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Is Trump Nuts, Or Crazy Like A Fox?

When Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, he suggested during an interview that the use of “low yield” atomic bombs in North Vietnam could block off supply lines from Communist China. Despite strong blowback depicting him as a war monger, the rightwing populist won his party’s nod to lead the country. “In your heart, you know, he’s right,” trumpeted his followers.

Supporters of Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson, who succeeded John F. Kennedy after his assassination in Dallas, came up with a counter-slogan for Goldwater: “In your gut, you know he’s nuts.” LBJ crushed him in a landslide.

These days, “nuts” and “insane” and are among the pejoratives regularly lobbed by critics from both parties at Donald J. Trump, the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee now notorious for his erratic stream-of-consciousness patter, some of it outrageously vulgar. But does he really dwell in a twilight zone?

His detractors claim he’s mentally and emotionally unqualified to have his tiny fingers on the nuclear trigger, citing as evidence Trump’s extreme proposals — such as building a wall to keep out Mexican “rapists” and other criminals, advocating killing the families of terrorists in the fight against ISIS (he now denies saying this), and claiming he had witnessed thousands of Muslims celebrating the fall of the twin towers on 9/11 — a proven lie. He has also called for violence against protestors at his rallies (“knock the crap out of them, would you?” Trump said during a Feb. 1 event in Cedar Rapids).

On July 12, New York Times columnist Gail Collins told Arthur C. Brook in a published conversation that she expected that the bloviating Manhattan billionaire would prevail at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week. But she added. “I actually do have faith that over the next few months people will realize that Trump is, as a potential president, totally bonkers.”

A few days earlier, during a Cincinnati rally, Trump’s commentary seemed unhinged as ever as he praised “bad guy” Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as being “good” at killing terrorists. He also defended an image put out by his campaign of a six pointed star that struck many as anti Semitic, saying he wished it hadn’t been taken down. His rambling speech prompted The New Yorker writer John Cassidy to inquire online: “Is Trump losing it?”

In his article, Cassidy quoted John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a New York Post columnist who had tweeted in part: “The man is a mental patient.” Cassidy also cited Kyle Foley, a commentator for the conservative Web site RedState, who wrote: “If you choose to support Trump, that is absolutely your prerogative, but he has proved tonight (and pretty much every night) that he is absolutely and certifiably insane.”

And so it goes as varied pundits — not mental health experts — describe Trump as a whack job run amok across America. The Trump campaign itself did not respond to questions about his mental state.

A Park Avenue clinical psychologist told The National Memo that Trump “fits to a t” the definition of a person with a narcissistic personality disorder, showing such traits as grandiosity and lack of empathy. She said that “the shoe still fits,” even though that disorder was recently removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders.

Although several prominent therapists went on the record to characterize Trump as narcissistic for Vanity Fair article last November, this psychologist asked not to be identified, apparently fearing reprisals from the candidate. She noted that Barry Goldwater had “successfully” sued a publication —Fact Magazine — for libel after it published a 1964 article polling psychiatrists on his fitness to be president without ever meeting with him personally. She deemed their conduct an ethical breach of medical privacy, one that evolved into the Goldwater Rule issued by the American Psychiatric Association: Never comment on anyone unless you have examined that person. Goldwater had sued the APA for a substantial amount.

Goldwater sued Fact Magazine, its publisher, Ralph Ginzburg and managing editor Warren Boroson for $2 million. A jury awarded Goldwater $1 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages against Fact and Ginzburg. Fact and Ginzburg appealed the decision, which was eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Boroson, who went on to write a syndicated column for Gannett newspapers and to pen about 20 books, said in a telephone conversation yesterday that he didn’t regard Trump as clinically disturbed (but insisted Goldwater was).

“Trump is just a clown and a petty dictator with a monstrous ego. He’s someone who’s been pampered all his life and surrounded by yes men, but I don’t think he’s nuts,” Boroson said. “He has supreme self-confidence. Yes, he changes his mind all the time, but he’s basically just a very shallow person. Shallow is the best description of him. He shares prejudices with a lot of Americans who are in favor of him because he’s rich and they think he’s successful. But he’s going to lose this election badly.”

Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State, doesn’t think Trump is crazy either and believes that Hillary Clinton “started” the media commentary that the real estate mogul has lost his marbles. Indeed, Clinton has claimed that Trump is temperamentally unfit to lead the country.

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different — they are dangerously incoherent,” she said during a foreign policy speech in San Diego on June 2. “They’re not really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

Long, who told this reporter last spring that he had never seen a campaign like Trump’s in his lifetime, nonetheless supports him over Clinton. “And I believe the rank and file will endorse Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton will take the country in the wrong direction. The pathway to stop Hillary Clinton is through Donald Trump.”

As for Trump’s mental state, Long said: “I don’t believe he’s mentally unstable. I think that’s a narrative Hillary Clinton began. I know he’s not perfect and says many things that a conventional candidate wouldn’t say. He’s not politically correct. But it’s clear that he has resonated with people across the country. And they’re not all crazy. He speaks his mind and strikes a chord with American people who are fed up with politics as usual.”

Meanwhile, quite a few Republicans are voicing buyer’s remorse about Trump. Some find themselves echoing a Hillaryesque mantra that he’s too much of a volatile drama queen to occupy the Oval Office. One is Republican strategist Evan Siegfried, who announced he was voting for Mrs. Clinton in a May 4 op-ed for the New York Daily News.

Siegfried, 33, author of the forthcoming book, GOP GPS: How to Find the Millennials and Urban Votes the Republican Party Needs to Survive, wrote that many in the GOP were terrified at the prospect that Trump’s candidacy would bring down Republican majorities in the House and Senate. He also said it was “insanity” when Trump insinuated during the primaries that Ted Cruz’s Cuban father had been involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

But in speaking to The National Memo, Siegfried stopped short of saying that he and other Republicans who have turned against Trump consider him out to lunch. “They’re out car shopping because they realize that they’ve bought a lemon,” he said, adding that he decided to support the previously “unthinkable” Hillary Clinton because of Trump’s rants against minorities and his “authoritarian” bent.

“Everything he says reveals character and temperament and gives many Republicans great pause,” Siegfried said in an interview earlier this week. “He’s remaking the party in a bad way. We have worked long and hard to reach out to [diverse] communities. We have had trouble reaching them and Trump has single handedly disintegrated” those efforts.

Siegfried also claims Trump is losing the white collar vote, “a voting bloc which Romney carried and which Trump needs to win.”

Although Siegfried won’t be going to the RNC next week, he fully expects a “Dump Trump” contingent to “voice dissatisfaction. But at the end of the day, he’ll be nominated. I’m a realist.”

Will Trump be able to accept reality if voters reject him in November? Perhaps, but this 70-year-old man who seems intent on imposing his views on the public and appears to identify with William Randolph Hearst, the iconic, lonely-at-the-top publishing magnate portrayed in his later years by Orson Welles in the 1941 film Citizen Kane.

