Campaign 2016: Carly to the Rescue? We Presume Not

The particular flavor of the race for the GOP presidential nomination — part hucksterism, part carnival¸ part surrealism, part circus, part reality show, part social-media festival and part political Ripley’s Believe It or Not — just never fades, not even after another Super Tuesday made it plain that the chances of Donald Trump not getting nominated are somewhere between one percent and zero.

It would seem that Indiana now looms large in the fertile fantasies of media types, strategists and Ted Cruz as the place where Trump can be, if not stopped, at least slightly embarrassed. And after that, who knows? Hope springs eternal after a couple of hits of Stella Artois. Maybe then Trump won’t make the magic number needed for a first ballot win. And maybe then the next voice Cruz hears will say, “Wake up, Ted, wake up. You’ve been dreaming.”

It has not been a particularly good week for Ted and for that other guy from Ohio. The reaction prior to the big, five-state, East Coast Super Tuesday, when Cruz and the other guy decided to form a Stop Trump alliance by not actively running in selected states (like Indiana), ranged from puzzlement to ridicule to “Huh?” It probably helped precipitate Trump’s impressive sweep of the board — often by big margins — in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland.

It was, as Trump likes to say, a disaster, causing the ever-modest Trump to say in his victory speech: “I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely.”

For Cruz, things may or may not have gotten better on Wednesday, when he got one of the GOP fallen, businesswoman Carly Fiorina to become his running mate, a move that seems calculated to have someone — preferably a woman — in place to do battle with the other all-but-presumptive nominee in the general election. Cruz praised Fiorina for how she stood up to Trump when he took one of his sexist cheap shots at Fiorina’s appearance after she had moved up to the first tier in the debates (when they were still crowded, when the field was still ablaze with the hopes of more than a dozen candidates, when Ben Carson was considered presidential material).

The move — although it did stop the conversation from becoming totally Trump-centric — was greeted with skepticism by the media and derision by Trump. But that was nothing compared to what former House Speaker John Boehner said when asked about Cruz. He called him, flat out, “Lucifer incarnate,” and added: “I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” He shed not a tear.

Clinton also had an impressive showing in the same primaries, winning four out of five, losing only in Rhode Island. While Bernie Sanders didn’t initially appear ready to quit, he did lay off a large number of staffers. He also laid off his heavy criticism of Clinton. With superdelegates in play, there is now no path to the nomination for Sanders, not even an arrival at the convention by parachute. (It probably wouldn’t open.)

This was Trump’s week, and we got to see the many versions of Trump that we all know and love to talk about. There was lots of talk that some savvy and professional political types, like the nattily dressed and experienced Paul Manafort, would work hard to reign in mean-motor-mouth Trump and make him presidential. We got to see both this week.

He has taken to calling Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” again, but during the course of a victory speech he attacked Hillary Clinton — and the Obama administration — by once again going after her as a woman and playing pin-the-slur with his latest nickname, “Crooked Hillary.” Here are excerpts from his tirade: “She’ll be a horrible president. She knows nothing about jobs, except for jobs for herself. When it came to answering the phone at three o’clock in the morning, she was sleeping. She doesn’t have the strength or the stamina to deal with China and other things.”

But there was also this gem: “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. I think women don’t like her.”

The more presidential Trump was on hand the very next day with a speech on foreign policy before the Center for the National Interest, a heavyweight more-or-less-conservative think tank. It was a speech that veered hither and yon, the yon being a no-holds-barred attack on the “Obama and Clinton administrations’ foreign policy,” which “was a disaster, let me tell you, it was a disaster, a real disaster.”

Speaking from a teleprompter, Trump started things out saying that his foreign policy would be “about America first,” which, perhaps unfortunately, was also the name of a GOP group trying to stay out of World War II early on.

In fact, the speech contained most of the themes and strands he gave in an interview to the Washington Post editorial board, themes he has reiterated often without going into specifics. He hinted again about allies not paying their fair share (NATO, South Korea). “Our friends and allies must pay their fair share of the cost of defense,” he said. He called for a NATO summit “very early in my administration,” and claimed that he would destroy ISIS, “quickly, very quickly, it will happen fast,” without quite explaining how.

While Trump stayed on message, it was a labored message, striking broad and bombastic themes, with not much underlying heft. Often, it sounded like a speech by a man who had lost interest in reading somewhere in high school.

When he blasted the Iranian nuclear deal, or said Iran would not get an atomic bomb, he seemed to be waiting for the kind of applause he gets at his rallies. It came, but it was tepid and underwhelming, the way establishment support often is.

Just ask Ted Cruz.

The thin-skinned Trump was still in evidence, here and there. Upon hearing that Lena Dunham, star of the HBO series “Girls,” said that she would move to Canada if Trump won, Trump responded in characteristic fashion, calling her “a B-actor with no mojo.”

Take that.


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