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Posts tagged as “Donald Trump”

Trump 6: Undermining national security

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Of many ways a Donald Trump presidency could damage the United States, few are more immediately catastrophic than the risk to our national security.

This is not simplistic material. "Bomb the hell out of them" is the kind of line that might offer emotional gratification to some (thoughtless) audiences, but the kind of thought process lying behind it would be disastrous in practice. His bizarre choice of foreign role models would be hardly better. His ignorance of the importance of national security basics accepted by presidents of both parties for generations could put not only the United States but the whole world at risk.

Former Sweden Prime Minister Carl Bildt (not to the sort of person usually to comment much on an American election) twitted, "I never thought a serious candidate for US President could be a serious threat against the security of the West. But that's where we are."

Two statements from groups of foreign policy experts should be allowed to weigh in here.

One, from July, is an open letter signed by more than 150 foreign policy leaders saying, "On balance, Mr. Trump’s foreign policy would weaken America’s alliances and erode its power . . . Mr. Trump’s foreign policy vision has inspired alarm across the political spectrum in the United States as well as in allied capitals throughout the world. Many critics of his candidacy appear to have believed that they could blunt his momentum by lampooning his disposition and mocking his proposals. With less than four months before the United States elects its next president, however, it is evident that neither of those tactics has succeeded; it behooves Americans—policymakers, analysts, and citizens alike—to take Mr. Trump seriously and interrogate his vision of foreign policy."

That one is not to be confused with a statement signed a month earlier by more than 120 conservative foreign policy experts. They said:

We the undersigned, members of the Republican national security community, represent a broad spectrum of opinion on America’s role in the world and what is necessary to keep us safe and prosperous. We have disagreed with one another on many issues, including the Iraq war and intervention in Syria. But we are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency. Recognizing as we do, the conditions in American politics that have contributed to his popularity, we nonetheless are obligated to state our core objections clearly:
His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.
His advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars is a recipe for economic disaster in a globally connected world.
His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.
His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combating Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort. Furthermore, it endangers the safety and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of American Muslims.
Controlling our border and preventing illegal immigration is a serious issue, but his insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions, and rests on an utter misreading of, and contempt for, our southern neighbor.
Similarly, his insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II.
His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy.
He is fundamentally dishonest. Evidence of this includes his attempts to deny positions he has unquestionably taken in the past, including on the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 Libyan conflict. We accept that views evolve over time, but this is simply misrepresentation.

One of the most recent television ads released by the Hillary Clinton campaign is a reprise of the famous "Daisy" ad offered in 1964 to devastating effect against Barry Goldwater. You can make a case, with the passage of time, that it unfairly maligned Goldwater. But its implications cannot malign Trump at all: As a prospective president, he is an imminent danger to this country and the world. - rs

Trump 69: Immigration day

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On August 31, Donald Trump's immigration day, he managed to undertake a mesh of events that, hour by hour, demonstrated bad practice for anyone aspiring to the White House.

You can start with the visit to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Actual public officials know that visits of that type, between heads of state of countries important to one another, are not done of the spur of the moment, but are carefully planned, with specific results intended and sought. Trump dreamed it up and carried it out on the spur of the moment. This isn't the way leaders in either the United States or Mexico traditionally operate.

There was this much to be said for Trump's visit: His stated goals, stated repeatedly in the course of campaigning for president, do affect Mexico directly, from his plan to build a wall between the two countries - a wall Mexico would pay for - to the deportation of millions of people from the United States back home. The president of Mexico took issue with a number of Trump's statements, and - taking advantage of the translator situated between - called him a liar and before early in September.

Things got no better when he took off for Arizona and delivered his talk on immigration, which focused on doubling down on the harsher provisions from early in his campaign. It was both unrealistic and likely to aggravate most Americans. It also included remarkably few details.

His idea of specificity was to describe opponent Hillary Clinton's immigration proposal as "open borders, let everybody come and destroy our country, by the way." That bore no more relation to reality than did his description of immigration as a crisis; the reality of more people exiting the United States to head south of the border than are entering illegally, over the last eight years, would not fit his narrative very well.

