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Daily Archives: July 29th, 2019


 

Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY Published 5:00 a.m. ET July 26, 2019 | Updated 6:50 a.m. ET July 26, 2019

WASHINGTON – As Mike Pence headed to the airport on his way to test his chemistry with Donald Trump in July 2016, he questioned the wisdom of auditioning to be Trump’s running mate.
Pence anxiously called Kellyanne Conway, the pollster he shared with Trump, to express his concerns, according to a new book.
Conway told him there was no going back.
“You crossed the Rubicon,” she said, according to Tim Alberta’s “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War.”
The book, which came out this month, tells the story of Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party at the end of a decade-long GOP civil war. One of the main plot lines is Pence’s transformation as well.
Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine, describes Pence as mutating from one of “the most intellectually sovereign voices in all of Washington” to a No. 2 so servile that “some of his longtime friends were left to wonder (only half-jokingly) whether the president had blackmail on him.” Capitol Hill Republicans dubbed him “the Bobblehead” for his bootlicking and solemn nodding routine whenever Trump talked. “Nobody expected Pence to make a show of publicly rebelling against the president,” Alberta wrote. “What they did expect was a token of intellectual and ideological consistency rather than unabashed allegiance to all things Trump. ”Pence’s reward for his “deal with the devil”? Alberta credits him with pulling the levers in the early months of the administration, including figuring prominently in the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, convincing Trump to take specific actions against abortion and for “religious liberty,” and stocking federal agencies with longtime allies and kindred spirits.
Waiting in the wings
Pence is also waiting patiently in the wings for his turn to lead the GOP, “certain that his dutiful subservience will be rewarded,” Alberta wrote.
In a public discussion of his book at the National Press Club Wednesday, Alberta said he came away with more sympathy for Sen. Ted Cruz than he expected – and less for Pence.
After battling Trump in the 2016 primary, Cruz did not endorse him at the GOP convention. Instead, he urged Republicans to “vote your conscience” – as the arena exploded in boos.
As for Pence, while any number of Republicans have made accommodations to survive, Alberta said, Pence’s contortions have been “so far beyond what others have done.”
Pence’s spokeswoman declined to comment.
2020 ticket: Trump says Mike Pence is his 2020 running mate ‘100%’
Alberta’s criticisms of Pence cut even deeper when compared with how he writes about Mitch Daniels, the Republican who preceded Pence as Indiana’s governor and who once had presidential aspirations of his own.
Daniels, Alberta wrote, had been “arguably the most effective governor in the country,” while Pence struggled during his one term. Alberta also calls Daniels’ 2011 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference “one of the more compelling speeches by a Republican in the twenty-first century.” Daniels’ vision, he wrote, was grounded in “realism and reasonableness” and elevated common purpose over cultural warfare.
“But few chose to see it,” Alberta wrote. “Trump’s alternative, a loud, swaggering, confrontational bravado, was a better fit for the Republican base.”
It was not, however, a good fit for Pence – at least initially.
Alberta flashes back to Pence’s Capitol Hill days, where as a leader of House conservatives he opposed the 2008 financial industry bailout “because free-market principles meant nothing if they could be jettisoned at the first sign of a crisis.”
As the 2016 campaign got under way in early 2015, Alberta describes Pence as opposed to “the nakedly nativist instincts of some on the right who called themselves Christians while showing no compassion for some of the most vulnerable among us.”
True believer
Even as Trump was about to clinch the GOP nomination in 2016 by winning Indiana’s May primary, Pence “loathed Trump, his longtime friends and allies whispered at the time.” Pence, a true believer who “approached politics with a zealot’s sincerity,” thought Trump’s personal indiscretions and campaign rhetoric hurt the conservative cause.

But Pence also saw Trump “channeling voters’ anxieties in a way he had never witnessed.” And, the longer Pence watched Trump, Alberta wrote, “the more he gravitated toward this sense of power.”
Still, Pence sought reassurance that it wouldn’t be career suicide to merge with Trump. Former Rep. David McIntosh, who had preceded Pence in his congressional district and now heads the free-market Club for Growth, assured his longtime friend that “you’re still going to be Mike Pence.”
(After the election, however, when Pence defended a package of tax breaks and incentives to keep some jobs at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indiana from moving to Mexico, McIntosh began to question whether Pence would be “true north in the administration,” according to Alberta.)

