It has been a whirlwind for the GOP in last 24 hours. It’s down to three candidates after presidential hopeful, Marco Rubio, has dropped out of the race following a loss to Donald Trump on his home turf in Florida. But with Trump’s business/resort presence in Florida was it really Rubio’s turf?

Leaving the GOP down to Trump, Cruz, and Kasich, while Kasich came up with a big win in his home state, Ohio yesterday. Following the Tuesday primaries, Donald Trump announced he will not attend the next debate on FOX due to a previous commitment. However, is reaction to Trump’s debate withdrawal, the Governor, John Kasich, said he won’t attend if Trump doesn’t. Anyone starting to see a VP alliance here?

That would leave Cruz to debate with himself.

With Kasich’s votes so low it has some wondering why he’s still in the race, but why would he withdraw knowing he has a good chance at winning Ohio? Preventing one of the other candidates from winning those delegates. Seems a little like teamwork shaping up with a Trump/Kasich general election card.

Sorry John Lewis. There is no one love or one unified people in America. Bob Marley could not even gain a substantial African American audience for his songs; like One Love. And culturally, America is deeply divided. So instead of using utopian pieties that are blown away by the winds of angry change like wispy dandelion puffs, let us acknowledge the deep differences that divide America. And then try to decide what to reasonably do about them.

Donald Trump is receiving no mercy from anyone. Kasich and Rubio are about to drop their I-will-follow pledge, and Ted Cruz has hammered Trump’s approach. The GOP establishment – Congressmen and women, party donors, conservative intellectuals – have lambasted his rhetoric. And Hillary – and Bernie but not as loudly as of yet – has turned her politically correct artillery towards the Trump campaign.

And then there’s the hard-left activists. Yes, they were a diverse group of protesters in Chicago – aging activists; scarved islamic women; angry young black men; feisty Latino protesters/activists; pale faced haters of the First Amendment who want silence from the silent majority; black-clad anarchists; flag-waving communists; student wanna-be Bill Ayers; and others. But what they have in common is an assault on the Trump campaign’s first amendment rights.

Did Trump deserve it? That can only be decided by one question: is his message hate speech? Because that’s the only valid reason for shutting down his first amendment rights. And you do it through the courts.

Compare the text of Trump’s most controversial comments: on women – silly but nasty; on Islam – generalizing where he should not have, but indicative of the very real Judeo-Christian vs. Islamic confrontations around the world; on immigrants – angry and sometimes discriminatory; the initial reluctance to repeat what he had said about David Duke – for tactical reasons that do not excuse the slowness. Do they rise to the level of hate speech?

They don’t have to. You see – as was discovered by the US Military when a diversity instructor told soldiers that merely being a white male makes you prejudiced and even racist – it’s what you can imply from Trump’s comments that counts. You are guilty until proven innocent. And you must tread softly and carry a big I’m-so-sorry-and-humble grin on your face. Or you will be charged, tried, and condemned. Do not speak out. Do not assume anything. You will be reprogrammed by academia and the media. Especially if you say what’s on the minds of many in his own party who are now attacking Trump. Like the Black Lives Matter activist told Fox’s John Roberts, white people have to sacrifice something. Have to suffer and yield and admit their shameful ways. How? We’ll let you know.

Yes, Trump stuck his finger in a hornet’s nest, because he felt enough people needed to hear someone say that, and this was, and is, his route to the presidency. And yes, politics runs on, or around, both hypocrisy and anger: if you say what you really think, enough people will get mad enough at you that you are no longer electable. Assuming that still holds true in 2016. Because people are craving authenticity – whether from Sanders or Trump; and whether they are right about either of them being authentic, outsider voices.

But criticizing Trump’s comments – a right and even a duty for anyone who is passionate about the future of America and geniunely disagrees with what he says – is not the same as shutting him down. And criticizing Trump for supposedly creating the conditions that possibly could be thought of as baiting an anarchist-inspired mob who clearly were dying to use Peronista youth (let’s leave the crazed Austrian out of this) tactics on Trump, is abandoning the first amendment when the going gets tough.

The first amendment only really means something when you don’t like what the other person is saying. That’s why the fricking hell the founding fathers put it there, right in front. First thing. And for Ted Cruz to paint Trump as some sort of monarch who has faced the 2016 version of the purifying rage of the Boston Tea Party, is a shameful tactical ploy that I pray he apologizes for at some point in the future. I pray, but I doubt.

Everyone who cares about the constitution should have defended Trump’s right to have that rally. And then continued to criticize and attack his ideas until their tweeting fingers fall off. That’s democracy. What the protesters did in Chicago is far closer to fascism than anything The Donald has done, or said – as offensive as some of his comments may be. But we now have a society conditioned by aging radical academics who now have a whole new generation of followers far less familiar with the cannons of western civilization than the rants of identity politics (try suggesting students read the classics at Stanford and see what happens to you). Bill Ayers is a proud parent. And the first amendment is ever more conditional with each passing year.

Earlier today, Dr. Ben Carson made the official announcement that he endorses Donald Trump today. This endorsement comes with mixed emotions from former Carson supporters. Some are party-loyal and praise the endorsement while others (mostly evangelicals) are wildly disappointed in this endorsement.