Trump, who has called the film his “all time favorite,” was interviewed about it for a short documentary by Errol Morris.

“Do you have any advice Charles Foster Kane?” Morris asks.

“Get yourself a different woman,” Trump replies, smirking. 

Elizabeth Warren’s Still In Hot Water With Fellow Progressives Over Her Clinton Endorsement

Well before the July 4 weekend, there were plenty of political fireworks on social media and in the mainstream press around Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, progressive darling.

To the dismay of many of her supporters, Elizabeth Warren had endorsed Hillary Clinton and campaigned aggressively with her on the stump in Ohio, the two of them dressed in blue and lashing out at Donald Trump. Warren was by far the more electrifying speaker, telling an enthusiastic crowd in the Cincinnati Museum Center that Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, would “crush you into the dirt to get whatever he wants.”

Some pundits believe Warren would be an ideal running mate for Clinton in her second bid to occupy the White House. They note she has a strong record of attacking the big banks and a crowd-pleasing oratorical style that could draw a big portion of the 23 million votes Bernie Sanders received in the Democratic primaries out to support Clinton in the general election.

But Sanders’ more committed supporters regard Warren as damaged goods, a sell-out to a hawkish candidate with serious Wall Street connections. They also note that the folksy Massachusetts lawmaker had sharply criticized former Secretary of State Clinton in her 2003 book, The Two Income Trap, and later on Bill Moyers’ show for first opposing and then voting for legislation as a New York senator that would have made it more difficult for debt ridden Americans to file for bankruptcy. (Warren has since defended her position.)

“I Iiked Elizabeth Warren until the time she started being so opportunistic,” said Ted Zatlyn, a Sanders supporter and former managing editor for the Los Angeles Free Press, a now-defunct granddaddy of alt weeklies in California. He described Elizabeth Warren as a politician “in the negative sense.”

“What’s so odd is that she has been decrying the money system and yet she’s now supporting the candidate who’s hip deep in campaign funds from Wall Street,” he said. “So I’m disgusted with Elizabeth, to tell you the truth.”

At the same time, Zatlyn believes that Warren is the “obvious choice” for the Democratic ticket. “I hate to make predictions, but she’s the only one who can get Bernie’s followers. When she spoke as a warm up for Hillary [in Ohio], she gave a speech that brought the house down.”

Yale-educated attorney Laura Wilson, a partner in a Lyndonville, Vermont law firm, was once an ardent fan of Elizabeth Warren. No longer. She too says Warren “sold out” and wrecked her credibility as a progressive by endorsing Clinton before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and by “hanging Bernie out to dry.”

Her main gripe is that Warren, long regarded as an ally of the democratic socialist from Vermont, stayed neutral during the primaries. She didn’t endorse Sanders “when her endorsement could have made a difference in Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, California. It could have turned things around in New York” and other states, Wilson said.

Wilson, who doesn’t believe Warren will wind up as Clinton’s running mate, says that the former First Lady could face difficulties getting entrenched Sanders supporters to vote for her in the general election.

“Roughly 25 percent of them in the last polls I read said they will not vote for Hillary Clinton,” Wilson said. “When you put that together with the independents, she’ll have a problem for the general election. Bernie wins more independents than Hillary.”

A June 14 Bloomberg poll of likely general election voters found that 55 percent of Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton, 22 percent plan to vote for Donald Trump, and 18 percent plan to vote for Gary Johnson. A three-day CNN poll completed on June 19 found that 74 percent of Sanders supporters would vote for Clinton over Trump in November, given a choice between the two.

For their part, many Clinton supporters consider the die-hard Sanders partisans to be naïve and purer-than-thou in their attacks on the presumptive Democratic nominee and their more recent ones against Elizabeth Warren.

“For the past year, folks have been telling me that Liz Warren is the greatest human being to ever walk the face of the earth (I don’t disagree),” wrote music historian Pat Thomas, author of the 2012 book, Listen, Whitey: The Sound of Black Power, in a Facebook post on July 5. “Yet these same folks are now telling me she’s a horrible bitch.”

“Did it ever occur to you Facebook-trained political scientists that Liz can do more for you ‘working with Hillary’ than battling her?”

Most of Thomas’ Facebook friends seemed to agree. “What people don’t understand is that the Clintons (yes both), are malleable, follow the polls intensely, and can be pushed in the right direction, even though they have a very shaky moral compass of their own,” opined one. “Having fiery Warren on the inside can only help.”

Another commenter noted: “I can’t wait for the cries of SELLOUT!! once Bernie finally and unambiguously endorses Hillary.”

(That could happen sooner than later now that Sanders and Clinton are conferring about hosting a joint event in New Hampshire next week.)

As for Elizabeth Warren becoming a vice presidential candidate, Thomas told The National Memo Wednesday that it would be “foolish” for her to become Hillary’s running mate because “a vice president has no real clout. She can do more good working with Hillary” in the Senate. He adds: “But I think it’s naïve for people to think that she can remain fiercely independent and battle everyone with her saber sword and remain in Washington, D.C. Everyone has their price. There are so many compromises they have to make.”

Asked who purists on the left might accept as Clinton’s running mate, Ted Zatlyn (who intends to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein for president), said he could think of only one national figure with enough integrity to fill that bill.

“But he’s dead,” he said of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, a leading progressive Democrat who was killed in a plane crash in 2002.

Photo: Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, addresses the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 5, 2012.    REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

The NRA After Orlando: It’s Not Pretty

The National Rifle Association broke its silence on the Orlando mass shootings Monday afternoon with a storm of objections to gun control measures on its Twitter feed and in an op-ed piece in USA Today assailing president Obama and “political correctness” by Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

Cox claimed that laws allowing civilians to purchase the military-style semi-automatic assault rifle allegedly used by lone gunman Omar Mateen to murder 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub early Sunday morning had nothing to do with the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. He claimed that “radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws.”

Mateen, a suspected homophobe and apparently ISIS-inspired terrorist who carried out the carnage, was killed by police. He has since been identified as a regular at Pulse.

The NRA had no official statement to offer Monday when The National Memo called its media relations office twice to inquire about the gun lobby’s response to the massacre and to the actions of Mateen, a U.S. citizen born of Afghan parents in New York who also injured 53 other people with his brand new Sigsauer MCX assault rifle. He was able to purchase the weapon (plus a Glock 17 handgun) from a Florida dealer despite having been interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 for his alleged extremist comments to colleagues and purported ties to an American man who acted as a suicide bomber in Syria.

It took NRA executive vice president Wayne La Pierre a week to issue a statement on the 2012 slaughter of 20 school children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut by deranged gunman Adam Lanza, who was also armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. He murdered seven others, including his own mother and himself.

 LaPierre incensed gun control advocates at the time by advocating for armed security guards at schools, just as there are for sports stadiums, government buildings and for the president of the United States.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre declared at a news conference. 

