Marine Le Pen Should Get Tips From the Democrats

by Cinzia Croce

As soon as it was clear that Emmanuel Macron would be facing Marine Le Pen in the final round of the French presidential election, the other major candidates immediately closed rank behind Macron in an effort to keep Le Pen from reaching the Élysée. The only exception was Jean-Luc Mélenchon – the far left candidate – who initially said he wanted to see the official results before conceding, but eventually declined to endorse either candidate, deeming them both unacceptable. The reason offered for supporting Macron – who has never held elected office and founded his political party only a year ago – has little to do with Marine Le Pen as a candidate, or even her particular political program. Rather, it has everything to do with a negative consensus about her political party, the National Front.

Marine’s party was founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 1972, to unite various nationalist and reactionary movements on the political right. The party attracted monarchists, Vichy nostalgists, ultra-conservative Catholics, and other fringe elements. Jean Marie Le Pen added to the toxicity of his party by repeatedly trying to minimize the horrors of the Holocaust. Consequently, for most of its history, the National Front was deemed an untouchable party, and operated at the margins of French politics.

In 2011, Marine took over the party leadership from her father and began the process of reforming the National Front and bringing it into the mainstream. She purged many of the unsavory elements within the party, even going so far as to expel her own father. Despite all of her efforts, Marine is being held accountable for what François Fillon – the defeated presidential candidate for the French Republican Party – described as the National Front’s “history of violence and intolerance” — and Marine herself indirectly acknowledged the anchor weight that is her party on her political aspirations by resigning as its leader a day after reaching the runoff.  Continue reading

The Trump Train Enters Rocky Terrain

by Cinzia Croce

The Trump Train charged out of the station in January with vigor and determination — and for about three weeks, it was barreling down the tracks at an impressive pace. Between a flurry of executive orders and a Supreme Court nomination applauded by all factions of the Republican Party, Trump delighted both his supporters and those who had been very skeptical of him during the campaign.

And then the train began to slow down.

The first victory Trump’s opponents scored was halting his temporary travel ban. It was a setback in terms of implementing his agenda but, politically speaking, Trump came out in a very strong position. He delivered on his promise to halt immigration from countries that are havens for Islamists, his opponents were shown to put the interests of foreign nationals above the security concerns of Americans, and if — God forbid — another terrorist attack were to take place, Trump could credibly claim that he tried to protect Americans but the Democrats and their simpatico judges stopped him. Continue reading

The Perks of Being a Carnival Barker

by Cinzia Croce

There was only one time I seriously considered dropping my support for Donald Trump: when he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. My reaction was very visceral, and was mostly due to Pence’s reputation as a hardcore social conservative. Trump had managed to marginalize social issues during the Republican primary –- something that I thought I would never live to see. For the first time in a long time, the GOP primary debates were not dominated by questions about the age of the earth, the definition of marriage, or abortion. I was on cloud nine, and Pence threatened to bring me back to earth. As soon as Trump confirmed him as his vice presidential pick, I could see the Democrats salivating at a fresh opportunity to revive the War on Women, raise the prospect of the LGBT community being stripped of their newly acquired civil rights, and distract from Trump’s powerful economic message. My heart sank. I was also not impressed with Pence’s performance during the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy, where he somehow managed to anger all sides of the debate, and often came across as unsure, looking like a deer in the headlights as he dealt with a hostile press. I feared that Trump had made a fatal mistake on the scale of John McCain’s mistake in choosing Sarah Palin as his vice president — I even went as far as labeling Pence as the male Sarah Palin.

carnival

I am thrilled to have been proven wrong. As I predicted, the Democrats did try to turn Pence into politically radioactive material. Within a day of Trump’s announcement, the Democrat-designated mudslingers and their media helpmates began their familiar attacks, which were very effective in the past. But this time they gained no traction. Unlike in the case of John McCain, who threw Palin to the wolves and stepped away, Trump helped to blunt the attacks against Pence by drawing attention to himself, allowing his running mate to fly under the radar. After the GOP convention, Pence barely received any coverage, and was free to focus on his key task of bringing home recalcitrant Republicans. Whether inviting Russia to produce Hillary’s infamous emails or getting into an extended spat with Khizr Khan, Trump never ran out of new shiny objects to keep all eyes on him, leaving the Democrats talking to themselves about Pence. Continue reading

Let the Age of Pragmatism Begin

by Cinzia Croce

The first round of Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s nominees is now in the history books, and it is clear that the incoming president intends to make good on his promise to change Washington. Rex Tillerson and Generals James Mattis and Robert Kelly walked away having established themselves as strong, accomplished, serious men with records of success in their individual endeavors.  Even Dr. Ben Carson — who seemed an admittedly odd choice to head HUD — reassured, pledging to bringing a fresh look to programs whose structure has not been examined in decades, despite, in many cases, having failed to meet the expectations of activists.

There was one consistent theme throughout the testimonies: pragmatism over ideology. After decades of ideological warfare paralyzing Washington, the Trump Administration promises to reassess where we are as a country and chart a new, sustainable course both at home and abroad instead of pursuing ideological purity or utopia.

