Will Republican Elite Coalesce Around Trump or Sabotage Him to Save the GOP?
Thomas Ferguson and Max Blumenthal dissect Trump and the elites that control the Republican Party
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PAUL JAY: Welcome to the Real News Network, I’m Paul Jay. On Tuesday night, Donald Trump won most of what he was expected to win. He won Florida with 45.7% of the vote, which is a winner take all state. He’s projected to win in Illinois, which is not a winner take all state. But Trump right now as we record this, has 40% of the vote. Missouri at the moment, Trump has 42.5% of the vote. Ted Cruz has about 40. Trump also projected to win in North Carolina. Rubio has suspended his campaign, which is a nice way to say he’s done, he’s dropped out. And John Kasich as polling seem to indicate, did win in Ohio. So Kasich lives to fight another day.
So we’re down to three, Trump, Cruz, and Kasich. As we speak we don’t know the results of Missouri. Kasich seems to be making it competitive. But it doesn’t change the overall story. Which is Donald Trump is on his way, to be, at the very least to go to the Republican convention with a vast majority of delegates and maybe even the majority of delegates before the convention starts. Depending which pundit you listen to, you can switch channels back and forth. One Republican expert will tell you he’ll never make 50% by the convention and switch to the other channel and he will.
So we are now joined by two guests, who will discuss the significance of tonight and the Trump campaign and perhaps more. First of all, joining us from Washington, DC is Max Blumenthal. He’s an award winning journalist, the best-selling author. His latest book is the 51 Day War. And joining us from Massachusetts is Tom Ferguson, he’s a professor and narrator at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Thanks very much gentlemen.
Well first of all, let me just throw you a general question each and then we’ll kind of get a little more specific. So, first of all, let me start with you Thomas. This more or less sets Trump on the road, like I said in the beginning, he very well might make the 50% mark and if not, he’s certainly going to the convention with the vast majority of the delegates. In his speech tonight, he sounded a lot more presidential. I mean running to be president rather being, throwing red meat to rabid followers. Here’s for examples some of the things he said in his speech.
DONALD TRUMP: It’s about trade and it’s about boarders. And what happened is pretty quickly after that and we shot right up. I shot right up to the top of the polls and have been leading in the polls almost from the beginning, without fail. They want our military rebuilt, our military is in a very bad state, they want it rebuilt. We don’t win with our military; we can’t beat ISIS. We’re going to knock the hell out of them. We don’t win in trade; China everybody, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam, India, name the country anybody we do business with beats us. We don’t win at trade; we’re going to win at trade. We’re going to make our country rich again, we’re going to make our country great again and we need the rich in order to make it great. I’m sorry to tell you.
JAY: So this is how he’s going to present himself as a presidential campaign I guess, cause from now on he’s really fighting against from what he assumes, and I guess a lot of people do, will be Hilary Clinton although that’s not a completely done deal. What did you make of it Thomas?
THOMAS FERGUSON: Well, to me the new element was the business about the military, much more clearly tilted toward some activism on that. I mean a lot of folks have seen Trump as somewhat holding back. I mean put bluntly, this speech reminded me very much of frankly, a classic social imperialism line. The combination of he said, actually several times, people need protection and he obviously meant that wider than simply tariffs. That’s interesting.
What I smell in the military pitch there, as also with the nod to Rubio; running a great campaign, which a week ago you couldn’t have got that out of Trump with a gun. What I smell there, an effort to chase the vast investor block that had massed behind Rubio, really a lot of people. A lot of neoconservatives. You could see this coming in Trump when he let some weeks ago, that line about what he was asked, who had advised him and he said Rudolph Giuliani; which would make you sleep better at night. Well, maybe. Then not a whole lot of other people and at the time, that struck me as an interesting choice. It looks to me like he is going to try to just, you have here in effect an olive branch to that, a massive chunk of the party investment block there that has been opposed to Trump mostly.
JAY: His foreign policy has been on the face of it, less interventionist. Frankly even than Hilary Clinton he’s been critiquing her, I shouldn’t say even Hilary Clinton, is quite interventionist. But he’s critiqued her on Libya, he’s critiqued her pro Iraq war vote. So what you’re saying is don’t worry that I may not invade people as much as they want to, we’ll throw you lots of money cause we got to rebuild the military.
FERGUSON: That’s at least the minimum, now the next question is what he really intends to do about ISIS, which, if you really want to mess around with that right in the middle of a partial Russian withdrawal and what’s perhaps the beginning of the breakup of Syria into various pieces. This is going to, you’ve got your chance to do Libya all over again, if he wants to do it. Even if he says he didn’t like the first one.
JAY: Right, Max what’s your take away?