From Josh Marshall at Talkingpoints memo: "As Trump has fudged on whether he'll deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, he's tried to anchor himself on the Wall. In other words, well, maybe we'll deport everyone or only 'the bad ones' or something. But the real thing is the Wall. And Mexico will pay for it. If that gets jettisoned, he doesn't have a lot of his campaign positions left to fall back on."

Immigration Day, pitched as one of the most important days in Trump's campaig for the presidency, was a day of frantically sown chaos and fear. - rs

Trump 95: Funded by foreign nationals

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High up on the lines of Donald Trump appeal for many of his supporters, last year at least, was this: He's rich, he's paying for his campaign himself, so no one else can buy him.

It was never true; Trump accepted campaign money during the primary season as well as during the general. The deception - many Trump backers probably still think he's self-funding - is more significant than the contributions, which all the other candidates for president, of all parties, have been accepting and using this cycle like the many before it. No blame from here on Trump for accepting contributions ...

... except ...

He's seeking a kind of contribution other candidates of all parties, who mostly at least have been trying to conform to federal law on the subject, have not been seeking:

Money from foreign nationals.

On June 29 the watchdog groups Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission said that fundraising emails from Trump this year have been going not just to Americans but to politicians in Britain, Australia, Scotland and Iceland.

FEC guidance sheets say federal campaigns cannot accept donations from foreign nationals, and "It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them."

An email from Trump's son drew this from a British member of Parliament: "Quite why you think it appropriate to write emails to UK parliamentarians with a begging bowl for your father’s repugnant campaign is completely beyond me. ... Given his rhetoric on migrants, refugees and immigration, it seems quite extraordinary that he would be asking for money; especially people who view his dangerous divisiveness with horror."

Others called it "pathetic."

The Associated Press, in a show of wit, said, "Call it ‘Trexit.’ Members of the British Parliament and other foreign politicians want off Donald Trump’s email list, and are seeking to block the presidential candidate from asking them for campaign donations."

There are some gray areas in the law, and Trump's legal counsel may be able to keep him out of the penalty box here. But really: You're running for president of the United States and you want people from foreign countries to underwrite that? What sort of message is this? (Oh wait. We're talking about Donald Trump here.)

First take/The supers

"Super Tuesday" was a little less superlatively definitive than it might have been. It didn't really upset, in any big ways, most existing trend lines, but - remarkably - it didn't knock anyone out of the field, either. In both parties, things continue on more or less as they had been.

More or less.

The one candidate who came out of Tuesday with a basis for feeling a little better than previously was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. While the bulk of the Republican nomination events went to businessman Donald Trump, Cruz was teetering on the edge. If he had won no states on Tuesday - and the possibility of his losing his home state of Texas was quite real - he would have been done. A win in Texas was essential to his continuing. Two additional wins, in Oklahoma and Alaska, had to put a little extra spring in his campaign's step this morning. While Senator Marco Rubio did score one win, in Minnesota, it was his first (and Cruz was highly competitive there). Tuesday gave Cruz a reasonable argument for contending he, not Rubio, is Trump's major opposition. Rubio's campaign is going to have to do much harder spinning, though not as hard as if he'd no wins at all. "Minnesota" will probably be Rubio's word of blessing for some time; without that win, he would have been on the verge of folding. As it is, he can go forward, albeit a little weakened.

That said, Trump entered Tuesday as the contender to beat, and he exited the same way. He is now way ahead on state wins and delegates. He's not un-catchable yet, but if he maintains the pace for two more weeks he will be.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton solidified her front-running position. But Bernie Sanders did well enough to justify keeping on keeping on. That would have been a marginal case had he won only his home of Vermont, as many predictors had estimated. But instead, he won Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota as well - a respectable haul. The race realistically can go on.

One other comment - a quote.

The biggest winner on Super Tuesday may have been Donald Trump, and his electoral strength is beginning to show in the number of party elected and other officials endorsing him - still a small number, but growing.

