Posted by on March 2, 2016

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of shlock movies, ones that are normally not acknowledged in polite society.  One of the very best of these is Kelly’s Heroes, starring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles and Donald Sutherland and featuring one of the great movie theme songs (Burning Bridges by the Mike Curb Congregation).  The theme of the movie is the superiority of private enterprise over the public sector, as a rag-tag group of American soldiers pierces through the German lines in WWII, motivated by a bank full of gold.  Finding their route to riches blocked by a German soldier in a Tiger tank, Rickles offers the following advice to Savalas (and the clip is well worth watching):

Rickles: “Make a deal.”

Savalas: “What kind of a deal?”

Rickles: “A deal, deal.  Maybe the guy’s a Republican.  Business is business.  Right?”

Soon thereafter, you have the sight of the tank pivoting its gun and blowing open the doors of the bank.  Free enterprise overcomes all.

Well, it is time for the Republican candidates to heed this advice.  People are going to have to start falling on swords.  And quickly.

Carson can stay if he wants; he is an irrelevancy at this point.  Kasich has to give up his delusions and drop out before the March 15 winner-take-all primary in his home state of Ohio.  And Cruz and Rubio have to make a deal and one of them has to drop, more likely Rubio at this point.

The reason for this is simple: Trump cannot win the general election and he will drag the Republican Party down with him, probably losing the majority in the Senate.  And then we will have Clinton in the White House, a liberal majority in the Supreme Court and (at best) a split Congress.  A perfect storm.  As Tim Miller, the head of the conservative Our Principles PAC, stated:

Donald’s general election campaign will fail worse than Trump Mortgage and Trump Steaks did and Hillary Clinton will destroy him even if she’s campaigning from jail.

If anyone doubts this, then I suggest a read of Megan McArdle’s recent posting in BloombergView entitled “The Die-Hard Republicans Who Say #NeverTrump.”  In it, McArdle eavesdrops on a Twitter conversation and invites emails from long-time Republicans who are against Trump.  Here are some of the better responses:

“I’m concerned Trump’s nomination would split the GOP apart (like the Grand Canyon) and his inevitable, massive loss could destroy the GOP (then no more Supreme Court appointments, ever?). … Better to lose one election or third party or something, even at the risk of the Supreme Court, and live to fight another day, than tolerate radioactive Trump — and through the contact, become radioactive ourselves and implode into oblivion.”

“I fully feel that even a single four-year term by either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be disastrous to the fundamentals and principles this nation was founded on.  But a Donald Trump administration would be equally, if not more, disastrous.  The difference is that with Donald Trump, conservatives and the Republican Party would be shackled to the mess created, bound at least by association to whatever tyranny he imposes, whatever disastrous policy he enacts on a whim, and whatever hateful, bigoted rhetoric follows in his wake by the alarming number of his followers I would never have imagined still exist in America today.”

“I personally am not willing to sacrifice my country and more specifically the dignity of the office that represents it, just to make a point.”

“It may be true that the country I love and fought for has gone over the cliff and is willing to elect a narcissistic con-man as president, but I will never, under any circumstances, put my name to its death warrant.”

“POTUS has power to start a nuclear war.   Trump is impulsive, thin skinned, irrational and vindictive.   Putting nuclear launch codes in his hands would be only thing worse than putting Hillary back in the WH.”

“I agree with Donald Trump on virtually nothing and don’t consider him a Republican.  Not only won’t I vote for him in a general election, but I’ll vote for either Hillary or Sanders….As Americans, I think we have a moral obligation to choose between the lesser of two evils…or as Churchill said: ‘If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.'”

McArdle summarizes the responses into the following  charge sheet against Trump:

  • They question his character and judgment
  • They think he’s a racist, or panders to racists
  • They think he’s misogynistic
  • They think he lacks substance on policy
  • They see him as an unprincipled con man
  • He’s seen as authoritarian
  • They don’t trust him with foreign policy
  • They believe he’s a crypto-liberal

But McArdle is most struck by how many die-hard Republicans, many of whom claim to have voted the straight ticket historically, say that they won’t vote at all or will vote Democratic if Trump is the nominee.  And how many of them would leave the Republican Party if he gets the nod.

Trump may be unstoppable at this point.  The only chance is to unify all the non-Trump voters in a single candidate, which is likely to be Cruz.  Cruz is very, very far from perfect, but there is still a reasonable chance that in the general election, and in governing, he will lose the looney edges.  Trump only has looney edges.  It is also true that, while Cruz may not beat Clinton, at least this would be a conventional loss, rather than the Thelma & Louise moment that the Republicans would have with a Trump candidacy.  The Trump supporters are having fun now, but I can assure them that this only lasts while the car is still in the air.

It is time for Cruz and Rubio to make a deal.

