It’s his party now

Get used to it Republicans, get used to it.

Or perhaps the Speaker of the House thinks he can extract a price from Trump in exchange for his support. In which case, let me suggest how that’s likely to turn out:

Pivoting to the general

On the stage in Costa Mesa, CA, last night.
On the stage in Costa Mesa, CA, last night.

 

Much has been made of Donald Trump’s supposed turn toward repositioning himself as serious and sober as he eyes the coming general election.

Trump’s widely panned foreign policy speech on Wednesday, stripped of his usual blustering insults, misogyny, and gratuitous mockery of critics and rivals, was one supposed signal of the New Trump. Veteran Republican operative Paul Manafort was brought on board the campaign for the express purpose of retuning Trump’s image for the big event in the fall.

But apparently the candidate himself is having none of it, instead returning to the cult-of-personality approach to campaigning that has brought him so much success. And doing so with a vengeance.

Here, according to the Los Angeles Times is what that looks like:

Donald Trump put his roughest edges on display Thursday night in Costa Mesa as he opened his California primary campaign with a raw performance highlighting his hard-line views on illegal immigration and torture while trashing an array of rivals.

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination surrounded himself onstage with people carrying banners with photos of family members killed by immigrants in the country illegally. …

After weeks of toying with efforts to tone down his rhetoric, Trump’s kickoff rally for California’s June 7 primary was more in line with the initial declaration of his candidacy last June, when he accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States.

As the crowd’s rapturous reaction attested, it’s still an approach with strong appeal to a large segment of Republican voters in California. But it’s also the kind of politics that has badly damaged the party’s standing in a state where the Latino and Asian population has risen steadily for decades.

Trump also played to fears of terrorism, blasting President Obama for allowing Middle Eastern war refugees into the United States.

“We’re putting them all over the country by the thousands, and we have no idea what the hell is going to happen,” he said.

Trump repeated a story discredited by historians about U.S. Army Gen. John Joseph Pershing dipping 50 bullets in pig blood and using them to execute 49 Muslim terrorists around the time of the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902. The crowd applauded. Trump said Pershing gave the 50th suspect the remaining bullet to show to his people, and it deterred terrorism for 42 years — up from 25 years in an earlier telling.

Trump went on to criticize Republican rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for not embracing the waterboarding of terrorism suspects.

“He’s actually a very weak person, so he didn’t like it,” Trump said. “I’d go many steps further than waterboarding — many, many steps further.”

His torture comments generated another huge burst of cheers.

Given how he campaigns, imagine, if you dare, what his acceptance in speech will sound like in Cleveland this summer. No doubt the “Vichy Republicans” will eat it up.

About that Trump speech …

I was going to blog about Trump’s “major” foreign policy speech. I really was. And then I watched it.

How best to sum up 20 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back? Let’s start and end with this:

But don’t take my word for it, or Sen. McCain’s. Watch for yourself, if you have the stomach for it.

Trumped up foreign policy

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Donald Trump will give what is being billed as a major foreign policy speech tomorrow intended to “recast the real-estate mogul as a more sober and serious presidential candidate than he’s perceived by many Americans and foreign allies.”

This may be the tallest of tall orders. In a long article over at Huffington Post Highline, author Andy Kroll reports on the deep dismay within the ranks of America’s military and foreign policy leadership over the possibility of a Trump presidency:

[W]hen Trump has weighed in on national security questions, his remarks often reveal either ignorance or disdain for military expertise and the codes of conduct that govern the armed forces. …

Trump’s pronouncements on foreign policy, combined with his years of broadsides, have set off a very real fear within military circles about what might happen were he to become president. In the last two months, I spoke with dozens of people in the national security realm—current and retired officers, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA officials. The words they used to describe their mood: Terrified. Shocked. Appalled. Never before, they say, has a candidate gotten so close to the White House with such little respect for the military.

What do we know about his foreign policy positions so far? By my reckoning, based on his extant speeches, statements, and tweets, Trump would …

  • Authorize torture against terrorism suspects.
  • Order the US military to commit war crimes.
  • Abandon longstanding alliances, like NATO.
  • Walk away from defense commitments to South Korea and Japan even if that means they develop nuclear weapons of their own.
  • Wage trade wars against China and other countries he deems guilty of engaging in unfair trade practices.
  • Close America’s border with Mexico and confiscate remittances from Mexican workers in the US in order to fund the building of Trump’s border wall.
  • Bar Muslim immigrants and refugees from US soil.

We’ll see how much of that agenda the candidate walks back tomorrow, or whether he doubles down. In the meantime consider this post a placeholder until the speech at the National Press Club in Washington.