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well I didn’t hear anything new from Trump tonight. He started pivoting in the past few weeks, sounding a slightly more conservatory tone. We’ve heard him schizophrenic on foreign policy. He’s said one thing about Syria, about how we’re funding rebels and we don’t know who they are and then he’s said, entirely another thing about how there needs to be ground troops. So not really sensing any coherent policy from him there. But we’ve seen is a complete discrediting of the neoconservative force in the Republican party. It turns out that they’re just a basically, kind of like a family laundry business.
Well I think what we’ve seen tonight is a strong discrediting. You’re really a consolidation of the discrediting of the neocons in this race. They’ve thrown their weight behind Rubio. Rubio is the establishment candidate and now the neocons are jumping ship and sounding sort of positive note about Hilary Clinton. Even Jenn Ruben, who hates Ted Cruz has started to, but also has hated Hilary Clinton, you know one of the premiere neocon columnists in the Washington Post said positive things about Hilary Clinton. We’re going to continue to see that. Donald Trump mentioned a phone call with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and he’s actually mentioned that phone call in the past.
JAY: So here’s the line that Donald Trump mentions this, what he calls a great call with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Let’s not forget its only 2-3 weeks ago that Mitch McConnell says that if Trump wins the nomination; we should drop him like a hot rock. Here’s Trump.
TRUMP: Paul Ryan called me the other day; tremendous call. I spoke with Mitch McConnell today, we had a great conversation. The fact is we have to bring our party together.
JAY: Carry on.
BLUMENTHAL: I think that Mitch McConnell may want to drop Trump like a hot rock. I think Mitch McConnell’s strategy is to hold onto congress. That the Republicans are far more comfortable controlling congress than having someone like Trump in the White House who may hurt them in down ticket races. So you can see them potentially mobilizing that neocon money, through Paul Singer. Through even Sheldon Adelson.
Running a third party candidate just to take enough of the GOP base away from Trump, kind of the way Ross Perot did in 1992 from George H.W. Bush. In order to hand the presidency to Hilary Clinton, someone who will keep markets stable, who will have a predictably interventionist foreign policy and they’ll hold onto congress and prevent her from doing anything just as they’ve done to Obama. That’s something that McConnell, Paul Ryan, and all of the industrialist behind them can live with.
JAY: Thomas, we have no idea whether these phone calls took place or we’ve tried looking around to see whether Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan were denying it, so far we haven’t seen that. But, the split within the billionaires and we’ve been saying this on the Real News for a long time; the elections are for billionaires to sort out which section of the billionaires get to run the White House or gets to pick who runs the White House on their behalf. What do you make of where the billionaires that traditionally are on the side of the neocons Republican party and what’s been happening with Trump? Can they live? Can they live with Trump?
FERGUSON: Well, it’s a handy thing when perhaps, I mean this will turn on your estimation of Trump. But there are many folks who think he doesn’t have too many deeply held views. If that’s true, which I think it is, basically. Then yeah, they might in the end, live with him. I don’t believe that there is going to be any third party effort launched by Republican party people that the window for that has closed. Actually within the last week or two to get on in most states. That’s, I think, a non-starter.
JAY: Well apparently Romney has a plan to intervene in all of this. Not necessarily a third party plan. But according to Gabriel Sherman, in the New York Magazine and I quote:
“The scenario that’s been floated in recent days by GOP insiders I’ve spoken to is that Romney could enter the Republican primary race late in California and New York to deny Trump the delegates to clinch the nomination. Then at a brokered convention, Romney would emerge as the party’s choice on a second ballot. There’s no real hope that Romney would beat Clinton -it would be essentially be a suicide mission – but losing in 2016, while being able to cast the Trump phenomenon as a fringe aberration, would be better for the party in the long run.”
What do you make of that as a possible scenario Tom?
FERGUSON: Not much actually. I mean this strikes me as the sort of thing, why I think political journalism in America is kind of thin. I’m not saying that somebody didn’t say that to him. But this stuff comes and goes like hallucinatory fragments of some imagination all the time. Most of this stuff is, I think, is not worth taking too seriously.
JAY: But what do you think happens if there’s a brokered? If it does get to convention? In all likelihood according to most of the pundits that I’m hearing, he’s not going to get to 50%, what happens?
FERGUSON: I am a lot of confidence in the spinelessness of Republican politicians. I think if you see Trump get close there will be enough folks come round that he’ll go over it. That would be my guess. I mean I could be wrong. I think some months ago, I told you there was a pretty clear ceiling on Trump in the Republican party but that ceiling seems high enough now to me to go over 50%. He’s just gone over 50% in the polls. In the national match ups with other Republicans. He’ll probably creep up.
