- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Dallas Morning News. April 26, 2016.

Cruz-Kasich alliance to stop Trump is a cynical gamble that could backfire

If it holds, the uneasy truce between Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich may - and we emphasize may - succeed in keeping real estate mogul Donald Trump from securing enough delegates to win the GOP nomination outright.

The alliance, in which Cruz and Kasich agreed to cede certain states to one another in order to thwart Trump, appeared in danger of falling apart almost as soon as it was announced. But no matter how long it holds, it represents a cynical gamble.

Rather than unifying a Republican Party in disarray, the Stop Trump gambit could further fracture a deeply divided GOP and harden the anti-establishment fervor that’s fueling the Trump juggernaut.

In short, the shameless political calculus could backfire. It may alienate Trump supporters to the point of no return and fulfill the prophecy of a barbaric, take-no-prisoners GOP convention.

It’s nothing new for campaign strategies to come down to cold political calculations. Still, a public tag-team effort of this nature is certainly an unconventional step.

No, it’s not cheating. Nor does it mean - Trump’s tiresome tirades notwithstanding - that the system is rigged against the GOP front-runner.

Yet it clearly shows how desperate and determined Cruz, Kasich and other party leaders have become to stop Trump in his tracks, regardless of public appearances.

This newspaper has made it clear that we think Kasich is the superior choice in the GOP field, the conservative candidate best-suited to govern and expand the Republican Party’s tent come November. But we disagree with Kasich’s assessment that this alliance is “not a big deal.” And Cruz’s insistence that this effort does not subvert the will of the people falls on deaf ears. This pact reduces voters to pliable pawns in a predetermined chess match.

Cruz has said he will sidestep Oregon and New Mexico to focus on Indiana. Kasich has said he will skip campaigning in Indiana to concentrate his efforts in Oregon and New Mexico.

So what are Kasich fans in Indiana supposed to do? “They ought to vote for me,” Kasich said Tuesday, muddying the waters. At the same time, one of his advisers explained how helpful it would be to Kasich were Cruz to win Indiana.

Got all that?

Again, maybe this peculiar strategy will work for Cruz or Kasich or both of them. With neither candidate having a clear path to winning the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the GOP nomination, each is relying on the other to cut Trump off at the pass and trigger an open convention.

Maybe GOP voters play along.

Or maybe they decide that if that’s how the establishment politicians want to play the game, an anti-establishment candidate doesn’t look so bad after all.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times. April 23, 2016.

Texas GOP may need to declare what side it’s on

Seceding from the United States and becoming a sovereign nation again is a fun fantasy for Texans of every political persuasion. But it takes a special kind of person to pursue secession seriously. And apparently that special kind of person isn’t as rare as he or she should be.

Secession is likely to be a topic of discussion at the state Republican convention next month, according to Washington Post blogger Amber Phillips, whose report was shared by the Texas Tribune. And by “discussion” she didn’t mean after way too many Shiner Bocks in the hospitality suite. She meant that it is likely to be discussed as an actual thing that could happen, by people who want it to happen.

Those people, while outnumbered and sure to fail, are expected to have their say without being dismissed as kooks because apparently there’s enough pro-secession sentiment for the powers-that-be to fear being dismissive.

That’s quite a pickle for a party that ought to refuse to suffer such foolishness, for the sake of a reputation already damaged by a presidential frontrunner’s plan to wall off Mexico and bring back torture. It’s an uncomfortable situation reminiscent of the time in 2013 when U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, explained to a woman in Luling the procedural obstacles to impeaching the president rather than tell the woman there was no legitimate reason to impeach the president. Telling secessionists firmly that the party is against it, or refusing to entertain discussion of it, would be the principled, responsible thing to do. But it also would be the hard thing to do.

We bring up Farenthold’s Luling blunder not to embarrass him - again - but because impeachment and secession talk springs from the same viral opposition to President Obama. It’s doubtful that there would be talk of secession from a United States governed by a President Ted Cruz - at least not by secession’s current sympathizers. Democrats might become converts - and Libertarians and Greens and Socialists.

Texas’ secession triggers don’t speak well for it. First it was slavery and now it’s the first black president. Secessionists would say now what their predecessors said then - that it’s all about states’ rights.