It was a line that Donald Trump, the NRA-endorsed presumptive Republican nominee for president, pretty much parroted and expanded upon during an interview aired Monday on NBC’s Today show, when he claimed that “millions” of innocent gun owners needed their guns for protection. “I absolutely wouldn’t [ban assault rifles] because people need protection; they have to protect,” he said, adding that, otherwise, “the bad guys will have the assault rifles and the people trying to protect themselves will be standing there with a BB gun.”

Trump wrote that he supported a ban on assault weapons in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, but he has taken a sharp turn to the right during the 2016 election season by appealing to fears of terrorism.

“Hillary Clinton says the solution is to ban guns,” Trump said in a prepared statement during a campaign stop Monday at Saint Anselm’s college in Manchester, N.H. “They tried that in France, which has among the toughest gun laws in the world, and 130 were brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists in cold blood.”

Speaking from a teleprompter, Trump claimed without substantiation that Clinton’s plan was “to disarm law-abiding Americans, abolishing the 2nd amendment, and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns. She wants to take away Americans’ guns, then admit the very people who want to slaughter us.”

The bellicose Manhattan businessman also noted he would be meeting with the NRA to discuss how to ensure that Americans “have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror.”

Hillary Clinton took the opposite position.

“We need to get these weapons of war off the streets,” she said Monday. “We had an assault weapons ban, it expired, and we need to reinstate it. From San Bernardino to Aurora, Colorado, to Sandy Hook and now to Orlando, we have seen the devastation that these military style weapons cause.”

Clinton drew sustained applause and several standing ovations when she spoke a pre-scheduled event in Cleveland, Ohio. She devoted most of it to the terror attack in Orlando and strongly called for stricter gun controls. “If the FBI. is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun.” she said.

She made no mention of Trump in her remarks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is still running for the Democratic presidential nomination as an underdog candidate battling Clinton against near impossible odds, told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday that he has long supported a ban on “automatic” weapons — presumably meaning assault rifles, as the weapon used in Orlando was semi-automatic, meaning it fires as quickly as its operator can pull the trigger.

Calling the attacks in Orlando horrific, Sanders stated bluntly, “For 25 years now, I’ve believed that we should not be selling automatic weapons which are designed to kill people, and we’ve got to do everything we can on top of that to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them. Criminals and people who are mentally ill, so the struggle continues.”

Todd then asked Sanders if America could ever have a conversation about guns and terrorism without it becoming politicized. Replied the self-described democratic socialist, “I do, Chuck. Because I think that there is a very broad consensus in this country, not a hundred percent of the people, [but] overwhelming majority of gun owners and non-gun owners understand that we have got to do everything we can to prevent guns from falling into the hands of people who should not have them. That means expanding the instant background check. It means doing away with the gun show loopholes. It means addressing the strawman provision. I think there is a wide consensus to move forward in that direction.”

Sanders once earning an A rating from the NRA,. But during his campaign he has boasted of more recently receiving a D minus report from the gun lobby.

In the wake of last year’s deadly San Bernadino mass shooting by an ISIS-inspired couple, Sanders voted Dec. 3, 2015 for two bills that would bar suspected terrorists, felons and the mentally ill from getting guns. Republicans in the Senate almost unanimously rejected it. They recited familiar NRA arguments that such a provision would strip some innocent people of their constitutional rights to gun access.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the New York Daily News back then that he was “aghast” that Republicans blocked the bills. “To say it’s okay for would-be terrorists to buy guns after what happened in Paris and in California shows just a total disregard for public safety and a total fear of the NRA. and it’s hard to believe the NRA could be so unreasonable. They’re digging their own grave,” he said.

Photo: Donald Trump addresses members of the National Rifle Association’s during their NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II

Donald Trump Can’t Win Without Women

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s freshly-minted presumptive nominee for president, has called his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton a weak candidate lacking in stamina whose only asset is the “woman’s card.”

“And the beauty of this is that women don’t even like her,” he claimed after he won the Indiana Republican primary.

Harsh words, but not totally surprising from an unrestrained rich guy who has called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat slob,” among other epithets, and suggested that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him tough questions at the first GOP Debate. (“She had blood coming out of her whatever.”)

Clinton, however, is betting that Trump’s crude sexist spiel has backfired, igniting opposition to him from women across the political spectrum.

“The whole idea of ‘playing the woman card,’ which he charged I was doing, and by extension other women were doing, has just lit a fire under so many women across the country,” she said during an interview with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times posted yesterday.

“And I think it’s because they see his attacks on me, or Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina or whoever else he’s attacking at the moment as really a much broader attack on them. I think we are going to be pushing back and drawing the contrast whenever he does that. Because it’s just absolutely beyond the pale. He’s not going to get away with it, at least going forward.”

About half of Republican women (some 47 percent) say they don’t like Trump.

And several prominent female politicians in the Party of Lincoln are openly antagonistic to the foul-mouthed real estate mogul and his immodest proposals — like banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, for one, has compared Trump and other GOP candidates to fascistic dicators like Hitler.

“Trump especially is employing the kind of hateful rhetoric and exploiting the insecurities of this nation, in much the same way that allowed Hitler and Mussolini to rise to power in the lead-up to World War II,” she wrote last December in Politico Magazine.

Whitman has also said she might vote for Hillary Clinton.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and sole female in the GOP race for president before she dropped out, is no ideological sistah to Clinton. But she was quick to attack Trump for boasting about his endorsement in April from “tough” Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion who has had seriously rocky relationships with women.

“Sorry, I don’t consider a convicted rapist a tough guy,” Fiorina told reporters in Indianapolis during her brief stint as Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s pick for vice president. She was alluding to how Tyson was convicted of raping a teenage beauty contestant in the same city in 1992. (He spent three years in prison.)

Fiorina, who antagonized Trump when she was still running for the GOP presidential nomination, noted: “And I think it says a lot about Donald Trump’s campaign and his character that he is standing up and cheering for an endorsement by Mike Tyson.”

Cruz made a similar point with far stronger language when he assailed Trump as a “serial philanderer” and “pathological liar” who supports rapists as voters headed to the polls in Indiana on Tuesday. After they handed the bloviating billionaire a big win, Cruz abruptly suspended his campaign.

He was furious with Trump for making the bizarre and unsubstantiated claim on Tuesday morning that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Trump’s proof? He had seem a picture in the National Enquirer of a man who looked like Cruz’s Dad standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald. Cruz seemed astounded: “This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position This is kooky.”

Cruz’s has depicted Trump before as “utterly amoral,” in his apparent bid for the evangelical vote. Those words are among the sound bites that appear in a brutal anti-Trump ad released by the Clinton campaign earlier this week. Clinton lets Trump’s former Republican rivals on the campaign trail and other detractors to do the talking. (“A con artist,” summed up Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who lost to Trump in his home state; “a race baiting xenophobic religious bigot,” stated Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who was among the first of 17 GOP candidates to drop out of the GOP contest).

