Since when did AP – a wire news service one would have thought – become the arbiter of the official delegate count? It seems the AP can confirm that Trump is already the nominee, having reached 1,238 delegates. One more than the magic 1,237 number, that no one mentions much anymore. That is, if you believe a few anonymous unpledged delegates who contacted AP or who AP contacted. And if they change their minds? Does AP retract?

Regardless, the fact that Trump may have reached the number without even having to gain a single delegate in California is impressive. If anyone was really listening anymore. He is the nominee. That’s been assumed for a couple of weeks now. This just confirms it.

Over at the House, however, the numbers are not adding up. As in the spending numbers in the appropriations bill that was sunk by both parties due to a LGBT rider. Democrats also complained of GOP riders involving various pushbacks on some conservation measures in the main part of the energy and water spending bill. Riders that were approved by Democrats who then gladly voted the whole thing down, so they can shout out how prejudiced their GOP colleagues are.

It wasn’t always this way in the House. Moreso in the Senate, yes. But it seems Paul Ryan now has to decide whether to return to a more “structured” way to bring a bill into law. Crush the riders, in other words. As rhetorical devices to fire up a particular subset of any representative’s base, they can be very effective. But the collateral damage can be significant. And the Washington-can’t-get-anything-done perspective is increasingly reinforced by the theatrics of appropriations bills being sunk by radical (or conservative) riders.

So does Ryan close down the access to the legislative process that a looser set of rules on amendments allows? The Freedom Caucus says no way. Spending bills going down to defeat as a consequence of riders is part of the law-making process, in their view. Having the House sweat some before they spend taxpayers’ money is not a bad thing. It’s almost a bonus for them.

Here’s a thought for Speaker Ryan: get Senator Schumer – who stated “The appropriations process is not the place to jam through ideological poison pill riders” a week ago – to phone Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and give him hell for jamming things up with his LGBT amendment. Schumer would do that, wouldn’t he? Oh, it’s in the House. Not the Senate. And it’s their guy. Sorry.

The Federalist is an online publication with pretty high standards, and it’s authors delve into topics from a conservative perspective with an impressive rigor, in general. So perhaps its in that spirit of rigor that David Harsanyi, senior editor at the Federalist, lays a chilling accusation at the we the people in whose name the Declaration of Independence was signed. He states in an already notorious WaPo opinion piece, in somewhat Orwellian fashion:

We can’t trust you.

Why? Because you might not pass a civics test. And you’re dumb. Why? Because you didn’t vote the way Harsanyi thinks you should. You voted for Trump. So please, he begs you, next time stay home. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this. Bush 43 voters took some heat from liberal commentators, along roughly the same lines.


I. If we the people are so pitifully uninformed, then Democracy is the problem. Because you place a litmus test, using a civics test for example, and the temptation immediately is: raise the golden bar! Only perfect scores can vote! And you end up with conservatives like Harsanyi advocating a government “of the wise” as Plato discussed – mainly its difficulty in practice. And that leads to government by the experts: the bureaucracy and the judiciary. Perfect! Who needs Congress? Just as Jim Gerargthy of the National Review lambasted the ignorance of many members of Congress, just today as well in his morning jolt email. They’re on to something it seems.

II. On the other hand, if you took a sample of Trump voters and found they tended to do surprisingly well on a civics test, then you’re in a bind. They understand the constitution. They want Trump. What do you do? According to the Harsanyi algorithm, if you agree with Trump, you don’t get to vote anymore because you’re dumb, even if you do well on a civics test. So return to I. And have a government run by experts: the bureaucracy (only those with postgrad degrees or J.D. diplomas on the office wall please!) and the courts.

The echoes from Andrew Jackson’s era in American history and politics are unmistakable. And the anger Jackson’s stripping of power from the east coast elites caused, was enough to give birth to a party, The Whigs. And interestingly enough, voter participation shot way up and stayed high for years to come, even after Jackson’s 2 terms in the White House. A phenomenon that Harsanyi would have stomped out by decree. Fortunately, the we the people have a constitution and a right to freedom of expression. No expression more important than the freedom to vote.

This is a story about two couples, who until recently might have been on the same side, so to speak, as to the GOP nomination. Matt Schlapp, after working with the Bush White House, was a lobbyist for Koch Industries until a couple of years ago. He’s now chairman of the American Conservative Union. His wife Mercedes Viana Schlapp is bilingual and known to viewers of Hannity and Univision, and has also worked in the Bush White House, where she dealt with the Spanish language media. Together they founded Cove Strategies, yet another beltway consultancy.

