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Taibbi writes: "On the campaign trail in Iowa, Donald Trump's antics have forced the other candidates to get crazy or go home."

Matt Taibbi hit the road with the Republican Party circus. (illustration: Victor Juhasz)
Matt Taibbi hit the road with the Republican Party circus. (illustration: Victor Juhasz)


Inside the GOP Clown Car

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

12 August 15

 

On the campaign trail in Iowa, Donald Trump's antics have forced the other candidates to get crazy or go home

he thing is, when you actually think about it, it's not funny. Given what's at stake, it's more like the opposite, like the first sign of the collapse of the United States as a global superpower. Twenty years from now, when we're all living like prehistory hominids and hunting rats with sticks, we'll probably look back at this moment as the beginning of the end.

In the meantime, though, the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination sure seems funny. The event known around the world as hashtagGOPClownCar is improbable, colossal, spectacular and shocking; epic, monumental, heinous and disgusting. It's like watching 17 platypuses try to mount the queen of England. You can't tear your eyes away from it.

It will go down someday as the greatest reality show ever conceived. The concept is ingenious. Take a combustible mix of the most depraved and filterless half-wits, scam artists and asylum Napoleons America has to offer, give them all piles of money and tell them to run for president. Add Donald Trump. And to give the whole thing a perverse gravitas, make the presidency really at stake.

It's Western civilization's very own car wreck. Even if you don't want to watch it, you will. It's that awesome of a spectacle.

But what does it mean? Or to put it another way, since we know it can't mean anything good: Is this enough of a disaster that we shouldn't laugh?

I went to Iowa to see for myself.

Rockwell City, Iowa, evening, July 30th. I've just rushed up from Des Moines to catch my first event on the Clown Car tour, a stump speech by TV personality Mike Huckabee, whom the Internet says was also once governor of Arkansas.

Traditionally, in these early stages of a presidential campaign, very little happens. Candidates treat their stump work like comedians practicing new material between the lunch and dinner hours. In the old days, they tiptoed their positions out before small audiences in little farm towns like this in an effort to see what minor policy tweaks might play better later on in the race, when the bullets start flying for real.

That's what one normally expects. But 2016 is very different, as I found out in Rockwell City right away.

Two factors have combined to make this maybe the most unlikely political story of our times. The first is the campaign's extraordinary number of entrants. As The Washington Post noted last fall, this is the first time in recent memory that there is no heir-apparent candidate (like a Bob Dole). For some reason, during the last years of the Obama presidency, the national Republican Party chose not to throw its weight behind anyone, leading a monstrous field of has-beens and never-weres to believe that they had a real shot at winning the nomination.

So throughout this spring and summer, a new Human Punchline seemingly jumped into the race every week. There were so many of these jokers, coming so fast, that news commentators quickly latched onto the image of a parade of clowns emerging from a political Volkswagen, giving birth to the "clown car" theme.

But the more important factor has been the astounding presence of Donald Trump as the front-runner. The orangutan-haired real estate magnate entered the race in mid-June and immediately blew up cable and Twitter by denouncing Mexicans as rapists and ripping 2008 nominee John McCain for having been captured in war.

Both moves would have been fatal to "serious" candidates in previous elections. But amid the strange Republican leadership void of 2016, the furor only gave Trump further saturation among the brainless nativists in his party and inexplicably vaulted him to front-runner status. The combination of Trump constantly spewing crazy quotes and the strategy actually working turned his campaign into a veritable media supernova, earning the Donald more coverage than all of the other candidates combined.

This led to a situation where the candidates have had to resort to increasingly bizarre tactics in order to win press attention. Add to this the curious dynamic of the first Republican debate, on August 6th, in which only the top 10 poll performers get on the main stage, and the incentive to say outlandish things in search of a poll bump quickly reached a fever pitch. So much for the cautious feeling-out period: For the candidates, it was toss grenades or die.

Back in the Rockwell City library, the small contingent of reporters covering the day's third "Huckabee Huddle" was buzzing. A local TV guy was staring at his notes with a confused look on his face, like he couldn't believe what he read. "Weirdest thing," he said. "I was just in Jefferson, and Huckabee said something about invoking the 14th and 5th amendments to end abortion. I'm really not sure what he meant."

A moment later, Huckabee sauntered into the library for an ad-hoc presser, and was quickly asked what he meant. "Just what I said," he quipped. "It is the job of the federal government to protect the citizens under the Constitution."

He went on to explain that even the unborn were entitled to rights of "due process and equal protection." The attendant reporters all glanced sideways at one another. The idea of using the 14th Amendment, designed to protect the rights of ex-slaves, as a tool to outlaw abortion in the 21st century clearly would have its own dark appeal to the Fox crowd. But it occurred to me that Huckabee might have had more in mind.

"Are we talking about sending the FBI or the National Guard to close abortion clinics?" I asked.

"We'll see when I get to be president," he answered.

Huckabee smiled. Perhaps alone among all the non-Trump candidates, Huckabee knows what kind of fight he's in. This GOP race is not about policy or electability or even raising money. Instead, it's about Nielsen ratings or trending. It's a minute-to-minute contest for media heat and Internet hits, where positive and negative attention are almost equally valuable.

