The economist John Kenneth Galbraith memorably said that politics “consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”
But what if the only choice is between the disastrous and the disastrous?
That’s the predicament of establishment Republican politicians who think John Kasich, the only decent human being who remains in their presidential primaries, is either too liberal (i.e., he accepted the Medicaid money) or too unlikely to limp to the finish line at the Cleveland convention.
Chris Christie, ever the opportunist, forgot every truth he had told about Donald Trump’s spectacular lack of qualifications and endorsed him. You could say he sold his soul for a Cabinet post, but that would raise the question of whether he had one to sell.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, admitting out of one side of his face that Kasich would make the better president, out of the other endorsed Ted Cruz.
That is the same Lindsey Graham who, while supporting Jeb Bush, said that if “you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
Mitt Romney came out for Cruz too. He all but begged Kasich to quit the race.
Then Bush himself, whose noblest characteristic was that he’s no bigot, endorsed Cruz, who’s just as dangerous a bigot as Trump. Bush called him “a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.”
Only a few hours later, that “principled conservative” called for a Castro-style police presence in American Muslim neighborhoods.
Turkey has suffered more bombings recently than any other of our NATO allies. Just this month, at least 41 people died in blasts at Ankara and Istanbul. But Cruz said nothing about that outbreak of terror. Perhaps it was because most of the victims were Muslims.
Then came the terror in Brussels.
That’s when he called for American police to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
What would be next? Gated ghettoes? Special ID cards? Yellow crescents to be sewn on their clothing?
President Barack Obama, referring to his just-completed visit to Cuba, had the perfect putdown for Cruz.
“I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance, which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped for America, the land of the free,” the President said.
Trump, meanwhile, used the Brussels tragedy as yet another opportunity to indulge his sick fascination with torture. His Sadean fixation with hurting people is becoming a subject more for psychiatry than political science.
Anyone who talks like either Cruz or Trump is unfit to be president. Any politician who endorses either of them is clueless as to what a “principled conservative” really is, and can hardly be considered one himself.
There’s one principle, though, that Bush and Cruz apparently share. It’s to cut taxes for the rich and raise them on the poor. Citizens for Tax Justice calculated that Cruz’s scheme, more extreme even than Bush’s, would cost $13.9 trillion over 10 years either as added debt or a demolished government. It also would give the top 1 per cent an average tax cut of $435,000 a year.
Interestingly, that doesn’t seem to be endearing Cruz to the billionaire Koch brothers and the other big-money Republican establishment campaign contributors.
Perhaps it’s because they don’t think even Cruz can stop Trump. And Trump is their worst nightmare — someone they doubt that they could control.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the Koch network is considering investing most of its $900 million campaign budget on protecting what it can control — its Republican allies in the Congress.
“A key element of the strategy,” the newspaper said, “will be a springtime wave of television ads that slam Democratic contenders and tout Republican incumbents as attuned to hometown concerns. Strategists hope the efforts will help inoculate congressional candidates against association with Trump’s incendiary remarks.”
For example, the article said, one super-PAC in the Koch network is spending $1 million to prop up New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, while another is attacking Ohio’s former Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, who’s running against Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
It means they figure Trump for a general election loser who would cost them the Senate and many seats in the House.
It’s a cynical strategy that makes perfect sense. It should have made sense to Graham and Bush too.
In that scenario, continued Republican control of one or both houses would frustrate anything that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would want to do — such as appointing any moderate to liberal Supreme Court justice.
Just as they have frustrated nearly everything Obama has wanted to do.
Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina. Column courtesy of Context Florida.