Deborash DeMoss Fonseca is spokeswoman for Conservatives Against Trump, one of the harder-line remaining NeverTrump organizations. Her husband is Rene Fonseca, a former colonel in the Honduran Armed Forces. Together they run what seems to be a very successful real estate franchise, selling and renting in – where else? – the beltway.

But they know Honduras well. Deborah was an aide to Senator Helms in the 80’s and was knee deep in the fight to keep Central America from becoming a string of communist countries in America’s backyard. And Rene Fonseca was a colonel in the Honduras Military. They married in the early 90’s and Rene had a run at the Presidency of Honduras back then. Now they sell real estate in the suburbs of DC. Needles to say, Deborah is also bilingual.

So that’s why she hates Trump. It’s as personal for her as it is for Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos. Never mind that Deborah is from America. She was almost Honduras’ First Lady. And with several kids from Rene Fonseca’s earlier marriage, her family is (almost) as Latino as they come. And as someone who led the very unpopular fight against left wing rebels, and as someone who supported the contras when it was so, like, uncool to do so, one senses she won’t be backing down from her fight with Trump.

The Schlapp’s, on the other hand, have gone over to the other side. Unlike his former bosses at Koch Industries. Matt Schlapp has decided that party unity is what’s needed to keep Hillary out of the White House. Maybe the recent shifts in polls also played a part in their decision. That’s for them to say. So the Fonsecas will fight the good fight till November and perhaps further. While the Schlapps have boarded the train.

And that’s a fundamental difference between these two couples. The Fonsecas seem to be bound up in past struggles that marked their lives. While the Schlapps are booking a ticket to the future, whether that offends some people’s conservative principles or not.

Apparently, Bernie Sanders would have a lot of new found clout in the Senate. If he’d just sit down, go away, and shut up. You can just imagine all those juicy committee assignments that would come his way, even if he is a muck-racking socialist. If he would just quit the primary already!

So Harry Reid told him, sotto voce, that he shoud stop being so ungrateful and start doing what’s he been told to do. By Democrats who support Hillary Clinton. And all Harry Reid got for his advice was an angry rant in California by Sanders.

And not only have his Democrat senate colleagues turned against him. So has the media – the progressive, left-wing media. As a result of the Nevada riot, anyone tired of Sanders annoying habit of winning primaries now has a perfect excuse to dump on the 74 year old who won’t give up. So Bernie’s name is dirt in places like Mother Jones and The Daily Kos.

Could Sanders have apologized more profusely for the chair throwing and booing in Las Vegas? Of course he could have. But the stubborn senator insisted that the Nevada Convention bent the rules to favor Hillary. And that his supporters had every right to be furious; if not to throw chairs. This was not nearly good enough for both the establishment or the media figures who had previously supported Sanders.

So what does Bernie do? The way his fellow Democrat Senators are framing the issue, it seems Sanders has two clear choices. Quit the primary and be co-opted by centrist Democrats. Or fight all the way to Philadelphia and then …

And then what? Take over the convention? Boo loudly along with his supporters when Hillary rises to make a unifying we’ll take-on-Trump-now-and-win kinda speech?

Could it be that Sanders either remains within the Democratic Party structure and abides by it’s rules and conventions – in every sense of that word; or becomes an independent again and proposes himself as a third party candidate? In other words, how does Sanders keep the Bern alive? How does he ensure that the movement he’s built almost single handedly remains a vital political force?

One suspects that every Democratic senator would love to kick Sander’s butt all the way back to Burlington. But they need Bernie’s youthful followers to try and ensure a Hillary win. So he gets carrots waved at him. And threats implied in cutesy language, for example, over how he’s being “silly.” Bernie Sander’s astonishing energy and determination have led him to an agonizing crossroads. Will he make a deal, or turn around and go home?

The Republican Party’s presumptive nominee’s butler is being investigated by the Secret Service. Try writing that as an opening line for your political thriller. See how many responses – any kind: negative, sarcastic, concerned – you get from editors.

Should people care? We have an old angry man who rants on Facebook. Yes, the stuff about President Obama is the sort of stuff that gets the Secret Service looking you up and checking you out. And the rest is apparently pretty vile. But it’s a small scandal – as much as some might play it up – compared to what Democrats and Mitt Romney are working on: Trump’s taxes. Now there’s meat for the bloodhounds, right?

