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Ted Cruz: Let’s face it, Fox News went all-in for Trump in the 2016 primaries

Westlake Legal Group c-4 Ted Cruz: Let’s face it, Fox News went all-in for Trump in the 2016 primaries Trump The Blog Margaret Hoover fox news firing line cruz 2016

A fun little trip down memory lane occasioned by reporter Tim Alberta’s new book about Trump’s takeover of the GOP. First, the clip:

I remember that period well because the deep freeze between Cruz and Fox News wasn’t just happening behind the scenes. My first memory of it was this tweet published by Cruz’s spokesman in March 2016, the same date Cruz identifies in the clip as the moment when Fox went face-first into the tank for Trump:

That was posted a week before the Wisconsin primary, which ended up being Cruz’s biggest win of the campaign. All of the other major contenders (unless you consider John Kasich a “major contender”) had dropped out by that point, giving Cruz a long-awaited de facto one-on-one fight with Trump for the conservative base. Cruz thought he could win that fight. Although Trump had piled up more states and delegates to that point, there was always a theory that he owed that success more to the fact that conservative votes were splintered among a variety of candidates than to his own electoral strength. Once the conservative side of the field cleared for a single champion, i.e. Cruz, righties would unite around him and start propelling him to victory after victory in the later states.

Wisconsin seemed to be proof of concept. Cruz beat Trump there with Scott Walker’s endorsement and was angling to pile up some more wins in the midwest in anticipation of a brokered convention. He already had stalwart conservative talk radio hosts like Mark Levin and Glenn Beck behind him. If he could win over Fox News, the biggest megaphone in conservative America, he just might turn the tide of the race.

Alberta sets the scene on April 5, hours after Cruz won Wisconsin.

He continues:

Westlake Legal Group tc-2 Ted Cruz: Let’s face it, Fox News went all-in for Trump in the 2016 primaries Trump The Blog Margaret Hoover fox news firing line cruz 2016

You can understand his frustration. Fox News and its primetime hosts had promoted the tea-party message of small government and “constitutional conservatism” relentlessly since 2010. Cruz had very consciously positioned himself as the purest populist expression of that philosophy in the Senate, even shutting down the government in 2013 in a futile bid to block ObamaCare’s implementation, because he figured it would help make him Fox’s preferred candidate in 2016. And you know what? It probably would have had Trump not run. But he did run, and Ted Cruz ended up watching the ground shift right under his feet. Suddenly all of the Fox guys decided that, when it came to populist conservatism, they could do without the conservative part so long as they got a double dose of populism. Righty media had spent six years, day by day, hour by hour, insisting that only doctrinaire conservatism could save the country.

And then, in the course of a year — really, the first third of 2016 — they decided it wasn’t that important after all. Cruz went out on a limb ideologically at Fox’s invitation and then Fox sawed it off.

Cruz’s anger at the network had already become evident before Wisconsin, not just per the Phillips tweet above but based on the fact that he did a one-hour town hall event with Megyn Kelly the night before the primary after allegedly turning down invites from Hannity for 10 days, a notable snub. A few days after Wisconsin, he was irritable in reminding Bill O’Reilly that he had spent a lot of his time on the air lately defending Trump. By April 19, after being blown out in New York, Cruz got testy in an interview when Hannity pressed him on whether he’d try to win the nomination on the convention floor despite finishing second in delegates. By the next day, he was telling other interviewers, “There are hosts who make the decision to go in the tank for Trump,” naming a few like Beck and Levin who *hadn’t* done that and pointedly omitting Hannity and O’Reilly.

On May 4 he got walloped in the Indiana primary and the race was over.

He’s asked in the clip up top why he thinks Roger Ailes and Fox went in the tank. I think that’s simple: Fox follows its viewers as much as it leads them and Ailes recognized that they were responding much more enthusiastically to a charismatic reactionary than to a charmless “constitutionalist.” For all the hype in the mainstream media about right-wing broadcasters supposedly leading their audiences by the nose, there’s a reason why people like Rush Limbaugh profess to no longer care about debt and deficits and it’s not because they’ve had an ideological conversion. They know that if they get on the wrong side of their audience’s opinion, there are 10, 20, 30 competitors who will stay on the right side to lure that audience away. Ailes, for all his power, knew that righties wanted Trump, so Fox wanted him too.