Huckabee launched his campaign on May 5th, running on a carefully crafted and somewhat unconventional Republican platform centered around economic populism, vowing to end "stagnant wages" and help people reach a "higher ground."

But emphasizing economic populism is the kind of wonky policy nuance that doesn't do much to earn notice in the Twitter age. After an early bump pushed him briefly up to fourth place, Huckabee began a steady slide in the polls as the unrestrained lunacy of Trump began seizing control of the race. By late July, Huckabee's numbers had fallen, and he had to be worrying that he would land out of the top 10.

But then, on July 25th, Huckabee gave an interview to Breitbart News in which he shamelessly invoked Godwin's Law, saying that Barack Obama's deal with Iran "would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven."

The quote hit the airwaves like a thunderclap. Virtually everyone in the English-speaking world with an IQ over nine shrieked in disgust. The Huckster's "ovens" rant brought MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski to near-tears on air. Huckabee even prompted an Israeli transportation minister to exclaim, Dirty Dancing-style, "Nobody marches the Jews to ovens anymore."

Even in Huckabee's own party, he was denounced. Jeb Bush, anxious to cast himself as the non-crazy, Uncola Republican in a field of mental incompetents, called on everyone to "tone down the rhetoric." Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, known as one of America's most dickishly unscrupulous hate merchants, said, "You're not hearing me use that sort of language."

But far from being deterred by all of the negative attention, Huckabee shrewdly embraced it. Much like the Donald, Huckabee swallowed up the negative press energy like a Pac-Man and steamed ahead, and was soon climbing in the polls again.

Huckabee had stumbled into the truth that has been driving the support for the Trump campaign: That in this intensely media-driven race, inspiring genuine horror and disgust among the right people is worth a lot of votes in certain quarters, irrespective of how you go about it. If you're making an MSNBC anchor cry or rendering a coastal media villain like Anderson Cooper nearly speechless (as Trump has done), you must be doing something right.

In Rockwell City, it seemed like Huckabee was consciously trying to repeat his "ovens" stunt. He smiled as the media in attendance filed out of the presser, surely knowing we would have the "we'll see" quote up on social media within minutes.

At the event, he was glowingly introduced by Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, who revved the crowd by bashing the Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for gay marriage. King had apparently been told on good authority by a lawyer friend that Obergefell v. Hodges meant that only one party in a marriage had to be a human being. "What that means," he said, "is you can now marry my lawn mower."

A reporter next to me leaned over. "King's lawn mower is gay?"

I shrugged. In the modern Republican Party, making sense is a secondary consideration. Years of relentless propaganda combined with extreme frustration over the disastrous Bush years and two terms of a Kenyan Muslim terrorist president have cast the party's right wing into a swirling suckhole of paranoia and conspiratorial craziness. There is nothing you can do to go too far, a fact proved, if not exactly understood, by the madman, Trump.

Huckabee's speech tossed plenty of red meat into the grinder, explaining that America was divinely created by "providence of almighty God," which is the only explanation for the extreme longevity of the Constitution. He stepped down to hearty applause, giving way to a performance by a group of Rockwell City Republican women, who sang what they called a "rap song." There was no beat and each of the 10-odd singers was off from the next by a word or two:

People want the freedom

To make medical and personal choices!

And we want representatives

To listen to our voices!

Listening, I suddenly worried that the International Federation of Black People would detect this "rap" performance from afar and call in an air strike. Sneaking out the front door, I checked my phone to see how Huck's abortion-clinic play was doing: He'd already set off a media shitstorm.

Within 24 hours, he was being denounced across the blogosphere, but he was soon riding up in the polls again, one of the few shoo-ins to get on the main stage of the August 6th debate.

It was astounding, watching the other entrants try to duplicate Huckabee's feat. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was last seen on the national stage choking on his own face in an infamous 2011 debate performance, when he was unable to name the three federal agencies he himself had promised to do away with. He returned to the race this year basically the same gaffe-spewing yutz he was four years ago, only dressed in preposterous "smart" glasses, a deadly error in a fight with a natural schoolyard bully like Donald Trump.

"He put glasses on so people will think he's smart," Trump croaked. "And it just doesn't work!"

Perry was so grateful to even be mentioned by Trump that he refocused his campaign apparatus on an epic response, apparently in an attempt to draw the Donald into a Drake/Meek Mill-style diss war. He tossed off a 3,000-word speech denouncing "Trumpism" as the modern incarnation of the Know-Nothing movement (one could almost hear Trump scoffing, "What the fuck is a Know-Nothing?"). He decried Trump himself as a "barking carnival act" and a "cancer" that the party should "excise" for its own sake — and, one supposes, for Rick Perry's.

Trump, too busy being front-runner to notice Perry's desperate volleys, basically blew the Texan off. A week later, Perry was in a tie for 10th place in the polls. Asked if his campaign was finished if he didn't make the debate cut, Perry replied, in characteristically malaprop fashion, that making the debate was "not a one-shot pony." He ended up missing his shot, or his pony, or whatever, and was squeezed out of the debate.

Many of the entrants tried nutty media stunts to re-inject energy into the race. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul attempted to revive his flagging libertarian-niche campaign by putting out a video. In it, the candidate appears dressed in shop goggles and jeans, curly hair flying, chain-sawing the tax code in half. He looks like Ryan Phillippe doing a Billy Mays ad.

