With sweetness Donald. With sweetness. According to some GOP women like Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Trump needs to pick a female vice president, as a tactical move to shore up his unimpressive – to say the least – numbers among women voters in America.

And that leads to a name like Condoleezza Rice, who has been back in the academic world from whence she emerged decades ago, as a very bright scholar of communist Eastern Europe. But that means Trump would have one of so-called transformational diplomacy’s main cheerleaders as his running mate. Also known as getting into bed with a nation-builder.

The classical pianist of some skill was one of those who thought that by spreading democracy and it’s countless benefits to the Middle East, you could fundamentally change the region. The evidence up till now clearly suggests that Rice and her fellow neo-cons were wrong on this.

If Trump was a musician he would definitely be a trombone player: all noisy and brassy. Rather different than the crisp keyboard noodling required by Chopin’s piano concertos, for example. So pairing Trump and Rice would be a little like putting a pianist in the middle of a Crimson Tide marching band half-time show. You just might not catch all those subtle notes wafting from the keyboard.

Rice seemed to be a fairly steely presence who spoke softly but was never viewed as anything less than tough. A very different persona from Trump. Would she even consider teaming up with The Donald? That seems most unlikely, especially for someone who was in the thick of the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the Iraq War as a junior government official, and then as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State during the Iraq War years. She has been in the hot seat, and even if she could see common ground with Trump – which is unlikely – would she really want to leave the comfortable corridors of academic life?

And would that loud, brash trombone player ever be willing to take his tempo from the pianist quietly glaring at him from stage right?

If you think you’re conservative, and more importantly, if you think you’re really, really smart you just might write for Commentary Magazine, whose intellectual post WW II journey reads from left to right. That means a lot of fussy intellectual debating on great matters in religion and politics, as well as culture. At least that’s what we are told – those of us who only dip into it’s articles every once in a while. We can only imagine the grand tectonic shifts that it’s offices must have witnessed.

So when Commentary’s Noah Rothman goes squiggly, nerdy, and negative – in a thoughtful way that is, however, continually undercut by his hostility towards the Donald – on Trump’s foreign policy speech in Washington, it can be a little bit much. Yes, he points out contradictions in Trump’s rough sketches. And sure, they’re pretty rough sketches. And Rothman’s warnings on Putin’s Russia are well-taken.

But on Trump’s attack on the Iraq War, Rothman returns to the false analogy of Germany and Japan, whose post War II reconstructions began precisely when Commentary was founded in 1946. The problem is Rothman and all those who believed that Iraq and by extension it’s neighbors could be turned into stable democracies were dead wrong when they pointed to Germany and Japan as the way forward in the Middle East.

Germany was at the heart of Western European culture for – arguably – a couple of centuries before Hitler’s crazed ideology hijacked the nation. A hijacking in which a clear majority of Germans gladly and willingly took part. But as soon as Germany signed the terms of surrender, the process of rebuilding began. By the Germans themselves more than anyone. As much as it never should and never will be forgotten that Nazi Germany was the work of a majority of Germans and not merely a fanatical, crazed few; it must be said that Germany has atoned for it’s horrifying sins like few modern nations have. Similar arguments can be made with regards Japan.

None of this holds true in the Middle East. Germany and Japan were, and clearly are even more so today, centers of innovation and creativity on multiple levels. Iraq was cobbled together after WW I by an Englishwoman named Gertrude Bell who literally sketched out the shape of the country for the United Kingdom. Not the same. A tribal coalition that was later held together by Saddam Hussein’s brutality is not an industrial society with large bodies of knowledge and creativity that can be put to work building a nation. And one prone to civil wars along tribal lines absent such brutal authority.

Maybe in several decades and with thousands and thousands more American lives sacrificed, as well as resources spent, Iraq could arrive at some sort of stable democracy. Maybe. Should this be America’s obligation?

Noah Rothman and those who inspired him – like Bill Kristol – stubbornly continue to proclaim the possibility of nation building in the Middle East. It would be instructive to know how Israel’s leaders truly feel about the results of nation building in their hate-filled neighborhood in which they have had to defend their homeland. Whether the neo-con movement will ever admit it’s fatal analogy is another matter.

