Kansas Republican primary voters began purging the Tea Party, while Donald Trump terrified nuclear experts. Plus Clint Eastwood excreted his racism. (More)

“We need some changes to be made”

Yesterday’s Kansas state primary was a stunning rebuke of Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative ideologues:

Brownback isn’t on the ballot this year, but his policies are very much at stake in this election.

Moderates, who have seen their influence wane since Brownback took office in 2010, recaptured some of the power Tuesday by tapping into voters’ frustrations with the state’s budget woes.

Ed Berger, the former president of Hutchinson Community College, beat Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, by 14 percentage points after running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He highlighted his opposition to recent higher education cuts and the practice of taking money from the highway fund to plug budget holes.

“That was our message all the way through and I think that resonated with people,” Berger said in a phone call.

Berger was among a dozen Tea Party Republicans – including U.S. House Rep. Tim Huelskamp – who will lose their jobs:

A top Senate leader and at least 10 other conservative Kansas legislators lost their seats as moderate Republicans made Tuesday’s primary election a referendum on the state’s budget problems and education funding.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, of Nickerson, fell in his south-central Kansas district to Ed Berger, former president of Hutchinson Community College. Bruce’s defeat came amid a backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies that appeared to spell trouble for conservatives.

“The way the state has been going, we have so many problems, and we need some changes to be made,” said Stanley Prichard, a 46-year-old manufacturing worker from Hutchinson, who voted for Berger in the Republican primary.

Five other conservative senators lost in races that spanned the state. So did five conservative House members, all of them from affluent Kansas City-area suburbs in Johnson County, the state’s most populous, where voters have cherished good public schools for decades.

Of course wingnut pundits are blaming The Establishment, but this was about Kansas voters being fed up with Gov. Brownback’s Tax-Cuts-Über-Alles ideology:

The outcome is a stunning rebuke of Gov. Sam Brownback, who has relied on conservative support in the Legislature for six years. Tuesday’s results will likely alter his approach to governing in the final two years of his term.

“If Brownback had been up this year … he would have lost 58 percent to 42 percent,” said Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. “And I think voters took it out on these folks.”

The outcome Tuesday did not change the fundamental math of the Legislature: Republicans will still have firm control of both chambers.

But if the moderates nominated Tuesday are elected in November, as expected, and form a coalition with Democrats in January, they may have enough votes to overturn several of Brownback’s initiatives, including controversial tax cuts that are blamed for much of the state’s budget difficulties.

“The Brownback administration is very unpopular in Kansas, and people are ready to make a change,” said Kerry Gooch, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party. “I’m excited that some of these extreme conservative Republican legislators are getting what they deserve by being ousted.”

ThinkProgress’s Alan Pyke dubbed it “the Brownbacklash,” and the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore warns us not to read a national trend from what was essentially an election about local issues:

The defeat of House Freedom Caucus firebrand Representative Tim Huelskamp in a Kansas GOP primary is being generally treated as a national political story about (as Molly Ball framed it) the revenge of the Republican Establishment over one of its tea-party tormentors. And it is true that national groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Ricketts family super-pac fought a proxy war with Huelskamp’s allies in the Club for Growth and Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity in Kansas’s 1st congressional district.

But in a very real sense what Huelskamp’s defeat showed is that ideology does not always trump local factors, even in the ideological hothouse of the contemporary Republican Party. The endorsement that really lifted the challenger Roger Marshall to victory was probably one from the Kansas Farm Bureau.

Kilgore notes that Rep. Huelskamp’s squabbles with House GOP leaders got him kicked off the Agriculture Committee, and he joined the Tea Party Caucus in trying to block last year’s farm bill, on which many Kansas farmers rely.

In many respects, the overriding story in Republican politics for a very long time has been the conquest of the party by conservatives who imposed a rigid ideology on themselves and others not just in the right-wing fever swamps of the Deep South or the Mountain West, but across the country. What’s happening in Kansas right now doesn’t indicate conservatives are losing their grip on the GOP; a stronger data point for that proposition would obviously be Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the national ticket. But Kansas is showing there are limits to the power of ideology.

In that light, yesterday was not just a win for Kansas. It was also a win for Realworldia.

+++++

“If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough offered a shocking report yesterday:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

MIKE BARNICLE: Wow.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s one of the reasons why he has — he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him.

BARNICLE: Trump? Trump asked three times whether we can use nuclear weapons?

