On today’s Morning Joe program on MSNBC, host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough reported on Donald Trump’s reactions to a military and strategic briefing which the candidate had received several months ago. The gist was that Trump was focused above all on the use of nuclear weapons, and constantly inquired why there should be any reluctance about using these deadly weapons. Here is an account of Scarborough’s report:
‘According to a report from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump asked a foreign policy advisor three times during a briefing why he couldn’t just use nuclear weapons to solve the nation’s problems. Scarborough shared the anecdote on Morning Joe Wednesday, speaking deliberately to avoid naming his source. “I’ll be very careful here. Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on international level went to advise Donald Trump.” “Three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, ‘If we have them, why can’t we use them?'” “That’s one of the reasons why he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him,” Scarborough concluded. “Three times, in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?'”’1
One wonders why Scarborough, who had spent months using his influential program to hype the Trump candidacy, did not see fit to share this life-and-death information with the American people at the time Trump made these remarks, which represent warmongering of the most infamous kind. We hope that these comments by Trump will be taken with the utmost seriousness in the corridors of power all around the world, and most especially in the Kremlin, where important officials seem to have decided on a whitewash of the psychotic Republican candidate combined with the demonization of his principal opponent, thereby exposing themselves at minimum to a series of problems with American and world public opinion. We would also recommend that Kremlinologist and Professor Stephen Cohen study these remarks by Trump. Over this past weekend, Cohen had attempted to lecturer Michael Smerconish on Trump’s allegedly sincere desire to avoid the descent into a new Cold War. But Trump’s comments are always vague and generic when he talks about peace, and precise and brutal when he outlines his plans for retaliation or aggression.
Trump’s assurances about his peaceful intentions are about as credible as Hitler’s lying pledge that the Nazis wanted “nothing but peace” delivered in the course of an election speech in the Siemens factory in Berlin in November, 1933. Here is an important excerpt:
At about the same time on ABC, correspondent Jonathan Karl revealed that top Republican officials were studying scenarios and options to be implemented in the eventuality that Trump were to drop out of the race and resign from the GOP ticket. Karl reported that:
‘Republican officials are exploring how to handle a scenario that would be unthinkable in a normal election year: What would happen if the party's presidential nominee dropped out? ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump’s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.
The Trump campaign offered a number of halfhearted denials, but the Trump exit story continued to dominate the cable news all day and into the night. It became clear and that a considerable number of Republican leaders were exhibiting a lively interest in what could be done to dump Trump. The Daily Beast helpfully provided a compendium of the relevant regulations and laws that would govern the possible Trexit. Their overview dealt with the rules and regulations of the Republican Party, the legislation of the various state governments, and finally the rules governing the Electoral College, many of which come from the U.S. Constitution. According to the Daily Beast:
‘The Republican Party rules state that “the Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.” They could do this by calling a new convention, or, more likely, casting votes remotely. So in case of a Trump withdrawal, [election expert] Persily said, “you can either redo the convention or, more likely, the RNC itself would just re-nominate a candidate.” …But because of that word “otherwise,” it’s likely within the RNC’s power to dump Trump even without his consent. Then they would be able to fill the “vacancy” by majority vote.’
