Sarah Palin is really falling apart.
“Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic, the ramifications of that betrayal of a transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, OK?” Palin told the crowd at her big announcement endorsing Donald Trump.
The man himself was standing next to her, with a half-smile. Hard to tell if it was self-satisfaction or the look someone might get when trapped at a dinner party next to a stranger who’s describing how she met President William Henry Harrison in a past life.
Even though Palin seemed to have a script, it didn’t help. “He is from the private sector, not a politician. Can I get a hallelujah? Where in the private sector you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing,” she continued.
Got that? It’s been quite a while since the world outside the Tea Party has checked in on Sarah Palin, but I think it’s safe to say there hasn’t been a whole lot of personal growth. The absolute high point of her rather long, rambling address was the moment when she complained that the United States pays for Middle Eastern “squirmishes.”
The next day, Palin spoke at another Trump rally, where she appeared to blame Barack Obama’s veterans policy for her son’s domestic violence arrest this week. Republicans seem currently OK with blaming the president for anything, including sunspots. But even some of them must have found it a little creepy.
Still, Trump has been having a super week. Palin wasn’t even the high point. That came when Iowa’s six-term Republican governor, Terry Branstad, urged voters to reject Trump’s main competitor, Ted Cruz.
“Ted Cruz is ahead right now. But what we’re doing is, we’re trying to do is educate the people of Iowa. He is the biggest opponent of renewable fuels,” Branstad told a news conference.
“Renewable fuels” is code for the government ethanol program, which has been stupendously profitable for the Iowa corn industry. Cruz has broken one of the great traditions of the Iowa caucus (First in the Nation! Forever!), which is that every major presidential candidate falls down to worship Big Corn.
Iowa’s many, many corn farmers have always gotten lots of government aid – the Environmental Working Group says that between 1995 and 2012, they received more than $15 billion in subsidies. On top of that, we’ve got the ethanol program, which requires gasoline to be mixed with biofuel, usually corn. This causes corn prices to soar and creates environmental problems due to overplanting. “A triple-layer subsidy cake,” said Scott Faber of the EWG.
All this is the opposite of fiscal conservatism, but generally, politicians find a way to evolve on the subject when they get to Iowa. This year Cruz has hung tough. Perhaps it’s because he’s close to Big Oil, which wants the gas tanks for itself. But whatever the reason, he’s paying the price. A pro-ethanol group, which happens to be led by the governor’s son, ran a mess of ads against him. Cruz seemed to waver, then stiffened. Out charged Branstad with his warning. A popular governor’s antipathy could be a big deal.
Let’s take a minute to feel sympathy for Ted Cruz. Poor guy.
OK, time’s up.
“Dear Friend,” wrote Cruz to his mailing list Wednesday. “I literally have no time to explain. … The longest-serving Republican career politician in the nation and his politically connected family is coordinating with establishment politicians and super PACs to lead an 11th-hour attack against us and sink our campaign.”
Ted said he is responding with “everything I have.” But that would be much easier if he had another $265,000 in donations posthaste.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is supremely happy. “The governor just made a very big statement that was appreciated by many,” he told a gathering of – yes! – the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association before going on to announce that he was not only in favor of requiring corn in every tankful of gas, but he wanted to see the proportion go higher.
“As president I will encourage Congress to be cautious in attempting to … change any part of the RFS,” he continued. That would be renewable fuel standard. Trump was reading this speech, which he claimed he had written himself. It was deep into ethanol-speak. All of you who think he’s still just a free spirit flying around the country saying whatever the hell comes into his mind, be aware. This is now an increasingly careful politician.
Cruz, he said, without actually mentioning any names, is a tool of the oil companies. “He goes wherever the votes are,” Trump said contemptuously.
None of that here, God knows.