SCARBOROUGH: Three times in an hour briefing, “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”

The Huffington Post reports that an MSNBC executive said Scarborough only learned about this “a few days ago,” and of course the Trump campaign denies it. But it’s not the first time Trump has suggested using nuclear weapons, and his seeming willingness to go nuclear has security experts terrified:

If Trump is actually wondering why we don’t use nuclear weapons, we got an answer from Kennette Benedict, former executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

“We actually do use them: as a deterrent,” Benedict said when we spoke with her by phone Wednesday. “That’s been U.S. policy for 50 years at least, maybe longer, just to have them and for people to know that if they attack us or attack any of our NATO allies, we’re prepared to use them – if it comes to that, as a last resort.”

If Trump meant to wonder why we don’t actually explode them, Benedict offered two scenarios. If we were to attack a nation like Russia with nuclear weapons – that is, another nation with nukes of their own – we’d precipitate a nuclear war, with devastating effects for our economy, infrastructure and the residents of major cities. This is the doomsday that those of us who grew up in the Cold War remember looming.

Even the use of a tactical nuke against the Islamic State is deeply problematic, she said. “A tactical nuclear weapon is about anywhere from 10 to 50 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb,” she said. “Any place that would be assaulted by such a weapon would be completely devastated” – devastation that would include the deaths of thousands of people, including, almost necessarily, civilians, and that would leave deadly radiation and fallout in the region for years following.

“Our standing in the world would be radically altered if we were the first to use nuclear weapons,” she said, “and if we were to use them in this way, that’s completely disproportionate to the situation.”

Moreover, were Trump to nuke ISIS, he would set a precedent for Russia to nuke ‘terrorists’ in the Ukraine, or China to nuke ‘terrorists’ in Tibet. Trump may believe he can claim for himself a singular right to decide who must live in terror of a nuclear strike, but don’t expect other world leaders to concede that.

And former nuclear missile officer John Noonan offered an even more terrifying scenario:

That’s not a question any U.S. military service member should face. Now, maybe Scarborough’s source was wrong and Trump never really asked that question three times. And maybe if he were elected, other cabinet members could talk him off the ledge before he pushed the nuclear button.

Or maybe not. And that “maybe not” is a terrifying prospect.

+++++

“Just f–king get over it”

And Clint Eastwood decided to let the privilege leak out of his tightie-whities:

CE: But [Trump’s] onto something, because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist. And then when I did Gran Torino, even my associate said, “This is a really good script, but it’s politically incorrect.” And I said, “Good. Let me read it tonight.” The next morning, I came in and I threw it on his desk and I said, “We’re starting this immediately.”

ESQ: What is the “pussy generation”?

CE: All these people that say, “Oh, you can’t do that, and you can’t do this, and you can’t say that.” I guess it’s just the times.

ESQ: What do you think Trump is onto?

CE: What Trump is onto is he’s just saying what’s on his mind. And sometimes it’s not so good. And sometimes it’s … I mean, I can understand where he’s coming from, but I don’t always agree with it.

ESQ: So you’re not endorsing him?

CE: I haven’t endorsed anybody. I haven’t talked to Trump. I haven’t talked to anybody. You know, he’s a racist now because he’s talked about this judge. And yeah, it’s a dumb thing to say. I mean, to predicate your opinion on the fact that the guy was born to Mexican parents or something. He’s said a lot of dumb things. So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody – the press and everybody’s going, “Oh, well, that’s racist,” and they’re making a big hoodoo out of it. Just fucking get over it. It’s a sad time in history.

Yes, it is a sad time in history, but it’s not “both sides.” Take a look at this video from the New York Times (WARNING – It’s ugly):

“Kill her.”

“Trump that bitch!”

“Build a wall – kill them all.”
[…]
New York Times reporters have spent over a year covering Donald J. Trump’s rallies, witnessing so many provocations and heated confrontations at them that the cumulative effect can be numbing: A sharp sting that quickly dulls from repetition.

But what struck us was the frequency with which some Trump supporters use coarse, vitriolic, even violent language – in the epithets they shout and chant, the signs they carry, the T-shirts they wear – a pattern not seen in connection with any other recent political candidate, in any party.

No, it’s not both sides. It’s whites, mostly white men like Eastwood, pining for the days when they could spew racism and sexism and no one dared to challenge them. So Clint … get some of those grownup diapers and stop whining.

+++++

Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel (AP)

+++++

Good day and good nuts