Carson shared a statement acknowledging that Trump is the one to beat Hillary saying, “Join me in supporting and rallying around the only candidate the GOP has that can defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and return America to that shining city on a hill.”

The GOP remains divided when it comes to the contestant who can defeat Hillary, but with a Carson endorsement will that sway more Republican support? And, do you think Carson’s recent endorsement will put him near the top of the list of VP spot for a Trump card?

The National Review has been searching the souls of everyone but the conservative intellectual elite, of which they are a flagship, and finding all others wanting. But over at the Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard is taking a different tack. Admittedly, even the NR is coming round to the conclusion that Trump may very well be inevitable, and they perhaps rightly state that this means conservative ideology’s hold on the GOP will be weakened and may even be ousted from the party they helped renovate and renew through the turbulent 60’s and the scandal-plagued 70’s.

Paul Bedard, on the other hand, is shining a steady light on immigration, and it’s possibly enormous effect on working wages in America. By featuring and linking to Ed Rubenstein’s paper on immigration and wages in America over the last few decades, Bedard seems to be suggesting – quite reasonably – that Trump supporters are not angry racists emerging from their rural hideouts, or working class neighborhoods. If Rubenstein’s interpretation of the data in his paper, The Negative Impact of Immigration on American Workers, is right, then legal and illegal immigration have been a boon for employers and a curse for workers.

But Rubenstein – writing for NPG which stands for negative population growth – goes much further than criticizing the downward pressure on working wages and the rising profits that large-scale immigration produces. He attacks population growth itself. GDP growth rates only matter for those at the top – so goes his thesis – but GDP per capita is the only relevant figure. That seemingly trite statement then gets kicked into a whole new ballpark with the following corollary:

If rapid population and market growth was the cure all for stagnating markets, then Africa, Latin America, and most of Asia should be the home of the richest countries in the world. While demographically challenged Japan should be mired in poverty.

As Rubenstein maps out a statistical basis for xenophobia – there is no more closed society than Japan save perhaps Bhutan and North Korea – he suggests the time for an open, welcoming America is long gone, given the imbalances between labor and other factors of production like capital and land and natural resources. It’s an ecologically-friendly perspective in the longer term, but plays well to a bluer collar audience in the shorter term.

There is a problem with this thesis – many if you are a classic free-trade economic conservative. Japan – the model of an aging, wealthy, and socially inward looking society – is desperately dependent upon exports to countries like America. Japan needs free trade. But largely rejects the free movement of human capital. And rather than killing the USA in trade, they prefer quite logically to invest enormous sums in producing a significant share of their products in the markets where they sell them. Like America. Of course, they still keep the profits.

Yes, Japan and even China may respond positively to some added pressure, but a full-on trade war hurts all. And Rubenstein risks inspiring the next Senator Smoot and Representative Hawley – who unleashed punitive tariffs on America’s trading partners in the summer of 1930, and arguably helped make the Great Depression great.

Rubenstein has put his finger on an issue that is generating a lot of anger, especially among Trump supporters. And it has to be acknowledged in all it’s specificity by the conservative intellectual elite themselves. At places like NR, and the Washington Examiner. Precisely in order to avoid the tragedy of a series of trade wars. You folks aren’t quite as heroic as you may think you are. Search your own souls just a little. It would help. Especially if Trump is as malleable as Jimmy Carter thinks he is.

Sea Island, off the coast of Georgia, must be beautiful. A little bracing perhaps this time of year, but bracing winds are what is needed when you’re planning – not a coup – but a last ditch campaign against the Hunnish intruder from Gotham City. Something like Churchill rallying his country in The Battle of Britain. And while cruise-loving Billy Kristol – who long ago earned the right to go on as many cruises as he darn well pleases – would likely brush aside the comparison to the jowly aristocrat who held Hitler in place while America waited to enter the war, others seem keen to press General Krystol into immediate and full battle mode.

Please, he’s just an editor! But Kristol’s sharing of Kasparov’s incisive analysis of the Trump campaign is surely useful for those who are determined to stop Trump. Not at any cost, but at great cost, even to the 2016 election, if necessary. Because – why not seeing we’re getting historical – Stalingrad and the long winter of Trump’s siege on conservative values must surely melt in the thawing and blooming spring of conservative counter attacks on Trump’s hypocrisies.

So a brokered convention is even more likely now, assuming Trump does not make that plan irrelevant by March 16, early morning. Comparing Trump to European fascist tyrants is politically understandable for those hostile to him. But there is a more uncomfortable analogy at hand. One that comes from America, rather than Europe.

Huey Long took on the political establishment in Louisiana in the 1920’s and 1930’s and cracked open a comfortable cartel that had effectively disenfranchised poor rural, white voters; to say nothing of black voters. The populist Democrat governor and then senator of Louisiana used ruthless methods to favor his constituencies, and put in place enormous government spending programs that changed the state. He was America’s Peron – in his home state at least – a couple of decades before the Argentine authoritarian unleashed his fasicist-tinged populism on the South American country.

Neither Long nor Peron had much respect for freedom of the press. In an erie anticipation of today, Long attempted to place surtaxes on newspapers that had published supposedly slanderous material.