Donald Trump and Mike Pence on stage at the conclusion of the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY)

Pence’s bigger test was, of course, the release during the campaign of the Access Hollywood recording in which Trump had bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.
Pence’s wife, Karen, threatened to no longer appear in public if her husband stayed on the ticket, Alberta wrote.
Letter to Trump
Initially inconsolable, Pence was persuaded by advisers that sticking with Trump was his only option, according to the book. Pence did write Trump a letter, describing the impact of the tape on him and Karen.
“He took a little time. It’s okay. I understand. Many people did,” Trump told Alberta about Pence’s brief withdrawal from the campaign trail. “You know, a couple of days off, it didn’t make an impact on me. Because I had people who took a whole lifetime off.”
Mike Pence: Why his role as Trump’s evangelical ambassador is facing new pushback

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence arrive at a rally for President Trump. (Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images)

Pence convinced himself that Trump had changed since the 2005 recording, was genuinely contrite and had become a follower of Christ. But Alberta didn’t buy it.
“This is when the BS dictator starts to beep,” he wrote. “Nobody who has spent time with Trump has ever walked away believing him to be a Christian.”
When Trump won, however, Pence “felt a certain absolution” after having projected his unfaltering belief that Trump was destined to be a pivotal character in the American story.
‘Eyes and ears’ across government
Pence, for his part, became “cunningly effective” in stealthily making his mark. While loyalists expected to get jobs in Pence’s immediate orbit, for example, Pence wanted them sprinkled throughout the executive branch so he could have “eyes and ears across the government.”
In one scene in the book, Cruz’s campaign manager laughs with Jared Kushner about Trump tapping Mike Pompeo to be CIA director despite Pompeo’s having accused Trump, during the primary, of being immoral and possessing dictator-like qualities.
“No! That was him? We’ve got to take it back!” Trump cried. “This is what I get for letting Pence pick everyone.”
Pence’s strategy of quietly working behind the scenes while assigning all credit to Trump paid off – even as his staff constantly worried about not offending Trump.
“Trump quickly came to trust his second in command above all others, prizing Pence’s unwavering fidelity and discretion,” Alberta wrote.
As examples of his sway, Alberta wrote that Pence coaxed Trump not to move on, but to try again, after the House initially rejected a bill to repeal Obamacare. After Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican who killed the health care bill in the Senate, died last year, Trump agreed to lower the White House flag to half-staff only after “spirited lobbying” from Pence and then-chief-of-staff John Kelly.
Different paths
Alberta contrasts Pence’s merger with Trump with the opposite path taking by former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Pence’s close friend who had shared both an ideology as well as a standard of personal decency in their treatment of others. Finding himself out of step with the Trump-dominated GOP, Flake decided not to seek re-election in 2018 – and Democrats picked up his seat.
While Trump has bragged about having “retired” Flake, the Arizona Republican does not condemn his former compadre for teaming up with Trump.
“We’ve taken different paths, but I’m not trying to suggest that mine is a more virtuous path than his. He’s in a position with considerably more power than I have, and there’s something to be said for that,” Flake told Alberta. “If he can influence the president in a positive direction, then maybe that was a wise choice.”

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“This presidential seal does not look like the others”

Charles Leazott hadn’t thought about the seal in months.
The 46-year-old graphic designer threw it together after the 2016 presidential election — it was one part joke, one part catharsis. He used to be a proud Republican. He voted for George W. Bush. Twice.
But Donald J. Trump’s GOP was no longer his party. So he created a mock presidential seal to prove his point.
He substituted the arrows in the eagle’s claw for a set of golf clubs — a nod to the new president’s favorite pastime. In the other set of talons, he swapped the olive branch for a wad of cash and replaced the United States’ Latin motto with a Spanish insult. Then, his coup de grace: a two-headed imperial bird lifted straight from the Russian coat of arms, an homage to the president’s checkered history with the adversarial country.