Although the fact that Trump was personally chummy with him, O’Reilly, Hannity, Giuliani and the rest of the authoritarian media-savvy bridge-and-tunnel strain of “conservatism” surely didn’t hurt either.

Exit question for Cruz: Would he have won the primaries if Fox had in fact gotten behind him in 2016? I say no, just because, again, righty media tends to follow, not lead. Fox would have cut Trump’s margins of victory but in the end Trump’s brand is more powerful than Fox’s is.

The post Ted Cruz: Let’s face it, Fox News went all-in for Trump in the 2016 primaries appeared first on Hot Air.

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Geraldo: I must regretfully conclude that Trump’s critics are right that he’s a racist

Westlake Legal Group g-3 Geraldo: I must regretfully conclude that Trump’s critics are right that he’s a racist Trump The Blog send her back nativist immigration Ilhan Omar Geraldo Rivera fox news chant AOC Allahpundit

Doing my small part to promote this quote from over the weekend in hopes that Trump will begin flaming Geraldo on Twitter. Because if Trump starts flaming him, you know he’s going to bring up the Al Capone’s vault episode, as most of Trump’s cultural reference points seem to date to the 1980s or earlier.

And I think it’d be amazing if We As A People spent a day or two dunking on Geraldo for that again.

Anyway, Rivera’s off the Trump train — I think, although I’m not sure. Usually, concluding that a politician is racist necessarily leads to “and therefore I can no longer in good conscience support him,” but the last four years in Republican politics have been one long exercise day by day of justifying why the latest obnoxious Trump behavior simply isn’t disqualifying. Odds are at least fair that Geraldo will end up deciding that racism is tolerable in a president so long as it manifests only in fleeting moments, not as a pattern.

If not, if he really does go blue, I don’t know how he’ll exist comfortably at Fox.

For some who defended Mr. Trump against charges of racism in the past, this was a turning point. “As much as I have denied it and averted my eyes from it, this latest incident made it impossible,” Geraldo Rivera, a roaming correspondent at large for Fox News and longtime friend, said in an interview.

“My friendship with the president has cost me friendships, it has cost me schisms in the family, my wife and I are constantly at odds about the president,” he added. “I do insist that he’s been treated unfairly. But the unmistakable words, the literal words he said, is an indication that the critics were much more right than I.”

He’s not the only Trump crony to use the R-word this past week, interestingly:

Scaramucci’s already begun to pay a price for that in Republican circles. We’ll see if Geraldo’s Fox appearances start getting more sparse in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, lefty Peter Beinart argues that righties’ racism detectors tend to be more finely tuned when they’re listening to left-wingers chatter about race than when they’re listening to the president:

At the same time that Trump was denying charges of bigotry, however, he was also leveling them. At the North Carolina rally, he accused Omar of “vicious anti-Semitic” remarks—a reference to her tweet that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s influence in Washington is “all about the Benjamins” and her allegation that pro-Israel groups “push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Those comments—which evoked hoary stereotypes of Jews as money-driven and disloyal—elicited criticism even from Democrats, and Omar apologized for the first. But however damning one considers her statements, it’s utterly illogical to claim that they constitute bigotry while Trump’s far more direct attack does not. Yet this is exactly what Trump and other prominent Republicans are doing.

When Democrats are accused of prejudice against Jews, Republicans can find it easy to discern ugly coded language. But when Trump and others in his party are accused of hostility to black people, Muslims, and Latinos, prominent conservatives set the standard for what constitutes bigotry so high that it’s almost impossible to meet.

But it goes both ways. True, Omar took some heat from pro-Israel Democrats in the House caucus. But in the end a progressive revolt pressured Pelosi into excising Omar’s name from the House resolution that followed her “dual loyalty” comments about American supporters of Israel. She didn’t lose any committee assignments. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t lost a bit of support in progressive circles. If anything, thanks to Trump’s “go back where you came from” tweets, she’s a cause celebre of the left despite — or because of? — the Jew-baiting she sporadically engages in when criticizing AIPAC’s “Benjamins” or whatever. She and Trump have that much in common, at least: The “dog whistles” they’re blowing are loud enough that they’re really just … whistles, with canine ears not required to detect them, and supporters don’t care. What could we even begin to say about the woke brigades’ longstanding tolerance of/admiration for Louis Farrakhan, who for decades has been using a bullhorn for his anti-semitism more so than a whistle?