But there’s a problem with comparing Trump to Long. Long was an accomplished lawyer – he reputedly convinced the Tulane University Law School’s board to let him write the bar exam after only a year of study. And he passed. And he had very clear policy ideas – ones that deeply angered his opposition. Trump is no Huey Long, but his theatrics and vindictiveness are vintage Long. And the anger against governing elites that Long prodded and utilized, is real today. Even if the conditions of those who feel disenfranchised in 2016 would have made Long’s supporters laugh. But the anger is real, and Trump is playing it; if not as skillfully as of late.

But that’s the real problem – it’s theatrics draped around someone who has no ideological core. Unlike Huey Long. And that’s why Jimmy Carter – speaking at the House of Lords in the UK – stated he’d vote for Trump over Cruz. Because according to the aging ex-president from – where else? – Georgia, Trump is malleable. Unlike Ted Cruz. And Trump would turn on conservatives like Ted Cruz if elected president, according to Carter.

Think about it: Jimmy Carter thinks Trump is a pushover.

When you don’t put clear daylight between yourself and David Duke, and repeatedly repudiate him loudly and clearly – which Trump should have but didn’t do – Frank Underwood comes after you. And someone much scarier than Frank tries to kill you with her crocodile kindness. Nancy Pelosi. Nancy is deeply worried about GOP establishment types doing an end run around The Donald at a contested convention in Cleveland. That would subvert the nomination process she states. And yes, Nancy is right about that. If her advice is followed and Trump is meekly accepted as the inevitable nominee, then it also helpfully ensures the Democrats can sharpen their electoral tactics for the general campaign against candidate Trump. Starting last Super Tuesday night.

Like making sure that Trump gets compared to everyone from Mussolini to George Wallace. As Kevin Spacey did on CNN recently. For those old enough to remember a little of the 68 campaign and the very real violence in politics in those times, it’s safe to say that Trump is no George Wallace. But his own life and dealings don’t matter. It’s what you say on CNN that matters. That’s not ironic at all. And Trump understands this. But his delay on Duke was a clear stumble. And he can expect no mercy as he climbs his way to the top of the food chain … who said that? Oh, yes.

Of course, Nancy Pelosi understands that she can’t carp about possible GOP bending of arcane convention rules to ensure Trump is denied the nomination, without saying something about the best finagle of them all: super delegates. So she also criticized the Democratic Party’s use of that elite breed of delegate. Now that Hillary has the nomination all but sewn up, of course.

The David Duke thing might have echoed even more loudly throughout the media had not yet another surprise added a new food fight to the GOP race. Mitt Romney has come out punching hard at Trump, who hit back … in both vulgar and more nuanced (for Trump that is) tones. So this is where the race is at: Mitt Romney pushing David Duke off the stage so he can take swings at Trump. It’s so chaotic and hostile that the fact that Megyn Kelly will be a moderator again in the Detroit debate is merely another news item among the rest. And hardly the most outrageous one.

While the GOP debates can be a chore to watch, tonight’s debate really exposed Donald Trump for what he truly is. Despite his limited exposure, Governor John Kasich excelled tonight among the endless tit for tat between Trump, Rubio and Cruz.

Conservatively, Kasich is a favorite, however for voters there’s a lack of confidence for him in an election so Trump continues to get the majority of votes. Our country deserves better than what we’re seeing on tv from debates and interviews on both sides.

Kasich is a quality candidate who would make a great leader of this country. Foreshadowing from these debates, it’s possible Kasich gets the VP title on a Trump card. how much would that help, and does it even slightly make Trump look any better?

 

Please tell me that General Hayden – who knows about military intelligence and the intelligence community seeing he was Deputy Director at the DNI, among many other key postings – never used actionable information produced as a result of, for example, waterboarding. This would have been during the Iraq War a little over 10 years ago. Of course he has. And of course he has defended the utility of such practices, calling some of his critics interrogation deniers.

But the retired General is part of the Anti-Trump brigade, the Hawks battalion let’s call them. Trump is a loose cannon and cannot be trusted with the position of commander in chief is their story, although those in charge of telling this story are either retired, about to retire, or not currently running the defense and intelligence community. Aside from upsetting the structure of the defense establishment with his comments on Putin and Israel, for example, could it be that Trump has committed the sin of saying out loud what many politicians and soldiers say in private?

Dick Armitage and Colin Powell did not give press conferences before their one on one with Pakistan’s Musharraf. The supposed threat – leaked by Musharraf – that the U.S. would bomb his country back to the stone age seemed to produce Pakistan’s collaboration in Afghanistan, and arguably helped lead to the eventual capture and killing of Bin Laden several years later. But in public they were impeccably mannered men. Of course, an electoral campaign and a war on terror are two very different contexts.

So the charges against Trump – and suggested disobedience by Hayden – seem to be several. He’s not militaristic enough: he doesn’t understand international affairs and the lobbies that surround each issue; both economic and ideological lobbies. He doesn’t have the temper to oversee any substantial military operation. He’s too militaristic – as Cruz backer Mark Sanford suggests – and his militarism will breed more terrorism. He wouldn’t follow the Geneva Convention, as Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego accusingly states. That’s a rather broad, even mutually exclusive, set of criticisms.

