Karl, all Trump ‘needs’ is to LOSE, for the sake of the nation

Democrats, and probably even some Republicans, demonize Karl Rove. Some probably have a litany of specific sins they can recite, but in general he seems to be for them a dark, menacing presence pulling strings in the background, like “the Koch brothers,” or Sauron behind Saruman.

But whatever he has done or not done to deserve that reputation, he has assuredly done a monstrous thing today.


Rove in the early 2000s.

He has offered, without apology or irony, advice to Donald Trump on how to win the general election. As though he were just another Republican candidate, another client (which is perhaps what Rove hopes he will be), and this is just another election.

In the same 24 hours in which his former bosses, Bushes 41 and 43, have said they do not plan to support Trump, and in which one of those very Koch brothers has hinted he might vote for Hillary Clinton, Rove has offered Trump calm, sensible, bloodless pointers on how to succeed. As though his success were a desirable thing.

His Wall Street Journal piece is headlined “What Donald Trump Needs Now,” and the subhed tells you that Rove isn’t being facetious: “To stand a chance, he must tone it down, hire a fact-checker and open his wallet.” To which I respond, to hell with what Trump “needs;” what the nation needs is for him to lose, and lose big.

The closest Rove comes to criticizing Trump comes at the beginning, when he says Trump’s “success was achieved only by inflicting tremendous damage to the party,” and that his suggestion that Cruz’ father was connected to the JFK assassination was “nuts.” But rather than treat these as evidence of something fundamentally wrong with Trump, Rove looks upon them as rough edges to be smoothed. Trump has damaged the party? Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. As for saying something “nuts,” Rove is like, Ya knucklehead! We need to break you of that silly habit so you can win this thing!

As though he were coaching an otherwise gifted boxer to remember not to drop his guard.

The everyday ordinariness, the sheer banality, of the advice Rove offers is appalling. An excerpt:

For the general election, the Trump campaign is behind in everything: digital operations, the ground game, advertising, you name it. The campaign must add new people and talents but would be wise to leave the ground game to the Republican National Committee. Sign the “joint fundraising agreements” that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP Senate and House campaign committees must have to collect the resources necessary for a massive voter turnout effort that is beyond the Trump campaign’s abilities.

Mr. Trump should also avoid attacking Mrs. Clinton in ways that hurt him and strengthen her. He is already in terrible trouble with women: In the April 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 69% of women rate him negatively, 58% very negatively. So stop saying things like: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote.” He was lucky her response to that jibe was so lame. Next time it won’t be.

Mr. Trump must also retool his stump speech. Voters will tire of The Donald if he doesn’t have a second rhetorical act with far fewer insults and more substance. Reading more speeches from a teleprompter, particularly on the economy, will help. The Trumpistas argue that voters don’t need details, but those up for grabs in November do. These speeches will put meat on the bones of his policy views and yield new material for the stump….

As though… as though the idea of Trump becoming president was just an interesting challenge, a puzzle to be solved, and not an unthinkable nightmare for the country.

This same day, E.J. Dionne has a piece in The Washington Post in which he appeals to Republicans, the media, and the rest of us to avoid this very thing. “Please don’t mainstream Trump,” he pleads, and he’s absolutely right. Don’t act like this is just another election, and Trump just another nominee.

He concludes:

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

Amen to that, E.J….

26 thoughts on “Karl, all Trump ‘needs’ is to LOSE, for the sake of the nation

  1. Karen Pearson

    I’m trying to remember who it was that said that one of the horrors of the Nazi implementation of the “final solution” was “the sheer banality of it.” (I put that in quotes because I think it’s exact but, obviously, I can’t be sure). Was it Elie Wiesel? I remember the line, because I had to think about it for a moment to realize the full extent of the horror.

    1. Doug Ross

      C’mon, Karen. Let’s please have a moratorium on Trump is Hitler analogies. Trump on his worst day isn’t the equivalent of a Nazi. He’s a boorish businessman with a huge ego. He isn’t going to open death camps. Yeah, he might try to lock down the border or deport more illegal immigrants with greater effort than previous administrations. That’s not the same as Hitler.

      1. Bob Amundson

        I agree that comparing Trump and Hitler is hyperbolic, but friends should not let friends vote for Trump.

        1. JesseS

          Generally that ends with: “___ you! You can’t tell me who to vote for!”

          Reverse psychology is the only tactic that works.

      2. Pat

        Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would stand by him. Sounds like he made his own comparison.

        1. Doug Ross

          Yeah, he was serious about that as Hitler was about killing Jews. Now I understand. They are equivalent.

      3. Karen Pearson

        Doug. Get off your soap box. I was simply struck by the use of the word banality. I do, however, agree with Brad, that Mr. Trump exhibits a fascistic approach to politics.

    2. Bob Amundson

      “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”, a book by political theorist Hannah Arendt (published in 1963): “…the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us – the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Sorry. I answered that before I saw Bob’s reply…

        I had almost linked to Hannah Arendt when I used the word “banality” above, but then I would have had Bud and Phillip on my case again for alluding to Nazis…

  2. Doug Ross

    Here’s the short version of Rove’s advice: “open his wallet”.

    There are probably thousands of political consultants, operatives, community organizers who are scared to death that their money fountain will dry up with Trump. They will sell their souls now to get whatever piece of the Trump pie is available. I’m sure the Democratic versions of Karl Rove feel the same way about Bernie.