Are you getting tired? If you’re a NeverTrump supporter, Nate Sliver of fivethirthyeight.com fame, thinks so. In a very telling graphic, he shows how voter turnout as percentage of the eligible population has been steadily falling since the New Hampshire primary. If he’s right, and the falling turnout is due to anti-Trump Republicans becoming discouraged, then the psychology shifts for the crucial Indiana primary next Tuesday.

It’s no longer Donald’s desperate last attempt to avoid a contested convention. It’s now Cruz, Kasich, and the rest of the GOP opposition forces’ (we can call them opposition at this point although it’s still a bit of a stretch) desperate last attempt to ensure a contested convention does indeed happen in Cleveland. Ted and The Pastor and the rest of his incredibly well-organized campaign team are doing what they can to fight the good fight in the Hoosier State.

Will Indiana turn out for Ted? Or are enough NeverTrump voters tired of what has been a long, bruising battle that shows no signs of the much-needed party unity? And how can you predict what Kasich’s supporters will do on May 3? To say nothing of GOP voters who dislike Trump even more than they do Cruz.

But what if voters themselves are hedging their bets? And, more importantly, are delegates also hedging? Think of it as buying futures options by voting in favor of Trump in the primary, but siding with Cruz in the shadow election for delegate loyalty. Do voters sense that there is a need for unity at some point if the GOP is to take on Hillary, and have a chance at the real magic number: 270 electoral votes?

And if enough GOP voters are feeling that way, then the kerfuffle between Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort is not just understandable, but maybe not that terrible a thing.

Politico – and the staff at any number of conservative sites – can grin with malicious pleasure at the power struggle between Donald’s top two advisors. And see it as Trump being unable to grasp the nettle needed to both win the nomination, and then win the general election by being presidential.

But what if Trump is playing the two of them against each other? What if Trump IS the point guard. And neither of them are? And hopefully, the two of them are now aware of it, and understand why Trump is the one passing the ball around. Lewandowski has been largely responsible for helping Trump get to where he is. And Manafort brings – maybe – some veteran tactical experience to ensure Trump can convince delegates and voters in states like Indiana. Manafort has had a bit of a rough few days – with leaky RNC members recording and handing out his attempted deal-making to a ravenous press – but he might be able to do just enough in the ground game in Indiana to help win the state for Trump. As in keeping Governor Pence neutral, for example.

Do Lewandowski and Manafort begin each meeting hugging each other? Not likely. But can they work together to help bring Trump to the delegate total he needs? And make the right move when Trump zings them a pass? Indiana will be the test of how useful their combative relationship is. Because Indiana likes a winning team on the court. No, they demand a winning team on the court.

I guess I should have known, by the way you parked your car – sideways – that it wouldn’t last. Why not compare Indiana to Minnesota? Why not call Indiana a parking lot? No one has a real understanding of how this now-suddenly-more-crucial-than-ever primary will actually play out on May 3.

So if Indiana is a parking lot – will the Trump limousine finally get it’s tires slashed and it’s brake fluid drained? Indiana seems to be whatever you want it to be. It’s Wisconsin – it’s neighbor two states over and one state up. It’s Ohio, and Kasich will do great! It’s Kentucky in it’s true deep heart and Trump will prevail. It’s Michigan really. Good for Trump as well.

Maybe above all, Indiana is smart. No automated polling please; you have to have real people talking to real people. Three folks with a server and an algorithm in suburban D.C. don’t like that. So we have no polling. We have rural and urban but in a mix that seems hard to compare to other states. Or easy to compare to any state you like.

What do local Indiana Republicans want? They seem divided between tactical voting for Cruz – and sometimes Kasich – and letting the thing play out. And conservative talk radio in the state is not a well-aligned, laser-focused, death-to-Trump machine. The way it was in Wisconsin. As well, evangelicals may not be as prevalent in their influence as they were in Iowa.

In other words, the comparisons seem to collapse into negatives: what Indiana isn’t. Rather than what it is. For example, Governor Mike Pence has not endorsed anyone. Yet. So maybe Indiana Republicans want to be persuaded. They see the civil war going on in their party. But they aren’t convinced by either side. And predicting how they will vote on May 3 in the state’s GOP primary is next to impossible.