Republican consultant Rich Wilson had some pungent words for prospective endorsers in a piece out today. All of it bears reading, but this part needs particular attention:

As a Republican governor, a senator, or member of Congress, or as a Republican candidate, let me remind you: You’re known by the company you keep. By associating yourself with or endorsing Trump, you own Trump’s toxic radioactivity with voters outside his base. You own his economic ignorance, his poisonous stupidity on every consequential matter of policy, and his lack of political and personal discretion. And you own it forever. The Internet—and ad-makers like me—never forget.
There’s a reason Trump’s favorability rating is 2:1 negative, why almost no scenario leads him to victory in November. There’s a reason why women and Hispanics loathe Trump. There’s a reason why conservatives know Trump isn’t one of them. And there’s a reason why smart down-ballot candidates and elected officials who can see beyond the current frenzy are heading for the exits from the Trump circus; beyond the core of his supporters, Donald Trump is a hideous cancer on American political life. He’s an objectively terrible person, and that eventually matters in politics.
If you want to endorse that, you’re on your own. You’ll own it even after the Trump bubble bursts, Hillary Clinton is sworn in, and the Chinese-made red hat he shoved on your head at the endorsement rally is nothing but an uncomfortable reminder of your terrible political judgment.

(photo/Gage Skidmore) - rs

Political destruction

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I was sitting in a barbershop the other day as the barber worked on a guy - both facing away from me while they watched the flatulent Donald on Faux Neus.

During one of his repeated oft-repeated lies, I said something like “The guy just can’t stick with the truth about anything.”

The fella in the chair, still facing the other way, asked “What’s the matter? You don’t like Trump?’‘

“I believe he’s the most serious threat our modern political system has had to deal with, “ I replied. “A very dangerous person.”

The guy got up quickly, turned to face me and half-yelled, “Donald Trump is one of the great heroes of our time. He’s the only one out there who gives a damn about us veterans!”

“Trump is a veteran,” I asked?

“Damned right,” the guy said as he walked the 20 feet between us to get right in my face.

“When and where,” I asked?

The guy stopped, fumed, said nothing, then got back in the chair. Later, as he was leaving he said to all, “Trump’s a vet. And I’m a vet. And I’m going to knock on every door in this county to get him elected.”

I asked Barber Don to change the channel. He did.

Trump is no veteran. He was kicked out of three high schools so his father sent him to a military academy. That - and multiple deferments during the Viet Nam war - are as close as he ever came to vet-dom.

I use this slice of small town, seaside life, to help illustrate what’s coming which is this: I believe Donald Trump has done irreparable damage to our system of presidential elections. We will never look at the process in the same way again. And we may never elect a president the same way again. Trump - outright lies, false claims, obscenities and all - has infected millions of people like the guy in the barbershop. He’s making a mockery of a centuries old system of selecting a president - a commander-in-chief - and convinced millions of people his lies are truth and truth is anything his “followers” believe it to be. Or, they don’t care.

Complicit in this political destruction, I believe, is the National Republican Party. By standing idly by as 24 mostly unqualified and untalented people put themselves before the country to run for president, the GOP failed to advance and fully support someone - or several someones - who had the necessary skills to become president. Preibus and the other GOP moolah’s stayed out of the fray, vastly underestimated Trump and abrogated any responsibility for assuring the party had viable and qualified candidates.

Democrats have little to crow about, either. The closest Bernie Sanders - with his avowed but universally misunderstood Socialist label - is likely to get to the White House is to join someone’s protest picket line on Constitution Avenue in 2017. Secretary Clinton - qualified without doubt - comes to her candidacy carrying so much baggage she needs a dozen personal porters. Baggage Trump - or any other eventual GOP nominee - will use to beat her bloody and undercut her candidacy daily.

There’s even more blame for an intransigent Congress led by people who long ago lost sight of their own small roles in our Republic or how to conduct themselves and the affairs of this nation to benefit the people who put them there. They, too, helped create a Trump.

The far right has no corner on uninformed - dare we say ignorant - voters by the millions. The liberal contingent to left of the Democrat center has been producing it’s own falsity and peddling some ill-founded claims.

The plain truth is a huge block of Americans - maybe more than half - knows little more about the candidates of either party than they see on TV or hear in conversation with equally uninformed friends. Evidence of lack of basic knowledge of our government is everywhere - from high school campuses to retirement homes. Breeding ground for “Trumps.”

Try it yourself. Ask people around you: when (to the nearest 10 yeas) was “In God We Trust” added to our money - when (to the nearest 10 years) were the words “under God” added to our Pledge of Allegiance - how many justices on the U.S. Supreme Court - what’s the capitol city of Alabama, New Hampshire, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Tennessee - what did the slogan “54-40 or fight” mean - find Afghanistan on a world map - how many voting members are there in the U.S. Congress?