Here’s Geraldo on Friday sparring with Pete Hegseth, who by the end of the clip is reduced to claiming that Trump never said who specifically should go back to their home countries as a way of letting the president off the hook. According to Mike Pence, if the “send her back” chanting starts up again at another rally, the president “might make an effort to speak out about it.” That’s the sound of deep conviction there, Mike. It “might” also be the case by fall that Trump will be leading the chants himself.

The post Geraldo: I must regretfully conclude that Trump’s critics are right that he’s a racist appeared first on Hot Air.

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Anthony Scaramucci: Trump Is Opening the Door To Be Primaried

Westlake Legal Group ap-anthony-scaramucci-620x412 Anthony Scaramucci: Trump Is Opening the Door To Be Primaried Trump racist primary Front Page Stories Featured Story donald trump Culture Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci, incoming White House communications director, points as he arrives during a press briefing at the White House, Friday, July 21, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Flash-in-the-pan White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci appeared on Fox News over the weekend to discuss Trump’s latest tweet controversy and told host Howard Kurtz that he felt the comments were a big problem for Trump and his administration.

Scaramucci said the fact that there was even a debate about whether or not the president was a racist was problematic and didn’t do Trump any favors. He went on to suggest that because of the damage from those comments a new Republican candidate may very well emerge for a 2024 run and start that path by running a primary against Trump.

It would also send a message to people that we have to reengineer this party.

After saying he didn’t believe the president was a racist, the political consultant and commentator then declared the language of the infamous tweets inarguably racist.

These are racist comments. Period. Full stop.

It’s sending the wrong message to the United States. You do not want to win the second term of your presidency by dividing the United States, okay? It’s called “united” for a reason.

Is Scaramucci opening the door for a specific candidate he may be managing in the future, or is he possibly teasing a run himself?

The post Anthony Scaramucci: Trump Is Opening the Door To Be Primaried appeared first on RedState.

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Estimate: Trump could lose by five million votes next fall and still win reelection

Westlake Legal Group t-10 Estimate: Trump could lose by five million votes next fall and still win reelection Trump The Blog President popular vote nate cohn map electoral vote electoral college dave wasserman campaign 2020

If it happens, ending the electoral college will become as fixed and zealous a Democratic credo as abortion on demand. They’re already 80 percent of the way towards making it party orthodoxy after 2000 and 2016. To lose twice in a row to a character like Trump despite winning more overall votes would convert it into bedrock liberal dogma.

How does Trump lose by five million votes and win a second term? Simple, argues analyst Dave Wasserman. Although the country is changing demographically in ways that benefit Democrats electorally, those changes happen to be concentrated in states that are either already safely blue or so safely red — for the moment — that there’s little chance of flipping them in 2020. The two obvious examples are California and Texas. The Democratic nominee’s going to run up the score in Cali next fall, winning the state by many millions of votes (particularly, perhaps, if state native Kamala Harris is the nominee). And Democrats are likely to make gains in Texas as the electorate there turns more Latino, further padding the nominee’s national popular-vote total. But unless there are enough gains to actually turn Texas blue, which is unlikely, so what? Dems will enjoy a windfall of popular votes in both states and it won’t matter a lick in terms of electoral votes.

Where they need gains, of course, is in the Rust Belt. But there’s cause for pessimism, says Wasserman:

Democrats’ potential inefficiencies aren’t limited to California and Texas: The list of the nation’s top 15 fastest-diversifying states also includes the sizable yet safely blue states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington and Oregon.

Meanwhile, demographic transformation isn’t nearly as rapid in the narrow band of states that are best-positioned to decide the Electoral College — a factor that seriously aids Trump.