Phillips noted that in 2009 Gov. Rick Perry made a comment about secession in jest that made national news. She called it tongue-in-cheek. But in retrospect it’s starting to look like a trial balloon. Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a convention of states to rewrite the Constitution to all but write the Supreme Court out of it by making it near-impossible for the court to overturn a state law.

Meanwhile, the actual secession movement claims 200,000 members, which Phillips notes would be a tiny percentage of Texas’ population of nearly 27 million if indeed there are that many. But voter participation in Texas is so low that 200,000 committed voters would be a force with whom to be reckoned. Also, according to Phillips, at least 10 Republican county conventions voted in favor either of Texas independence or making it a debate topic at the state convention.

Phillips is not to be dismissed as some East Coast news media type looking for an excuse to make fun of Texans. She’s a TCU Horned Frog and, for what it’s worth, one of her colleagues on the Post political blog The Fix is former Caller-Times reporter Janell Ross, who grew up in Corpus Christi. If the Texas Republican Party embarrasses itself with talk of secession or with being unable to keep its secessionists under wraps, it will have itself to blame, not a Washington Post blog.

Please, Texas Republicans, for the sake of the state’s reputation, pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands.

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San Antonio Express-News. April 26, 2016.

When your AG faces fraud charges …

What to do with Attorney General Ken Paxton?

The state’s top law enforcement figure faces criminal and civil fraud charges for allegedly steering investors to a technology company without disclosing the company was paying him to promote it.

The person voters chose to represent law and order is facing serious allegations that he broke the law.

Resign? If you really believe, as we do, that a person is innocent until proven guilty, why should Paxton do that? There is an alternative.

He has a right to fair due process. And if he is ultimately found innocent or the charges are dismissed, resignation means he will have unfairly and unnecessarily sacrificed his elected post.

Yet there is no ignoring the mounting pressures Paxton faces, which makes us wonder how he can be focused on his job as Texas attorney general. He has acted as if it’s business as usual, continuing the boilerplate Texas fights over social issues and environmental law, and making controversial staff appointments. But the reality is that when Paxton offers a legal opinion or does an interview with state or national media, his comments are shaded by the fraud allegations.

First came criminal charges, and now we have the federal Securities and Exchange Commission suing Paxton for securities fraud. Both suits deal with the same central question: As a state lawmaker in 2011, did Paxton steer people to invest in the tech company Servergy Inc. without disclosing that he was being compensated?

As the SEC complaint alleges, after Paxton persuaded five friends to invest $840,000 in Servergy, he received a stock certificate for 100,000 shares in the company. The SEC lawsuit is a particularly unsettling development because the agency almost always wins these cases and two of Paxton’s co-defendants have agreed to significant financial settlements.

The civil suit could also lead to federal criminal charges. That would be in addition to the state criminal charges Paxton is facing.

The best course of action would be for Paxton to take a leave of absence until all of this is settled.

By taking a leave of absence, he would ensure the attorney general’s office is as free as possible from this mess, but he would still maintain his place as a statewide elected official should he be cleared. It’s a balance that would limit distractions, while acknowledging the seriousness of the situation. It’s not business as usual at the AG’s office, and, no, these charges are not political.

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Amarillo Globe-News. April 23, 2016.

Voters get Trumped: It’s all an act

Will the real Donald Trump stand up? From the “We told you so” department, news came out Thursday that Trump’s new campaign chief more or less confirmed what many have expected about the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination since the campaign started: That he is putting on an act he hopes will lead to the White House.

It is becoming apparent Trump’s penchant for supposedly “telling it like it is” is nothing more than telling people what they want to hear in order to get their votes.

Consider this post from www.nytimes.com about a recent appearance by Trump campaign head Paul Manafort before members of the Republican National Committee, “(Manafort) bluntly suggested the candidate’s incendiary style amounted to an act.”

And here is more from the aforementioned post.

“That’s what’s important for you to understand: “That he (Trump) gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,’ Manafort said, suggesting that Trump was about to begin a more professional phase of his campaign.”

The “part” Trump has been playing?

Can it get any clearer than that? That Trump’s supposed tough-guy act and anti-establishment rhetoric is nothing more than Trump putting on a show to get votes?

