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

Ask Dr. Politics: Which Potato Head Do You Want For President?

Ask Dr. Politics! You are fair, and I am unbalanced!

Q: I’ve been feeling very depressed lately, and I am wondering whether you can help.

A: Take this simple test.

1) I live in the United States of America.

2) I cannot afford to move to Vancouver on Nov. 9.

If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, you have every right to feel depressed because it is overwhelmingly likely that our next president will have an approval rating lower than dirt.

Q: Yeah, but I read that approval ratings are just a bunch of baloney dreamed up by the media over the years to increase their circulation, viewership and/or clicks. In other words, we shouldn’t take them too seriously.

A: Wow, who wrote something as idiotic as that?

Q: You did.

A: Oh. In that case, it may be true. But keep in mind that one of these two potato heads is going to win the presidency. So we should vote for the potato head who would cause the least damage to our democracy.

Q: What do the candidates say?

A: Last week, Hillary Clinton said in Reno, Nevada: “From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”

And Trump said: “Clinton is going to try and accuse … decent Americans who support this campaign, your campaign, of being racists, which we’re not. It’s the oldest play in the Democratic playbook. … The people of this country who want their laws enforced and respected, respected by all, and who want their borders secured are not racists.”

Q: Can we believe either of them?

A: An excellent question. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said in a statement Thursday that Clinton’s speech “proved to the American public what we have known all along — Hillary Clinton has no hope, no vision and no ideas for the future of our country. … We’re living in her head rent-free, and that must terrify the political insiders who want to keep things exactly the way they are.”

Q: What does it mean that we’re “living in her head rent-free”?

A: No idea, but if Clinton is really our new landlord, I’d like lower rent, more hot water in the morning and those darn millennials below me to stop playing Skrillex and Diplo’s “Where Are Ü Now” all day and all night long.

Q: You should run for president.

A: I have seriously considered it. With the Gallup Poll from last month showing Trump with a 63 percent unfavorable rating and Clinton with a 54 percent unfavorable rating, you gotta figure anybody should give it a try. Nobody can figure out why some people hate these two and why some people love them.

As Trump said at a rally in January in Sioux Center, Iowa: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Q: But if the guy Trump shot died, wouldn’t Trump lose that vote?

A: Not if the guy were registered in Chicago.

Q: Huma Abedin is a close adviser to Hillary Clinton. Abedin recently separated from her husband, Anthony Weiner, after Weiner sent “suggestive images” and messages to a woman with his young son beside him. In other words, Weiner, a former congressman, appears to be a very disturbed guy.

Trump now says Clinton may have given classified information to Abedin, who then may have passed it on to Weiner. There is no proof, but should we be worried?

A: Abedin is supposed to be very bright, so it is hard to believe she would give Weiner access to any sensitive material, including her Netflix password.

Q: But Trump said in a statement: “I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment.”

A: And Trump, who has all the good judgment of a box of rocks, might pass on classified material to just about anybody through carelessness and negligence. Trump received his first classified national security briefing Aug. 17 against the vociferous opposition of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who argued that Trump was too irresponsible to get such material.

“I would suggest to the intelligence agencies … don’t tell him anything. Just fake it, because this man is dangerous.” Reid said. “Fake it. Pretend you’re doing a briefing, but you can’t give him any information.”

Q: Is that good advice?

A: I’m not sure. After all, Trump has demonstrated he can keep a secret.

Q: He has?

A: Sure. He is keeping his tax returns a huge secret.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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Photo: David Amsler

The Mayor Of Trumpville Needs Serenity Now

“I’ve had a flawless campaign. You’ll be writing books about this campaign.”

So said Donald Trump to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos a little over two weeks ago. The latter statement is undeniable. There may be more people wanting to write books on Trump than people wanting to read books on Trump.

I could have that wrong, however. I may be selling the American public short.

Take a look at the summaries of the top three books on The New York Times’ nonfiction best-seller list as of this Sunday: 1) “A former Secret Service officer claims to have witnessed scandalous behavior by the Clintons.” 2) “The conservative author and pundit warns of disaster if Hillary Clinton is elected president.” 3) “The political strategist offers a game plan for how to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

So the bar for making the best-seller list seems to have been set rather low — like, 6 inches off the ground low.

That leaves us with Trump’s first assertion: that his campaign has been “flawless.”

As Trump was making this statement, he was in possession of internal polling showing that a troubling number of voters described him in two words: “unqualified” and “racist.”

“Flawless” did not make the list. “Pathological liar” may make the next one.

On Monday, Trump said he wants a new standard for allowing immigrants to enter the United States. Reading carefully from a teleprompter (the better to look “flawless”), Trump said: “We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people. … The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. I call it ‘extreme vetting.'”

To Trump’s dismay, however, he has discovered that our system of democracy has already developed a system of “extreme vetting” when it comes to presidential politics. It is a long, torturous, draining process. It is called “campaigning.”

Trump thought he could run for president on his own terms. He would give speeches at big rallies, take part in debates where he could be as outrageous as he wanted to be and then get on his Trump plane, eat a Trump steak and go back to his penthouse in Trump Tower and sleep on Trump sheets (probably made in China).

The press would serve as a team of traveling stenographers, taking down his every word and presenting it to the public without context, analysis or any judgment as to whether he was speaking the truth, fibbing a little, making an honest mistake or lying through his teeth.

It hasn’t turned out that way. Trump has found that presidential campaigning is a bigger and more complicated system than he ever imagined. It is grinding him up and spitting him out. And he has nobody to blame but himself.

Back in 2008, when Hillary Clinton first ran for president, her small, insular, passionately devoted inner circle of aides and friends was known as “Hillaryland.”

This year, there is “Trumpville.” Though a few of his children and paid staff members are allowed to contribute a word or two here and there, Trumpville has only one real resident: Donald Trump.

And Trump thinks he is doing a “flawless” job. Trying to fool the press and public is one thing. But when you start to fool yourself, you are in real trouble.

A few days ago, The New York Times interviewed several people close to Trump who described him as often being “sullen” and “erratic.” He “broods.” He is “exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered.” He is “profoundly uncomfortable” and “disoriented.” He is “confused” and “scared.”

To steady him, Trump’s advisers have brought in two “seasoned figures” for him to sit around and schmooze with. They are supposed to bring serenity now to his campaign. They are bitter failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and bitter failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Those schmooze sessions must be a million laughs.

So looking at the Trump campaign, you find that the reviews are bad, the polls are bad and the candidate’s mood is bad. This recently led NBC News to conclude, “The good news for Trump is that it can only get better from here.”

Wrong.

When it comes to campaigning for president, pessimists say things are so terrible that they can’t get any worse.

Optimists say oh, yes, they can.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump conducts a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Devil And Donald Trump

Alone in his bedroom on a dark and stormy night, Donald Trump was inventing some tax returns, when the devil appeared before him.

“Fear not,” the devil said. “You need not file tax returns — ever. Also, I will make sure you are elected president this year and again in 2020.

“But in return, you must sell me your soul. You must betray all decent principles. You must pander, trivialize and deceive. You must gain victory by exploiting bigotry, fear, envy and greed. And you must conduct a campaign based on lies, sham, hype and distortion.”

“So,” Trump said, “what’s the catch?”

It could have been worse. The devil could have asked Trump to prove he really had “bone spurs” that kept him out of the Vietnam draft. Or prove he knew that Crimea is part of Russia. Or prove that he knew anything about the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution! Jeez Louise! Nobody told Trump that was going to be on the final.

And now everybody on his staff was running around screaming and shouting as if presidents had to know stuff. At the very beginning of his campaign, Trump had put together what he called his “Brain Gang,” made up of political experts (whom none of the other campaigns would hire).

A few months later, the leader of the Brain Gang would be … what’s-his-name. The guy who looked as if he combed his hair with teeth whitener. Pence. That was it. Mike Pence. Mr. Personality.

But who had vetted Pence? And speaking of vetting, they couldn’t have found a veteran to put on the ticket?