In 2016, Trump’s victory hinged on three Great Lakes states he won by less than a point: Michigan (0.2 percent), Pennsylvania (0.7 percent) and Wisconsin (0.8 percent). All three of these aging, relatively white states have some of the nation’s highest shares of white voters without college degrees — a group trending away from Democrats over the long term. And the nonwhite share of the eligible electorate in each of the three has increased at only a quarter to a half of the rate it has surged in California, Texas and Nevada.

There are other diversifying states that work better for Dems. Arizona is basically purple now, having broken for Trump by just three and a half points in 2016 and then elected a Democrat to Jeff Flake’s vacant seat two years later. Yuppies moving to North Carolina will keep that state competitive for liberals too. And of course there’s Florida, although that’s been trending Republican for two straight elections thanks to migration by white retirees. The hard truth for Dems, says Wasserman, is that even if they manage to flip Michigan and Pennsylvania, partially restoring the “blue wall,” Trump can still win a second term by holding Wisconsin and every other state he won in 2016 plus Maine’s 2nd congressional district. 271-269. Enjoy the popular-vote consolation prize, lefties. Again.

Question, though: How easy would it be for Trump to hold Wisconsin if nearby red states like Michigan and Pennsylvania are turning blue? Easier than you think, argues Nate Cohn in another piece foreseeing a sizable Democratic popular vote win and a narrow electoral college win for Trump.

Wisconsin was the tipping-point state in 2016, and it seems to hold that distinction now, at least based on the president’s approval rating among 2018 midterm voters.

Over all, the president’s approval rating was 47.1 percent in Wisconsin, above his 45.5 percent nationwide. This implies that the president’s advantage in the Electoral College, at least by his approval rating, is fairly similar to what it was in 2016…

In [fact], most measures suggest that the president’s rating is higher than 47.1 percent in Wisconsin. If you excluded the Votecast data and added the final Marquette poll, the president’s approval rating would rise to 47.6 percent — or a net 4.2 points higher than his nationwide approval.

At the end of the day, says Cohn, Trump’s weak national job approval doesn’t matter since we don’t hold truly national elections. We hold 50 state elections, and in the state that’s most likely to be decisive in 2020 — Wisconsin — his approval is several points better than it is nationally and within spitting distance of 50 percent. Not only that, the issues Trump is hammering are smartly tailored to appeal to the decisive voters in the Rust Belt, the people who turned those states blue for Barack Obama in 2012 but then turned them red for Trump four years later:

Westlake Legal Group ot Estimate: Trump could lose by five million votes next fall and still win reelection Trump The Blog President popular vote nate cohn map electoral vote electoral college dave wasserman campaign 2020

The Obama-Trump voters are basically Republicans on immigration, or at least much closer to Trump’s position than they are to the Democrats’. Relatedly, there’s also evidence that voters who turned out for Obama in 2012 but then stayed home in 2016 are more moderate than the average Democratic voter on health care, another top issue in this campaign, making the progressive push to end private health insurance dangerous for Dems in swing states. Between that and the immigration data from Cohn’s piece, some lefties are beginning to worry:

The Democratic nominee’s going to sound a lot more moderate on immigration during the general election campaign than he or she does right now, I’m guessing. As for Trump, says Cohn, “A strategy rooted in racial polarization could at once energize parts of the president’s base and rebuild support among wavering white working-class voters” who turned out for him in 2016 but skipped the midterms last fall. The clearer this becomes to POTUS, the more eagerly he’ll embrace the “send her back” messaging. He’s already begun to, after all.

All in all, Cohn thinks Wasserman’s being too cautious in estimating how badly Trump could lose the popular vote and still win the presidency. Wasserman thinks the margin could be five million votes; Cohn thinks it could be five points, which would mean something like six and a half million votes. Hoo boy.

But wait. That other guy named Nate wants a say here too:

It’s just too easy to say Wisconsin looks solid-ish for Trump when a variable as crucial as the identity of the Democratic nominee remains unknown, says Silver. If they nominate Biden, maybe he can reassemble the Obama coalition and turn some of those Obama-to-Trump voters back to blue. He wouldn’t need to flip many to flip the entire state of Wisconsin with them. Or, Silver wonders, what if everyone’s underestimating how many younger and minority voters in big cities might show up for a nominee like Kamala Harris? Remember, everyone thought Texas was “safe” for Ted Cruz last fall despite the hype for Beto; Republicans ended up sweating it out on election night as unexpected waves of Democratic voters turned out for O’Rourke, nearly handing him the election. Trump won’t start with nearly as much of an advantage in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina as Cruz did in Texas. Beware overconfidence.