I mean, nothing succeeds, especially in Republican circles, like somebody appearing to win. So I mean, this stuff could happen but I don’t think so. I also think that you got to sort of remember this. If Trump gets close to 50%, really close, and then is denied the nomination there, the feeling of betrayal will be overwhelming by enormous numbers of people. I would think that the Republican nomination then would be quite worthless in itself. You wouldn’t need the [amalgam] expensive third party efforts you could get on the ballot if your only aim was to ruin the Republican candidate’s chances.
JAY: A lot of money then goes to Hilary to make sure Trump doesn’t win.
FERGUSON: Well, in the end I think we should not jump to the conclusion that most of the party will not in the end rally around Trump. I think this is just a little too early to tell. This is a very interesting candidacy. He’s been a loose cannon and he’s a billionaire, comes in, he can say what he wants. That’s what blew the race open. It’s just not clear that all that much really divides him from most Republican elites. There’s lots of folks walking around Paul [Curtman’s] one, sort of saying very straight forwardly, well you know the Republicans created Trump. That’s right, correct. So my take would be that they’ll all end up deciding, well we’re not all that different from you. We have to see about this. That process will be most, only a little bit, in our sight and that’s a problem
JAY: Max, maybe the Republican establishment can come to like someone who knows how to play a rabid card?
BLUMENTHAL: I don’t know if it’s because he plays a rabid card or it’s because the Republican establishment is filled with opportunists like Chris Christie, who missed the funeral of a New Jersey state trooper to go out and be Donald Trump’s rent boy. So I kind of agree with Tom that there are strong elements, substantial elements, within the Republican establishment. John Huntsmen who was the voice of reason in 2012 said he would support Trump. Who would get behind Trump?
However, there’s another issue here. Just tying it into some things that happened tonight. Bernie Sanders delivered a speech that was not carried by any of the networks because they were waiting for Trump to appear. This is the way that this dynamic has played out through the whole campaign. Donald Trump is earned over 400 million dollars in free earned media, free earned advertising, from the mainstream media in the past month alone. 30 million total from FOX News. Something like 4 billion total throughout the whole campaign. Something like 25 hundred, mostly positive segments from CNN. He has spent less than any other candidate on advertising and earned the most, free earned media.
So Trump doesn’t need the donors. He doesn’t need campaign ads and that’s terrifying to the Republican establishment. It’s particularly terrifying, to the elements of the Republican establishment or to donors who are concerned with foreign policy and particularly Israel, a country that is not a strategic asset to the United States. On Monday, I think it’s Monday, Donald Trump will speak before AIPAC, the main arm of the pro-Israel lobby, and there will be a walkout at his speech. It’s not because Donald Trump is not pro-Israel enough. His son in law runs a pro-Israel newspaper, the New York Observer, they’re very close to people in Sheldon Adelson’s inner circle. Donald Trump endorsed Benjamin Netanyahu’s run for Prime Minister. It’s because Trump is not accountable to any donors and the Israel lobby maintains its influence through its donor stream. And that’s something that’s consistent across the board that’s terrifying about Donald Trump.
And then there’s another factor, we saw it play out in Chicago, with a kind of preview of a Donald Trump presidency. There was a wild force in this country. Donald Trump has managed to channel that wild force and its primarily from dispossessed white males and some suburban white males as well. Who feel dispossessed because of the kind of free trade deals that the Clintons, the Bushes, the Reagans, have advanced over the yeahrs. They’re sick of it all. There are people who feel dispossessed by the kind of welfare reform bills, free trade bills, mass incarceration policies, that the Clintons, the Bushes, the Reagans, and Obama has advanced over the yeahrs. That all converged in Chicago. Mainly with Rahm Emanuel as the proxy for Hilary Clinton. Rahm Emanuel was punished tonight through the defeat of prosecutor Anita Alvarez.
So here’s what’s going to happen, the Democratic industrial complex which comprises moveon.org and many other group, 350.org, and STIU that are supporting Clinton and Sanders are going to try to converge and channel this wild force into something coherent against Trump, that advances what looks to be a Hilary Clinton candidacy. However, that wild force could turn on Hilary Clinton at any time because she’s not seen as authentically progressive on any of the issues the people care about. Donald Trump can batter her on trade and it will all converge in Cleveland. The site of the Republican national convention. The city where Tamir Rice was shot. Where the prosecutor who failed to hold accountable the cop who executed Tamir Rice on camera, is facing a possible defeat tonight and Cleveland could be choked and tear gassed. It could possibly make 1968 look like child’s play. I think we’re dealing with a lot of forces that we can’t predict and this could dictate the behavior of the Republican establishment.
JAY: And the Real News will be at that convention. Both inside the convention and out on the streets. Gentlemen, thank you much for joining us tonight.
BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.
JAY: And thank you for joining us, on the Real News Network.
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