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom

I Wish that I Had Said That (And Sometimes Not)…

“Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies,” by Gore Vidal, a life-long liberal explaining the origin of his political beliefs

 

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Comments

  1. Mark B. Spiegel
    March 2, 2016

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    A Trump/Kasich ticket could beat Clinton. People would look upon Trump as the mouthpiece and Kasich as the reasonable guy who can get things done. After all, Trump– like Obama, except for is pet-project of Obamacare– probably doesn’t want to get his hands dirty dealing with all the bs involved with actually “governing.”

    • Roger
      March 2, 2016

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      You clearly like to roll the dice…

      I think that this is the thinking of a lot of Trump supporters. They are counting on his essential laziness to leave the reins of power to someone else. It is true that he is lazy; his total lack of debate prep and policy knowledge proves that he is unwilling to work. But there is absolutely nothing in his business career, or his personality, to indicate that he is going to stay away from the big decisions. And he can do all the damage he needs with this. There is also absolutely nothing to indicate that he will keep his mouth shut, which is a WMD.

      Also, look at his campaign and his companies. He surrounds himself with cronies, sycophants and relatives. So, there is no reason to believe that he is going to be tempered by wiser heads around him.

      I have a reasonable risk tolerance. But it is not this high.

      Roger

  2. Mark B. Spiegel
    March 2, 2016

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    P.S. Trump will do FAR better in the general election than Cruz, who is seemingly now the only Republican alternative, so it’s “him” or “no one.”

    • Roger
      March 2, 2016

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      Possibly. In which case, I vote “no one.”

      Roger

  3. Mark B. Spiegel
    March 3, 2016

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    You know, if you cut through the guy’s bluster, his tax and healthcare proposals are terrific and a lot more pro-growth than Hillary’s: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions

    (That’s assuming this tax proposal is at least deficit neutral– I’ve heard some skepticism about that.)

    • Roger
      March 3, 2016

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      Sorry, Mark, but you are miles off on both of these.

      His tax proposal is, to put it very mildly, far from revenue neutral. The last comments I have seen on this (http://www.wsj.com/articles/gop-candidates-need-better-pro-growth-tax-plans-1456695969) estimate, on a bipartisan basis, that Trump’s plan would increase the deficit by $10 trillion over the next 10 years, making it the least deficit neutral of all the plans by a factor of 4. It is also rated to generated the least growth bang for the buck. This “plan” is pure campaign bullshit. It will be DOA.

      Regarding healthcare, I see that Trump has just released his healthcare plan. Prior to this, all he has released in the statement that “we are going to replace Obamacare with something great — cheaper and better.” And he has also said that he is going to allow insurance companies to complete across state lines; I am pretty sure that you will agree that, although this is a good idea (that many others have suggested), it is not sufficient to solve our health care crisis. I will review what Trump has just put up on his campaign website, but if it is anything like his earlier position papers, it will be long on verbiage, short on details, and totally void of numbers. But we will see.

      By the way, while you are looking at Trump’s campaign web page, you might want to compare it to Cruz’s (or to the “low energy” efforts of Jeb Bush, which has now been taken down, unfortunately). (Rubio’s is structured a different way so it is not comparable.) Notice the difference? Until this latest effort, Trump had position papers on 5 subjects. Cruz has papers on 9 subjects and has had them up there for months. My recollection is that Bush’s website had position papers on 13 subjects and they were up there from the beginning. Kasich has position papers on 9 subjects, also up there from the beginning. Ditto pretty much all the other candidates (Christie, Fiorina, etc). Who is the only one who hasn’t been doing his homework? Who is the only one who is basically telling us very little and saying “trust me”? It’s The Donald. Don’t you find this at least slightly insulting?

      Mark, like me, you have been an investor for most of your professional life. What do you think of someone who comes to you with a proposition containing very little detail and almost no numbers? That’s what I thought. Why do you apply a different standard when you are making political decisions?

      Roger

      • Mark B. Spiegel
        March 3, 2016

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        Your last question is a great one. My answer is that as an investor I can “go short” or “stay in cash.” As a citizen I’m inevitably going to be stuck with “one of the above.” I like Bush over Trump but he’s gone. I like Cruz’s economic policies but I despise his stand on social issues as well as him personally.

        Your point on Trump’s tax plan is well-taken, so if the rates need to be 5% higher so be it– it’ll still be FAR better than anything Hillary will propose. Better yet, lower the rates even more and eliminate the mortgage-interest and charitable gift deductions (both political non-starters, of course).

        Big picture: Trump had a plan, and that plan was/is first “to win” and THEN to “get specific.” Seeing as “the specifics” from Cruz and Clinton are non-starters for me and I know that Trump is a very practical guy who’s fairly libertarian on social issues, yes, I’m willing to roll the dice on him.