Trump went over to the World Wide Interweb machine that his kids had bought him so they wouldn’t have to answer his questions. Trump typed in: “How many veterans are there in the United States?”

The machine answered instantly: “There are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces as of 2014, according the Census Bureau.”

In 2012, neither party had a veteran on the ticket, which was the first time since 1932. Both Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine have sons in the Marines, but the veteran on a major-party ticket most recently was John McCain in 2008. McCain, a retired Navy captain, was ridiculed by Trump for being captured by the North Vietnamese.

But here it was, 2016, and some bald guy with a round head, Khizr Khan, had taken a copy of the Constitution from his suit jacket pocket and said that Trump doesn’t know what’s in the document and that Trump has “sacrificed nothing” for his country.

Trump knew a trap when he saw one. He went over to his interweb machine and found out the Constitution could not possibly be kept in a jacket pocket. In fact, the Constitution is on display in a row of large glass cases in the rotunda of the National Archives Museum. You would need a crane to lift it.

So Khizr Khan lies, and this was one of the rare times in history that Trump had proof.

“Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!” Trump tweeted Monday.

“This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews,” Trump also tweeted, “but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S. Get smart!”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos had gotten all snippy about the whole thing Sunday, asking Trump why Khan had accused Trump of sacrificing nothing for his country.

And when you think about it, not only has Trump sacrificed nothing personally to fight RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM but in his 70 years on this planet, it appears Trump has never done much, if any, public service.

This might not be so striking if not for the fact that prior public service used to be considered a prerequisite for election to the presidency.

So Stephanopoulos ran the clip of Khan denouncing Trump and then said, “He said you have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Trump replied, “Well, that sounds — who wrote that? Did Hillary’s scriptwriters write it?”

Stephanopoulos continued: “How would you answer that father? What sacrifice have you made for your country?”

Trump’s response: “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success.”

“Those are sacrifices?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Oh, sure, I think they’re sacrifices,” Trump said.

And in a way, Trump may be correct. As to the “great structures” he has built, Trump has sacrificed almost all sense of taste, artfulness, style and creativity.

So maybe he did that deal with the devil after all.

 

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo: DonkeyHotey

We Don’t Need to Like Them; Just Loving Them Will Be Enough

All politics is theater, but some parts are more theatrical than others.

The nominating conventions have become pure theater. Once upon a time the conventions chose candidates for the presidency, but now we have primaries and caucuses to do that.

The conventions could easily be dispensed with. They are vastly expensive and can be pretty darn boring. But they still exist because, like theater, they entertain.

They are live events where the most beautiful people in our society — the network anchors and TV reporters — parade before us.

Simon Rosenberg, who runs a left-wing think tank, told reporters recently: “I think part of what’s going on in this election is that Americans are bored with politics, and at least Donald Trump is interesting. What the Clinton campaign has to do is not make him interesting but make him threatening.”

That both Trump and Hillary Clinton have the highest negative ratings among those who ran for president in both major parties this year seems to be telling us something. Maybe it’s: We don’t need to like them. We just need to get a kick out of them.

The Republicans had their opportunity to get a kick out of Clinton last week — do the shouts of “Lock her up! Put her in stripes!” still linger in the air of Cleveland? — and how fitting it was for an actress, America Ferrera, to have one of the more memorable lines in Philadelphia: “Donald’s not making America great again. He’s making America hate again.”

But the Democrats choreographed their four days wisely. Powerful speeches in the beginning and then some compelling life stories and then Hillary’s speech.

The final night seemed a flop until about 9 p.m., when a man named Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant whose son died saving the lives of 10 of his fellow soldiers in Iraq, came to the stage. Khan took a slim volume from his suit coat pocket and addressed Trump: “Have you even read the United States Constitution? …

“You have sacrificed nothing — and no one. … We are stronger together. … I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants and all immigrants to not take this election lightly. … On Election Day, take the time to get out and vote. …

“Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America.’ If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”

And he never would have gone to Iraq as a U.S. soldier and saved 10 lives.

Clinton was the star of the evening, of course, and though her voice lacked the power and richness of either her husband’s or Barack Obama’s, it was plenty good enough — especially for moments such as this one, when she said:

“My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl. She ended up on her own at 14, working as a housemaid. She was saved by the kindness of others. Her first-grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch and brought extra food to share the entire year. The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me: No one gets through life alone.”

Earlier in her life, when Dorothy was just 3 or 4, her parents would leave her for days at a time and tell her to go to the corner cafe for food. A biographical film of Clinton, narrated by Morgan Freeman, had shown a picture of her mother as a child — she was a tiny thing — and you could imagine this young child, all alone and frightened, having to walk out at night and get food.

And that made it easier to understand Clinton and what drives her and what toughens her.

“In the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: America is great because America is good,” she said. “So enough with the bigotry and the bombast. Donald Trump’s not offering real change. He’s offering empty promises.”

Some Trump people thought facing a woman would be easy. They thought wrong.

“Do you really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander in chief?” Clinton said. “Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign. He loses his cool at the slightest provocation — when he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter, when he’s challenged in a debate, when he sees a protester at a rally. … Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

So much for Trump.

She concluded: “I know that at a time when so much seems to be pulling us apart, it can be hard to imagine how we’ll ever pull together. But I’m here to tell you tonight progress is possible. I know because I’ve seen it in the lives of people across America who get knocked down and get right back up.”

A few moments later, she was finished and the roars began. Her running mate came out on the stage, and then Bill Clinton — his eyes red from crying — came out and gave her a hug that seemed as if it would go on forever.

And she didn’t seem to mind that one bit.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes.

 

Photo: A combination photo shows Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) in Palm Beach, Florida and Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) in Miami, Florida at their respective Super Tuesday primaries campaign events on March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Audette (L), Javier Galeano (R)

Pence Isn’t Really a Hick; He Just Plays One On TV

I love it when holders of high office who are arrogant, vain and disdainful suddenly decide that they need to stress one other quality to the voters: their humility.

If Mike Pence were an act, nobody could play him better than Mike Pence.

As the right-wing Republican governor of Indiana since 2013, Pence has now decided to sacrifice the pleasures of Indianapolis to be Donald Trump’s running mate.

“For those of you who don’t know me, which is most of you,” Pence said, Trump made his selection for one reason:

Trump is a man known for his “large personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma,” Pence said, “so I guess he was just looking for some balance on the ticket.”

And then a crowd, still raw from booing the eminently booable Ted Cruz, actually burst out laughing.

The joke had worked. And Pence plunged on with a life story so full of hayseed that only Frank Capra could have done it justice.

He said he was raised in a small town in Indiana “with a cornfield in the backyard,” failing to point out that most of Indiana has a cornfield in the backyard.

His grandfather had emigrated from Ireland to the South Side of Chicago, where he drove a bus. His father “was a combat veteran in Korea.” He said, “If Dad were with us today, I have a feeling he’d enjoy this moment and probably be pretty surprised.”

But his mother was in the hall, he said, as throats started to choke up just a little, and he told everyone, “Join me in welcoming the light of my life, my mom, Nancy.”

His mother stood up and waved a small wave, and Pence said that 31 years ago, he married the girl of his dreams, who was also there.

But wait! There was more! “The most important job I’ll ever have is spelled D-A-D,” he said. And if you weren’t sobbing as the camera showed his family, well, you were not human.

His boyhood heroes had been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy; as an Irish Catholic of his generation, it was practically a law to have Kennedy as a boyhood hero.

And then one day, he heard a politician give a speech. That politician was Ronald Reagan, and Pence knew he was going to be a Republican forevermore.

And he would also be a man of faith. As a Catholic, he took his religion very seriously, and when he became an evangelical Catholic in college, it practically broke his mother’s heart. But he did what he knew he had to do.

He did not know exactly what he wanted to do with his life, but he knew all was possible “in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Somebody ought to check that for plagiarism, by the way. It sounds a little too slick to me.

Today Pence has “faith that God can still heal our land,” and, he said, our land needs it.