I don’t know if P.T. Barnum really said “never underestimate the ignorance of the public” as the story goes. But he made a damned big impact doing just that! So is Trump.

Voters - especially this year - are awash in political lies, deliberate misinformation, half-truths and false claims. Both national political parties have contributed greatly by not producing fully vetted - and qualified - candidates. So have several generations of public and higher education by not making extensive knowledge of citizenship required learning from first grade through grad schools. Across the board, citizens of this country know a lot less of their government than those of other nations. Proof of that is not hard to find.

But it’s Trump who creates the most fear for our national future at the moment. Like a 9-point earthquake under a glass factory, he’s shaking and breaking the foundation of rules, traditions, protocols and requirements for an orderly political process to select the head of government for this nation and begin transition to a new administration.
His complicit handmaiden is the national media. The pursuit of ratings points - read advertising dollars - has made whores of CNN, MSNBC and the always unreliable Fox News. Trump’s candidacy is being treated like the “second coming” as networks follow his travels with cameras at the ready and breathless anchors worshiping his over-the-top pronouncements whether they contain a grain of truth or are pure B.S..

National print media has been only slightly less worshipful. Some efforts have been made to separate Trump’s wheat from Trump’s chaff but not nearly enough. Hate radio has daily relayed lie after false claim after mindless personal attack - convincing loyal followers that Trump - and Cruz to a lesser degree - will “make American great again.”

At the moment, though he’s totally unfit and completely unqualified, it’s hard to see how Trump can be denied the Republican nomination. It’s about a lock. Counting delegate noses, it’s nearly impossible to see anyone but Clinton coming out of the Democrat convention. If that’s the ticket in September, bookies in Vegas will likely put their money on Trump. In some spots, they already are.

Donald Trump is a danger to our national security that the founding fathers never saw coming. A former national security chief is already openly describing how the U.S. military might have to disobey and oppose a future President Trump.

He’s heavily damaged a political process. It’s equally possible he could damage an entire nation before it’s over.

Idaho’s preference

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Soon, courtesy of all Idaho’s taxpayers, Republican voters will march to the polls to state their preference for the nation’s next commander-in-chief.

Whether this exercise has any impact upon the presidential sweepstakes remains to be seen, especially since Idahoans will be voting one week after Super Tuesday, the big enchilada that will see over a third of the delegates being selected.

With Michigan and Mississippi also holding primaries, it’s a safe bet the national media will congregate that night in Detroit, not Boise.

Still, it is fascinating to examine which aspirant is being supported by which major Idaho Republican figure. To date one could say Idaho has covered itself with prominent Idahoans having spread their support across most of the candidates.

The one big exception is the current GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump. He has a posted list of 860 supporters, but who they are and how well organized they are remains to be seen. It is doubtful that endorsements by any one figure will carry real influence. Far more likely is the scenario that the one or two top winners in Super Tuesday will likewise do well in Idaho.

In 2008 and in 2012 Idaho Republicans went with the eventual party nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney. In 2016, Idaho GOP rules for selecting delegates to the National Convention in July in Cleveland will probably result in more than one candidate picking up Idaho delegates.

If one candidate receives over 50% of the vote he will garner all 32 delegates. If the winner has less than that, to receive delegates, the threshold is more than 20%. This will guarantee that Idaho has a split delegation at least for the first round of balloting in Cleveland.

In late February the Idaho race appears to be shaping up as a contest between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Mr. Trump with Florida Senator Marco Rubio closing in on the frontrunners.

Rubio has two aces in his hand - U.S. Senator Jim Risch and the “shadow shogun” of Republican politics, Idaho Falls billionaire businessman Frank VanderSloot. Risch and Rubio serve together on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. Both are devout Roman Catholics.

VanderSloot is a member in good standing of the LDS Church. Speculation as to why he would support Rubio over Cruz goes right to the heart of the major difference between Cruz and Rubio regarding the issue of illegal immigrants, who Cruz would ship back, but Rubio would allow to remain if they go to the back of the line of those applying for citizenship.

VanderSloot reportedly employs a goodly number of legal immigrants at his Melaleuca company. A major fund-raiser last time around for Mitt Romney were the National Convention to be brokered one could expect VanderSloot to switch back to Romney.