In other words, the “otherwise” would make it legitimate inside the Republican Party for the National Committee to simply deprive Trump of the nomination. As far as the individual states are concerned:
‘Right now, Donald Trump’s name is set to appear on the ballots of 50 states. “So you have questions about ballot access,” Persily said. “There are deadlines in the state laws and that’s a state-by-state finding.” For example, Arkansas and Oklahoma require names to be certified by Aug. 10, for example, North Carolina by Aug. 5. Delaware’s ship has already sailed; they require certification the week after the national convention takes place. So in those states, even if the RNC duly voted for his replacement, it would simply be too late to take his name off the ballot…. Presidential elections are different, however, because, as you may recall from the 2000 election, we don’t elect our presidents directly. Actually, voters in each state choose electors who formally vote for president in the Electoral College. And so we have to look to a third set of rules….The question, Persily explains, is whether state electors are pledged to the individual candidate, or to the party that nominated him or her. “Would Donald Trump’s electors be able to vote for someone else in the Electoral College? Most states say yes—you vote for whoever the party has nominated.” In sum, right up until Nov. 7, the Republican Party could dump Trump by declaring him unfit for office, reconvening, and nominating someone else. But it would get messier depending on how long they wait. If Trump withdraws, there’s really no problem, legally speaking, even at the last minute. While his name would be on the ballot, electors would vote for the party’s actual nominee, or courts would declare Trump no longer the “candidate.”2
In reality, the Electoral College would probably offer the least serious obstacles to replacing the name of Trump with that of some other person. State laws may try to bind the Electors to the candidate or party which has obtained a plurality in that state, but this binding would probably be unenforceable in the face of the U.S. Constitution and federal law, which have never explicitly demanded that the Electors vote for anybody in particular. According to some theories, the Electors have always been able to vote for the candidate they deemed best for the country, and they might start doing this at any time.
In 1968, Alabama football coach Bear Bryant received 1 ½ electoral votes in the presidential tally, despite the fact that his name had not appeared on the ballot of any state. An elector had simply decided to honor the famous coach. This kind of a procedure would therefore be formally possible today, but might also produce a constitutional crisis.
Recent cases of presidential and vice presidential candidates who have dropped out of their respective races boil down essentially to two.
The first is that of Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, who was forced to withdraw as the Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate on the ticket with Senator George McGovern in 1968. McGovern and Eagleton were nominated by the Democratic convention, which met between July 10 and July 13 in Miami, Florida. It was then discovered that Eagleton had received electroshock treatment, supposedly to deal with severe depression. According to some mental health professionals, Eagleton’s condition disqualified him from ever being president. Eagleton resigned from the ticket on August 1, just short of three weeks after the Democratic convention had ended. If Trump were to decide to follow Eagleton in the next few days, the time elapsed since the close of their respective conventions could be broadly comparable. Eagleton was replaced as Democratic vice presidential candidate by Sargent Shriver of the Kennedy family on August 5, 1972. According to Wikipedia:
‘Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy, former Ambassador to France and former Director of the Peace Corps, later accepted. He was officially nominated by a special session of the Democratic National Committee. By this time, McGovern's poll ratings had plunged from 41 to 24 percent.’
Eccentric Texas billionaire Ross Perot in 1992 was another candidate who dropped out of his race (only to relaunch his candidacy in the last five or six weeks before the final vote). Here the formalities were different, since Perot was running as the candidate of a third party, calling itself the Reform Party. But here, the most interesting parallels are psychological, since key aspects of Donald Trump’s personality and mismanagement style closely resemble the blunders and false economies exhibited by his fellow bombastic, tight-fisted businessman Perot.
All the same, Perot was able to do what Trump has never done -- to assume the position of front runner in the public opinion polls which included George H. W. Bush, the incumbent president, and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. Perot, like Trump, reached his apex in late spring:
‘In the final round of Democratic and Republican primaries, most notably in California, exit polls revealed that 42% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats favored Perot. A Time Magazine poll found that Perot had 37% support of all the electorate, ahead of both Bush and Clinton, who tied for second at 24%. Around this time, Hal Riney, who had worked on Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign and was known for the "Morning in America" ad, was hired as advertising consultant. When Riney revealed the cost of advertisements during a meeting, Perot reportedly "flipped out", and asked "Why would I spend that when I could go on the 'Today' show for free?" [The similarity here to tightwad Trump is uncanny.] Riney produced several ads during the campaign that never aired.