Trump is “a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers,” he said, and “while Donald Trump was taking my measure as a possible running mate, I did some observing myself. … He can be a little rough with politicians on the stage,” Pence said, “and I’ll bet we see that again.”

And the audience laughed again. A few minutes later, Pence let loose with his line of the evening.

“When Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America,” he said, “the change will be yuge!”

Pence beat up on Hillary Clinton a little, but it was nothing compared with the attacks she had suffered at this convention thus far, including one apparent death threat by a delegate from New Hampshire. (The Secret Service is investigating.)

“It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm’s way in Benghazi and, after four Americans fell, said, ‘What difference, at this point, does it make?'” Pence continued, “Anyone who said that, anyone who did that should be disqualified from ever serving as commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States of America.”

Pence also hit on the vulnerability that Clinton’s campaign is well aware of. “Democrats are about to anoint someone who represents everything this country is tired of,” he said.

There were probably many reasons Trump staffers settled on Mike Pence. They were certain, for instance, that a guy like Pence would never outshine the top of the ticket.

They may have gotten that one wrong.

 

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey

Our New National Motto: Shelter in Place!

Political conventions are supposed to be about controlled hysteria.

Thousands of people cram into a hall. Music throbs. Speeches blast. And in the case of the Republican convention that opened Monday afternoon in Cleveland, the a cappella children’s choir on the stage was considerably more diverse than the delegates on the floor.

No matter. Conventions are about image building. Reality can be left for another time and another place.

In the modern era, in which delegates are chosen by primaries and caucuses, conventions have a built-in silliness. It is like watching the Oscars already knowing what names are in the envelopes.

In Cleveland this week, there are but two names in the envelopes: Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Where’s Mike Pence? Hey, Pence, get over here. Didn’t anybody give you your cues? No matter. Somebody on the Trump campaign will get around to it.

The conventions are all show business, and the business of show business is to please the crowd. Scholar and media theorist Neil Postman wrote in 1985, “If politics is like show business, then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are, which is another matter altogether.”

This year, there is an added element to the conventions: Which party and which candidate can keep our citizens from being slaughtered and our police officers from being slain? Which can delay, if not halt, the march of horror across the globe and terror through our land?

Which, for pity’s sake, can let us wake up in the morning, click on the TV or boot up the computer and not feel a cold sweat before the screen comes to life to show us how many of our fellow human beings will not be coming to life at all.

Which can give us a day — just one day! — of life without foreboding and dread?

“We must not turn our backs on each other,” Hillary Clinton said about Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a gunman killed three police officers Sunday.

Hell no. Don’t turn your back on anyone these days before you know what he is carrying in his hands. And if it’s a gun and you live in a state where openly carrying a gun is legal, your choices are limited.

But “duck and cover” is a good one.

And “shelter in place” is becoming our new national motto.

President Barack Obama has asked politicians to dial down the rhetoric of hatred and division and to also not lose hope. In Dallas, where five police officers were slain July 7, he said: “I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America.”

Donald Trump says we don’t even know Barack Obama. “I watched the president, and sometimes the words are OK, but you just look at the body language. There’s something going on,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends” Monday out of deviousness or ignorance or both. “Look, there’s something going on, and the words are not often OK, by the way.”

The words are not OK. The body language is not OK. And by the way, did they ever do radiocarbon dating on his birth certificate?

According to the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, released Monday, 64 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump and 54 percent have an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton.

The bar for the presidency isn’t just low; it’s virtually subterranean.

But in Cleveland, the show begins.

In a news conference, Jeff Larson, the CEO of the convention, was peppered with questions about security. But he kept his eye on the ball.

“We are very proud of our podium,” he said, pointing out that a 10 million-pixel image was being projected on a 1,711-square-foot digital screen. The lighting grid weighs 140,000 pounds, and there are 647 moving light fixtures that he can use to affect “the color and tone of the convention.”

Principles? Policies? Platform planks? They would probably take up too many pixels.

In 1996, Ted Koppel and his “Nightline” crew made headlines when they packed up in the middle of the Republican convention in San Diego and went home.

“This convention is more of an infomercial than a news event,” Koppel said. “Nothing surprising has happened. Nothing surprising is anticipated.”

Koppel was expecting a surprise? That’s why he schlepped to San Diego? What planet did he grow up on?

Nobody in Cleveland is expecting a surprise this week. Few want one.

Nice, quiet, humdrum and bloodless will be just fine.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes.

Photo: People stand on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016.   REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Call Me What You Want, As Long As It’s ‘Madam President’

Elizabeth Warren has blown it. In just one speech this week, she may have ended any chance she had to become Hillary Clinton’s running mate.

When the two took the stage at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal on Monday, they looked like a dynamic duo. Warren is 67, and Clinton is 68, and though that used to be on the verge of old age for presidential politics, it has become the new “seasoned.” (Barack Obama was 47 when he was elected. George W. Bush was 54. And Bill Clinton was 46.)

Both Warren and Hillary wore shades of blue — certainly no accident. They are such a pair they even dress alike! Both have short blond hair. Both looked energetic, vigorous and enthusiastic.

Then they started speaking. And it was all over.

Warren was just too darn good. She went after Donald Trump like a hobo on a ham sandwich. She delivered a barnburner, a blockbuster, a foot-stomper of a speech.

If one purpose of a political speech is to define your opponent, she had that down pat.

Trump, she said, is “a small, insecure money-grubber” who “cares about no one but himself.”

Trump “will crush you into the dirt to get whatever he wants.”

“Trump says he’ll make America great again. … It’s stamped on the front of his goofy hat. You wanna see goofy? Look at him in that hat.”

The audience roared and clapped and held its sides. Oh, that hat! That baseball cap that seems as if it is stapled to Trump’s scalp. (He wears it to keep his hair from getting mussed. You do not want to be around Trump when his hair gets mussed.)

And that “Make America Great Again” motto? When did America stop being great? When it started making such guys as Trump presumptive nominees for president?

Who is Donald Trump anyway? How much do you really know about him except that he actually managed to lose money on a casino? Which takes a special kind of skill.

The Clinton campaign strategy regarding Trump is to continue to get under his skin, continue to poke him with a stick because when he gets angry, which is pretty much all the time, he loses control of his mouth.

He talks about thousands of imaginary Muslim Americans dancing in the streets after 9/11. He talks about how Mexican immigrants are rapists. And he says of John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Trump also likes people who got out of the draft because of bone spurs — people like him.

Warren, the senior Democratic senator from Massachusetts, has been designated an official stick-poker.

Warren summed it all up in a video released last week. “I have to be honest,” she said. “It is hard to talk about Donald Trump. Between his ignorance, his racism, his sexism, his lies — it is actually hard to know where to start.”

Boom! Drop the mic.

But that is the problem. If you want to become the vice presidential nominee, you do not want to outshine the presidential nominee.

True, Clinton seemed to be wowed by Warren’s speech Monday, too.

“You just saw why she is considered so terrific, so formidable. Because she tells it like it is,” Clinton said. “I must say, I do just love to see how she gets under Donald Trump’s thin skin.”

And it would be nice for Clinton to be able to sit back and talk about foreign policy and fiscal policy and all the other policies that Trump knows nothing about and let her running mate do the nasty stuff.

The trouble is, however, voters rarely cast ballots because of who is running for vice president. Clinton has to thread the needle and pick a running mate who can shine, but not outshine.

And nastiness runs both ways. “Crooked Hillary is wheeling out one of the least productive senators in the U.S. Senate, goofy Elizabeth Warren,” Trump tweeted Monday.

On Tuesday, Warren said: “What this is really about is, can they bully me into shutting up? Can they just be nasty enough and ugly enough and throw enough stuff in my direction that I’ll say ‘oh’ and just go back into the shadows? And the answer is, nope, not happening.”

The same is true for Clinton. Last Wednesday, Trump called her perhaps “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”

“Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft,” Trump said. “She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund, doing favors for oppressive regimes and many others … in exchange for cash, pure and simple.”

