Donald Trump’s top guy, Paul Manafort, surfaced yesterday on “Meet the Press” and served up so much hilarious hogwash that it requires serious annotation. And since host Chuck Todd didn’t bother to call him out, we might as well do it ourselves. So let’s get started.
Donald Trump is the only change agent (in this race). Hillary Clinton is the epitome of the establishment.
Manafort himself has been “the establishment,” the epitome of backstage Washington wheeling, since Hillary was a kid lawyer in her late 20s. Manafort cut his teeth working for Republican President Gerald Ford’s election bid way back in 1976, crunched numbers for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and ever since he has made piles of money as a Washington insider-lobbyist, routinely charging a high six figures for his muscle.
People feeling that their government is responsive to them is in the best interest of the United States.
As if he cares about responsive government. He has long lobbied in Washington for dictators and thugs who never cared a damn about responsive government. Some of Manafort’s favorite clients were driven from power precisely because they were unresponsive – notably, Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine (a Vladimir Putin ally), Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, former Bahamanian prime minister Lynden Pindling (an accused narco-trafficker), and despots in Nigeria, Kenya, Congo, Somalia, and the Dominican Republic.
These aren’t men of the people. In the recent words of former George H. W. Bush speechwriter Mary Kate Cary, “these are leaders, like Putin and Yanukovych, who are diametrically opposed to ‘making America great again.'” And since Trump is such a Putin fanboy, it’s no wonder that Manafort is such a perfect fit for Trump.
There was much more. When questioned about a new Clinton ad that shows Trump’s buffoonish perfomance in Scotland – where he boasted that a plummeting British pound will be good for his golf business – Manafort said:
First of all, Mr. Trump is an international businessman. His success as an international businessman and a person who gets things done is one of the attractions of his candidacy, so that when he says he’s going to bring real change to the country, voters believe him.
First of all, Trump is running for President of the United States, not the International Chamber of Commerce. Second, Trump owes much of his “success” to his well-documented habit of stiffing the vendors and small business people whose livelihoods hinged on getting paid. Third, Trump demonstrated in Scotland, yet again, that he’s a low-information candidate; he praised Scotland for voting to take Great Britain out of the European Union, when, in fact, the Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.
Fortunately for Manafort, he didn’t have to address that latest manifestation of Trumpish ignorance, because Todd didn’t ask him. Also, fortunately for Manafort, he didn’t have to address the fact that two Republican foreign policy titans, Brent Scowcroft and Richard Armitage, endorsed Clinton this month, because again Todd didn’t ask him.
But hey, lest we forget, Trump always insists that he doesn’t need foreign policy advisers. Here’s what he said on Saturday (I swear this quote is real): “I speak to foreign policy advisers all the time. But the advice has to come from me. But the advice has to come from me.”
If only Manafort had been asked about that.
There was more. When asked whether he would acknowledge that Trump is trailing Clinton “both organizationally and in the polls,” Manafort said:
No….We actually have thousands of people in (16) battleground states, political organizers who are now in place….We have our campaign plans in place, we have our budgets in place…We are not behind the Clinton campaign.
Not behind?!? According to newly-released stats, Clinton has $42 million, Trump has $1.3 million. In other words, she has 42 times more money. She also has 10 times more campaign staffers, most of them deeply embedded in the battleground states.
As for the polls, Manafort somehow failed to mention the new ABC News-Washington Post survey, which says that Clinton has opened a 12-point lead – and that a whopping 64 percent of Americans, far from viewing Trump as an “attraction,” actually say he’s unfit to be president. Manafort also failed to mention the new Reuters-IPSOS poll, which has Clinton up by 13. He also failed to mention the new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, which has Clinton up by 5. (Five points may sound tight, but, as Manafort well knows, a 5-point deficit translates into a decisive Electoral College defeat.)
Nor, quite understandably, did he mention the fact that Team Trump is struggling to hire seasoned Republican strategists. According to the Associated Press, these people “fear that taking a Trump paycheck might stain their resumes, spook other clients, even cause problems at home.” One Ohio-based GOP operative, Brent Swander, is quoted saying: “Everything that we’re taught as children – not to bully , not to demean, to treat others with respect – is the exact opposite of what the Republican nominee is doing. How do you work for somebody like that? What would I tell my family?”
And lastly, when asked whether Trump has nailed down the Christian conservative wing of the GOP base, Manafort said:
Frankly, in my 40 years in politics, I’ve never seen such a broad base of support within that community for one candidate. It’s never been this united.
Manafort clearly has a flexible definition of unity. At random, here’s Michael Farris, a Christian conservative leader since the early ’80s, currently chancellor of Patrick Henry College: “(Trump) has dragged our political discourse into the gutter….It’s not why evangelicals like me got involved in politics.” Here’s Mark DeMoss, formerly a Liberty University board member: “Scorched-earth name-calling, insulting, and demagoguing does not seem to me to be the way to build a winning general election coalition.” Here’s Russell Moore, a major player in the Southern Baptist Convention: “(Trump) has cast a light on the darkness of pent-up nativism and bigotry all over the country.”
And if Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats happened to catch Manafort on TV yesterday, talking about a “united” religious right, the Iowan probably coughed up his coffee. Because, just the other day, Vander Plaats complained publicly about how much his community is split, about how he’s “witnessing brothers and sisters in Christ, on both sides of the Trump debate, disparaging one another in the name of Christ.”
Yup, the spin from Trump’s insider-lobbyist-fixer looks predictably absurd after it’s annotated. You’re welcome.