Another Clinton ad shows Trump talking himself into further trouble with female voters, telling Chris Matthew’s of MSNBC’s “Hard Ball” that women should receive some sort of unspecified “punishment” for having abortions in the event the procedure becomes illegal. He’s also shown in an interview refusing to disavow an endorsement from KKK leader David Duke.

Trump’s popularity among GOP standard bearers is hardly whole hearted.

“There’s more enthusiasm for @realDonaldTrump among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. wrote on Twitter. Warren, who has yet to endorse anyone, has become a one-woman scourge of Trump.

Meanwhile, a recent CNN/ORCA survey shows Clinton mopping up the floor with her fellow New Yorker, leading him by 54 to 41, a 13 point edge. That figure augurs well for the former two-term junior senator from the big blue state should she capture the Democratic Party’s nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Philadelphia.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump gets a kiss from his daughter Ivanka at the end of a campaign victory party after rival candidate Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination following the results of the Indiana state primary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Sandy Hook Lawsuit Is Bad News For Bernie Sanders In Connecticut

Update, 4/28/2016: This article was edited to reflect that Remington makes the “AR-15” rifle, not the “AK-15”.

Only a few days ago, conventional wisdom had it that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton would be cleaning Senator Bernie Sanders’s clock in tonight’s Connecticut primary after her big win in New York’s presidential nomination. But a poll out yesterday showed the two rivals in a virtual dead heat, despite Sanders’s views on gun control, which pundits had claimed would hurt him badly in the ultra blue Nutmeg state.

Wounds from the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre of school children are still raw here. Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, took a serious hit in the media even before he told the New York Daily News editorial board that he opposed a lawsuit filed by nine Sandy Hook families of victims and a surviving teacher against gun manufacturers like Bushmasters Firearms and Remington who make the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. The weapon was used by Adam Lanza in his killing spree at the elementary school in Newtown that claimed the lives of 20 first grade students and six adults in five minutes.

Sanders had voted for a 2005 federal shield law that generally provides immunity to gun manufacturers against such lawsuits, claiming in a Michigan debate that gun companies and dealers would go out of business if they were sued for selling guns legally to people who might later use them for criminal acts. It was a position that drew an impassioned response by Mark Braden and his wife Jackie Braden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed by Lanza at Sandy Hook. They are among the plaintiffs who sued the gun manufacturers, dealers and distributors in an amended complaint filed October 29, 2015.

“Sanders suggested that the ‘point’ of our case is to hold Remington Arms Co. liable simply because one of its guns was used to commit mass murder. With all due respect, this is simplistic and wrong,” the couple wrote in an April 19 Op Ed piece in the Washington Post.

“This case is about a particular weapon, Remington’s Bushmaster AR-15, and its sale to a particular market: civilians. It is not about handguns or hunting rifles, and the success of our lawsuit would not mean the end of firearm manufacturing in this country, as Sanders warned. This case is about the AR-15 because the AR-15 is not an ordinary weapon; it was designed and manufactured for the military to increase casualties in combat. The AR-15 is to guns what a tank is to cars: uniquely deadly and suitable for specialized use only.”

More recently, Sanders has said that the plaintiffs “have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue.”

Ron Schurin, an associate political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said yesterday morning that he didn’t believe Sanders had much of chance in Connecticut against Hillary Clinton who has made gun safety a signature issue in her campaign. He added however, that her “margin of victory could be less than 20 percent.”

Hours later, in another phone conversation with The National Memo, he cited the aforementioned poll and said the race had tightened, with only a two percentage point lead for Clinton. “But that’s just one poll. We’ll see,” he said.

Schurin noted that the former Secretary of State, who was New York’s junior senator for eight years, had the backing of Connecticut’s Democratic Party establishment, from Gov. Dannel Malloy “on down the line.” He said her record on gun safety over the years dates back to her husband Bill Clinton’s support of the Brady Bill on background checks when he was president.

“She ran a commercial here featuring the daughter of the Sandy Hook principal who was killed,” he said, referring to Erica Smegielski and her slain mother Dawn Hochsprang.

By contrast, “Sanders has a mixed record” on gun safety, Schurin observed, adding that Malloy only survived his 2010 bid for reelection against Tom Foley, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, because of his strong advocacy for strict gun control.

Malloy, a Clinton surrogate who chairs the powerful Democratic Governors Association, attacked Sanders for voting against the Brady Bill five times in an MSNBC interview with Chris Matthews. He even accused the leftist senator of “protecting an industry that is designed to kill people.”

Sanders’s supporters in Connecticut repeat the mantra that their candidate is no friend of the National Rifle Association and has voted to ban assault weapons.  “I think Senator Sanders has made it loud and clear that he has a D-minus rating from the NRA,” said attorney Audrey Blondin, a longtime member of Connecticut’s State Central Democratic Committee and owner of a mother-and-daughter “all woman” law practice in Torrington.

She believes Sanders will “do very well” among Democratic voters, noting Connecticut has a history of support for progressive politicians. These include Gov. Jerry Brown of California who beat Bill Clinton in the Democratic primary for president in 1992 and then Senator Barack Obama who prevailed over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary here.

As for the lawsuit filed by the Sandy Hook families, Blondin said she didn’t know enough about it to comment. But the litigation could dog the Sanders campaign. Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Soto et al versus Bushmaster, on April 19 in Bridgeport, setting a date of May 5 to rule on whether discovery can move forward to a potential trial set for April 3, 2018. A spokesperson for the gun companies, who now operate under a corporate entity called Freedom Group, Inc., did not respond to a request to interview defense lawyers.

But legal scholars say that such cases have little chance of success since passage by Congress of the 2005 federal shield law, known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act. Hillary Clinton has vowed to lobby for its repeal if she becomes president.

Eugene Volokh, a Gary T. Schwartz professor of law at UCLA who teaches a seminar on regulations of firearms and writes a blog called “The Volokh Conspiracy,” for the Washington Post, said the defendants’ first motion to dismiss the lawsuit only challenged the Connecticut court’s jurisdiction to hear a case that centers on a federal statute.

“And she said, ‘We do,’ because the statute’s defense against lawsuits doesn’t strip the court of jurisdiction,” Volokh said. “It’s in the news because she said we have jurisdiction.” He noted that the defendants in the case would get something “more substantive” when their motion to strike is heard.

Volokh noted that The Protection of Lawful Commerce Act doesn’t totally protect gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits. “It’s true that plaintiffs lose these claims routinely because the statute is so clear. However, immunity is not unlimited. For example, if you sell or lend a devise to someone who is likely to use it unreasonably, you can be held liable. It’s like lending your car to someone you know drinks and has been in seven accidents over the years. All guns are dangerous, just like all cars are dangerous.”

