Thursday, March 31, 2016

‘The Answer Is There Needs to Be Some Form of Punishment.’

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March 31, 2016
Morning Jolt
... with Jim Geraghty

'The Answer Is There Needs to Be Some Form of Punishment.'

Quick, what would be the worst thing an allegedly pro-life presidential candidate could say? If Todd Akin's "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," represents a ten on the political damage scale, what would count as an eight or a nine?

How about Donald Trump's comments to Chris Matthews yesterday?

TRUMP: It's really not funny. What do you say about your church? They're very, very strict.

MATTHEWS: The churches make their moral judgments, but you're running for President of the United States to become Chief Executive of the United States. Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?


MATTHEWS: 10 cents, 10 years, what?

TRUMP: I don't know. That I don't know.

MATTHEWS: Well why not, you take positions on everything else.

Or how about this comment later?

MATTHEWS: What about the guy that gets her pregnant? Is he responsible under the law for these abortions? Or is he not responsible for an abortion?

TRUMP: Well, it hasn't -- it hasn't -- different feelings, different people. I would say no.

Matthews's suggestion doesn't make that much sense, because under the current law, the father doesn't have any say about whether or not the mother chooses to have an abortion. His question posits that a man could be punished for an abortion that he never knew about or opposed. But you can imagine how Trump's position sounds to many women's ears -- "I'll punish you for wanting to end an unwanted pregnancy, but not the man who had an equal role in creating that unwanted pregnancy."

Most pro-lifers who support banning abortion believe that the doctor performing the abortion is the one committing the crime -- after all, he's the one ending a human life -- not the mother.

National Right to Life President Carol Tobias quickly issued a statement:

The National Right to Life Committee unequivocally opposes the killing of innocent unborn children and works unceasingly to have them protected in law. Unborn children and their mothers are victims in an abortion. In adopting statutes prohibiting the performance of abortions, National Right to Life has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed. Rather, penalties should be imposed against any abortionist who would take the life of an unborn child in defiance of statutes prohibiting abortions. National Right to Life-backed state and federal legislation, such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, is targeted at stopping abortionists.

Trump's campaign quickly issued not one but two revised statements, insisting he didn't mean to say exactly what he had just said, and that his position is the opposite of what he just said, and that it doesn't really matter because the voters are all a bunch of gullible fools who will believe anything Trump says anyway.

Once Again: There Is No Grand Strategy. There Is No Master Plan.

When you see a guy who claims to be pro-life offering the single worst articulation of that philosophy, some wonder if we're all witnessing deliberate self-sabotage.

As I wrote yesterday, "There is no long game. He's winging it. There is no grand strategy. There is no master plan."


To believe Markay's theory requires you to believe, a la Newt Gingrich and Ann Coulter, that Trump actually knows what he's doing. He's not a guy in over his head who's lettin' it rip on highly sensitive questions about abortion; he's actually a genius who's carefully crafting one performance after another which he knows, cumulatively, will succeed in destroying his chances of winning. In Nate Silver's formulation, Trump is either the most brilliant political tactician of his era or just a guy randomly mashing buttons. I'm going to guess that retweeting a "Melania's hotter than Heidi Cruz" photo was not, in fact, a coolly calculated play to turn millions of voters against him but really just a juvenile way of high-fiving his fans on late-night Twitter without any thought for the consequences. I.e. mashing buttons. To believe that Trump's sabotaging himself by playing puppet-master to the entire national media and the GOP electorate is, in an odd irony, basically to accept the "Green Lantern" nature of Trump's candidacy. He's convinced his followers that he really does have super powers that'll let him achieve great things that mere mortal presidents can't. Now he's convincing his critics that he has super powers capable of orchestrating a very particular set of circumstances in which he exits from the race while claiming to have been the true victor.

Put some faith in Occam's Razor, the notion that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Trump acts like he as a hot temper and no impulse control because he has a hot temper and no impulse control. He lashes out blindly against people who he ought to be trying to persuade because he likes lashing out at people, and doesn't think too far ahead. The boss lays out how Trump is rejecting things that are likely to help him between now and November:

Not only did Trump say that the pledge is null and void as far as he's concerned, he also went further and told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he doesn't want the support of Ted Cruz.

Here is a front-runner for a major party's nomination doing all he can to repel his nearest competitor, who has won 5,732,220 votes so far, or 29 percent of the total (Trump has won 39 percent), and speaks for a significant, and highly engaged, faction of the party. Is there any precedent for such a willfully and pointlessly destructive act in modern American politics?

