The Hope for Winnowing is Winnowing

FEB 22 | Reprinted from The Screaming Moderate (

Here goes: I’ve been wrong.

I never believed (still don’t or maybe better put can’t) that Donald Trump would be the Republican candidate for president. The facts are the facts though – he may be.

The stars have aligned: voters are angry with the way things are and Trump, who will say anything about anyone or anything and feel no qualms about it because he can say the opposite a minute later, channels that anger. The GOP field has stayed big for too long and his 30 to 35 percent of the GOP primary base has been more than sufficient to win New Hampshire and South Carolina. He attacked and attacked his previous biggest target – Jeb Bush – and Jeb now is gone. The remaining GOP candidates don’t have anywhere near Trump’s hooooge personality or mouth so who will take him down?

John Kasich is the best of the lot but it’s unlikely his positive campaigning will win the day. Marco Rubio is the new Establishment darling based on…well, based on the fact that he isn’t Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. And Rubio finds consolation in finishing second or third which he plays as a win.

Ted Cruz is a loud mouth who now proclaims he’s the best alternative because he’s actually beaten Trump! Reminder to Sen. Cruz: You won Iowa, not Texas or Florida or, even, South Carolina where you should have done better. Trump beat you in South Carolina among evangelicals, your base!!

So how does one take down Trump? Clearly nothing has worked so far. That’s partly because you can’t top his personality or his personal attacks which go something like this:

“Cooper’s a nice guy. I like him. There’s a guy I know who tells me Cooper is a communist, drunk, hypocritical shmuck. I don’t know if that’s true. All I did was retweet those things and say them on national TV programs. I don’t know if it’s true, and I hope it isn’t.”

Or how about saying he will eliminate the budget deficit by getting rid of “fraud, waste and abuse” because, for example, he says there are “thousands and thousands of people that are over 106 years old” collecting Society Security! Realty check: A 2013 audit found that 1,546 people had received Society Security checks despite being dead. Total cost? $31 million. Cost of Security that year? $823 billion. You can’t reduce the deficit that way, Mr. Trump. Ask Ronald Reagan.

The other thing he does is lie: He said he was “the only person on this stage” against the Iraq war from pre-Day One, until a tape of an interview from those days came to light in which he said in his own voice that he supported the war; he says he can cut $300 billion a year in drug costs to Medicare because he knows how to negotiate better than anyone else but he failed to look up how much Medicare spends on drugs annually which is less than a third of $300 billion which means his presidency would result in the drug companies paying me to take their drugs (if he can do that, I’m all for it, by the way).

But I’ve seen no candidate take him on, on the substance. What if someone gives a speech that doesn’t attack Trump for being a loud-mouth-bully-racist but takes him on over the substantive facts of policy? Then, maybe, he’d have to talk substance or ideas or lay out that health care plan he promised a couple of months ago. Or show us his tax returns where, we have to assume, he’s used every loophole imaginable to pay the least he has to and we can focus on that instead of what he prefers, which is now much money he allegedly has. Or maybe point out that the “winning” he promises, “more winning than we can handle”, is a lie because he hasn’t always won (i.e., Trump football, Trump vodka, Trump University, etc. etc.).

We are experiencing our first real modern campaign. One that plays out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and on cable news channels that play for ratings, not news (Sidebar: I was watching CNN the other night when Jeb was about to make his concession speech and suspend his campaign when Wolf delayed going to Jeb, the newsmaker, so that CNN’s Mark Preston, a reporter, could report Jeb was going to suspend his campaign. Thus CNN can market that it reported Jeb’s withdrawal before Jeb reported it. HOOOOOGE ratings. They’re no better than Donald in that regard.)

So, I’m still hoping Trump isn’t the candidate because that’s bad not just for the GOP but for the country. I always thought when the race winnowed to two candidates he could be beaten. Still do. Just not sure that winnowing will happen before he has a big delegate lead.

Editor’s Note: B. Jay is a former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also headed the communications offices at the Republican National Committee, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. He is a former reporter and is the retired Senior Vice President of APCO Worldwide’s Washington, D.C., office.