The legal concept is called “negligent entrustment.” Volokh noted that his sense of the people who support lawsuits of this kind is that they “think it will highlight the issues.”

Photo: A selection of AK and AR rifles are seen for sale at the Pony Express Firearms shop in Parker, Colorado December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Bernie’s Gun Record Won’t Help Him In New York

As Democrats go to the polls today in the New York primary, Bernie Sanders has paid a dear political price for his views on gun control, and his initial reaction to a lawsuit brought by family of the survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre against an assault weapons manufacturer.

“Bernie Sanders’ views on guns are inconsistent with those of New York Democratic party primary voters,” claimed Manhattan-based Democratic Strategist Hank Sheinkopf in an email to The National Memo. “The Clinton campaign in ads and rhetoric has effectively used Sanders’ gun positions to blunt his appeals to minority voters, who are disproportionately gun crime victims.”

Clinton, the former Secretary of State and former senator from New York, has positioned herself well to the left of the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont on gun issues. She has called Sanders a “reliable” supporter of the National Rifle Association and repeatedly slammed him for voting for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 bill passed by Congress which gives gun manufacturers immunity from liability should a lawfully purchased gun be used illegally. (Clinton has said she would work to repeal the bill if elected.)

But during a heated debate with Clinton in Brooklyn last Thursday, Sanders reversed his earlier position on a lawsuit brought by nine family members of children murdered at Sandy Hook and a teacher who was wounded when Adam Lanza went on his shooting spree at the school in Newtown, Conn., armed with an AR-15 assault rifle.

“They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue,” Sanders said.

Last week, a Superior Court judge in Connecticut denied a motion by lawyers for Bushmaster Fire Arms International, the rifle’s manufacturer, to dismiss the lawsuit, allowing the litigation to continue.

Meanwhile, Clinton surrogates continue to paint Sanders as a callous shill of the gun lobby, noting that he voted against the Brady Bill five times.

“(Sanders) doesn’t have the sensitivity he needs to the horror that is happening in these families,” opined Kristen Gillibrand, junior senator from upstate New York during an interview Monday with Glenn Thrush in his Off Message podcast for Politico. “I just don’t think he’s fully getting how horrible it is for these families,” she added.

Thrush wrote in an article after recording the podcast that he was surprised by Gillibrand’s accusations, given her past as a conservative Blue Dog Democrat and former upstate member of the House who once held a 100 percent rating from the NRA and kept a shotgun under her bed. He questioned whether her conversion to the strict gun control orthodoxy of many liberal states was one of “the shot gun variety” — a marriage of expediency resulting from her appointment in 2009 by then Gov. David Paterson to take over Clinton’s vacated senate seat. But he also noted that she is a passionate Clinton backer and a feminist, one who now believes that strict gun control is a women’s issue.

David McReynolds, a well-known 86-year-old socialist and pacifist who lives in Manhattan’s East Village and has run for president twice on third party tickets, unsuccessfully, was appalled by Gillibrand’s claims about Sanders, whom he intends to vote for today. “I think that reading is outrageous — it makes him sound like he doesn’t give damn,” McReynolds said in a telephone conversation. “I can’t imagine Bernie being indifferent to the slaughter of school kids.”

McReynolds noted Sanders currently has a “D-minus” grade from the NRA and has voted for a ban on assault weapons. But he did denounce his comments on guns during the Brooklyn debate last week as “weak” and believes he got “caught on the horns of a dilemma: I think he got mousetrapped.”

New York State assembly member Deborah Glick is a strong Clinton supporter whose 66th assembly district covers Greenwich Village. She too says Sanders has been hurt by his views on guns. “I hope he has,” she added, claiming that Sanders has contributed to the image that he’s callous about the subject. “He’s been very abrupt when asked questions about it and that comes across to many people as unfeeling or uncaring,” she told this reporter. “I don’t know if he was irritated. He does have a bit of a short fuse. He was curt and that comes across as unsympathetic to what was a horrifying and shocking moment.”

As for the lawsuit, Glick observed the plaintiffs “aren’t suing to end gun manufacturing. They’re suing because it is their contention that intentionally marketing military style weapons to a young demographic is dangerous to society. They’re putting profits before people which would seem to be inconsistent with Sanders’ mantra.”

Glick touted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s work banning assault weapons in New York shortly after he was elected.

Sanders may have shot himself in the foot when he was asked during a tense April 1 interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News if victims of gun violence should sue gun makers. “No, I don’t,” he said in his characteristically blunt manner. He then added, “But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people.”

Arthur Schwartz, a prominent labor lawyer who served as counsel for Sanders’s New York City campaign, doesn’t believe guns are a big issue for his candidate. “I think Hillary periodically jumps on the issue. I think Hillary has found a good line. But Bernie Sanders has successfully convinced everybody that he isn’t a friend of gun manufacturers and the NRA.”

Photo: Activists hold a protest and vigil against gun violence on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Why Do Conservatives Keep Talking About John F. Kennedy?

A day before Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas got an earful of Bronx jeers for his rightwing views on immigration and “New York values,” he summoned up the ghost of liberal icon John F. Kennedy to signal that his was a lofty, aspirational campaign not unlike one mounted by the youthful candidate for president way back in 1960.

“The American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack,” Cruz said, quoting JFK during his acceptance speech in Wisconsin, where he had trounced his main primary rival, front-runner Donald Trump. “We are not here to curse the darkness but to light a candle that can guide us from darkness to a safe and sane future.”

Cruz, who has slowed the potty-mouthed Trump’s momentum towards the Republican presidential nomination in Cleveland this summer, has pulled out other high minded phrases from the fallen crown prince of Camelot (and also from Winston Churchill) while on the stump.

In Massachusetts, the nation’s bluest state, he contended that Kennedy was “one of the most powerful and eloquent defenders of tax cuts.” He even contended: “JFK would be a Republican today. There is no room for John F. Kennedy in the modern Democratic Party.”

Unremarkably, Cruz’s commentary elicited angry blowback from Democrats, notably Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, JFK’s Grandson, who labeled the senator’s rhetoric “absurd” in an article for Politico Magazine in January. Schlossberg also denied Cruz’s assertion that Kennedy, who would be 98 years old if he were alive today, supported limited government.

“(Kennedy) created new federal programs with ambitious goals, such as the Peace Corps,” Schlossberg wrote from Tokyo. “He did not spend his years in the House and Senate devoted to obstructing the opposition. He certainly did not lead an effort, as Cruz did, to shut down the federal government to score political points and deny health insurance to millions.”