So go ahead and park your limousine – or your jet – sideways in Indiana if you want Mr. Trump. The state will take its time to see if you last, or not. You have a chance to persuade. And you – and Cruz and Kasich – seem to be grabbing that chance with both hands. I’d say Indiana loves it.

Trump may have taken New York in the primary, but Kasich hit him where it hurts. Kasich won Manhattan, which makes it the 7th county he’s won overall. It’s uncanny how loudly Trump boasted about the support from the people closest to him, yet the people LITERALLY closest to him chose Kasich.

With the results from New York, it’s looking harder and harder for Trump to obtain the necessary delegates to clench the primary, which consequently brings a lot of heat the the convention in July for the nomination.

Although, Trump continues to defeat Cruz and Kasich by a landslide, it will all boil down to the convention.

Sometime in the first years of the 20th century, the term grassroots began to appear in political discourse. Especially as it related to Teddy Roosevelt’s heyday, including his notorious Bull Moose (Progressive) Party that resulted from a split with the Republican Party. This was in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt was outmaneuvered for the GOP nomination by Taft, despite winning far more votes in the primaries.

Sound a touch familiar? The problem in 2016, however, is that nothing can be taken for granted. Especially the grassroots. Because if grassroots means anything it means local. But local is not necessarily free from party machinery influence. In fact, when it comes to party rules, the grassroots goes to the better organized campaign. As in Ted Cruz and his impressive local outreach to delegates. From Wyoming to Jewish-heavy districts in NYC. Totally impressive, without a doubt.

The problem is you can’t have it both ways. You can’t proudly point to grassroots and then snidely say that it’s in the rules and you should have read page 14 section 1.a paragraph 6. Ha ha. Ha ha.

Actually you can. And they are. So is it astro-turfing? Or grassroots local organizing that’s killing Trump at the committed delegate level. In other words, after the first round, should the almost-inevitable contested convention become a reality.

It’s not a mushy cop out to say it’s both; because it is. Yes there’s a top-heavy mission (get Ted the nomination by stopping Trump) but the mechanics can only work if you talk to people at the local level. And …. if …. you …. listen …. to people at the local level. Trump clearly picked the right year to run. That means he actually did listen to voter anger over the last few years, and crafted a platform that responds to that anger. But Ted Cruz’s team seems to have their ears a little closer to the ground.

So it’s in this election cycle that top-down meets bottom-up like never before. And it all collides in the person of the individual delegate. They are indeed in a squeeze, and some have admitted feeling it like never before perhaps. While they might relish the power, they have had more light and heat thrown their way than they could ever have expected.

Understandably, the latest clash in the GOP is once again in the RNC rules committee. The chairman of the RNC rules committee, Bruce Ash, is publicly scolding Reince Priebus over Priebus’ request to cancel a rules committee meeting due shortly. As well as pressuring Ash and Oregon RNC member Solomon Yue to retire Yue’s proposed rule change that would require a majority of delegates to re-open the convention.

Currently to bring in a fresh face – in Rove’s term – the convention chairman – Paul Ryan – can open the convention up. That’s pretty astroturf. Just ask Ron Paul’s followers. Why not let a majority of delegates decide whether to open up the convention? Let a thousand (plus) blades of grass rise up through all the fertilizer! And the astroturf.

An unmarried, retired, four-star Marine General is in the sights of some deep-pocketed conservatives who need a leader for their third option – if and when Trump becomes the GOP nominee.

Usually, those with the driving, ruthless ambition necessary to try and aim for high office can’t even be hooked off the political stage. Even long after their time is up. Like Kasich, tap dancing his way around an ever increasing number of grappling hooks trying desperately to get him off the stage.

But in the case of those who are being cajoled into running either for the 2016 GOP nominee, or as a third party contender for the office of president, the grappling hooks are trying to get them ONTO the stage. Not off the stage. Look at poor Paul Ryan, who for very sound political reasons is in no way interested in truncating his very promising political career on a suicide mission for zealous establishment purists (it’s not a contradiction – it’s a paradox!). Who like to push others through the velvet curtains and into the limelight and have them risk their careers, in order to show that the guys hiding behind the curtains really, really mean business.

