By Mark Green
Stuart Stevens illuminates his anti-Trump insights on social media while Ron Reagan reminds us about the last contested convention in '76. What should GOP elites do now that they can't live with or without Trump? Also: Will McConnell's SCOTUS-Senate sit-down strike sink "the party of hell no!"?
Again, Trump. Ron continues to argue that while Trump wants to be the President he doesn't really want to serve as President -- "too much work." We all laugh at this "Springtime for Hitler" analysis of being such an outrageous candidate that he might actually win.
While "not a Cruz guy," Stevens adds that, unlike Trump, "Cruz respects law and the Constitution while Trump would undermine the First Amendment and maybe the Third, if we remembered what that is. And he violated his oath of office by saying that he'd order soldiers to commit war crimes." (Cruz: "I'm a Christian first, second an American.")
Stevens continues: "Hillary would win a Clinton-Trump race since Reagan in 1980 won 57 percent of the white vote and a 44 state victory while Romney won 59 percent of the white vote and a 24 state loss. And even if he somehow got some more white men to vote, he'd lose white suburban women big to Clinton and hurt [down-ballot] GOP senators. It's a soul-searching moment for the party -- how can we channel the anger and darkness that's in all of us into a positive place to show how we can collectively pick ourselves up?"
Ron and Stuart agree that there could be a conservative third party choice at least on some state ballots to allow conservatives a place to vote and protect GOP candidates in blue or purple states. Could Kasich possibly survive to the Convention to win or throw in with Trump or Cruz to be number two on a ticket? "I now believe that anything's possible," says Stevens, adding that "such an offer would be smart from Trump but, knowing Kasich as I do, he'd regard that as hell on earth."
The panelists now put the odds of a contested convention at 50-50. Ron reminds us his father fell only 56 delegates short of an incumbent president [in a pre-roll call procedural test] so that there were no 2d or 3d ballots that year. Also, Ron adds, "unlike the insults hurled around this year, Ford and Reagan were very different candidates in 1976."
Host: It speaks poorly of him but, watching GOP policies and dog-whistles create a Trump and Cruz, the Host feels a form of ideological schadenfreude at the Republican predicament this year. Look at how two leaders of the anti-Trump strategy group include talkers Erick Erickson, who's as insulting as Trump and more reactionary than Cruz, and Bill Kristol, the man who brought us Palin and the Iraq War. With Erickson and Kristol plotting their party's future, what could go wrong?
It now appears that more Republicans are coming to the conclusion that better to lose with a slightly more even-tempered Cruz to keep the party intact than a Trump who would would destroy their chances in down-ballot races and for years to come. The Host agrees -- it's a great idea to really test theory that it's a 50-50 country by having a clear conservative run against a clear progressive since the latter has a better case to make to America's progressive majority.
Hillary Rising. After winning all five primaries this past week, the online odds of a Clinton nomination went from 91% to 95%, with Sanders now arguing that he'll catch up in pledged delegates in future urban states and then pick off many super-delegates from Clinton. That's like two Hail-Mary passes in a row? Neither panelist thinks that'll happen while agreeing that Sanders has admirably prosecuted a case that Clinton's largely bought into.
Why the animosity toward her personality? Ron explains that it's "the result of decades of relentless GOP attacks that had an impact and the impression that she's very calculating and says what she thinks will help her win." Well, is that really much different than, say, Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan? Ron notes that "my father, whatever you thought of his views, would come to a position and then basically stick with it. But since this is all the Republicans really have against Hillary, expect to hear more of it."
Stevens agrees, adding that he pulled out a 2007 memo to Obama from his staff arguing that he should present himself as a more principled candidate because of how often Hillary repositions herself. That's what Obama then did and what a Republican nominee can do again given he shifts on DOMA, Trade, etc."
Weighing it all, odds that Hillary wins a Clinton-Trump contest? Consensus: she's a 90% favorite...unless, adds Ron, "there's a terrible terrorist attack that changes everything." Which is a scary thought since there are presumably smart terrorists out there who know and could act on this ugly reality.
Senate-SCOTUS. Thoughts about McConnell's invocation of "The Biden Rule" to justify not considering a presidential nominee in the last year of his term, even one as apparently qualified as Judge Merrick Garland? Ron's outraged on several levels: "First there's no 'Biden Rule' and Democrats have indeed held hearings and votes on GOP presidential nominees in the last year of a term" -- like Anthony Kennedy in his father's last year. "I can't believe they're doing something so obviously stupid since they could have slow-walked the nomination and come up with some argument later" rather than simply refusing to do their job.
Since polls show a 2016 majority favoring at least hearings and a vote on Garland, might this Senate sit-down strike hurt their nominee's chance and those on the ballot? Stevens says that "I hate this issue," since, presumably, it's an abuse of responsibility and precedent, but adds that "it's unlikely to have much of an impact on races in 2016 because it's such a tumultuous year."
Host: "Elections have consequences" it's said -- hence Nixon, Reagan and Bush 43 appointed chief justices creating a conservative court for 47 years -- except, it appears, for the twice-elected Obama.
Also, the Host announces that he feels no resentment that Obama chose to fill his slot on the Court for "the fourth Jew and fifth from Harvard Law School", adding that he'd prefer to stay as moderator of Both Sides Now. "I assume that Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish member of the Court after raucous hearings exactly 100 years ago -- and a founder of the Harvard Law Review -- must be cheering somewhere over Garland."
Obama Doctrine. Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama's foreign affairs Boswell, has written a 20,000 word piece in the Atlantic on "Obama's Doctrine" based on hours of interviews. In it Obama explains why, A) He doesn't think the U.S. should risk getting sucked into another Middle Eastern war because of the Washington playbook that measures strength by military responses, B) Asia is of more long-term importance to the U.S., and C) ISIS is "not an existential threat but Climate change is." The article ends with, "George W. Bush...will be remembered harshly for the things he did in the Middle East. Barack Obama is gambling that he will be judged well for the things he didn't do."
Does Stuart see a sophisticated thinker who's getting it right or, as Mitt Romney asserted in 2012, a "feckless appeaser." "I think he's completely lost", says Stuart. "More Muslims will die on his watch than under Bush43 because of a Syrian genocide that he did nothing to stop. He's made it chic not to care." Ron vigorously disagrees - Obama learned that there are limits to our power from the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. "How did those wars out for us...or them? We can't solve every problem, certainly not with more boots on the ground in the Middle East."
Stevens isn't buying it. "Morally it's just wrong. We are the most powerful country on earth and should have acted. Obama reminds me of Lindberg in 1940." (Host: Wow: the "Spirit of St. Louis" was then a Nazi sympathizer who opposed FDR's coming war with Germany. In this debate of counter-factuals, there are two sides: the Wilsonian-Carter-Bush-43 school wants to make the world safe for morality and the reality school, to quote State Senator Obama on Iraq, not to "oppose all wars, only dumb ones.")