The post Estimate: Trump could lose by five million votes next fall and still win reelection appeared first on Hot Air.

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Justin Trudeau Weighs In On Trump Comments As Predictably As Possible

Westlake Legal Group AP_17189379641060-620x459 Justin Trudeau Weighs In On Trump Comments As Predictably As Possible Trump trudeau sexual harassment Jody Wilson-Raybould Hypocrite Front Page Stories Featured Story donald trump condemnation

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, talks to U.S. President Donald Trump, right, prior to a working session at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, Saturday, July 8, 2017. The leaders of the group of 20 meet July 7 and 8. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Whenever President Trump lights the internet on fire isn’t your first thought, “What does Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau think?”?

Well, fear not. Trudeau has finally weighed in on the “Send her back” controversy.

“The comments made were hurtful, wrong and completely unacceptable. And I want everyone in Canada to know that those comments are completely unacceptable and should not be allowed or encouraged in Canada.”

Trudeau didn’t mention the sexual harassment allegations against him. He also didn’t mention the gigantic scandal currently tainting his administration, an unseemly affair involving bribery, sexism and the shocking resignation of his Indigenous attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould after she refused to cover up his illegal dealings with bad actor nations.

Below is video of the comments that are most likely absolutely meaningless to the President of the United States.

The post Justin Trudeau Weighs In On Trump Comments As Predictably As Possible appeared first on RedState.

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Trump: Why do people want to ban plastic straws when we don’t ban plastic plates and wrappers?

Westlake Legal Group t-9 Trump: Why do people want to ban plastic straws when we don’t ban plastic plates and wrappers? Trump The Blog Straws recycle plastic Green New Deal environment

You don’t hear this from me often, but: He says what I’m thinking.

In fact, watching this, I had a vision of this subject being raised at next year’s presidential debates and Elizabeth Warren or whoever responding with some six-part answer about the Green New Deal and how “we all need to do our part.” And then Trump responds with this bit, which is a hair’s-breadth from being a one-liner, and wins it going away. I can only assume that he missed the story a few days ago of a woman being killed when she tripped and fell onto a metal straw or else he surely would have incorporated it here: “You ban plastic straws and the next thing you know you’ll have thousands of people impaling themselves. Not good.”

Next time he gets a question about this, he should note that the “environmentally conscious” solution of swapping out plastic straws for reusable metal ones might not be so environmentally conscious:

Let’s look at just one example: Some restaurants and bars have replaced their plastic straws with reusable metal variants. But there’s a hitch, as the New York Post recently reported: customers keep taking the metal straws home with them.

This leaves restaurants holding the short straw, so to speak. Metal straws are expensive — perhaps a dollar apiece (or more) versus a penny or two for the plastic version — and so replacement costs add up quickly.

This might not be so problematic if the metal straws that customers walk off with get reused frequently. But most probably go on display as novelties or sit forgotten in a utensil drawer. And this means the metal straws — which presumably required mining, plus large amounts of energy to convert into sheet metal and then fashion it into a cylindrical tube — don’t provide the intended environmental benefit.

Plastic straw bans are essentially environmental virtue signaling. The green impact is negligible, especially if the bans are done piecemeal instead of nationally. The most one might say of them is that they’re a small way to insinuate environmental consciousness into the average’s person daily routine. The least one might say is that they’re green slacktivism.

Why was Trump even being asked about straws? you’re probably wondering now. Ah — it’s because last night his own campaign website began selling Trump-branded plastic straws, a bargain at just 15 bucks for, uh, 10 straws. MAGA Nation doesn’t use cuck paper straws (described as “liberal” on the campaign website, no joke). They proudly use plastic — recyclable plastic in this case — and spit in the eye of soy boys who complain about it. The straws have naturally sold out already, proving that there’s no culture war dispute so petty, particularly when it involves a type of political correctness, that can’t be monetized.