So we have Mad Dog Mattis – that’s General James Mattis to us civilians – who has had a brilliant military career and proved his worth in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, when if really counted. Like in Fallujah. And his blunt, colorful language apparently delighted the men and women under his command.

So he’s Patton. Not Eisenhower. But politically, who is he? That’s what most voters will say at this point. And the retired general himself has stated he wishes to remain “silent” on the issue of whether he’d even consider actually agreeing to run. That leaves supporters like John Noonan – former security advisor to Jeb Bush – with a lot of work to do to promote their guy.

This is getting ridiculous. The folks who advised Jeb Bush’s campaign are now going after a little-known (outside military circles where he seems to be greatly respected) general? Of course he’s going to remain silent. He’s been in battle. And he knows when the fire is either unfriendly or risks doing collateral damage. He won’t come out of his bunker unless he feels he has a battle plan that works. And the idea that a tough talking military officer will suddenly sweep away Trump supporters with his rough-hewed rhetoric sounds like a really bad script that never makes it past the concept stage. Are they serious?? Do they have that little faith in Ted Cruz? Or that much hostility towards the Texas Senator?

As Paul Manafort gets ready to file challenges to delegate credentials, between the insults he’s already hurled in order to somehow rescue Trump’s abysmal ground game for gathering in loyal delegates, we have a little heartening news for Manafort’s boss. RNC Rules Committee member Randy Evans has suggested that 1,237 is not, in fact, the magic number.

Nope. The target was always a moving one apparently. It is now 1,100 delegates that Trump will need in order to win in what presumably would be the first round at the GOP convention in Cleveland. And 1,000 is the number below which Trump dare not fall, as that would mean a convention of multiple rounds in Cleveland. Where anything could happen.

That must be a relief for Manafort, right? Assuming that the RNC’s Evans is in fact right and not just throwing out an opinion. But with the GOP convention rules up for grabs a week or two before Cleveland, Evans knows that these rules are continually being changed in order to favor or deny certain individuals or factions. Will his prediction still hold water after the final pre-convention rules meeting?

It would mean Trump needs 137 delegates less than most thought to be the case. That’s Indiana, Nebraska, and Washington State put together. If indeed Randy Evans is speaking for the RNC and it’s hallowed Rules Committee. Rather than just speaking for himself.

What does not change however, is the fact that after the first round, Trump would likely be in trouble. That means he should still view 1,237 as the target and settle for 1,100 if he has to. Because unless Manafort can turn things around in a hurry, it is more than likely that Trump will not reach the not-so-magic-anymore number of 1,237. And that in turn means that Manafort had better be reaching out to delegates at the local precinct and county level rather than just being dictatorially aggressive in his tactical outbursts. So that he ensures that 1,100 is credible. In the eyes of the only people – like it or not – who count (in every sense of the word): the delegates themselves.

If you’re an undocumented worker – or, as some misinformed people might say, an illegal alien – it doesn’t matter if you broke a few laws sneaking into the country. As long as you pay taxes to the IRS. Whether your taxpayer ID matches up with your stolen Social Security Number is a detail that the IRS will sort through. And overlook. You’re paying taxes, and that’s all that matters.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has seen the light. More than 11 million points of light in fact. All of which – if only conservatives/moderates/independents/whoever believe the laws of their country should be upheld by their elected government would just shut up – are potential taxpayers, contributing to IRS coffers. And that’s a good thing of course.

So your SSN is stolen. How can we help? Seeing you’re on the right path. It’s not at all a case of “the normal identity theft situation” in Kosiken’s words. Your SSN just happens to be stolen. And as long as you don’t drain dozens of bank accounts with your fake ID, then it’s not a real theft.

This is wonderful. What we have here are the nuts and bolts (or at least the former) of how identity is constructed in our post-modern selfie-stick narcissim-bound society. I am not an illegal. You’re ignorant and racist for calling me that. I am undocumented. And this is how I’m going about undoing my undocumented status.

I’m documenting myself! And the IRS is on my side!