And that wasn’t all. “Her decisions spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched,” Trump said.

But isn’t this all just name-calling — just another part of the national entertainment, the national pastime that we call a presidential campaign?

Hillary Clinton doesn’t care. This time next year, they can call her whatever they want — just as long as it’s “Madam President.”

 

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo: Hillary Clinton stands along side Senator Elizabeth Warren at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. REUTERS/Aaron JosefczykHillary Clinton stands along side Senator Elizabeth Warren at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Trump Dumps Campaign Manager, Keeps Daughter

Did he say anything?

I had been interviewing a source, and I couldn’t take my cellphone out of my pocket every time it buzzed. So for 20 minutes, I was cut off from the outside world. I was cut off from him; I was cut off from my Trump fix.

No Twitter. No texts. No websites. No cable TV.

My palms were sweaty. My heart was pounding. Anything could have happened.

So I fired up my iPhone and checked Twitter.

The New York Times had the scoop: “Donald Trump Fires Corey Lewandowski, His Campaign Manager.”

Then there was this attack tweet from Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson: “Polls drop. Trump dumps mgr. S. Beckett: ‘There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.”

“S. Beckett” refers to Samuel Beckett, an Irish playwright and Nobel Prize winner who is currently dead. The quotation came from Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot,” which debuted in 1953. In it, people sit around and talk and talk while accomplishing virtually nothing.

The play is, in other words, a metaphor for modern presidential campaigning.

The Trump campaign said in a statement, “The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”

This is standard pol-speak for: “Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out, and if you try to steal any Sharpies, you will be arrested and beaten.”

The Politico story said a senior Trump aide faulted “Lewandowski for not getting along with the Republican National Committee and for Trump’s operation falling behind Hillary Clinton from an infrastructure perspective.” The story continued, “There was recognition, the aide said, that Lewandowski was no longer up to the job.”

In addition, there must have been a heck of a lot of Sharpies missing.

The story dominated cable news, with CNN reporting that Ivanka Trump, Donald’s eldest daughter, had a one-on-one meeting with her father over the weekend and demanded that Lewandowski be dumped.

Given the choice of picking a new campaign manager or picking a new eldest daughter, Trump went with Ivanka.

But getting rid of Lewandowski did serve one positive purpose. It changed the Trump “story of the day” — there always has to be at least one — away from a speech Trump gave in which he said, “Belgium is a beautiful city.”

It is not. And I don’t need some Irish Nobel laureate to tell me that. All I need is a map of Europe. Belgium is a country. Brussels, its capital, is a city. Both begin with the letter “B,” which is why Trump ran into trouble. He majored in screwing other people on bad deals, not geography.

So dumping Lewandowski, embarrassing as it was, gave the media something else to write about — like how embarrassing Trump’s running mate is going to be. Take Newt Gingrich. Please.

Rick Tyler, a former Ted Cruz spokesman who was fired in February for posting fake tweets and Facebook entries about Marco Rubio — are you following all this? — said recently: “I don’t know two other people who can command more media attention than Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump. … Keeping your enemies constantly on defense, constantly off balance, constantly explaining themselves — Newt knows how to do that.”

Newt also knows how to make news — for example, when he advocated building a permanent base on the moon by the end of his second presidential term, which would have been in 2021, and using the base for manned flights to Mars.

This is exactly the kind of vice president Trump needs. It would let him say, “I might be nuts, but Newt is bat-poo crazy. So don’t even dream of impeaching me.”

What Clinton needs to learn from all this is how to go on the offense against Trump. She has to be proactive instead of reactive. She has to make people say, “Did she say anything? Did I miss anything Hillary said?”

And there are signs she is beginning to get it. A few weeks ago, Clinton jumped all over Trump.

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different. They are dangerously incoherent,” Clinton said. “They’re not really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

Trump reacted with typical aplomb — which is to say he went into a series of bizarre rants.

“I have a strong temperament, and it’s a very good temperament, and it’s a very in-control temperament, or I wouldn’t have built this unbelievable company. I wouldn’t have built all of the things that I’ve been able to do in life,” he spluttered. “I mean, No. 1 best-sellers, one of the best-selling books of all time, tremendous television success. … Uh, television, ‘The Apprentice,’ which is, forget it. I mean, NBC came to me. They wanted to renew so badly you have no idea.”

Yes, we have no idea.

On Wednesday, Trump will fly to Scotland and then to Ireland to show off his golf courses there. He is scheduled to return to America on Saturday.

Which leaves us with one big question: Should we let him back in?

 

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski speaks with an unidentified aide after a demonstrator was detained at a rally at the Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio March 12, 2016. REUTERS/William Philpott 

When Silence Is Just Not Loud Enough

Our president was speaking to us in his grave yet hopeful voice, a timbre and tone he has had much practice in using. Far too much practice.

He uses it when there has been a mass shooting in America. And by some counts, this was his 14th time.

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war,” our president is saying.

We have been working on that one for a while. But it is really not a matter of human lives lost, people lying in pools of blood or corpses shredded by gunfire.

Solving that problem would be relatively easy. The real problem is political — which is why no gun legislation with a serious chance of passing stands before Congress.

The body counts, the gore, the all-too-vivid last moments captured on a hand-held camera mean nothing compared with the politics of gun ownership.

It remains very easy to buy a semi-automatic rifle almost anywhere in America. Only seven states ban them.

So the killing continues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 guns were used in 11,208 deaths by homicide. That’s a lot. That’s nearly 31 per day.

Why so many? “Crazy” is a popular choice. Do you have to be crazy to shoot and kill 49 people in a nightclub? How about 20 small children in an elementary school? Or 12 people at a Batman movie?

Were all the shooters crazy? Could be. But foreign countries have crazy people, too, and many countries’ murder rates are much lower than ours.

Again, why? One reason is that in America, we allow individuals to own weapons of mass destruction — semi-automatic firearms with large magazines.

And though Congress banned them for 10 years — 1994 to 2004 — it has refused to reinstate the ban even though mass killings continue.

In America, a gun is not just a gun. It is a fetish, a totem, an icon. It has an appeal that defies mere logic.

Charles Bronson — and I swear I am not making up the name — is the former commissioner of agriculture and consumer services for the state of Florida. He used to be in charge of gun permits. Today he is still against more stringent gun laws, such as the ones that would ban semi-automatic AR-15 military-style rifles.

“People use AR-15s to hunt deer, to hunt hogs, to hunt all kinds of game,” Bronson told a reporter, and he said it would be a shame to change the gun laws “because of one person’s lawlessness.”

I am trying to see his point of view: One person kills 49 people and wounds 53 others, and that is nothing compared with the pleasure of executing a hog.

All these arguments are familiar. Everything about mass shootings is achingly familiar — the moments of silence, the lighting of candles, the wearing of ribbons, the hourlong news specials, the flags at half-staff, the president coming down to the briefing room and then the full-scale speech like the one President Barack Obama will make Thursday in Orlando.

“These mass shootings are happening so often now that lamenting them afterwards is becoming a national ritual,” Conan O’Brien said Monday.

O’Brien is a late-night comic. He is also an observer of life in these United States. It is sometimes hard to observe that life and still remain a comic, and I admire him for trying.

“I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think,” he said, his voice growing angrier as he spoke. “However, I am a father of two. I like to believe I have a shred of common sense, and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi-automatic assault rifle. … These are weapons of war, and they have no place in civilian life. …

“I do not know the answer, but I wanted to take just a moment here tonight to agree with the rapidly growing sentiment in America that it’s time to grow up and figure this out.”

Time to grow up. A fine idea. And I really wish the sentiment behind it were “rapidly growing.” Because not everybody in America will get a chance to grow up. Some of those children we send each morning to the “safety” of their schools will never make it back home alive. (According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “since 2013, there have been at least 188 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week.”)

On Capitol Hill on Monday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a ritual moment of silence in the House chamber to commemorate those killed in Orlando.

Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes stood up and walked off the floor instead. Previously, he had tweeted:

“I will not attend one more ‘Moment of Silence’ on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them.”

“The Moments of Silence in the House have become an abomination. God will ask you, ‘How did you keep my children safe’? Silence.”

“If God is an angry God, prepare to know a hell well beyond that lived day to day by the families of the butchered. I will not be silent.”

And I, for one, hope he keeps talking, tweeting, speaking out and walking out.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Ted Eytan

NBC News Vs. The Donald

You can’t read every email that drops into your inbox. There are just too many. So publicists have learned how to attract attention.

On Monday morning, the following press release appeared in my inbox with a ping. It was not made up. It was not spam. It was from MSNBC, and it announced the results of a major investigation by NBC News.

It was headlined “NBC News Report: ‘Donald Trump Does Not Have a Campaign.'”

Which was kind of a surprise. Trump has a campaign plane and campaign rallies and a campaign press corps, so why doesn’t he have a campaign?

It’s like owning a Rolls-Royce and never driving it.

The press release began, “According to a new Decision 2016 NBC News report headlined ‘Donald Trump does not have a campaign,’ Donald Trump is a candidate without a campaign — and it’s becoming a serious problem.”

(The press release could just as easily have begun by stating that “NBC News does not have a person who knows how to write press releases,” but I don’t want to be snarky.)

The report says:

“Republicans working to elect Trump describe a bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that’s prisoner to Trump’s momentary whims.

“‘Bottom line, you can hire all the top people in the world, but to what end? Trump does what he wants,’ a source close to the campaign said.”

I know it is shocking to have a candidate who “does what he wants,” but the alternative is to have dimwit staff members doing what they want.

True, Trump presents serious problems as a candidate. He’s a bigot. He does not understand world affairs. And he does not understand domestic affairs.

But that is not the problem, according to his staff. The problem is that Trump has “a message that’s prisoner to Trump’s momentary whims” instead of being prisoner to his staff’s momentary whims.

That raises a question: If Trump is such a bad campaigner and “does not have a campaign,” how has he done so well?

Trump locked up the Republican nomination in late May, while Hillary Clinton — who has a staff the size of Sacramento — was still struggling to lock up her nomination.

The NBC News report also severely criticizes Trump’s handling of the Trump University scandal.

The report says:

“Aides appeared unprepared for the Trump University story last week, despite knowing in advance that unsealed court documents would reveal explosive allegations of fraud. Beyond a short video of former students praising the program that was posted online, the campaign offered scant pushback.

“The absence of a response to the Trump U story left the candidate to fill the vacuum with a torrent of demagoguery against the federal judge overseeing the case, Gonzalo Curiel, who Trump said was biased by his ‘Mexican heritage’ despite his Indiana birthplace.”

But if Trump had a huge staff, could that staff have prevented him from unleashing “a torrent of demagoguery”? Yes — if it wrapped him in a torrent of duct tape.

The report does throw Trump a few bones: “Despite the campaign’s sluggish start, Trump supporters stressed that his unique gifts, especially his ability to command media attention via Twitter and cable news, give him some leeway to bypass ordinary campaign methods. They also are encouraged by polls that show Trump competitive with likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican voters largely united despite the bruising primary.”

That is another way of saying, “Hey, this guy is a complete tool, but he’s awfully good at it.”

And in fact, Trump sent out a tweet that shows how deft he is at social media (despite the usual typos): “I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff. But small is good, flexible, save money and number one!”

NBC News thinks Trump should seek other sources of wisdom, including aides from other past campaigns. Remember that terrific Mitt Romney campaign of 2012, for instance?

The report says, “The Romney campaign, for example, helped push coverage of Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that’ quote by organizing events with supporters in the business community in swing states around the country.”

I see one problem with that analysis, however. The “You didn’t build that” attack was exceptionally stupid and ineffective, even by Romney campaign standards.

But do not despair. “The good news for Trump is that it can only get better from here,” NBC News concludes.

That’s true. All the Trump campaign needs to do is hire a top adviser to answer criticism with erudite, eloquent, articulate and persuasive responses.

Anybody know what Sarah Palin is doing these days?

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lynden, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart 

Every Candidate Needs A Good Smack or Two

Politics is a rough game, and it is the rare candidate for public office who could not benefit from a little smacking around.

Still, there are unwritten rules even for politics. And one rule says that you don’t stand behind a squealing microphone and suggest your opponent should be shot.

Kinda bad taste, ya know?

Coming home with a bruise or two, well, that’s part of the monkeyshines and the tomfooleries of the business.

But coming home with a .38-caliber hollow point in your cranium, well, that’s going a little far.

Donald Trump, whom comedian Jon Stewart describes as a “man-baby,” likes to talk tough and play the rugged two-fisted brawler because he doesn’t look tough. Trump’s swagger is a ludicrously phony swagger. He looks like an overgrown preppy, but he likes to talk like John Wayne in a cowboy epic.

This often makes Trump get in over his head. For example, a few days ago, Trump tweeted: “Crooked Hillary wants to get rid of all guns and yet she is surrounded by bodyguards who are fully armed. No more guns to protect Hillary!”

Hillary Clinton wants to get rid of guns because she is crooked? How does that work? And how does having Secret Service protection make her hypocritical?

As a former first lady, Clinton gets Secret Service protection regardless of her views on gun control.

And in fact, Trump demanded and got the same Secret Service protection in November. Was that “crooked”? Was that hypocritical?

Our public servants deserve to be protected because there are people out there in the general public who are even loonier than they are.

Clinton, for all her faults, is rarely a name-caller. In the Oct. 12, 2015, edition of The New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch wrote about Libya and how on Oct. 20, 2011, Libyan rebels found Moammar Gadhafi hiding in a desert culvert.

They pulled him out and killed him, leading President Barack Obama to call a Rose Garden news conference in which he announced that the United States had “achieved our objectives.”

“Hillary Clinton, who was then Secretary of State, put it more archly,” Gourevitch wrote, “telling a reporter, ‘We came, we saw, he died.'”

I rank this high in the nifty quote department. It has everything — brevity, wit, verve and what Gourevitch termed as archness, defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “the quality of being … saucily mischievous.”

It has what the 2016 presidential campaign lacks so far — a note of sauciness when a man is killed. True, we iced Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and hanged Saddam Hussein in December 2006. But I don’t recall any archness accompanying those events.

This left our nation with only one person to whom we could turn our lonely eyes. That’s right: Jeb Bush.

Bush got deep into the sociology of archness last Saturday at a conference in Amsterdam. And he proved to be exactly what Trump said he was not; he was not “Low-Energy Jeb” at all.

In fact, he displayed considerable energy at the three-hour conference by sarcastically praising Trump for being “phenomenally good” at manipulating the media.

Bush said of Trump: “He can literally wake up — I have this vision of him in, you know, silk pajamas, with his little slippers on with a ‘T’ on his emblem. He wakes up and he sends out a tweet ripping, you know, someone a new one.

“He’s the first guy that’s ever been allowed to call in to everything but ‘Meet the Press.’ I think they even relented. So he has been a master at how you get into the media, the new media, the diverse media that exists today in a way that had never been done before.”

How this played to a foreign audience, I do not know. I suppose an English translation was provided. But in this case, an English translation was needed even for the native English speakers in the audience.

CNN reported: “Although Bush was not aggressively critical of Trump, as he had been during his campaign, he showed no signs that he was warming up to the presumptive Republican nominee, like some other establishment Republicans have started doing. Still, Bush said, he doesn’t blame voters who are supporting Trump.”

“What I fear is that people, kind of looking down their nose, will say the people that are supporting Donald Trump are a bunch of idiots,” Bush said. “They’re not. They’re legitimately scared. They’re fearful.”

He continued: “If we were warmhearted as a people, my guess is our political system would look dramatically different. And politicians that would prey on people’s angst and their fears would not gain the kind of support that appears that, at least temporarily, that they’re gaining in the United States today.”