The problem is, when you need a professor of economics (from The University of Michigan, where else?) in the NY Times to explain why it is supposedly disturbing that Trump not release his tax returns, and to do so in terms of game theory; you realize that the complexity of tax returns for the wealthy in America is a sacred and privileged cult.

Because if and when Trump does release his returns, despite the ongoing audit, who is going to have a clue what the columns and figures and legal/accounting language actually means? Only the anointed few: the tax consultants – lawyers, accountants: the experts in the massively complex web of regulations and loopholes that they navigate for those who can afford their services.

And it will be up to those experts to help a bright, bloodthirsty journalist explain the shocking secrets hidden within the numbers and between the jargon. And the journalist will interpret these slippery nuances in understandable and ironic terms that lend to a scandalous headline. What better way to disrobe the emperor and critically examine his financial endowments?

Or at least that’s what Romney, other NeverTrumpkins and the Democrats hope.

But whatever scandal does – or does not – emerge will almost certainly be the result of nuanced interpretations of complex laws and regulations regarding how to classify myriad forms of debt, equity, assets, and on and on. And meanwhile the rest of us stand on the outside and have to be satisfied with a headline and a good quote. Unless one feels like getting an MBA and a law degree specializing in tax and corporate law – just to see if they were right.

But actually having a clear, transparent, and simple tax code is unthinkable for the New Class – the meritocracy that thrives off the complexity; both financially and politically.

So the political optics of this issue will build over time, and the politically smart thing for Trump to do would be to release them unapologetically and be ready to weather any storms that result. In other words, get it over with now.

As Ben Carson gets reassigned from the Veep selection team to helping prepare for the Trump Ryan Summit on Thursday (or TRST), it seems the selection process for vice presidential running mate is proving a little trickier than Donald Trump had perhaps expected. Nikki Haley, Rick Scott, and Rob Portman all pleaded or pledged call of duty to their local electorates in South Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. The governors of South Carolina and Florida, and the senator from Ohio all said they love their current jobs and will be working hard to serve their constituents. And get re-elected.

And then there’s Marco. Who will not be a senator by late January next year. Unlike Ted Cruz.

Marco Rubio laid down a sort of a marker these past few days, pledging to help down-ticket Republicans keep their seats in November. And clearly stating he’s not interested in being Trump’s running mate. In other words, he’ll atone for his ambitious rush at the presidency by going into the trenches and helping his party hold onto a majority in the Senate. A tough proposition. And the House. A little easier, hopefully.

He’s doing it as an act of contrite humility and gratitude to the party that has made him a known political commodity across America. Right? Maybe. Maybe it’s also his way of building a base for 2020. He was often accused of being a no-show senator. So now he can free himself of the upper chamber and re-build his grass roots following. Right?

There may be a problem there. He will have no office to leverage into media coverage. He won’t be a candidate. He won’t have much money until he is. And there’s something more. In a fascinating piece in Atlantic, Molly Ball suggested that Trump has set off an earthquake underneath the civil war that’s been raging in the GOP for a few years now. Conservatives blame Establishment Republicans for Trump – all talk and no action and no promises delivered. And all that frustration leads to Trump.

While establishment Republicans blame conservatives – angry rhetoric aimed at the party’s institutions that inflames the base and allows demagoguery to flourish – first Ted Cruz calls his chamber’s leader a liar. Then Trump, who has notched the angry rhetoric up another level. But he’s basically paving the footpath that Ted Cruz blazed. Devoid of the conservative platform that motivated(s) the Texas Senator.

So here comes Trump who, Ball suggests, has unified parts of each side of the civil war in the GOP. As she writes:

He redrew the old battle lines, combining the passionate anger of the grassroots and the win-at-all-costs pragmatism of the elites … Trump smashed the old categories and asked a new set of questions …

In other words, Cruz on the one side, and Jeb and Marco on the other, no longer knew that the battle they were fighting had changed. And if Molly Ball is onto something, then the problem facing Marco Rubio is not deciding whether he’s conservative or establishment, but rather what side of the new civil war, Trump vs. the GOP-as-we-know-it, he’s on. And defending conservative principles – as he has been doing – is no longer enough.

Does Marco join the Trump Train and try to make a deal that saves something of the convervative platform? And possibly his electoral chances in 2020, although that’s dangerous to predict? Or does he try to fight Trump’s corporate takeover of a divided GOP? And from what platform? The Libertarian Party? Nope. Host his own show on Talk Radio? The money could be good, if he’s any good at radio. Blog?

