Before you watch the clip, go read Glenn Beck's incredulous challenge to Hannity et al, pleading for a genuine explanation for why some high-profile conservative leaders are boosting an infamous self-promoter with such a long history of supporting Democrats and holding very liberal positions. Hannity responded in a lengthy essay posted on his website, culminating in last night's on-air conversation. Given the vitriolic nature of the Trump-fueled intra-party food fight, this discussion is laudably civil:
Right around the six minute mark, Hannity says of Trump, "I don't really care what he's said in the past. Where do you stand today?" To which Beck replies that he very much cares, reminding Hannity of his own extensive examination of Barack Obama's history of statements and associations back in 2008. Past behavior, comments, and issue stances offer important insights into a politician's character and principles -- and can be predictive of future actions. Toward the end of his answer, Beck zeroes in on the core point: "I just don't trust" that Trump means what he says today because ultimately, "[Trump] is good at promoting Donald Trump." The trust factor is a major element of what this internal fissure is all about. Those who are sick of the status quo and see Trump as a brash antidote to DC's weakness and ennui are willing to take the leap of faith that he'd govern as a conservative, regardless of what the evidence may indicate. A recent poll showed that a huge percentage of Trump's backers say it's his personality, not policy considerations, that drives their support. Conservatives who can't stomach Trump see an opportunistic shape-shifter who does and says whatever he believes will garner favor and attention at any given moment. They also see someone with no core ideology, with a muddled, incoherent set of policy preferences. (As of this writing, Trump's "positions" page on his website features...exactly one position statement). They see someone whose thin-skinned arrogance manifests itself in an endless string of petty insults and feuds, and whose self-serving pronouncements are too often rooted in little more than pure fantasy. Finally, they see a man who is leading the crowded Republican field, commanding roughly one-quarter of the vote, but whose favorability numbers are atrocious -- with women, with independents and with voters overall:
Also buried deep: Trump's unreal 58% unfavorable among all registered voters --before a single negative ad. http://t.co/1uXJfndHqb— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) August 18, 2015
From the same new CNN poll, look who's in equally rough shape as Trump:
Jeb Bush is competitive with Hillary (speaking of flawed candidates) in the latest Fox News survey, but his overall favorability is 22 points underwater here, with near universal name recognition. Whereas Fiorina, Walker and Kasich still have an opportunity to introduce themselves to at least one-third of the potential electorate, everyone's heard of Trump and Bush -- and almost everyone has formed an opinion of them. Sure, Jeb had a pretty solid record in Florida and a mountain of cash to spend to try and turn these numbers around (lack of resources won't be Trump's problem either, if he's serious about this). But it's very clear that 'Bush' baggage will be a real, lasting issue for him. Elsewhere in the field, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker have each rolled out Obamacare replacement proposals this week, to relatively little fanfare. Walker didn't help himself by having aides screen reporters' questions, and Rubio's announcement has been overshadowed by this:
Marco Rubio hitting the kid in the face with the football is even better as a GIF pic.twitter.com/FLpnHz0un0— Mudacris (@moody) August 18, 2015
We have the democracy we deserve, friends. I'll leave you with an observation: The idea of a Walker/Rubio ticket was red hot among conservatives just a few months ago. In today's CNN poll, the two candidates garner 14 percent support combined, with each man trailing Donald Trump by 17 percentage points. Then again, it's still very, very early. Gulp.