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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

It’s no secret that Donald Trump is splitting the Republican Party in half.

While some neoconservatives have thrown their support behind his campaign, other stalwarts of the GOP establishment have stayed silent on the ticking Trump time-bomb — and a few are defecting entirely to support Hillary Clinton.

Now, this emerging rift seems to be pulling apart the party’s most important dynasty: the Bushes and their retainers. Though many members of the Bush family itself as well as their former advisers are hesitant to endorse Trump, hawks like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have come out in support of his campaign.

Indeed, Cheney and Rumsfeld, who served as defense secretaries in the older and younger Bush administrations, respectively, have enthusiastically backed the presumptive GOP nominee.

In a quixotic mood, Rumsfeld told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren on Wednesday that Trump’s unpredictability makes him the stronger candidate. “On the Democrats’ side, we have a known known. On the Republican side, we have a recent entry, who’s a known unknown,” he said, whimsically (and weirdly) recalling his now-infamous line about weapons of mass destruction (or lack thereof) in Iraq.

As for Cheney, it has been over a month since the former vice president announced that he will continue his tradition of supporting the party’s nominee.

Cheney and Rumsfeld were heavily influenced by other senior officials in the Bush administrations who pushed aggressively for the 2003 Iraq invasion.

The same can’t be said of George H.W. Bush. Though his consistent endorsement of the GOP presidential nominee stretches back half a century, a spokesman told the Washington Post that Bush “was retired from politics.”

A spokesman for George W. Bush, meanwhile, said the 43rd president “does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign,” according to the Financial Times. As for Jeb Bush, his disdain for his former primary opponent needs no explanation, as his refusal to back Trump drew attention during the primaries and continues to make headlines.

Some of the Bush administrations’ foreign policy experts aren’t convinced by Trump, either.

Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser for George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, became one the latest Republicans to defect to the Clinton camp this week, as he lauded her foreign policy experience.

“She brings deep expertise in international affairs and a sophisticated understanding of the world, which I believe are essential for the commander-in-chief,” said Scowcroft, who also worked in the second Bush White House, according to CNN.

Richard Armitage, the younger Bush’s first deputy secretary of state, told Politico last week that he could not support Trump in the general election.

“He doesn’t appear to be a Republican, he doesn’t appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton,” Armitage said.

Perhaps some of the strongest criticism came from Barbara Bush herself, who called Trump “a comedian” and “a showman” during a CBS interview in February, adding that his strategy — or lack thereof — goes against “how things get done in this country, truthfully.”

She also called Trump’s approach to women “unbelievable,” saying, “I don’t know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly.”

During the CBS interview, Jeb Bush added, “I don’t think a president would have ever shouted profanities in a speech in front of thousands of people with kids in the crowd.”

“Who did that?” his mother asked, as if in shock.   

“Your buddy,” Jeb answered. “He does it all the time.”

 

Photo: Former U.S. first lady Laura Bush and former President George W. Bush join his brother Republican U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush on the campaign trail at a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]