    That said, I think you are setting yourself up for a miserable summer if you think you can somehow convince people not to vote for Trump. Sad to say, but I would suggest that he is at his lowest point right now and has nowhere to go but up. The media LOVES Trump for the ratings and clicks he generates. MSNBC can’t get enough of him.

    It’s all about money. All of it.

  3. Juan Caruso

    “Don’t act like this is just another election, and Trump just another nominee.” – Brad

    Absolutely correct. Trump is what the U.S. has not had since Reagan, a nationalist leader in a world replete with socilalists and totalitarians salivating for a weaker America. And, I am compelled to add:

    “Don’t act like this is just another election, and Hillary just another nominee.” – Juan Caruso

  4. Bob Amundson

    What concerns me most about Trump is that he embodies the world’s worst anti-American stereotypes: vulgar, violent, cash-obsessed, racist. Trump is everything many people hate about the United States, so it’s no surprise some are infuriated by his rise. Russia and Daesh are loving this, while the rest of the world exhibits a mixture of panic, terror, and gallows humor.

    1. Bob Amundson

      German political theorist Yascha Mounk, currently teaching at Harvard, writes in the German newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”: “If a communist propaganda ministry had commissioned a gifted cartoonist to draw a typically-American rogue, he would have invented a figure like ‘The Donald’, a man who embodies the wealthy, boorish philistine, from his self-important attitude to the way his hair is folded this way and that, and someone for whom nothing is sacred — other than money, bosoms, success and power.”

    2. Juan Caruso

      You allege Trump is “vulgar, violent, cash-obsessed, racist.” – What?

      Have you been to New York City anytime in the last 40 years? Trump is occasionally vulgar by press standards, but definitely not by what one hears in taxis, buses, trains, and planes, popular plays, HBO, etc. We get it; you wish us to believe you were raised in Bible Belt monastery.

      Trump is violent? Was he ever indicted for a vilent act or inciting same? (violence at his rallies has been perpetrated by left-leaning political activists). No one can cite a single violent episode incited by Trump.
      The reporter who claimed being bruised dropped her claim when countervailing video was produced – what you never knew?

      Cash-obsessed, you say? His employees and ordinary strangers have spoken of his genorosity more than Microsoft’s wealthier founder Bill Gates (a really cash-obsessed limousine liberal who makes too much of a show about donating to foundations like Hillary’s).

      Racist? Which is why Trump’s unusual popular support has come from all ethnic groups, including legal Mexican residents.

      Want to reconsider your libelous opinions? No, I thought not, but don’t worry, academia and corporate-owned media will still agree with such propaganda.

      1. Bob Amundson

        Trump spoke in great length is his interview with WAPO about “loosening up” libel laws. Current law requires some sort of malice, of which I have none. I do not hate Mr. Trump, although I do have a very strong opinion that he would not be a good POTUS. He seems to be a good father, and a good husband (even though he vulgarly admits to multiple affairs; too much time on the Howard Stern Show). Others have used the terms I used, and we have a right to our opinion, as do you. And I will defend your right to have your opinion, even though I may not agree with it.

  5. David Carlton


    You might want to have a look at this incredibly depressing piece by David Roberts in Vox:

    Basically, he argues that in fairly short order Donald Trump will be treated as a “normal” Republican nominee, basically because the ecosystem of political operatives and media can’t tolerate the notion that there might actually be a fundamental difference between the two political parties and their candidates (Sound familiar? It should). Soon any criticism of Trump will be seen through the lens of “partisan bickering,” and equivalences will be obsessively drawn between Trump and Clinton (who, yes, I assume will be the nominee). At this point I agree with you totally–but, hey, I’m a partisan Democrat, and I would think that way, right?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, David, and that is EXACTLY what E.J. was warning against. And it’s exactly why I was so appalled by the Rove piece, acting as though this were a normal candidacy that just needs a few suggestions in order to be successful, as though it would not be an ABOMINATION for it to be successful.

      We must, as E.J. wrote, “preserve the shock,” and not let it wear off for a moment… NEVER forget how appalling this situation is; NEVER accept it as normal for a moment. To do so would a tremendous insult to our country…

  6. Bryan Caskey

    Adios, friends in a box.

    I’ll be heading out for a vacation (with no kids) until Wednesday. I know everyone will miss me, but try to hang in there. I’ll be in a place where there will be virtually no internet connection, so it will be book reading only.

    I’ll expect a full report from everyone as to their goings-on when I return.

    Caskey Out

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bring us back a souvenir. Like a shortstop, or a good right fielder who can hit.

      “Baseball has been very, very good to me.”

      — Chico Escuela

  7. bud

    I think it is possible to both hope Trump loses because he’s so terrible and also suggest ways that he might be able to win. Rove is a political operative and this is a sort of game with him. My wife gets mad at me when we watch football together and our team’s opponent does something bone-headed and I express dismay that they could be so dumb. She says how can you pull for the other team like that? I suggest I’m not pulling for them but I enjoy good football and would prefer to win because of our teams great play rather than back into it. So while it is likely that Rove does prefer Trump over Hillary it’s also possible for a staunch Hillary supporter to make similar comments. I don’t find it to be a contradiction.


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