During the campaign, Trump’s opponents warned that his ego was very fragile, making him susceptible to flattery. If elected, we were warned, he would surround himself with lackeys — “yes men” who would indulge his impulsive, reckless, childish behavior, putting the country — no — the entire world at risk. The hearings effectively debunked the caricature. No one can call General Mattis a lackey or fear that he would not stand up to Trump. The same is true of General Kelly, and Tillerson.

Yet instead of being reassured that Trump is not filling the Cabinet with flunkies, his opponents have switched tactics: they point to areas where the nominees diverge from the president-elect and wring their hands about the divisions and tension or whether it will lead to chaos. There will be no honeymoon, it seems: every decision Trump makes will be cast in a negative light. If his nominees had gone before the Senate and agreed with Trump’s views to the letter — especially with respect to Russia — his opponents would have issued dire warnings that the Kremlin is about to take over our government. Continue reading

Hillary Clinton Is the Empty Suit In the Race

by Cinzia Croce

With a month to go before the end of the long process of selecting the next president of the United States,  it should be clear to every voter by now that Hillary Clinton cannot run on her record.

Initially, Hillary and her supporters claimed the moral high ground. She was the experienced, knowledgeable candidate with a plethora of specific policy positions running against an unaccomplished “reality star.” But on closer inspection, her vaunted experience turned out to be a series of titles she was able to obtain because she was married to Bill Clinton. Her knowledge and policy proposals turned out to be the same old talking points that the American electorate has heard for decades and have produced a declining middle class, $20 trillion in debt and a foreign policy in shambles.  Whenever Hillary is asked about she has accomplished in her decades of public service, she replies with a vague statement about “fighting for women and children,” or something like that. When pressed for more details, she might mentions the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was first championed by Ted Kennedy, not her — or that, as Secretary of State, she traveled to 112 countries. If taking credit for other people’s initiatives and accumulating a record number of travel miles were achievements, then Hillary would have a stellar record to run on — but they aren’t, and she doesn’t. Continue reading

Cheer Up, Trump Fans!

by Cinzia Croce

After the first presidential debate four years ago between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the president’s supporters were frustrated with their candidate for not bringing up Romney’s infamous “47%” remark. Last night, it was Trump’s supporters’ turn to feel frustrated: somehow, their candidate neglected to mention some of the most familiar attacks on Hillary Clinton — particularly, about Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation.

trump_gestures

Four years ago, I argued that bringing up the 47% remark — or Bain Capital — would have simply provided a prepared Romney an opportunity to respond with a rehearsed line before an audience of millions. Last night, Trump denied a prepared Hillary an opportunity to respond to the Benghazi accusations and attacks over the Clinton Foundation and spin them to her advantage. The Clintons’ greatest asset has always been Republicans who can’t help but overplay their hand. It helped Bill Clinton survive the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for instance. And last night, Hillary made use of her best comeback to questions about her stamina when she reminded the audience about her 11 hour testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, itself a product of Republican overreach. Partisans are disappointed — but undecided voters were probably relieved not to hear the all too familiar attacks.

Continue reading

Melania Meets the Media

by Cinzia Croce

Although Melania Trump’s convention speech was initially met with universal praise, the pundits quickly began to breathlessly report that potential First Lady Melania Trump’s speech contained two paragraphs that were strikingly similar to a speech current First Lady Michelle Obama delivered during the 2008 Democratic Party Convention. Steve Schmidt, former McCain campaign manager and current MSNBC contributor, declared “Now you have brought scandal to a potential First Lady.” Scandal? Plagiarizing Deval Patrick certainly did not impede Barack Obama from reaching the White House. It didn’t even hurt his reputation as a thoughtful wordsmith and orator. But we live in a world where if President Obama borrows lines, it is an unfortunate coincidence, but if anyone else does the same it is a crippling “scandal” — even when the person in question is not even seeking elective office.

It must be very difficult, if not impossible, to write an original speech for the wife of a candidate who cannot engage in a long discussion of policy proposals. That would be too reminiscent of Bill and Hillary’s “two for the price of one” approach, which was a complete failure. It turns out that the American public is not a fan of ‘co-presidencies’ or the sharing of any public office. But once policy is off the table, the topics a wife can touch upon are limited to praising her husband; speaking about his softer side that is hidden from the public; charity work, children, and values. Notions of passing along what we’ve worked for to the next generation, the value of hard work and keeping your word, and the importance of treating people with respect are common bromides that have filled countless political speeches. If pundits really cared to be honest in their criticism, they would acknowledge that we have been hearing the same basic political speech for the last several decades — talking about the greatness of America, the need to come together, providing opportunity to all Americans, and offering a better future to the next generation. In Democratic speeches, references to social justice are peppered throughout, while in Republican speeches the references are to Reagan and traditional values. Every election is “the most important election in a lifetime” that presents “a stark choice” to the voters. Our politicians have been reading from the same script for a very long time, and the first candidate who went off it, Donald Trump, is assailed every day by the media for being undisciplined. Continue reading