The nuances are exquisite. Theft is not theft until viewed through the prism of identity. Or more accurately, the construction of identity. Not that an illegal who uses a stolen SSN to get a job and then files taxes with a taxpayer ID that does not match up, only wants to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. More likely, they want a job. And a car. And a home. In the country they broke into. But they are not thieves. They are constructing an identity based on illegal entry and stolen documentation. But they are not thieves.

And now they may a clearing house, if you will, for their activities. Hillary Clinton has proposed a national Office of Immigrant Affairs. Where you can get help with your SSN, for example. And it’s clear who should head up the office: Jorge Ramos and John Koskinen. Who else? Informed, passionate. And whose motto is: no human being is an illegal. And an SSN is just a number – even if it happens to be stolen. And a border is just a line in the sand. That you cross as easily as it takes to pay a coyote, steal an SSN, and construct a new identity.

What a relief. Trump is not Mussolini. He’s Berlusconi. A billionaire who speaks to people’s “stomachs” not minds, in the words of an Italian political academic, quoted by Politico. The article then goes on to list how Berlusconi’s government broke most of their promises and became mired in corruption.

So watch out America. Trump is taking you for a ride … on a cruise ship. Where he will sing you lovely little lies. And this is where this analogy gets a little silly. Berlusconi’s Italy was, is, and most likely shall be, a member of the EU. A large micro-managing bureaucracy located north of Rome. Way north. Compared to France and Greece, for example, the Italian economy has not done all that badly. And comparing Trump’s possible effect on America to Berlusconi’s on Italy is to denigrate the Constitution. You don’t have to guess which one.

And if – in the words of a Rome daily – Trump will be “a parasite that destroys the political establishment” that might not be seen as such an overwhelmingly bad thing by many of today’s voters. So European academics are warning of the dangers of Trump. In a continent that can’t even defend itself without America’s military and aid. It’s an amusing analogy and one that might have a few relevant points.

But America’s balance of powers will negate much of the dangers that EU wonks are sounding the warning over. Especially their warnings on Berlusconi’s corruption scandals. Corruption scandals because The Donald is in the White House? Please, bring Hillary and the general election on.

But maybe Politico and their Italian academics are right. Maybe there is a Vast Roman Conspiracy to place Augustus Trumpus on the throne of the decaying Republic in the eternal city of Georgetown. Rudy Giuliani has just announced that he’s voting for Trump. Coincidence? I think not. And look at Trump’s links to the Genovese and Gambino families through S&A Concrete. Never mind that if you wanted to put up a building in NYC in those days, and it had concrete in it’s foundations, you had to deal with them. It’s all part of the Vast Roman Conspiracy. Just ask any left-wing Roman academic. They know.

Why is Ted Cruz’s team playing public footsie with one, two, three, seven? There’s no way the Texas Senator can get to the world’s most overhyped number. Can he? Cruz spokesperson Jason Miller said the team feels good about winning before or after the convention. This was after reporters hounded him for clarification, which he did by merely repeating what he had said before: we can win before or after(during one assumes) the convention.

Who is this nuance in Cruz’s post-mortem aimed at? At his supporters, in order to get every last single delegate on board? Whether in the primary votes, or more importantly, when delegates are actually selected. But is there another target? Like, say, Karl Rove?

Is Ted Cruz and his team saying: if not The Donald then it’s gotta be me? Because my delegate count will be as close to Trump as I can get it. As in: there’s no way you are going to glad-handle, and bundle and trundle, a non-Trump or non-Cruz candidate like Paul Ryan onto MY stage! We will have our delegate trampoline stretched so tight that I will bounce head and heels over any one else. If not in the first round, then in the second round for sure. So stay away and forget about sticking a fresh face in.

Ted Cruz and Karl Rove know each other fairly well. And have had a fight (or two) that could have been settled discretely but was instead aired in public. Mostly because of Ted Cruz’s political ambitions and his then recently published book. So Karl Rove does not like Ted at all, and Ted knows this perfectly. Hence the enthusiastic boosterism of his team after Wisconsin’s solid win.