        As an aside, someone I know here in New York has had multiple business dealings with Trump and is a lifelong Democrat/big Hillary supporter. He said Trump is a first class jerk in business negotiations (i.e., “very tough”) whom he despises, and yet grudgingly admits that as President, when it comes down to making specific decisions his experience with Trump (whom again, he DOESN’T like) tells him that the guy will most likely make the right choices.

        • Roger
          March 4, 2016

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          Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favor of tax cutters, although I find the structure of Trump’s plan to be one of the least thoughtful and inefficient plans I have seen. But the problem is that we need to cut tax AND cut government expenditures, and I have not seen one instance where Trump has credibly proposed to cut government programs. He flip-flops constantly on Obamacare, just as he has flip-flopped in the past about single-payer and other government health programs. Unlike Rand, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Christie, he has consistently in the debates ruled out any cuts to entitlements, without which there cannot be any meaningful expenditure reform. Although his foreign policy statements, which are somewhat ambiguously non-interventionist (but still contain things like “I am going to do such a number on ISIS…”), could be interpreted as Pentagon cuts, on the other hand he has repeated stated that he is “going to make the US military so strong….” He even, in the Iowa debate and in speeches in that state, defended ethanol subsidies (which Cruz, courageously, denounced in Iowa) – if you are willing to support this most obviously pork-barrel policy, then what won’t you support? If Trump is not willing to cut expenditures, then why do you think that he will succeed in cutting taxes? Or that it would be responsible for him to do so?

          As I pointed out in my blog “Trump: Crony Capitalist Par Excellence,” Trump is a firm believer in and prior practiser of crony capitalism. Do you think that Trump would kill the Exim bank? What about Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac? Although Clinton would be a Big Government (tax/redistribute) president, there is good reason that Trump would be an equally Big Government (crony capitalism) president.

          There is also the politics of it. If we keep a Republican congress, then it would be easy for them to stand up to a Democratic president. But standing up to a Republican one who proposes looney ideas (ie., Trump), would be practically impossible. The balance of powers breaks down when the same party controls multiple branches of government.

          I wouldn’t want to have a drink with Cruz either. But, then again, I would run from having a drink with Trump. But I am not sure that is the major criterion. Sure, I don’t like Cruz on social issues and I hate his flagrant religiosity, but are Trump’s phoney and opportunistic stands on major religious and other social issues any better? Trump is more likely to ignore his current pandering to the religious right than Cruz is, but isn’t his hypocrisy at least a little sickening?

          As for your friend’s business experiences with Trump, I can’t really comment. Except that I have a friend who did a deal with Trump’s team about 10 years ago and was then brought into to “kiss the Pope’s ring” at the end of the negotiation. He was then treated to a 45 minute stream of consciousness ramble the only consistent purpose of which was to say how great Trump is. He came away from this meeting thinking that Trump was totally senile — and this was 10 years ago; I doubt that Trump has gotten better. So, two conflicting anecdotes. I don’t know which is right, but judging by the behavior of Trump that I have seen in speeches and debates, I tend to believe the “Trump is a senile asshole” story.

          Roger

  4. Mark B Spiegel
    March 4, 2016

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    Re. the specifics of the tax plan, I’d “WAG” that if the rates were 5% higher across the board vs Trump’s plan, it might at least be revenue-neutral and would still be flatter than it is today. As for the spending side…

    My thought is that Trump is an egomaniac who thought it would be really great to be President but has given very little thought to what he’ll do when he gets there, but that if he DOES get there he’s a practical guy who will make smart decisions. I don’t buy into the “crony capitalist” thing– remember, he’s a real estate developer who has to navigate though all kinds of zoning laws, NIMBY protesters, environmental rules, tax abatement rules, etc., to get anything done, and I guarantee you that he would have much preferred to do all his building in a much less regulated environment and understands that ALL businesses would prefer the same.

    I think we both agree that the guy’s kind of an asshole– it just comes down to whether or not (if elected) he’ll be “OUR” asshole, lol. Regardless, it’s sure gonna be a fun campaign if he goes up against Hillary.

    • Roger
      March 4, 2016

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      I don’t think that 5% across the board is going to do it….

      OK, let’s agree to disagree on this one. But one last comment: I just watched the last Republican debate. Donald is no longer a kid in a crowd of 10 yelling insults and one-liners. He is now one of four. And they are actually asking him questions and pointing out contradictions, flip flopping and the total lack of specificity in his response. And they are following up and not letting him get away with total bullshit. How is he going to do when it is just him and Clinton on the stage, and there is no crowd to hide behind? I predict that that will not be fun for our side. It will be excruciating.

      Be well.

      Roger

      • Mark B Spiegel
        March 4, 2016

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        >>How is he going to do when it is just him and Clinton on the stage, and there is no crowd to hide behind? I predict that that will not be fun for our side. It will be excruciating.<<

        If between now and then he doesn't do a ton of homework, I'll be surprised and disappointed and he'll fully deserve to lose. I think he'll buckle down and do the homework. But I could be wrong!

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