Then there was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the few candidates with a sense of humor about how much of a long shot he is. "I do bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings, funerals – call me, I'll come," he cracked. Once in the race, though, Graham immediately trolled Trump by calling him a "jackass," then briefly enjoyed some press limelight when the furious front-runner gave out Graham's telephone number to the public.

Graham responded to the blessing of a Trump insult by putting out a video celebrating his Trump-victimhood. In it, the candidate chops up his cellphone Ginsu-style, mixes it in a blender in a foul-looking yellow liquid, and whacks it with a nine-iron, or maybe a wedge (note: the Graham camp says it was a nine).

All of this actually happened. Can we be that far from candidates putting out dueling cat videos?

In late July, in a cramped conference room of a Marriott in West Des Moines, Graham showed up to introduce himself to voters. In person, he's an odd character, like an oversize ventriloquist's dummy, with too-bright eyes and cheeks frozen in a half-grin.

He calls his event a "No Nukes for Iran" rally. Clearly gunning for a Cabinet post in Defense or Homeland Security, Graham is running almost a one-issue race, campaigning on being the candidate who most thinks Barack Obama's Iran deal sucks.

Of course, all 17 of the Republican candidates think Obama's Iran deal sucks, but Graham wants you to know he really thinks it sucks. Part of his stump speech is ripped straight from Team America: He thinks the Iran deal will result in "9/11 times a hundred." Actually in Graham's version, it's 9/11 times a thousand.

"The only reason 3,000 of us died on 9/11 and not 3 million," he said, "is they could not get the weapons."

Graham would seem to be perfectly suited for this Twitter-driven race, because he has a reputation in Washington for being a master of the one-liner and a goofball with boundaries issues who not infrequently crosses lines in his humor. "Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor?" he reportedly once quipped. "Complete disgust. If you can get through the surgeries, it's disgust."

But in person, Graham is a dud. His nasal voice and dry presentation make Alan Greenspan seem like Marilyn Manson. Still, it doesn't take too long for him to drift into rhetoric that in a normal political season would distinguish him as an unhinged lunatic, which is interesting because pundits usually call Graham one of the "sane" candidates.

First, he firmly promised to re-litigate the Iraq War. "I'm gonna send some soldiers back to Iraq," he said. "If I'm president, we're going back to Iraq."

Promising concretely to restart a historically unpopular war is a solid Trump-era provocation, but Graham then took it a step further. He pledged to solve the Syria problem by channeling Lawrence of Arabia and leading an Arab army in an epic campaign to unseat the caliphate.

Graham, a politician who reportedly once said that "everything that starts with 'al-' in the Middle East is bad news," insisted he was just the man to unite the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and other peoples in battle, and also get them to pay for the invasion (getting dirty foreigners to pay for our policies is another Trump innovation). "We're going into Syria with the Arabs in the lead," Graham said. "They will do most of the fighting, and they're gonna pay for it because we paid for the last two."

I looked around the room. No reaction whatsoever. An old man in the rear of the hall was picking a cuticle off his middle finger, but otherwise, nobody moved. There were reporters, but Graham's hawkish bleatings don't rate much in an America obsessed with Caitlyn and Rachel Dolezal and the Donald.

Instead, later that same day, news leaked out that a Trump political adviser, Sam Nunberg, had once referred to Al Sharpton's daughter as a "n-----" on Facebook. This is news. It virtually obliterated all other campaign information.

Within a day, polls showed Trump surging like never before. One Reuters poll released on August 1st showed him scoring nearly 30 percent of the vote. The second-highest contender, Jeb Bush, was now nearly 20 points off the lead. When Trump completed the news cycle by giving Nunberg an Apprentice-style firing, his triumph was total.

If the clowns who engaged Trump mostly came out looking awful, the ones who didn't engage him came out looking even worse, including several of the ostensible favorites.

Jeb Bush was supposedly the smarter Bush brother and also the presumptive front-runner in this race. But on July 4th, just a few weeks after entering the race, Trump basically ended the fight in one fell swoop with a single kick in the balls, retweeting that Bush has to like "Mexican illegals because of his wife."

With a wife's honor at stake, most self-respecting males would have immediately stalked Trump and belted him in the comb-over. But Bush stayed true to his effete Richie Rich rep and turtled. He said nothing and instead meekly had an aide put out a statement that Trump's words were "inappropriate and not reflective of the Republican Party's views."

It was such a bad showing that the Beltway opinionators at Politico ran a story asking, "Is Jeb Bush turning into Michael Dukakis?" Game, set, match! Bush has been plunging in the polls ever since.

A similar fate befell Marco Rubio, the boy-wonder Republican. Rubio cruised through the early portion of the race, when voters were impressed by his sideswept, anal-retentive, Cuban-Alex-Keaton persona, rising as high as 14 percent in the polls. But then Trump entered the race and blasted the clearly less-than-completely-American Rubio for favoring a pro-immigration bill. "Weak on immigration" and "weak on jobs," Trump scoffed. "Not the guy."

