The Morning Jolt

Relax, Everyone. Stephen Bannon’s Got This.

For everyone who said had become indistinguishable from the Trump campaign . . . it’s formal, now.

Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster for Mr. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will become the campaign manager.

A long, long time ago… okay, just 2011… I thought Stephen Bannon had a heck of a career ahead of him as a documentary filmmaker.

Why would Paul Manafort be out? Oh.

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.

The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Here we go.

Thor: Trump Is The ‘Creepy Fat Guy on the Mo-Ped Who Might Be Okay’

Author Brad Thor, in the #NeverTrump camp for a long time, is beginning to come around to the idea that rolling the dice with Trump might be the best remaining option, comparing the country to a cancer patient with a grim prognosis.

Yesterday, Dr. Hewitt tried (yet again) to help guide America to the best (and only) option available to us. I lost a lot of sleep last night reading and then re-reading his words. I awoke this morning with a more nuanced view.

Drug #1 (Hillary Clinton) will kill us – no question. Drug #2 (Donald Trump) might kill us, but it also might:

A) Slow the cancer, or even

B) Cure the cancer

It’s a lot to hope for, I know, but hope is all we have left. We have exhausted every other avenue. Make no mistake — I believe one hundred percent in standing on principle. Principle, in this case though, will not cure cancer.

Sadly, that crappy clinic south of the border is starting to look like our only option.

As he later elaborated on the decision, “It’s all about choices. Windowless van or creepy fat guy on the mo-ped who might be okay. I’m going mo-ped.”

Look, if you’re pulling for Trump as the best option left to stop Hillary, Godspeed. There are no good options left for conservatives, only disputably less bad ones. If Trump wins, I’ll be thrilled that Hillary Clinton received a much-deserved loss and rebuke from the voting public. And yes, from the perspective of a conservative, a President Trump might get it right sometimes, while Hillary Clinton will consistently push in the opposite direction.

But at this moment, the argument about #NeverTrump feels pretty moot. With few if any Trump ads on the air, campaign offices few and far between, a campaign schedule that keeps sending the candidate to rallies in deep blue states, every indicator showing the GOP nominee getting obliterated among Latinos, African-Americans, young people and women, and the polls looking abysmal for both Trump and Congressional Republicans, reluctant conservatives are among the least of Trump’s problems. If all Trump-skeptical Republicans put aside all of their concerns and jumped on board, the outlook for his campaign wouldn’t be all that different.

It’s hard to get emotionally invested in the need for Trump to win when the candidate finds a new way to botch things every single day. If he’s not fighting with a slain soldier’s dad, he’s serving up a dozen tweets about how unfair the media is to him; if he’s not pre-emptively claiming the election will be rigged, he’s implying gun owners will assassinate Hillary Clinton; if he’s not calling President Obama the founder of ISIS and insisting it’s not a metaphor, he’s whining about the debate schedule. Trump’s longtime right-hand man Roger Stone just claimed, without any supporting evidence, that “Scott Walker and the Reince Priebus machine rigged as many as five elections including the defeat of a Walker recall election.” The entire Trump circus is a deep dive into paranoid conspiracy theories and seething resentment that does nothing to advance the cause of limited government or individual liberty. Trump gives his GOP skeptics nothing to latch onto as a sign of genuine hope.

I keep hearing from Trump fans that the future of the Republic is at stake. If that’s the case, why are there bigger expectations and demands of the reluctant conservatives than on the candidate himself?

If Trump’s Competitive, Why Is Priorities USA Suspending TV Ads in Key States?

One of the things that’s most relentlessly infuriating about Trump and his supporters is their adamant refusal to consider that anything he’s done or doing isn’t working. They think they’re winning and that all of the polls showing Hillary Clinton with a sizeable and growing lead are part of a vast conspiratorial misinformation campaign.

Even if you reject all polls besides the self-selecting online ones showing Trump ahead, consider this: “The pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC Priorities USA is suspending TV advertising in Virginia, Colorado, and Pennsylvania until at least the end of September.” Now, maybe this is a giant head-fake on the part of the Democratic super-PAC, one of the all-time epic exercises in reverse psychology. But Occam’s Razor would suggest they’re seeing the same thing the public polls are showing — that Hillary’s lead in Virginia and Colorado and Pennsylvania is now comfortable and there’s not much need to spend money in those states anymore.

The belief that the Trump campaign is working fine, that television advertising isn’t needed, that campaign offices and full-time staffers in swing states aren’t needed… at some point, the Trump argument to #NeverTrump Republicans is to jump on board a bandwagon of delusional denial.

Farewell, John McLaughlin

The passing of television host John McLaughlin really marked an end of an era.

It was interesting to see the griping Tuesday afternoon that the McLaughlin Group represented a coarsening of debate, and led to the shout-fests that dominate cable news discussions. I’m not so sure. Yes, the panelists could yell over each other, but McLaughlin usually gave every panelist at least one shot per topic, and just enough time to make a point. Everyone knew McLaughlin was conservative but not always predictable; he turned against the Iraq War early. At least two guests disagreed with him in almost every segment. Everybody got a chance to make their points and counter-arguments.

When you look back at the regulars like Fred Barnes, Morton Kondrake, Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Jack Germond, Clarance Page, Bob Novak . . . I don’t think these folks will be insulted if I write that they weren’t hired for their looks. The show wasn’t about pretty faces and blow-dried hair. These were writers, people who reported and analyzed and read for a living, debating news events and big ideas and policies. For those of us who were nerds and geeks, The McLaughlin Group made politics genuinely cool, not pseudo-cool by welding politics to pop culture in an effort to reach apolitical folks who didn’t care, like the time MTV had Madonna threaten to give you a spanking if you didn’t vote.

The McLaughlin Group wasn’t about looking slick or smooth and remembering the talking points. It was about knowing stuff, and it wasn’t meant to reach a mass audience. If most people found it boring or dry or too hard to follow, that’s fine. Most people could have the rest of the broadcast week to enjoy other programming. But for one half-hour a week, the political nerds got to argue it out.

The boss, an occasional panelist, remembers McLaughlin here.

Tom Rogan, a regular panelist and NRO contributor, remembers him here.

ADDENDA: Here’s Dana Carvey’s wild impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live.

Here’s John McLaughlin’s cameo appearance on SNL a few years later.

Whatever you think of the dark superhero movie Watchmen, I don’t think you can dismiss the inspired choice to show a fictional episode of the McLaughlin Group to help set the scene for the movie’s alternate reality and timeline. The video quality here isn’t terrific, but you can hear the Pat Buchanan impersonator arguing that the Soviet Union is intimidated by the superhero Dr. Manhattan and a faux Eleanor Clift contending that Dr. Manhattan is a provocation to Moscow. 

Most Popular


Weirdo O’Rourke

Friends of the young Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spoke of the special glow of promise they had about them, even back in their early twenties. Angels sat on their shoulders. History gave them a wink and said, “Hey, good lookin’, I’ll be back to pick you up later.” Robert O’Rourke? Not so much. He ... Read More

McCain at Annapolis

President Trump has been doing a lot of tweeting today -- against TV programs, companies, and other things that have incurred his displeasure. These tweets make for interesting reading. One of them is this: So it was indeed (just proven in court papers) “last in his class” (Annapolis) John McCain that sent ... Read More