The post Trump: Why do people want to ban plastic straws when we don’t ban plastic plates and wrappers? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump on the “send her back” chant: What I’m really angry at is Ilhan Omar, not those incredible patriots

Westlake Legal Group dt-2 Trump on the “send her back” chant: What I’m really angry at is Ilhan Omar, not those incredible patriots Trump The Blog send her back ocasio-cortez Ilhan Omar anti-semitic

Yesterday he said he “was not happy” about the chanting on Wednesday night and that he “felt a little bit badly about it,” which seemed out of character for him, frankly. Normally he loves when his crowds go after his political enemies; he’s complained before about protesters at his rallies being treated too gently. Plus he’s naturally reluctant to criticize his base, particularly when they’re being given the “deplorables” treatment by his enemies. He believes his key to a second term is historic turnout among righties next fall, in numbers that not even Democrats plus swing voters can match. If chanting “send her back” helps put them in the mood for that, well, there you go.

What happened between yesterday’s statement of tepid disapproval and today’s statement of defiance? It’s easy to guess. Watch:

Trump has a habit of listening to advisors in the short term, when he’s uncertain about how to handle a new situation, and then reverting to his own instincts once he’s had some time to sit with the matter. This happens in ways large and small. He deferred to his economic aides, led by Gary Cohn, by avoiding new tariffs during his first year in office while he gained his bearings on how to be president of the United States. After a year in the job, he decided it was time to do things his way. He greenlit a bombing run on Iranian targets a few weeks ago on the advice of his aides as retaliation for Iran shooting down a U.S. drone — and then, after a few hours of chatting with dovish friends, with the attack impending, he called it off. This “send her back” business probably worked the same way. Per CBS, he heard lots of disapproving chatter from voices close to him about the chanting in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday night’s rally:

CBS News has learned President Trump took a lot of heat from his family over the racist chants at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. He heard from first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Vice President Mike Pence

CBS News learned that Mr. Trump spoke to several members of his inner circle about how to react to the chant. He weighed the pros and cons of softening his tone, worried supporters would not like it.

Congressional Republicans asked him to tone it down too. With the weight of opinion among his friends and family firmly on the side of discouraging further chanting, and having not had time to think through the matter himself, he probably just deferred to their position. He did the same thing in 2016 when he initially discouraged the “lock her up,” probably also on the advice of more moderate confidantes. But he doesn’t like letting the media shame him or his fans, even when they should feel some shame; and he’s probably spent the last 24 hours talking to sycophantic populist friends, all of whom are doubtless telling him that the “send her back” chant is great, that Omar is terrible, and that he shouldn’t do anything that risks turning off his fans ahead of the election.

And so here he is today, not quite walking back his disapproval of the chanting yet but obviously irritated that he’s been put in a position where he’s expected to discourage it. We can’t be more than a week or two away from him deciding that “send her back” is a fine message after all. Especially if/when it happens at the next rally and he sees firsthand how eager people are to embrace that message.

In lieu of an exit question, a reminder from the WSJ that it’s not just Republicans who dislike the Squad:

It has all grated on several of their Democratic colleagues. Some avoid being in pictures with squad members, fearing that it will lead to campaign ads. Others say it doesn’t matter; such ads are being photoshopped anyway.

“I’m tired of the controversy,” said Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat. “I came here because I want to get things done and believe there are good people and good ideas in both parties. I just want to get back to work.”

On Wednesday evening, three of the four squad members sought to patch up relations with other Democratic freshmen and requested a meeting over drinks in the Longworth congressional office building. It did little to mend relations, according to several people familiar with the matter. Representatives of the four declined to comment.

The post Trump on the “send her back” chant: What I’m really angry at is Ilhan Omar, not those incredible patriots appeared first on Hot Air.

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Escalation: Iran seizes two more oil tankers, one British

Westlake Legal Group j-2 Escalation: Iran seizes two more oil tankers, one British UK Trump The Blog tanker stena impero seize Sanctions mullahs IRGC Iran britain

They’ve decided that yesterday’s drone incident wasn’t a loud enough message to the west that it’s time to ease sanctions or else, it seems.

Is this escalation, actually, or retaliation?