He battered Rubio with tweet after tweet, one-liner after one-liner. Trump aides hit Rubio for having "zero credibility" and being a "typical politician" who favored a "dangerous amnesty bill." Rubio meanwhile defended Mexicans in general after Trump's "rapists" line, but has passed on engaging Trump's personal attacks. As a result, Rubio's support for a path to citizenship for the undocumented has stood out like a herpes sore, and he's plummeted to five percent in the polls.

The only candidate to really escape Trump's wrath has been Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and that's because Cruz has spent the entire political season nuzzling Trump's ankles, praising the Donald like a lovesick cellmate. The Texas senator, whose rhetorical schtick is big doses of Tea Party crazy (his best line was that Obama wanted to bring "expanded Medicaid" to ISIS) mixed with constant assurances that he's the most Reagan-y of all the candidates, even reportedly had an hourlong "confab" with Trump. "Terrific," he said of the meeting, calling Trump "one of a kind."

The subterranean Cruz-Trump communiqués are a fantastic subplot to this absurdist campaign, hashtagClownCar's very own Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact. It could mean the two plan to run together, or it could mean Cruz will plead for Trump's votes if and when the party finds a way to beg, threaten or blackmail Donald out of the race. Whatever it means, it's a microcosm of the campaign: simultaneously disgusting and entertaining.

It's not surprising that Trump's most serious competition will likely come from Wisconsin's Walker, who is probably the only person in the race naturally meaner than Trump.

A central-casting Charmless White Guy who looks like a vice principal or an overdressed traffic cop, Walker traced a performance arc in the past year that was actually a signal of what was to come with Trump. Back in February, when addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker answered a question of how he would deal with Islamic terrorists by saying, "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."

Like Trump's Mexican remarks, Walker's gambit comparing American union workers to head-chopping Islamic terrorists seemed like a bridge too far even for many Republicans. He was criticized by the National Review and future opponent Perry, among others. But instead of plummeting in the polls, Walker, like Trump, gained ground.

The irony is that this was supposed to be the year when the Republicans opened the tent up, made a sincere play for the Hispanic vote, and perhaps softened up a bit on gays and other vermin. But then the lights went on in the race and voters flocked to a guy whose main policy plank was the construction of a giant Game of Thrones-style wall to keep rape-happy ethnics off our lawns. So much for inclusion!

Waterloo, Iowa, August 1st. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed up at Lincoln Park downtown to attend the Cedar Valley Irish fest, a multiday fair with street cuisine, tents full of hand-made crafts, live music and a 5K road race. In a state where a more typical event is a stale VFW hall buffet or a visit to the world's largest truck stop (the I-80 meet-and-greet is a staple of Iowa campaigning), the Irish fest is a happening scene, featuring good food and sizable numbers of people under the age of 60.

Two years ago, Christie's arrival at an event like this would have been a major political event. Back then, Christie was a national phenomenon, a favorite to be dubbed presumptive front-runner for 2016.

Christie's the type of candidate political audiences have come to expect: Once every four years, commentators in New York and Washington will fall in love with some "crossover" politician who's mean enough to be accepted by the right wing, but also knows a gay person or once read a French novel or something. In the pre-Trump era, we became conditioned to believe that this is what constituted an "exciting" politician.

Christie was to be that next crossover hit, the 2016 version of McCain. Washington's high priest of Conventional Wisdom, Mark Halperin, even called him "magical," and Time called him a guy who "loves his mother and gets it done."

But two years later, Christie has been undone by "Bridgegate," and the buzz is gone. When he showed up at Cedar Falls, there were just a few reporters to meet him. One of the Iowa press contingent explained to me that with the gigantic field, some of the lesser candidates are falling through the cracks. "We just don't have enough bodies to cover the race," the reporter said. "It's never been like this."

Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, made their way patiently through the crowd, shaking hands and talking football and other topics with a handful of attendees. It was old-school politics, the way elections used to be won in this country, but it was hard not to watch this painstaking one-person-at-a-time messaging and wonder how it competes in the social-media age.

After the event, I asked Christie whether the huge field makes it difficult to get media attention. "Well, I've never had any trouble getting attention," he said. "I just think it's differentiating yourself. I think it plays to our strengths, because we've always worked really hard."

Right, hard work: that old saw. Later in the day, back across the state in Rockwell City, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum played the same tune at the town's "Corn Daze" festival. Dressed in jeans, a blue oxford and a face so pious that Christ would be proud to eat a burrito off it, Santorum rushed through a speech explaining that it is in fact he who is the hardest-working man in politics.

"I just want to let you know that we've gone to about 55 counties," he said. "Last time, we went to 99. We'll probably have 99 done here in the next few weeks."

I asked how anyone can distinguish himself or herself in a field with so many entrants? "Win Iowa," he answered curtly.

Right, but how? "What happens in August stays in August," he said mysteriously, then vanished to his next event. He had, like, 11 events in three days, far more than most other candidates.

Santorum actually won the Iowa race four years ago with his overcaffeinated, kiss-the-most-babies approach. But watching both he and Christie put their chips on the shoe-leather approach to campaigning feels like watching a pair of Neanderthals scout for mammoth. In the Age of Trump, this stuff doesn't play anymore.