Just a guess. If you put this collection of critics together and tried to get them to cobble together a strategy for the situation in Syria, say, you might be disappointed with the result. But in one sense, they are right. America’s defense policy in the Middle East is like walking through a minefield with a copy of Miss Manner’s Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior as your guide. Winning is almost impossible in the short and medium term. Sometimes never. What you can do is contain the damage from any given disaster. And plan how to anticipate and thus contain the next disaster. So a Trump administration would have to sing a less reckless tune and sooth a few frayed nerves at the Pentagon and the DNI, and elsewhere.

But some of those assailing Trump’s supposed ignorance are the same who insisted that Iraq should be invaded. The consequences of that advice is still being sorted out in 2016, and will still have to be sorted out by whoever is the 45th president. Maybe Hayden has it backwards, and it’s Trump who should ignore them. That is, unless Hillary Clinton becomes the next president. If Benghazi is any guide, that should worry Hayden far more.

Bernie Sanders is outrageous. He’s shamefully hiding a dark secret that thanks to the noble efforts of Clinton’s staff, has thankfully come to light. The senator has relied on foreign fundraising and the Federal Election Commission is hunting him down. A guy in Germany actually donated to Bernie’s campaign using his credit card. Which was later apparently canceled, by the way. But where will this end? Does not Bernie have a clue??

Hillary does things the right way. And well she should. She’s had 40 years of fundraising experience, that she and husband Bill Clinton have honed to a fine art. Take foreign fundraising. She sent her bagman, Jose Villarreal, to Mexico City to host a fundraiser. With Americans, supposedly. According to The Hill. foreign fundraisers are fairly common. As long as you play by conventional party rules. For example, Wal-Mart lobbyist Ivan Zapien, who lives down there, will be present. That’s good to know. And donors must assert they are U.S. citizens are lawful permanent residents. And then give money. Just about anywhere it seems.

So of course, Hillary’s team is outraged at Bernie Sanders’ flagrant hypocrisy, and are Trumping him throughout the media. It may even help their cause: to ensure that an independent like Bernie never ever gets as much momentum ever again in any Democratic Party nomination process forever and ever. Amen. So they will have to tweak the rules as soon as it’s feasible, and add to the moat surrounding their electoral fortress. Superdelegates will likely give Hillary the victory anyway. But not nearly as comfortable a victory as they had thought about a year or so ago. And that can’t happen again. Ever.

And with the FEC gunning for Sander’s campaign and his unorthodox fundraising, they will hopefully shut his spigot to a trickle. Or less than the open flow it currently seems to be set at.

South Carolina is Hillary’s no doubt. But she needs more than South Carolina, and more even then a big Super Tuesday. She needs to grind Bernie down so that he retreats back to Vermont, muttering angrily to himself. And fundraising needs to return to where it belongs: in expensive homes in Mexico and California and New York, and Virginia. Oh, Hillary herself will be at what will surely be a posh event, raising a little cash in London, England. Now that’s how you do fundraising Bernie!

They are seething, frustrated, and furious – and tired of people disrespecting them. Yes, conservative pundits are an angry lot these strange days of 2016. And boy do they have some advice for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Drop your gloves. Or your bat. Sprint to the pitcher’s mound. And start swinging. And don’t stop still he’s on his knees.

And the pundits don’t mean swinging at each other – that’s what’s got them so frustrated. They mean swinging hard at you-know-who. They mean the fear that attacks on The Donald boomerang back and sink the attacker, has to be abandoned at this crucial stage of the nomination. Come senators, PACS, and pundits all, the times have a changed and we will take Trump down.

Are they right? Is the only way to defeat Donald Trump to take him on on his own terms? Or is this the desperate last throes of the establishment kicking and lashing out at everyone who does not buy their orthodoxy of what conservatism means in 2016 and what voters (should) want?

There are at least two other scenarios aside from this binary hit-him-and-win vs. hit-him-and-he-sinks-you options. Let Trump win the nomination and reel him in bit by bit by convincing him how vital the RNC and the Republican Party are to his electoral success as Reince Priebus has suggested. Some may buy this, others laugh. But it is not an impossible outcome, although it’s also possible that Trump reels the RNC in, or what’s left of it after the convention.

Another possible outcome is that it doesn’t matter whether you attack Trump. He loves hitting back if you do, and he’ll win whether you attack him, or whether you play the waiting game. As in waiting for Carson, Kasich, and either Marco or Ted, to quit. If Ted Cruz supporters are just as likely to go to Trump as to Rubio, this strategy may reward patience with resounding failure in Rubio’s case; and he’s tanking vs Trump in his home state by the way.

So we have a punditry furious that after 8 years of Obama’s administration, the chance to right the nation’s course according to fiscal conservatism, (fairly) hawkish foreign policy, and open trade is being sucked away from them by someone they simply don’t like. And even if they did, anyone as unexpectedly successful as Trump has been is bound to draw hostility.

So in the Texas CNN debate, Cruz and Rubio will have to decide whether they will take up the gauntlet that the punditry has angrily tossed at their feet in the hopes they will unsheathe their rhetoric and go for the throat, and elsewhere, against Trump. There will be countless commentators waiting for the smell of blood on that stage, and glad to play forensics in the days to follow. And then the voters will speak.