Cruz, of course, is hardly the first Republican to invoke JFK’s name, image and age on the campaign trail. As noted by many a political junkie, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana, George H.W. Bush’s pick for vice president in 1988, spoke of Kennedy when defending his inexperience during a debate with Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentson, his much older Democratic counterpart and running mate of unsuccessful presidential hopeful Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Bentson famously put down Quayle with scathing disdain: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

These days, Michael R. Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York since 1988, which was founded in 1962 with support from conservative icon William F. Buckley, doesn’t believe that Cruz’s praise of JFK is a deviation from conservative orthodoxy. “There’s no problem with Cruz (invoking) JFK,” he told The National Memo in a telephone conversation. “Reagan invoked JFK on tax cuts,” added Long, who also noted that Kennedy’s legacy crosses party lines: “He was an inspirational person who brought a lot of hope to a lot of Americans. Probably some conservatives voted for him because of his love of America.”

It appears that Cruz’s use of Democratic imagery is his attempt to sell what is otherwise a far-right candidacy to voters from both parties as well as independents. Last summer, Cruz told PBS host Tavis Smiley that his campaign was “modeled” after President Obama’s successful 2008 primary campaign with its emphasis on social media. Others don’t quite agree with that assessment

“While Cruz may hope to attract Democratic votes, I can’t think that’s his primary motivation,” said David Birdsell, Ph.D., Dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs in an email to this reporter. “Kennedy was known as a great speaker, Cruz fancies himself a great speaker too. Kennedy was the youngest person elected to the presidency, Cruz is only two years older than Kennedy was. Cruz wants the mantle of Camelot, but the garment doesn’t fit well and he suffers in the comparison.”

Birdsell, who believes Canada’s Justin Trudeau is far more “genuinely Kennedy-esque” than Cruz or Quayle, does regard the Texas senator as a political pro who has recognized the quality of Obama’s field operation. “He obviously loathes Obama but has the perspicacity to know there was something to learn from his campaign. That reflects well on Cruz, and the quality of his own field operation is the single most important reason he’s in second place. Lesson learned.”

Cruz, however, hit a roadblock in the Bronx this week for his hardline views on immigration and had to cancel a meeting at a charter school after students threatened a walkout. State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a conservative Democrat who is also a pastor at a Bronx pentacostal church, hosted a sparsely attended event for him at Chinese-Dominican restaurant in Parkchester that also drew a few shouting local protestors.

Diaz, whose more liberal son Ruben Diaz, Jr. is the Bronx borough president and labels Cruz a hypocrite, said that he may also “do something” in the Bronx for Donald Trump, whose views are similarly loathed by many in the hispanic community.

“We’ve got to do something about the 12 million undocumented immigrants,” said the elder Diaz. “I want to build a wall to make America great again,” he added with a laugh, echoing Trump.

Trump, meanwhile, has put himself in the same league as Ronald Reagan on the issues, while his admirers have invoked Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson to describe his bellicose bloviating.

As for Trump’s purported allegiance to Reagan’s policies, Michael Long of the Conservative Party dismisses that notion. “He doesn’t come close to Ronald Reagan. He’s more like a populist candidate. Trump has brought a different style to this campaign that’s different from anything I’ve witnessed in my entire life.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Women Behind Trump

As New York billionaire Donald Trump heads into the Wisconsin primary Tuesday, he trails his main rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas by ten points in the state and faces a wider gender gap than any GOP candidate in recent history. Trump has a whopping 77 percent unfavorable rating among women, according to a recent CNN poll.

The flamboyant Republican frontrunner campaigns these days without the comforting presence of his glamorous 34-year-old daughter Ivanka, a fixture for many months on the trail as Trump patted her baby bump at press conferences. Ivanka gave birth Easter to a boy named Theodore.

Given Trump’s history of sexism, he needs all the help he can get. His attacks on high powered women like former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly — who earned his ire, ironically, by asking about his history of vicious personal remarks against women who have criticized him — have backfired on the thin-skinned real estate developer.

Trump still has plenty of support from prominent women, though, among them the loathed right wing columnist Ann Coulter (although she wishes he could be a “teeny little bit less low brow”), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the fabled “Mama Grizzly” who has endorsed him, and successful women in his own extended family.

Melania Trump, a former model who has taken heat for posing partially naked on a bear rug for British GQ 16 years ago, is nonetheless a “very private person,” Trump has said, noting she initially would have preferred he didn’t run. She seems to act as fan, sounding board and eye candy for improvised political career.

His lesser-known but highly respected older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a 78-year-old senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia. Barry, appointed in 1982 by Ronald Reagan and promoted by Bill Clinton, has admitted that Trump helped her get appointed to the first federal judgeship in New Jersey. “There’s no question Donald helped me get on the bench — I was good but not that good,” she was quoted as stating in Gwenda Blair’s The Trumps: Three Generations That Built An Empire.

Donald Trump’s late lawyer Roy Cohn, the notorious Manhattan power broker and former counsel to red-hunting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, has also been cited as putting pressure on a senior Reagan White House aide to get Barry the appointment. “I’m no different than any other brother that loves his sister,” Trump said when asked by the New York Times about Cohn’s machinations. He added, however, “My sister got the appointment totally on her own.”

Barry, who is tall with enhanced blonde hair similar to that of her brother’s, has described Trump as a “brat” in his younger days. She has come under fire herself by pro-life zealot Cruz, who has called her a “radical pro-abortion extremist.” (Cruz’s only source was Barry’s 2000 opinion for a three-judge panel striking down a New Jersey law banning partial birth abortions, on grounds the statute was so broad it could apply to almost any abortion, no matter what its stage).

Trump, of course, has changed his own positions on abortion with neck-breaking speed. In 1999, he stated in an interview that he was “very pro-choice” and even supported partial birth abortions. But since becoming presidential candidate, he claims to have “evolved” into a Christian-pro-life candidate, telling MSBC’s Chris Matthews earlier this week on the fly that he believes women should get “some form of punishment” for illegal abortions in the event the procedure is banned. He quickly recanted that heresy after it drew a firestorm of opposition on social media and on both sides of the activist aisle.

Meanwhile, in his business practices, Donald Trump often get high marks from current and former female employees as a fair and even handed boss. “From the standpoint of being a woman, I just thought he was phenomenal,” said Louise Sunshine, 74, who joined Trump’s real estate business while raising three young children. “He gave me the ropes and I could either hang myself or prove myself,” she noted in an 2015 interview with the Washington Post.

(Sunshine claims, however, that Trump would show her an unflattering “fat picture” he had of her when she did something he didn’t like, a charge he denies. It was “a reminder that I wasn’t perfect,” she said.)

Ivanka Trump, who has two other children besides her aforementioned newborn, remains involved in her father’s real estate development company and has her own line of jewelry and clothing. She disputed comments that her father is a world class misogynist. “I don’t think he’s gender-oriented at all,” Ivanka Trump told CNN. “I wouldn’t be a high level executive within the Trump Organization if he felt that way.”

Norma Foerderer, Donald Trump’s top aide for 26 years until she retired in 2006 (she died in 2013 in her 80s), told Ronald Kessler of Newsmax that there there are two Donalds: the “outrageous” one portrayed on television and the real one the insiders know.