Not that the old guard will go down without a fight. The much-anticipated inaugural Clown Debate in Cleveland was an ambush. Fox kicked off the festivities by twice whacking Trump, Buford Pusser-style, asking him to promise not to make a third-party run (he wouldn't) and sandbagging him with questions about his history of calling women "fat pigs" ("Only Rosie O'Donnell," Trump quipped). After the show, Fox had Republican pollster Frank Luntz organize a focus group that universally panned Trump's performance. "A total setup," one of Trump's aides complained on Twitter.

Trump didn't seem to care. Hell, he didn't even prepare for the debate. "Trump doesn't rehearse," an aide told reporters. All he did was show up and do what he always does: hog everything in sight, including airtime. As hard as Fox tried to knock him out, the network couldn't take its eyes off him. He ended up with almost two full minutes more airtime than the other "contestants," as he hilariously called them on the Today show the morning after the debate. It's the scorpion nature of television, come back to haunt the "reality-makers" at Fox: The cameras can't resist a good show.

Politics used to be a simple, predictable con. Every four years, the money men in D.C. teamed up with party hacks to throw their weight behind whatever half-bright fraud of a candidate proved most adept at snowing the population into buying a warmed-over version of the same crappy policies they've always bought.

Pundits always complained that there wasn't enough talk about issues during these races, but in reality, issues were still everything. Behind the scenes, where donors gave millions for concrete favors, there was always still plenty of policy. And skilled political pitchmen like Christie, who could deftly deliver on those back-room promises to crush labor and hand out transportation contracts or whatever while still acting like a man of the people, were highly valued commodities.

Not anymore. Trump has blown up even the backroom version of the issues-driven campaign. There are no secret donors that we know of. Trump himself appears to be the largest financial backer of the Trump campaign. A financial report disclosed that Trump lent his own campaign $1.8 million while raising just $100,000.

There's no hidden platform behind the shallow facade. With Trump, the facade is the whole deal. If old-school policy hucksters like Christie can't find a way to beat a media master like Trump at the ratings game, they will soon die out.

In a perverse way, Trump has restored a more pure democracy to this process. He's taken the Beltway thinkfluencers out of the game and turned the presidency into a pure high-school-style popularity contest conducted entirely in the media. Everything we do is a consumer choice now, from picking our shoes to an online streaming platform to a presidential nominee.

The irony, of course, is that when America finally wrested control of the political process from the backroom oligarchs, the very first place where we spent our newfound freedom and power was on the campaign of the world's most unapologetic asshole. It may not seem funny now, because it's happening to us, but centuries from this moment, people will laugh in wonder.

America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show. And this Republican race is our first and most brutal casting call.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

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+28 # Inspired Citizen 2015-08-12 13:40
We mention Taibbi in our rebuttal to leftists who reject Bernie Sanders.

wp.me/p6itlU-5H
 
 
-47 # ChrisCurrie 2015-08-12 13:50
Compared with the other Republican candidates for president who are essentially "mindless avatars" of their corporate/billi onaire sponsors, Donald Trump stands out "like a breath of fresh air." He did, among other things, accurately point out that President Obama's dishonestly promoted TPP, TTIP, and TiSA rigged trade agreements would be a "disaster" for the American people.
 
 
+49 # reiverpacific 2015-08-12 16:10
Quoting ChrisCurrie:
Compared with the other Republican candidates for president who are essentially "mindless avatars" of their corporate/billionaire sponsors, Donald Trump stands out "like a breath of fresh air." He did, among other things, accurately point out that President Obama's dishonestly promoted TPP, TTIP, and TiSA rigged trade agreements would be a "disaster" for the American people.

And did he say what he'd do instead; make TTPP (Trump Towers Trans Pacific Pestilence) and so on (use y'r imagination on the others)? Like all other GOP wannabes, he's full of criticism but devoid of ideas.
Not that I'm pro-all that TPP stuff -it just got shot down anyway, so one must wonder why he brought it up in the first place.
At least he didn't vouchsafe "Vouchers" -the only solution to every populist proposal for ANYTHING they ever come up with.
If he's your idea of a "breath of fresh air", you must live next to a reeking toxic dumpsite.
Anybody who doesn't have the small depth of perception to see that Trumpet is all facade, is myopic indeed and deserves what they would get; sadly the rest of us would suffer exponentially.
 
 
+46 # Billy Bob 2015-08-12 21:55
He's also an honest example of the crazy shit that Republicans actually think. He's the only Republican politician actually saying what Republican voters truly believe, which is why he's ahead in the polls, and why it's obvious that no Republican stands a chance of becoming president anytime in the near future.

Trump truly is a breath of fresh air. Because, he points out just how bat-shit crazy all Republicans are, and why the less insane other 80% of the electorate need to join forces and make sure NONE of them gets even close to winning in 2016.
 
 
+12 # Adoregon 2015-08-13 13:25
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

― H.L. Mencken

Unless Bernie Sanders is elected, that "great and glorious day" may not be far off. The Republican field is truly incredible.
 
 
+16 # Floridatexan 2015-08-13 16:00
Mencken's words already rang true. We had George W Bush.
 
 
+1 # bmiluski 2015-08-13 16:11
You understand that the office of the president does NOT control the government....r ight?
 