“This is the most petty piece of art I have ever created,” the Richmond resident said in an interview with The Washington Post.
The seal wasn’t meant for a wide audience. But then, years later, it wound up stretched across a jumbo-tron screen behind an unwitting President Trump as he spoke to a conference packed with hundreds of his young supporters.
That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, The Post was the first to report that the seal was fake — and that neither the White House, nor Turning Point USA, the organizers of the star-studded Teen Student Action Summit, knew how it got there or where it came from. Leazott woke up Thursday and saw the news in a Reddit post as he drank his morning coffee. Then, a torrent of messages.
“It’s been chaos,” he said. “This is not what I expected when I woke up today.”
No one expected it. A Turning Point spokesman said Wednesday the conservative group wasn’t even aware of the phony seal until The Post called him. He spent that night trying track down the culprit and determine whether it was an intentional act by a rogue staffer, or just an honest mistake.
The faux seal was on-screen for at least 80 seconds, in plain sight but largely ignored as hundreds in the room at the Washington Marriott Marquis trained their attention on Trump.
But the modified symbol was loaded with jabs at the president — subtle and overt. The Russian eagle, an allusion to accusations that he embraced the Kremlin, and the Spanish script, a reference to Trump’s controversial border policies and his denigration of Latin American immigrants. Instead of E pluribus unum — “out of many, one” — Leazott wrote “45 es un títere,” or “45 is a puppet,” a callback to a viral exchange between Trump and Hillary Clinton in a 2016 debate.
“I’m a graphic designer, it’s just something I tossed together,” he said. “This was just a goofy thing for some people I knew. I had no idea it would blow up like this.”

By Thursday morning, the Turning Point spokesman said the group had identified the staffer responsible for turning Leazott’s design into a trending topic. He called the incident a last-minute oversight, the result of a quick online search to find a second high-resolution photo of the presidential seal to place behind Trump. He said the mistake was “unacceptable.”
“We did let the individual go,” the spokesman said. “I don’t think it was malicious intent, but nevertheless.”
Leazott doesn’t buy it. He thinks whoever was responsible had to know exactly what they were looking for. He believes the person dug up the image he created and used it intentionally.
“That’s a load of crap,” he said in response to Turning Point’s explanation. “You have to look for this. There’s no way this was an accident is all I’m saying.”
After The Post story published, Internet sleuths went looking, too. They found the image’s origin, tracing it back to an online marketplace Leazott set up to sell shirts and stickers sporting the seal, along with other jokey “resistance” apparel. And the citizens of the Web wanted to buy his stuff.
In one fell news cycle, Leazott began making money and fielding calls from papers and TV stations from across the country. People wanted to support him. But the trolls came, too.
“The worst has been Facebook,” he said, which he hadn’t checked “in like a year.”
“Holy crap at the amount of vile, hateful Facebook messages,” he said. “It’s apparently a personal affront to some people.”
But, Leazott said, it’s him who gets the last laugh. A photo of Trump in front of his seal is now his computer background, and the person who used it at the event is “either wildly incompetent or the best troll ever — either way, I love them.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Leazott’s shirts were sold out. He said he had to start working with a fulfillment center just to meet the demand. He also revived the primary website for his brand, OneTermDonnie, which includes a paean to the American Civil Liberties Union, where the site says 10 percent of all sales will be directed.
“It’s cool people are buying this, that’s great and all,” he said. “But I’ve got to be honest, I am so tickled in the most petty way possible that the president of the United States, who I despise, stood up and gave a talk in front of this graphic. Whoever put that up is my absolute hero.”

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Today I met someone who took exception to the idea that TOTUS is not a liar. I was moved to silence because at that moment I realized that this person will always be a staunch Republican no matter what. This person is the type who firmly believes that all conservatives are correct and at the same time wants to deny any wrongdoing in the border crisis but has married an immigrant and experienced all of the work involved in the immigration process so what is it in the human brain that blocks out the wrongdoing of our elected officials? This is a disconnect that TOTUS has used to further his own ends, not the ends and well being of the ALL voters in America and it’s territories. It is easy to stomp on someone else’s beliefs but not as easy to take an informed look at those differing opinions and understand that often the two are not much different in the goals and underlying basis. The many subsets of political wings all seem to have the goal of a better America but on their own terms with no thought as to the effect that will result for all- no matter the political differences. Under the umbrella of TOTUS, his supporters have become pawns of a master manipulator whose policies will have a greater effect on ALL citizens not just the those who oppose those policies. At the end of this administration, we will have been put in a subordinate position on the world stage making it hard to deal with those bad actors with the united front of Nato. meanwhile, the hard-line GOP in the senate and the house have united behind a failed and failing administration that has given us trillion-dollar deficit spending but not much to show for it in benefit for the voters (who have to pay for it). Moving forward we (voters) have one solution and that is to vote these bozo’s out. Forget party line, forget what the candidates and aspirants say in public, simply remember there are falsehoods spread on both sides and their aim is to stay in office and retire rich.

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