Translation over here, please? I’m guessing that this is an attack on Trump for appealing to the “angst” and “fears” of the American voters but that Bush is also claiming such an appeal will not work this time.

Or something.

CNN reported: “Asked if the message he gave was similar to his stump speech as a candidate, Bush said it was a version of it. ‘Now, I’m not living proof that it’s successful,’ he joked.”

Don’t worry about it, Jeb. Leaving us with the indelible image of Donald Trump waking up in silk pajamas and “T” slippers makes your entire campaign worth it.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. May 24, 2016.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 

How Many Trumps Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

Donald Trump runs into the psychiatrist’s office in an uproar. “Doctor, doctor!” Trump shouts. “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

The psychiatrist sighs. “Only one,” the psychiatrist says, “but the bulb really has got to want to change.”

“You’ve heard that one before?” Trump says.

“Everybody has heard that one before,” the psychiatrist says. Then he reaches into his desk drawer and takes out a form. “Full name?” he asks.

“John Y. Miller,” Trump says.

“I know I’m going to regret this, but what does the ‘Y’ stand for?” the psychiatrist asks.

“Yuuge!” Trump says. “Now please change into a swimsuit.”

The psychiatrist’s face grows red with anger. “This is just foolishness,” he says. “Just like your campaign is foolishness. Everybody knows that John Miller is the name you use to pretend to be your spokesman. What kind of grown man pretends to be someone else on the phone?”

“I don’t know,” Trump says, “but you would look fabulous in a two-piece.”

“Please leave,” says the doctor. “There are people with real problems in this country. I can’t waste time on you.”

Trump grows quiet and hangs his head in shame.

“You think I don’t know there are real problems?” he says. “Our national debt is more than $19 trillion, and we have more than 46 million people living in poverty.

“Medicaid spending is expected to rise by 21 percent over the next 10 years. Social Security will rise 30 percent, and Medicare will rise 40 percent.

“Also, I think I’m getting a zit on the end of my nose.”

“I don’t see anything,” the psychiatrist says.

“It’s yuuge,” Trump says. “Enormously yuuge!”

“A few seconds ago, I was going to throw you out,” the doctor says. “But you really do need help. Please lie down on the couch.”

Trump walks over to a leather couch and lies down. The doctor says, “I am going to repeat some quotations to you, and I want you to tell me who said them.”

Trump lies down on the couch. “Go ahead,” he says.

The doctor removes a list from a desk drawer. He begins to read:

“Who said this? ‘I hope corrupt Hillary Clinton chooses goofy Elizabeth Warren as her running mate. I will defeat them both.'”

“Donald Trump!” Trump answers instantly.

The doctor makes a checkmark on the list and moves to the next quotation: “Wow, Lyin’ Ted Cruz really went wacko today. Made all sorts of crazy charges. Can’t function under pressure — not very presidential. Sad!”

“Trump,” Trump says. “The ‘Lyin’ Ted’ thing was the giveaway.”

The psychiatrist makes another checkmark and says, “Which candidate said this of Carly Fiorina? ‘Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?'”

Trump stops and thinks. “I’m not sure,” he says, “but it must be a candidate who is childish, insulting, abusive and immature.”

“Exactly” says the doctor. “Now we are making progress. Do you also happen to remember suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father in some way aided the assassination of John F. Kennedy?”

“Wow, talk about sick!” Trump says. “It must have been me.”

“Some say it was also you who made fun of a disabled person and said Mexicans crossing the border are rapists, though you did assume some are good people.”

“This is sounding more and more familiar,” Trump says.

“Also, he has called women ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals,'” the doctor continues. “And he wants to round up and deport 11 million people in this country who lack proper documentation and ban all Muslims from entering the United States.”

“Warmer,” Trump says. “Definitely warmer.”

“Also,” the psychiatrist says, “he wants to kill the families of terrorists in order to win the fight against ISIS.”

“Bingo!” Trump says. “Definitely me.”

“And you feel good about that?” asks the doctor.

“It’s not a matter of good or bad,” Trump says. “That’s what you guys miss. It’s about winning, not philosophies or principles.

“There’s this guy who is the chairman of the Republican Party. He has this name like Prieb Rancid or Rance Priebus. And he was talking the other day about all these stories that are critical of me. He says, ‘I think that all these stories that come out — and they come out every couple weeks — people just don’t care.’

“And you know what? That’s exactly right! Here are all these terrible, terrible things I have said. The things I have said are wicked and awful. And I just keep winning and winning! So I guess people don’t care.

“And if the people of the United States don’t care what kind of person their president is, why should I care?”

The doctor grows quiet. “You may be right,” he says, “and this has troubled me. But keep in mind that you have been winning consistently only in the Republican primaries and caucuses. There is a bigger world out there, and in November, the whole country gets to vote on you.

“And that is when you may get your comeuppance.”

Donald Trump starts patting his pockets. “I don’t know what a comeuppance is,” he says, coming up with a small card from his pants pocket. “But I do have one question left: Do you validate?”

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump wearing a “Trump for President ’16” t-shirt listens to the candidate speak at a campaign rally at the airport in Hagerstown, Maryland, U.S. On April 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

Lewinsky And Trump: I Tremble For My Country

The beast did not create Donald Trump; Donald Trump kept the beast alive. Without billions in free advertising (i.e. news coverage), Trump would have withered and blown away like other classic also-ran candidates: Ross Perot, Herman Cain and Dr. Ben Carson.

Trump drove numbers. He got clicks. He put couch potatoes on their couches and kept them there.

And when it came to thinking about how much Trump coverage to provide, the media bosses didn’t have to think very hard. If you ran a restaurant and people kept asking for apple pie, you wouldn’t offer rhubarb instead.

In 1998, I was hired by the Chicago Tribune to do think pieces (“thumb-suckers,” as they were called in the business) on the American presidency and the American people. I started in the beginning of January.

On a bitterly cold Saturday, Jan. 17, President Bill Clinton made the one-block trip in the presidential limousine from the White House to the 11th-floor offices of his lawyer, Robert S. Bennett.

The White House was visible from the office windows. Under oath, Clinton denied ever having sex with Monica Lewinsky. After six hours, with a 15-minute break for lunch, he left the offices looking confident and unshaken, which was Clinton’s default mode.

Ceaselessly for the rest of the year, the Lewinsky story drove White House coverage. The story involved vivid descriptions of sexual acts, and back in 1998, the media were not prepared for mainstream coverage of such things.

Feeling that we had gone overboard — my stories were on the front page day after day — my editors would call me from Chicago and tell me to hold back, dial it down and look for other White House stories for a while.

I was delighted. Along with many other White House reporters, I was thoroughly sick of the Lewinsky saga.

But then, the calls began. Readers were upset: “Why are you protecting Clinton?” “Why don’t you tell the whole truth about that guy?” “What are you hiding?” They went on and on and on.

And so, we would return to stories about Monica and Monica and Monica.

Did Trump decide this week that invoking Lewinsky’s name would be a good way of changing the press narrative? Of getting the media to swivel its guns from stories about how he was changing his positions, to a story he believed would embarrass Hillary Clinton?

According to CNN, “Donald Trump said Monday he called Hillary Clinton an ‘enabler’ of her husband’s infidelity as ‘retribution’ for her playing the ‘woman’s card’ against him.”

It is probably true. To examine the mind of Donald Trump is to enter a murky and intricate passage.

To many, Lewinsky is barely a story. It is 18 years old, and many have little or no recollection of it. In one respect, it is like O.J. Simpson’s 1994-95 murder trial: a story that went viral before there was viral technology.

You would think Trump would be delighted with all the (free) media coverage he is getting; but he is not. He is a control freak, and he can’t control the story to the degree that he would like.

And others are in charge of his life, which he considers his private property, public figure or no public figure.

“And these eggheads that you watch on television,” Trump sneered at a rally last week. “I’m much smarter than they are, OK…You know they call them the elite. The elite! I have a nicer apartment than they do. I have a nicer plane than they do. They’re elite?”

