The cherry on top of all this dissension is by the end of the yesterday, reports emerged, and were reported by CNN that frustration was boiling over among Team Trump insiders, all the way up to head honcho, Paul Manafort. As they used to say back in the day, “Keep your ears on.” This could become a real page turner.
It has been a tough week for the Republican nominee. However, the campaign is long and new and unpredictable events impose themselves on the process frequently. To that end, this too shall pass. Until it does though, it is appropriate, if not essential, to take note of, “The GOP: A Party at Odds With Its Leader!”
I’m done; holla back!
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