Isn’t the point – for Trump and his supporters – that endorsements don’t matter? As Donald Trump picks up his first lonely endorsements, should this cause any concern? If voter anger is real and sustainable, then presumably it is directed at the very people who tend to do the endorsing: established governors, or senators, or other members of the federal and state governments across the USA. As well as party insiders and powerful donors. Especially powerful donors it seems.

So, given that the wave of voter anger he is expertly riding is aimed straight at endorsement-types, what should Trump do with these incipient acts of official recognition? To put it in stark terms; if Marlene Ricketts and the Our Principles PAC suddenly, somehow, started running ads praising Trump (relax, it’s only a theoretical for rhetorical purposes), would his supporters crow with vindictive delight? Or stampede straight to Ted Cruz’s camp?

Is the raging bull that Trump is riding one that can be controlled, and eventually corralled within a traditional GOP party structure? That doesn’t seem likely, but if Trump rides triumphantly out of the March primaries, and the GOP stalwarts give up the good fight and abandon Rubio, and Ted Cruz dies a noble but painful political death, what happens to all that anger?

In the best of outcomes, Trump convinces his supporters that in no way will it be business as usual when he occupies the White House. And of course, then reminds voters of Clinton, and redirects all that anger Hillary’s way, reminding them that there’s the tiny matter of a general election to take on.

So here’s the question: is GOP voter anger fungible between the primaries and the general election? If Trump wins, does that anger dissipate dangerously, and leave GOP voters – and especially Trump supporters – drained just as the national election gets underway? It has been, and will be, such an unprecedented battle for the GOP nomination that it has been entirely consuming. People like Kevin McCarthy complain of Trump sucking up all that life-giving oxygen and it taking away from candidates like Jeb Bush and Kasich. But is the brush fire of voter anger sucking up oxygen that could be used in future battles? As in the national election?

Or will this bare-knuckles nomination brawl produce a hardened army of supporters who will eagerly launch themselves into the election campaign, and, get … out … and … vote! How Trump manages his supporters as the GOP slowly bends his way, is going to be fascinating to watch. Because if he can successfully manage the transition from nomination to general election, politically he will be ready for the Presidency. Whether you like him and his policies, or not.

Whether you’re in favor or not, it seems unofficially official that Donald J. Trump will be the Republican candidate. After another caucus primary win in Nevada last night, Trump is well on his way to winning the delegates necessary to become the next Republican nominee.

Since Trump took over the lead, he’s now running away with the lead in national polls, but now his national lead is translating to leads in state polls. At this point it’s fair to say Trump will win the nomination. As he continues to win, more candidates drop out of the race. Jeb Bush is the latest to do so.

Whelp, it looks like America will be great again…thoughts?

 

 

Jeb Bush has suspended his campaign tonight in South Carolina. How about Kasich and Carson? No such luck it would seem – especially if you’re Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. It’s really a guessing game, but if those three had dropped out after New Hampshire, how would have tonight’s GOP primary looked like?

With almost 75% of the votes counted at this point, Rubio is ahead of Cruz by half a percentage point. For the next 10 minutes at least. Jeb and Kasich are neck in neck with 500 actual votes or 0.1% between them at just over or just under 8%. Give at least 12% of those 16% to Rubio and he’s tied or ahead of Trump. Give 4-5% of Carson’s nearly 7% vote to Ted Cruz and he’s close to 30%.

But Kasich has a plan – in places like Michigan and Ohio – so he’s not quitting yet. While Carson has been – in tactical terms if not in terms of substantive issues – an even greater outsider than Trump. In other words, who knows what he’ll do and when he’ll do it? It would seem likely Carson will go before Kasich does – the money and support network are less in risk of drying up completely for the governor. But when?

We now have almost 83% of the votes counted and – as is to be expected – the relative gaps between the GOP candidates seem to be hardening. Trump barely gets a double digit victory – which is certainly enough. And Rubio may just, just get second place over Cruz. But apparently no GOP candidate who has won both New Hampshire or South Carolina has ever failed to win the nomination.

How could that change in 2016? How could Trump’s train ever be derailed at this point? Kasich and Carson would have to drop out in the next few days. And money and votes would have to choose overwhelmingly between either Cruz or Rubio, as the man to beat Trump. Neither seem very likely just yet. And that’s the point: both of these necessary conditions will happen at some time in the future, but likely not nearly soon enough.

Three people will claim victory tonight: Trump the inevitable nominee; Rubio the comeback kid; and Cruz the conservative voter’s last, true chance at redemption. Or at least that will be their stories. So, imagine this scenario going forward:

Trump is still ahead and Rubio and Cruz are still neck in neck after Super Tuesday. Who then calls it quits? What would it take to make either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio quit? And at what point in the race would the presence of two anti-Trump candidates be fatal to the not-the-Donald vote? South Carolina has brought a little clarity, but hardly a resolution yet. This race does seem to be Trump’s to lose, but this is not yet a certainty.

And finally, a fascinating take by Fivethirtyeight’s David Wasserman suggests that the delegate math is predicting a Trump v. Rubio face off with Cruz playing kingmaker in a contested convention! Bets anyone??

Should Apple Head Nerd/Designer/Tech-Genius-Guy Tim Cook be waterboarded? Like a witch in Salem back in the late 17th century? Because this iPhone encryption thing is getting downright medieval.