We will say this about Trump - his act has worked, for the most part. He has managed to convince millions of voters (and arguably many who have not paid attention to Trump’s life and/or past) that he holds conservative values. (Interestingly, as we have pointed out, Trump’s act did not resonate with Amarillo-area voters, who resoundingly supported Ted Cruz in the recent GOP primary in Texas.)

National media cannot get enough of Trump, who has bogarted presidential coverage with nonsensical talk of building a border wall on the nation’s southern border, deporting millions of illegal immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the country.

Trump also likes to tack sophomoric names on his opponents (and even the names are not that clever), which seems to fire up many of his supporters.

There is the real possibility this has all been an orchestrated act.

More from the www.nytimes.com post, “The remarks (from Manafort) suggest Trump is conducting something of an inside-outside campaign simultaneously, railing against what he calls a ‘corrupt’ process in public to win over anti-establishment Republicans while sending Manafort to assure party stalwarts of his true intentions.”

Trump’s “true intentions?” And what might these “true intentions” be?

We don’t know, because it seems the real Trump has yet to reveal himself.

Have millions of voters been fooled, as many have said for months? Quite possibly. Time will tell.

___

Waco Tribune-Herald. April 26, 2016.

If you didn’t know, political parties can do pretty much whatever they please

A few months ago, we reminded awestruck voters witnessing the ongoing presidential sweepstakes that no matter who fills halls, no matter what candidates say, no matter how much rhetoric is devoted to the will of the people, our nation’s party primary system has only so much to do with democratic principles. It’s more about convention rules and delegate math.

In recent weeks, volcanic Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and feisty Democratic presidential underdog Bernie Sanders have raised the volume over how they’re being mistreated by the parties - Trump in the dubious way delegates are allocated in some states (welcome to the notion of states’ rights), Sanders in the timing of debates. His supporters also raise concerns about “superdelegates” who are unbound by primary election results and can vote as they choose at the national convention.

And since many superdelegates are elites in the Democratic Party, they’re generally in Hillary Clinton’s pocket.

If you believe this is contrary to the will of the people, welcome to party politics. Maybe you can understand why we complain about politicians far more beholden to murky party apparatus than the welfare of the nation. Maybe you can understand why President George Washington warned his countrymen about the evils behind party politics. Few listened to the Founding Father.

Political parties are driven not only by party elites and politicians but also the grassroots folks who stick around for precinct meetings and attend county and state conventions while the rest of us are just proud that we voted. To a degree they aren’t doing the people’s business, they’re overseeing their own business and party business, including crafting party platforms that may or may not reflect wider public sentiments. This is their constitutional right, but the public perception can sometimes be damning.

This week finds uproar in the Republican Party because of a tenuous (and fast-fraying) pact by Trump rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Kasich is suspending his campaign in Indiana, Cruz is backing off in New Mexico and Oregon. This strategy seeks to play to each other’s strength to keep Trump from reaching 1,237 GOP delegates - which he could do if he prevails in the Indiana and California primaries where he leads in polls.

“I’m astonished,” says Stephanie Martin, Southern Methodist University assistant professor of communication studies. “What this means is you have two candidates utterly admitting they have no chance to win the nomination through the will of the voters, so their only way to get the nomination is through backroom dealing.”

Granted, political party officials, candidates and delegates are obviously sensitive to the will of voters. However, they’re not necessarily obligated to it any more than party rules and their own loyalties dictate.

“The stop-Trump movement needs to have a coordinated effort - that’s what made it successful in Wisconsin - so this may work in Indiana, New Mexico and Oregon, but I think it will really feed Trump’s narrative that the process is unfair and give him more ammunition,” Martin says. “You just had RNC Chair Reince Priebus last week give a big speech telling the party to get behind whoever the nominee is and, not even a week later, two Republican candidates are colluding to do just the opposite. It shows the party may be more fractured than we even knew, and we already knew it was very fractured.”

So if a lot of this just doesn’t seem very fair, it isn’t. What to do? The best cure for a system ripe with incongruities that conspire against everyday voters - dark money that conveniently shields from the public who’s buying influence from whom and party rules that resist election results - begins with an astutely informed voter. And, unfortunately, that species seems close to extinction in America.

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