Approximately one-third of the Idaho electorate belong to the LDS Church. These voters tend to be quite conservative, but some would argue this does not mean they would go for Cruz. After all several million evangelicals stayed home in 2012 rather than vote for Mormon.

This fact alone caused some to arch an eyebrow when First District Congressman Raul Labrador threw his endorsement to Cruz following the collapse of Rand Paul’s campaign. Other Cruz supporters include former party chair Norm Semanko and State Treasurer Ron Crane.

Jeb Bush enjoys the support of former Governor, U.S. Senator and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, as well as that of former Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy. Phil Reberger, former Kempthorne chief of staff and major domo in his own right in GOP circles is also thought to be a Bush supporter.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has the support of two Idaho state legislators, Merv Hagedorn and Robert Anderst.

Idaho’s other major officeholders - Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, Senator Mike Crapo, Second District Congressman Mike Simpson and Lt. Governor Brad Little are all remaining studiously neutral.

To this writer’s thinking, the best of the GOP lot, and indeed the best of the whole bunch is the Ohio governor, John Kasich.

As to the Democrats, they caucus on March 22nd. Last time around Hillary Clinton’s team overlooked Idaho and to their chagrin Obama’s team captured a majority of Idaho’s delegates.

This time around Idaho will be a contest that will come down to whether the young voter’s adoration for Senator Sanders translates into attendance at their caucus vs. the Clinton team’s ability to turn out her base.

One word of caution to Senator Sanders - he’d best back off of his plank calling for free higher education to be treated as a birthright. Universities in states like Idaho or California, where there are private religious affiliated schools, would rapidly be driven from the field - the College of Idaho, Northwest Nazarene, BYU-Idaho, and Gonzaga simply could not compete against public schools offering free higher education.

First take/Trump

Where we are post-Nevada GOP is this: Donald Trump has a clear and obvious glide path to the Republican presidential nomination. Stopping him, which still looked plausible as recently as the beginning of this month (with his second-place Iowa results), no longer does.

There is a tendency in the nomination process for voters to move toward candidates who do well: Once a candidate becomes a clear front runner on the basis of voters, a mentality toward joining with the probably winner starts to take over. Historically, this tendency has been visible in both major parties, and likely will recur this year in both.

And most dramatically on the Republican side. The significance of the Nevada result wasn't just Trump's win but the size of it - approaching half of the overall vote in a field of five contestants, three of them well-funded, highly-visible and strongly-supported. As many have said elsewhere, if the front runner were a conventional politician instead of Donald Trump, the contest would more or less be called over already. The infamous and garbagey Drudge Report (which has been in Trump's pocket for months) has "called" him the Republican nominee, and it has to be said in this case there's good reason for saying so.

Little time remains for anyone else to figure out a way to solve the Trump problem. Next Tuesday, March 1, is "super Tuesday," when not one but a whole mass of states - Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming - make their decisions. They will make those decisions in large part on the basis of national perceptions, and presumably for some of the same reasons the states voting so far have done so. Trump is by far best positioned to present himself as the nominee-in-waiting, will doubtless be regularly described as such between here and there, and he stands a good chance of sweeping nearly all those states. (The biggest exception could be Texas, but if Trump wins there, which seems plausible, he could destroy Ted Cruz' candidacy.) And if he does sweep those states, his delegate lead could become hard for anyone else to catch up to.

The Republican contest isn't quite yet a done deal, but this time a week from now, barring a case of late concerns or buyer remorsem it might be. - rs

First take/three

The many people who have wanted the Republican presidential campaign to boil down to a manageable number have got what they want - almost.

There's now three, nearly. Five, for the moment.

Because the catch is, John Kasich and Ben Carson are still in.

Neither of them will be the nominee, and probably they are well aware of that. But neither is inclined to leave. Both seem to be doing well enough in fundraising - and they occupy distinctive enough niches - that they can keep on offering messages for a while. (Kasich seems to want to stay in until his home state of Ohio votes.) In the process, they will keep on typing up blocks of votes. Small blocks, but possibly significant anyway.

As it stands, Donald Trump seems well positioned for the nomination. If as polling indicates he wins Nevada in tomorrow's caucuses, his track record will be three wins and (in the distant Iowa past) a second place, enough to position him as a clear frontrunner and create a bandwagon effect for the massive SEC primary on March 1, barely a week from now. If the national narrative going into that is that Trump is running well ahead of everyone else, he will become very hard to stop.

