During the Republican primaries when it became clear that Donald Trump might actually pull off his miracle and win the presidential nomination, conservative movement folks had a big decision to make. Most of them were committed to Texas Sen.Ted Cruz. He was, after all, the real deal from their perspective. But there were a few more pragmatic types who still believed that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the smart choice, perhaps a little bit slippery but much more likely to win, so conservative enough. As Trump blundered and blustered his way through primary after primary leaving damaged and broken GOP all-stars in his wake, it became necessary for some of them to make a choice. Should they be team players and join up with the certifiably unfit Trump or should they stand up and just say no?
Many conservative intellectuals like those of the National Review and the Weekly Standard as well nationally known columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer said no, and the #NeverTrump movement was born. They tried to figure out a way to thwart him but ultimately came up short. The electoral structure designed to help the frontrunner blew back on the party establishment and it turned out that the conservative grassroots cared nothing about their carefully nurtured ideology and instead were enthralled with the racist dog whistling and militant nationalism that had been the foundational motivators of the movement. The dissenters will, in the end, have their pride, and some, like Cruz and Kasich will have a chance to try to rebuild from the rubble.
But there was another group of conservatives Donald Trump was able to cajole into believing they would have a say in his campaign and beyond. These were political professionals who had convinced themselves that Trump could be “managed” and would actually be a better choice than Ted Cruz, a fanatic who refused to be a team player.
The developing feeling among House Republicans? Donald Trump is preferable to Ted Cruz. “If you look at Trump’s actual policies, they’re pretty thin. There’s not a lot of meat there,” says one Republican member in Ryan’s inner circle, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the two front-runners as leadership has carefully avoided doing all week.
If Trump were to get the nomination, he would “be looking to answer the question: ‘Where’s the beef?’ And we will have that for him,” says the member.
The member says he believes that, when it comes down to it, “almost all of the candidates would subscribe to” the conservative agenda he and the rest of leadership are hoping to advance.
Elder statesman Bob Dole came out early with his view that Trump was preferable because nobody could stand Ted Cruz and Trump could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”
It was, in short, assumed by many in the professional side of the political establishment that Trump was a man you could do business with. And so they persuaded the Trump campaign to open a policy shop to hammer out papers and campaign documents that would reassure conservatives that Trump wasn’t going too far off the reservation. As conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote yesterday, this was an important development in the campaign:
The act of doing so reassured conservatives. Some conservatives actually decided it was safe to head toward Trump, even though Cruz was still in the race. They did so largely because Trump appeared to be taking policy seriously and was hiring conservatives.
Well, that hasn’t worked out so well. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the policy shop is pretty well defunct:
Since April, advisers never named in campaign press releases have been working in an Alexandria-based office, writing policy memos, organizing briefings, managing surrogates and placing op-eds. They put in long hours before and during the Republican National Convention to help the campaign look like a professional operation. But in August, shortly after the convention, most of the policy shop’s most active staffers quit. Although they signed non-disclosure agreements, several of them told me on background that the Trump policy effort has been a mess from start to finish.
According to the article, people have been working feverishly to put together a serious policy agenda and gather various advisers on specific topics. They announced national security and economic advisory teams to great fanfare in the press but the people on them have barely had any contact with the campaign and Trump is certainly not listening to them, if he even knows who they are. Everything comes out of Trump Tower.
The campaign reportedly doesn’t care about what this staff has produced because ever since Trump clinched the nomination they felt there wasn’t any need for it. In other words, it was always just a pander to conservatives to win the primary. For the general Trump makes up his own “policies” (if you want to call them that.) Seeing that they were doing nothing useful most of the group decided to walk.
But that’s not the only reason most of the staff has quit. It turns out that Trump made them sign non-disclosure agreements but didn’t bother to pay them. Apparently, there were promises of pay made by the two Senate staffers who run the operation, Rick Dearborn from Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office and John Mashburn from Senator Thom Tillis’ office, that never panned out. Dearborn reportedly tried very hard to get New York to approve a budget to pay staff but just couldn’t get it done.
These folks are not alone. Last week Huffington Post reported that Trump hasn’t paid his top staffers either. And some of them are resigning as well.
But frankly, these people only have themselves to blame. Anyone who reads the newspapers should know by now that Trump routinely doesn’t pay people who work for him. He’s been sued literally thousands of times for non-payment. And nobody should gripe that he’s reimbursing his own children tens of thousands of dollars in campaign expenses either. In every business venture, large and small, Trump gets his “expenses” off the top.
Anyone who works for Donald Trump and doesn’t get her money up-front is a fool.