Iran said Friday that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, and the tanker’s owner said it had lost contact with the vessel as it appeared to be heading toward Iran. The British government said it was urgently seeking information about the incident…

Britain and Iran have been embroiled in a dispute for the past few weeks over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The 23 members of the crew are presumably in Iranian hands. The British government’s crisis committee is already gathering to discuss. Meanwhile:

Iran has also seized a second tanker, the Liberian-flagged MV Mesdar, according to a US official. Two more US officials tell CNN that, according to maritime intelligence reports, the indication is the Mesdar has been seized.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced earlier that its navy has captured a British-flagged tanker ‘Stena Impero’ in the Strait of Hormuz.

The order of seizure of the two ships isn’t clear at this time.

The reason for seizing the British-flagged ship is obvious enough. It’s revenge for the seizure of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar by the UK on July 4th, an embarrassment for which Iranian hawks had demanded reprisal. Today wasn’t Iran’s first attempt at retaliation, in fact. Per the Times, last Thursday three Iranian ships tried to detain a different British tanker but were scared off by a British warship that was accompanying it. Presumably the tanker diverted today was without accompaniment.

Tit for tat. But what about that other tanker, the Liberian-flagged one? What’s the message there? It could be that seizing a second vessel is Iran’s way of showing Trump and the other parties to the nuclear deal that they’re getting more desperate for sanctions relief and that war will come soon if an economic reprieve doesn’t. But it’s possible that this too was part of the reprisal to the UK for the Gibraltar seizure of Iran’s tanker. Of note:

The second tanker taken today is Scottish-owned. “If they seize one of ours, we seize two of theirs.” Maybe that’s Iran’s message here. Trump told reporters this afternoon that he’s working with the UK on a way out of this.

Is … Rand Paul the way out? There’s no one in Washington, at least on the right, who’s friendlier to the idea of relaxing sanctions in the name of reducing tensions and he just so happens to momentarily be the president’s chief enjoy to Iran’s foreign minister. In lieu of an exit question, read through the enjoyably pissy quotes from Republican hawks in this new Free Beacon piece about Paul being enlisted as a useful idiot for Iran, much to the delight of Iran doves in the Obama administration. (“This is effectively an Iranian influence camp that’s cultivating Tucker Carlson and Rand Paul.”) Lord only knows where Trump will come down if Rand reports back that Rouhani’s willing to meet with him personally at the top of the Eiffel Tower or whatever for talks if only he suspends sanctions immediately. “Nooooo!” the GOP hawks will cry. “Yesssss,” Tucker Carlson will say. Whom does Trump listen to?

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Fine, here’s the “Top Gun 2” trailer

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There are more important things worth writing about today, but…

No, there aren’t. One of the most iconically cheesy movies of the 1980s has finally gotten its sequel, with the most famous movie star in the world reprising his lead role. There’s nothing more important. It’s the biggest news out there.

Trump should have premiered this in the Oval Office, for fark’s sake.

In case you’re not keeping track, Hollywood is in the process of reviving every hit action film of the decade when Trump first made his mark on America’s consciousness. The new “Top Gun” is here. We’re getting a new “Rambo” soon. The next “Terminator” arrives this fall. There’s even a revival of “The Karate Kid” on YouTube, which, although technically not an action movie, is sewn into the same patch of the American cultural quilt. All of which raises a pressing question:

When we will finally check in on Det. John McClane and see what he’s up to in this golden age of making America great again?

Oh, right. We’re getting a new “Die Hard” soon too.

Makes sense. We have a president who got elected by convincing older right-wingers that he’d restore the America they remember so fondly. Naturally Hollywood noticed and is cashing in by restoring the American movies they remember fondly too, replete with the same aging stars. We are but memberberries clustered together on a vine, croaking at each other, “‘Member how much everyone liked ‘Top Gun’ even though in hindsight it’s so hokey that it can only be enjoyed with so-bad-it’s-good ironic distance?”

Looks like this one will be pure fan service, as these movies tend to be, right down to revisiting the beach volleyball scene. Can Maverick fly an F-15 with a broken hip? We’ll see.

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Rubio: I’m not going to leap to denounce Trump just because hypocritical progressive bullies like the Squad demand it

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A highly effective mini-rant here, although given Rubio’s differences with Trump it’s hard to know how much of it is from the heart and how much is a political calculation.