 
+1 # Artemis 2015-08-14 03:02
Haha! Matt Taibbi wasn't just inventing it all, there are 'rea'l people out there saying these things.
 
 
-1 # Bruce Gruber 2015-08-14 09:49
Trump stands out as the ONE who thumbs his nose at the Republican Establishment that manipulates the lemming-like robots in their Party who imply salvation and deliver enemy conspiracies. He 'identifies' as a 'producer' - even if it's only invective and disdainful sarcasm that is being delivered to the frustrated.
 
 
+96 # Ray Kondrasuk 2015-08-12 13:56
Great line, Matt:

"It's not surprising that Trump's most serious competition will likely come from Wisconsin's Walker, who is probably the only person in the race naturally meaner than Trump."

We here in Packerland have known this since the Madison protests of 2011.

Matt, I hereby designate you an Honorary Cheesehead.
 
 
+5 # bmiluski 2015-08-13 16:12
Then what the hell happened? How did he get re-elected and how did his bat-shit policies get passes?
 
 
+2 # Bruce Gruber 2015-08-14 09:51
Follow the MONEY!

http://www.sanders.senate.gov/koch-brothers
 
 
+67 # Buddha 2015-08-12 13:59
Every election season, as the GOP gets crazier and crazier, makes me work even more feverishly to get retired early, sell the house and buy and blue-water cruising sailboat, and leave this nuthouse of a country and never look back.
 
 
+4 # bmiluski 2015-08-13 16:14
I, however, love this country too much to desert it like a coward. I choose to stay and fight.
 
 
0 # PCPrincess 2015-08-15 08:29
There are wonderful human beings all over this globe. And although we slipped out of a uterus within the borders of the U.S.A., if at some point, this nation state becomes so corrupt that the shame is constant, then no amount of nationalism would be enough to keep me from considering some of the awesome expat locations around the world. : )
 
 
0 # bmiluski 2015-08-15 14:52
Sorry Princess, but I DID NOT "slip out of a uterus within the borders of the U.S.A." So again, I LOVE THIS COUNTRY of my choice and I will stay and fight for her. I am not someone who stands on the sidelines in another country and tut tuts and then comes crawling back when things look better.
 
 
+36 # ER444 2015-08-12 14:11
Brilliant!!
 
 
+34 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-08-12 14:36
Not hard to understand why Trump and Bernie Sanders are drawing crowds. Both men speak their mind. Refreshing in a field of corporate robots.
 
 
+64 # dimenson 2015-08-12 14:38
God Matt, you're really good! I know I should be crying bitterly at the glaring reality you reveal but I'm still laughing hysterically at the Greenspan-Maril yn Manson comparison!
 
 
+13 # mozartssister 2015-08-13 05:13
Yes! Not to mention Trump as "orangutan-hair ed real estate magnate." Genius!
 
 
+75 # warrior woman 2015-08-12 14:42
"America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show. And this Republican race is our first and most brutal casting call."

This succinctly summarizes our issues.
 
 
+45 # Rockster 2015-08-12 14:59
I must admit that the vision of a blue water sailboat holds huge appeal,but I have more than ten grandchildren . Excuse my bad language; but What the fuck are we putting up with here? If I hear NPR compare Bernie with the Donald one more time I'm going to get very sick. Has anyone else noticed this distorted and evil form of marginalizing Bernie? I know Hillie, the female killie , is not that popular so what Is going down here? There must be a huge mass of chips being called in now, before Senator Sanders gets heard by the casual electorate .
 
 
+32 # Dale 2015-08-12 15:02
What a line up of astounding zombie characters for 2016!
The most respectable it seems is the third in line of the Dynasty of Burning Bushes, Jabem Bush.
Folks better trample Dick Perry before he dicks the whole country.
Hospitalize Sick Santarum, perhaps a brain tumor giving rise to apocoliptic visions,
Maybe Ben Carson the colored house boy physician for Zombie Plantation can practice neurosurgery on Sanatarum--
Then there is Crushem Wisconsin Walkerover , much beloved by teachers and public servants.
Donald Shrill Trumpet has a penchant for off-key blasts;
This Donald quacks more quackery than Donald Duck.
This serial racist says Mexicans are serial rapists.
Wants to build a wall as high as his New York skyscrapers, the Great Wall of Trump, to keep out dirty Mexicans.
Senator Graham Cracker hovers around waving a confederate flag and screaming for war.
The whole lot call for War under guise of bringing peace and democracy to the world.
What can one say about a Huckaberry? Too many thorns to get at the fruit.
Until he said about Iranians doing to Jews, "march them to the oven doors.”
The Cruz and Rubio duo come out of the Cuban exile terrorist groupings,
Want to crucify Obama for opening relations with Cuba and do in Venezuela.
The gruesome duo are Tea Party favorites. Real machos on women´s rights.
The whole Party it seems is an insurrectionist party of the resurrected Confederacy.
 
 
+18 # Albion 2015-08-12 15:12
Thorough and informative Matt, amusing and anxiety-produci ng at the same time. But it's sad to see such a good writer falling off the grammar wagon: "But watching both he and Christie put their chips on...."
 