If anyone does stop him, that would have to be Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, who more or less share a second-place spot. But aside from a Cruz win in Texas and Rubio in Florida (and Trump could very well win both of those states anyway), it's getting ever harder to see where they break through and actually beat the Donald.

Time is getting short. - rs

First take/New Hampshire

The establishment of both political parties had a very bad night and must be having a rugged morning after.

On the Democratic side, the New Hampshire primary win by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was certainly no surprise; most polls there have for several months shown him leading former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The size of the win was something else, though - that was beyond what nearly any poll had predicted. Sanders wound up with a true landslide, a 60% win, beating Clinton not just substantially but by more than 20 percentage points. He was advantaged in being a next-door neighbor, of course, and demographically as well, two reasons why a win was predicted. But a win on this scale has to involve other factors as well, including connecting with the tenor of the times in a way Clinton has not.

A month from now, there's a real possibility this point in the process may be a distant memory; the upcoming states will not represent such favorable ground for Sanders. But he has shown some real strength for his brand of progressive politics. He has tapped into something, and Clinton will ignore that at her peril. She is said to be spending time the next day or two recalibrating her campaign. If that involves such things as staff shakeups, you'll know that the interest is more in scapegoating than in problem solving; her chief problems do not appear to include staff weaknesses. But if you see changes in campaign style, tactics, and messages, you may get a sense they're actually adapting to conditions as they are on the ground.

On the Republican side - well, principally it was a night for businessman Donald Trump to prove that the polls weren't lying, and that any establishment attempt to take on him and Texas Senator Ted Cruz remains hopelessly incoherent, and will for at least a while longer.

The Iowa results were less conclusive in this respect. There, in the difficult caucus environment, Trump underperformed, the well-organized Cruz did about as well as expected (or maybe a little better), and the established appeared to found its guy in the form of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Now this scenario has been completely upended. This time, Trump matched his polling, or maybe did even a little better, ending the hope that his poll-reflected support wasn't real. It's real, all right, even if it may be reflected to various degrees in different kinds of states. Cruz fell to third place this time, though he probably wasn't feeling too bad about that; he had a first-place win (in Iowa) in his back pocket, and third place in a state as non-amenable to his form of evangelical and militia activist organization wasn't awful. Like Trump, he emerged well positioned to go on.

The real punch-out, strategically, was to the "establishment candidates" - Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio Governor John Kasich. The mainstream of the national Republican organization badly needs one of them to emerge as its champion to slay Trump and Cruz, but the odds of that happening aren't promising right now.

Christie, finishing in sixth place, had invested heavily in New Hampshire and just couldn't gain traction, and now is nearly out of money; he probably drops from the race today. Bush, who saw an uptick in New Hampshire in the final days, did just well enough to justify continuing on, and can since he still has money and organization - even though there's no evidence of any enthusiastic support, or reason to think he'll be competitive with the top two. Rubio, the former organization champion, emerged badly bloodied after his "Marcobot" fiasco, and will have to rebuild enthusiasm for his campaign from the ground up - with hardly any time left to accomplish that. And Kasich, the one of the group who really did do well in New Hampshire, a state that was about as amenable to him as any in the country, spent practically every resource he had - time, money, personnel, energy - for months specifically in that state, and has little to nothing left over to pour into any other place. He has to be hoping his second place win Tuesday will translate to more money and support, and he may get some, but he remains a very long shot.

In all, the Republican race looks very much as it did a month ago. The clearest paths to the nomination are those pursued by Trump and Cruz; their nearest competitor, whoever that turns out to be (and that identity is far from clear right now) will have to clear out a lot of brush along the way. - rs

First Take/Trump ban

As I write this, the parliament of Great Britain is debating a proposal to ban Donald Trump, the front-running Republican candidate for president of the United States, from their country.

Across the pond, he has been called "a buffoon" and "poisonous," and even a "wazzock" ("a stupid or annoying person"). They're not fans.

Jack Dromey, a leading minister for the Labour Party, said "I don't think Donald Trump should be allowed within 1,000 miles of our shore." Another MP said, "I draw the line at freedom of speech when it imports a violent ideology." That's a definition of Trump growing up now in a number of quarters.