Rubio has clearly chosen to oppose the Trump Train. But he risks being left behind, handing out pamphlets to late arrivals at the station.

So. Facebook’s trending news – curated by news curators who it now seems have more in common with MoMA curators than one would have thought – is edited and managed according to a de facto editorial content policy. This is such a surprise of course. Who would have thought something like this would come from a company run by Mark Zuckerberg? Who loves to gland handle with Latina strong-women (this sounds a little salacious but merely means sucking up to Brazil’s and Argentina’s left-wing leaders a while back in Panama) and has as a mission denying Trump the presidency. The latter goal shared by many a self-respecting conservative with a zip code somewhere in suburban Virginia, or Maryland.

For those buried in Facebook, trending news must matter at least a little. But is it as effective as editorial content in its more traditional forms – from news to blogging? What is Facebook news curation? Where does it fit in the definition of political and cultural news within an evolving online media? One clue may be that Facebook curators – if the recent insider story that is circulating is verifiable and credible – get yelled at when they don’t keep up with Twitter.

In other words, Facebook recycles – if selectively – while Twitter provokes, breaks, debates and insults. While many may lament the nastiness that any given tweet can provoke, Twitter definitely allows more breathing room for First Amendment rights, compared with Facebook’s politically correct editing of the news. Their new show, Rise and Shine, will have content provided by: NYT, Vox, and Buzzfeed. That really says it all.

But it’s merely trending news! Drop the outdated, politically correct accusation now you dinosaur or we’ll silence you! You will be so not-trending pal!

The thing is, Facebook makes way more money – profits not just revenues, to be specific – than Twitter could ever dream of. Is it merely Twitter’s bad management of its user base and its data – a gold mine or a pile of fool’s gold depending on which analyst you read? Or is free speech not as good at raking in the ad dollars, compared to a happy, virtual, global village that will run you out on a rail if you say the wrong thing?

Ok, maybe that’s not quite fair to Facebook. You can post quite a lot, but not quite as much as Twitter. Twitter is instant and a news outlet – without the fact-checking of course. But more than anything, Twitter is having a hard time monetizing it’s monthly active users. Not like Facebook. Is the first amendment profitable? Not necessarily, because it is only a part – a vital part of course – of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Free speech is not meant to make you money or make you happy. But without free speech, it’s a lot harder to achieve either.

In other words, when they went public a few years ago, the optimal strategy would have been to invest in FB. And then tweet annoyingly to your followers about how much money Zuckerberg was making you.

How in God’s name do you pronounce Mnuchin? As in Steve Mnuchin, Goldman Sachs veteran, and founder of his own hedge fund: Dune Capital Management. New York; high finance; wealthy donor to Democrats in past years. This is the man to help Donald take on the costs of the general election. Not the man to take on special interests.

Steve, meet Elizabeth Warren. You know, the very progressive Democrat Senator who Democrat female voters and Wall Street protestors would have loved to run against Hillary. Some – many in fact – are now fine with Bernie Sanders. Some still pine for a Warren candidacy. But the thing is, Elizabeth Warren is also apparently a fundraising force to be reckoned with for her Democrat colleagues in Congress.

So you have Politico magazine breathlessly anticipating a Senate smackdown for Dems in November, as Warren emerges, not as majority leader in the next Congress, but certainly as a key power broker in the upper chamber. And of course, Trump is to blame.

All Warren has to do is send out a fundraising email to – supposedly – net healthy five-figure amounts for her colleagues. So Liz has a list that makes mouths water – and unlike Bernie’s even bigger email list – she generously uses it to help her team, if you will.

And Liz has a PAC – PAC For a Level Playing Field – which helps with her costs, and in their version of an ideal world would add several encyclopedia sets worth of financial regulations. To keep the field level. Like a cluster bomb does. Or like a flat line on your bedside monitor.

Does Mnuchin personally know Warren? He must know of her, and must know that if his goals as finance chief for Trump’s campaign are not just about the White House, but also preserving GOP gains in Congress, then he will need to ensure that Republican congressional candidates get support as well. As in money. Assuming they want that support.

Right now, that seems impossible in many cases, as many of the congressional candidates want a distance from Trump as they decide how to survive the November election. But they need each other. At some point Mnuchin will have to take on the Warren congressional money spigot. If Congress matters to his boss. Hopefully, it does. Steve, meet (with) Paul Ryan.