 
+17 # sean1303 2015-08-12 15:31
One is almost tempted to think of Trump in a Colbert Report light, as he is so genius at taking the most repugnant GOP wedge issues and taking them to their most absurd extension.

The best outcome of the whole clown car season is that whomever comes out of it as the nominee will have been so stretched to the freakshow right that they will have no chance in the general election, where the biggest bloc is voters committed to neither GOP or Dems.

Of course, the party could always come to some sense of self-preservati on and draft someone whom is none of these jokers at the convention.
 
 
+2 # Corvette-Bob 2015-08-12 15:37
I do not believe that the candidates deserved such a long article. I stopped reading it before I finished it since this election is now like a reality television show.
 
 
+19 # Shades of gray matter 2015-08-12 16:27
Chuck Schumer is more dangerous, duplicitous, than all GOPer clowns combined. He is a bit less obvious.
Trump is no Napoleon.
 
 
0 # Artemis 2015-08-14 03:10
True. And doesn't he have Israel backing him?
 
 
+5 # Shades of gray matter 2015-08-12 16:29
Zombie TTP not real dead; Obama will revive it,the JERK!
 
 
-1 # Shades of gray matter 2015-08-12 16:35
I feel that the FOX hostess should have given Mr. Trump "trigger warnings" before she lit into him with micro aggressions meant to make him feel uncomfortable. She should be fired for lack of gender sensitivity. No one should ever be made to FEEL uncomfortable. I think she is guilty of Murdoch-Ailes whorism. And pimping for Rubio. Those are my feelings.
 
 
+17 # shraeve 2015-08-12 17:01
Huckabee and Trump understand that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
 
 
+25 # 4angels4 2015-08-12 19:39
"The thing is, when you actually think about it, it's not funny. Given what's at stake, it's more like the opposite, like the first sign of the collapse of the United States as a global superpower. Twenty years from now, when we're all living like prehistory hominids and hunting rats with sticks, we'll probably look back at this moment as the beginning of the end."

Actually, I felt 'the beginning of the end' was when the People of the U.S. allowed GW Bush, et al, to take us into war with Iraq, based on LIES. When we lost the truth - and our conscience's moral obligation to search for truth - I felt we were becoming so depraved, we would not find a way back. Then when the People of the U.S. voted for GW Bush yet a SECOND time, knowing more of 'the truth,' what I had felt, was, very sadly, already coming to be.
 
 
+5 # Floridatexan 2015-08-13 16:10
Both the elections in 2000 and 2004 were electronically rigged, at least in the swing states of Florida and Ohio. And the Supremes' decision in 2000 (one time only) was a complete travesty. It was 9/11 that crystallized the Bush presidency, which is one reason I completely believe it was an inside job. Too many loose threads...935 lies leading up to the attack of Iraq...Afghanis tan just didn't have enough pizzazz. And you're correct, in my estimation...wh atever claim we as the people of the USA had to the moral high ground vanished under Bush.
 
 
+1 # BKnowswhitt2 2015-08-12 21:07
This election cycle looks a lot like 2000 with Hillary a weak candidate like Al Gore was ... redistricting to skew votes to white middle class areas by the GOP working behind the scenes the last 12 years and a passive Democratic Party and vote .. likely to spell bad news for us all .. the Republican Shit Show gets circa 2015 USA media coverage that does not give a rats ass about he outcome only the ratings it all brings them in dollars .. so hold on folks .. if anything good happens in 2016 election result it will be an accident ...
 
 
+6 # BKnowswhitt2 2015-08-12 21:09
By the way i don't think the electorate is stupid .. and the demonizing of each side by the other is something voters are tired of .. i say whoever does it most loses ... maybe we could keep track of that!!
 
 
+9 # Robbee 2015-08-12 22:06
entering the void of political satire suddenly abandoned by colbert and stewart, matt's writing is vibrant retort to "this election is now like a reality television show" - can written coverage survive?

the zombie clown car is so full of stiffs that only the outrageous can survive

this piece revives fear and loathing on the campaign trail - i pray, calling on matt, for frequent updates
 
 
+4 # Robbee 2015-08-12 22:14
highlander meets survivor - as long as it's trump, there can be but one!
 
 
+3 # janie1893 2015-08-13 00:42
Sad, so very sad!
 
 
+8 # Dongi 2015-08-13 00:51
A real crunching article by Matt Taibbi. He really does a job on the Republican clowns running for the white house. One wonders how the people that really control things are going to find a winning candidate. I think of Walker and Huckabee as examples of the demented right wingers. Put them in the President's chair and watch the world shake. Then, there is Jeb Bush already known for his expertise at stealing elections. Can the Republicans be serious in backing this creep for President? He is a moral misfit of the lowest order. Re Donald Trump, get serious. He is a loud mouth bully ready to spend a fortune to buy the Presidency. His candidacy would represent a new low in presidential politics and the nation would deserve
any disaster it gets if they choose him

Imagine President Trump leading the battle against global warming or confronting Isis or dealing with the neo Nazis in Ukraine. Scary indeed.
 