But verily, let us enlighten ourselves on the issue. The All Writs Act, a federal statute that first saw light in 1789 as part of the Judiciary Act of … you guessed it, 1789; gives the courts broad-ranging flexibility to issue writs deemed necessary and appropriate. It has been updated several times, and has been applied as recently as the 1970’s in order to essentially compel phone companies to install a device called a pen register, to log numbers on a given phone line. Essentially, to eavesdrop.

We now have a given iPhone pertaining to the terrorists – not shooters, terrorists – involved in the bloody San Bernardino attacks. And the FBI would like to decrypt the data on said phone, to see who else had possible connections with Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. A rather reasonable request by any standards, including the Obama Administration’s standards.

Alabama native son Tim Cook and Apple, the designer-perfect tech dynamo he inherited (and help re-build) from the late Steve Jobs, does not want to comply. They refuse to install a back-door that the FBI could use to decrypt a phone. The sacred cow of privacy is at stake, apparently. And the ACLU and Amnesty International have thrown their support behind Apple and Tim Cook. As well as the usual technocrats who rebel at any limits imposed on their abilities to do whatever their imaginations can create.

Never mind that the All Writs Act, a practical bit of legislation that – the genius of the founding fathers is once again evident – applies perfectly to this very situation. Never mind that a judge has to issue a writ, and thus has to have been convinced of the necessity of issuing a writ. Never mind that both parties and the administration feel the FBI has the law on their side.

No, tech is beyond the sweaty legal and political scuffles of the unwashed non-members of the technocracy. I code, therefore I exist. Code above all. Code above community (except our tight little really-high-IQ, egotistical community). Code above the law, and the constitution. Code above the decisions of a nation state. It’s the future don’t you see? The Nation State should dissolve itself before the titanium and chrome firewalls of encryption.

Because privacy is the only thing that matters in the end. It is the one true supreme wisdom. Oh yes, brand matters too. And the iPhone might lose some of that seamless sheen should its awesome encryption be diluted in the interests of the law. And that might affect sales and profits. But Tim Cook couldn’t be worried about such a grubby little reality, could he?

Apparently, this a legal battle that has been a long time coming. Let us pray that the justice system provides as swift a conclusion as it is able to wisely provide. It will come too late to catch any collaborators of Fayook and Malik. But, if the justice system indeed compels Apple to provide a reasonable level of decryption, then it will give law enforcement a desperately needed tool in the fight against the evil of terrorism, and the corrosive effects of organized crime.

With the passing of this giant figure in American politics, there will be deep changes in the political landscape. Of course, we have to wait until November to finally get rid of Harry Reid. And who will undoubtedly take his place? Chuck Schumer of course. As minority leader. Or possibly as majority leader.

Speaking of Chuck, there of course is a true giant of the judicial landscape – and the intellectual landscape – whose unexpected passing has left behind a Supreme Court with a vacancy. So when Schumer warns with outrageous indignation that the GOP cannot possibly use the tactics he outlined in 2007, in a speech to attendees at the American Constitution Society’s convention. Tactics? Nay. Schumer surely plunged deep into the philosophy of the constitution and why Bush 43 should not have been allowed to appoint any justices with barely-a-year-and-then-some left in his second and final mandate.

Is there anyone more ostentatiously and angrily partisan than Schumer on the hill? Playing tag team with Reid, he is busily denouncing the GOP for showing some restraint and taking their time. Yes, it’s a tactic. Of course it is. But it’s far more than that. To rush through a late Obama appointment because there was a window of opportunity for the Democrats is not just tactically stupid, but a challenge to the balance of powers.

The Supreme Court is an elite institution. How could it be anything else? It’s members are insiders – usually long-serving judges with outstanding academic and judicial records. It’s selection process is limited – it’s an insider’s game played between the White House and the Hill’s upper chamber. And the justice system, of course. Voters don’t get to choose justices. They only get to elect an Administration, and a Senator or two every cycle, and then watch the game being played out – should they even be interested.

The constitution’s Advice & Consent role handed to the Senate is open to debate, especially in moments like this. Left-leaning commentators seem to be out in force demanding that any Obama nominee be voted up or down based on his, or her, merits. Ideology should have no place, nor should party-centered partisanship. The glee is barely held back that any Obama nominee will be rather to the left of GOP voter values, so it’s up to the majority party to vote the still unknown, but surely wonderfully capable appointee, who is likely to be announced sometime in the near future. Up or down.

If they did, and they voted the almost-inevitable down, then Hillary has a story to tell for the rest of the nomination and general election. Assuming it’s Hillary. Bernie would also tell a story, though perhaps a less partisan, and more ideological one.

So now the story is how the Senate will fail it’s advice & consent role. But the real story is how the Senate is avoiding giving the Democrats the story they want to take with them to the polls.

Fingers in the eyeballs and elbows to the guts; Hillary is throwing the entire Democratic establishment playbook at Bernie. And it’s not just Bill Clinton anymore who is in charge of the smearing: John Lewis, the Democrat rep from Georgia, threw doubt on Sander’s civil rights activism. He didn’t see Bernie at a march of hundreds of thousands with the Reverend Martin Luther King 50 or so years ago, so of course Sanders is lying about his civil rights activism.