In Salem a poet was born. Not the Salem of witch hunt fame in Massachusetts. But rather Salem, Indiana. His name was John Milton Hay. A good name for the fountainhead of all beltway policy wonks. He moved with his family to Illinois and read law literally next to Abe Lincoln’s offices. From advising Lincoln’s successful campaign, to sitting at the assassinated president’s bedside, the bright ambitious young man then moved through the world of private practice and diplomatic and other government postings. As well as writing a definitive biography of the great man.

By the time he passed early in the 20th century, he had advised various presidents, especially McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, and had shepherded treaties with the U.K. and Panama, and others, as Secretary of State. Yeah, he was a lawyer. What else could he be? Although today he would surely have acquired multiple degrees in law, economics, and business. And he was a poet. This is starting to get insufferable.

So. There is now a John Hays Initiative (they wisely took out the puritan poet to avoid confusion no doubt). It is a gleaming banner under which policy wonks, especially foreign policy experts, have congregated with a firm gaze to the future. Despite, or because of, Caligula/Trump’s storming of the Roman Republic. And many of the members of the John Hays Initiative are still firmly NeverTrumpers.

Will they resist the siege of their erudite Alamo by Gotham City’s dark forces? Will any of these foreign policy experts – the ones who so successfully advised Romney’s campaign – decide that Trump represents something more than a brief angry revolt that will have fizzled by November? Will any of them bring their expertise over to The Donald’s camp? And does Trump want them?

Think of it this way. If Trump is going to successfully attack Hillary during what will be a nasty, nasty campaign, he will need to home in on things like Benghazi and do so from a detailed, informed perspective. The disasters in Iraq and Syria and Clinton’s role as Secretary of State will have to be mercilessly hammered on. And he will also have to fend off Hillary’s counter attacks, which will come fast and furious. The Putin-Trump bromance will have to be swatted away time and time again. Trump will need some wonks on his side. Right?

Because if Trump feels he can take on Hillary on foreign policy without having his own contradictions exposed and without having some capable experienced advice, he is likely mistaken. He can’t refdefine America’s foreign policy on the basis of his shrewd but untutored gut instincts. Can he? No, he can’t. Not in a general election. So all you John Hayers. Some of you may at some point want to help. Maybe. But leave the poetry out of it, please. And if you need convincing from the man himself, consider what Hay wrote in 1884:

I have never been able to appreciate the logic that induces some excellent people every four years because they cannot nominate the candidate they prefer to vote for the party they don’t prefer.

Tim Carney in the Washington Examiner has just slapped a No Labels sticker on Trump’s triumphant forehead. The No Labels group is all about bipartisan pragmatism apparently, and according to Carney, Trump fits perfectly because of his non-existent ideology. Donald Trump’s got a touch of the f-word, if you believe Carney. But he’s not ideological. He’s the emblem of European right-wing, nationalist, white-identity politics, according to others. But he’s not ideological. He’s an extreme xenophobic populist. But he’s not ideological.

So which is it, in the view of Trump’s many critics?

Will Trump – if elected – prove to be a pragmatic centrist underneath the insults? An increasing number of Republicans are drifting towards this position. And hoping they can perhaps help shift the Trump Train towards pragmatic centrism.

The problem is, a train is hard to shift. Unlike a campaign bus which just needs an ample parking lot outside a mall somewhere near your home town. And a plane needs an airport, hopefully one with runways, and a nice big hangar at the edge of the tarmac. Trump is Trump’s guide in other words. And while he apparently does listen carefully – how in the world could he have pulled off such a stunning upset without being a very shrewd observer? – he is the point guard, the quarterback, and the coach.

It’s not the No Label. It’s the Donald Private Label. And no one can really predict what this unique brand will come up with on any given day. But what it does involve is undermining the current conservative conventional wisdom. Over and over again. And it has worked. Boy, has it worked.

So when Carney complains that Trump does not recognize the inherent difficulties of today’s divisive ideological landscape, it sounds a little like a fussy philosophy professor complaining that a student actually wants a little clarity when thinking about post-modern society’s problems. What a naive little fool!

Trump has pushed back against the cosmopolitan consensus on immigration, trade, and national security. A consensus which he has been very much a part of – as a successful New York developer and businessman at large. But his break with that consensus came at just the right time. What kind of alternative consensus he forms is very hard to tell at this point. But some kind of alternative consensus will be needed at some point soon. Even as he turns his Twitter-Bazooka on Hillary Clinton.