If the media created Trump, not everybody got the memo. Editorial pages are not just gloomy over the possibility of a Trump presidency — they are downright apocalyptic.

The New York Times May 3 editorial stated, “The Republican Party’s trek into the darkness took a fateful step in Indiana on Tuesday.”

“‘I’m watching a 160-year-old political party commit suicide,’ said Henry Olsen, an elections analyst with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank. Republicans will all but certainly nominate Mr. Trump, who would be the most volatile and least prepared presidential candidate nominated by a major party in modern times.”

The media helped make Trump, and Trump helped the media pay its bills. But the media also tried to keep Trump in check by correcting the record when he strayed — distressingly often — from the truth.

Trump and the media fed on each other. It was a marriage made in hell.

It was also depressing to see how far a presidential candidate could get by exploiting fear, hatred, racism and bigotry.

We should not be surprised. It had been predicted. All one needs to do is go down to the Jefferson Memorial and see the words carved in the Georgia marble there:

“Indeed, I tremble for my country,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “when I reflect that God is just…”

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Supporters hold signs as Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lynden, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart 

What I Believed Monday, I Will Still Believe Wednesday — No Matter What I Said Tuesday

There are three major political parties in the United States: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and the Trumpeter Party.

The Republicans blow their horns for the rich. The Democrats blow their horns for the poor. And the Trumpeters just blow.

While the Republicans and Democrats are very angry, the Trumpeters are furious. The other two parties are looking for a winner. The Trumpeters are looking for a savior.

This savior will find an enemy to blame for America’s woes. This enemy will have dark skin and a foreign accent and will not be a “true” American, no matter what his (probably phony) birth certificate says.

The savior will have a message. And it will not be unique. Andrew Jackson did pretty well with it in 1832, and a century later, it still had not lost its power. “Every man a king!” Huey Long told crowds in Louisiana in the early 1930s. “That’s my slogan.”

In February 1976, I interviewed George Wallace in the white, working-class neighborhood of Southie in Boston. Five hundred people packed into a small hall, and 300 more waited outside. Wallace spoke for nearly an hour in a strong, resonating voice.

“You will be the kings and queens of American politics!” Wallace thundered. “You! The working men and women will be the kings and queens instead of the ultraliberal left that has been getting everything all the time. Paul Revere rode to say the British were coming. I will ride to say, ‘The people are coming!'”

After his speech, Wallace took questions from the same reporters he had denounced during his speech. Like Trump, Wallace was not afraid of the press. Like Trump, Wallace used the press.

I asked Wallace what his strategy was.

“My strategy? I put down the hay where the goats can get it,” he said, and then he roared with laughter.

Trump is no different in that he does not have to sell his policies. His followers are more than ready for someone who will feed their fears and promise them magic, such as walls that will reach to the sky and be paid for by the same foreigners who want American jobs.

Trump does not need to build a coalition. The coalition is already out there festering, hating government, believing in conspiracies, waiting for someone to focus their anger.

On Tuesday, Ted Cruz woke up and decided to tell people that Trump is a really, really bad guy.

Trump is a “pathological liar” who is “utterly amoral” and does not know right from wrong, Cruz said. Trump has had “venereal diseases” as a result of his “serial philandering,” of which he is proud.

Trump is “terrified of strong women,” Cruz said.

And here is the really bad one: “He’s not going to build a wall.”

No wall? What the heck are we going to spray-paint?

Why did Cruz wait so long to roll out Operation Desperation? This is anybody’s guess. On April 26, after Trump swept Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, Stephen Colbert summed it up with deadly accuracy: “Trump’s candidacy just got five states less funny.”

And Hillary Clinton is not going to dawdle. Though technically she still has to beat Bernie Sanders, she is already ready for Trump. She is fired up and ready to go.

“We’ve seen a lot of rhetoric. We’ve seen a lot of insults,” she said Tuesday. “We’re going to have a tough campaign against a candidate who will literally say or do anything.”

The trouble with attacks against Trump, however, is that they usually lack the snap and verve of his own attacks.

Lyin’ Ted. Liddle Marco. Low-energy Jeb. Crooked Hillary.

As childish as they are, they stick in the mind.

“Ted Cruz does not have the temperament to be president of the United States,” Trump said Tuesday.

But what kind of temperament does the presidency require except a commitment to repeat the same slander day after day. “What I believed on Monday, I will still believe on Wednesday,” the candidate must say, “no matter what I believed on Tuesday.”

And when media outlets started writing a few weeks ago that Trump was dialing down his attacks to appear more presidential, Trump reacted with anger.

“I’m not changing. You know, I went to the best schools. I’m, like, a very smart person,” he said. “I don’t want to really change my personality. I think, you know, it got me here. … I consider myself the presumptive nominee. … As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”

And as for the rest of the campaign? The remaining primaries, the conventions, the presidential debates and all those speeches?

No worries. It’s easy when you have a plan, and Donald Trump has a plan: He is just going to keep putting down the hay where the goats can get it.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters. 

Trump Playing A Part, But At Least He’s Practicing

Donald Trump is living his word. His word often changes. But you can’t blame him for that. At the time he is giving his word, he means it.

And that is a politician’s definition of honesty.

Times change; circumstances change; life changes. And you can be a little baby (or news columnist) and whine about it, or you can be a politician and buckle down and do what people expect you to do, which is very little.

Paul Manafort, often described as the “ultimate D.C. insider” when he is not being described as a “veteran Washington fixer,” has been put in charge of the Trump campaign. The campaign recognized that Washington insiders have grown worried that Trump has forgotten just what role he is playing.

Trump started out as an anti-insider and an anti-fixer, so you can see why insider fixers have grown concerned.

Trump seems to have been carried away by the crowds who scream themselves silly when he attacks Washington and the way politics is conducted in this country.

The people who actually conduct the politics of Washington want to make sure Trump has not forgotten his most important role: to make sure nothing actually changes.

So Manafort went to Florida the other day to assure members of the Republican National Committee — the ultimate insiders and fixers — that they need not worry.

“That’s what’s important for you to understand,” Manafort told the group about Trump, “that he gets it and that the part he’s been playing is evolving.”

In other words, when Trump says he hates insiders and fixers, that’s just evolution. He doesn’t really hate them at all. It just depends on where he happens to be sitting.

Really.

“When he’s sitting in a room, he’s talking business,” Manafort told the group, a recording of which was obtained by NBC News. When “he’s talking politics in a private room, it’s a different persona,” Manafort continued. “When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.”

“He gets it,” Manafort said.

Trump may get it, but I am confused as all get-out. When Trump is in a room, that’s business. When he’s talking politics in a private room, that’s presumably politics. And when he’s on the stage and on the stump, don’t worry about it, because he knows he is just talking to yahoos.

Or something.

Trump’s negatives, which are very high, will come down once Trump is no longer negative in his speeches, Manafort said. Hillary Clinton’s negatives, on the other hand, will not come down, because, according to one press account, they are “baked in.”

“The negatives will come down. The image is going to change. But Clinton is still going to be ‘Crooked Hillary,’ and that’s what you’re going to be seeing a lot more of,” Manafort promised the group.

Let us assume at this point that the audience members burst into wheezy cheers for this act of patriotism.

“He’s actually living his word, and that’s what the base that we are attracting to the Trump campaign is looking for,” Manafort said. “They’re looking for honesty, and they’re looking for consistency, and they’re looking for someone who does exactly what they say.”

But is that what Trump is really providing? Is it honesty and consistency?

And could any reasonable person expect Trump to do “exactly” what he says?

Let’s examine Trump’s most concrete (no pun intended) promise: that he would build an impenetrable wall on our border with Mexico.

I am willing to believe that Trump would try to build some kind of wall along some stretch of our border with Mexico, but then he probably would throw up his hands in frustration and blame Congress or the courts or Mexico or Democrats or some other evil forces blocking him.

After all, this huge wall would require the cooperation of Congress and environmentalists and immigration rights groups and all sorts of lawyers and agencies, and it would have to lead eventually to a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court.