And from Hillary and Podesta, the Single-Issue-Candidate Label was smacked onto poor Bernie’s forehead. Any complaint about or criticism of the Democratic Party’s corrupt establishment coalition of big money and identity politics is merely a grubby handful of single issue, sniveling complaints. The system is fine. Obama’s legacy is wonderful. You young women will go to hell unless you mend your evil ways and vote for Hillary. Because Bernie is a misogynist, didn’t you know?

It’s Hillary’s turn, darnit! Didn’t you know?

It’s ugly and it’s nasty and Bernie took a while in the debate to fight back, but will it work? What are Democrat voters looking for in 2016? Is the anger sustainable to the point where they would be willing to accept the enormous amount of additional regulations and taxes necessary to put Bernie’s plan in place?

Or are voters using Sanders to batter Hillary to push the Democratic establishment to enact some modest reforms both to it’s nomination process – imagine if Hillary wins the nomination only due to overwhelming super-delegate support – and to minimum wages levels and banking legislation, for example? And are democrat voters sure themselves at this point how far down the road to European-style socialism they are willing to follow Bernie Sanders?

Within that question is the issue of the diversity within identity politics. How much sway does the Black Congressional Caucus have in 2016 over the Black vote? The common view is a whole heck of a lot: African American voters have tended to coalesce around a candidate they feel they can work with. But are there fractures appearing in the southern firewall?

There could be: the issue of policing and jailing of black youth was the central theme in a devastating article by Michelle Alexander in The Nation a few days ago. She contends that the federal Crime Bill of 1994 decimated black communities – along with Bill Clinton’s welfare reform laws – and had more to do with Reagan than with Martin Luther King. Can Sanders play the policing issue to his favor? He voted for the bill by the way, and even Michelle Alexander admits that by the early 90’s there was a crisis with gang violence. She disagrees on how it should have been solved.

Will activists like Alexander turn black opinion against Hillary and her husband? And could Bernie Sanders convince people like Alexander – who is an expert at litigation, especially on race and slavery – that he would do more for incarcerated youth? Or will the issue fling mud on just about everybody in progressive circles and cause some black voters to stay home? It’s a potential political grenade which if tossed could do unknown damage within Democrat circles. Or it could remain with pin still in place – held there by a determined Black Congressional caucus.

And then there’s that Clinton Foundation. Aside from Hillary’s fierce fight with Sanders – especially for younger voters who do not seem to be impressed with her – there’s the ethics and perhaps the legality of her relationship with the foundation while she was heading State.

Some have suggested this is a far more troubling scandal than the one involving her private email server. The latter is a case of compromising classified information – some of it related to human assets whose lives could be in danger if revealed through a potential hacking of her server. But the former involves the influence of foreign donors to the foundation on American foreign policy.

So now we have news of a subpoena issued last fall by the State Department Inspector General. There is an ongoing inquiry that seems to revolve around Huma Abedin; the long-serving Clinton aide who at one point was simultaneously employed at State, the Clinton Foundation, Hillary’s personal office, and a Clinton-linked consultancy. Whether she also handled Hillary’s Dry Cleaning as part of her duties is unclear. But Abedin has almost certainly dealt with Hillary’s dirty laundry.

Where the inquiry will lead, we don’t know. Who else may be involved, we don’t know. Whether any charges will be laid, we don’t know. But it is one more nagging reminder of Hillary’s questionable ethics, a theme that goes back to the late 80’s.

It’s not just a case of Hillary being caught up in the hypocrisies of big money and progressive ethics. She is the embodiment of that very hypocrisy. She is Big Money and Liberal Ethics, comfortably co-existing without the troubles of any deep personal convictions encumbering her. But angry as hell with anyone who gets in the way of her plans. She did not looked troubled after New Hampshire’s vote. She’s not showing panic over the youth vote – she’s got the super-delegates in her pocket. For now at least. Fueled by the countless bitter resentments that a life in politics invariably breeds in almost everyone who seeks and holds office, and reassured by the Democratic establishment that this is her time, what’s one more little inquiry by the IG at the department she used to head?

It’s not easy being an options trader, like Rick Santelli has been for much of his adult life. You have to be smart and sharp and tough. And you still can fail on a regular basis. It’s called taking risk. Being, if you will, an entrepreneur. And most voters in 2016 do not care to take on too much risk. Especially, for example, when it comes to their homes and their jobs.

So when voters turn to Trump, as they did in large numbers in New Hampshire, they are asking the government to take a little of the risk out of their lives. The risks associated with competing for a job with a large illegal work force. The risks associated with taking out the wrong type of floating rate mortgage with too little downpayment, and losing one’s home, as a result of a counter-party crisis on Wall Street. The risks of having your skills become redundant as your former employer lays you off and outsources your job.

Have GOP voters turned their back on America’s unique quality of entrepreneurship? No, but they do want a revamp of the rules. Not every laid-off 45-year-old auto worker can pivot quickly to building a successful online business that actually pays his or her bills before they lose their home. Not every outsourced call center employee will find work that is equally well-paid. Or more accurately, that at least maintains their not-so-great wage level.

It should be remembered that Schumpeter – the Austrian-American thinker who coined the term creative destruction – did not view capitalism’s penchant for destroying the old to make way for the new as something healthy. He viewed it – in an extension of marxist critiques – as a self-destructive process that would sink capitalism. That he published the work during WW II’s darkest days in 1942, shows he was very much of his times.