Is he on the level? Maybe, sure. Republican presidential candidates *do* always end up being attacked as racist whether they deserve it or not, just like he says. He’s also undeniably right that the media holds Republicans to a different standard than Democrats in demanding that they answer for the political sins of others on their side. I made that point myself a few days ago about the Antifa nut’s attack on an ICE facility in Washington. If a right-wing rando threw molotov cocktails at a government building, every Republican in Congress would be called upon to denounce it. Meanwhile, it took days for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to even be asked the obvious question of whether her “concentration camp” rhetoric is maybe egging on wackjobs to take up arms against immigration officials. And it took a right-wing outlet to ask that question.

He’s sort of right too about Democrats scrambling to condemn Trump for his tweets about the Squad with an official resolution but giving Ilhan Omar a pass when she accused AIPAC and its “Benjamins” of dominating U.S. policy on Israel. I say “sort of” because Pelosi did issue a statement of her own denouncing that, and the House did eventually pass a resolution condemning anti-semitism after Omar’s “dual loyalty” comments about American supporters of Israel — but without mentioning Omar by name, thanks to a progressive revolt on her behalf within the caucus. Trump didn’t get that same break about his love-it-or-leave-it tweets.

And of course he’s right as can be about Democrats finding various things about immigration policy objectionable now when they didn’t find them objectionable in 2014. And about the fact that the Squad is a bunch of JV demagogues prone to racial McCarthyism to shield themselves from criticism.

Marco ate his Wheaties here. But he’s also the guy who said this a few days before Super Tuesday 2016, when Trump finished him off in Florida. Watch for five minutes from where I’ve cued it up:

Rubio’s entire message about Trump during the primaries was that he was a fundamentally different and more sinister political animal than American presidential contests are used to. That clip is the most memorable single statement he made about it but he reiterated the point plenty of times in other contexts. Trump is a demagogue who’s prone to incitement, he said. We can’t have a figure that divisive in the White House. It’ll poison the country’s political culture. “If we’re the party of fear, with a candidate who basically is trying to prey upon people’s fears to get them to vote for them,” he said a few days after this clip in 2016, “I think we’re going to pay a big price in November and beyond.” He was wrong about paying a price that November but the jury’s out on the “beyond” part. The point is that his belief that political leaders have a duty to bring people together was a core part of his campaign, really the source of his visceral objection to Trump. And now here we are a few days removed from Trump’s “go back where you came from” tweets aimed at a group of minority congresswomen, and instead of doing an “I told you so” video, Rubio’s complaining that…

…Trump’s not that much different from Mitt Romney or John McCain. And certainly no worse than the Squad, never mind the presidency’s singular role in the culture.

That’s some reversal. Maybe Marco’s changed his mind? Or maybe he’s decided there’s no national future for him if he tells Republicans, correctly, “I told you so.” If you want a national future in 2019, you cut an anti-anti-Trump clip like the one up top and warn the media that you’ll no longer dignify further questions about the slow cultural poisoning that’s happening around you with an answer. Anthony Scaramucci called Trump’s tweets about the Squad racist and got himself disinvited from the Florida Republican Party’s next fundraiser. I bet Rubio’s still invited.

What we’re seeing here, I think, is a man who’s not yet ready to let go of his presidential dream but who’ll also never be comfortable shilling for Trump with the enthusiasm required to truly ingratiate himself to populists, a la Lindsey Graham. It’s why Rubio always seems to have a lump in his throat when talking about the president. Even his attempts to reconcile his own ideology with Trump’s seem half-hearted:

That’s not “authentic” American nationalism, buddy. Authentic American nationalism is a crowd of people hooting “send her back” at a Muslim refugee who became a U.S. citizen and then a member of Congress because they don’t like her politics. Authentic nationalism is tribalism in patriotic finery, the opposite of the sort of pluralism Rubio believes in. But then, he’s tried to square this circle before. It wasn’t convincing then and it isn’t convincing now and it won’t be convincing in the future, but there’s little alternative. For now. Once Trump’s finally out of office, if the political climate allows it, he’ll be at the front of the “I never liked him” parade.

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