This was not simply the result of a few MPs playing politics. It happened because a million citizens signed petitions asking for the ban; under British law, Parliament had to consider the idea. (Might something like that be a good idea for us too?) So it represents the views of a lot of constituents.

All of this has generated some debate over on our shores. What if, for example, Trump actually won the presidency?

And then there's the whole idea of banning people, which ought to give all of us pause. On Facebook, one friend remarked a few hours ago, "And while I find this funny, it's not the right precedent to set for develop worlds to ban loud mouth jackasses from their country. I find it better to have very strong freedom of speech protections so that when those loud mouth jackasses start spewing vitriol we others have the freedom to call them out for what they really are."

First take/fistfight

The Republican presidential debate last night was the most contentious of any so far, and for understandable reasons. Donald Trump at one point happily accepted the "mantle of anger" of his candidacy, but the whole stage seemed suffused by it.

The focus clearly was on Trump and Senator Ted Cruz; none of the others could wrest it away for long. Senator Marco Rubio had some inconclusive jabbing back and forth with Cruz; neither seemed to decisively trounce the other, which good enough for Cruz, he being ahead in the polls. Jeb Bush tried to take on Trump on Muslims and other matters, but seemed to be flailing in the wilderness, to the point that Trump didn't even bother to insult him and even threw him a semi-compliment at one point. Governor Chris Christie took some serious jabs at Rubio, his competitor in the middle-stream category and something of a motormouth in this debate, but probably none did much real damage. The others barely registered.

I just finished reading a string of political pieces this morning, and they all have the same tenor: With a couple of weeks to go until the caucusing in Iowa, it looks like a two-man race: Trump and Cruz.

And after the way they opened up on each other last night, I wouldn't expect the battle between them to ease off real soon. - rs

First take/’bye ’15

As we tick away the hours left in 2015, maybe a reflection or two on this year when some new things happened.

Nationally, it was a time for insurgents to take center stage in politics. It was most obvious on the Republican side, where the backers of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and to a point Ted Cruz were backing people at war with the establishment. People like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and even Rand Paul (running as, maybe, a kinder, gentler libertarian?), who at year's beginning seemed to be lapping the field, were being ground down near the end. Well, maybe not Rubio, if the other establishment guys all quit the race first. But the race, for most of 2015 and now as 2016 begins, is with Trump types. A month from now, when the actual voting begins, that may change, but for now that's the status.

Less dramatically there's some of this on the Democratic side too. the tone and feel and substance of the Bernie Sanders campaign is a lot different from Trump's, but it has the same sense of insurgency and lack of identification with the establishment. Sanders for now seems to be hitting his head against a too-low ceiling, and Hillary Clinton has the odds, but Sanders' campaign still generates the excitement.

Oregon was most notable this year for two big news stories: A new governor (Kate Brown) and legal pot. Both were bigger stories before than after the fact. The governor change happened after a stunning cascade of very personal scandal on the part of John Kitzhaber, who should have known better, didn't, and wound up having to resign. Brown has not been so major a newsmaker in the nearly year she's been in office, which is just as well, but she has gotten (with one major recent exception relating to public records) good marks, and is well positioned for election next year. In the case of marijuana, the big headlines were mostly in the runup to legalization. Without arguing that there's been a pot utopia since, it's been remarkable how few headlines it has generated in the months since legalization, how few serious problems have arisen or been noted. What's the downside to the decision? See if, in another year, we find any then.

Idaho was a more subtle case, but there too a new office holder made for something of a sea change. Under the former superintendent of public instruction, Idaho public schools were an ideological battleground, with lots of ugly messes over money, contracts and - a year ago at this time - a serious problem concerning broadband in the schools. The new superintendent, Sheri Ybarra, who came in with no serious administrative or political experience and might have been expected to make a bad situation worse, instead listened to the people on the ground, got the broadband problem resolved (through local solutions) and turned the battleground into productive turf again. That may have been the most remarkable change of the year in Idaho, the less noted maybe because it involved a reduction rather than an increase of political battling. But note also the arrival of Idaho's new wilderness area, the climax of a long-running battle, the sort of political achievement that many people have come to expect is no longer possible. Representative Mike Simpson showed that it is. - rs