Perot, just like Trump today, viewed the world from a markedly egocentric perspective. He was stingy with resources, vague on specific issues, obsessed with his own image, and sensitive to the point of paranoia when it came to criticism. He often reduced his own professional staff to despair by his ill-advised improvisations. As Wikipedia writes:
‘In July , some of Perot's past actions, including a private investigation of the Bush family in the late 1980s, circulated in the media, causing frustration for the campaign. Perot blamed the reports on a "Republican research team" and claimed that he was warned that since he had such a "clean record they have got to try to redefine you and destroy you". Campaign officials tried to come up with a new strategy to combat the negative press, and to end Perot's use of generalizations on the issues. Perot sought National Institutes of Health head Dr. Bernadine Healy as his running mate, but she declined. Meanwhile, Perot faced obstacles on the campaign trail. During an Olympia rally, he was approached by a gay rights group, demanding that he address AIDS and gay rights; he soon flipped on the issue and stated that he would allow gays to serve in the military and in his cabinet. During an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Perot faced his toughest demographic, and made the gaffe of referring to African Americans as "you people". It was later revealed that Perot did not want to appear at the meeting or any other forum without his supporters. Press consultant Squires had written a speech for Perot for the occasion, but he instead used his own. After the speech, Perot was concerned that members of the New Black Panther Party were plotting his assassination.
By mid-summer Perot was quarreling with his advisers and declining sharply in the polls:
‘By mid-July, the Washington Post reported that Perot's campaign managers were becoming increasingly disillusioned by his unwillingness to follow their advice to be more specific on issues, and his need to be in full control of operations with such tactics as forcing volunteers to sign loyalty oaths. Perot's poll numbers began to slip to 25%, and his advisers warned that if he continued to ignore them, he would fall into single digits. Co-manager Hamilton Jordan threatened to quit, and on July 15, Ed Rollins resigned after Perot fired advertisement specialist Hal Riney, who worked with Rollins on the Reagan campaign. Rollins later claimed that a member of the campaign accused him of being a Bush plant with ties to the CIA. Amidst the chaos, Perot's support fell to 20%. The next day [which was also the last day of the Democratic convention in New York which nominated Bill Clinton], Perot announced on Larry King Live that he would not seek the presidency. He explained that he did not want the House of Representatives to decide the election if the result caused the Electoral College to be split. [He also proclaimed that the Democratic Party had re-generated itself.] He asked his supporters to look for other candidates to nominate for the race, and formed United We Stand to "influence the debate." At this point, Perot had spent $12 million of his own money on the race. Bill Hillsman, who produced a few unaired advertisements for the campaign, wrote that Perot's withdrawal was a tactic to find temporary relief from the press. Former advisors commented that Perot, who had achieved ballot access in 24 states, was unwilling "to spend money on things that mattered" including Rollins' and Jordan's proposed $150 million advertising campaign, was "obsessed" with his image, and lost interest in running after receiving negative press. Supporters were angry and distraught at Perot's decision, and his popularity dropped among the American public. One woman called Perot and commented that "the tears have not stopped." A class action lawsuit was filed in Florida to force him to remain in the race, but it was dropped.’
Trump can doubtless consult the hodge-podge of craven absurdities offered by Perot as excuses for dropping out to get plenty of bizarre ideas for use today. One of the classic ones was that Bush agents wanted to humiliate his daughter at her wedding with pornographic leaflets:
‘Reports circulated that a security official from the [Perot] campaign had contacted the Dallas Police in August to urge them to perform a sting operation targeting Bush campaign adviser James Oberwetter, in response to allegations that Republicans planned to wiretap Perot's office. Perot claimed during an interview with 60 Minutes that "Republican operatives" also threatened to disrupt his daughter's wedding, which forced him to withdraw in July. He reported the story to the FBI, but no evidence of any wrongdoing was found. The New York Times argued that the story could help Perot with voters and his overall image by presenting him as a man "who was willing to give up his goal to protect his family"; nevertheless, his lack of evidence drew criticism.’3
In summary, we are witnessing not just the implosion of the mentally troubled and cognitively impaired Donald J. Trump, whom the sick dynamics of a warped system have elevated to the status of a glamorous celebrity. We are also witnessing the self-destruction of the Republican Party. These two events, if accomplished with a modicum of success, offer nothing short of the hope for a new world, with the axis of world politics pulled several degrees away from savagery and barbarism, and pushed several degrees towards humanity, prosperity, and dignity.