How likely is that? And don’t forget that Trump promises he would somehow get Mexico to pay for it.

This is going to take more than Manafort has promised. This is going to take more than a “persona.”

This is going to take a magician.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Super Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio March 1, 2016.   REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Trump So Nervous He Is Looking For Hoopla

I have always believed that if we just let Donald Trump speak long enough, he would finally start making sense.

In mathematics, this is called the “infinite monkey theorem.” It is a real theorem, not a joke. It is in Wikipedia and everything.

The theorem states that “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.”

If this theorem is accurate, it means that Trump will someday give a sane speech or else recite “Hamlet.” Either one can happen, and we don’t know which will happen first.

It could take a billion years or six months. It is random. Luckily for us, Trump now has come in way ahead of schedule.

But what has he said that makes sense?

Last week, Trump told Philip Rucker and Robert Costa of The Washington Post that the real problem facing the Republican Party is dullness.

You might think the real problem is insulting Hispanics, Muslims and women or people smashing each other in the face during Trump’s speeches.

But no. The problem is not just dullness but dullness at the nominating conventions. Trump said the convention in Tampa, Florida, four years ago was “the single most boring convention” he’s ever seen.

Actually, I thought Clint Eastwood debating that empty chair was a perfect metaphor for the party — an empty head debating empty furniture.

Trump, who is obsessed with polls and TV ratings, is already worried that not enough people will watch his convention should he get nominated.

The way to solve this, he believes, is hoopla. Excitement. Thrills.

This is what I mean by the infinite monkey theorem. Trump has finally said something sensible. He is admitting that he, alone, will not be enough to create interest in the convention. An extra boost of excitement will be needed.

As you may have noticed, the cable networks are following this presidential election the way heaven follows the fall of a sparrow. And so on Monday, CNN interviewed award-winning Broadway producer Ken Davenport, asking him how he would spice up the Republican convention.

Davenport, a funny guy, started out by insulting the host city. “Cleveland,” he said. “The location is a challenge right there.”

But Davenport was equal to the challenge. “Like in ‘Spider-Man,'” Davenport said. “Fly Trump in. He definitely swings (from the ceiling) throughout the convention, breathes a little fire and performs a little magic like making some superdelegates disappear.

“Try to add fun. And definitely let people bring booze to their seats. It will be the most heavily attended convention for sure.”

All of these are excellent suggestions, but would the Republican Party hierarchy — six embalmed guys smoking cigars — accept them?

The most recent time the Republican hierarchy actually got excited was watching Joey Heatherton perform at The Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City in 1982.

That Trump is worried about the energy level at the convention is a sign of how nervous he is. Giving an everyday stump speech and giving a convention acceptance speech are two different things.

Trump’s daily speeches tend to be free-form rambles. They may excite the yahoos in the room, but convention speeches have to captivate a nationwide television and Internet audience.

There is another problem: If you have heard one Trump speech, you have heard them all. But he cannot do a convention speech off the cuff. It has to be different from his everyday speeches, or it will be savaged by the media.

And the media are solidly behind Trump’s desire for an exciting convention. Over the decades, the excitement has been drained away from conventions. There are no more floor fights, because the parties want to show unity. There are no more fights over the platform, because hardly anybody cares about the platform. (In 1996, Bob Dole said he would not read his party’s platform even though he was the Republican nominee that year.)

In the past, the biggest excitement came from the roll call of states and learning who would be the nominee. But the nominee is no longer chosen at the convention. The nominee is decided in primaries and caucuses beforehand.

So by the time we get to convention night, it is like watching the Oscars already knowing the winning names in the envelopes.

In 1996, in San Diego, the Republicans put on a slick, highly programmed TV show designed to appeal to prime-time audiences. It was so boring that Ted Koppel and his “Nightline” crew packed up in the middle of the week and went home.

“This convention is more of an infomercial than a news event,” Koppel said. “Nothing surprising has happened. Nothing surprising is anticipated.”

What was surprising to me is that Koppel was expecting to be surprised. What was he hoping for, that Dole would drop out in favor of Chuck Norris? In the news business, surprises and wishful thinking should never be confused.

The trouble with Trump’s plan for excitement this year is the admission that excitement is needed. Trump should be the excitement. At the convention, Trump needs to soar. He needs to inspire. He needs to motivate and stimulate and rouse all by himself.

Or else he should just hire Neil Patrick Harris.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media during a news conference at the construction site of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

A Chair In The Shower Room, A Portrait On The Capitol Wall, What’s Next For Hastert? Prison Bars?

Once upon a time, Dennis Hastert looked forward to being the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

Today he is likelier to be remembered for his reclining chair.

As a document filed in federal court in Illinois recently put it, as a high-school wrestling coach, Hastert put a La-Z-Boy-type “chair in direct view of the shower stalls in the locker room where he sat while the boys showered.”

Hastert told people he put it there to keep the boys from fighting. Prosecutors believe that Hastert put it there for the view.

And just when Hastert thought things could not get worse — they got worse. Last week, federal prosecutors released graphic accusations detailing how Hastert sexually abused at least four students who were on his wrestling team.

You would think keeping a large chair in a locker room would raise a few eyebrows. But it didn’t. That was the point. Hastert was practically worshipped at his school and in his town.

“Defendant was not just a teacher and coach,” the prosecutors said in the court filing. “Defendant was famous in Yorkville as the beloved coach of the state champion wrestling team; the leader of a boys’ club that took trips to the Grand Canyon and the Bahamas; and the popular teacher who gave kids rides in his Porsche.”

After the 26-page document by prosecutors became public a few days ago, Andy Richter, sidekick to late-night comic Conan O’Brien, posted a series of tweets:

–“I went to Yorkville HS ’80-’84 & I remember this chair. Purportedly ‘to keep boys from fighting.'”

–“I haven’t thought of it in 30 yrs.”

–“tbh (to be honest), I don’t find it’s upsetting me now. I’m just so struck by how easy it was to do that. Nobody questioned it.”

The only alleged victim of Hastert’s to be named so far is Steve Reinboldt, an equipment manager of the team. In 1979, years after he was out of high school, Reinboldt told his sister that Hastert abused him for four years. His sister asked him why he had not spoken up sooner.

“And he just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?'” Reinboldt’s sister said. Reinboldt died in 1995.

“Mr. Hastert is deeply sorry and apologizes for his misconduct that occurred decades ago and the resulting harm he caused to others,” his lawyers have said in a court filing. “Mr. Hastert’s fall from grace has been swift and devastating.”

So much time has passed since Hastert’s alleged abuse of the students that he can no longer be charged for sex crimes. But though Hastert does not dispute all of the sexual acts contained in the federal documents, his lawyers are trying to spin the case as one of a retired, sickly 74-year-old man who has had a stroke and who has been punished enough.

Hastert, who went to an evangelical Christian college and received a 100 percent score from the Christian Coalition of America when he was in public life, is due to be sentenced April 27, at which time one of his victims may testify against him.

To the judge hearing the case, Hastert’s lawyers have written, “We respectfully request that the Court consider the humiliation and isolation that Mr. Hastert and his family have already suffered when determining his sentence.” Hastert served as House speaker for eight years, and now he has been brought low.

After all, his lawyers say, Hastert’s name has “become forever tainted,” and he has been “stung by the public repudiations of him that followed his indictment, including the removal of his portrait from the United States Capitol.”

It is difficult, however, to compare having your portrait taken off a wall to having been sexually abused as a teenager for a period of years.

And the prosecution fired back: “While defendant achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what defendant did to them. Some have managed better than others, but all of them carry the scars defendant inflicted upon them.”

Hastert’s attorneys are seeking a sentence of probation without prison time.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to send Hastert to prison for up to six months.

Hastert himself? He said in a statement in 2003, when he was speaker of the House, “It is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives.”

Hastert may have changed his mind about that.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert is surrounded by officers as he leaves federal court after pleading not guilty to federal charges of trying to hide large cash transactions and lying to the FBI in Chicago, Illinois, United States, June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young