Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
What does Donald Trump really believe? The question’s been asked plenty over the course of this campaign. But just in the last couple days, as Trump barrels toward the nomination, he has supplied fresh evidence that on positions core to his candidacy, he is entirely moveable. Take immigration, the issue that by Trump’s own reckoning launched his bid. Sensing the hardline attitude of the conservative base, Trump from the start staked out the most feverishly anti-immigration position possible, pledging not only to build a massive border wall but to deport en masse the roughly 11 million people here illegally. Or maybe not. At the Fox News debate Thursday night, Trump pointedly refused to disavow a report that he told the New York Times editorial board in an off the record conversation he’s in fact flexible on the deportation pledge. On the contrary, he said, “in terms of immigration, and almost anything else, there always has to be some, you know, tug and pull and deal.”
Trump has played up his strongman act to more headline-grabbing effect by promising to get medieval on terrorists and their families, Geneva Conventions be damned. Former CIA director Michael Hayden recently speculated that if Trump as commander-in-chief tried to pursue the policies he’s described, the military would refuse to execute them on the basis that they’re illegal. Trump in the debate waved off the claim. “They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me,” he bragged. But on Friday, he reversed himself in a statement that read like he wrote it after being dragged by the ear to the principal’s office: “I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”
Trump likes to talk up his unpredictability as a virtue, one that gives him a strategic advantage in negotiations. And he insists voters appreciate that erraticism, too. Asked earlier this year by Bill O’Reilly if voters have a right to know how far he’ll go in office, he said they don’t — and in fact they don’t want to know: “The voters want unpredictability.” One recent study suggests in that, Trump badly misunderstands his own appeal: A survey of South Carolina primary voters showed a disposition toward authoritarianism was the strongest predictor of support for Trump. Now his rivals, backed by big money, appear committed to attacking the front-runner as an opportunist willing to say anything to get elected, rather than a forceful commander with the courage of his convictions. And Trump is demonstrating he’ll help make their point with the merest prodding. Over the next two weeks, we’ll find out whether it’ll be enough to stop him from clinching the Republican nod.
• Trump says no to CPAC
The Conservative Political Action Conference is one of the biggest events of the year for the movement conservatives, but Donald Trump has decided he doesn’t need to be there. Considering that there was talk of a walkout or a potentially hostile crowd, it may turn out to be a good decision..
• Romney won’t vote for Trump
On Thursday Mitt Romney gave a blistering speech denouncing Donald Trump. Now he has confirmed that he won’t vote for Trump, even against Hillary Clinton. Romney also said he would consider helping a Super PAC to stop Trump at the GOP National Convention, if it comes to that.
• Rubio has retreated to Florida
This wasn’t how things were supposed to go for Marco Rubio. The Florida Senator has only won one state so far, and it increasingly looks like he can only be nominated at a contested convention. To even get that far, though, he has to fight back to pass Trump in his home state, where he trails by double digits.
New York Times
Around the Water Cooler
• A closer look at Trump Univerity
Trump University is all anyone can talk about these days. Even while Trump defends his former business, pundits and his opponents are both using it to call him a huckster. Here’s a deeper dive on just what it was.
• Should Kasich have gone #NeverTrump?
All three of Trump’s rivals said last night they would support him if he became the nominee. If John Kasich had said no instead, he might have separated himself and perhaps positioned himself as the nominee to come out of a brokered convention.
• Jim Webb says no to Clinton
Jim Webb briefly ran for the Democratic nomination last year, but now he’s saying he won’t support Hillary Clinton if she wins. And he even says he’d consider voting for Trump!