Every rational calculation says that Trump should seek to preserve the pledge. At this point, he is more likely than anyone else to be the nominee and benefit from the support of his competitors. He should want to use every possible lever of unity at his disposal given the threats of an independent conservative candidacy should he win the nomination. And yet, he's done the opposite.

This morning, Breitbart's John Nolte declares that he wants the #NeverTrump crowd to die in a fire, and he wants to see Trump "get his (you-know-what) together."

But there is no "got his you-know-what together" Trump. There is no more mature Trump waiting around the corner. There is no unifying Trump waiting to be unveiled. There is no better, more controlled, less controversial, less polarizing, more broadly appealing version of him waiting to be unleashed once the nomination is secure. This is it. What you see is what you get.

And a majority of Americans don't like what they see:

Three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. So do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

Those findings, tallied from Washington Post-ABC News polling, fuel Trump's overall 67 percent unfavorable rating -- making Trump more disliked than any major-party nominee in the 32 years the survey has been tracking candidates.

Are you paying attention, convention delegates?

This Year's Electoral College Map with Trump: Deep Blue Something

Larry Sabato updates his electoral college map for a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump matchup, and the results are not pretty for the Republican party:

Over the years we've put much emphasis on the seven super-swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia. While some will fall to the Democrats less readily than others, it is difficult to see any that Trump is likely to grab. In fact, four normally Republican states (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri) would be somewhat less secure for the GOP than usual. North Carolina, which normally leans slightly to the GOP, would also be well within Clinton's grasp in this election after being Mitt Romney's closest win in 2012.

If Sabato's map comes to pass, 48 of the 50 states will have voted the same way in the past three elections. The only two states that flipped in 2012 were Indiana and North Carolina, shifting from Obama's column to Mitt Romney's. In Sabato's projected map, Hillary wins all of Obama's 2012 states and wins back North Carolina. This would mean that Republicans will have lost those seven "super-swing states" -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia -- three elections in a row, and raise the legitimate question of whether they are still swing states anymore.

And this is Sabato's optimistic projection for Republicans under a Trump-nomination scenario:

Polls may be ephemeral and sometimes wildly inaccurate, yet surveys (and demographics) are the only hard data we have this far out from the election. The polling averages for a Clinton-Trump face-off show roughly a 10 percentage point lead for the Democrat. RealClearPolitics has Clinton up about 11 points and HuffPost Pollster gives Clinton a lead of about nine points. This kind of Democratic advantage, if properly distributed, would produce an Electoral College result similar to, or greater than, Barack Obama's 2008 total of 365 electoral votes to John McCain's 173 (Obama won the national popular vote by 7.3 points). Again, this suggests that one or more states currently rated Likely Republican (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri) might slip into the Democratic column.

The convention delegates might want to read this paragraph carefully:

Now, let's suppose the Republican nominee is Ted Cruz and not Donald Trump. How much difference would it make in November? Probably, a Clinton-Cruz contest would be closer. RealClearPolitics' polling average has Clinton defeating Cruz by about three points, while HuffPost's average has Clinton winning by about four points. Unquestionably, Cruz would have a better chance of overcoming a gap of three or four points than Trump would of bridging a 10 or 11-point difference. At the least, Cruz could firm up the GOP's chances in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri, and he could turn some of our Leans Democratic states back into Toss-ups.

When I hear Cruz skeptics arguing the Texas senator faces an uphill climb against Hillary Clinton, I nod and point out that the consequences of an unsuccessful Cruz candidacy are way less harmful than an unsuccessful Trump candidacy. (Unless, of course, a catastrophic blowout of Trump, costing many down-ticket Republicans their seats, convinces every rational Republican that it's political suicide to change the GOP from fundamentally conservative, free-market, traditionalist, Reaganesque coalition to one that's fundamentally populist, protectionist, isolationist, and unconcerned with traditional values.)

ADDENDA: An unexpected quote from longtime Trump friend and adviser Roger Stone: "I think it'll either be Trump on the first ballot [at the convention] or Paul Ryan on the fourth. If they can manage to euchre this nomination away from Trump by cheating, or because he falls short and can't get the small number of votes he needs to get over the top, which I think is unlikely, then it won't be Ted Cruz."


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Will California Take a Chance on $15?
Why Westerners Make Inviting Targets for Terrorists
The Wall Street Journal's Role in Creating a Trump-Friendly Environment
He Spoke to Us: Discerning God in People and Events
By Fr. George Rutler
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