Schumpeter was wrong of course, and his attack on capitalism was lustily turned into a defense of the creative genius that capitalism is capable of unleashing in human beings. But creative destruction produces – by definition – winners and losers. America’s challenge – as the living, beating heart of innovation around the globe – has always been how to incentivize creativity without unwarranted destruction.

So when Trump promises to make America Great (with a capital G) again, he’s promising a couple of things: to take away some of the risk that working families face from cheap labor competition inside America. And to take away some of the risk that American manufacturers face from less-regulated competition overseas. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive goals, but they can and will bump into each other over the following months.

To create a manufacturing revolution in America with the American worker at the center of it is an astonishingly ambitious goal and one that more than likely will be very difficult to achieve. Trump seems to have convinced workers – at least those in New Hampshire – that he can do it. Can he convince business?

As Byron York has noted, Trump has been turning on K street and the lobbying business on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. Fivethirtyeight.com gives him a 71 – 77% chance of winning the primary. To say Bernie Sanders is against lobbying is to engage in needless repetition. According to the wonks at fivethirtyeight.com, Sanders has a 99% chance of winning the state’s primary.

While New Hampshire is not South Carolina – or Nevada – railing against corporate interests and their influence in Washington has been unusually great business, poll-wise, in 2016. The question is whether the Granite State primary will be the last seething shout of an angry electorate before the more influential following primaries; whose constituencies will go about deciding the nominee for each party.

But it’s not just voters who are mad. Why Frank Luntz – who has done more than a little heavy lifting in helping the GOP shape their stories for a few years now – got an earful from by an angry donor, whose candidate is not where that donor feels he should be in the polls. So of course, it’s Frank’s fault.

It has been a mantra of modern and post-modern politics that anger on the part of a candidate usually backfires – especially with help from the media. You lose your temper, you lose the debate/press conference/whatever-the-hell it is you’re trying to accomplish. And you lose the election in the end.

While it is a commonly-held opinion on tone as much as it is on substance, maybe this time around candidates can get away with a little more anger. Whether they can get away with debate-stage attacks – on the other hand – will be seen in Christie’s New Hampshire results.

It’s long been past the point where you could keep track of how many photos of Trump looking bombastically angry have filled the media landscape and headed stories about Trump’s supposed ridiculousness. So far, it hasn’t hurt him significantly, if much at all. So in 2016, maybe it’s ok for a candidate like Trump or Sanders to be – or seem to be – really, really p’ed off. As long as they chose their targets consistently. They don’t even have to be careful. Just consistent. At least that’s what lots of voters in both parties seem to be telling them so far. That the influence of lobbies and big business in Washington has people furious. Will the anger last?

What will Iowa mean 2,3,4 years from now and onwards? Aside from the uniqueness of it’s retail process – along with coin tosses to decide who wins in the Dems case – it seems to have a deeper and more important meaning this time around.

More than just voter anger, if Jonah Goldberg at the National Review is right, Iowa’s lesson is a compelling lack of faith on the part of a majority of voters in the institution of the political party: both of them in this case. And that’s a clear reflection of a long-running disintegration of voter faith in most institutions in America. Ben Wattenberg’s quote from years back about the Democratic Party being a dozen folks with fax machines is being revealed as a conventional truth rather than an insider’s cynicism.

And who’s to blame? Why the primary system itself, especially places like Iowa with voters persuading each other who to vote for. How dare the Dems and the GOP self-inflict by opening up the back rooms and the convention floor to more direct voter participation! What were they thinking?!

Did the loss of power by the party machinery inevitably lead to an expanded K street? Or did it merely make the lobbying process a little more visible?

And the Establishment? A slightly dated phrase to say the least, which seems to get far more coverage on the GOP side than on the Democrat side because of the nature of the GOP nomination race. Should that be the case? Isn’t Bernie Sanders just as much of a threat to the Dems establishment and it’s coalition of identity politics and big money as Cruz, and Carson and Trump (and Paul) are to the GOP establishment?

As the National Review raises a little much-needed cash from followers on the back of the self-proclaimed success of their pamphletesque Against Trump, the question of who is the real anti-establishment GOP candidate becomes a little tricky to sort out.

While Rubio has skillfully scrapped his way into the now-emptying, famous, you-know-what lane, is Cruz or is Trump the real anti-establishment candidate? That begs the question: what the heck is the GOP establishment in 2016? Is it McConnell? Ryan? A few governors? The K-street crowd? Fox news? The Washington Examiner? Or the Washington Post? Is it united firmly and resolutely around an unproven senator from Florida, seeing the former governor from FLA – who is very much proven – has been a flop to put it politely?

As the party system bends and even breaks but surely reforms itself to somehow survive, will the establishment – both the Democratic and the Republican establishment – be forced to do some reforming as well? And where will power shift to over the next few electoral cycles? As Rubio gets ready for a knife fight in the alleys and lanes of beautiful New Hampshire, and as Trump decides how he will fight in the Granite State, there’s a deeper running battle going on as well. But surely the party system will survive, to the joy of some and to the anger of many. And surely the establishment will have to get used to being in the spotlight rather than standing behind the cameras and trying to play at being a Hollywood director.

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