Foerderer began as Trump’s secretary and rose to vice president. She was in charge of numerous aspects of his business, including media relations and hiring and firing administrative personnel. She also negotiated book deals and advertising contracts.

“Donald can be totally outrageous, but outrageous in a wonderful way that gets him coverage,” Foerderer said “That persona sells his licensed products and his condominiums.” She claimed, however, that the private Donald Trump is “the dearest, most thoughtful, most loyal, most caring man, and it’s one of his secrets to success.”

Trump has employed women in non-traditional roles and once told this reporter in the 1970s that he had hired a female construction worker. Barbare Res, who he put in charge of construction of his glittering Trump Tower in 1982, told the Washington Post that Trump used to tell her and others that “men are better than women, but a good woman is better than 10 men.”

Res, now in her 60s, and owner of a construction consulting company, said Trump “wasn’t discriminating against women that I saw” but added, “He was sexist; he made comments and stuff like that.”

Yes, Trump can’t seem to stop commenting, even about Ted Cruz’s wife. Res, according to the Washington Post, said she disagrees with his views on abortion and on his repeated vows to end the Affordable Care Act. She noted that she will be voting for Hillary Clinton.

Photo: Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Chris Christie’s Star Has Fallen

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the former federal prosecutor who was once a rising star in the Republican Party, has taken a serious drubbing during the last half of his second term. His political ambitions are now on permanent hold, ever since his dismal showing as a GOP candidate for president on the national stage. He exited the race Feb. 10 after coming in sixth in the New Hampshire primary.

Even more disastrous for Christie was his endorsement of Donald Trump several weeks later, a shock to the political world. On the the night of the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries, Christie introduced the New York billionaire businessman to a group of journalists assembled in the White and Gold ballroom at Trump’s lavish Mar-a-Lago private club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Christie, who had said Trump was not fit for the Oval Office while he competed against him on the campaign trail, now heaped praise on his one time rival for the GOP presidential nomination, calling him “tough, strong and bold.”  But he didn’t seem enthusiastic.

Then he stood behind Trump with what seemed like a stricken gaze, looking to many a pundit like a man who had sold his soul to a buffoon— or had been taken hostage

“Chris Christie spent the entire (Trump) speech screaming wordlessly,” opined Washington Post‘s poetic Alexandra Petri the next day on March 2. She added, “His were the eyes of a man who has gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back, and then he endorsed the abyss.”

Other media chimed in derisively. Saturday Night Live staged a savage parody of the brash blue state governor, picturing him as a servile errand boy for the insult-spewing GOP front-runner, who called him a “fat piece of crap” in the skit.

The political backlash in New Jersey against Christie was even more severe. Within days after Christie gave Trump his surprise endorsement at an Austin, Texas, rally on Feb. 26, half a dozen New Jersey newspapers from the Gannett chain called for his resignation, among them the Asbury Park Press and the Morristown Daily Record.

The papers were outraged by a press conference Christie gave in his home state. He had refused to answer questions about anything except the nomination of a state Supreme Court judge. Asked why, Christie replied, “Because I don’t want to.”

“We’re fed up with Gov. Chris Christie’s arrogance,” the papers wrote. “We’re fed up with his opportunism. We’re fed up with his hypocrisy.” The joint editorial also faulted Cristie as a absentee governor. claiming he had spent a whopping 261 days out of state last year. It criticized him for spending time out of state endorsing and campaigning for Trump.

Another New Jersey paper, The Star-Ledger of Newark, also called on Christie to resign, noting that “His craven endorsement of Donald Trump is only the final blow, the moment when he lost any shred of credibility.”

Tom Moran, a columnist for the Star Ledger, obtained an interview with former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman an hour before Christie (whom she had supported) announced he was endorsing Trump for president. She said she was now thinking of voting for Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton should Trump become the GOP nominee.

“You’ll see a lot of Republicans do that,” Whitman told Moran. “We don’t want to. But I know I won’t vote for Trump.”

As for Christie’s endorsement of Trump,” she said,”I am ashamed that Christie would endorse anyone who has employed the kind of hate mongering and racism that Trump has. I would have thought being from a diverse state would have given him more awareness and compassion.”

Meg Whitman, the Hewlett-Packard chief executive who had served as Christie’s finance chair during his run for the GOP nomination, also attacked Christie for “an astounding display of political opportunism,” after Christie endorsed Trump. In a prepared statement, she described Trump as a “dishonest demagogue who plays to her worst fears.” Her views were in line with those of failed 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has also denounced Trump and urged Republicans to vote for other candidates.

Christie, who had endorsed Romney for president in 2012, held a press conference March 3 to announce that he had no intention of resigning as New Jersey’s governor, explaining he had supported Trump because he believes the real estate tycoon is the best Republican candidate to beat Hillary Clinton in the fall. “I am not a full-time surrogate for Donald Trump,” he was forced to admit. “I do not have a title or position in the Trump campaign. I am an endorser.”

As for his sad face at the Trump victory speech at Mar-a-Lago that went viral, he declared, “I was standing there listening to him. All those arm-chair psychiatrists should give it a break. No, I wasn’t being held hostage.”

Yet the jokes and speculation goes on. Did Christie endorse Trump to get a White House post should Trump win the general election? Was this really his best hope for getting back in the political game after his term ends in 2018? That’s Chris Matthews’ bet, at least.

Christie said he would attend Norte Dame’s Sweet 16 round in Philadelphia tonight. Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey — a friend of Christie’s, whose daughter, Sarah, is a team manager — told SB Nation, “He’ll be there in Philly — if Trump will let him.”

Photo: Donald Trump shakes hands with Chris Christie after Christie endorsed Trump’s candidacy.  REUTERS/Mike Stone

What Do We Make Of Hillary Clinton’s AIDS Gaffe?

Back in 2008, when she was first running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton apologized for claiming during a speech in Washington, D.C. that she had come under sniper fire upon arriving at an airport in Bosnia during her days as first lady, a dozen years earlier. She blamed sleep deprivation for the embellished account, which videotapes had contradicted. Her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, said Clinton had exaggerated the dangers of her journey to bolster her foreign policy credibility. “So I made a mistake,” she admitted to reporters. “That happens.”

Clinton’s now the frontrunner in her second race for the nomination, against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her only remaining rival. Before voters reached the polls today for primaries in five states, she had already apologized twice for claiming at Nancy Reagan’s March 11 funeral that the former first lady and her late husband President Ronald Reagan had started a “national conversation” about the deadly AIDS epidemic during the 1980s.

Her laudatory comments flew in the face of harsh realities from that era and drew fierce blowback from LBGT activists and varied pundits. “I’m literally shaking as I try to write this,” advice columnist and activist Dan Savage wrote in response to Clinton. “There are no words for the pain Clinton’s remarks have dredged up.”

By the time Ronald Reagan addressed AIDS publicly and made moves to combat it, tens of thousands of people were dead.