 
+5 # AUCHMANNOCH 2015-08-13 01:01
"Politics used to be a simple, predictable con. Every four years, the money men in D.C. teamed up with party hacks to throw their weight behind whatever half-bright fraud of a candidate proved most adept at snowing the population into buying a warmed-over version of the same crappy policies they've always bought." And so they will succeed again when you Americans vote in Kill-All- Jong- Il Clinton or Kill-All- Jong -Bush.

Who said there is no dynasties in the U.S.A.? Wouldn't it be great if Bernie got in?
 
 
+6 # RMDC 2015-08-13 05:38
The problem is that everything Matt writes is true and it was even more true when George W. Bush was running for the white house in 2000. He won and became the worst president in all US history. But the media took him seriously. All of this is just reality TV as Matt says. Jeb Bush will be president and the neo-cons will follow their agenda for world dominance and fascism. The US is following a course of funny fascism. Or clown fascism. But it is real fascism nonetheless.
 
 
+4 # lexalexander 2015-08-13 07:50
Huckabee had stumbled into the truth that has been driving the support for the Trump campaign: That in this intensely media-driven race, inspiring genuine horror and disgust among the right people is worth a lot of votes in certain quarters, irrespective of how you go about it. If you're making an MSNBC anchor cry or rendering a coastal media villain like Anderson Cooper nearly speechless (as Trump has done), you must be doing something right.

Or, as I've been saying all along, the GOP candidate will prosper who will most viciously and visibly punch down against women, minorities, the so-called liberal media, or anyone else who isn't part of the GOP's racist, nativist, selfish base. Trump's leading because he's best at that, and Walker and Huckabee are alive only because they're almost as good at it.
 
 
+3 # xflowers 2015-08-13 08:34
Matt, the way I see it is those disenchanted with crazy politics as usual on the right have Trump. On the left we have Bernie. The point is we are all fed up, right and left. The Republican establishment candidate, Jeb Bush, carries way too much baggage from his brother. And the Democratic establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, carries way too much baggage from her husband as well as from herself. She could run on healthcare reform in in 07 and 08, but she can't now and is obviously too frightened and unsure to take up the issues squarely on the table now, which have changed. Our very lives and livelihoods are threatened, and whatever diversions that worked in the past to steer the public away from those concerns aren't working anymore. I can't begin to predict what will happen. Not that long ago I thought we'd be stuck with two establishment presidential candidates that no one had much enthusiasm for. I can't say that now.
 
 
+5 # ericlipps 2015-08-13 14:26
Quote:
Back in the Rockwell City library, the small contingent of reporters covering the day's third "Huckabee Huddle" was buzzing. A local TV guy was staring at his notes with a confused look on his face, like he couldn't believe what he read. "Weirdest thing," he said. "I was just in Jefferson, and Huckabee said something about invoking the 14th and 5th amendments to end abortion. I'm really not sure what he meant."

A moment later, Huckabee sauntered into the library for an ad-hoc presser, and was quickly asked what he meant. "Just what I said," he quipped. "It is the job of the federal government to protect the citizens under the Constitution."
Er . . . since when did fetuses get to be "citizens"?

A case can be made that they are human beings from the moment of conception. The anti-abortion movement has been shrieking that case from every rooftop and every cable channel. But CITIZENS?

Return with me now to those thrilling words of yesteryear, the Fourteenth Amendment, which begins, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Last time I looked, the unborn--the pro-lifers' own word--by definition haven't been born. There goes qualification one. And they haven't gone through the naturalization process: e.g., when was the last time, or even the first, one of the "unborn" swore an oath to anything? So much for qualification two.
 
 
0 # JJS 2015-08-14 08:43
Great!
Qualification three: "... 'AND' subject to the jurisdiction thereof,..."
not 'OR' subject to the jurisdiction thereof,...
The non-citizen fetus resides inside the body of a US citizen who IS protected by the Constitution, or at least should be protected.
 
 
+2 # Artemis 2015-08-14 03:08
I don't know how many readers followed the demise of Italian society, culture, sanity during the Berlusconi era, but it is a warning. I didn't think that America could sink much lower than Bush, but obviously with Trump & Co. there is a sinkhole opening up to swallow what's left of mainstream decency.
 
 
0 # innocentobserver 2015-08-14 07:24
I see most of the comments are anti GOP but fail to see little or any difference in the political ruling class and their propaganda efforts - to demonize the competition while maintaining the status quo enriching themselves while building their power base. I am tired of a government that is more interested in serving themselves just as much as I am tired of political parties supporting their version of events to further their goals. Both parties blatantly lie to us via half truths and misrepresenting facts hoping we forget the promises that were made to get elected. I support trump because both parties and by extension their media continue these lies and preach the end of everything. You who participate in supporting either political party are to blame. Only when the American electorate supports someone who is not heavily vested in the American political machine will America become great again.
The republicans do not like sanders or trump just like the dems to lot like sanders and trump. That should raise a few questions for anyone not in the politically obedient crowd. Will it? We will see...
 
 
+2 # Bruce Gruber 2015-08-14 10:18
The ESTABLISHMENTS of the Republican and Democratic Parties do not like Trump and Sanders, respectively. Each of those two candidates has a noteworthy base of disaffected, anti-establishm ent support. Trump's is based in resentment and bullying, angry reaction. Sanders seems to have motivated idealists demanding ths changes they had "hoped" for with Obama.
 

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