This raises the question of whether the fresh-face-thingy is a vendetta between two politicos from Texas (ok Rove was not born in Texas … oh that’s right, nor was Cruz); or whether there is a substantial portion of the remaining GOP establishment that do not want Cruz as their nominee for president. More and more of GOP standard-bearers seem to be drifting into Ted’s camp, so it appears to be the former. But Ted – like Donald – is fighting a nomination battle on several fronts. And that includes those in his party who dislike him. And, oh yes, he’s also got to worry about a very stubborn John Kasich.

Yes indeed, we are running a little hot tonight. In places like Iceland, where angry protesters are demanding their off-shore-account-holding prime minister resign. And it’s Panama’s fault. And while Putin is not directly named in the so-called Panama Papers – caused by an insider leak so enormous it required dozens of news organizations banding together to a grind through the millions of emails, files, and PDF documents; his radioactive fingerprints are all over the billions of wealth accumulated by his close associates, friends and family.

So Breitbart and the New York Magazine having revealed that Trump might just know a lot of nasty secrets regarding Fox New’s Roger Ailes, has got lost a little in the news cycle. Of course, the Trump-on-Ailes story is speculative, based on comments from insiders and revolves around a lawsuit by a disgruntled former employee of Ailes. The Panama Papers, on the other hand, involves so much hard data that Hillary would need a private server farm to store it.

But does Trump – through his apparent mediation of the lawsuit – know far more about Ailes than Ailes would ever be comfortable with? And does this help in part to explain Trump’s treatment by the media?

Right now, there is no way to know. And given where the nomination process is, Trump may feel whatever secrets he does know are best kept secret. You might say, it’s very presidential of him to keep those cards tucked away in his bullet-proof vest. Never to be slapped down on the table. But with the knowledge on the part of powerful media players that he does indeed have them, offering him silent leverage.

That’s the thing. When you’re a world-famous reality-star/marketing-mogul/ruthless real estate developer, you don’t even care too much about your own secrets, because you have few left. At least compared to more discrete personalities who move behind the cameras rather than swagger in front of them. Or at least, that’s the impression you like to give. I’m tough and people know me. And they love me. So there.

In places like Putin’s Russia, and in some Latin American countries whose leaders figure in the Papers, part of the money – a relatively small but vital part – has apparently gone towards buying media complicity. There is no scandal – for example – in Russia as a result of the leak. And in Argentina, it’s just one more piece of damning evidence in a long-running corruption scandal.

So if the Ailes story is even half-true, then Trump has bought some breathing space on the media stage for a few million rumored to have been used to settle the lawsuit with Aile’s ex-employee. Whether this is a deeply troubling story or not is unclear. That’s because the mainstream media in general is far more subtle about how it responds to the various levers of power – not only financial ones. But respond they do, and levers do get pulled. Often. Trump – once again – is guilty of blunt crassness more than anything else. And he himself does not seem to have had a direct hand in breaking the story.

Yes Cruz is rolling out all the women in his life – ok, that didn’t sound quite right. Yes, Cruz as a loving husband, and overachieving loving son, and as a funnier and more human guy than his firebrand image suggests, are all helping The Ted (can we say that?) in Wisconsin. But as Byron York points out, Wisconsin is not an angry state. At least according to some recent polling. Could this be key as well?

How can Wisconsin not be angry? In 2016?! Is this Scott Walker’s fault? There must be some really angry public union officials, right? And some spitting mad school teachers. But in general, Wisconsinites are positive on their future in America. That is, they are not overwhelmingly angry and pessimistic about their lives. Unlike some other areas of the country.

According to Forbes, the State of Wisconsin ranks merely in the middle of the pack in terms of business costs, labor, regulatory environment, and economic climate. Quality of life is higher, but Wisconsin has a cost of doing business slightly above the national average. So it’s not exactly boom town.

As the GOP moves closer by the day to a full-blown fracture, Wisconsin seems to have escaped much of the fury associated with a party in revolt. But if Scott Walker has done a good job in his own state, as a national candidate he was simply not up to the unenviable task of the 2015-16 nomination race. So perhaps the Badger State is an exception, but a useful one, for those who wish to derail the Trump train. And one that is appearing on the primary schedule at just the right time. That is, as Trump is finally stumbling a little. Or more than a little.

Scott Walker had the good sense to get out of the race quickly. Will his state’s apparent good sense rub off on the GOP nomination process? Just a little please?