For his part, Sanders said flatly he didn’t know what Clinton was talking about. “In fact, that was a very tragic moment in modern American history,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “There were many, many people dying of AIDS, and in fact, there was demand all over the country for President Reagan to start talking about this terrible tragedy. And yet he refused to talk about it while the AIDS epidemic was sweeping this country. So, I’m not quite sure where Secretary Clinton got her information.”

Within hours of her mystifying gaffe — one particularly odd for a dedicated policy wonk like the former Secretary of State and New York senator — Clinton issued her first mea culpa. “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and a finding cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I am sorry,”

Her second prepared apologia was a far more expansive retraction in which she acknowledged making a mistake, “plain and simple.” She noted: “To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS. That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.”

Clinton cited groups like ACT UP, Gay men’s Health Crisis and others “who organized and marched, held die-ins on the steps of city halls and “vigils in the streets.”

She also mentioned early legislative efforts to secure AIDS funding by now retired Democratic congressman Henry Waxman of California, a long unsung hero of the crisis who had represented parts of Los Angeles, including West Hollywood, where an outbreak of a fatal disease among young gay men was first identified in 1981 by a medical investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. He passed his information on to one of Waxman’s staffers.

Waxman, then chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, called the first hearing on the “gay plague” and the need for a federal response in April 1982, despite huge budget cuts imposed on health spending by the Reagan administration, and continued to hold others during the worst of the Los Angeles epidemic. He did so at time when Republican animosity against gays was so extreme that members of Congress proposed creating registries of gay men and getting them quarantined on a South Pacific island.

Some of Waxman’s colleagues read explicit descriptions of gay sex into the Congressional Record. Another, Republican Representative Dan Burton of Indiana, brought his own scissors to the House barber for fear of catching AIDS. But, Waxman found allies in the Reagan administration, among them the president’s surgeon general, C. Everett Koop.

Waxman also came up with creative ways to advance legislation, like naming a bill after a 13-year-old hemophiliac who had contracted the virus, Ryan White, and thereby securing the critical vote of White’s home-state senator for the Ryan White Care Act of 1990. It has since funded health and support services for hundreds of thousands of uninsured people living with HIV.

Clinton and her team must have had some contact with Waxman and knowledge of his success in fighting the disease, now a global pandemic. What happened in her first take on the Reagan response to AIDS?

“She’s clueless,” opined a Sanders supporter on Facebook. “You would think she would know. Or if not, her speech writer should have checked. And it’s not even April Fool’s Day yet.”

Clinton’s supporters put a gentler spin on her attributing “quiet advocacy” to Nancy Reagan during the early AIDS crisis. She was, after all, eulogizing a fellow first lady to Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC.

“I’m Gay, Hillary Clinton misspoke while being nice to a dead woman,” wrote Spandan Chakrabarti last Friday. “Get it over it.”

While Chakrabarti noted that while Hillary Clinton was “wrong” to give credit to Nancy Reagan for being an advocate for HIV/AIDS causes, he claimed she was “technically accurate” because “Nancy Reagan had some influence on this issue within the Reagan White House. “What does seem to be true is that when the Reagan administration eventually did decide to respond to the AIDS crisis, Nancy Reagan was among the influential administration figures pushing for that decision.” Could be.

Photo: U.S President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan return to the White House after spending a weekend at Camp David in this February 15, 1982 file photo. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon/Files

Kasich Stakes It All On Ohio

Not long before Michigan residents headed to the polls early this morning for their part in another round of unofficially-“Super Tuesday” primaries, Ohio Gov. John Kasich got a piece of good news that countered his dismal losing streak, now 20 states long. An ARG survey released several days ago showed the unimposing 63-year-old candidate edging front-runner Donald Trump by a slim margin of 33 to 31 percent in this largely white working class blue state.

That modest figure represented a big leap for Kasich, an underdog despite a strong finish in New Hampshire and endorsements from 35 newspapers across the country, including the New York Times, which described him as the “only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race.”

But Kasich, first elected Ohio governor without GOP opposition in 2010, keeps plugging away. He spent more time stumping in Michigan, a state that neighbors his own, than any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls. And he has been buoyed by recent polls showing approval for his above-the fray performance in the GOP debate in Detroit last Thursday night, when he declined to indulge in the school yard taunts exchanged by Trump and the other remaining GOP rivals, Gov. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He also seems to have picked up some upscale suburban voters in Michigan, who had previously supported the increasingly less relevant Rubio as an establishment alternative to Trump.

But Kasich’s restraint has a decided down side. He complained to reporters on Monday in Lansing that he doesn’t “get the attention” from the media that his rancorous opponents do.

Earlier, at a town hall meeting Friday night in Holland, a man told Kasich: “We love you, but my wife says, ‘I think it’s a waste of a vote.’”

Kasich, according to a website, responded: “Are you kidding me? I’m going to win Ohio, and I’m going to become the Republican nominee.” He added, however, that he would “not go down into the mud and in the gutter to win.”

His long shot strategy, characterized by one of his advisers as a typical politician’s “wing and a prayer,” is to do well in Michigan and thereby gain enough momentum to prevail over Trump in his winner-take-all home state where the bombastic businessman from New York led him in a recent poll by 35 to 26 percent among likely Republican voters. Other polls show the two men in a statistical dead heat. If Kasich loses in delegate rich Ohio on March 15, the game may be over for him.

Kasich has said he does not expect to win the nomination outright, leaving open the possibility of a brokered convention this summer in Cleveland if Trump, already weakened by loses on Saturday in Kansas and Maine, does not obtain the required 1237 delegates to win on the first ballot. Kasich has also said he will back the GOP nominee.

Until then, Kasich has picked up powerful support from prominent Republican moderates who might help him do well in California and on the Eastern seaboard. These include former New Jersey Gov.  (who had supported Chris Christie before he dropped out of the race and endorsed Donald Trump) and former California governor and film star Arnold Schwartzenegger, who showed up in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday for his annual Arnold Classic Body Building Competition.

“When he went to Washington, he kicked some serious butt–he was an action hero,” said Schwartzenegger, referring to Kasich’s 18-year-tenure in the House of Representatives where he was known both as a rebel with an independent streak who worked with both sides of the aisle and also as a Newt Gingrich style Republican who got things done.(Gingrich has said that Kasich has a shot as a presidential or vice presidential nominee at the convention.)

Kasich also received an endorsement March 6 from former conservative radio host Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Michael Reagan and Jane Wyman, the late California governor’s first wife.

Said Reagan, “You see many Republicans claiming the label of ‘Reagan conservative’ but not many whose leadership truly embodies my father’s principles and spirit. Gov. John Kasich is a noteworthy exception. As a Member of Congress, he made a name for himself as a problem-solver and a diplomat when he worked across the aisle to balance the federal budget. As Governor of Ohio, he used conservative, commonsense reforms to breathe new life into a state that was undergoing a painful decline.”

It all sounded good. On paper.

Photo: Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts